Gesta Francorum: Hardships During the Siege of Jerusalem

Source: A.C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eye-Witnesses and Participants (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1921), pp. 249-250.

[The following extract from the Gesta francorum (“The Deeds of the Franks”) was taken verbatim from an archived version of a website no longer available: (accessed 10 January 2013)]

[Although the editor of the text below gives a date of “c. 1100,” the siege of Jerusalem lasted from June 7 to July 15, 1099 CE.]

Rejoicing and exulting, we reached the city of Jerusalem on Tuesday, on the third day of the week, the eighth day before the ides of June, and began to besiege the city in a marvelous manner. Robert the Norman besieged it from the north side, near the Church of St. Stephen, which was built on the very spot where that first martyr won eternal happiness by being stoned in Christ’s name. Next to the Norman Count was Robert, Count of Flanders, while Duke Godfrey and Tancred besieged the city from the west. The Count of St. Gilles located himself on the south, on Mount Zion, near the Church of St. Mary, the mother of the Lord, where Christ once supped with His disciples.

On the third day, some of our men, namely Raymond Piletus and Raymond of Turenne, went out on a foraging expedition. They encountered a force of two hundred Arabs, and the soldiers of Christ fought these unbelievers. With the Lord’s help, they fought so valiantly that they killed many of the enemy and captured thirty horses. On the second day of the following week, we made an attack on the city, and so bravely did we fight that, if scaling ladders had been ready for our use, the city most certainly would have fallen into our hands. As it was, we pulled down the outer wall and placed one ladder against the main wall, upon which some of our men ascended and fought hand to hand with swords and lances against the Saracen defenders of the city. Many of our men were killed in this attack, but more of the enemy.

For a period of ten days during the siege we were not able to buy bread at any price, until a messenger came announcing the arrival of our ships. We also suffered greatly for thirst. In fear and terror we were forced to water our horses and other animals at a distance of six miles from camp. The pool of Siloam, at the foot of Mount Zion, sustained us, but, nevertheless, water was sold among us very dearly.

When the messenger arrived from our ships, the leaders took counsel and decided that armed men should be sent to guard the ships and sailors at the port of Joppa. So one hundred men from the army of Raymond, Count of St. Gilles, under Raymond Piletus, Achard of Montemerle, and William of Sabran, left camp in the early dawn and started confidently toward Joppa. Thirty of these knights separated themselves from the rest of the band and met seven hundred Arabs, Turks, and Saracens from the army of the Emir. The soldiers of Christ boldly attacked the enemy, whose force was so superior to ours that they soon surrounded us. Achard and some of the poor footmen were killed. While this band was completely surrounded, and all believed that they would be killed, a messenger was sent to Raymond Piletus, who said, “Why do you stand here with these knights? Lo, all of our men are in serious danger from the Arabs, Turks, and Saracens and may all be dead by this time. Hasten to them and aid them.” As soon as they heard this, our men hastened to the scene of battle. When the pagans saw the rest of our knights approaching, they formed themselves into two lines. Our men rushed upon the unbelievers, shouting the name of Christ, each determined to bring down his man. The enemy soon realized that they would not be able to withstand the bravery of the Franks, so they turned their backs and fled in terror. Our men, pursuing them a distance of four miles, killed many of them, but kept one alive to give them information. One hundred and three horses were captured.

During this siege we were so distressed with thirst that we sewed up skins of oxen and buffalos and in these carried water for a distance of six miles. Between fetid water and barley bread we were daily in great want and suffering. Moreover, the Saracens hid in ambush at the watering places and either killed and wounded our animals or drove them away to caverns in the hills.

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