The Crusades: The Christian Army of the Middle Ages

The Crusades represent the middle ages and the medieval times. It was a period of European history when the government was under the authority of the Catholic Church. During this time, Popes and Bishops had great authority, superiority, and respected with high regard. The great Crusades generated by the Catholic Church played a large role in shaping medieval Europe. It proved the strength the church had over various European nations and the lengths many were willing to go to bare the cross and join a religious crusade for the Holy Land.  

The Crusades were a religious army created by the Catholic Church. The Emperor of Byzantine asked Pope Urban II to help him conquer the Turks, “who [had] taken nearly all of Asia Minor from him.”[1] In Pope Urban II’s speech to the Council of Clermont, the Pope informed the people that, “Turks and Arabs … have killed and captured many, destroyed the churches, and devastated the empire.”[2] To free Palestine and bring aid to the Emperor, the Pope asked people to “bare the cross”, meaning to fight against Muslims for Jerusalem and the Holy Land for Christianity. Informing various nations about the injustices and persecution of Christians throughout these foreign lands, they revolutionized the people. Many religious leaders and Popes throughout the ages gave speeches across regions promoting religious fever. Bishop Gregory VII in 1074 told of the devastations, “a pagan race had overcome the Christians and with horrible cruelty… they conquered lands with tyrannical violence and that they had slain many thousands of Christians as if they were sheep”[3].

A religious army created by the Catholic Church, the Crusades duty was to create religious freedom in Palestine by making Jerusalem a Christian Holy Land. They were men who fought for Christianity, for God, and for the Church. They sought to create war with the Muslims and to help the Greek Church in their battle. However, Munro, author of The Popes and the Crusades claimed that, “the main purpose for the Popes action was the desire to bring the Greek Church under the Roman curia”[4].

Men from various nations around the European world participated in the great Crusades. The Ekkehard of Aurach admitted there were, “1000 thousand men from Aquitaine and Normandy, England, Scotland, Ireland, Brittany, Galicia, Gascony, France, Flanders, Lorraine, and from other Christian people whose names I no longer retain.”[5] Although the Germans did not participate at first, other nations eventually joined the Crusades including the Teutons. Men and women were encouraged to participate as Popes and Bishops began to tour the country looking for warriors to join the Crusade. They became involved for various reasons. Many Bishops and Popes made promises of forgiveness for those who participated and granted eternal life for those who died in battle. Others were encouraged to join because of the religious fever. Some witnessed signs in the sky, omens, visions, and revelations.[6] The Ekkehard of Aurach claimed that the, “West Franks were easily induced to leave their fields”, due to war, famine, and sickness.[7] Faced with such devastations, many nations saw no harm in fighting for religion. Some may have thought their country could benefit from their service, as it may encourage prosperity.

Christians were motivated to join the Crusades for various reasons. The Pope and Bishop granted the Crusaders everlasting life upon death, pardoned people of sins, and some were freed from crimes and persecution. The Catholic Church worked hard to motivate people to fight in the Christian army. King Philip Augustus of France freed crusaders from debt for two years and the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 gave, “a suitable number of warriors the necessary expenses for three years, according to their individual means for the remission of their own sins.”[8] Other privileges were granted to the Crusaders. In Lenguedoc, the state promised to hold Crusaders land and valued possessions upon their return. Another granted Crusaders the right to turn to the church for judgment versus being persecuted by the court. This kept criminals from being hanged for joining the Crusade. Others joined to keep from being excommunicated or simply felt it was their right and religious duty.

The desired outcome of the Crusaders was to save Jerusalem from the Muslims. The Catholic Church wanted to save the relics and symbolism of the Holy Land and to recognize Christianity and Christ. They also wanted to save the Greek Catholics from the Arabs and Turks and help them fight their religious battle. Munro argued that, “it was a necessity to protect Europe most effectively” and “[be under] the leadership in a universal movement which would arouse religious enthusiasm and be conducted under the guidance of the church.”[9] However, it was all in vain. The Europeans failed in their direction and hopes of the great Crusades. When the Christians conquered Syria, they utilized it for commercial trade. Later, the military Orders became friendly with the Muslims of Jerusalem and allowed them to worship Allah in the Catholic chapels. To make matters worse, other crusaders went against religious doctrine and “intermarried with the nations of both heretics and Muslims, adopted the customs of their wives and some of their superstitions.”[10]

