The Crusades were a series of several military campaigns—usually sanctioned by the Papacy—that took place during the 11th through 13th centuries. Originally, they were Roman Catholic Holy Wars to recapture Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the Muslims, but some were directed against other Europeans, such as the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars of southern France and the Northern Crusades. The Fourth Crusade was originally intended to reach the Holy Land, but was re-directed by the Venetians against Constantinople.
Historical background Edit
The origins of the crusades lie in developments in Western Europe earlier in the Middle Ages, as well as the deteriorating situation of the Byzantine Empire in the east. The breakdown of the Carolingian Empire in the later 9th century, combined with the relative stabilization of local European borders after the Christianization of the Vikings, Slavs, and Magyars, meant that there was an entire class of warriors who now had very little to do but fight amongst themselves and terrorize the peasant population. The Church tried to stem this violence with the Peace and Truce of God movements, which was somewhat successful, but trained warriors always sought an outlet for their violence. One later outlet was the Reconquista in Spain and Portugal, which at times occupied Iberian knights and some mercenaries from elsewhere in Europe in the fight against the Islamic Moors. In 1063, Pope Alexander II had given papal blessing to Iberian Christians in their wars against the Muslims, granting both a papal standard (the vexillum sancti Petri) and an indulgence to those who were killed in battle. A plea for help from the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus in opposing Muslim attacks thus fell on ready ears.
The Crusades were in part an outlet for an intense religious piety which rose up in the late 11th century among the lay public. This was due in part to the Investiture Controversy, which had started around 1075 and was still on-going during the First Crusade. Christendom had been greatly affected by the Investiture Controversy; as both sides tried to marshal public opinion in their favor, people became personally engaged in a dramatic religious controversy. The result was an awakening of intense Christian piety and public interest in religious affairs. This was further strengthened by religious propaganda, advocating Just War in order to retake the Holy Land, which included Jerusalem (where the death, resurrection and ascension into heaven of Jesus took place) and Antioch (the first Christian city), from the Muslims. All of this eventually manifested in the overwhelming popular support for the First Crusade, and the religious vitality of the 12th century.
This background in the Christian West must be matched with that in the Muslim East. Muslim presence in the Holy Land goes back to the initial Arab conquest of Palestine in the 7th century. This did not interfere much with pilgrimage to Christian holy sites or the security of monasteries and Christian communities in the Holy Land of Christendom, and western Europeans were not much concerned with the loss of far-away Jerusalem when, in the ensuing decades and centuries, they were themselves faced with invasions by Muslims and other hostile non-Christians such as the Vikings and Magyars. However, the Muslim armies' successes were putting strong pressure on the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine Empire.
A turning point in western attitudes towards the east came in the year 1009, when the Fatimid caliph of Cairo, al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, had the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem destroyed. His successor permitted the Byzantine Empire to rebuild it under stringent circumstances, and pilgrimage was again permitted, but many stories began to be circulated in the West about the cruelty of Muslims toward Christian pilgrims; these stories then played an important role in the development of the crusades later in the century.
Historical context Edit
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- It is necessary to look for the origin of a crusading ideal in the struggle between Christians and Muslims in Spain and consider how the idea of a holy war emerged from this background. — Norman F. Cantor
The immediate cause of the First Crusade was Alexius I's appeal to Pope Urban II for mercenaries to help him resist Muslim advances into territory of the Byzantine Empire. In 1071, at the Battle of Manzikert, the Byzantine Empire had been defeated, and this defeat led to the loss of all but the coastlands of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). Although the East-West Schism was brewing between the Catholic Western church and the Greek Orthodox Eastern church, Alexius I expected some help from a fellow Christian. However, the response was much larger, and less helpful, than Alexius I desired, as the Pope called for a large invasion force to not merely defend the Byzantine Empire but also retake Jerusalem.
