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They released him but arrested his driver. Diodorus claimed he musthave put the bag there. The driver was a Catholic. But apart from that, no. Now the Greeks aredemanding purple. As the monks stepped out some were singinganthems while others sprayed the ambulatory with holy water. They had cascadingpepper-and-salt beards and wore cylindrical hats topped with blackmortarboards. They scowled in the direction of the Latin chapel then marchedoff towards Calvary. He returned carrying a tin watering can and atray of what looked like surgical instruments.

He handed me the tray thenwalked up to the tomb, bowed, bent double and squeezed under the low, cuspedarch. We passed through the dim first chamber, then stooped intothe inner sanctum. The holiest shrine in Christendom was the size of a smallbroom cupboard. Raised on a ledge was the Stone of Resurrection and on top ofit rested two icons, a tatty Mannerist painting and a vase containing sevenwilted roses.

In Xanadu : a quest / William Dalrymple | National Library of Australia

Twelve lamps were suspended from the ceiling by steel chains. Fabian knelt down, kissed the Stone and murmured a prayer. Then he rose. From a recess in the first chamber he produced asmall stepladder. He climbed up onto it, unclipped a hook from the wall-ringthen let go of the pulley. The four Catholic lamps descended. They were made ofbeaten bronze and were very tarnished and very old. Finely incised on theoutside were the figures of cherubim and a six-winged seraph. Motioning that Ishould pass the watering can up to him, the friar arched over the lamps andvery carefully poured oil from the can into three of them.

As he did so eachone guttered.

In Xanadu A Quest

Take it from me. Damn it! Pass me up the string. I found a ball of string and passed it to him. Pass the scissors. Is it chrism? Oliveoil from the Mount of Olives? Comes from abox in the sacristy. Damn this lamp! Pass oneup will you? Probably asleep. A goatskin flask, perhaps. It comes from the Body Shop in CoventGarden. It filled, slowly. Then hehanded it back to me. Jerusalem had finally been lost to Islam thirty years previously,and the Sepulchre would have been semi-derelict when Polo saw it.

The Turks whocaptured Jerusalem in had butchered the priests inside, desecrated the tombsof the Kings of Jerusalem, and burned the church to the ground. Since then, the city had passed into the handsof the Mameluke Sultan, Baibars I, an upwardly mobile ex-slave who had oncebeen returned to the market place by a dissatisfied buyer on account of hisexcessive ugliness.

By the time Polo came to the Levant ten years later he hadmade himself the most feared and most powerful figure in the Middle East,defeating the Mongols and driving them back east of the Euphrates. At the same time Baibars was slowly andmethodically evicting the crusaders from their last toe-hold on the coast ofPalestine. It must havebeen newly carved when Polo arrived in Jerusalem. The symbol was a pair oflions rampant about to attack a small rat. The lions, which were shown withpowerful haunches, long claws and magnificent heraldic tails, representedMameluke Egypt; the cornered rat, the crusaders.

It was a sadly accuratepicture: in Baibars had sacked Nazareth and burned the outskirts of Acre.


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The following year the crusader fortresses of Caesarea, Arsuf and Athlit allfell before his siege engines. In Antioch was captured by Baibars after asiege ofonly four days. But it was in the spring of that the crusadersreceived their greatest shock. Krak des Chevaliers, the headquarters of theKnights Hospitallers, was considered by all sides to be impregnable; in ithad defied even Saladin.

But on March the third Mameluke troops appearedunexpectedly below the castle, and soon the fortress was invested. Despiteheavy spring rains arbalesters were brought up the hill from the valley bottomand after a short bombardment the Egyptians broke into the lower ward. Thedepleted garrison of three hundred fought on for another month until, on Aprilthe eighth, they surrendered, having received a forged order to do so,purporting to come from the Grand Master of the Hospitallers in Tripoli.

The loss of Krak was as great a boon to theprestige of Baibars as it was a blow to that of the Franks. Yet Acre, thecapital of the Crusader Kingdom since the fall of Jerusalem, was at thiscritical point in a state of vigorous civil war. None of the crusaders wastaking an even remotely responsible attitude to the survival of the Kingdom:this was left to the Papal Legate, Theobald of Piacenza. Theobald was a man ofgreat severity and dignity, a friend of St Thomas Aquinas and a confidant ofthe kings of England and France. Appointed Archdeacon of Liege, he left hisposition and retired to the Holy Land after disagreements with his bishop whowas attempting to turn the Liege episcopal palace into a bordello.

In AcreTheobald succeeded in negotiating a temporary truce between the Genoese andVenetians, and persuading the local nobility to cooperate with Prince Edward ofEngland who had just arrived at the head of an English crusade. But he lackedthe authority or the power to do anything more radical to save the Kingdom.

Then, in the late August of that year, Theobald was elected to the papacy. Heheard of his appointment in early September and took the name Gregory X. Gregory realized that the only possible hope forthe crusaders was to make some sort of pact with the Mongols with whom theyshared a common Egyptian enemy.

Not only did this make good strategic sense,there were growing indications that Kubla Khan was considering embracingChristianity. This was not as unlikely a proposition as it sounded. There weremany Eastern Christians among the Mongol ranks and already there had beenmilitary cooperation between Bohemond, the crusader Prince of Antioch, andHulagu, the Mongol Prince of Persia. But Gregory had conceived a more daringand ambitious plan than simple cooperation. The Mongol Empire ranged from the Euphrates to the Pacific; itwas the largest empire the world had ever seen. Gregory understood that if itcould be turned into a Christian empire, the days of Islam would be numberedand the Crusader Kingdom saved.

Two years previously, in the spring of , thetwo elder Polos had suddenly appeared in Acre. They said they had just returnedfrom Xanadu, the summer palace of Kubla Khan on the Mongolian steppe. They werethe first Europeans ever to claim to have travelled so far east, and their taleappeared to be true. Visit Seller's Storefront. We guarantee the condition of every book as it is described on the Abebooks web sites. If you have changed your mind about a book that you have ordered, please use the [Ask book Orders usually ship within 2 business days.

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All orders are wrapped with care and dispatched within cardboard boxes, and sent using a trackable service. List this Seller's Books. Payment Methods accepted by seller. Stock Image. Published by Collins, Condition: Fine Hardcover. Save for Later. About this Item First edition, first impression, boldly signed by William Dalrymple to the title page. A lovely, Fine copy: tight and square binding in sharp grey boards; tiny rub to the heel of the spine; very fresh, crisp and clean, presenting as unread.