The success of the First Crusade (1095-1101) brought with it the creation of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, with Lord Godfrey of Bouillon as its first monarch. After Godfrey’s death, the barons invited his brother, Baldwin of Edessa, to rule, and on Christmas day, 1100, he was crowned King Baldwin I. During his reign, which lasted until 1118, the hold that the Christians had on the Holy Land needed constant defending.
So it was that in 1110, King Baldwin was forced to lead his men to give aid to the hard-pressed city of Edessa. In his absence, the Moslems blockaded the Christian port city of Acre. But help — unexpected to Baldwin — was on the way! What was the Moslems’ surprise when they were confronted by a fleet of dragon ships bearing enormous, ax-bearing, white giants, with long blonde locks, swinging their huge oars to a rhythmic cadence, dressing the sides of their ships with colorful shields, and looking in a fighting mood? The infidel turned tail and fled.
The Viking fleet was led by the young King Sigurd Jorsalafari of Norway, who heeded the call for a Crusade. He took his time traveling to Palestine, stopping in Spain along the way to surprise some Arabs and Berbers. Arriving at the Holy Land a bit late (1107), he proved himself of great value to Baldwin. When the two met after Sigurd’s successful defense of Acre’s port, the King of Jerusalem took his Norse ally on a tour of all the holy places, having him venerate the Holy Sepulcher and walk reverently through the Stations of the Cross. Among the many gifts Baldwin gave to Sigurd was a relic of the Holy Cross, which the Norwegian took home and enshrined in a church he built. Besides saving Acre from the Moslems, Sigurd and his men were very handy in capturing the city of Sidon, something they did for Baldwin as a “thank offering” for all the gifts he had given them. After an unsuccessful bid at taking Tyre, the Northmen headed back home, visiting Constantinople along the way. It was a ten-year round trip.
King Sigurd’s surname, Jorsalafari, means “Jerusalem farer.” That is how he was immortalized by the bards of Norway.