Normans in the Holy Land, including Historical Highlights about Norwegian Viking Connections

Normans in the Holy Land, with Historical Highlights  about  Norwegian  Viking  Connections

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.  (Luke 21:24b)

Jerusalem AD1099   (Les Passionés d’Histoire image credit)

Normandy’s Vikings, many of which biogenetically descended from Norwegian Vikings, have left big footprints in world history and world geography, including historic events in the Holy Land, in unique places like Antioch and Jerusalem

For example, one famous Viking warrior was Norway’s king Sigurd Magnusson, nicknamed “Jórsalafari” (meaning “Jerusalem-farer”), who was son of Norway’s king Magnus III (“Bare-legs”) Olafsson, who was son of Norway’s king Olaf III (“Kyrre” = “peaceful”) Haraldsson, who was son of Norway’s famous Viking-king Harald (“Hardrada” = “hard ruler”) Sigurdsson, whose own warrior adventures included action, during AD1037, in the Holy Land[1], before Hardrada’s adventures ended (on September 25th of A.D.1066) at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.[2]

Mosaic art in Antakya (Antioch), Turkey  (public domain)

Antioch (Turkey’s “Antakya”) is likely best known as the city wherein believers in the Lord Jesus Christ were first called “Christian”, as historian Luke reports:

And when he [i.e., Barnabas] found him [i.e., Paul], he [i.e., Barnabas] brought him [i.e., Paul] unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they [i.e., Paul and Barnabas] assembled themselves with the church, and they taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. (Acts 11:26)

Besides Acts 11:26, within the New Testament the term “Christian” only appears twice, once in a quote by historian Luke, at Acts 26:28 (“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, ‘Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian’….”), and later in an exhortation from Peter, at 1st Peter 4:16 (“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf”).

Thus, Antioch is forever famous as the place where the name “Christians” [χριστιανους] was invented, as Acts 11:26 (quoted above) documents.

Image credit: Baz Battles (First Crusade: Siege of Antioch 1098 AD)

Of course, Antioch has hosted many other historical incidents, some of which occurred during the Dark Ages, particularly when the Crusades connected European politics to the geography and politics of Jerusalem and its environs. 

One such famous battle, at Antioch, occurred on June 28th of A.D.1098, as part of the First Crusade.

Hailed as miraculous by contemporaries, the Christian [here using the term “Christian” loosely] victory at Antioch came at a time when the Crusaders were starving and heavily outnumbered by their [Muslim] enemies.  The Battle of Antioch [in A.D.1098] was a great tactical triumph that saved the First Crusaders from annihilation.

Having taken Antioch, the key to Syria [from the Muslims], the Crusaders found themselves besieged by a large, mixed Turkish and Syrian relief force, led by Kerbogah, the governor of Mosul [in present-day Iraq].

The Crusaders had to break out or starve, but their escape was aided by the fact that, while small Turkish divisions had been posted on the gates, the main army was unopposed, save for the brief fire of a few mounted bowmen, driven back by retorting Crusader archers.

Except for Bishop Adhemar’s Provençal force, each Crusader contingent turned right after crossing the bridge outside the city, marching along the bank of the Orontes River, which protected their right flank. This meant that the Turkish cavalry units that made it to the battlefield wasted their attacks on the smaller Crusader force, instead supporting their infantry along the river.  Kerbogah lost faith in his Syrian allies’ will to fight, so the main Turkish force never even reached the Crusaders.  The force that withdrew at Kerbogah’s command massively outnumbered them, but the Crusaders had control of the region.

[Quoting Jack Watkins, general editor, ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CLASSICAL WARFARE (London, UK: Amber Books, 2021), page 106 (“Antioch 1098”).] 

Image credit: Baz Battles (First Crusade: Siege of Antioch 1098 AD)

So, when the dust settled [in what is now the edge of what was the military outcome of the Battle of Antioch-on-the-Orontes, on the 28th of June, in A.D.1098?

The Crusader force won a major tactical victory.  Although the majority of Kerbogah’s force never engaged the enemy, it withdrew, leaving the Crusaders in control of the region [and able the next year to conquer Jerusalem].

[Quoting Jack Watkins, general editor, ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CLASSICAL WARFARE (London, UK: Amber Books, 2021), page 106 (“Antioch 1098”).] 

Robert of Normandy[3] at the Siege of Antioch  (public domain)

            When the Crusaders from Europe occupied the region of Antioch, and later much more of the Holy Land, including Jerusalem (during July of A.D.1099), Christians should not have been surprised—because Jerusalem has been “trodden underfoot” by Gentiles for many centuries, illustrating ongoing fulfillment of this prophecy about that unique city:

And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations [i.e., “Gentiles”]; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

[Quoting Luke 21:24.]

            As a result of the Crusades, some of which involved Vikings, various parts of the Holy Land were visited by—and sometimes ruled by—Europeans, some of whom were descended from Norwegian Viking ancestors. 

