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The Crusades

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    • About Those Crusades

      Since the Crusades are back in the news, these excerpts from a 2005 article by Crusade historian Thomas F. Madden will help you brush up on the basics:    

      in Christian History

    • The Crusades

      In 1095 an assembly of churchmen called by Pope Urban II met at Clermont, France. Messengers from the Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus had urged the pope to send help against the armies of Muslim Turks. On November 27 the pope addressed the assembly and asked the warriors of Europe to liberate the Holy Land from the Muslims. The response of the assembly was overwhelmingly favorable. Thus was launched the first and most successful of at least eight crusades against the Muslim caliphates of the Near East.   "God wills it!"   That was the battle cry of the thousands of Christians who joined crusades to free the Holy Land from the Muslims. From 1096 to 1270 there were eight major crusades and two children's crusades, both in the year 1212. Only the First and Third Crusades were successful. In the long history of the Crusades, thousands of knights, soldiers, merchants, and peasants lost their lives on the march or in battle.   1095: Beginning of the Crusades   In 1095 an assembly of churchmen called by Pope Urban II met at Clermont, France. Messengers from the Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus had urged the pope to send help against the armies of Muslim Turks. On November 27 the pope addressed the assembly and asked the warriors of Europe to liberate the Holy Land from the Muslims. The response of the assembly was overwhelmingly favorable. Thus was launched the first and most successful of at least eight crusades against the Muslim caliphates of the Near East.   The word "crusade" literally means "going to the Cross." Hence the idea at the time was to urge Christian warriors to go to Palestine and free Jerusalem and other holy places from Muslim domination. The first crusade was a grand success for the Christian armies; Jerusalem and other cities fell to the knights. The second crusade, however, ended in humiliation in 1148, when the armies of France and Germany failed to take Damascus. The third ended in 1192 in a compromise between English king Richard the Lion-Hearted of England and the Muslim leader Saladin, who granted access to Christians to the holy places. The fourth crusade led to the sacking of Constantinople, where a Latin Kingdom of Byzantium was set up in 1204 and lasted for about 60 years. The Children's Crusade of 1212 ended with thousands of children being sold into slavery, lost, or killed. Other less disastrous but equally futile crusades occurred until nearly the end of the 13th century. The last Latin outpost in the Muslim world fell in 1291.   Historians have viewed the Crusades as a mixture of benefits and horrors. On one hand, there was a new knowledge of the East and the possibilities of trade to be found there, not to mention the spread of Christianity. On the other hand, Christianity was spread in a violent, militaristic manner, and the result was that new areas of possible trade turned into new areas of conquest and bloodshed. A number of non-Christians lost their lives to Christian armies in this era, and this trend would continue in the inquisitions of the coming centuries.   The Crusades were a series of wars by Western European Christians to recapture the Holy Land from the Muslims. The Crusades began in 1095 and ended in the mid- or late 13th century. The term Crusade was originally applied solely to European efforts to retake from the Muslims the city of Jerusalem, which was sacred to Christians as the site of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It was later used to designate any military effort by Europeans against non-Christians.   The Crusaders carved out feudal states in the Near East. Thus the Crusades are an important early part of the story of European expansion and colonialism. They mark the first time Western Christendom undertook a military initiative far from home, the first time significant numbers left to carry their culture and religion abroad.   In addition to the campaigns in the East, the Crusading movement includes other wars against Muslims, pagans, and dissident Christians and the general expansion of Christian Europe. In a broad sense the Crusades were an expression of militant Christianity and European expansion. They combined religious interests with secular and military enterprises. Christians learned to live in different cultures, which they learned and absorbed; they also imposed something of their own characteristics on these cultures. The Crusades strongly affected the imagination and aspirations of people at the time, and to this day they are among the most famous chapters of medieval history.   ORIGINS OF THE CRUSADES   After the death of Charlemagne, king of the Franks, in 814 and the subsequent collapse of his empire, Christian Europe was under attack and on the defensive. Magyars, nomadic people from Asia, pillaged eastern and central Europe until the 10th century. Beginning about 800, several centuries of Viking raids disrupted life in northern Europe and even threatened Mediterranean cities. But the greatest threat came from the forces of Islam, militant and victorious in the centuries following the death of their leader, Muhammad, in 632. By the 8th century, Islamic forces had conquered North Africa, the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, and most of Spain. Islamic armies established bases in Italy, greatly reduced the size and power of the Byzantine Empire (the Eastern Roman Empire) and besieged its capital, Constantinople. The Byzantine Empire, which had preserved much of the classical civilization of the Greeks and had defended the eastern Mediterranean from assaults from all sides, was barely able to hold off the enemy. Islam posed the threat of a rival culture and religion, which neither the Vikings nor the Magyars had done.   In the 11th century the balance of power began to swing toward the West. The church became more centralized and stronger from a reform movement to end the practice whereby kings installed important clergy, such as bishops, in office. Thus for the first time in many years, the popes were able to effectively unite European popular support behind them, a factor that contributed greatly to the popular appeal of the first Crusades.   Furthermore, Europe’s population was growing, its urban life was beginning to revive, and both long distance and local trade were gradually increasing. European human and economic resources could now support new enterprises on the scale of the Crusades. A growing population and more surplus wealth also meant greater demand for goods from elsewhere. European traders had always looked to the Mediterranean; now they sought greater control of the goods, routes, and profits. Thus worldly interests coincided with religious feelings about the Holy Land and the pope’s newfound ability to mobilize and focus a great enterprise.   FIRST CRUSADE   It was against this background that Pope Urban II, in a speech at Clermont in France in November 1095, called for a great Christian expedition to free Jerusalem from the Seljuk Turks, a new Muslim power that had recently begun actively harassing peaceful Christian pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem. The pope was spurred by his position as the spiritual head of Western Europe, by the temporary absence of strong rulers in Germany (the Holy Roman Empire) or France who could either oppose or take over the effort, and by a call for help from the Byzantine emperor, Alexius I. These various factors were genuine causes, and at the same time, useful justifications for the pope’s call for a Crusade. In any case, Urban’s speech—well reported in several chronicles—appealed to thousands of people of all classes. It was the right message at the right time.   The First Crusade was successful in its explicit aim of freeing Jerusalem. It also established a Western Christian military presence in the Near East that lasted for almost 200 years. The Crusaders called this area Outremer, French for "beyond the seas." The First Crusade was the wonder of its day. It attracted no European kings and few major nobles, drawing mainly lesser barons and their followers. They came primarily from the lands of French culture and language, which is why Westerners in Outremer were referred to as Franks.   The Crusaders faced many obstacles. They had no obvious or widely accepted leader, no consensus about relations with the churchmen who went with them, no definition of the pope’s role, and no agreement with the Byzantine emperor on whether they were his allies, servants, rivals, or perhaps enemies. These uncertainties divided the Crusaders into factions that did not always get along well with one another.   