Punishments came on rainy days, reported Thomas Brown from South Carolina. In order to avoid losing the labor during fine weather, his enslaver would, with calculated efficiency, “… keep an account of all the things we did, and on rainy days, we were punished.”
A modern reader might imagine that a rainy day could be a respite from toil, but as this testimony demonstrates, those days might just as well augur terror. It was some 70 years after emancipation when Brown shared his story but he was determined to make his witness still matter. In his interview he goes on to detail the kinds of torture and abuse his body was subjected to including beatings from a board designed to raise blisters that would be burst through whipping and finally salted to extend his suffering.
As this kind of testimony demonstrates, the wounds might be horrifying but it was the system’s ways of impeding healing both literal and figurative that Brown felt needed to be told and, somehow, overcome.
The astounding collection of life stories made available in the “Opinions Regarding Slavery” collection held at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and which now can be seen via JSTOR’s Open Community Collections, allows for surprises and revelations as well as confirming and enriching our knowledge of better known aspects of life under slavery. It veers from pedestrian details about things such as lack of shoes to sharp memories of torture, accounts of Ku Klux Klan activity and, almost always, the pain of family separation. These 229 interviews were conducted with elderly survivors of slavery, and consistently demonstrate that the worst memory of all was having a family torn apart. As Lewis Parker of South Carolina noted, sadly: “I will never git [sic] over it.” Those wounds never did heal.
What you see here is classwork and, indeed, you can see teacher’s notes in red pen on most of the assignments.
John Brother Cade was a young academic when he first started assigning his history students to interview former slaves between 1929 and 1935. This portfolio of classwork, now accessible on JSTOR, consists of interviews with enslaved people sometimes transcribed with attempts at dialect reproduction, or sometimes with smooth paraphrasing that might elide some of the more forceful points individuals might have been making.
One dialogue is transcribed as follows: Student: “I came for a bit of your history.” Lewis Parker of South Carolina replied “History. What’s dat? I doan spech I got none, boy.” But other students chose to avoid the problem of verbal reproduction altogether such as the student who interviewed Judie Martin of Kansas, for instance, and with frustratingly succinct summaries wrote ”Judie liked social and religious activities” and “Judie was sold away from her mother when she was old enough to wash dishes” with few other details or attempts to evoke the emotions that surely must have surrounded these accounts.
Sometimes these interviews take the form of quick questionnaires, with topics ranging from Clothing and Food to Punishments and, with a painfully clumsy query: “Tell of an important happening or funny incident that took place on your master’s plantation.”
Not surprisingly, few individuals seem to have embraced the presumptions of the “funny incident” question although one man, when asked if there was anything he liked about his experience under slavery responded with what might have been some impatience that “I didn’t know anything else so of course I had to find things to like” and another man, Eli Howard of Louisiana, who chose to tell a “funny” tale about how the Yankees marched onto the plantation, burned the cotton crop, and claimed the master’s chickens for themselves, and with this story Howard made sure the victim of the humor was not an enslaved person.
The awkward nature of some of the student questions are apparent in interviews where they were directed to ascertain the overall attitude towards slavery exhibited by their subject. As interview subject James Williams of Maryland put it dryly: “None like it.”
Or perhaps stunned into understatement after her testimony about hunger and overwork, Mary Houston of Arkansas said only: “I did not like Slavery.”
As with the better known trove of interviews with survivors of slavery conducted by the WPA during the 1930s, these student interviews are sometimes rote and sometimes insightful. Unlike the WPA interviews with former slaves, however, which were conducted mostly by white and a few Black adult questioners, these documents have the remarkable characteristic of having been created by Black students. These students, some of whom were evidently teachers or training to be teachers themselves and completing university extension classes with Cade, were not representing any government entity and they certainly didn’t carry with them any gravitas real or imagined as significant authority figures who might need to hear only certain sunny outcomes. Many of the interviewers, for example, indicate that they addressed their elders with respect as “Uncle.” This may have resulted in the fact that there are many more brutal details and complaints evidenced in these interviews than one can see in the WPA narratives which are occasionally warily nostalgic.
How the students obtained the contact details for these individuals they interviewed is a bit mysterious. Were they mailing questions to far-flung relatives or acquaintances? Were they interviewing elderly locals? Were these names of individuals their instructor had provided or were they neighbors and acquaintances? Had Cade conceived this effort as part of the growing academic interest in folklore? Had his graduate training at the University of Chicago led him to develop this pedagogy of engaged fieldwork for these students? What was its relationship, if any to the broader government undertakings of the Works Projects Administration during the 1930s that similarly organized interviews with elderly survivors of slavery? There is much work to be done on the fascinating and vital provenance of this collection and its role in the history of education as well as the history of the life of enslaved people.
Some of these narratives clearly organized around specific questions while others seem to be more creatively assembled. Some responses are almost monosyllabic and others are quite garrulous and chatty. The inconsistency of these interviews highlights the ways in which readers of these narratives must reckon with each personal tragedy and each person’s joys in the terms that people so chose to share.
This collection can remind us, too, of the geographic diversity of chattel slavery in North America. These documents hail from some 17 states as well as from Oklahoma Territory, “Indian Territory” and Canada. And while there is much consistency in the accounts of lives of unrelenting toil, the geographic differences can expand our notions of what life during slavery might have been like, even if one was not a slave.
