In the early 1190s a Danish-Norwegian expedition set out to take part in the re-conquest of Jerusalem after the city had been captured by Saladin in 1187. This expedition is known to us through a small Latin prose narrative written by a Premonstratensian canon around 1200, the Historia de profectione Danorum in Hierosolymam. While not an eye witness account, the narrative is clearly based on reports from the participants. The paper will deal with this fascinating but little known text which is deeply marked by contemporary crusading rhetoric
The Norwegian king Sigurd Magnusson is most often referred to by the name Sigurd Jorsalfar, with Jorsalfar simply meaning ‘the one who went to Jerusalem’. However, the term in this case is regarded as synonymous with crusader. King Sigurd made his voyage in the years 1108 to 1111 and visited England, Portugal, islands in the Mediterranean and The Holy Land, before the expedition culminated in a spectacular reception by the emperor in Constantinople. In modern historiography Sigurd’s enterprise has been regarded as a crusade, or at least a modified version of a crusade. The question raised in this paper is whether the elements of a crusade are present in the sources, or if the king’s motives were mixed and the visit to Jerusalem a secondary priority.
The early crusading narratives normally contain a number of images of the wrath of nature, which explain the pain and hardship of the crusaders and make crusading a penitential act. But nature itself also becomes an acting force which can either support and help the crusaders, or which has to be overcome in the general struggle against evil. The paper wants to present and explore some of these themes on the background of both crusading theology and of the 12th century renaissance’s interest in nature.