When the First Crusade was preached in 1095, the Christian princes of northern Iberia had been fighting their way out of the mountains of Galicia and Asturias, the Basque Country and Navarre, with increasing success, for about a hundred years. The fall of Moorish Toledo to the Kingdom of León in 1085 was a major victory, but the turning points of the Reconquista still lay in the future. The disunity of the Muslim emirs was an essential factor, and the Christians, whose wives remained safely behind, were hard to beat: they knew nothing except fighting, they had no gardens or libraries to defend, and they worked their way forward through alien territory populated by infidels, where the Christian fighters felt they could afford to wreak havoc. All these factors were soon to be replayed in the fighting grounds of the East. Spanish historians have traditionally seen the Reconquista as the molding force in the Castilian character, with its sense that the highest good was to die fighting for the Christian cause of one's country.
While the Reconquista was the most prominent example of Christian war against Muslim conquests, it is not the only such example. The Norman adventurer Robert Guiscard had conquered the "toe of Italy," Calabria, in 1057 and was holding what had traditionally been Byzantine territory against the Muslims of Sicily. The maritime states of Pisa, Genoa and Catalonia were all actively fighting Islamic strongholds in Majorca and Sardinia, freeing the coasts of Italy and Catalonia from Muslim raids. Much earlier, of course, the Christian homelands of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, and so on had been conquered by Muslim armies. This long history of losing territories to a religious enemy, as well as a powerful pincer movement on all of Western Europe, created a powerful motive to respond to Byzantine emperor Alexius I's call for holy war to defend Christendom, and to recapture the lost lands, starting at the most important one of all, Jerusalem itself.
The papacy of Pope Gregory VII had struggled with reservations about the doctrinal validity of a holy war and the shedding of blood for the Lord and had resolved the question in favour of justified violence. More importantly to the Pope, the Christians who made pilgrimages to the Holy Land were being persecuted. Actions against Arians and other heretics offered historical precedents in a society where violence against unbelievers, and indeed against other Christians, was acceptable and common. Saint Augustine of Hippo, Gregory's intellectual model, had justified the use of force in the service of Christ in The City of God, and a Christian "just war" might enhance the wider standing of an aggressively ambitious leader of Europe, as Gregory saw himself. The northerners would be cemented to Rome and their troublesome knights could see the only kind of action that suited them. Previous attempts by the church to stem such violence, such as the concept of the "Peace of God", were not as successful as hoped. To the south of Rome, Normans were showing how such energies might be unleashed against both Arabs (in Sicily) and Byzantines (on the mainland). A Latin hegemony in the Levant would provide leverage in resolving the Papacy's claims of supremacy over the Patriarch of Constantinople, which had resulted in the Great Schism of 1054, a rift that might yet be resolved through the force of Frankish arms.
In the Byzantine homelands the Eastern Emperor's weakness was revealed by the disastrous defeat at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, which reduced the Empire's Asian territory to a region in western Anatolia and around Constantinople. A sure sign of Byzantine desperation was the appeal of Alexius I Comnenus to his enemy the Pope for aid. But Gregory was occupied with the Investiture Controversy and could not call on the German emperor and the crusade never took shape.
For Gregory's more moderate successor Pope Urban II, a crusade would serve to reunite Christendom, bolster the Papacy, and perhaps bring the East under his control. The disaffected Germans and the Normans were not to be counted on, but the heart and backbone of a crusade could be found in Urban's own homeland among the northern French.
On a popular level, the first crusades unleashed a wave of impassioned, personally felt pious fury that was expressed in the massacres of Jews that accompanied the movement of mobs through Europe, as well as the violent treatment of "schismatic" Orthodox Christians of the east. The violence against the Orthodox Christians culminated in the sack of Constantinople in 1204, in which most of the Crusading armies took part. The fact that Western Christians had been mistreated in the past (by Constantinople) has never justified this sack in the eyes of the Church. Indeed, as soon as the Pope learned of the sack of Constantinople, all who took part were immediately excommunicated. In 2004, Pope John Paul II expressed “sorrow” over the sacking of Constantinople in 1204.
