The Aresan Clan is published four times a week (Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun). You can see what's been written so far collected here. All posts will be posted under the Aresan Clan label. For summaries of the events so far, visit here. See my previous serial Vampire Wares collected here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Siege of Antioch

This is a story from 1098, during the first crusade in the city of Antioch. When the Christian crusaders captured and were holding Antioch after a long and difficult siege, there was a monk, named Peter Bartholomew, who saw, in a vision, St. Andrew telling him that the Holy Lance (the spear that had pierced Jesus' side during the crucifixion [John 19:34]), was buried in the grounds of the Cathedral of St Peter there. They dug for a while and found nothing, until Bartholomew himself, entered the pit, and under suspicious circumstances emerged with a hunk of metal he claimed to be the spear tip of the holy lance. Some of the leaders were skeptical, but the common soldiers looked upon it as a good omen and it lifted morale and helped them rebuff the Muslim armies trying to take back the city.

Even after successfully defeating the Muslim armies at Antioch, Bartholomew's visions continued. St. Andrew, according to Bartholomew's visions, had considerable military advice, such as where they should go and where they should attack next, and when the leadership ignored him, St. Andrew, via Bartholomew's visions, became increasingly critical of the leadership.

Finally, tired of Bartholomew's harangues, and looking for him to really prove himself, the leadership asked Bartholomew to undergo an ordeal by fire to prove the genuineness of his visions. Ordeals were a common technique of proving honesty at the time, involving taking some risk or enduring certain torture to prove that one had God's protection. Most of the time, they were more simple. For example, you'd put your hand in a fire briefly or a held a hot iron, and if your hand didn't burn or at least healed quickly, people would know you were telling the truth. In most cases, these tests were really rigged in favor of passing, since no pious person would even attempt to endure an ordeal if they were lying, since they genuinely believed ordeals involved divine intervention.

The ordeal for Bartholomew, on the other hand, seems to have been rigged against him. He had to walk through a tunnel of fire, which means they lined up two rows of upright logs, lit them on fire, and then he required him to walk between them. Amazingly, he made it through the tunnel, but he was so badly burned that he stood little chance of recovery. Bartholomew claimed that he wasn't actually burned in the process, but that when people rushed up to congratulate him, he was pushed back in and suffered all his burns then. Whatever the case may be, he died some days later, and the first crusade ultimately ended with the city of Jerusalem being captured and held by the Christians.

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