Deus le volt! or God wills it!, the phrase that soon became the battle cry of the Crusades and represented an almost 200 year (1095-1291) series of multiple religious wars. There were a total of nine crusades, but the first four made the largest impact. The crusades started as an attempt to stop Muslim raid, but grew to something much larger than that. With its lasting effects on Asia and Western Europe, the Crusades made a large impact on the Christian world as well as Eurasia as a whole. These wars were fought for a variety of reasons. The most common was to recover the Holy Land from Muslim rule. Other wars were fought due to the suppression of paganism, for political gain, or to resolve issues between groups of Roman Catholics.
The crusades began with a cry for help from the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine were under attack by Muslim Seljuk Turks and took to the church for help. In 1095 Pope Urban II called for Western Christians to regain the Holy Land and assist the Byzantine. Christians from all over Western Europe pledged to end Muslim raid and regain the Holy Land after being promised forgiveness of all sins and divine guidance.
During the period of the crusades, there were two primary forms of transportation: By sea, or by land. Knights who could afford the cost used horses to make their way across land, while poor crusaders marched on foot. Traveling by water was much more efficient at the time due to the lack of roads. Medieval boats were made of wood and were powered by wind.
Many influential individuals came out of the Crusades, one being Pope Urban II, as mentioned previously. He began the Crusades by promising forgiveness for all who were willing to fight for control of the Holy Land. Before news of the Crusaders victory in Jerusalem could reach Italy, Pope Urban II passed, but his impact on Christianity prevailed. Godfrey of Bouillon was also an impactful individual of the crusades. He was seen as the perfect Christian knight, setting an example for future crusades. Upon the conclusion of the First Crusade, Godfrey was offered the role of first ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which he declined, as he felt that the true ruler was always and should always be Christ. As a devout Catholic, Godfrey was so dedicated to the cause that he sold all of his assets in order to form an army to help regain control of the Holy Land from Muslim rule.
In 1291, control of the Holy Land (Jerusalem) was ultimately lost to Muslims. Although the Europeans were defeated, the crusades still had a significant impact on Christianity and the Western world. The Roman Catholic Church gained financial wealth, and the Pope gained additional power. The wars also created a stronger demand for supplies and transportation, which improved trade as a whole. More ships had to be built, and more supplies had to be manufactured. Interest in travel also increased, and some believe that this interest helped lead to the Renaissance. Muslims, however, perceived the Crusaders as barbaric and savage. Some Muslims, to this day, refer to Western involvement in Middle Eastern affairs as a crusade’.
The Crusades ultimately led to an abundance of land growth and trade, but also resulted in loss of lives and bitterness between the Christian and Muslim worlds The wars impacted Muslim and Christian lives and perspectives, both negatively and positively. To date, the Crusades were the most significant religious wars of all time.
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