The 13th century crusades never expressed such a popular fever, and after Acre fell for the last time in 1291, and after the extermination of the Occitan Cathars in the Albigensian Crusade, the crusading ideal became devalued by Papal justifications of political and territorial aggressions within Catholic Europe.
The last crusading order of knights to hold territory were the Knights Hospitaller. After the final fall of Acre they took control of the island of Rhodes, and in the sixteenth century were driven to Malta. These last crusaders were finally unseated by Napoleon in 1798.
The major crusades Edit
A traditional numbering scheme for the crusades gives us nine during the 11th to 13th centuries, as well as other smaller crusades that are mostly contemporaneous and unnumbered. There were frequent "minor" crusades throughout this period, not only in Palestine but also in the Iberian Peninsula and central Europe, against not only Muslims, but also Christian heretics and personal enemies of the Papacy or other powerful monarchs. Such "crusades" continued into the 16th century, until the Renaissance and Reformation when the political and religious climate of Europe was significantly different than that of the Middle Ages. The following is a listing of the "major" crusades.
First Crusade Edit
Full article: First Crusade
After Byzantine emperor Alexius I called for help with defending his empire against the Seljuk Turks, in 1095 at the Council of Clermont Pope Urban II called upon all Christians to join a war against the Turks, a war which would count as full penance. Crusader armies marched to Jerusalem, sacking several cities on their way. In 1099, they took Jerusalem and massacred the population. As a result of the First Crusade, several small Crusader states were created, notably the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Following this crusade there was a second, unsuccessful wave of crusaders, the Crusade of 1101.
Full article: Second Crusade
After a period of relative peace, in which Christians and Muslims co-existed in the Holy Land, Bernard of Clairvaux preached a new crusade when the town of Edessa was conquered by the Turks. French and German armies under Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany, marched to Asia Minor in 1147, but failed to accomplish any major successes, and indeed endangered the survival of the Crusader states with a foolish attack on Damascus. By 1149, both leaders had returned to their countries without any result.
Full article: Third Crusade
In 1187, Saladin, Sultan of Egypt, recaptured Jerusalem. Pope Gregory VIII called for a crusade, which was led by several of Europe's most important leaders: Philip II of France, Richard I of England and Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor. Frederick drowned in Cilicia in 1190, leaving an unstable alliance between the English and the French. Philip left in 1191 after the Crusaders had recaptured Acre from the Muslims. The Crusader army headed down the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. They defeated the Muslims near Arsuf and were in sight of Jerusalem. However, the inability of the Crusaders to thrive in the locale due to inadequate food and water resulted in an empty victory. Richard left the following year after establishing a truce with Saladin. On Richard's way home, his ship was wrecked and he ended up in Austria. In Austria his enemy Duke Leopold captured him, delivered him to Frederick's son Henry VI and Richard was held for, literally, a king's ransom. By 1197, Henry felt himself ready for a Crusade, but he died in the same year of malaria.
Full article: Fourth Crusade
Jerusalem having fallen back into Muslim hands a decade earlier, the Fourth Crusade was initiated in 1202 by Pope Innocent III, with the intention of invading the Holy Land through Egypt. The Venetians, under Doge Enrico Dandolo, gained control of this crusade and diverted it to, first the Christian city of Zara, then to Constantinople where they attempted to place a Byzantine exile on the throne. After a series of misunderstandings and outbreaks of violence, the city was sacked in 1204.
Full article: Albigensian Crusade
The Albigensian Crusade was launched in 1209 to eliminate the heretical Cathars of southern France. It was a decades-long struggle that had as much to do with the concerns of northern France to extend its control southwards as it did with heresy. In the end, both the Cathars and the independence of southern France were exterminated.
