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§ 48. Character and Causes of the Crusades.


"’O, holy Palmer!’ she began, —

For sure he must be sainted man

Whose blessed feet have trod the ground

Where the Redeemer’s tomb is found."

Marmion, V. 21.


The Crusades were armed pilgrimages to Jerusalem under the banner of the cross. They form one of the most characteristic chapters of the Middle Ages and have a romantic and sentimental, as well as a religious and military, interest. They were a sublime product of the Christian imagination, and constitute a chapter of rare interest in the history of humanity. They exhibit the muscular Christianity of the new nations of the West which were just emerging from barbarism and heathenism. They made religion subservient to war and war subservient to religion. They were a succession of tournaments between two continents and two religions, struggling for supremacy,—Europe and Asia, Christianity and Mohammedanism. Such a spectacle the world has never seen before nor since, and may never see again.296296    Gibbon, who treats with scorn the Crusades as a useless exhibition of religious fanaticism, calls them the "world’s debate," Ch. LIX.

These expeditions occupied the attention of Europe for more than two centuries, beginning with 1095. Yea, they continued to be the concern of the popes until the beginning of the sixteenth century. Columbus signed an agreement April 17, 1492, to devote the proceeds of his undertaking beyond the Western seas to the recovery of the holy sepulchre. Before his fourth and last journey to America he wrote to Alexander VI., renewing his vow to furnish troops for the rescue of that sacred locality.297297    John Fiske, Discovery of America, I. 318, 419, 505.ns, and of these not the least worthy of attention were the tragic Crusades of the children.

The most famous men of their age were identified with these movements. Emperors and kings went at the head of the armies,—Konrad III., Frederick Barbarossa, Frederick II., Richard I. of England, Louis VII., Philip Augustus and Louis IX. of France, Andrew of Hungary. Fair women of high station accompanied their husbands or went alone to the seats of war, such as Alice of Antioch, Queen Eleanor of France, Ida of Austria, Berengaria, wife of Richard, and Margaret, queen of Louis IX. Kings’ sons shared the same risks, as Frederick of Swabia, Sigurd, and Edward, son of Henry III., accompanied by Eleanor, his wife. Priests, abbots, and higher ecclesiastics fought manfully in the ranks and at the head of troops.298298    The Itinerary of Richard I., giving an account of the Third Crusade, lays stress upon the good fighting qualities of the prelates and clergy. It speaks of one priest who was incessantly active against the enemy, hurling darts from a sling with indefatigable toil, I. 42. The archbishop of Besançon superintended the construction of a great machine for battering down the walls of Acre and met its expense, I. 60. Two hundred knights and three hundred followers served under archbishop Baldwin of Canterbury, old man as he was, and "abbots and bishops led their own troops, fighting manfully for the faith," I. 62. Hermit, St. Bernard, and Fulke of Neuilly, stirred the flames of enthusiasm by their eloquence. But if some of the best men of Europe and those most eminent in station went on the Crusades, so also did the lowest elements of European society,—thieves, murderers, perjurers, vagabonds, and scoundrels of all sorts, as Bernard bears witness.299299    De militibus templi, V., Migne, 182, 928.

The crusading armies were designated by such titles as the army "of the cross," "of Christ," "of the Lord," "of the faith."300300    Roger of Wendover, Luard’s ed., M. Paris, III: 35. the badge of the Crusaders and gave to them their favorite name. The Crusaders were called the soldiers of Christ301301    Milites Christi, Robert the Monk, VII., Rec., III. 867; Christi Militia, Guibert, VII., II., Rec., IV. 229. The army was also called crucifer exercitus, Ekkehard, Rec. V. 16. cross" or, "taking the sign of the cross."302302    The French terms were se croiser, prendre la croix, prendre le signe de la croix. See, for example, Villehardouin, 2, 8, 18, Wailly’s ed. pp. 3, 7, 13. This historian of the Fourth Crusade also calls the Crusaders les croisés, 38, Wailly’s ed. p. 24.

Contemporaries had no doubt of the Crusades being a holy undertaking, and Guibert’s account of the First Crusade is called, "The Deeds of God, accomplished through the Franks," Gesta Dei per Francos.

