Armenians during the Crusades

There is a consensus among many art historians including Josef Strzvgowski, Auguste Choisy, and others, that the Crusades were the vehicle for the introduction of Gothic Art from Armenia into Europe. For example, Queen Melisende of Jerusalem hired many Armenian architects from Cilicia to restore and build churches in Jerusalem.

During and after the Crusades, the Armenians of Jerusalem were active in trades and had their market. In the 19th century, traveler Clermont-Ganneau found an Armenian stone street sign inserted into the wall at the entrance to the Draper’s Market, also known as Souk-el-Khawajat or Souk el-Souyagh (Goldsmiths’ Market).

The street was one of the three long streets which were called the ‘closed market.’ Besides the Armenian writing was a tool of the guild. The stone inscription was carried off to Paris. The closed markets were built by Queen Melisende.

Frankish chroniclers emphasize the participation of Armenian and Greek builders in the building of Crusader fortresses and churches.

Steven Runciman, one of the most famous experts on the Crusades, wrote that Armenians were great experts on fortifications and military architecture. T.S. R. Boase, an expert on Crusader buildings, enumerates the Armenian contributions to fortress architecture.

He saw, as the most outstanding example, the Castle of Anamur, with its thirty-six towers, and stresses that “horse-shoe towers are Armenian in inspiration.

By Jirair Tutunjian, Toronto

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