Morphia of Melitene

Map of the crusader states in the twelfth century. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

By Catherine Capel

Morphia of Melitene, now modern day Malatya in Turkey, was the daughter of nobleman Gabriel of Melitene, and wife to Baldwin le Bourcq, who would later become Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem.

Their marriage was not widely discussed in contemporary sources so there is no way to definitively know if the union was a happy one. Baldwin waited for the arrival of his wife in 1119 before being crowned so they could be crowned together.

The couple had four children together, all daughters, the most famous of whom was Melisende of Jerusalem who became queen after her father.

Whilst Morphia was not recognised for her participation in the wider governing of the kingdom, she was well known for her intervening when Baldwin was captured by Ortoqid Turk, Belek.

She organised a rescue mission made up of men likely sourced through her Armenian connections to storm the fortress of Khartpert where her husband was being kept.

When this attempt failed, Morphia arranged for her daughter, Iveta, to be given as a hostage in exchange for the king. After her death, Morphia was buried in St Mary’s Jehosaphat, where the Virgin was said to have ascended to heaven.

Recommended Reading

Bernard Hamilton, “Women in the Crusader States: Queens of Jerusalem (1100-1190),” Studies in Church History Subsidia 1 (1978): 143-74  

Natasha Hodgson and Amy Fuller, “Introduction,” in Religion and Conflict in Medieval and Early Modern Worlds: Identities, Communities and Authorities, eds., Amy Fuller, John McCallum, and Nicholas Morton, 1-14 (London: Routledge, 2020).

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