The Crusades

The crusades were military campaigns that were first sanctioned by Pope Urban 2 with a speech at Clermont-Ferrand in November 1095 to grapple the Holy Land that was under Muslim control for years. The great desire for access to the shrines associated with life and ministry of Jesus was a mere driving force for crusaders. In addition, the promise to gain the land and wealth that the East had in abundance acted as motivation to the crusaders who also had absolution from sin and eternal glory promised to them.
The church now had a growing purpose to end the practice whereby kings made clergy, such as bishops important by installing them in office. The power balance had begun to swing from the east to the west (Kedar 61). Thereupon, the popes rallied European popular support behind them, a factor that contributed greatly to the first crusade.
The first crusade took place between the years 1096-99. Armies of crusaders were formed from different western regions by four Knights: Raymond of Saint-Gilles, Bohemond of Taranto, Hugh of Vermandois and Godfrey of Bouillon in August 1096. A popular preacher Peter the Hermit with a less organized band of knights and commoners, earlier embarked to wage war towards the Muslims. ‘Going to the cross’ is a literal meaning to the term crusade, consequently the idea at during this era was urging Christian warriors to invade Palestine and free Jerusalem city and the other places regarded as holy from Muslim domination. This crusade came to be a grand success for the Christian Knights as they conquered Jerusalem and other cities.
The second crusade, however ended in utter frustration in 1148, when large armies of France and Germany had failure in Damascus takeover (Gavin 14). A compromise between King Richard the Lion-hearted of England and the Muslim leader Saladin formed the end of the third crusade in 1192, who granted the Christians access to the Holy Places (Sumption 74). A fourth crusade led to Constantinople being sacked, leading to formation of the Latin Kingdom of Byzantium 1204 which lasted for nearly 60 years. In 1212, an unfortunate children’s crusade came to closure with thousands of children being sold into slavery, lost or even maimed. There was some less disastrous crusades which were equally futile in the 13th century, and the last invasion of the Muslim territory fell in 1291.
History suggests the crusaders as a mixture of rewards and horrors. There was a new knowledge of the East and trade possibilities on one hand (Sumption 71). On the other hand, spread of Christianity was in a crimson, militaristic manner, and thus resulting in new areas of possible trade turned into areas of oppression and bloodshed. A great number of non-Christians lost their lives in this era and the possibility of this trend to continue in the inquisitions of the coming centuries was real.
However, Europe’s population escalated in growth, with the revival of the urban life emerging resulting in both long distance and local trade increasing. This population increase and the surplus wealth also meant greater demand for good consequently leading to the new enterprises emerging on the scale of the crusaders to support the human and economic resources. In addition, the view of European traders to the Mediterranean meant that they sought greater control of goods, routes, and profits. The pope’s newfound ability in mobilizing and focusing a great enterprise coincided with the profane interests about the holy land.
Like all welfare, the violence instigated by crusaders was barbarian though not as the modern day wars (Lowenthal 51). Mishaps, blunders and crimes were occasional scenario during the wars. In the early days of the first crusade in 1095, a number of crusaders led by Count Emicho of Leningen made their way down the Rhine, robbing and murdering all Jews they saw in sight. The local bishops attempted to stop this carnage for they considered it as enemies of Christ (Gavin 15). Indeed, they believed this killing and plundering to be a righteous deed, since the Jews’ money could be used to fund the crusade to Jerusalem. It was wrong and this anti-Jewish attack was strongly condemned by the church.
Often it is proclaimed that the Holocaust and its roots can be viewed in these medieval pogroms (Gavin 37). Although most Jews perished during the crusades, the main purpose was not to maim Jews. Quite the contrary, several bishops, preachers and popes made it clear that European Jews were to be left unscathed.
In conclusion, from a safe distance of many centuries, it is easy enough to frown in displeasure at the crusades. Religion after all is nothing to wage wars over, but it should be considered that our medieval ancestors would have probably been equally disgusted by our infinitely more destructive wars that are propagated in the name of political ideologies. With its respect for antipathy toward slavery and women, Christianity faith not only survived, but flourished. It would have followed Zoroastrianism; another of Islam rivals into extinction without the mighty crusades.

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