Full article: Children's Crusade
The Children's Crusade is a possibly fictitious or misinterpreted crusade of 1212. The story is that an outburst of the old popular enthusiasm led a gathering of children in France and Germany, which Pope Innocent III interpreted as a reproof from heaven to their unworthy elders. None of the children actually reached the Holy Land; they were all sold as slaves, settled along the route to Jerusalem, or died of hunger during the journey.
Full article: Fifth Crusade
By processions, prayers, and preaching, the Church attempted to set another crusade on foot, and the Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215) formulated a plan for the recovery of the Holy Land. A crusading force from Hungary, Austria, and Bavaria achieved a remarkable feat in the capture of Damietta in Egypt in 1219, but under the urgent insistence of the papal legate, Pelagius, they proceeded to a foolhardy attack on Cairo, and an inundation of the Nile compelled them to choose between surrender and destruction.
Full article: Sixth Crusade
In 1228, Emperor Frederick II set sail from Brindisi for Syria, though laden with the papal excommunication. Through diplomacy he achieved unexpected success, Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem being delivered to the Crusaders for a period of ten years. This was the first major crusade not initiated by the Papacy, a trend that was to continue for the rest of the century.
Full article: Seventh Crusade
The papal interests represented by the Templars brought on a conflict with Egypt in 1243, and in the following year a Khwarezmian force summoned by the latter stormed Jerusalem. Although this provoked no widespread outrage in Europe as the fall of Jerusalem in 1187 had done, Louis IX of France organized a crusade against Egypt from 1248 to 1254, leaving from the newly constructed port of Aigues-Mortes in southern France. It was a failure and Louis spent much of the crusade living at the court of the Crusader kingdom in Acre. In the midst of this crusade was the first Shepherds' Crusade in 1251.
Full article: Eighth Crusade
The eighth Crusade was organized by Louis IX in 1270, again sailing from Aigues-Mortes, initially to come to the aid of the remnants of the Crusader states in Syria. However, the crusade was diverted to Tunis, where Louis spent only two months before dying.
Full article: Ninth Crusade
The future Edward I of England undertook another expedition in 1271, after having accompanied Louis on the Eighth Crusade. He accomplished very little in Syria and retired the following year after a truce. With the fall of Antioch (1268), Tripoli (1289), and Acre (1291) the last traces of the Christian rule in Syria disappeared. Most of Louis was buried in Syria, the pieces of his body thought able to last the journey were shipped back to france and interred there.
Crusades in Baltic and Central Europe Edit
Full article: Northern Crusades
The Crusades in the Baltic Sea area and in Central Europe were efforts by (mostly German) Christians to subjugate and convert the peoples of these areas to Christianity. These Crusades ranged from the 12th century, contemporaneous with the Second Crusade, to the 16th century.
Between 1232 and 1234, there was a crusade against the Stedingers. This crusade was special, because the Stedingers were no heathens or heretics, but fellow Roman Catholics. They were free Frisian farmers resented attempts of the count of Oldenburg and the archbishop Bremen-Hamburg to make an end to their freedoms. The archbishop excommunicated them and the pope declared a crusade in 1232. The Stedingers were defeated in 1234.
The Crusades had profound and lasting historical impacts.
The Crusades had an enormous influence on the European Middle Ages. At times much of the continent was united under a powerful Papacy, but by the 14th century the old concept of Christendom was fragmented, and the development of centralized bureaucracies (the foundation of the modern nation-state) was well on its way in France, England, Burgundy, Portugal, Castile, and Aragon partly because of the dominance of the church at the beginning of the crusading era. Although Europe had been exposed to Islamic culture for centuries through contacts in Iberian Peninsula and Sicily, much Islamic thought, such as science, medicine, and architecture, was transferred to the west during the crusades. The military experiences of the crusades also had their effects in Europe; for example, European castles became massive stone structures, as they were in the east, rather than smaller wooden buildings as they had typically been in the past. The need to raise, transport and supply large armies led to a flourishing of trade throughout Europe. Roads largely unused since the days of Rome saw significant increases in traffic as local merchants began to expand their horizons. This was not only because the Crusades prepared Europe for travel, but rather that many wanted to travel after being reacquainted with the products of the Middle East. This also aided in the beginning of the Renaissance in Italy, as various Italian city-states from the very beginning had important and profitable trading colonies in the crusader states, both in the Holy Land and later in captured Byzantine territory. Despite the ultimate defeat in the Middle East, the Crusaders slowed down the military expansion of Islam, helped regaining the Iberian Peninsula and bought Europe some precious time before it faced the next invading force of Islam - the Ottoman Empire.