EARLY CRUSADES   (map credit: Norman B. Leventhal Map Center)


Here are some representative examples of Crusade-related Europeans in the Holy Land, some of whom trace back to Norman ancestors (most of which are documented with detail in Roderick W. Stuart’s ROYALTY FOR COMMONERS, 4th edition (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2002), especially from Stuart’s documentation indexed on pages 282 & 291 (and lineages cited therein):

  • Robert Guiscard d’Hauteville, a Norman conqueror of southern Italy, was descended from Norway’s Ragnvald Eysteinsson, thru his son Hrolf Ragnvaldsson [a/k/a “Rollo of Rouen”], as is diagrammed below) – Robert Guiscard’s son Bohemond I became Crusader prince of Antioch;
  • Bohemond I, Crusader Prince of Antioch (married princess Constance of France, by whom he fathered Bohemond II);
  • Bohemond II, Crusader Prince of Antioch (married Alice of Rethel, Crusader princess of Jerusalem, by whom he fathered Constance of Antioch, whose rule was extended thru her husband Raymond of Poitiers);
  • Baldwin II, Crusader king of Jerusalem, count of Rethel (part of First Crusade; married Malfia);
  • Fulk V, Crusader king of Jerusalem (Count of Anjou, married Ermengarde of Maine),ruling Jerusalem from AD1131 to AD1143);
  • Charles I, Crusader king of Jerusalem, Sicily, & Naples (married Beatrice of Savoy).

As noted above and below, several of the early Crusaders, who fought in the earliest battles of the Crusades, were “Franks” (i.e., from France), yet were often Normans (i.e., from France’s Normandy) with Norwegian genealogical roots.

House of Normandy genealogy chart   (Wikipedia image)


Bohemond I (Prince of Antioch) is descended from Norway’s Ragnvald Eysteinsson, Jarl of Møre, through Hrolf (a/k/a Rollo) Ragnvaldsson of Norway (who founded county/dukedom of Normandy), and thus Robert is a distant cousin to Normandy’s William the Conqueror, as is shown below.[4]

  1. Ragnvald Eysteinsson (P6), Norway’s Jarl of Møre (during the reign of Norway’s King Harald Fairhair), with wife Ragnhild Hrolfsdottir (P6), begat son Hrolf;
  • Hrolf (a/k/a Rollo) Ragnvaldsson of Norway (P5), with wife Poppa de Bayeux (P5), begat son William;
  • William (Long-sword), Duke of Normandy (P4), with wife Sprote de Bretagne (P4), begat son Richard;
  • Richard I, Duke of Normandy (P3), with Gunnora de Crepon (P3), begat daughter Fredesende;*
  • Fredesende of Normandy (P2), with husband Tancred d’Hauteville (P2), begat son Robert;
  • Robert Guiscard d’Hauteville (P1), a Normandy-born conqueror of southern Italy, with his 2nd wife Sikelgaita (P1),begat son Bohemond;
  • Bohemond I, Prince of Antioch was a First Crusade conqueror of Antioch, and thereby began a Norman-Crusader dynasty within the Holy Land.

Richard I (duke of Normandy), who listed in #4 above, with his wife Gunnora, *also begat Richard II (duke of Normandy); Richard II, with wife Judith of Brittany, begat sonRobert I (duke of Normandy); Robert I (Duke of Normandy), with concubine Herleve, begat William (duke of Normandy, and later king of England, as “William the Conqueror”).

William I “the Conqueror” of Normandy, with wife Matilda, begat a family “tree” of British royal lineage(s) that continue to the present.

JOHN OF GAUNT COAT-OF-ARMS  (Wikipedia image )


It should be noted that Robert Guiscard d’Hauteville, besides being a distant cousin of William the Conqueror (through their common ancestors Richard I and Gunnora de Crepon), was also an ancestor of John of Gaunt (Duke of Lancaster & king of Castile), the political ally and defender of Dr. John Wycliffe, the English Bible translator and reformer. 

DR. JOHN WYCLIFFE   (public domain)

Because Dr. Wycliffe discipled several Bohemians (from what is today Czechia), who took Wycliffe’s teachings back to their homeland, Wycliffe’s teachings became known in Prague, and were later adopted by Jan Hus, the Bohemian reformer. 


Accordingly, the Hussite Revolution (which secured the Hussite Reformation in the AD1400s) established the first major Protestant Reformation on the European continent, followed a century later (in the AD1500s) by the larger Reformation movement championed by Dr. Martin Luther and his contemporaries (Jean Calvin, John Knox, Philip Melanchthon, Mikel Agricola, Ulrich Zwingli, etc.). 