88 year old Charles Henry Swan, who was always free, for example, has a narrative included in this collection. He was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia but his parents, who had been slaves in American before the American Revolution, later migrated down to Bermuda. He spent his life as a sailor, not a slave. As he put it, “The only master I have ever had was the school master, Henry Thomas.” But in his brief narrative he makes it clear that he was never one to participate in the slave trade. “I have anchored at every known harbor in the world seeking cargo but even went to Africa but true to my word have never been guilty of sailing a slave cargo.”
Conversely, William Seals Brown was enslaved in what was then “Indian territory” (see image here) aligns with the tone and stories of many people who survived enslavement in more established states inasmuch as he discusses the work and lack of shoes, his comparative good fortune in being a “house boy” etc. But despite being enslaved by a speculator and presumably thus having many people of all sorts move in and out of this plantation labor camp orbit, he asserted that he and his family “Had nothing to do with strangers, even the new slaves.” They were kept in isolation from the world. And yet some would sneak off to try to learn to read from the Bible even though if “they caught one trying [to] write they would cut his thumb off.” Other particulars of his experience come through such as when he discusses his half-native American Father who tries to escape and is shot and when he briefly mentions how people who tried, usually unsuccessfully, to flee to Mexico.
Some of these stories are harrowing for their precision and delicacy. Jourden Luper of South Carolina, for example, tells of torture and starvation, of abuse and fear but his most fearsome memory isn’t even his own.
“When my mother was sold, she gathered up her little belongings. She reached down to take me with her hand and my old White mistress Mrs. Rebecca Clayton said, to my mother just leave that boy alone. I want him to wait on me.”
Luper couldn’t himself recall that moment, he was too young. But in recounting his grandmother’s story of that parting Luper ensured that his mother’s outstretched hand of love and longing could be part of the story. In the word of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, it was “a story to pass on.”
The breadth of these 229 interviews is stunning. Having them now accessible for further study, exploration, and perhaps transcription (most of them are written in relatively clear student handwriting while a few of them are typed) is invaluable for all sorts of reasons discussed here. Most importantly, the fact that these interviews were conducted by students, often on yellow lined paper with red pen teacher comments that might be visually quite familiar to students today suggests that these voices might be heard loud and clear for a new generation.
Editor’s Note: We’re grateful to Angela Proctor, Head University Archivist at the John B. Cade Library at Southern University, for her help with this article.
We are pleased to inform you that we have developed effective, easy-to-follow emergency preparedness guidelines to keep your children safe: The Book of Revelation.
Written by John, the son of Zebedee, these guidelines will be used in the event that the pandemic does not end, and the upsurge of Omicron cases continue to coincide with natural disasters, downturns in the economy, heightened levels of family-work conflict, and growing social inequality, all of which may require more extended periods of classroom closures. As of today, the school board shall be divided into seven districts for easier organization and they shall be called: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
Enrollment of students in one of these seven school districts will proceed automatically according to the zoning of your child’s current school. Parents will receive subsequent notification about how each of the seven districts will approach emergency-preparedness efforts in your assigned area.
We are aware that those students assigned to the district of Pergamum may feel that being so is a double-edged sword, given that Satan historically has had his throne there. We can assure you that Satan has his throne everywhere at the moment, and that no child has any greater or lesser benefit in one of the newly created districts in terms of satanical proximity. However, there will be options for manna (yeast- and gluten-free) in the cafeteria in Pergamum, should the cafeteria reopen again in the coming days and schools resume in-person learning. We are exploring the possibility of offering manna in the other districts, but not at this time, given current pandemic supply-chain issues and droughts affecting food shortages.
We understand that some parents may have concerns about Ms. Jezebel’s teaching (should your child be assigned to the Thyatira district where her classes will be held). We can assure parents whose children attend school in this newly formed district that Ms. Jezebel is under close monitoring by an angel and can only be seen from the neck up in virtual classroom settings where her teaching methods are currently under careful review.
In the newly created school district of Laodicea, the students’ motto will be: “He who has an ear, let him hear,” unless the sounds of wildfires, cars skidding during ice storms, or children screaming as they recite multiplication tables in their online classes of thirty-plus students while you sit next to them, feverish, barely maintaining composure during your conference call with Singapore after testing positive for the Omicron variant, while monitoring your child’s academic progress becomes so overwhelming that all your senses, particularly your hearing, are impeded.
All districts shall be run by twenty-four elders (a.k.a. school councilors) whose offices will be encircled by rainbows resembling an emerald. These offices will be easily identifiable, and in the event of in-person meetings between parents and staff, you can follow the signs depicting creatures covered with eyes in front and behind their bodies, adjacent to each elder’s respective location. Signs to the district offices will depict a lion, an ox, and a beast with a face like that of a man and a flying eagle, along with the figure of a lamb with seven horns and seven eyes.
From now on, children in kindergarten will receive links to join the tribe of Judah and online harp instruction (Orff method) without any need for a password to be saved.
High school students who make the honor scroll seven consecutive times will receive seven sealed transcripts by mail, free of charge, along with a golden bowl of incense. Transcripts are also downloadable as PDFs that can be sent by email. They shall be password protected (Username: 7_Scrolls, Password: Amen/EndTimes!).
