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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > History > Religious > TV > The Crusades: Crescent and the Cross (History Channel)

The Crusades: ­ Crescent and the Cross (History Channel)


Picture: B-    Sound: B-     Extras: B     Film: B



The Crusades originally aired as a three-part documentary on The History Channel.  It is presented here on two discs with extra features (including an historic timeline and interactive menus) plus a bonus CD-ROM in certain copies.  The History Channel must have had a good budget for this project because this is beautifully filmed with attention paid to the accuracy of costume and setting.


While the end of the documentary covers the story of the Templar knights and touches on the Grail legend this program successfully avoids being just another attempt to cash in on the Da Vinci Code craze.  Instead it focuses on the real history of a terrible period in human history.


Beginning in the 11th century and lasting for nearly two hundred years European armies were sent to the Holy Land to reclaim Jerusalem from Muslim control.  It was also part of the mission to convert as many people to Christianity as possible, using that age-old persuader, the edge of a sword.  Though there was overlap there were three distinct Crusades that cost thousands of lives and created hostilities and repercussions that continue to this day.


The westerner’s knowledge of the Crusades (whatever info has been gleaned from history classes, movies and books) is usually colored by its focus on the European version of events.  This documentary avoids that trap and provides both sides of the story, making an effort to include the less known and certainly less understood Muslim point of view.  It was a complex situation, with much more at stake than simple religious expansion, and the sense of that is conveyed.


The third episode focuses on the period of the Templar Knights and their ties to the story of the Holy Grail.  Much of the real history is shrouded in mystery (which accounts for our need to create a story around it).  What is known is that a small sect of knights traveled to the Holy Land.  It is believed they found something there that allowed them to rise to a position of great power.  Whatever really happened there is subject to debate, but history shows the Templars became incredibly wealthy and powerful as a result.


It was doomed to come to a tragic end.  In a battle between Church and State the Templars were arrested on Friday, October thirteenth, 1307 (yes, that is the origin of the superstition of Friday the thirteenth being unlucky).  They were tortured and executed, ending their reign and giving rise to thousands of stories and conspiracy theories.  This action also effectively ended the Crusades.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image looks very good, originating recently in professionally shot digital video, while the Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo has some surrounds, but you’ll have to experiment with playback modes in this case to determine what you think sounds best because it is a too close to call case that comes down to personal preference.  It is nicely recorded, but then you can tell this has a larger budget than the usual documentary mini-series production.


The story of the Crusades is a good place to start when someone asks why knowledge of history is important.  There is an old rubric about how those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.  Somehow, the story of an attempt to bring Christianity to the Middle East and wipe out the existing Muslim culture still rings true.  History shows that a Holy War, whether called a Crusade or a Jihad, cannot be won, and brings only misery and a lot of death in its wake.



-   Wayne Wise




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