Different leaders followed different routes to Constantinople, where they were all to meet. The contingents of Robert of Flanders and Bohemond of Taranto went by sea via Italy, while the other major groups, those of Godfrey of Bouillon and Raymond of Toulouse, took the land route around the Adriatic Sea. As the Crusaders marched east, they were joined by thousands of men and even women, ranging from petty knights and their families, to peasants seeking freedom from their ties to the manor. A vast miscellany of people with all sorts of motives and contributions joined the march. They followed local lords or well-known nobles or drifted eastward on their own, walking to a port town and then sailing to Constantinople. Few knew what to expect. They knew little about the Byzantine Empire or its religion, Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Few Crusaders understood or had much sympathy for the Eastern Orthodox religion, which did not recognize the pope, used the Greek language rather than Latin, and had very different forms of art and architecture. They knew even less about Islam or Muslim life. For some the First Crusade became an excuse to unleash savage attacks in the name of Christianity on Jewish communities along the Rhine.   The leaders met at Constantinople and chose to cross on foot the inhospitable and dangerous landscape of what is now Turkey, rather than going by sea. Somehow, despite this questionable decision, the original forces of perhaps 25,000 to 30,000 still survived in sufficient numbers to overcome the Muslim states and principalities of what are now Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. Like Western Christendom, Islam was disunited. Its rulers failed to anticipate the effectiveness of the enemy. In addition, the Franks, as the attacking force, had at least a temporary advantage. They exploited this, taking the key city of Antioch in June 1098, under the lead of Bohemond of Taranto. Then, despite their divisions and factionalism, they moved on to Jerusalem. The siege of Jerusalem culminated in a bloody and destructive Christian victory in July 1099, in which many of the inhabitants were massacred.   With victory came new problems. Many Crusaders saw the taking of Jerusalem as the goal; they were ready to go home. Others, especially minor nobles and younger sons of powerful noble families, saw the next step as the creation of a permanent Christian presence in the Holy Land. They looked to build feudal states like those of the West. They hoped to transplant their military culture and to carve out fortunes on the new frontier. Though the Crusaders were more intolerant than understanding of Eastern life, they recognized its riches. They also saw such states as the way to protect the routes to the Holy Land and its Christian sites. The result was the establishment of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, first under Godfrey of Bouillon, who took the title of Defender of the Holy Sepulchre, and then under his brother Baldwin, who ruled as king. In addition to the Latin Kingdom, which was centered on Jerusalem, three other Crusader states were founded: the County of Tripoli, in modern Lebanon; the Principality of Antioch, in modern Syria; and the County of Edessa, in modern northern Syria and southern Turkey.   CRUSADES OF THE 12TH CENTURY   The Crusades of the 12th century, through the end of the Third Crusade in 1192, illustrate the tensions and problems that plagued the enterprise as a whole. For the lords of Outremer a compromise with the residents and Muslim powers made sense; they could not live in constant warfare. And yet as European transplants they depended on soldiers and resources from the West, which were usually only forthcoming in times of open conflict. Furthermore, rivalries at home were translated into factional quarrels in Outremer that limited any common policy among the states. Nor was the situation helped by the arrival of European princes and their followers, as happened when the Second and Third Crusades came East; European tensions and jealousies proved just as divisive in the East as they had been at home.   There is little reason to think that colonization had been anticipated or encouraged by the pope, let alone by the Byzantine emperor; however, it seems a logical consequence of the Crusade’s success. Frankish nobles maintained links with their families at home, and they built lives and careers that spanned the Mediterranean. Moreover, in town and countryside, daily life in the region did not alter greatly; one military master was much like another. Christian lords had no plan for mass conversion of the natives or for any systematic mistreatment comparable to modern genocide or enforced migration. They wanted to maintain their privileged position and to enjoy the lives of European nobles in a new setting. As they settled in, they gradually lost interest in any papal efforts at raising new military expeditions. Nor did they ever reach any real compromise with the Byzantine emperor regarding reconquered territory that had once been his. Although the two groups of Christians had a common enemy, this was not a sufficient motive for cooperation between worlds with so little mutual regard.   To the rulers of Muslim states a concerted military effort was imperative. The Franks were an affront to religious as well as to political and economic interests. The combination of zeal and luck that had enabled the Crusaders to triumph in 1099 evaporated in the face of such realities as the need to recruit and maintain soldiers who were loyal and effective. Islamic rulers turned almost at once to the offensive, though a major blow to Christian power did not come until 1144, when the Muslims recaptured Edessa, on the Euphrates River. The city of Edessa had guarded the back door of the Frankish holdings, which were mostly near the coast. This loss marked the beginning of the end of a viable Christian military bastion against Islam.   News of the fall of Edessa reverberated throughout Europe, and the Second Crusade was called by Pope Eugenius III. Though the enthusiasm of 1095 was never again matched, a number of major figures joined the Second Crusade, including Holy Roman Emperor Conrad III and France’s King Louis VII. Conrad made the mistake of choosing the land route from Constantinople to the Holy Land and his army was decimated at Dorylaeum in Asia Minor. The French army was more fortunate, but it also suffered serious casualties during the journey, and only part of the original force reached Jerusalem in 1148. In consultation with King Baldwin III of Jerusalem and his nobles, the Crusaders decided to attack Damascus in July. The expedition failed to take the city, and shortly after the collapse of this attack, the French king and the remains of his army returned home. The Second Crusade resulted in many Western casualties and no gains of value in Outremer. In fact the only military gains during this period were made in what is now Portugal, where English troops, which had turned aside from the Second Crusade, helped free the city of Lisbon from the Moors.   After the failure of the Second Crusade, it was not easy to see where future developments would lead. In the 1120s and 1130s the Military Religious Orders had been created to further the Crusading ideal by combining spirituality with the martial ideas of knighthood and chivalry. Men who joined the orders took vows of chastity and obedience patterned after those of monasticism. At the same time they were professional soldiers, willing to spend long periods in the East. The most famous were the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, called Hospitalers, and the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, called Templars. These groups sent men to Outremer to protect Christian pilgrims and settlements in the east. This meant that the rulers in Outremer did not have to depend only on the huge but wayward armies led by princes. These orders of Crusading knights tried to mediate between the Church’s concerns and the more worldly interests of princes who saw the East as an extension of their own ambitions and dynastic policies.   After the Second Crusade these orders began steadily to gain popularity and support. As they attracted men and wealth, and as the Crusading movement became part of the extended politics of Western Europe, the orders themselves became players in European politics. They established chapters throughout the West, both as recruiting bases and as a means to funnel money to the East; they built and fortified great castles; they sat on the councils of princes; and they too became rich and entrenched.   In the years between the failure of the Second Crusade and 1170, when the Muslim prince Saladin came to power in Egypt, the Latin States were on the defensive but were able to maintain themselves. But in 1187 Saladin inflicted a major defeat on a combined army at Hattin and subsequently took Jerusalem. The situation had become dire. In response to the Church’s call for a new, major Crusade, three Western rulers undertook to lead their forces in person. These were Richard I, the Lion-Hearted of England, Philip II of France, and Frederick I, called Frederick Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Emperor. Known as the Third Crusade, it has become perhaps the most famous of all Crusades other than the First Crusade, though its role in legend and literature greatly outweighs its success or value.   The three rulers were rivals. Richard and Philip had long been in conflict over the English holdings in France. Though English kings had inherited great fiefs in France, their homage to the French king was a constant source of trouble. Frederick Barbarossa, old and famous, died in 1189 on the way to the Holy Land, and most of his armies returned to Germany following his death. Philip II had been spurred into taking up the Crusade by a need to match his rivals, and he returned home in 1191 with little concern for Eastern glories. But Richard, a great soldier, was very much in his element. He saw an opportunity to campaign in the field, to establish links with the local nobility, and to speak as the voice of the Crusader states. Though he gained much glory, the Crusaders were unable to recapture Jerusalem or much of the former territory of the Latin Kingdom. They did succeed, however, in wrestling from Saladin control of a chain of cities along the Mediterranean coast. By October 1192, when Richard finally left the Holy Land, the Latin Kingdom had been reconstituted. Smaller than the original kingdom and considerably weaker militarily and economically, the second kingdom lasted precariously for another century.   