"Poster Boy for the Special Crusades"
1188, Verona, Italy
H. 2.2 m ~ Marble
After the embarrassing loss of Pope Gregory VIII's Second Crusade to the Seljuk Turks before reaching the playoffs, his successor, Clement III, decided to popularize his Third Crusade through a variety of spectacles, contests and competitions. His "Who Wants to be the Millionth Martyr?" campaign was well received, as was his "Just Say No to Infidels" program.
As a way of attracting a greater number of the differently-abled into the ranks, he sponsored the 1188 Special Crusades, which pitted teams of developmentally disabled would-be warriors against similar teams put up by Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria. The "Challenge of the Challenged" drew widespread press coverage on both sides, and Richard the Lion-Hearted put up a miniature suit of armor as a prize to the winning team, modeled here by Herbie Labonzo, mounted on his war-horsie, Pumpkin, who was chosen unanimously as poster boy for the 1188 Special Crusades.
As luck would have it, a windstorm sank the ships carrying the Christian Challengers to their first meeting with their Islamic counterparts, and the following year the contest was put off out of respect for the death of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. By that time interest in the real Crusades was waning, and the Special Crusades concept was scrapped until the Fifth Crusade in 1213, "The Crusade to End All Crusades."