Please note that school district councilor Ms. Mary Readinghall Smithson has expressed some concerns about the original authorship of our new guidelines, crediting John the Presbyter for some of the text. Unfortunately, she has recently tested positive for the Omicron variant and is in isolation while the sun has turned black like a sackcloth made of goat hair, and the moon has turned blood red, and the stars are falling to the earth as figs drop from the fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. Therefore, Ms. Readinghall Smithson is currently unavailable for comment until further notice.
Please be reminded that tomorrow’s snowstorm means there is no school for at least four days, with no further instructions unless you are contacted by one of the elders in your district.
We wish you a productive return to school during these challenging End Times!
DUBLIN — Russia should scrap its planned naval war games off Ireland’s coast to demonstrate its desire to defuse tensions with the West over Ukraine, the Irish deputy premier said Wednesday.
Some cybersecurity and military analysts fear that the exercise planned for early February could be a cover for cutting undersea fiber-optic communications cables connecting America and Europe in event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The waters designated for the Russian exercise, the Porcupine Seabight, lie around 200 miles southwest of Cork. The area is outside Ireland’s territorial waters but within its economic zone for harnessing marine resources.
Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Russia’s timing and choice of location “may well be a show of strength towards Britain and France” as Russia builds up its forces on Ukraine’s borders. Transatlantic aircraft also must be diverted from the area during the war games, which are expected to involve tests of Kalibr cruise missiles.
“But whether it’s a coincidence or not, at a time of increasing tensions, at a time of real concern around a possible war between Ukraine and Russia, we think that they should call them off. That would demonstrate goodwill, that the Russians do want to de-escalate these tensions,” Varadkar said.
Damascus wasn’t in good shape in 1132. Assassins had just killed the king. The new king, Isma’il, was paranoid, greedy, and prone to violence—even brutally executing his own half-brother. Then, in a move that violates kingship’s most basic tenets, Isma’il planned to give Damascus away to the enemy. Enter Khatun Zumurrud, Isma'il's mother. She was not about to let that happen. In 1135, she had her own son assassinated and his body dragged through the streets.
Zumurrud wasn’t the only woman you didn’t want to mess with in the medieval Middle East. The Kingdom of Jerusalem, a Christian Crusader State founded by Europeans in 1099, saw two queens during this period, Melisende and her granddaughter Sibylla, whose political machinations, affairs, and rebellions could rival those of Game of Thrones. There was also Theodora of Jerusalem, the widowed queen who ran away to the Islamic world with the man she loved (who also happened to be her father's cousin), Alice of Antioch, who twice tried to take the throne, and more.
What was the role of women in the medieval European world? In the Crusader State of Jerusalem?
At this time, women are very much second-class citizens. They have limited rights in terms of inheritance, owning property, their marriages. Women aren't meant to be in power unless they're protecting their husband's land or his interests. So that's one of the places in which it's acceptable for a woman to have power and that's the same in Europe as it is in the Middle East.
What I found quite interesting was that the unique instability and this constant state of crisis in Outremer [another name for the Crusader States] gave women more opportunities to not just inherit power, but also to wield it.
Does there have to be instability to upend the patriarchal structure?
That's generally a key part of women getting power. Basically, for women to take power, there has to be a shortage of suitable men—either sons aren’t being born or kings and heirs are dying.
So if you look at the example of Matilda of England. She's an English queen who, in theory, would become one of the first queens regnant. Her father, Henry I, has a son and heir, but then his son is killed in the wreck of the White Ship. And he names Matilda heir and she's a direct contemporary of Melisende [of Jerusalem]. So it's a great comparison because Melisende is going through something similar in the Middle East.
The difference is that in the Middle East, there isn't the possibility of having a succession crisis because the Crusader States are so fragile. They're in danger all the time. They can't afford a civil war of the sort that England then has over whether or not Matilde should inherit, a civil war that lasts well over a decade.
Tell us more about Queen Melisende of Jerusalem. How did she come to power?
Melisende is the daughter of Baldwin II, the third king of Jerusalem. And Baldwin has four daughters and no sons, and he makes it clear from quite early that Melisende’s the heiress to Jerusalem. Then she's married to a suitable man, a guy called Fulk of Anjou. And Fulk is 100% expecting to be named the sole heir to the kingdom. However, on Baldwin's deathbed, he changes the rules. And he says, in fact, I'm leaving my kingdom in three parts to Melisende, Fulk, and their baby son, which is obviously infuriating to Fulk.
Then there's this major scandal that erupts very shortly after they come to power—someone accuses Melisende's cousin, the Count Hugh of Jaffa, of treason and challenges him to trial by combat. There's a rumor that Melisende was having an affair with her cousin. And then this plunges the Kingdom of Jerusalem into what is tantamount to a civil war. Hugh rebels and allies with the Egyptians of Ascalon and tries to fight Fulk and is defeated. After that, Hugh is sentenced to exile. And while he waited to be exiled, there's an assassination attempt made in his life. He gets stabbed very badly and then dies there shortly after.
Melisende at this point loses her temper. She’s just is so furious about Hugh’s death and about being dragged into this scandal that she suddenly really comes into her own and starts asserting her authority. Fulk is genuinely terrified of her. And from that moment forward, Melisende's name is on charters. We start to see her influence in making donations to various causes, such as the military orders, the Church, and then—Fulk dies! This leaves Melisende as regent for her son because he’s too young to rule.
