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Kingdom of Jerusalem 1099-1291

Regnum Hierosolimi

Last modified: 2002-12-20 by santiago dotor
Keywords: jerusalem | kingdom of jerusalem | crusade | cross: jerusalem | cross: potent (yellow) | crosslets: 4 (yellow) | bouillon (godfrey) |
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1099-1162 1162-1291
[Kingdom of Jerusalem 1099-1162] [Kingdom of Jerusalem 1162-1291]
both by Santiago Dotor

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The flag of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem was white with a yellow cross (potent?) and four smaller crosses in the arms.

Nathan Augustine, 24 August 1995

The Crusaders flag/arms of Jerusalem that became known in heraldry simply as Jerusalem cross has 5 crosses: one large cross potent and 4 crosslets, the crosses are yellow and the field is white. One thing the flag is famous for is breaking the "no metal on metal" rule. But I recently discovered that a variant of this flag was used as a civil ensign as late as this century.

Nahum Shereshevsky, 24 June 1997

The Jerusalem Cross consists of a big cross potent and four smaller ones [crosslets] in the four cantons. It signifies the five Holy Wounds of Christ. In 1099 the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem and one year later Baldwin, the brother of Geoffrey of Bouillon, was crowned king of Jerusalem. His symbol was the Jerusalem Cross. Since then it was carried by several royal families on their coats of arms, leading to some confusion. Its origin is probably the papal banner, that Pope Urban II gave to the Crusaders. Source: C. Pama, Heraldiek en genealogie, Utrecht, 1969.

Jarig Bakker, 15 March 1999

Somebody recently wrote about the meaning of the five crosses on Jerusalem standards. Concerning their origin, I forward a couple of explanations. The first comes from a legend, which reported that during the age of Charlemagne, the gunfanon displayed by the Kingdom of Jerusalem was a square white silk banner carrying a red cross and four smaller red crosses, to represent the pains of our Lord. When Geoffrey of Bouillon conquered Jerusalem, he remembered that legend and so he determined to adopt a similar flag, but using yellow crosses. This choice, wrong according to heraldry, was made to set up a particular kind of coat of arms, the so called dimandanti (i.e. questioning) arms, whose aim is to shock the observer with their pattern and cause him to think about the meaning of the choice. A second possibility is that the crosses show a monogram made up by a H and a I, to join the first two letters of the word Hierosolime. The source is a report from a Heraldic Congress held in the fifties.

Pier Paolo Lugli, 29 March 1999

In Smith 1975 there is an illustration on page 47 by Franz Coray of the flag of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The accompanying caption reads as follows:

The gold and white of the Vatican flag supposedly derived from the flag of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, although in fact there is no connection. Nevertheless, it is true that King Baldwin III of Jerusalem (1141-1162) used a plain white flag to which a yellow cross was added by King Amalrich I (1162-1173).
The flag is approximately twice as tall as it is long. The centered cross-potent has shortish arms of equal length, not reaching the edges. Within each of the four "armpits" are crosslets-potent, smaller duplicates of the main one. This flag still sees occasional use today, possibly a revival, in a few Christian pilgrimage processions. This can at times be viewed as somewhat confrontational by certain segments of the Jerusalemite population, adherents of other religions who yet retain bad memories of the Crusades.

M. Breier, 18 June 1999

A detailed account of the Kingdom of Jerusalem can be found in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Santiago Dotor, 23 June 1999

The gonfanon in the flag of Auvergne is said to stand for the banner used by Eustache III, Count of Auvergne and Boulogne, when he seized Jerusalem with his brother Geoffrey of Bouillon in 1099.

Ivan Sache, 16 December 2002

Shape and number of the inner crosslets

It seems clear that the four crosslets around the main cross potent are indeed plain crosses, not crosses potent (as M. Breier argues, based upon the drawing included in Smith 1975) — maybe this time Smith (or the draughtsman, Franz Coray) was wrong. Among a series of sources, I will quote just these:

  • Fox-Davies 1996, p. 85: "Many writers have gone so far as to say that the only case of an infraction of this rule [of tincture] will be found in the arms of Jerusalem: Argent, a cross potent between four crosslets or.".
  • Neubecker 1997, p. 92: a plate from Insignia Theoria (Opus heraldicum, pars generalis), Philipp Jakob Spener, Frankfurt 1690 shows the Kingdom of Jerusalem (R[egnum] Hierosolym[i]) as Argent a cross potent between four crosslets Or.
  • Neubecker 1997, p. 107: in a large table of heraldical crosses, the Jerusalem cross is shown as a cross potent between four crosslets.
  • Neubecker 1997, p. 233: the arms of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, as they appeared in the full arms of the Spanish-Italian Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, were "Argent, a cross potent or, cantoned of four crosses or".