CRUSADES OF THE 13TH CENTURY After the disappointments of the Third Crusade, Western forces would never again threaten the real bases of Muslim power. From that point on, they were only able to gain access to Jerusalem through diplomacy, not arms.   In 1199 Innocent III called for another Crusade to recapture Jerusalem. In preparation for this Crusade, the ruler of Venice agreed to transport French and Flemish Crusaders to the Holy Land. However, the Crusaders never fought the Muslims. Unable to pay the Venetians the amount agreed upon, they were forced to bargain with the Venetians. They agreed to take part in an attack on one of the Venetians’ rivals, Zara, a trading port on the Adriatic Sea, in the nearby Kingdom of Hungary. When Innocent III learned of the expedition, he excommunicated the participants, but the combined force captured Zara in 1202. The Venetians then persuaded the Crusaders to attack the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, which fell on April 13, 1204. For three days the Crusaders sacked the city. Subsequently the Venetians gained a monopoly on Byzantine trade. The Latin Empire of Constantinople was established, which lasted until the recapture of Constantinople by the Byzantine emperor in 1261. In addition, several new Crusader states sprang up in Greece and along the Black Sea. The Fourth Crusade did not even threaten the Muslim powers. Trade and commerce had triumphed, as Venice had hoped, but at the cost of irreparably widening the rift between the Eastern and Western churches.   Crusades after the Fourth were not mass movements. They were military enterprises led by rulers moved by personal motives. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II vowed to lead a Crusade in 1215, but for domestic political reasons postponed his departure. Under pressure from Pope Gregory IX, Frederick and his army finally sailed from Italy in August 1227, but returned to port within a few days because Frederick had fallen ill. The pope, outraged at this further delay, promptly excommunicated the emperor. Undaunted, Frederick embarked for the Holy Land in June 1228. There he conducted his unconventional Crusade almost entirely by diplomatic negotiations with the Egyptian sultan. These negotiations produced a peace treaty by which the Egyptians restored Jerusalem to the Crusaders and guaranteed a ten-year respite from hostilities. However, Frederick was ridiculed in Europe for using diplomacy rather than the sword.   In 1248 Louis IX, Saint Louis of France, decided that his obligations as a son of the Church outweighed those of his throne, and he left his kingdom for a six-year adventure. Since the base of Muslim power had shifted to Egypt, Louis did not even march on the Holy Land; any war against Islam now fit the definition of a Crusade. Louis and his followers landed in Egypt on June 5, 1249, and the following day captured Damietta. The next phase of their campaign, an attack on Cairo in the spring of 1250, proved to be a catastrophe. The Crusaders failed to guard their flanks, and as a result the Egyptians retained control over the water reservoirs along the Nile. By opening the sluice gates, they created floods that trapped the whole Crusading army, and Louis was forced to surrender in April 1250. After paying an enormous ransom and surrendering Damietta, Louis sailed to Palestine, where he spent four years building fortifications and strengthening the defenses of the Latin Kingdom. In the spring of 1254 he and his army returned to France.   King Louis also organized the last major Crusade, in 1270. This time the response of the French nobility was unenthusiastic, and the expedition was directed against the city of Tunis rather than Egypt. It ended abruptly when Louis died in Tunisia during the summer of 1270.   The tale of the Crusader states, after the mid-13th century, is a sad and short one. Though popes, some zealous princes—including Edward I of England—and various religious and political thinkers continued to call for a Crusade to unite the warring armies of Europe and to deliver a smashing blow to Islam, later efforts were too small and too sporadic to do more than buy time for the Crusader states. With the fall of ‘Akko (Acre) in 1291, the last stronghold on the mainland was lost, though the military religious orders kept garrisons on Cyprus and Rhodes for some centuries. However, the Crusading impulse was not dead. As late as 1396 a large expedition against the Ottoman Turks in the Balkans, summoned by Sigismund of Hungary, drew knights from all over the West. But a crushing defeat at Nicopolis (Nikopol) on the Danube River also showed that the appeal of these ventures far outstripped the political and military support needed for their success.   OTHER CRUSADES   The expeditions to Outremer are thought of as the Crusades. Military-Christian enterprises and expeditions elsewhere are easily branded as misdirected or perverted Crusades, but there is really no significant difference between them. Medieval Christendom perceived itself as having a right or duty to expand, to convert and dominate Muslims and pagans, and to bring dissident Christians back to the fold. When English forces helped take Lisbon from the Moors in 1147, they were carrying out what seemed the true purpose of a Crusade. This was also true for German soldiers under the banner of the Teutonic Knights when they imposed Christianity on the pagans of eastern Germany and the Baltic in the 12th and 13th centuries.   Since the Crusades had become the militant arm of Christian society, it seemed only logical to launch the Albigensian Crusade (see Albigenses). This was a war fought by the French kings and their vassals against heretics in the south of France from around 1210 to 1229. This use of the Crusading banner seems a hypocritical smoke screen, as the French knights took the lands of their enemies, savaged by the people, and became the new feudal lords. But the distinction between what happened in France, in Jerusalem, or in Rîga in the Baltic was one of place and time, not of essence.   As late as the 15th century, this extension of the Crusading ideal to areas outside the Holy Land was a powerful force when directed against a specific opponent. When national feeling and the adoption of religious ideas later associated with the Protestants made Bohemia a threat to European stability, at least in the eyes of the Holy Roman Empire and the pope, a Crusade was declared against Hussites, who were named for John Hus, their first leader. Some decried this as a false Crusade, saying that greed was being sanctified by ecclesiastical banners. But most of Europe endorsed the brutal warfare and the reimposition of Catholicism. This was, in their eyes, a Crusade for Christ’s church and people, as valid as any of the expeditions to the Holy Land.   CONSEQUENCES AND CONCLUSION   When judged by narrow military standards, the Crusades were a failure. What was gained so quickly was slowly but steadily lost. On the other hand, to hold territory under a Christian banner so far from home, given the contemporary conditions of transport and communication, was impressive. The taking of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade had been just short of fatal to the Byzantine Empire, and it cast a blemish on the movement in the West, where there were critics of the whole concept of armed Crusades. While Constantinople was not taken by the Turks until 1453, the Byzantine Empire after the Fourth Crusade was but a shell of its former self.   For many years, scholars were inclined to give the Crusades credit for making Western Europe more cosmopolitan. They believed the Crusades had brought Western Europe higher standards of Eastern medicine and learning, Greek and Muslim culture, and such luxuries as silks, spices, and oranges. Extreme statements of this view held that the Crusades brought Europe out of the provincialism of the Dark Ages.   Scholars no longer accept this assessment. It is too simple. It ignores the larger trends of population growth, expanding trade, and the exchange of ideas and cultures that existed long before 1095. These trends would have encouraged East-West exchange without military expeditions or the taking of Jerusalem. The Crusades, while an exciting and integral part of the Middle Ages, merely served to hasten changes that were inevitable.   The most important effect of the Crusades was economic. The Italian cities prospered from the transport of Crusaders and replaced Byzantines and Muslims as merchant-traders in the Mediterranean. Trade passed through Italian hands to Western Europe at a handsome profit. This commercial power became the economic base of the Italian Renaissance. It also provoked such Atlantic powers as Spain and Portugal to seek trade routes to India and China. Their efforts, through such explorers as Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus, helped to open most of the world to European trade dominance and colonization and to shift the center of commercial activity from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.