Those who fell under Eastern skies or on their way to the East received the benefits of special indulgence for sins committed and were esteemed in the popular judgment as martyrs. John VIII., 872–882, pressed by the Saracens who were devastating Italy, had promised to soldiers fighting bravely against the pagans the rest of eternal life and, as far as it belonged to him to give it, absolution from sins.303303    Quoniam illi, qui cum pietate catholicae religionis in belli certamine cadunt, requies eos aeternae vitae suscipiet contra paganos atque infideles strenue dimicantes, etc., Gottlob, Kreuzablass, 25.y should be counted as a substitute for penance.304304    Quicumque pro sola devotione ...ad liberandam ecclesiam Dei Jerusalem profectus fuerit, iter illud pro omni paenitentia reputetur, Gottlob, 72 sqq.; Mirbt. Quellen, 114.ry indulgence those who built ships and contributed in any way, and promised to them "increase of eternal life." God, said the abbot Guibert, chronicler of the First Crusade, invented the Crusades as a new way for the laity to atone for their sins, and to merit salvation.305305    Gesta, I. 1; Rec., IV. 124.

The rewards were not confined to spiritual privileges. Eugenius III., in his exhortations to the Second Crusade, placed the Crusaders in the same category with clerics before the courts in the case of most offences.306306    Lea, Hist. of Inquis., I. 44, says. "Crusaders were released from earthly as well as heavenly justice by being classed with clerks and subjected only to spiritual justice."ce, from 1188 to 1270 joined with the Holy See in granting to them temporal advantages, exemption from debt, freedom from taxation and the payment of interest. Complaint was frequently made by the kings of France that the Crusaders committed the most offensive crimes under cover of ecclesiastical protection. These complaints called forth from Innocent IV., 1246, and Alexander IV., 1260, instructions to the bishops not to protect such offenders. William of Tyre, in his account of the First Crusade, and probably reading into it some of the experiences of a later date, says (bk. I. 16), "Many took the cross to elude their creditors."307307    See Origin of the Temporal Privileges of Crusaders, by Edith C. Bramball, "Am Jour. of Theol." 1901, pp. 279-292, and Gottlob, Kreuzablass, pp. 140 sqq.

If it is hard for us to unite the idea of war and bloodshed with the achievement of a purely religious purpose, it must be remembered that no such feeling prevailed in the Middle Ages. The wars of the period of Joshua and the Judges still formed a stimulating example. Chrysostom, Augustine, and other Church Fathers of the fifth century lifted up their voices against the violent destruction of heathen temples which went on in Egypt and Gaul; but whatever compunction might have been felt for the wanton slaying of Saracens by Christian armies in an attitude of aggression, the compunction was not felt when the Saracens placed themselves in the position of holding the sacred sites of Palestine.

Bernard of Clairvaux said, pagans must not be slain if they may by other means be prevented from oppressing the faithful. However, it is better they should be put to death than that the rod of the wicked should rest on the lot of the righteous. The righteous fear no sin in killing the enemy of Christ. Christ’s soldier can securely kill and more safely die. When he dies, it profits him; when he slays, it profits Christ. The Christian exults in the death of the pagan because Christ is glorified thereby. But when he himself is killed, he has reached his goal.308308    De militibus templi, II., III., Migne, 182, 923 sq.f the preaching of the Apostles in that country and its conquest by the Roman empire.309309    This is what Fulcher meant, Rec., III. 323, when he put into Urban’s mouth the words nunc jure contra barbaros pugnent qui olim fratres dimicabant. Two hundred years later Alvarus Pelagius made the same argument: quamvis Saraceni Palestinam possident, juste tamen exinde depelluntur, etc. See Schwab, Joh. Gerson, 26.

In answer to the question whether clerics might go to war, Thomas Aquinas replied in the affirmative when the prize was not worldly gain, but the defence of the Church or the poor and oppressed.310310    Summa, II. (2), 188, 3; Migne, III., 1366 sq.: militare propter aliquid mundanum est omni religioni contrarium, non autem militare propter obsequium Dei, etc: He adds that clerics going to war must act under the command of princes or of the Church, and not at their own suggestion.

To other testimonies to the esteem in which the Crusaders were held may be added the testimony of Matthew Paris. Summing up the events of the half-century ending with 1250, he says:311311    Luard’s ed., V. 196. country to fight faithfully for Christ. All of these were manifest martyrs, and their names are inscribed in indelible characters in the book of life." Women forced their husbands to take the cross.312312    Baldric of Dol, Hist. Jerus., I. 8; Rec., IV. 17: gaudebant uxores abeuntibus maritis dilectissimis, etc.ffered evil consequences for it.313313    Caesar of Heisterbach, Dial., X. 22, speaks of a woman suffering with severe pains in childbirth who was delivered with ease, so soon as she consented to her husband’s going on a crusade. find its last earthly resting-place in Jerusalem.