And what's even more remarkable is that even once her son comes of age, Melisende keeps ruling and doesn't surrender power to him. Eventually she goes to war with her son over who should rule the kingdom. And even when she's defeated, she's not really excluded from politics. She just has to take a step back. She was a very powerful woman with a very magnetic personality who had been very clever in building up serious alliances in her kingdom.
What’s the legacy of the Crusader States and the women who ruled them?
It's a hard question because the Crusades were very bad. There's mass genocide and it's proto-colonialism. It's a very thorny topic. So, I mean, a hugely negative legacy, to be honest with you.
When it comes to the women of the Crusader States, I think Melisende's rule did influence the roles women play in medieval Europe. They saw women commanding in the Middle East, and that strengthened the case for women to have more power back home.
I also think it's very important to know that women were wielding power on both sides, both Christian and Islamic. That's often not what people expect. People often think of medieval princesses sitting alone in towers. If they think of Islamic princesses, they think of women in harems not able to go outside or be educated. But we know Saladin’s wife [Ismat ad-Din Khatun, who in 1176 married Saladin, the Muslim sultan who took back Jerusalem from the crusaders in 1187] is writing letters to him on an almost daily basis and was commanding negotiations and sieges. The myths aren't always true.
Why have these women been overlooked?
Because the chronicles are written by men. And they're pretty much always written by churchmen as well and obviously, in medieval times, churchmen aren't having a lot of experiences and interactions with women. So there's just a lot of discomfort about including the deeds of women in the chronicles because they're not considered to have the same power and importance as men. The chronicles often attribute things done by women to men.
And then that, in turn, influences how much modern historians write about women because if there's less source material, it's much harder to focus on them because there's less evidence for what they did. So the project of my book really was going through and collecting all the evidence for the deeds of these women and trying to string it together in a compelling and accurate way.
The final instalment of all of the medieval Latin cathedrals has to conclude with the bishoprics that were established in the Crusader States that existed from 1098-1291. How many cathedrals are left? What did they look like? Well, there’s a few factors that stop there being a straight-forward answer to that question…
It ought to be remembered that before the Crusades, there was already a Christian administrative structure in the Holy Land with bishops of the Eastern Church (established as fundamentally separate to the Latin with the Great Schism of 1054), who often had their cathedra in late antique churches on sites of biblical importance. The First Crusade of 1096 took advantage of the upset of the Seljuk Turks advancing into the Fatimid Caliphate to launch an absolute all-guns-blazing assault on the Holy Land, with the Kingdom of France, the Holy Roman Empire, the navally-supreme Republic of Pisa, the Anglo-Norman state, and many more lending large militias and resources to what was essentially a lethally-armed pilgrimage to establish new territory for the Frankish aristocracy.
Despite enormous military support from across Europe, the First Crusade was essentially a Frankish political project, under the endorsement of Pope Urban II (who – funnily enough – was born as Odo in Châtillon, Champagne). The term Outremer (outrémer – far across the seas) encapsulates this somewhat better, as of course, while the zealously brutal Crusader armies conquered the territory, they generally didn’t stay there. “Crusader States” is an acceptable widespread term, as the states were acquired and maintained through the military effort of Crusaders. However, the term “Crusader Cathedral” is one I’ve tried to avoid, as the Crusaders didn’t build the cathedrals: they were built under the auspices of the overwhelmingly French-administered governments that had been established in the Levant, and at least partly using resident Levantine mason labour and expertise.
The new dioceses in the Latin Levant were aligned under two Latin patriarchs based in Antioch and Jerusalem, essentially prelates with even higher autonomy from the pope than an archbishop. Albara, Apamea, Edessa, Tripoli, Tyre, Caesarea, Petra and Nazareth were archbishoprics within these patriarchates. Some of the initially-conquered territory likely did not endure long enough under Frankish control to get a new cathedral building project begun: the County of Edessa fell to the Seljuk Empire after less than fifty years. Most of the church-building occurred in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the twelfth and earlier part of the thirteenth century, interrupted by the campaigns of Saladin as Sultan of Egypt and Syria in the last quarter of the twelfth century, and ended by the Mamluk Egyptian Sultanate’s flattening of the whole Crusader States on the mainland by the close of the thirteenth century.
The island of Cyprus was captured from the Eastern Empire in 1191 (a foreshadowing of the Christian in-fighting of the Sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204) by Richard I (Cœur de Lion) of England, and subsequently passed to the Lusignan Kings of Jerusalem as another Frankish Kingdom. Its Latin cathedrals, are included here, as it’s all essentially a Crusader Outremer project, just one that lasted a bit longer than the mainland. The only way a Western state could have been maintained around Jerusalem would be with a professional standing army acting as a permanent defensive force.
