The Lord of Joinville’s chaplain routs eight Saracen chiefs

June 24, 2013

St. Louis IX

At nightfall we returned, the king [St. Louis IX of France] and all of us, from the perilous battle aforementioned, and lodged in the place from which we had driven our enemies. My people, who had remained in the camp whence we started, brought me a tent which the Templars had given me, and pitched it before the engines taken from the Saracens; and the king set sergeants to guard the engines.


When I was laid in my bed—where indeed I had good need of rest because of the wounds received the day before—no rest was vouchsafed to me. For before it was well day a cry went through the camp: “To arms! To arms!” I roused my chamberlain, who lay at my feet, and told him to go and see what was the matter. He came back in terror, and said: “Up, lord, up! For here are the Saracens, who have come on foot and mounted, and discomfited the king’s sergeants who kept guard over the engines, and driven them among the ropes of our pavilions.”

Statue of Louis IX de France (Saint Louis), scultped by James Pradier, in Aigues-Mortes

I got up, and threw a gambeson (quilted tunic) over my back, and a steel cap upon my head, and cried to our sergeants, “By St. Nicholas, they shall not stay here!” My knights came to me, all wounded as they were, and we drove the Saracen sergeants from among the engines, and back towards a great body of mounted Turks who were over against the engines that we had taken. I sent to the king to give us succor, for neither I nor my knights could put on our hauberks because of the wounds we had received; and the king sent us my Lord Gaucher of Châtillon, who stationed himself in front of us, between the Turks and ourselves.

Statue of Jean de Joinville

When the Lord of Châtillon had driven back the Saracen foot sergeants, they retreated on a great body of mounted Turks, who were drawn up before our camp so as to prevent us from surprising the host of the Saracens encamped behind them. Of this body of Turks, eight of the chiefs had dismounted, very well armed, and set up an entrenchment of hewn stone, so that our crossbowmen might not wound them. These eight Saracens shot volley after volley into our camp, and wounded several of our people and of our horses.

St. Louis IX

I and my knights consulted together, and we agreed that, when night came, we would take away the stones behind which they entrenched themselves. A priest of mine, named my Lord John of Voisey, assisted at this council, but made no such tarrying. He left our camp all alone and advanced towards the Saracens, clad in gambeson (quilted tunic), with his steel cap on his head, and dragging his spear from under his arm, with the point to the ground, so that the Saracens might not observe it. When he came near the Saracens who despised him because they saw he was alone, he quickly drew his spear from under his arm, and ran upon them. There was not one of the eight who thought of defense, but all turned and fled. When those on horseback saw that their lords came to them flying, they spurred forward to rescue them, and from our camp sprang forth some fifty sergeants. The mounted Saracens came on spurring, but they did not dare to attack our footmen, and wheeled about. When they had done this two or three times, one of our sergeants took his spear by the middle, and hurled it at one of the mounted Turks, so that it struck him between the ribs; and he that was so struck, bore away the spear hanging by the point that was in the ribs. When the Turks saw this, they dared no longer to advance and fell back before us, and our sergeants took away the stones. From that time forward my priest was very well known throughout the host, and one and another would point him out, saying: “Look, that is my Lord of Joinville’s priest, who discomfited the eight Saracens.”


Geoffroy de Villehardouin and Jean de Joinville, Memoirs of the Crusades, trans. Sir Frank Marzials (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., n.d.), 199-200.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 293



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