Godfrey of Bouillon

From Academic Kids

Godfrey of Bouillon (c. 1060July 18, 1100, Jerusalem), (Godefroy de Bouillon in French) was a leader of the First Crusade. He was either the eldest or the second son of Eustace II, count of Boulogne, and Ida, daughter of Godfrey II, Duke of Lower Lorraine.


Early Life

He was designated by his uncle, Godfrey the Hunchback, as his successor in Lower Lorraine, but in 1076 Emperor Henry IV gave him only the mark of Antwerp, which was part of the lordship of Bouillon, taking back the fief of Lower Lorraine, as his uncle had no direct descendants nor heirs-male. Nevertheless, Godfrey, now of Bouillon, fought for Henry both on the Elster and in the siege of Rome, and in 1082 was finally given the duchy of Lower Lorraine.

Lorraine was heavily influenced by Cluniac reformers, and Godfrey seems to have been a pious man. "As the bishops, after the triumph of the Cluniac Reform and the struggle over investitures, ceased to support the German emperors, the province soon resolved itself into small feudal estates." (Catholic Encyclopedia, "Lorraine"). Although he had served under Henry IV against the Papacy, Godfrey almost literally sold all that he had and joined the crusade preached by Urban II at the Council of Clermont (1095).

First Crusade

Along with his brothers Eustace and Baldwin of Boulogne (the future Baldwin I of Jerusalem) he started in August, 1096 at the head of an army from Lorraine, some 40,000 strong, along "Charlemagne's road," as Urban II seems to have called it (according to the chronicler Robert the Monk)—the road to Jerusalem. After some difficulties in Hungary, where he was unable to stop his men from pillaging fellow Christians, he arrived in Constantinople in November. He was the first of the crusaders to arrive, and came into conflict with Byzantine emperor Alexius I, who wanted Godfrey to swear an oath of loyalty to the Byzantine Empire. Godfrey eventually swore the oath in January, 1097, as did most of the other leaders when they arrived.

Until the beginning of 1099 Godfrey was a minor figure in the crusade, with Baldwin, Bohemund of Taranto, Raymond IV of Toulouse, and Tancred determining the course of events. Godfrey was the first to arrive at the siege of Nicaea, but his only significant achievement during this part of the crusade was helping relieve Bohemund's army at the Battle of Dorylaeum after he had been surrounded by the Seljuk Turks under Kilij Arslan I. Godfrey's army, however, was also surrounded, until another group of crusaders under Adhemar, bishop of Le Puy attacked the Seljuk camp.

In 1099, after the capture of Antioch following a long siege, the crusaders were divided on what to do next. Most of the foot soldiers wanted to continue south to Jerusalem, but Raymond, by this time considered to be the leader of the crusade, hesitated to continue the march. Godfrey, who seems to have been influenced more by religious motives than politics, convinced Raymond to lead the army to Jerusalem. Godfrey was active in the siege of the city, and on July 15 he was one of the first to enter the city, which was the scene of a general massacre of Muslims and Jews. On July 22, when Raymond refused to be named king of Jerusalem, Godfrey was elected in his place.

Kingdom of Jerusalem

However, Godfrey refused to be crowned "king" in the city where Christ had died. Instead he took the title Advocatus Sancti Sepulchri, "advocate" or "defender" of the Holy Sepulchre. During his short reign of a year Godfrey had to defend the new Kingdom of Jerusalem against Fatimids of Egypt, who were defeated at the Battle of Ascalon in August. He also faced opposition from Dagobert of Pisa, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, who had allied with Raymond. Raymond prevented Godfrey from capturing Ascalon itself after the battle.

In 1100 Godfrey was able to impose his authority over Acre, Ascalon, Arsuf, Jaffa, and Caesarea. Meanwhile the struggle with Dagobert continued; Godfrey and Bohemund preferred Arnulf of Chocques as Patriarch, but Dagobert wanted to turn the kingdom into a theocracy with the pope as its leader. Dagobert was able to force Godfrey into a truce, giving Jerusalem and Jaffa to the church if the secular kingdom could be moved to Cairo. However, Godfrey died in July without having conquered Egypt, and the question of who should rule Jerusalem was still unanswered. The supporters of a secular monarchy called on Godfrey's brother Baldwin to take the crown. Dagobert backed down and reluctantly crowned Baldwin as king on December 25, 1100.

Godfrey in History and Legend

Because he had been the first ruler in Jerusalem Godfrey was idealized in later stories. He was depicted as the leader of the crusades, the king of Jerusalem, and the legislator who laid down the assizes of Jerusalem, and he was included among the ideal knights known as the Nine Worthies. In reality he was none of these things. Adhemar, Raymond, and Bohemund were the leaders of the crusade; Baldwin was the first true king; the assizes were the result of a gradual development.

Godfrey's role in the crusade was described by Albert of Aix, the anonymous author of the Gesta Francorum, and Raymond of Aguilers. In fictional literature, Godfrey was the hero of two French chansons de geste dealing with the crusade, the Chanson d'Antioche and the Chanson de Jerusalem. His family and early life became the subject of legends as well. The Knight of the Swan legend, most famous today as the storyline of Wagner's opera Lohengrin, was originally about Godfrey's grandfather Helias, who arrives in a mysterious swan-drawn boat to defend the family of Bouillon and marry Godfrey's grandmother.

In the Divine Comedy Dante sees the spirit of Godfrey in the Heaven of Mars with the other "warriors of the faith."


Since the mid 18th century, an equestrian statue of Godfrey of Bouillon stands in the center of the Royal Square (Fr.: place Royale, Nl.: Koningsplein) in Brussels, Belgium. The statue was made by Eugène Simonis, and inaugurated on August 24, 1848.

Preceded by:
Defender of the Holy Sepulchre
Succeeded by:
Baldwin I (as King of Jerusalem)

Template:End boxTemplate:Livedde:Gottfried von Bouillon fr:Godefroy de Bouillon nl:Godfried van Bouillon pl:Gotfryd z Boulogne


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