      in Christian History

    • Rethinking the Christian Crusades

      The language that demands that our ancestors be posthumously anathematized is not too distant from that of the men who wanted the corpse of Pope Boniface VIII to be exhumed and burnt. We may be entering a period of conceptual uncertainty about the most difficult of all society’s dilemmas — when or when not to use force — and we need not emotion, but cool heads and an objective analysis of the past.   On July 15, 1999, the nine-hundredth anniversary of the fall of Jerusalem to the crusaders, a party of Christians paraded round the city walls to publicize a personal apology on behalf of their religion to Muslims. They wanted to make a conciliatory gesture, on the one hand, and on the other to express contrition for wars they believe should be included in the category of events Pope John Paul II calls departures from the spirit of Christ and his gospel. To accept blame humbly when one is at fault is always good, of course, but in this case the apologizers were only showing that they did not comprehend the Muslim view of the crusades (which made their conciliatory gesture empty) and did not understand history (which made their act of contrition pointless).   Crusades were war-pilgrimages proclaimed by the Popes on Christ's behalf and waged for the recovery of Christian territory or people, or in their defense. Each crusader made a vow, signified by the wearing of a cloth cross, and he (or she) was rewarded with the grant of an indulgence and certain temporal privileges. A distinguishing feature of crusading was that the cross was enjoined on men and women not as a service, but as a penance, the association of which with war had been made about a decade before the First Crusade. While holy war had had a long history, the idea of penitential war was unprecedented in Christian thought. It meant that a crusade was for the crusader only secondarily about service in arms to God or benefiting the Church or Christianity; it was primarily about benefiting himself. He was engaged in an act of self-sanctification.   Crusading generated two institutional mutations: military orders, the members of which were not crusaders, being permanently as opposed to temporarily engaged in the defense of Christendom and sometimes operating out of theocratic order-states like Prussia, Rhodes, and Malta; and crusade leagues, which were alliances of certain frontline powers, the forces of which were granted crusade privileges.   The movement lasted a very long time, from the preaching of the First Crusade in 1095 to the fall of the last order-state, Hospitaller Malta, to Napoleon in 1798. It manifested itself in many theatres of war: Palestine and the eastern Mediterranean region, of course, but also North Africa, Spain, the Baltic shores, Hungary, the Balkans, and even Western Europe. The Muslims were not the crusaders' only enemies, although they provided the opposition in North Africa and Spain as well as in Palestine and Syria, and, from the later fourteenth century onwards, in the Aegean and the Balkans. Crusaders were also engaged in campaigns against Pagan Wends, Balts and Lithuanians, Shamanist Mongols, Orthodox Russians and Greeks, Cathar and Hussite heretics, and Catholic political opponents of the papacy.   Some crusades, therefore, were "introspective" in that they were launched against fellow Christians. Holy war has the tendency, whatever the religion involved, to turn inwards sooner or later and to be directed against the members of the society that has generated it. The fear grows that any chance of victory may be vitiated by corruption or divisions at home, so that only when society is undefiled and is practicing uniformly true religion can a struggle on its behalf be successful.   From the Fourth Lateran Council in the early thirteenth century to the Council of Trent in the middle of the sixteenth, every general council of the Church was officially summoned at least partly on the grounds that no crusade could be really successful without a reform of the Church and of Christendom. In the middle of the twelfth century Peter the Venerable, the influential abbot of Cluny, was prepared to state that violence against fellow religionists could be even more justifiable than the use of force against infidels. In 1208, calling for a crusade against the heretical Cathars with imagery of uncleanness and disease, Pope Innocent III summoned "knights of Christ . . . to wipe out the treachery of heresy and its followers by attacking the heretics with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, that much more confidently than you would attack the Muslims because they are worse than them." Introspective crusades were often seen as preliminary to war against Islam — men who had taken the cross for the East not infrequently found themselves pressured into commuting their vows in favor of internal police actions.   It has often been said that crusaders tended to behave particularly badly once they were in the field. That they could be undisciplined and capable of acts of great cruelty cannot be denied. The question, however, is whether the form of war in which they were engaged was a peculiarly horrible one. Recent work on the sack of Jerusalem in July 1099, one of the most notorious incidents and the one commemorated by those repentant modern Christians, is leading some historians to look at the evidence again. We know it to be a myth that the crusaders targeted the Jewish community in Jerusalem. We also know that the figure for the Muslim dead, which used to range from ten to seventy thousand on the basis of accounts written long after the event, ought to be revised downward. A contemporary Muslim source has been discovered that puts the number at three thousand. Three thousand men and women is still a lot of people, of course, but it is low enough to make one wonder why the Western eyewitnesses, who gloried in generalized descriptions of slaughter, felt the need to portray a bloodbath.   If, on the other hand, the behavior of the crusaders in the East cannot be considered to have been quantitatively worse than that of those fighting in any ideological war, the behavior of the crusaders in Europe could sometimes be abominable, even by the standards of the time. Before heading off to the Jerusalem crusades in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, some Europeans "prepared themselves" through violent outbreaks of anti-Judaism in France, Germany, and England. During the crusades launched against fellow Christians or heretics, the most unpleasant examples of loss of discipline and control took place (the sacks of Constantinople in 1204 and of Béziers in 1209 spring to mind). If we are going to express contrition for the behavior of the crusaders, it is not so much to the Muslims that we should apologize, but to the Jews and to our fellow Christians.   