Godfrey of Bouillon: “Gérard, Brave Man, You Must Die”

November 19, 2020

Godfrey of Bouillon

The inhabitants of Arsouf tried to thwart the besiegers’ attack through a horrible stratagem. When the projectiles started to pummel the walls and fly into the town, they raised a large mast in front of the rampart, at the most exposed place, and hung there Gérard d’Avesnes, the Christian hostage, with hands and feet both tied.

The unfortunate victim of this distilled barbarism, seeing the king of Jerusalem close by, shouted to him plaintively: “Sire, remember that it was you who sent me into exile among these impious men. Have pity on me, and don’t allow me to suffer this cruel torture.”

The prince silenced his heart’s feelings, and with that almost inhuman firmness that sometimes commands consciences in the execution of great duties and supreme responsibilities, answered his faithful knight sadly: “Gérard, brave man, I cannot save you. Nor can I spare this city because of you. Were you my very brother, like Eustace, I could not deliver you at this price. Therefore, you must die. And it’s better that you die here alone rather than continuing to serve as a guaranty for this lair full of the pilgrims’ enemies. In losing your present life, it will be given you to live with Jesus Christ in Heaven.”

Gerard of Avesnes exposed on the walls of Arsuf. Illustration by Gustave Doré.

Gérard resigned himself. He only asked his lord, as one last favor, to bequeath his horse and weapons to the Holy Sepulcher. He gave them, he said, to the defenders of the holy places, for the salvation of his soul.

Having heard this heroic last will, Godfrey looked away, and with sorrow filling his soul ordered the attack to continue vigorously. A hurricane of arrows and stones fell on the city, and the body of the martyr, dreadfully assailed, soon disappeared amidst this storm.

Alphonse Vétault, Godefroi de Bouillon (Cadillac, France: Éditions Saint-Remi, 2019), 288–9. (Nobility.org translation.)

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 753

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