The conflict between the Christians and the Muslims, between 1098 and 1229, was the result of political unrest; which was fueled the Muslims migrating into the Christian holy lands, lead by Pope Urban II and carried on, throughout latter centuries by his followers. What follows is a story of war, holy visions,unholy alliances, promises made with fingers crossed, sieges and slaughters, the details of which fill volumes. Christianity, in its infancy, was a very threatened state.
It was enriched with radical ideas that called for the worship of a single god in place of the many dieties that had ruled for centuries before. These radical concepts took a while to sink in and become the root of what would be the modern era. The world of the latter 9th century and early 10th century was in a state of turmoil, resulting from the recent adoption of Christianity as the official religion of the modern world. In order to cement its hold on the masses, the political heads of the day decided to quell all internal conflicts and unite against an enemy whose destruction would help to further develop the hold that the Pope, and the church, had on the world.
The Muslims were originally a tight banded group of followers of Muhammad and the religion of Islam. When the prophet Muhammad died, however, the group lost its center and thus began to unravel a little and disperse. The Muslims slowly began to integrate into the Christian holy lands, threatening the foundation of Christianity. This integration lead to unease and gave root to the cause of the Crusades. It allowed for the Pope to issue official doctrine which called for the removal of the muslims in a united effort by devout Christians.
A crusade is a holy war authorized, encouraged, and supported by the Pope in the name of God and Christ. In order to justify a war, or the need for war, the Pope proposed the issue as a defensive reaction to injury or aggression and as an attempt to recover Christian territories lost to infidels. Pope Urban II initiated the first crusade as an attempt to unite the conflicting Christian territories against a single and foreign foe, the Muslims. Otto, better known as Pope Urban II, was born around 1042 and died 29 July 1099.
On 12 March 1088, Otto was unanimously elected as Pope, taking the title of Urban II. His first act was to proclaim his election to the world, and to acknowledge the princes and bishops who had been loyal to Gregory, and ask for their continued allegiance: he declared his intention of following the policy and example of his great predecessor–“all that he rejected, I reject, what he condemned I condemn, what he loved I embrace, what he considered as Catholic, I confirm and approve”. The First Crusade began in 1095 after the Byzantines, threatened by Seljuk power, appealed to Pope Urban II for military aid. Pope Urban, hoping to divert the Christian kings and princes from their struggles with each other, and perhaps also seeing an opportunity to reunite the Eastern and Western churches, called for a “Truce of God” among the rulers of Europe and urged them to take the Holy Land from the Muslims.
Interestingly enough, Pope Urban II died before he could see Jerusalem fall to his crusaders. There was also the Byzantine empire, ruling from Constantinople, whose emperor at this time was Alexius Comnenus. To his East, the Turks were rapidly encroaching on his empire, and had begun attacking pilgrims on their way to – and in – Jerusalem, causing him great distress. He wrote to his friend Robert, the Count of Flanders, in 1093, telling him about supposed atrocities committed by the Turks on the Christian pilgrims, and Robert passed this letter on to Pope Urban II. Urban, an opportunist, saw this as a perfect way to solve some of his local problems.
He personally promoted a Holy Crusade to reclaim the Holy Lands from the barbarian Turks. Thus, the First Crusade was launched in 1095. The warriors of the crusades were known as the crusaders. It was a mixed group of people: civilians, soldiers, noblemen, mercenaries, adventurers, and peasants.
Anybody that felt religiously compelled could become a solider in the crusades. All that was required to begin their journey towards their religious callings was to make a public vow, which was not distinguishable from, and was always based on, the vow to make a pilgrimage; crusaders and pilgrims had the same legal status, being temporarily subjected to church courts and enjoying ecclesiastical protection of their persons, properties and families. They also needed deep religious convictions to guide them to victory, honor, and heaven. These incentives were to good to pass up by many Christians.