But should we be apologizing at all? No crusade was actually proclaimed against the Jews, although crusade preaching unleashed feelings that the Church could not control. As far as crusading itself is concerned, most Muslims do not view the crusades, in which they anyway believe they were victorious, in isolation. Islam has been spasmodically in conflict with Christianity since the Muslim conquests of the seventh century, long before the First Crusade, and the crusading movement was a succession of episodes in a continuum of hostility between the two religions. Muslims do not seem to have considered until relatively recently that the crusades stood out in this history; by 1500, indeed, they would have been justified in believing that that particular sequence of wars was ending in their favor. They might have lost Spain, but the Ottoman conquests in Europe had far exceeded anything the crusaders had gained in the East. In the late nineteenth century, however, they began to regard the West's monopoly of commerce and colonialism as a change of tactics, in which everything the crusaders had lost to them was being more than regained. It follows that apologizing to them now can never, as far as they are concerned, get to the root of the problem, because the crusades are merely symptomatic of a much longer-term competitiveness. It is rather like a marksman aiming at an opponent and, while he fires his rifle, expressing regrets for his ancestor's use of a bow and arrow.   But for many of the Christian penitents, what the Muslims think is of secondary importance; it is the Church's subjective act of repentance for past sin that matters. While this kind of self-accusation may make them feel good about themselves, it is possible that, in diverting attention from the real issues, they are doing more harm than good. How useful is it to condemn wars that were supported by great saints like Bernard of Clairvaux, Thomas Aquinas, Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, John of Capistrano, even possibly Francis of Assisi, however abhorrent the ethical principles on which they were based appear to be to us? Ought we not rather challenge the widespread sentimental and unhistorical assumptions that on the one hand Christianity is an unambiguously pacific religion and on the other that Christian justifications of force have been consistent?   The consensus among Christians on the use of violence has changed radically since the crusades were fought. The just war theory prevailing for most of the last two centuries — that violence is an evil which can in certain situations be condoned as the lesser of evils — is relatively young. Although it has inherited some elements (the criteria of legitimate authority, just cause, right intention) from the older war theory that first evolved around a.d. 400, it has rejected two premises that underpinned all medieval just wars, including crusades: first, that violence could be employed on behalf of Christ's intentions for mankind and could even be directly authorized by him; and second, that it was a morally neutral force which drew whatever ethical coloring it had from the intentions of the perpetrators. Only in the sixteenth century did the nearly universal conviction that the use of violence depended on Christ's direct or indirect authority begin to be undermined. For the Dominican Francisco de Vitoria and his followers, particularly Suarez and Ayala, violence could be justified only in terms of the needs of the "common good," defined in relation to accepted earthly laws.   Just war arguments thus moved from the field of moral theology to that of law, a step taken within decades by Gentili and Grotius. Christ was withdrawing from the fray, at least as far as Enlightenment thinkers were concerned — the Encyclopédistes referred to the crusades as ces guerres horribles — but although they agreed that the use of force nearly always had evil consequences because of the suffering that accompanied it, they still regarded violence itself as being morally neutral. No one had yet taken the second step necessary for the emergence of "modern" just war theory, the conviction borrowed from pacifism that force is intrinsically evil — though conceding that it can nevertheless be condoned as a lesser evil. I do not know exactly when this change took place, but I suspect it was an achievement of the peace movement that swept Europe and America after the Napoleonic Wars and split into two wings, pacifist and moderate, in the 1830s.   From the fourth century, and especially from the eleventh to the nineteenth century, therefore, Christians considered violence in a quite different light than we do today. Our just war theory has become so embedded in our thinking that we forget that it represents a relatively short-lived departure from a much longer-lasting and more positive tradition. Time will tell whether that older tradition represents the norm, but a realization of this may come sooner rather than later, because there are several straws in the wind. The founding of the League of Nations and then the United Nations and the judgments at the Nuremberg trials encouraged the revival of concepts of natural law, manifesting themselves in the notion of crimes against humanity and an insistence on judgment by international tribunals. This seems to have set in motion a process that has now led to the waging of a war justified by its "humanitarian" aims.   This development, one should note, reverses the achievement of the sixteenth-century thinkers, by subordinating international law to natural law and by reintroducing ethical judgments to just war theory. It is beginning to look, moreover, as though the restoration of Christ to the position of an authorizer of violence, which was a feature of the militant Christian liberation theology in the 1960s and early 1970s, was not a flash in the pan but was part of this process of change.   That nineteenth-century just war theory may be giving way less than two centuries after it became the consensus indicates how unsatisfactory, philosophically and practically, it has proved itself to be. Within decades the problems raised by it were so intractable that lawyers began to concentrate on getting international agreement on rules of war that might ameliorate the suffering that accompanied conflict rather than on basic principles. Its fallibility was again revealed during the Nuremberg trials, in the more recent debates on proportionality with respect to nuclear deterrence, and in the extraordinarily confused justifications given for the Gulf War by some leading Christians.   I am fairly sure that those who are now demanding an apology for the crusades are themselves, without knowing it or understanding how rapidly the ground is shifting beneath them, sharing in a new consensus which is au fond not very far from the war theology they are condemning. A stance that justifies a "humanitarian" war on moral grounds has placed itself at least in the same field as that once occupied by crusade theorists. The language that demands that our ancestors be posthumously anathematized is not too distant from that of the men who wanted the corpse of Pope Boniface VIII to be exhumed and burnt. We may be entering a period of conceptual uncertainty about the most difficult of all society's dilemmas — when or when not to use force — and we need not emotion, but cool heads and an objective analysis of the past.   Jonathan Riley-Smith is the Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Cambridge University and Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and the author or editor of twelve books on the crusades and the Latin East, including The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades (2001) The Oxford History of the Crusades (2000) and The Crusades: A Short History (1987).

