Adhemar of Monteil (also spelled Ademar) became the bishop of Puy in 1077 and would continue overseeing the French bishopric for over two decades. He is best remembered for his involvement in the First Crusade, which was sparked into life by Pope Urban II in 1095. Bishop Adhemar served as the papal legate in charge of overseeing this armed pilgrimage and he traveled with the crusader army on its campaign. For the Journey, Bishop Adhemar joined the army of the Crusader, Count Raymond IV of Toulouse (r. 1093-1105), one of the most preeminent of the Crusader lords.
During the First Crusade, all of the major Crusader contingents passed through lands of the Empire of Constantinople, led at that time by Emperor Alexios I (r. 1081-1118). Some Crusader warbands trekked into Italy and crossed the Adriatic Sea by ships. Others, took land routes, passing through Slavonia or Hungary. As for Count Raymond and Bishop Adhemar, they took the Slavonian route. By marching on land instead of crossing the sea, they spared themselves the unpredictable weather that sank several crusader ships that season, but traveling by road had its own perils. Unfortunately, the armies of the First Crusade, as well as those of the short-lived Peoples Crusade before it, had a bad habit of illegally scavenging and stealing from the communities through which they traveled. Therefore, communities that lay in the path of Crusader armies were extremely suspicious and guarded—quick to lash out at Crusaders that stepped out of line. This happened to Crusaders in Hungary, where the king mobilized an army against them, as well as in the land of the Bulgarians, who also attacked misbehaving Crusaders. Count Raymond and Bishop Adhemar faced similar hostility from locals they encountered (and commandeered supplies from) as they traveled their Slavonian route. The resistance Raymond and Adhemar faced, however, was poorly organized and therefore they were able to keep on marching toward Constantinople with little difficulty.
Although the count and bishop were reaching better-patrolled land, that did not mean that they could relax their guard. At that time, the Empire of Constantinople was a war-torn place, crawling with a wide variety of hostile peoples. As the story goes, Bishop Adhemar came into awkward contact with one of these aggressive groups. In his case, he reportedly ran into a band of Pechenegs (often called the Patzinaks), a formidable people who had been a great menace to Constantinople for many years until Emperor Alexios aligned with the Cumans to devastate Pecheneg power in 1091. Despite that calamitous defeat, the Pechenegs apparently still had enough presence in Constantinople’s empire to bizarrely rob and capture Bishop Adhemar. The story was recorded by the Count of Toulouse’s chaplain, Raymond d’Aguilers:
“On a certain day, moreover, when we were in the valley of Pelagonia, the Bishop of Puy, who, in order to find a comfortable resting place, had withdrawn a little distance from the camp, was captured by the Patzinaks. They knocked him down from his mule, robbed him, and beat him severely on the head. But since so great a pontiff was still necessary to the people of God, through God’s mercy he was saved to life. For one of the Patzinaks, in order to obtain gold from him, protected him from the others. Meanwhile, the noise was heard in the camp; and so, between the delay of the enemy and the attack of his friends, he was rescued” (Raymond d’Aguilers, Historia Francorum Qui Ceperunt Iherusalem, Krey translation 64-67).
After being saved from his captors, Bishop Adhemar finally reached Constantinople. There, the usual tensions between Crusaders and local leaders continued, sometimes causing violence. Yet, Emperor Alexios and the Crusade leaders were eventually able to come to an agreement. Crusaders, including Bishop Adhemar, crossed over into Anatolia, where they besieged Nicaea between May 14 and June 19, in 1097. They then survived an attack from Sultan Kilij Arslan I of the Rūm Turks (r. 1092-1107), who almost defeated a vulnerable section of the Crusader coalition. After fending off this attack, the Crusaders continued to Antioch, which they besieged from October 20, 1097, until the city finally fell on June 3, 1098. They then had to defend the newly conquered city from an attack by Kerboga of Mosul on June 28, 1098. Although the crusaders would go on to conquer Jerusalem in the following years, Bishop Adhemar did not live long enough to see it. He died at Antioch on August, 1, 1098.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Illustration of a bishop from manuscript BL Harley 1527, f. 112v, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons, Europeana and The British Library).
- The Alexiad by Anna Komnene, translated by E. R. A. Sewter. New York: Penguin Classics, 2009.
- Chronicle of Raymond d’Aguilers, translated by A. C. Krey (Princeton, 1921), in The First Crusade edited by Edward Peters. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971, 1988.