To Arab historians, the Crusaders were a minor irritant, their invasion was one of a more barbarian incursion; though not nearly as serious a threat as the Mongols were in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The Arab Empire, though united in Islam, was not very united politically. Revolt, civil war, and assassination were common. But they had a unique culture that fast spread its influences to the Western Europeans. Without the passion of religious fervor, this venture was impossible.
The volunteers had to cross thousands of miles of unfamiliar and hostile country to conquer lands whose strength was unknown. Yet so great was their belief that in 1099 they took Jerusalem, establishing along the way principalities in Antioch, Edessa, and Tripoli. The Muslims were unable to fend off the Crusaders in the beginning, and offered them access to Jerusalem as pilgrims, rather than invaders. However, the Muslims eventually began to mount effective counterattacks and recaptured Aleppo and besieged Edessa, thus bringing on the unsuccessful Second Crusade. The Crusades achieved no lasting results in terms of military conquest, however, they were important in the development of trade, and had long-range effects on Western society (on everything from feudalism to fashion) are indeterminable.
Ironically, the Crusades also put an end to the centuries old rivalry between the Arabs and Byzantines. By occupying Constantinople, the capital of their Christian allies, in the Fourth Crusade, the Crusaders achieved what the Arabs had been trying to do from the early days of Islam. Although the Byzantine Empire continued until 1453, when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks, it never recovered its former power after the Fourth Crusade, and existed only in the half-light of history during its remaining years. For the West, however, the Crusaders’ greatest achievement was the opening of the eastern Mediterranean to European shipping. The Venetians and Genoese established trading colonies in Egypt, and luxury goods of the East found their way to European markets.
In the history of the Middle Ages, this was far more important than conquests resulting in land. Control of the Eastern trade became a constantly recurring theme in later relations between the European countries and the East, and in the nineteenth century was to lead to widespread Western intervention. The Crusades were a pivotal point in the development of christianity. It was during this time that the Catholic church cemented its iron grip on Europe. Through the promise of everlasting salvation and the sale of indulgences the church secured many willing soliders. To die in the name of God was an honorable way to go, and it was believed, that to die fighting for God in the holy land that no wrong could befall you.
I, personally, believe that the crusades were neither just nor justified in the political aspect. Many lives were lost unnecessarily in persuit of a false cause. The heads of the church, as they ruled over the heads of state, were insecure about the longivity of their rein and thus decided to exercise the power their positions encompassed. It isnt morally acceptable, ethicially correct, and lacks values one is taught when you are to kill others for your well being. The fact that an individual would consider death as a way for survival purposes is whole heartedly unjust! Basically, the Pope instilles in the Crusaders that there were people in the holy land, and he covinced his followers that the only way to do right for the land, faith, and morals is to fight for what you believe in.
The political reprecussions will be felt for all of time. Religion, however, tends to complicate the issue a little. When the point of the war shifted from land to God the crusaders were no longer just killing their enemies, the were fighting for God. God, being the ultimate relligion of this time, was definetly understandable to fight for. Infact, soldiers, who didnt fight for his God were punished severely, by being exiled from the holy land.
Basically adding, that the Crusades as a spiritual revival was affecting all sections of society, which was characterized by an obbsession with the consequences of sin. There was a belief that a mans actions, however unworthy, could help him to salvation. Found both in the Old and New testaments, prophets and saints and even of Christ accepting the use of violence as a punishment for sin and as a means of defense against injury. Basically, meaning that the mercy of God would take account of waht a man had done when it was his time to be judged. Dieing in persuit of holy tasks, in an attempt to uphold the faith and to educated the ignorant was honorable. Even understanding how faith ties into the debateable issue of right and wrong, moral or immoral, the problem is seen in Gods commandments.
Gods commandments read that we should love our neighbors. In order to love your neighbor, you cant attack them and kill them off. Another commandment is Thou Shalt Not Kill, therefore, by killing others in the Crusades, you are breaking Gods commandments.