The crusades had profound but localized effects upon the Islamic world, where the equivalents of "Franks" and "Crusaders" remained expressions of disdain. Muslims traditionally celebrate Saladin, the Kurdish warrior, as a hero against the Crusaders. In the 21st century, some in the Arab world, such as the Arab independence movement and Pan-Islamism movement, continue to call Western involvement in the Middle East a "crusade." The Crusades were regarded by the Islamic world as cruel and savage onslaughts by European Christians.
- Main article: History of the Jews and the Crusades
The Crusaders' atrocities against Jews in the German and Hungarian towns, later also in those of France and England, and in the massacres of non-combatants in Palestine and Syria have become a significant part of the history of anti-Semitism. They ultimately resulted in excommunication and similar ecclesiastical penalties against their perpetrators, as no Crusade was declared against Jews, and left behind for centuries strong feelings of ill will on both sides. The social position of the Jews in western Europe was distinctly worsened, and legal restrictions increased during and after the Crusades. They prepared the way for the anti-Jewish legislation of Pope Innocent III and formed the turning-point in medieval anti-Semitism.
The Crusading period brought with it many narratives from Jewish sources. Among the more well known Jewish narratives are the chronicles of Solomon Bar Simson and Rabbi Eliezer bar Nathan, The Narrative of the Old Persecutions by Mainz Anonymous, and Sefer Zekhirah, and The Book of Remembrance, by Rabbi Ephraim of Bonn.
Many of the Crusaders did not return home to Europe, and instead crossed Asia Minor and settled throughout the Caucasus, where several dozen small Caucasian dialects bear traces of the medieval variants of French, German, Latin and English. Many modern village dwellers count their descent from these Crusaders "gone native", and as late as the early 20th century, relics of armor, weaponry and chain mail were still being used and passed down in such communities.
Usage of the term "crusade"Edit
The crusades were never referred to as such by their participants. The original crusaders were known by various terms, including fideles Sancti Petri (the faithful of St. Peter) or milites Christi (knights of Christ). They saw themselves as undertaking an iter, a journey, or a peregrinatio, a pilgrimage, though pilgrims were usually forbidden from carrying arms. Like pilgrims, each crusader swore a vow (a votus), to be fulfilled on successfully reaching Jerusalem, and they were granted a cloth cross (crux) to be sewn into their clothes. This "taking of the cross", the crux, eventually became associated with the entire journey; the word "crusade" (coming into English from the French croisade, the Italian crociata, or the Portuguese cruzada) developed from this.
Since the 17th century, the term "crusade" has carried a connotation in the West of being a righteous campaign, usually to "root out evil", or to fight for a just cause. In a non-historical common or theological use, "crusade" has come to have a much broader emphatic or religious meaning —substantially removed from 'armed struggle.'
Ardent activists may also refer to their causes as "crusades," as in the "Crusade against Adult Illiteracy," or a "Crusade against Littering." In recent years, however, the use of "crusade" as a positive term has become less frequent in order to avoid giving offense to Muslims or others offended by the term. The term may also sarcastically or pejoratively characterize the zealotry of agenda promoters, for example with the monicker "Public Crusader" or the campaigns "Crusade for a women's right to choose," and the "Crusade for prayer in public schools."