Since Dr. Luther was influenced (both theologically and politically) by Jan Hus, Dr. Luther was indirectly influenced by John Wycliffe, whose career was largely secured by John of Gaunt, humanly speaking.  Ultimately, this expanded family history demonstrates a convoluted connection between the family history of John of Gaunt—which included the Crusader Robert Guiscard d’Hautevillewith the historic life and career and impact of Dr. Martin Luther, the unstoppable “swan” whose voice (unlike that of Jan Hus, the “cooked goose”), could not be silenced. 

Moreover, as the below lineage data shows, Robert Guiscard d’Hauteville (whose son Bohemond I conquered Antioch) had a lineage that included many notable persons, as well as many generations of persons born thereafter – likely including (if we knew everyone’s genealogical legacies) many people whom we know!

Genealogical Lineage from Robert Guiscard d’Hauteville to John of Gaunt

  1. Robert d’Hauteville, Norman duke of Apulia, Calabria, & Sicily (P11), with his 2nd wife Sikelgaita of Salerno (P11), begat daughter Mathilda;
  • Mathilda [a/k/a “Matilda”] of Apulia (P10), with her husband Raymond Berenger II (P10), Count of Barcelona, etc., begat son Raymond;
  • Raymond Berenger III “el Grande” (P9), marquis of Barcelona & count of Provence, with his wife Dulce di Gievaudun (P9), begat son Raymond;
  • Raymond Berenger IV (P8), marquis & count of Barcelona, with his wife Petronilla of Aragon (P8), begat son Alfonso;
  • Alfonso II (P7), king of Aragon & count of Barcelona, etc., with his wife Sancha (P7), Princess of Castile & Leon, begat Alfonso;
  • Alfonso of Aragon (P6), prince of Aragon & count of Provence, with his wife Gersinde of Sabran (P6) of Provence, begat son Raymond;
  • Raymond Berenger V (P5), count of Provence, etc., with his wife Beatrice of Savoy (P5), begat daughter Eleanor;
  • Eleanor of Provence (P4), queen of England, with her husband Henry III (P4), king of England, begat son Edward;
  • Edward I “Longshanks” (P3), king of England, with his 1st wife Eleanor of Castile (P3), begat son Edward;
  1. Edward II (P2), king of England [and 1st “Prince of Wales”], with his wife Isabella (P2), queen of England & princess of Spain, begat son Edward;
  1. Edward III (P1), king of England, with his wife Philippa of Hainault (P1), queen of England, begat son John;
  1. John of Gaunt [meaning “Ghent”, in Flanders, located in present-day Belgium], the prolific[5] prince of England, titular king of Castile & Leon, Duke of Lancaster, etc., was the ancestor of many—via his 3 wives (Blanche, Constance, and Katharine—the 3rd of which, Katherine Roet, having served as his mistress until he later married her).[6]

That’s a lot of “begats” from ancient times, yet each procreative “link” (in the “chains” of our family lineages) is providentially indispensable—otherwise we don’t arrive safely, on planet Earth, when it is our own turn to be procreated and born! 

This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord.  (Psalm 102:18.)

><> JJSJ


[1] Harald Hardrada fought battles in Russia, Eastern Europe, Greece, Italy, Sicily, Jerusalem, Scandinavia, and the British Isles.  See John Haywood, The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings (London, UK: Penguin, 1995), pages 124-125.

[2] Regarding the providential importance of 2 Viking battles fought during A.D.1066—the Battle of Stamford Bridge and the Battle of Hastings—see “Christmas, Vikings, and the Providence fo God”, Acts & Facts (December 2012)), posted at .

[3] Robert of Normandy, one-time duke of Normandy, was King William the Conqueror’s eldest son (by William’s wife, Queen Matilda of Flanders).

[4] Roderick W. Stuart’s ROYALTY FOR COMMONERS, 4th edition (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2002), especially from Stuart’s documentation indexed on pages 282 & 291 (and lineages cited therein).  The Viking Age is often recognized as closing with William the Conqueror invading (and conquering) England in AD1066; however, the Viking Age closes in Scotland (and the Hebrides) in AD1266, with the Battle of Largs.

[5] Psalm 102:18 reminds us that it is ultimately God Who decides our procreative origins and destinies.  See also, accord, “Of Grackles and Gratitude”, Acts & Facts (July 2012), posted at .

[6] John of Gaunt’s own parents (Edward III & Philippa) begat 13 children! However, John of Gaunt fathered 14 children, by 4 different women, 3 of whom he married: by Blanche of Lancaster he fathered 7 children (including Henry IV, king od England); by Constance of Castile he fathered 2 children; by Katherine Roet (Swynford) he fathered 4 children, one being Joan Beaufort (for whom many of us, her descendants, thank God!); also, John of Gaunt fathered a daughter by Marie de St. Hilaire (whom he did not ever marry).  See Mike Ashley, Mammoth Book of British Kings & Queens (New York, NY: Carroll & Graf, 1998), pages 602-603.

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