The Crusades began and ended in France. The French element was the ruling factor, from Urban II., who was a native of Châtillon, near Rheims, and Peter of Amiens, to St. Louis.314314    The name Franks became the current designation for Europeans in the East, and remains so to this day. The crusading enthusiasm did not fully take hold of Germany till the twelfth century. Hauck, Kirchengesch. Deutschlands, IV. 80. of the Crusades are for the most part written by Frenchmen. Guibert of Nogent and other chroniclers regard them as especially the work of their countrymen. The French expression, outre-mer, was used for the goal of the Crusades.315315    The expression was a translation of the Latin ultra mare, used for the East, and, so far as I know, for the first time by Gregory VII., Reg. II. 37; Migne, 148, 390.ough all Europe from Hungary to Scotland. Spain alone forms an exception. She was engaged in a crusade of her own against the Moors; and the crusades against the Saracens in the Holy Land and the Moors in Spain were equally commended by an oecumenical council, the First Lateran (can. 13). The Moors were finally expelled from Granada under Ferdinand and Isabella, and then, unwearied, Spain entered upon a new crusade against Jews and heretics at home and the pagan Indians of Mexico and Peru. In Italy and Rome, where might have been expected the most zeal in the holy cause, there was but little enthusiasm.316316    Gregorovius, IV. 288, says no traces of enthusiasm can be found in Rome. "Senate and people would probably have laughed in derision had Urban summoned them to rise in religious enthusiasm to forsake the ruins of Rome and advance to the rescue of Jerusalem." The Crusades were a financial detriment to Rome by diverting pilgrimages from the tombs of the Apostles to the tomb of the Saviour.

The aim of the Crusades was the conquest of the Holy Land and the defeat of Islam. Enthusiasm for Christ was the moving impulse, with which, however, were joined the lower motives of ambition, avarice, love of adventure, hope of earthly and heavenly reward. The whole chivalry of Europe, aroused by a pale-faced monk and encouraged by a Hildebrandian pope, threw itself steel-clad upon the Orient to execute the vengeance of heaven upon the insults and barbarities of Moslems heaped upon Christian pilgrims, and to rescue the grave of the Redeemer of mankind from the grasp of the followers of the False Prophet. The miraculous aid of heaven frequently intervened to help the Christians and confound the Saracens.317317    Here is one such miracle. At the battle of Ramleh, 1177, there was a miraculous extension of the cross borne by the bishop of Bethlehem. It reached to heaven and extended its arms across the whole horizon. The pagans saw it, were confused, and fled. Hoveden, II. 133 sq.

The Crusaders sought the living among the dead. They mistook the visible for the invisible, confused the terrestrial and the celestial Jerusalem, and returned disillusioned.318318    Hegel, Philosophie der Gesch., 3d ed. 1848, p. 476, brings out this idea most impressively.r after ages have learned through them, that Christ is not there, that He is risen, and ascended into heaven, where He sits at the head of a spiritual kingdom. They conquered Jerusalem, 1099, and lost it, 1187; they reconquered, 1229, and lost again, 1244, the city in which Christ was crucified. False religions are not to be converted by violence, they can only be converted by the slow but sure process of moral persuasion. Hatred kindles hatred, and those who take the sword shall perish by the sword. St. Bernard learned from the failure of the Second Crusade that the struggle is a better one which is waged against the sinful lusts of the heart than was the struggle to conquer Jerusalem.

The immediate causes of the Crusades were the ill treatment of pilgrims visiting Jerusalem and the appeal of the Greek emperor, who was hard pressed by the Turks. Nor may we forget the feeling of revenge for the Mohammedans begotten in the resistance offered to their invasions of Italy and Gaul.319319    Röhricht, Gesch. d. ersten Kreuzzuges, p. 6, says that in these struggles "the crusading enthusiasm was born."’s, and in 846 threatened Rome for the second time, and a third time under John VIII. The Normans wrested a part of Sicily from the Saracens at the battle of Cerame, 1063, took Palermo, 1072, Syracuse, 1085, and the rest of Sicily ten years later. A burning desire took hold of the Christian world to be in possession of —


"those holy fields

Over whose acres walked those blessed feet

Which fourteen hundred years ago were nail’d

For our advantage on the bitter cross."

Shakespeare.


From an early day Jerusalem was the goal of Christian pilgrimage. The mother of Constantine, Helena, according to the legend, found the cross and certainly built the church over the supposed site of the tomb in which the Lord lay. Jerome spent the last period of his life in Bethlehem, translating the Scriptures and preparing for eternity. The effect of such examples was equal to the station and fame of the pious empress and the Christian scholar. In vain did such Fathers as Gregory of Nyssa,320320    See the beautiful testimony of Gregory, who advised a Cappadocian abbot against going with his monks to Jerusalem, Schaff, Ch. Hist. III. 906.mphasize the nearness of God to believers wherever they may be and the failure of those whose hearts are not imbued with His spirit to find Him even at Jerusalem.

