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The Catholic Historical Review 87.4 (2001) 727-728

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Book Review

La Guerre sainte: La formation de l'idée de croisade dans l'Occident chrétien

La Guerre sainte: La formation de l'idée de croisade dans l'Occident chrétien. By Jean Flori. (Paris: Aubier. 2001. Pp. 406. FF 159.)

The title of this most most important and challenging book announces Professor Flori's purpose of demonstrating that the emergence of the idea of crusade as proclaimed by Pope Urban II at Clermont in 1095 must be understood in the light of the gradual development in the Christian West of the concept and practice of holy war. Its origins must be traced back to the Christian Roman Empire of Constantine and his successors and to how early medieval people understood the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo. It underwent a remarkable development in the tenth and eleventh centuries before becoming the principal determinant of Crusading ideas. In so arguing, Flori is concerned to renew, though not without some criticisms, the emphasis upon the centrality of holy war that Carl Erdmann set in his masterly monograph Die Entstehung des Kreuzzugsgedankens (1935). In Flori's view, much recent inquiry has unduly played down the character of the crusade as holy war in favor of such aspects of it as pilgrimage and especially as armed pilgrimage: holy war is a fundamental dimension of the crusade which is nowadays too much neglected. Flori therefore offers a comprehensive study of holy war in the West up to the beginning of the twelfth century and of the First Crusade as standing in the direct line of its long evolution, whatever other characteristics it may also have possessed. [End Page 727]

In his positive purpose of reasserting the cardinal importance of the idea of holy war in the formation of the crusade and consequently the long and many-faceted maturing of this idea, Flori is, in my opinion, successful. This is in no small measure the result of his penetrating and comprehensively informed discussion of the idea of holy war over the centuries. It is worth drawing attention to two subjects in particular of which Flori's treatments are highly original and entirely convincing. The first is Augustine's teaching about the just war. Flori rightly dismisses the widely canvassed view that Augustine elaborated a doctrine of the just war which in course of time evolved into holy war and the crusade as a reversal of the true development. Augustine's scattered remarks about the just war were far from constituting a clear and coherent theory of it which was known and received before the crusade; only from the thirteenth century onwards was such a theory elaborated, partly in the light of the crusade. Strictly speaking, Augustine was not concerned with holy war either, but with the conditions under which a Christian might take an active part in the military operations of the Empire without peril to soul as well as to body. But much of Augustine's discussion of war was set in the context of the divinely sanctioned wars of the Old Testament: thus, eleventh-century citations of his genuine and pseudonymous writings were used to warrant warfare that was in character holy rather than just, as writers like Aquinas would understand it. Second, Flori offers a full and perceptive estimate of the Peace of God both as it developed in France and as it may have led to the crusade. He duly notices the extent of lay sponsorship of Peace councils from an early date; he compellingly argues that the purpose of the Peace was not to limit a supposed 'feudal anarchy' but to protect the ecclesiastical patrimony. There was no direct line of development from the Peace of God to the crusade.

The centuries-long crescendo of the holy war itself is tellingly presented as culminating in the crusade. Flori adroitly shows that crusaders' charters of the 1090's make clear their perception of it as a holy...


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