By the way, I have found one single reference which differs from the usual blazon not in the shape but in the number of crosslets (a semy): an illustration depicting The Nine Worthies in Chevalier errant, 1394, ms. franšais 12559, fol. 1, Bibliothèque National, Paris, shows Godfrey de Bouillon as King of Jerusalem wearing a surcoat and bearing his banner, both being Argent, semy of crosslets Or, a cross potent of the second. Source: Neubecker 1997, p. 173. See image below.

Santiago Dotor, 23 June 1999

[Kingdom of Jerusalem, 'semy de crosslets' variant]
by Santiago Dotor

Origin of the Jerusalem/Bouillon Arms

I found an interesting discussion on the dating of the cross-potent-plus-crosslets arms, and on whether they were Bouillon arms before this dinasty became hereditary Kings of Jerusalem:

The three red balls on a gold ground of the Counts of Boulogne [i.e. Bouillon] can indeed be seen in the Bayeaux Tapestry, on the banner or lance flag carried by one of the leading cavalrymen, but this does not necessarily identify it as a symbol of Boulogne, and Count Eustace himself (in the famous scene where he identifies Duke William in the helmet-revolving incident) is shown carrying a banner with a device of a cross and four smaller crosses (mistaken by Mrs. [Beril] Platts for four small balls), said to have been used later by his sons at Jerusalem, on the First Crusade in 1096, and so proving that these devices were already hereditary in the eleventh century. (...)

However, Matthew Paris, the compiler of England's first roll of arms, shows Count Eustace's sons as kings of Jerusalem bearing the famous arms of Or a Cross Argent [sic] when he records the death in 1100 of the elder son, Godfrey de Bouillon, and the coronation of his brother Baldwin I in the same year. Also, the banner carried by Count Eustace in the Bayeaux Tapestry is usually identified as the Papal banner granted to William, and the device of a cross and four smaller crosses is not associated with the kingdom of Jerusalem till the mid-thirteenth century, when Hugh de Lusignan, whose descent from the Counts of Boulogne was remote, took the title.

Source: The Oxford Guide to Heraldry, Thomas Woodcock (Somerset Herald) and John Martin Robinson (Maltravers Herald Extraordinary), Oxford University Press 1988, page 7.

So the cross[-potent]-plus-four-crosslets as a device of the Bouillons could date:

  1. from at least 1066, according to the Bayeaux Tapestry; or
  2. from the mid-thirteenth century, according to Lusignan's accession; or
  3. from Amalrich I (1162-1173), according to Smith 1975.

A sensible explanation could be that at first the Kings of Jerusalem used a plain white Papal banner, to which the Bouillon device was incorporated later on. Somerset and Maltravers Heralds seem to indicate that Bouillon's arms were Or a cross Argent rather than the contrary — if this was so, it might happen that during an initial period, perhaps up to Amalrich or even later, up to the end of the Bouillons and the accession of Hugh de Lusignan, there were two flags used (not necessarily always and perhaps never side by side) by the Kings of Jerusalem:

  1. the plain white Papal banner, as Kings of Jerusalem and
  2. a gold banner with a white cross (perhaps potent, perhaps with crosslets), as Bouillons. See the two images below.
Following this theory, it may be that at certain point (Amalrich's or Lusignan's accession) it was decided to merge the symbology (sp?) of both into a single banner. This would have happened more probably on Lusignan's accession since it would have allowed him to continue using the Bouillon device on his banner of King of Jerusalem, while not using the Bouillon arms which he was not entitled to.

Santiago Dotor, 23 June 1999

[Bouillon dinasty, possibility no.1]      [Bouillon dinasty, possibility no.2]
both by Santiago Dotor