The new Latin churches and cathedrals in the Frankish-controlled Levant were almost certainly built largely through the labour and expertise of local masons (who, of whatever faith, would build whatever if you paid them). However established ideas on how a church should look were brought over from western Europe and were mingled with already established building techniques in the territory for Byzantine and Muslim buildings. The pointed arch had already been used in late eleventh-century Burgundy before the Crusades, but, due to its extensive use in extant Islamic architecture, for instance Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Jerusalem Solomonic Temple Mount (which became the headquarters of the Knights Templar, with expansions that survive to this day) they were utilised extensively in new Latin churches in the Crusader States. You can imagine a Frankish prelate gesturing to the Temple Mount mosque as a blueprint for a new basilica cathedral to a Byzantine Greek architect: but you know, put apses like you do on your tetraconch churches at the east ends of the aisles, capiche? Many of the new cathedrals were not terribly large compared to what we think of as cathedral churches today, but then, that’s hardly different to many early twelfth-century builds in the south of France.
Certainly there is an argument that the Crusader States solidified the take-up of the pointed arch in the architecture of northern Europe we now know as Gothic. When the new east end of St Denis was unveiled to the bishops of the Kingdom of France 11 June 1144, the consistent pointed arches really would have screamed “Jerusalem” to anyone who had been to Outremer. Same with the new Knights Templar Church in London, built late 1150s and consecrated 1185 by Heraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem. The semi-circular arch of Imperial Rome could be said to have been superseded iconographically, and masons were no doubt happy about it, as the pointed arch is much closer to the actual thrust of the load of a masonry structure.
This spacefleet of plans is based off what I’ve been able to find from both looking at secondary sources of lists of bishoprics and looking at surviving buildings on and off over the last five months. Important Crusader States cities like Antioch and Acre were basically razed to the ground during the Mamluk conquest. Of the 80 or so churches once in Acre, the most impressive survival is a Gothic portal (possibly from the church of St Andrew that survived in impressive ruins till the seventeenth century), in, uh, Cairo.
So, these eighteen cathedral plans will be discussed below: clearly not every cathedral that was built in the Crusader States, and also I can’t guarantee they are everything there is evidence for. Omitted are two Frankish Latin buildings that were possibly cathedrals but I couldn’t find plans of: Tarsus (Turkey)1 and Ramla (Israel)2. Also, getting plans, photos and aerial shots from this politically rather-fraught region is quite difficult. Especially anything in Syria, of which many archaeological sites have been desecrated and looted in the last decade. So this is the best I’ve managed. All modern states are de facto governmental control.
Patriarchate of Jerusalem
Jerusalem, Cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre
Church of the Holy Sepulchre (State of Israel)
Arguably the most impressive church-building project in the Frankish Crusader states: an addition to what was originally a Rotunda over the Tomb of Christ constructed on the model of Imperial Roman mausolea under the Emperor Constantine in the late 320s. It was part of the laying out of the site of Calvary, the location of which was (likely accurately) ascertained as outside the western wall of Herod’s city by an envoy led by the Emperor’s mother Helena. The site had been covered by a temple to Venus built by Emperor Hadrian c.130s in his recolonisation of the city as Aelia Capitolina after the Imperial Roman Army had basically destroyed the Jewish city in the siege of 70 AD.
When the Crusaders took Jerusalem in 1099, the great basilica of the Martyrium had been long destroyed, but the Rotunda over the empty tomb of Christ survived. Through the virtue of its utterly central importance to Christianity it had been repaired under Byzantine custodianship (it had basically be brought down to the ground by Fatimid caliph al-Ḥākim bi-Amr Allāh in 1009, but the Greeks quickly intervened to rebuild it). The Rotunda was reimagined as the nave of a new cathedral church rather than just a shrine/mausoleum.
The essentially Constantinian Rotunda was complemented by a brand-new E arm built in the Burgundian Romanesque style on the E face of the Rotunda, formally consecrated in 1149, fifty years after the First Crusade. It is connected to the plans of pilgrimage churches as had been built in the last quarter of the eleventh century in southern Europe (e.g. Conques, Ste-Foi, see my Iberian cathedrals for those), with a crossing space for the choir of a community of Augustinian canons, with an ambulatory with three radiating chapels behind. The main pilgrim access to the church, as still is today, was through the double doorway of the S transept.
The early twelfth-century Frankish Latin E arm is now difficult to appreciate architecturally since it serves as an Greek Orthodox church within the now multi-denominational building (with other parts custody of the Armenian, Roman, Coptic, Ethiopian and Syriac Churches), with the main apse and arcade capitals hidden behind the iconostasis screen, and the N-S arches of the crossing blocked in their lower parts by masonry walls. The galleries are filled in with upper chapels making them look more like triforia. This photo (R) seems to have been taken at the beginning of the refurnishing of the Katholikon in 1957, and shows the elevation far clearer than you can ever see it today (below).
Nazareth, Cathedral of the Annuciation
Basilica of the Annunciation (State of Israel)
One of the biggest Gothic building projects in the Frankish Levant, yet extremely short-lived as a structure, being destroyed 1263, only 12 years after it had been re-consecrated with an Annunciation Day Mass in the presence of King Louis IX of France. A striking thing about the church was that the second pier of the north arcade was built on top of the Holy House where the Virgin Mary met the Archangel Gabriel. Since the tradition was preserved from Apostolic times, it’s probably fairly likely to be the actual childhood home of Jesus of Nazareth. This north-side position of the Holy House under the arcade inspired a copy at Tartus Cathedral (see below) and also perhaps the position of the copy of the Holy House at Walsingham Priory in Norfolk, along with the north-side Lady Chapels at Peterborough Abbey and Ely Cathedral.