Popular reputation Edit
In Western Europe, the Crusades have traditionally been regarded by laypeople as heroic adventures, though the mass enthusiasm of common people was largely expended in the First Crusade, from which so few of their class returned. Today, the "Saracen" adversary is crystallized in the lone figure of Saladin; his adversary Richard the Lionheart is, in the English-speaking world, the archetypical crusader king, while Frederick Barbarossa (illustration, below left) and Louis IX fill the same symbolic niche in German and French culture. Even in contemporary areas, the crusades and their leaders were romanticized in popular literature; the Chanson d'Antioche was a chanson de geste dealing with the First Crusade, and the Song of Roland, dealing with the era of the similarly romanticized Charlemagne, was directly influenced by the experience of the crusades, going so far as to replace Charlemagne's historic Basque opponents with Muslims. A popular theme for troubadors was the knight winning the love of his lady by going on crusade in the east.
In the 14th century, Godfrey of Bouillon was united with the Trojan War and the adventures of Alexander the Great against a backdrop for military and courtly heroics of the Nine Worthies who stood as popular secular culture heroes into the 16th century, when more critical literary tastes ran instead to Torquato Tasso and Rinaldo and Armida, Roger and Angelica. Later, the rise of a more authentic sense of history among literate people brought the Crusades into a new focus for the Romantic generation in the romances of Sir Walter Scott in the early 19th century. Crusading imagery could be found even in the Crimean War, in which the United Kingdom and France were allied with the Muslim Ottoman Empire, and in the First World War, especially Allenby's capture of Jerusalem in 1917.
Like Muslims, Eastern Orthodox Christians also see the Crusades as attacks by the barbarian West, but centered on the sack of Constantinople in 1204. Many relics and artifacts taken from Constantinople are still in Roman Catholic hands, in the Vatican and elsewhere. Disagreement currently exists between modern Turks and Greeks over the claimant rights to the Greek Horses on the facade of St. Mark's in Venice. The Greeks argue that the frieze is inherently part of Greek culture and identity, similar to the "Elgin" Marbles and the Turks counter that the freize originated from what is now modern-day Istanbul. A picture of Turkish popular history of the Crusades can be assembled by compiling text of official Turkish brochures on Crusader fortifications in the Aegean coast and coastal islands. Countries of Central Europe, despite the fact that formally they also belonged to Western Christianity, were the most skeptical about the idea of Crusades. Many cities in Hungary were sacked by passing bands of Crusaders; one ruler of Poland refused to join a Crusade, allegedly because of the lack of beer in the Holy land. Later on Poland and Hungary were themselves subject to conquest from the Crusaders (see Teutonic Order), and therefore invented the idea that pagans have the right to live in peace and have property rights to their lands (see Pawel Wlodkowic).
See also Edit
- Crusades at Wikimedia Commons
- Crusade art
- Crusader States
- Military orders
- Religious Wars
- Shepherds' Crusade
- Tenth Crusade
References and further readingEdit
- Alfred J. Andrea, Encyclopedia of the Crusades. Greenwood Press, 2003.
- Carole Hillenbrand, The Crusades, Islamic Perspectives. New York, 2000.
- P.M. Holt, The Age of the Crusades: The Near East from the Eleventh Century to 1517. New York, 1986.
- Thomas F. Madden, The New Concise History of the Crusades. Lanham, 2005.
- Hans E. Mayer, The Crusades. Oxford, 1965.
- Jonathan Riley-Smith, The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading. Philadelphia, 1986.
- Jonathan Riley-Smith, The Oxford History of the Crusades. Oxford, 1995.
- Jonathan Riley-Smith, What were the Crusades?. San Francisco, 2002.
- Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades, 3 vols., Cambridge, 1951-1954.
- Amin Maalouf, The Crusades Through Arab Eyes. 1983
- Kenneth Setton, ed., A History of the Crusades. Madison, 1969-1989 (e-book online)
- Angeliki E. Laiou, The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World, (e-book online), includes chapter on Historiography of the crusades.
- E.L. Skip Knox, The Crusades, a virtual college course through Boise State University.
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