Thursday, September 29, 2022

Today on the Almanac, we remember William of Tyre, the Medieval Chronicler in Jerusalem and beyond.

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 29th of September 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Today we get in the Wayback machine to the year 1186- the year when on this day, William of Tyre died. The onetime Archbishop of Tyre in the kingdom of Jerusalem would be one of the preeminent chroniclers- or historians of the Crusades and his life would cross paths with a veritable “who’s who” of 12th century Christians.

William's family was French and came to Frankish Syria in the wake of the first Crusade (that is, after 1099, when for a time, The Kingdom of Jerusalem was run by Christians). His family were likely merchants and well-to-do. He was educated at the Cathedral school at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (remember, Cathedral schools were proto-Universities, and being an alum from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher put him in an esteemed company).

He then went off to Paris, where he would study under the preeminent theologians in the Western church, including Peter Lombard- he of the famed “Sentences” and an architect of medieval Scholastic theology. William would study Canon Law- a good field of study for church work.

In 1170 he returned home to Palestine, where he was named archdeacon of Tyre. As the archdeacon, he would be sent on diplomatic missions between Jerusalem, Rome, and Constantinople. Remember, the split between Constantinople was fresh, but the West was claiming to come to the aid of Constantinople in the first crusade.

A rising star in Jerusalem, he was appointed Tutor to Baldwin, the son of the King of Jerusalem, Amalric. If you saw 2005’s “Kingdom Of Heaven” (which I discussed on the Weekend Edition about movies depicting Christian history), Baldwin is the creepy guy in the mask played by Edward Norton- he was the leper king. This would eventually cause problems, but at his ascension in 1174 as King Baldwin IV, he made William chancellor of the kingdom and the Archdeacon of Nazareth. As the archdeacon, he was invited to the 3rd Lateran Council. At the council, he would argue for a renewed crusade against the Muslims- the Pope was not convinced.

On his way home, he would be received by the Byzantine emperor, Manuel Comnenus- he had dreams of uniting the East and West under the banner of a new Roman Empire but would be rebuffed by the Seljuk Turks- thus, he would be favorable to the Archbishop who argued for a renewed Crusade by the Western Pope.

Because of King Baldwin’s leprosy, the question of who would succeed him loomed largely. Court jealousy would lead to William’s dismissal from public life- and as can happen with characters this far back in time- he disappears.

But unlike other Medieval characters, William of Tyre left us with a relatively voluminous written record. If you know the name “William of Tyre,” it is as a chronicler- his 23-volume History gives us the history of Medieval Jerusalem and the Crusades. It is biased- it isn’t a dispassionate account- and being that it has been read and printed for centuries, we can see how some of his biases have crept into popular versions of the Crusades.

For instance- he highlighted the preaching of Peter the Hermit in the calling of the first crusade- suggesting a general level of support that may have been overstated. His distaste for the Knights Templar has given centuries of critics ample fodder for their conspiracy theories.

According to tradition, William of Tyre died on the 29th of September, 1186. Born in 1130, he was 56 years old.

The Last word for today comes from the daily lectionary, from the book of Revelation, chapter 2:

To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:

These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 29th of September 2022, brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by a man whose favorite Baldwins include the kings of Jerusalem, the brothers, and the family on the Young and the Restless; He is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by someone more of an All My Children guy- Pine Valley Forever… I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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