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The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem: a Corpus 1, A-K (Excluding Acre and Jerusalem).

Between the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 and the fall of the last outpost of Acre in 1291, the crusaders built, rebuilt, or simply made use of some 400 churches in the kingdom of Jerusalem. Of these, about half now survive in one form or other. In 1979, Denys Pringle, then newly appointed Assistant Director of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, began the comprehensive study of this corpus. The published material relating to these churches was systematically collected, and up-to-date field surveys of the surviving structures were initiated. The project proceeded apace until the end of 1985, when Pringle returned to Edinburgh to take up the post of Inspector of Ancient Monuments, Historic Buildings and Monuments, Scotland.

The present volume is the first triplet of this long labour. It catalogues 134 churches, from Abu Ghosh to Karak. The next volume will cover the rest of the alphabet (Lajjun to [Khirbat] Zaita), except that the churches of the great crusader cities of Acre, Jerusalem and Tyre will be treated apart in the third volume.

The short introduction to this volume wisely attempts nothing more ambitious than an outline of the principal literature upon the subject. Real introductions should always be written last, and, some 13 years from its conception, this project still has a long way to go. At the end of the volume, there is a rich bibliography, and an excellent index, giving it complete independence from its future siblings.

Most of the book (240 out of 300 pages) consists of the corpus of churches. The entries are arranged alphabetically by place-name, and can be found either by consulting the list of contents, or by flipping through the pages with an eye on the running head. If there is more than one church at a given locality, this too is clearly signalled. The longer entries follow a standard format. First, there may be a concise history of the church, from earliest times until the present, discussing the various written sources and studies of the physical remains. Next, the building is precisely described, with scrupulous reference to the literature for features which cannot now be seen or for matters of interpretation. Where relevant, the decoration and furnishings, associated structures, and epigraphy may be dealt with in turn. These sections are illustrated with plentiful black-and-white photographs and excellent plans, sections and drawings of details. The photographs themselves and the quality of reproduction is generally of a high standard: the drawings are excellent. Next, there may be judicious discussion of the evidence presented, which tends to be aimed at placing the building in its historical context. Finally, each entry ends with a list of the dates at which the building was visited, and a bibliography of the sources consulted.

All this is exemplary, and the volume constitutes a marvellous research tool, both for the documentary historian and for the architect or archaeologist. It is, of course, premature to say just what its impact upon the study of crusader church building in general is likely to be. Denys Pringle has already shown the way to a new vision of the military architecture of the kingdom, and how it fits into the social fabric of crusader society, and I would not be surprised were he to extend this project along similar lines. Not since the Arab conquests of the 7th century had Palestine seen such a concentrated campaign of ecclesiastical building. This corpus, once complete, will enable us to analyse not only the evolution of crusader church architecture at various social levels, but also the workings of patronage, and the social function of church building within the crusader state. Certainly, the rich and compact material of this corpus deserves a work of synthesis: if not in volumes II or III, then in a companion essay.

Inevitably, in a work of this length and complexity, a few minor errors can be found, but it is already envisaged that volume III will house the addenda and corrigenda to the previous two volumes. That is the place for corrections, not here. I can do no better than echo the words of Fulcher of Chartres, quoting the Psalmist, on the First Crusade: 'What can we say about it" "This is the Lord's doing, it is marvellous in our eyes"'. Indeed, the one fault with the book is not in our eyes, but in our nose. For days after receiving it, I went around poking in corners and examining my shoes, looking for the source of the indescribable whiff. Weeks later, the window is wide open, a howling gale blows across my desk, and the book still emits what can only be the odour of sanctity.

JEREMY JOHNS Oriental Institute, University of Oxford
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Author:Johns, Jeremy
Publication:Antiquity
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Words:785
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