Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Heaven
By Jay Rubenstein
Published in 2011
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
Armies of Heaven is a narrative account of the First Crusade. What is so interesting about this book is that it doesn’t tell the story of the crusade from the perspective of modern historians, instead it tells it from the perspective of someone at the time hearing about it. For example, it just assumes that all reported miracles are accurate. When witnesses report angels and ghosts, Rubenstein does too.
Prior to reading this book, I had a vague understanding of the First Crusade. I learned a lot about specific people and details I had never heard of before. I particularly liked the story of Peter Bartholomew, a soldier and follower of Peter the Hermit. Peter Bartholomew has visions, and finds the Holy Lance. After finding it, he becomes an important figure in the crusades. Many begin doubting him, so he decides to subject himself to a trial by fire. He dies 12 days after entering the fire.
Because this book is written from such a unique perspective, it gave me many insights into the mindset and ideology of the crusaders. Most crusaders truly believe that the apocalypse was near, and that they were God blessed holy warriors. Even the most seemingly cynical and power hungry crusader lords were forced to play lip service to the Holy War.
Although this book is fairly simple, I do not recommend it for the majority of people. It is, however, a must read for anyone interested in the crusades or Medieval history.
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