The Sege of Melayne and the Siege of Jerusalem: National Identity Beleaguered Christendom, Beleaguered Christendom, and Holy War during the Great Papal Schism
This article places two Middle English poems in the context of the papal Schism of 1378–1415, itself framed by the rising tension between the nations of France and England during the Hundred Years’ War. Both poems imagine a fictional triumph of Christians over a religious Other – Saracens in the Sege of Melayne, Jews in the Siege of Jerusalem – and, through such crusading fantasies, seek to restore a sense of unified Christendom eroded by the papal Schism. Other contemporary developments also complicate the binarism of identity associated with the ideals of Holy War, notably the emergence of national crusades that encouraged contemporaries to view the largely dynastic and political conflict between France and England through a religious lens. Both poems thus attempt to imagine a unified Christian community regenerated by the experience of warfare, but because of the increasing difficulty in sorting out national and religious identities, they also exacerbate the internal fractures they set out to overcome.