      in Christian History

    • History and Apologetic for the Christian Crusades

      BY ANNE CARROLL   This history and apologetic for the Crusades is suitable for junior or senior high school social studies or history students.   Pope Blessed Urban II and the first crusade   Urban had been a Cluny monk and an assistant to Pope Gregory. For a time, be had been a prisoner of Henry IV. When Urban was elected, Rome was held by the imperial anti-pope. Urban spent the first three years of his reign in south Italy, but he held councils and improved ecclesiastical discipline. Finally the forces of Countess Matilda of Tuscany, who had supported Gregory against Henry all along, defeated Henry at Canossa. Urban entered Rome, but the anti-pope still held the strong places. Urban didn't sit on the Papal throne until six years after his election.   Urban's main achievement was convoking the Council of Clermont, November 1095, which called the First Crusade. The Byzantine Emperor, Alexius Commenus, had sent a desperate appeal to Urban for armed knights to defend Christianity against the Moslem enemy. When the Pope laid the Emperor's pleas before the knights in Clermont, the main concern of the noblemen there was not so much the defense of Byzantium as the rescue of the Holy land from Moslem domination. Palestine had been under Moslem control since the days of the Caliph Omar, but at least the Arab Moslems had allowed Christian pilgrims to visit the places made sacred by the life of Christ. The SeIjuk Turks, now the dominant Moslem power, had, on the other hand, closed off the Holy Land.   Thus the Pope concluded his speech to the council with these words: “Men of God, men chosen and blessed among all, combine your forces! Take the road to the Holy Sepulcher assured of the imperishable glory that awaits you in God's kingdom. Let each one deny himself and take the Cross!” With a shout — "God wills it” — the Assembly rose. They adopted a red cross as their emblem, and within a few hours no more red material remained in the town because the knights had cut it all up into crosses to be sewn on their sleeves. Because of their emblem (crux is the Latin word for cross) they were given the name Crusaders.   It is important to understand that the Crusades were a just war. The Church is frequently attacked on the question of the Crusades, sometimes on the grounds that the Christian nations of Europe were the aggressors and encouraged to be so by the Popes, sometimes on the grounds that this kind of war was inappropriate for Christians to fight, and sometimes on the grounds that immoral things happened on the Crusades. Each of these objections can be countered, showing that the Crusades were a just war.   First, the Christian nations of Europe were definitely not the aggressors. As we have seen in earlier chapters, the Moslems had been aggressors against the Christians since the seventh century. Their attacks on Christian countries were still going on in the eleventh century. In 1071 the Turks had attacked and virtually annihilated the Byzantine army at Manzikert. It was this defeat that led the Byzantine Emperor to appeal to the Pope for aid against the Moslems. The Christian countries of Europe were clearly justified in defending themselves against Moslem attacks and also in going on the offensive in order to prevent future attacks. At no point did the Crusaders attack the Moslem homeland, Arabia, but only those originally Christian territories that the Moslems had conquered.   Second, it certainly was and is appropriate for Christians to defend themselves and the innocent and helpless against attacks, which is exactly what the Crusaders were doing. It is also appropriate for Christians to try to regain lands which their enemy had conquered, as was the case with the Holy Land. The religious significance of the Holy land makes it even better that Christians try to regain it rather than worse, since Christians had every right to govern the lands where Christ had walked and to protect them from desecration.   Finally, there were certainly abuses during the Crusades, most notably the Sack of Jerusalem and the Sack of Constantinople, both of which are discussed below. But an immoral action during a war does not detract from the justice of the cause of the war. The immoral action should be condemned, as Godfrey de Bouillon condemned the Sack of Jerusalem and Simon de Montfort condemned the Sack of Constantinople, but the war itself remains just.   On to Jerusalem   In the summer of 1096 the various contingents of Crusaders began making their way to the Holy Land. There was no one overall leader. Henry IV, the Holy Roman Emperor, certainly could not be trusted with such a responsibility, nor was any other ruler in Europe in a position to assume leadership. So knights from the different areas followed their own overlords. The Pope appointed Bishop Adhemar as his personal representative, with the responsibility of keeping the lords working in as much harmony as possible to achieve their mission. As the Crusade progressed, the dominant figures would be Bohemond, leader of the Normans of Italy; Godfrey de Bouillon, leading the contingent from Lorraine and the Low Countries; and Raymond of Toulouse, with knights from southern France. The contingent under Raymond was the largest' and of all the leaders he was the one most committed to the crusading ideal: the restoration of Jerusalem to Christian control.   The lack of a unified command was only one of the reasons why, from a purely worldly standpoint, the Crusade seemed unlikely of success. The Crusaders would be fighting far from home, whereas the Moslems would be on familiar ground. The economy of Europe was just beginning to grow so that commerce and trade could flourish and surplus wealth be produced. The Moslems, on the other hand, were living off a long-standing economy. But these Moslem advantages paled beside the devotion and enthusiasm which motivated the majority of those who sewed the red crosses on their sleeves, leaving home and family to fight for Christ against His enemies. Crusaders at Nicea   The main Crusader contingents arrived in Constantinople by April 1097, and in June took nearby Nicea from the Moslems. A week later, they began marching east, through arid wastelands under a blistering sun. The local Moslem commander thought these foolish knights could be easily conquered, the more so as they had divided their forces into two columns. On July 1 he attacked at Dorylaeum.   Bohemond and his men bore the first onslaught. He exhorted his men to stand firm and sent messengers for help. The Normans held until Raymond's men arrived and then a contingent led by Bishop Adhemar. The Turks fled, having suffered five times as many casualties as the Christians.   On they went, through the midsummer heat, finally reaching fertile lands in August. After a rest they were on the march again, reaching the important city of Antioch in October. The siege of the city was long and difficult. Some of the less dedicated leaders weakened and returned home. But Raymond, Godfrey and Bohemond held firm, inspiring their men, leading charges, resisting enemy attacks. Finally Bohemond, with the help of a traitor inside Antioch, broke into the city and opened the gates to the rest of the Crusading army. Antioch fell to the Christians, but they soon found themselves in turn besieged by a Moslem relief army. Conditions looked grim but on June 28, Bohemond called forth the entire Christian army. After a final hand-to-hand struggle, the Moslem army was routed, and Antioch was secure.   The leaders let their army rest and recuperate until November 1. In August Bishop Adhemar died, leaving no successor. Without his steadying hand, the leaders quarreled among themselves. Bohemond considered that Antioch was his personal possession and seemed to have lost interest in Jerusalem. Raymond, whose commitment to the conquest of Jerusalem never wavered, insisted that they march on. Reports of their quarrel reached the men. The soldiers had no doubts as to what they wanted to do. They demanded that the army march to Jerusalem at once or they would tear down the walls of Antioch. The leaders promised to go, but there were more delays. Once more the men had to deliver an ultimatum.   Finally, on January 13, 1099 Raymond led the Crusaders on the final march to Jerusalem. They won a series of fairly easy victories and on June 7 arrived within sight of Jerusalem for the first time, viewing it from a mountain which pilgrims had long before named Mountjoy. Said one man writing at the time, “When they heard the name of Jerusalem, they could not restrain their tears. Falling upon their knees, they gave thanks to God for having enabled them to reach the goal of their pilgrimage, the Holy City where our Lord had chosen to save the world.”   But the siege of Jerusalem was even more difficult than the siege of Antioch. The sun shone pitilessly and the wind from the desert drained moisture from the flesh. The Moslems had poisoned the wells near the city, and men would lick dew from the grass or dig into the ground to find moist earth. But then one of the priests with the Crusaders reported that he had seen a vision of Bishop Adhemar, who had asked that the army fast and then walk barefoot around the walls of Jerusalem begging God's help. If they would do so, victory would be theirs.   The men had loved Bishop Adhemar and they all responded to this request. The Crusaders had renewed confidence and courage, and on July 15 the final assault was launched. Godfrey led it, from a wooden siege tower, at one point even holding up a cracked beam with his own back. His men flung open the Gate of St. Stephen. Through it came the Normans and then the main force under Raymond. Jerusalem was taken.   As the men entered the city, all their pent-up frustration erupted. They went wild, looting the city and killing many innocent people. This behavior was totally against the promises these men had made at knight-hood, and marred what would otherwise have been a splendid victory. Neither Godfrey nor Raymond, however, participated in or in any way approved of the Sack of Jerusalem.   The Crusaders now offered the crown of Jerusalem to Raymond. He refused it, declaring that he would not wear a crown of gold where his Savior had worn a crown of thorns. Godfrey was then offered the crown, and he too refused it with the same words. But he agreed to take responsibility for Jerusalem's defense, under the title Defender of the Holy Sepulcher. At last Christians could freely travel in the Holy land and worship at the holy places.   Soon after the conquest of Jerusalem, a new religious community was organized, called the Knights of St John, or the Hospitallers. The Knights of St. John took vows to dedicate their lives to God as did the monks in Europe. They also had a charitable purpose — care of the sick (hence the name Hospitallers) — as did some monks in Europe. But besides all this, the Knights regarded themselves as a military organization, which would fight whenever necessary in the service of the Church or to protect the innocent. They were, for example, entrusted with the protection of the Holy Sepulcher. The Knights provided the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem with a permanent army which represented the best of the spirit of the Crusades.

