The Holy Grail

Three years after embarking for the Holy Land, the army of de Bouillon and other allied knights captured Jerusalem on July 15, 1099. At the end of July, the crusader knights assembled to elect a king of Jerusalem, an unusual democratic step, and named Godfroi de Bouillon. Interestingly, he refused the insignia of a king and only assumed the title "Defender and Baron of the Holy Sepulchre". The Holy Sepulchre is traditionally recognized as the spot where Jesus Christ was crucified and/or buried, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre stands on that spot today. Word of de Bouillon's incredible victory was sent back to his French allies, probably reaching Troyes by the winter of 1099-1100. But whatever immediate plans de Bouillon's allies hoped to accomplish under his "defendership" had to be postponed when he died in mid-1100. His brother, Baudouin, then took on Godfroi's role as "king" of Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, French royal politics had became increasingly muddled. King Philippe I (1052-1108) assumed the throne on August 4, 1060. Six years later, his vassal, the Duke of Normandy, upstaged him considerably with his successful invasion of England. Other nobles soon took an independent direction, so that by 1096 Philippe did not enjoy enough political stability to lead the First Crusade himself as would have been expected. Instead, the rival de Bouillon family took all the glory. Worse, Philippe was excommunicated during this period by the French Pope Urban II for his second marriage to Bertrade of Montfort, an act that was not reconciled until 1106.

If Rashi had, in fact, made an security arrangement in exchange for information, responsibility for its implementation would have fallen to the Hugues Count de Champagne upon the departure of Godfroi de Bouillon in 1096. Philippe I was in no condition to impose any influence in Troyes, and the Bishop of Speyer had no troops at his command to counter the unruly mobs. Furthermore, the Count de Champagne was based in Troyes. Despite the Crusades, Rashi was apparently very productive during this period as he completed his commentaries. Again, this speaks to some kind of outside protection.

During Rashi's time, a story circulated among Jewish religious scholars that the Ark of the Covenant and possibly other religious treasure had been hidden away directly beneath the Shetiyyah , or foundation stone, of Solomon's Temple just prior to the invasion of the Babylonians in 587 BC. It is quite believable that Rashi discussed this with de Bouillon in 1096, and that, in turn, motivated de Bouillon to focus on "defending the Holy Sepulchre" on a mission more oriented towards religious relics than military or political conquest. Excavation of certain religious sites may have the ultimate military goal.

Following this possibility, the news of de Bouillon's victory, probably received in early 1100, would certainly have prompted de Bouillon's French allies, notably the Count de Champagne, to seek additional information from Rashi now that Jerusalem was secured under their military command. However, just as plans for an excavation under Solomon's Temple may have been completed, perhaps in late 1100, news of de Bouillon's untimely death would have reached Troyes. Perhaps the transition to King Baudouin de Bouillon required additional planning, and perhaps Rashi was consulted during this period as correspondence between Troyes and Jerusalem laboriously passed back and forth.

Rashi died in 1105, five years after de Bouillon. In 1104, the Count de Champagne along with his trusted aide de camp Hugh de Payens (1070-1131) made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Both men made several more trips between France and the Holy Land, perhaps as part of extensive negotiations and plans with de Bouillon's brother, the new King of Jerusalem. Whatever the discussions, de Payens then embarked on an improbable mission in 1119 to take physical control of the Temple Mount itself. This mission was accomplished with only eight men besides de Payens, including Andre de Montbard, the uncle of Saint Bernard. These nine eventually founded the legendary Knights Templar. Recent archeological research has determined that de Payens and his knights conducted extensive digging in and around the Temple Mount.