Saturday, February 16, 2008

Crusades: Pilgrims in Arms

Another excellent documentary series co-written with Alan Ereira by ex-Python Terry Jones. In “The Crusades” he guides viewers through 200 years (1096 to 1270) of medieval history, explaining the various Crusades and the religious conflicts of the era, using re-enactments, reconstructions and "animated paintings."

In this first episode of the series, Jones recounts the origins of the conflict and describes how the fateful plea for military assistance by the conniving Byzantine Emperor Alexius I to Pope Urban II morphed into a quest to impose the nascent hegemony of Western Christendom on the Holy Land, as well as a mass migration of sorts in the form of the hapless and ill-fated “People’s Crusade” led by the charismatic (and likely insane) monk Peter the Hermit (funnily enough he doesn’t mention the other co-leader of the debacle, Walter the Penniless).

At once tragic and often highly comical (only Jones could present the Pope’s recruitment efforts in the format of a WWII propaganda newsreel) it’s a shame they don’t show this type of program in schools to dispel the ridiculous notion many kids seem to have that “history is boring.”