      in Christian History

    • Is there Christian justification for the Crusades?

      by Don Closson   Introduction   At the Council of Clermont in 1095 Pope Urban II called upon Christians in Europe to respond to an urgent plea for help from Byzantine Christians in the East. Muslims were threatening to conquer this remnant of the Roman Empire for Allah. The threat was real; most of the Middle East, including the Holy Land where Christ had walked, had already been vanquished. Thus began the era of the Crusades, taken from the Latin word crux or cross. Committed to saving Christianity, the Crusaders left family and jobs to take up the cause. Depending on how one counts (either by the number of actual crusading armies or by the duration of the conflict), there were six Crusades between 1095 and 1270. But the crusading spirit would continue on for centuries, until Islam was no longer a menace to Europe.   There is a genuine difficulty for us to view the Crusades through anything but the eyes of a 21st century American. The notion of defending Christianity or the birthplace of Christ via military action is difficult to imagine or to support from Scripture, but perhaps a bit easier since the events of September 11th.   So when Christians today think about the Crusades, it may be with remorse or embarrassment. Church leaders, including the Pope, have recently made the news by apologizing to Muslims, and everyone else, for the events surrounding the Crusades. In the minds of many, the Crusades were an ill-advised fiasco that didn't accomplish the goals of permanently reclaiming Jerusalem and the Holy Lands.   Are history books correct when they portray the Crusades as an invasion of Muslim territories by marauding Europeans whose primary motive was to plunder new lands? What is often left out of the text is that most of the Islamic Empire had been Christian and had been militarily conquered by the followers of the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th and 8th centuries.   Islam had suddenly risen out of nowhere to become a threat to all of Christian Europe, and although it had shown some restraint in its treatment of conquered Christians, it had exhibited remarkable cruelty as well. At minimum, Islam enforced economic and religious discrimination against those it controlled, making Jews and Christians second-class citizens. In some cases, Muslim leaders went further. An event that may have sparked the initial Crusade in 1095 was the destruction of the Holy Sepulchre by the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim.{1} In fact, many Christians at the time considered al-Hakim to be the Antichrist.   We want black and white answers to troubling questions, but the Crusades present us with a complex collection of events, motivations, and results that make simple answers difficult to find. In this article we'll consider the origins and impact of this centuries-long struggle between the followers of Muhammad and the followers of Christ.   The Causes   Historian Paul Johnson writes that the terrorist attacks of September 11th can be seen as an extension of the centuries-long struggle between the Islamic East and the Christian West. Johnson writes,   The Crusades, far from being an outrageous prototype of Western imperialism, as is taught in most of our schools, were a mere episode in a struggle that has lasted 1,400 years, and were one of the few occasions when Christians took the offensive to regain the "occupied territories" of the Holy Land.{2}   Islam had exploded on the map by conquering territories that had been primarily Christian. The cities of Antioch, Alexandria, and Carthage had been the centers of Christian thought and theological inquiry for centuries before being taken by Muslim armies in their jihad to spread Islam worldwide. Starting in 1095 and continuing for over four hundred years, the crusading spirit that pervaded much of Europe can be seen as an act of cultural self-preservation, much as Americans now see the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.   One motivation for the Crusade in 1095 was the request for help made by the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I. Much of the Byzantine Empire had been conquered by the Seljuk Turks and Constantinople, the greatest Christian city in the world, was also being threatened. Pope Urban knew that the sacrifices involved with the call to fight the Turks needed more than just coming to the rescue of Eastern Christendom. To motivate his followers he added a new goal to free Jerusalem and the birthplace of Christ.   At the personal level, the Pope added the possibility of remission of sins. Since the idea of a pilgrim's vow was widespread in medieval Europe, crusaders, noblemen and peasant alike, vowed to reach the Holy Sepulcher in return for the church's pardon for sins they had committed. The church also promised to protect properties left behind by noblemen during travels east.   The Pope might launch a Crusade, but he had little control over it once it began. The Crusaders promised God, not the Pope to complete the task. Once on its way, the Crusading army was held together by "feudal obligations, family ties, friendship, or fear."{3}   Unlike Islam, Christianity had not yet developed the notion of a holy war. In the fifth century Augustine described what constituted a just war but excluded the practice of battle for the purpose of religious conversion or to destroy heretical religious ideas. Leaders of nations might decide to go to war for just reasons, but war was not to be a tool of the church.{4} Unfortunately, using Augustine's just war language, Popes and Crusaders saw themselves as warriors for Christ rather than as a people seeking justice in the face of an encroaching enemy threat.   The Events   The history books our children read typically emphasize the atrocities committed by Crusaders and the tolerance of the Muslims. It is true that the Crusaders slaughtered Jews and Muslims in the sacking of Jerusalem and later laid siege to the Christian city of Constantinople. Records indicate that Crusaders were even fighting among themselves as they fought Muslims. But a closer examination of the Crusades shows the real story is more complex than the public's perception or what is found in history books. The fact is that both Muslims and Christians committed considerable carnage and internal warfare and political struggles often divided both sides.   Muslims could be, and frequently were, barbaric in their treatment of Christians and Jews. One example is how the Turks dealt with German and French prisoners captured early in the First Crusade prior to the sacking of Jerusalem. Those who renounced Christ and converted to Islam were sent to the East; the rest were slaughtered. Even Saladin, the re-conqueror of Jerusalem was not always merciful. After defeating a large Latin army on July 3, 1187, he ordered the mass execution of all Hospitallers and Templars left alive, and he personally beheaded the nobleman Reynald of Chatillon. Saladin's secretary noted that:   He ordered that they should be beheaded, choosing to have them dead rather than in prison. With him was a whole band of scholars and Sufis . . . [and] each begged to be allowed to kill one of them, and drew his sword and rolled back his sleeve. Saladin, his face joyful, was sitting on his dais; the unbelievers showed black despair.