The Crusades >> The
First Crusade >> Jerusalem Sieged
The main army moved out on June 6th and camped at Jerusalem on the
7th. The Egyptian commander had made sure the city was well-stocked and had
expelled all the Christians from the city. He poisoned the wells around the
city and settled in to await rescue from Egypt. The Crusaders numbered about
1500 knights and 12000 foot soldiers, an army that the Egyptians could
easily overwhelm if they chose.
The Crusaders invested the city, but without siege engines they were
unable to do anything effective. The walls were too strong to take by storm,
and there was no one on the inside who might betray the city. A general
assault on 12 June failed with heavy losses. They had to have siege engines.
Jerusalem is in the middle of a desert. It was over twenty miles to the
nearest forests, but the Crusaders had no choice. Robert of Flanders and
Tancred went to Samaria and began the work of cutting timber. The process
took weeks. News came in early July that the Egyptians were at last on the
move; the army had maybe a month before they arrived.
Acting in accordance with yet another vision, this one of Bishop Adhemar
himself, the priests ordered a fast for the whole army. Following the fast,
on July 8th, the entire army marched in solemn procession around the walls of
Jerusalem. The Muslims watching from the walls mocked the Christians, for
they were all dressed as penitents and were singing psalms. After the
circuit, the army assembled on the Mount of Olives, where Peter the Hermit
preached to them, followed by Raymond of Aguilers, then by Arnulf Malecorne.
It was a moving experience for everyone.
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