The great Crusades began with the church who had high hopes for Christianity. They fought for Jerusalem and to aid the Greek Catholics, but it was to no avail. The amount of commoners and sinners participating in the Crusade, the Catholic Church’s expectations of the Crusaders, and lack of organization ended their mission. Opposition towards the church began to spread and many people began to think of their lives on earth and think less of their eternal souls. Many Popes and Bishops were discredited as they began to point fingers at one another for failures. “The Greek Empire for whose aide the first Crusade had been preached had been brought under the Latin Church.”[11] With many former Crusaders committing heresy and the Greek Church now under new rule, the Crusaders were disbanded and the Catholic Church struggled to reform the country men.

 

REFERENCES

Ekkehard, . On the Opening of the First Crusade. Boston, Ma: Gin & Co, 1904. http://www.fordham.edu/Halsall/source/ekkehard-aur1.asp (accessed April 13, 2012).

Munro, Dana. The Popes and the Crusaders. American Philosophical Society, 1916. http://www.jstor.org/stable/984051?seq=3 (accessed April 13, 2012).

Munro, Dana. Evolution of Crusader Privileges, 1095-1270. Urban and the Crusaders, Original Sources of European History, Vol. 1:2

Fulcher of Chartes, Urban II: Speech at Council of Clermont, 1095, trans in Oliver J. Thatcher, and Edgar Holmes McNeal, eds., A Source Book for Medieval History, (New York: Scribners, 1905), 513-17.

[1] Fulcher of Chartes, Urban II: Speech at Council of Clermont, 1095, trans in Oliver J. Thatcher, and Edgar Holmes McNeal, eds., A Source Book for Medieval History, (New York: Scribners, 1905), 513-17.

[2] Ibid., pp. 513-17.

[3] Fulcher of Chartes, Urban II: Speech at Council of Clermont, 1095, trans in Oliver J. Thatcher, and Edgar Holmes McNeal, eds., A Source Book for Medieval History, (New York: Scribners, 1905), 513-17.

[4] Munro, Dana. The Popes and the Crusaders. American Philosophical Society, 1916. http://www.jstor.org/stable/984051?seq=3 (accessed April 13, 2012).

[5] Ekkehard ofAurach, On the Opening of the First Crusade. Trans by James Harvey Robinson ed., Readings in European History: Vol. I: (Boston:: Ginn and co., 1904), pp.316-318.

[6] Ekkehard ofAurach, On the Opening of the First Crusade. Trans by James Harvey Robinson ed., Readings in European History: Vol. I: (Boston:: Ginn and co., 1904), pp.316-318.

[7] Ibid p., 316-318.

[8] Dana C. Munro, “Evolution of Crusader Privileges, 1095-1270.” In “Urban and the Crusaders,” Translations and Reprints from  Original Sources of European History, Vol. 1:2

[9] Munro, Dana. The Popes and the Crusaders. American Philosophical Society, 1916. http://www.jstor.org/stable/984051?seq=3 (accessed April 13, 2012).

[10] Ibid., p. 348-356

[11] Ibid., p. 348-356

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About Russia Robinson

I am an independent freelance writer and free thinker. I strive to use my writing talents to benefit the greater good of society, one word, one sentence, one page at a time. Originally from Richmond, California I attended San Francisco State University receiving a BA in English Creative Writing and American Literature in 2004. After this I attended post graduate studies in 2008 at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University in Technical Writing. With an academic background in English, I have spent more than 10 years’ helping young people succeed. This can be seen in my career background in education and mental health. I am a certifiable Language Arts teacher for the state of Georgia. I also worked in social services including juvenile mental health treatment services and counseling. As a result, I understand the diversity of problems people face in their everyday lives. With words put together like so, I promote equality and a healthy society for all people regardless of individual differences. Conducting research, writing articles, essays, and blogging, I push to educate others about various issues that affect people. I also do this creatively through short stories, poems, pictures, and a novel in progress. My hobbies and interest are reading and learning. I enjoy all things art and all things nature. From camping and astronomy to photography and cooking, I enjoy sighting seeing and socializing just as much as I enjoy curling in bed with a good book or binge watching TV.
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