Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Crusader knights and the Egyptian princess

In 1134, three Knights of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, who had been held by the Muslims in Egypt, escaped with the help of a Muslim princess named Ismeria. Legend says that Princess Ismeria came to the knights at the request of her brother to convert them to Mohammedanism and proceeded to speak to them about the virtues of her religion.

 When she was finished, the knights asked that would it not be fair for her to hear the virtues of Christianity. She agreed and, when they were finished, much impressed, asked if she might see an image of this Lady of whom they spoke.

One of the knights, the Lord of Eppes, asked her to bring him a block of softwood and tools from which he might carve a statue of Our Lady. The knights agreed that work would begin early the next morning when there was sufficient light, but shortly after midnight they were awakened. There in the corner of their cell was a beautifully carved statuette of Our Lady. The knights were prostrate before the statue when Ismeria found them the next morning. She too threw herself down invoking Our Lady. It was at that point that legend says the knights said, "Behold Our Lady of Joy! That shall henceforth be her name."

After escaping from prison, they traveled hard all day. Exhausted, they fell asleep, while still in Egypt. When they awoke the next morning they found that they had been miraculously transported to France near the home of the second knight, the Lord of Marchais. The knights built a church in honor of the Mother of God on the spot where they awoke. The church and the statue of Our Lady of Joy quickly became a popular pilgrimage site.

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