Only parts of the N wall of the Latin cathedral survived into the modern era. After an initial Franciscan recolonisation of the site in 1620, an agreement was reached with the Ottoman governor for a small church to be built north-south over the ruins of the basilica in 1730. This church, subsequently expanded 1877, was demolished and the site thoroughly excavated from 1954 in preparation for a grand new Christian church in the State of Israel. At this time a great deal of architectural sculpture was discovered that showed the grandeur of this almost entirely destroyed Frankish cathedral.
The Grotto of the Annunciation, that is, the Holy House, is now preserved under the modern basilica, despite more ambitious plans by Antonio Barluzzi (1884-1960). The current church was built largely of reinforced concrete to the design of Italian architect Giovanni Muzio (1893-1982) by Israeli engineering company Solel Boneh, 1960-9.
Bethlehem, Cathedral of St Mary
Basilica of the Nativity (State of Palestine)
The Cathedral of Bethlehem was originally a Constantinian basilica building, ending in a masonry octagon (possibly concrete vaulted?) over the grotto where the birth of Christ was largely believed to have taken place. The church that survives today was rebuilt under the Eastern Emperor Justinian in the sixth century, keeping the outline of the nave and its colonnades but but replacing the octagon with a transeptal triconch arrangement. The church is one of the best-surviving Roman basilicas and arguably the earliest Christian building that has remained in regular use as a church.
Also extraordinary for their survival are the twelfth-century mosaics, dated 1169, which were co-sponsored by both the Byzantine Emperor Manuel Komnenos (1143-80) and King Amalric of Jerusalem (1163-74), and executed by local artists as part of the rejuvenation of a central shrine of Christendom. Their use of Greek and Latin does remind that church building in Outremer was not exclusively a Frankish endeavour.
Jameh al-Umari al-Kabir [Al-Omari Grand Mosque] (Republic of Lebanon)
An excellent surviving example of a typical Frankish Levant cathedral build. An aisled church of 5 bays ending in three echelon apses, barrel vault over the main space, groins over the aisles. No real clerestory, but small openings in the high vault above the arcades that give concession to the hotter climate. Arches gently pointed, exterior decoration of a corbel table with demi-shafts on the apses, and shallow buttresses on the nave walls. The apse window surrounds also have a hood of chevron ornament.
The building does not seem to have been particularly affected by the terrible Beirut port blast of 4 August 2020 that claimed over 200 lives. Although it is only 1.3 km from the blast site, much of the force of the explosion went eastward, while western Beirut was shielded by the surviving W face of the reinforced concrete grain silos.
Caesarea, Cathedral Church of St Peter
Ruin (State of Israel)
Lower walls of the echelon apses of a a vast twelfth-century basilica are still visible. The whole church was around 50 metres long, along with Tyre, one of the biggest church builds in the Crusader States, exceptionally (other than the Holy Sepulchre), with high rib (rather than simply barrel or groin) vaults over the main vessel.
Gaza, Cathedral of St John the Baptist
Jāmaʿ al-ʿUmarī al-Kabīr [Great Omari Mosque] (State of Palestine, the Gaza Strip)
Probably built after the fortification of Gaza under King Baldwin III of Jerusalem in 1149. The W facade has an oculus, and porch in front of a simply but elegantly-moulded doorway. Inside, the main arcade capitals are reused Byzantine work in a two-storey elevation featuring high groin-vaults. A minaret was built at the east end on the site of the main apse under the Mamluks and a canted outer south aisle added for the mihrab and minbar.
The building was catastrophically damaged in the British artillery bombardments of Gaza in 1917, after the intelligence that the Ottomans were allegedly using it as a munitions store, and the vaulting partially collapsed in multiple places under the assault. It was rebuilt 1925-7 under the Supreme Muslim Council during British Mandatory Palestine, led by Sa’id al-Shawwa, former mayor of Gaza 1906-17.
Hebron, Cathedral Church of St Abraham
Cave of the Patriarchs / Masjid-e-Ebrahim [Abraham Mosque] (State of Palestine)
The main complex is demarcated by a precinct wall built in the reign of Herod the Great (c. 37 BC-1 BC) enclosing the burial plot of Abraham, his sons and their wives, essentially the only Herodian build left standing. The site inside the walls was first covered over by the Eastern Empire, but the Franks inserted a whole arcade and clerestory inside the eastern half, transforming it into a vaulted basilica. Saladin reconquered the area 1188 and the structure was converted into a mosque, although Christian worship was still permitted. Now the site is more a site of joint Jewish/Muslim veneration of the patriarchs, who are held to be interred in the essentially sealed-off cave complex below.
The Frankish Latin cathedral is now a mosque, with the mihrab facing Mecca in the E wall. While the dado area is clad in coloured marble, the main twelfth-century arcade elevation with clustered piers and foliate capitals is visible. The cenotaphs to Isaac and Rebecca are also clad in marble.
The W end may have held a formal cloister in the Crusader States period, but still contains the cenotaphs to Abraham/Sarah and Jacob/Leah, which are covered by lead domes, around a central tarp-covered courtyard.
Lydda [Lod], Cathedral of St George
Greek Orthodox church of St George / El-Khidr Mosque (State of Israel)
A church built largely for the shrine of St George, a ruin after the fall of the Crusader States, standing as a fragment of the s arcade with parts of the N and central apses until they were rebuilt as an Orthodox church in 1870-4. The entrance to the Mamluk mosque still occupies the W half of the original Frankish church building.