The movement steadily grew. The Holy Land became to the imagination a land of wonders, filled with the divine presence of Christ. To have visited it, to have seen Jerusalem, to have bathed in the Jordan, was for a man to have about him a halo of sanctity. The accounts of returning pilgrims were listened to in convent and on the street with open-mouthed curiosity. To surmount the dangers of such a journey in a pious frame of mind was a means of expiation for sins.321321    Fulke the Black, count of Anjou (987-1040), made three journeys to Jerusalem in penance for sacrilege and other crimes. He had burned his young wife at the stake dressed in her gayest attire, and caused his son to crouch at his feet harnessed as an ass. At Jerusalem he showed his devotion by going about with a halter about his neck. He bit off a piece of the Lord’s tombstone with his teeth and carried back to Europe objects most sacred and priceless, such as the fingers of Apostles and the lamp in which the holy fire was lit. Odolric, bishop of Orleans, gave a pound of gold for the lamp and hung it up in the church at Orleans, where its virtue cured multitudes of sick people.e main route and in Jerusalem.

Other circumstances gave additional impulse to the movement, such as the hope of securing relics of which Palestine and Constantinople were the chief storehouses; and the opportunity of starting a profitable trade in silk, paper, spices, and other products of the East.

These pilgrimages were not seriously interrupted by the Mohammedans after their conquest of Jerusalem by Omar in 637, until Syria and Palestine passed into the hands of the sultans of Egypt three centuries later. Under Hakim, 1010, a fierce persecution broke out against the Christian residents of Palestine and the pilgrims. It was, however, of short duration and was followed by a larger stream of pilgrims than before. The favorite route was through Rome and by the sea, a dangerous avenue, as it was infested by Saracen pirates. The conversion of the Hungarians in the tenth century opened up the route along the Danube. Barons, princes, bishops, monks followed one after the other, some of them leading large bodies of pious tourists. In 1035 Robert of Normandy went at the head of a great company of nobles. He found many waiting at the gates of Jerusalem, unable to pay the gold bezant demanded for admission, and paid it for them. In 1054 Luitbert, bishop of Cambray, is said to have led three thousand pilgrims. In 1064 Siegfried, archbishop of Mainz, was accompanied by the bishops of Utrecht, Bamberg, and Regensburg and twelve thousand pilgrims.322322    Hauck, IV. 79. journey. A sudden check was put upon the pilgrimages by the Seljukian Turks, who conquered the Holy Land in 1076. A rude and savage tribe, they heaped, with the intense fanaticism of new converts, all manner of insults and injuries upon the Christians. Many were imprisoned or sold into slavery. Those who returned to Europe carried with them a tale of woe which aroused the religious feelings of all classes.

The other appeal, coming from the Greek emperors, was of less weight.323323    Ekkehard, 5, Rec., V. 14, may exaggerate when he speaks of very frequent letters and embassies from the Greek emperors to the West, per legationes frequentissimas et epistolas etiam a nobis visas ... lugubriter inclamanter, etc. The letter of Alexius to Robert of Flanders, 1088, has been the subject of much inquiry. Hagenmeyer pronounces it genuine, after a most careful investigation, Epistulae, etc., 10-44. fast losing its hold on its Asiatic possessions. Romanus Diogenes was defeated in battle with the Turks and taken prisoner, 1071. During the rule of his successor, an emir established himself in Nicaea, the seat of the council called by the first Constantine, and extended his rule as far as the shores of the sea of Marmora. Alexius Comnenus, coming to the throne 1081, was less able to resist the advance of Islam and lost Antioch and Edessa in 1086. Thus pressed by his Asiatic foes, and seeing the very existence of his throne threatened, he applied for help to the west. He dwelt, it is true, on the desolations of Jerusalem; but it is in accordance with his imperial character to surmise that he was more concerned for the defence of his own empire than for the honor of religion.

This dual appeal met a response, not only in the religious spirit of Europe, but in the warlike instincts of chivalry; and when the time came for the chief figure in Christendom, Urban II., to lift up his voice, his words acted upon the sensitive emotions as sparks upon dry leaves.324324    Diehl, in Essays on the Crusades, 92, seems even to deny that an appeal was ever made by the Byzantine emperor Alexius for aid to the West, and speaks of it as an invention of a later time. Certainly no criticism could be more unwarranted unless all the testimonies of the contemporary writers are to be ruthlessly set aside.

Three routes were chosen by the Crusaders to reach the Holy Land. The first was the overland route by way of the Danube, Constantinople, and Asia Minor. The second, adopted by Philip and Richard in the Third Crusade, was by the Mediterranean to Acre. The route of the last two Crusades, under Louis IX., was across the Mediterranean to Egypt, which was to be made the base of operations from which to reach Jerusalem.



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