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GEOFFREY VINSAUF Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land

 
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GEOFFREY VINSAUF
Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
page 108

Saladin for himself and his flock, when, after the destruction of the country, the Saracens first came to Jerusalem, brought a piece of the Holy Cross to King Richard. He was accompanied by a large number of men and women, belonging to his own people, and gave the piece of the Cross to the king.

Chapter LIV. - Likewise, how while King Richard was there, an abbat came to him, and told him he had hidden a piece of the Holy Cross in a certain spot; and how the king went thither with the abbat, and found it, and how the people worshipped it.

It also happened, on the third day before the feast of St. John the Baptist, i.e. St. Alban’s day, that while the army was staying there, they were much comforted by news which was brought to the king; for a devout man, the abbat of St. Elie, whose countenance bespoke holiness, with long beard and head of snow, came to the king, and told him, that a long time ago he had concealed a piece of the Holy Cross, in order to preserve it, until the Holy Land should be rescued from the infidels, and restored entirely to its former state; and that he alone knew of this hidden treasure, and that he had often been pressed hard by Saladin, who had tried to make him discover the Cross, by the most searching inquiries; but that he had always baffled his questioners by ambiguous replies, and deluded them with false statements; and that on account of his contumacy, Saladin had ordered him to be bound; but he persisted in asserting that he had lost the piece of the Cross during the taking of the city of Jerusalem; and had thus deluded him, notwithstanding his anxiety to end it. The king, hearing this, set out immediately, with the abbat and a great number of people, to the place of which the abbat had spoken; and having taken up the piece of the Holy Cross with humble veneration, they returned to the army; and together with the people, they kissed the Cross with much piety and contrition.

Book VI.

Chapter I. - How, when the French were desirous of proceeding to Jerusalem, King Richard would not agree, without the advice of the Templars, Hospitallers, and natives of the country.

When the army had worshipped the Cross for a long time, in their exceeding great joy, the lower order and common people complained, and said, "O Lord God, what shall we do? Shall we still proceed to Jerusalem? What more shall we undertake? Shall we be able to hold out until we have accomplished our pilgrimage?" Thus loud murmurs and complaints arose amongst the people. On which account, the king and the leaders of the army assembled together, to consider whether it was expedient to proceed to the siege of Jerusalem or not. The French earnestly entreated, and even exhorted the king to proceed; but he replied, that it could not be done. "For," said the king, "you will not see me acting as the guide and leader of the people in this matter; for I might incur disgrace thereby, as it would be the height of imprudence now to press on this enterprise. If it please you to proceed to Jerusalem, I will not desert you; I will be your comrade, but not your commander; I will follow, not lead you. Does not Saladin know all that goes on in our camp; and do you think that our weak condition has escaped his notice? He is aware of our precise strength, and that we are so distant from the sea-coast, that if the enemy were to come down with force from the mountains to the plains of Ramula, to watch the roads, and block up the passage, against those who convey our provisions, the consequences would be most disastrous to the besiegers. When too late, we should repent, and pay the penalty of our foolhardy enterprise. Moreover, the walls of Jerusalem, to which we propose to lay siege, are, as we hear, very great in circuit; and were we to attempt to blockade it with our troops, few as they now are, and proportionably divided, their number would not be sufficient to carry on the siege, or to protect those who brought in the supplies, in case the Turks should attack them; nay, they would, one and all, be utterly destroyed to a certainty, if they had none to relieve them. Should I, therefore, undertake this hazardous enterprise, and should any misfortune befall when I was general (which God forbid), I alone should be blamed for my blind infatuation; and should alone be responsible for the danger, were I, in these circumstances, to conduct the troops to the siege of Jerusalem. But there is no doubt, and I am well aware, that there are persons here at present, as well as in France, who have long wished, and very much desired, that I should exert my utmost efforts in this matter, without due and proper caution; and that I should perform daring acts, which might justly be questioned, and bring infamy on my hitherto spotless name. Wherefore, in so hazardous an undertaking, with such doubtful issue, I should deem it wrong to rush rashly forward, without

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