No medieval Christian in Jerusalem could remember a more brutal reign than that of Caliph al-Hakim ibn Amar Allah. Convinced that Christians were up to trickery in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (the church built over the traditional site of Jesus' death and resurrection), al-Hakim razed it in 1008. Then his men started pillaging churches and monasteries across the Holy Land, and thousands of Christians converted to Islam out of fear of the "Mad Fatimid Caliph."

So began a series of events that would eventually disrupt the pilgrimage routes of Christians to Jerusalem—and provoke Urban II to call for the Crusades. In time, the purpose of the pilgrim mingled with that of the knight going to liberate and defend the Holy Land (see Issue 40: The Crusades).

Yet Christian pilgrims have traveled to the Holy Land for many reasons. In the fourth century, nobles traveled there in search of the ascetic life (thereby escaping "worldly" burdens). Others later went in expectation of the Last Judgment, prophesied to take place outside the city walls of Jerusalem. Still others went as payment for their sins (a form of indulgence condemned by Martin Luther).

But some pilgrims went simply to meditate on the sacrifice of Christ at the cross, his victory over death in the grave, and his ascension to God's right hand. Writing in 1044, Rodulf Glaber recounts the tale of one such pilgrim.

"At the same time from all over the world an innumerable crowd began to flock to the Sepulchre of the Savior in Jerusalem—in greater numbers than any one had before thought possible. Not only were there some of the common people and of the middle class, but there were also several very great kings, counts, and noblemen. Finally—and this had never ...

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