The ornamented inner cornice of the apse’s masonry semi-dome (comparable to carving in the Holy Sepulchre) shows that it was quite a sophisticated building despite its small size.
Sebastia, Cathedral church of St John the Baptist
Jama’a Nabi Yahya [Prophet John Mosque] (State of Palestine)
The Frankish Latin church nave is largely an open ruined shell, but with part of the arcades surviving showing it was a typical early twelfth-century Crusader-States build, with groin-vaulted aisles but, uniquely, a mostly sexpartite-vaulted main vessel. The E apses were demolished and the last bays filled in to be revamped and vaulted as an Ottoman mosque, using some spolia from the earlier Christian phases in its construction.
The domed structure built into the S arcade marks the site of John the Baptist’s original tomb.
Tyre, Cathedral of the Holy Cross
Ruin (Republic of Lebanon)
Arguably the largest Crusader States Frankish cathedral, some 67 metres long (Nazareth was longer, but likely Tyre was greater in overall size), ending in echelon apses, and also protruding transepts with enclosed apses. The ambitious transepts – generally Frankish Levant churches were planned as straight-through basilicas – were possibly due to its dedication to the Holy Cross. Genuinely a hefty church build for early twelfth century Europe, but typically for Outremer, no ribs, only barrel vaults over the high spaces. The crossing piers were probably made from the monolithic Egyptian red granite columns, probably originally from a Roman temple, that were lying around the nave still in the late nineteenth century. Relatively recently the columns were re-erected on the nave pier foundations without justification, and look misleadingly silly. In fact the whole site is a bit of a mess really.
Patriarchate of Antioch
Encompassing the states of the Principality of Antioch, along with the Counties of Edessa and Tripoli, there is much less left of Frankish buildings for this patriarchate than for Jerusalem’s. Whether this is a consequence of them simply not getting round to building much or later destruction (as seen above, a nice big aisled basilica on a biblical site would never be frowned upon as a mosque) I’m not really sure. But the first two buildings are interesting Eastern Empire churches it’s fun to have a look at anyway.
Apamea, “Eastern Cathedral”
Ruin (Syrian Arab Republic)
Apamea was a Hellenic and Imperial Roman city, which had a large aisled “tetraconch” church built in the early sixth century. Since there is no trace of Latin Cathedral, I’m assuming the Latins used this building as the base of their archbishopric. Regardless, it’s interesting to throw it into comparison for size. It was a genuinely impressive build, and its construction is best evoked by this reconstruction of Seleucia-Pieria church, of the late fifth century.
Apamea underwent systematic looting after the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011. Quite alarmingly so.
Sarepta, Excavated Byzantine Church
Buried archaeology (Sarafand, Republic of Lebanon)
A probably unaisled tetraconch church discovered 1969-74 is the only known church building in this Roman port settlement that had a Latin bishopric. Its shape was extrapolated by the excavated corner of lower footings, with one column base discovered.
This Eastern Empire church was likely built in sixth century beside the Roman quay. It may have been in ruins before the First Crusade, so whether it was used by the Latins is conjecture, but there is no site for a Latin Cathedral. Again, it is interesting to include for scale of what the Franks were combatting with their new basilicas. The point on my Google Map is bang on it as far as I could work it out.
Byblos [Jubayl], Cathedral of St John the Baptist
Church of St Jean-Marc (Republic of Lebanon)
A three-bay nave ending in echelon apses, barrel vault over the main vessel, groins over the aisles. Shafted detailing on the windows of the main apse inside and out, with gently pointed arches.
Barrel-vaulted nave, arcade with pointed arches and simple capitals. Again, exactly the sort of thing you’d get as a small cathedral in the south of France in the early twelfth-century.
Tartus, Cathedral of Our Lady of Tortosa
Tartus Museum (Syrian Arab Republic)
One of the most assured Gothic builds in the Frankish Levant, sporting clustered piers to the nave arcades with interior shafts which support a pointed barrel vault with small window openings. A shrine to the Virgin Mary, ostensibly preserving the first church dedicated to her by St Peter himself, was incorporated under the centre pier of the N arcade on the model of Nazareth. The church was probably built in the latter part of the twelfth century, as the clustered piers bear a resemblance to later Early Gothic, e.g. at Laon Cathedral. The west front has a set of pointed windows with flanking shafts with shaft-rings, advising a completion date in the early thirteenth century.
Kingdom of Cyprus
The Island of Cyprus was conquered in 1191 by Richard I of England from the Byzantine Empire in the Third Crusade. It served like an aircraft carrier for tactical strikes by the Latins on the coast of the Levant. Richard initially sold the island to the Knights Templar, who acted like complete murderous bullies (as usual), so it quickly passed to the Lusignans in 1192 who held the Kingdom of Jerusalem. As the Crusader States collapsed to the Mamluks, Cyprus became a handy bolt-hole for as the Frankish Levant finally collapsed for good.
There were four Latin dioceses in medieval Cyprus, under the archbishopric of Nicosia. Two Latin cathedrals survive as mosques, one a scaled-back High Gothic build and another an exceptional plant of quite advanced Rayonnant architecture c.1300. The Greeks had their own separate cathedrals. The island fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1570.
