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Princeton prof. gives lecture to College

Sarah Gunn | Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The chair of the history department at Princeton University delivered a lecture on Christian history “intended to rekindle a new generation with intellectual excitement” at Saint Mary’s Tuesday.

William Chester Jordan discussed Christian history in a lecture titled “Crusader Prologues: Preparing for War in the Gothic Age” as a part of Saint Mary’s College’s Christian Culture Lecture Series in O’Laughlin auditorium.

The lecture focused on the rituals of crusaders during the Middle Ages. Such practices included confession, invocation of the saints, the blessing of weapons and the recital of prayers “to be sufficiently prepared for holy war,” Jordan said.

Crusader preparations such as the blessing of weapons were done in hopes that the “sharp point of the sword might do its righteous duty,” Jordan said.

“The shield [was blessed] to protect the crusader’s body and soul,” he said. 

Jordan related Catholic prayers recited by medieval crusaders to those of contemporary soldiers preparing for departure to Iraq. 

He warned, however, of the dangerous nature of analogies and comparisons to events and ideologies of the past. 

“There’s a way to talk about the present with respect to the past,” Jordan said.

Asking questions about the subject, Jordan said, is key to a deeper understanding of it.

“There are always more questions to ask, there is a lot more to be done,” Jordan said. 

Jordan said he wanted to display “the joy of medieval history … the joy of making a story out of things from obscure archives,” in his lecture.

Students praised Jordan’s presence at the College.

“The Humanistic Studies department is extremely privileged to host such a prestigious speaker,” said senior Mary Ellen Toth, who majors in Humanistic Studies and Spanish.  

Another Humanistic Studies major, senior Meghan Kelly, praised the event.

“It demonstrates the academic values that Saint Mary’s students, Humanistic Studies students in particular, strive to uphold,” she said.