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Holy War

Series 1 - Episode 1 Holy War



It’s not easy to get inside the medieval psyche.
Dr Thomas Asbridge tries, in this opening instalment of a three-part series, hoping to make sense of the Crusader mindset, but he has a job.

He traces, in great detail, how the First Crusade began with a sermon by Pope Urban II and ended in a two-day bloodbath: the sacking of Jerusalem and the slaughter of its inhabitants.

How to square the piety with the butchery?
He can’t quite. The nearest Asbridge comes is to illustrate medieval ideas of religion with a depiction of the Last Judgement at Autun Cathedral, where the sculptures offer a brilliant “tableau of horror” showing the consequences of sin, all very physical and literal. It goes some way to explaining what Asbridge calls “the crusades’ extraordinary fusion of violence and faith”.

And it makes for a vivid programme, though Asbridge has an unfortunate urge to emphasise every word and hammer home... each phrase. A little more light and shade wouldn’t hurt.


Author Dr Thomas Asbridge uses fresh research and contemporary accounts to re-examine the military confrontations in the Holy Land between Christians and Muslims that started in the 11th century and ended in 1291 with the loss of Acre. He begins by tracing the epic journey of the first Crusaders as they marched 3,000 miles from Europe to recapture the city of Jerusalem from Islam, enduring starvation, disease and bloodthirsty battle to reach their goal.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Thomas Asbridge
Executive Producer John Farren
Series Director Chris Wilson
Series Producer Chris Wilson