Nicosia, Cathedral of St Sophia
Ayasofya/Selimiye Mosque, North Nicosia (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus)
This outshines the churches in the mainland Crusader States as a fully rib-vaulted Gothic church with a grand clerestory, built from 1209. The elevation is two-storey and generally squat compared to a contemporary French cathedral, likely a concession in style to the hotter climate. The squat proportions also seem to inspire the odd Remois passage in the nave walls, which have steps down from the aisle windows to under the vault capitals.
The W portals, although stripped of all imagery (rather reminiscent of what also happened to Noyon in northern France), is a superb show of mid-thirteenth-century High Gothic ornament.
Famagusta, Cathedral of St Nicholas
Ayasofya/Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus)
An absolutely exceptional provincial late rayonnant Gothic building, in some ways a simplified version of the papal collegiate church of St Urbain, Troyes (1262-). Notably, the patron of that building, Pope Urban IV (1261-4) was, as Jacques Pantaléon, patriarch of Jerusalem 1255-61. The new Latin cathedral of Famagusta was begun shortly after 1298 with the ascension of Bishop Guy. There was a suspension in construction after his death 1308×11 (recorded by an inscription on the south door of the cathedral), which may explain why the clerestory of the central bays lacks the rayonnant gables of the W and E ends.
Although the open-work double piscina may be drawn from Troyes, the high altar sedilia (which are probably mediated through Rhineland sources, as mural sedilia are completely unknown in France) are stepped down towards the E end. This is probably due to later interventions: the church became a mosque in 1571, with a minaret built over the NW stair turret, and has remained as such ever since.
Paphos, Cathedral of St Peter
Ruin, E perimeter of archaeological park (Republic of Cyprus)
The candidate shown on the plan is a Gothic church built alongside the massive seven-aisled early fifth-century basilica of Panagia Limeniotissa (Our Lady of the Harbour). This building was superseded by a small sixteenth-century church, Saint Kyriaki, built in the centre of the Roman basilica ruins.
Replaced by Camii Kabir [Grand Mosque] (Republic of Cyprus)
The archaeology of two apses discovered at the E side of the Ottoman mosque in 1993 suggests that the Latin bishops commandeered an existing Imperial Roman/Byzantine church and did little more than plaster over the synthronon. In 1491 the cathedral was heavily damaged in an earthquake, and the rebuild of the walls from this time was incorporated into the mosque.
So there we go. Here is the sensible version of these buildings (click for full size).
This is such a small project, and also way beyond my expertise I’m not going to paywall the full-res images even for a penny, because I’m pretty sure I’ll want to mod them within about a couple days of putting this live (corrections and additions are welcome). These plans are the same resolution as my “Frontiers” project, (that is, slightly higher than for the generally much larger cathedrals of England, France and Germany) so if you’d like to donate, please consider that. I think the PDF is quite fun. Here comes the support banner!
So, one last thing to do… all the medieval Latin cathedrals? Not sure whether I will put all the fleets together on one single image (especially since I balked on doing Italy) but there is one big Google Map nearly ready to drop. Stay tuned.
Bibliography and Footnotes for nerds
A great deal of this was gathered from what I could get online of Denys Pringle’s 4 vol. The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and many of his other publications. An older useful text I got hold of in full was A History of the Crusades, Vol IV, The Art and Architecture of the Crusader States ed. Kenneth M. Setton (Wisconsin UP, 1977), notably the chapters by T.S.R. Boase. Otherwise, Fernie, Romanesque Architecture: The First Style of the European Age (Yale UP, 2014) was as invaluable as ever for its delightfully pithy Marxist approach to these buildings. If you want to know more about Cyprus, seek out Michalis Olympios, Building the Sacred in a Crusader Kingdom: Gothic Church Architecture in Lusignan Cyprus, c.1209-c.1373, Architectura Medii Aevi 11 (Brepols 2018). Although I didn’t read it for this, because I could buy a plane ticket to the island for how much those AMAs retail at.
1There were Latin bishops in Tarsus during the twelfth century even though it wasn’t inside a Frankish Crusader State, but in which church they sat is unclear to me: other than the clearly mid twelfth-century Eski Camii [Old Mosque], there’s a case that perhaps they shared the royal Armenian cathedral of Saint Sophia, where Lewon I was crowned first King of Armenian Cilicia, probably on the site of the Ulu Camii [New Mosque]. There is also another church in Tarsus S of the Ulu Camii, often called one of the earliest Crusader churches, but essentially completely rebuilt in the 1850s. Tarsus, along with the diocese of Mamistra, was never in a Frankish Crusader State, but nevertheless was part of the Latin Patriarchate of Antioch.
2 Ramla is bang right next to Lydda, so at most it was a joint diocese. Ramla was the only city founded ex-novo by the Arabs in Palestine and its earliest capital. There will be a plan in Ramla: City of Muslim Palestine, 715-1917, eds by A. Petersen and D. Pringle (Archaeopress, 2021), but I don’t have free access to it. But also I can see Pringle doesn’t call the church a cathedral, so that’s enough for me not to bother.
Other buildings like the Great Mosque of Nablus (Palestine) may be built on the site of Byzantine/Latin cathedrals and reuse sculptural elements such as capitals from them, but seem to be totally rebuilt as mosques anew.
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