The 11th century brought good things to the Eastern
Mediterranean. There were generally no immense problems to deal with,
as everything was in a very tranquil state. The people who lived
there went with the flow, but what they did not know is that they
would soon be part of a turning point in religious history.
A large group of Christians formed a small military which was
called the Crusaders. They were out to recapture the Holy land from
the Muslims, and dedicated their lives to this. They were identified
by red cloth that was sewn on their garments in the form of a cross.
This indicated that they were the soldiers of Christ. Their name,
The Crusaders was derived from the Latin word crux meaning cross,
this then in turn was a reference to the biblical ruling that good
Christians always carry a cross.
The Crusaders existence was based on strong religious beliefs
more then any of the other minor reasons they were established. The
Crusaders also resurrected an older tradition of the pilgrimage to the
Holy Land, which was often imposed as a reconciliation of your-self.
They assumed two roles: pilgrims and soliders. Armed pilgrims would
normally not be accepted, but in this case they were, because they
were fighting for the Christian Holy Land. This made the war
justifiable in their eyes.
In the 7th century the Muslims took control of Jerusalem, and
in the 11th century they began to hassle and interfere with Christian
pilgrims and teaching in the Jerusalem area. To the Christians
Jerusalem was a heavenly city, the center of their existence and they
did not take lightly to being pushed out. The Popes encouragement,
religious indulgences, and promise of eternal merit provoked thousands
of Christians to enroll in this holy military to fight for the
The Crusades were also a response to the cries of help from the
Byzantine Empire, who was very worried about a gaining threat in the
form of the Seljuk Turks. In 1071 Jerusalem was taken and the
Byzantine army went down at Miniskirt to the Turks. This caused a bad
economic state for the west and the Crusades were a last stab at
extending trade routes and bring the Byzantine Empire to a status that
matched a rich and flourishing Italy.
Late in the year of 1095 Pope Urban announced on Tuesday,
November 27 that he would hold a public session to make an
announcement. This was the beginning of what was to be the First
Crusade. He thought that western Christendom should march to the
rescue of the East. Rich and poor alike should go and they should stop
murdering each other and instead fight a great war for what they
really believe in. They believed it was Gods will and that God would
lead them to victory. During his speech many interruptions took
place.People yelled and rallied behind Pope Urban and other crowd
members. Just after the Pope ended his speech the bishop of Le Puy
dropped to his knees and asked permission to join what was first
called the “Holy Expedition.” The crowd quickly embraced him and many
followed with his example.
Each man involved with the expedition was to wear a cross in
symbolization of his dedication. Anyone who took this cross vowed to
go to Jerusalem and fight. By August 15th everyone who was leaving
was to be ready. The armies meet in Constantinople. When all arrived
Pope Urban made clear that the crusade was under the control of the
church, and appointed Bishop Le Puy as the their leader. This was the
beginning of a great movement.
The Byzantine emperor Alexious I provided the crusaders with
food and shelter; he also attempted to get oaths of loyalty from them
but the crusaders that would not agree. This caused distrust in the
emperor. Which lead to the fall of Constantinople.
Life during the first crusade was horrible. Men pushed
themselves to their limits, they pushed on because their life would be
prosperous and joyful and they would truly befriend god when it was
all over. During the many years this campaign went on it finally
ended and this letter was seen as an icon to the Crusades victory.
This letter was translated into English:
For on the very day on which they had promised that they would
surrender, Solomon and all the Turks, collected from neighboring and
distant regions, suddenly fell upon us and attempted to capture our
camp. However the count of St. Gilles, with the remaining Franks, made
and attack upon them and killed an innumerable multitude. All the
others fled in confusion. Our men, moreover, returning in victory and
bearing many heads fixed upon pikes and spears, furnished a joyful
spectacle for the people of God”
In religious terms, the Crusades, hardened Muslim attitudes
toward Christians. At the same time, doubts were raised among
Christians about God’s will, the church’s authority, and the role of
the papacy. Religious commitment halted to disinterest, and
skepticism. On the other hand, the Crusades did stimulate religious
enthusiasm on a broad scale. The Crusades continued many years after
Pope Urban originally lead them to Constantinople. The Mediterranean
had an addiction to warfare. The Crusades helped some religions, but
they had to destroy and oppress others so many question if what they
were doing was or did further an advancement in religion.
Written by J. Humes
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