{5}   In fact, Saladin had planned to massacre all of the Christians in Jerusalem after taking it back from the Crusaders, but when the commander of the Jerusalem garrison threatened to destroy the city and kill all of the Muslims inside the walls, Saladin allowed them to buy their freedom or be sold into slavery instead.{6}   The treachery shown by the Crusaders against other Christians is a reflection of the times. At the height of the crusading spirit in Europe, Frederick Barbarossa assembled a large force of Germans for what is now known as the third Crusade. To ease his way, he negotiated treaties for safe passage through Europe and Anatolia, even getting permission from Muslim Turks to pass unhampered. On the other hand, the Christian Emperor of Byzantium, Isaac II, secretly agreed with Saladin to harass Frederick's crusaders through his territory. When it was deemed helpful, both Muslim and Christian made pacts with anyone who might further their own cause. At one point the sultan of Egypt offered to help the Crusaders in their struggle with the Muslim Turks, and the Turks failed to come to the rescue of the Shi'ite Fatimid Muslims who controlled Palestine.   Human treachery and sinfulness was evident on both sides of the conflict.   The Results   On May 29, 1453 the city of Constantinople fell to the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II. With it the 2,206-year-old Roman Empire came to an end and the greatest Christian church in the world, the Hagia Sophia, was turned into a mosque. Some argue that this disaster was a direct result of the Crusaders' misguided efforts, and that anything positive they might have accomplished was fleeting.   Looking back at the Crusades, we are inclined to think of them as a burst of short-lived, failed efforts by misguided Europeans. Actually, the crusading spirit lasted for hundreds of years and the Latin kingdom that was established in 1098, during the first Crusade, endured for almost 200 years. Jerusalem remained in European hands for eighty-eight years, a period greater than the survival of many modern nations.   Given the fact that the Latin kingdom and Jerusalem eventually fell back into Muslim hands, did the Crusaders accomplish anything significant? It can be argued that the movement of large European armies into Muslim held territories slowed down the advance of Islam westward. The presence of a Latin kingdom in Palestine acted as a buffer zone between the Byzantine Empire and Muslim powers and also motivated Muslim leaders to focus their attention on defense rather than offense at least for a period of time.   Psychologically, the Crusades resulted in a culture of chivalry based on both legendary and factual exploits of European rulers. The crusading kings Richard the Lionheart and Louis IX were admired even by their enemies as men of integrity and valor. Both saw themselves as acting on God's behalf in their quest to free Jerusalem from Muslim oppression. For centuries, European rulers looked to the Crusader kings as models of how to integrate Christianity and the obligations of knighthood.   Unfortunately, valor and the ability to conduct warfare took precedent over all other qualities, perhaps because it was a holdover from Frankish pagan roots and the worship of Odin the warrior god. These Germanic people may have converted to Christianity, but they still had a place in their hearts for the gallant warrior's paradise, Valhalla.{7} As one scholar writes:   But the descendants of those worshippers of Odin still had the love of a warrior god in their blood, a god of warriors whose ultimate symbol was war.{8}   The Crusades temporarily protected some Christians from having to live under Muslim rule as second-class citizens. Called the dhimmi, this legal code enforced the superiority of Muslims and humiliated all who refused to give up other religious beliefs.   It is also argued that the crusading spirit is what eventually sent the Europeans off to the New World. The voyage of Columbus just happens to coincide with the removal of Muslim rule from Spain. The exploration of the New World eventually encouraged an economic explosion that the Muslim world could not match.   Summary   Muslims still point to the Crusades as an example of injustice perpetrated by the West on Islam. An interesting question might be, "Had the situation been reversed, would Muslims have felt justified in going to war against Christians?" In other words, would the rules in the Qur'an and the Hadith (the holy books of Islam) warrant a conflict similar to what the Crusaders conducted?   You have probably heard the term jihad, or struggle, discussed in the news. The word denotes different kinds of striving within the Muslim faith. At one level, it speaks of personal striving for righteousness. However, there are numerous uses of the term within Islam where it explicitly refers to warfare.   First, the Qur'an permits fighting to defend individual Muslims and the religion of Islam from attack.{9} In fact, all able bodied Muslims are commanded to assist in defending the community of believers. Muslims are also given permission to remove treacherous people from power, even if they have previously agreed to a treaty with them.{10}   Muslims are encouraged to use armed struggle for the general purpose of spreading the message of Islam.{11} The Qur'an specifically says, "Fighting is a grave offense, but graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque. . . ."{12} Warfare is also justified for the purpose of purging a people from the bondage of idolatry or the association of anything with God. This gives the Muslim a theological reason to go to war against Christians, since the Qur'an teaches that the doctrine of the Trinity is a form of idolatry. Had the situation been reversed, the religion of Islam provides multiple rationalizations for the actions of the Crusaders.   But is there a Christian justification for the Crusades? The only example of a Christian fighting in the New Testament is the apostle Peter when he drew his sword to protect Jesus from the Roman soldiers. Jesus told him to put the sword away. Then He said, "Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" The kingdom that Jesus had established would not be built on the blood of the unbeliever, but on the shed blood of the Lamb of God.   The Crusader's actions should be defended using Augustine's "just war" language rather than a holy war vocabulary. Although they did not always live up to the dictates of "just war" ideals, such as the immunity of noncombatants, the Crusades were a last resort defensive war that sought peace for its people who had been under constant assault for many years.   If one of the functions of a God-ordained government is to restrain evil and promote justice, then it follows that rulers of nations where Christians dwell may need to conduct a just war in order to protect their people from invasion.

      in Christian History


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