Visit of Heraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem to King Henry II at Reading Abbey in 1185
Oil on canvas by Stephen Reid - 1919
This painting shows the Patriarch of Jerusalem pleading for Henry II to send a crusade to defend the Holy Land from the Muslim leader Saladin. The Holy Land had been part of the Byzantine Empire until the Muslim Arab conquest in 635AD. Christians tolerated this situation until the invasion by the Seljuk Turks, whose hostility toward pilgrims led to the First Crusade that started in 1096. This successfully overthrew the divided Muslim forces and established the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem.
In 1185 Jerusalem was threatened by Muslim invaders, who were newly united under Saladin. King Baldwin V of Jerusalem sent a delegation to urge western powers to send a crusade to rescue the Holy Land. On 17 March 1185 the Patriarch of Jerusalem and Lord Roger des Moulins, Master of the Hospitallers, visited Reading Abbey to ask for King Henry II’s help. Henry called a council in London with his nobles and King William of Scotland. Money was voted to help the cause, but eventually the crusade was declined. In 1187, Saladin's army defeated the Christians at Hattin and Jerusalem fell in the same year.
This is one of ten paintings illustrating important events in the history of Reading Abbey. They were commissioned from 1909 onwards by Dr Jamieson Boyd Hurry, a local doctor with a particular interest in Reading Abbey.
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