The Crusades: a Page in World’s History

The Crusades were multiple religious holy wars between the Christians and Muslims. To understand more of the Crusades you need to understand the religious background of it first. There were three major religions during the time of The Crusades which were Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Judaism is the oldest of the three religions, origins dating back to 1850 BC. The Christian religion began as a sect of Judaism, but soon attracted many non-Jewish converts and diverged further further and further from Jewish practices and beliefs. Christianity soon became the number one religious belief. Christians considered Jerusalem to be their most sacred city because it was the site of many important events in the life of Christ. Jerusalem and Israel fell under control of the Roman Empire during the first century A.D. the period in which Christianity arose. Emperor Constantine converted Christianity and declared it as the official religion of the Empire, enabling Christianity to spread throughout the vast territory under Roman domination.

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By the fifth century, the Roman Empire had grown so enormous that it was divided into two parts the western and eastern which was ruled by two emperors. Rome remained the capital of the western region while Byzantium renamed Constantinople in honor of Constantine served as the capital of the eastern region. The Western Church was governed by the pope in Rome and the Byzantine emperor was the head of the Eastern Church.  The division of the Roman Empire, as well as the  different fates of the two areas, contributed to a growing disparity between the eastern and western branches of Christianity. Overtime the Byzantine emperor and the Roman popes fought to gain total control over the church. Tension boiled when the pope excommunicated the patriarch of Constantinople, one of the highest-ranking clergy of the Eastern Church.

The Muslims also posed a threat to Western Christians. The southern regions of spain fell into the hands of Muslim invaders in the early seven hundreds, Sardinia and Corsica were toppled a century later, and Sicily came under Muslim domination in nine hundred and two. Throughout the eighth century, the Muslims made unsuccessfully advances on France; during the ninth century they raided several cities in southern Italy and terrorized the outskirts of Rome. During the tenth and eleventh centuries, popes led armies in repulsing the Muslims from Italy, and Spanish Christians began the long reconquest of their lands. Thus, by the time of the First Crusade, Western Europeans were long accustomed to fighting Muslims. Many people considered the Crusades as simply an extension of their struggle to drive the Muslims out of Europe.

The common knights we think of when we hear about the crusades is a man in a full suit of armour and have a giant red cross on their chest. They’re called Templar’s. Founded by a knight from Champagne, Hugh of Paynes. Hugh persuaded King Baldwin the first of Jerusalem to give him a wing in the royal palace, which had once been a mosque and was situated in the area of the temple. The Templars, though at first being under Benedictine control, soon became independent and established themselves as a tight-knit community. With the active support of the king, they recruited far and wide, and formed themselves into three classes: first, the knights, who were often of noble birth and who wore a red cross on a black tunic. These sergeants, besides being warriors, also accepted as grooms, and bailiffs to the Templars. Thirdly the clerics, whose duties were religious, medical, and non-military. These knights were men of military and ambition who eagerly sought any opportunity of defending the Kingdom of Jerusalem and of gaining favour with its king. The Templars in their pride did not bow their the knee to the king their only master being the pope. Soon the glamour and fighting-fame of the Templars rapidly spread through Europe, it was thought that these arrogant horsemen in the white tunics would become the most powerful Christians in the Arab world.

The First Crusade began when pope Urban the second went to France and launched a titanic armed pilgrimage. The Crusaders set out on a quest to arrive at Constantinople. “I arrived at Constantinople with great joy by the grace of god the emperor verily received me with dignity and honor and with the greatest affection as if I were his own son.” Stephen of Blois wrote to his wife Adela after arriving in Constantinople. Here’s some background information on Stephen and why he was an important aspect of the crusades.  Stephen, often referred to as Stephen of Blois, was a grandson of William the Conqueror. He was King of England from 1135 to his death, and also the Count of Boulogne in right of his wife. Stephen’s reign was marked by the Anarchy, a civil war with his cousin and rival, the Empress Matilda. He was succeeded by Matilda’s son, Henry II, the first of the Angevin kings.

Stephen was born in the County of Blois in middle France; his father, Count Stephen-Henry, died while Stephen was still young, and he was raised by his mother, Adela. Placed into the court of his uncle, Henry I, Stephen rose in prominence and was granted extensive lands. Stephen married Matilda of Boulogne, inheriting additional estates in Kent and Boulogne that made the couple one of the wealthiest in England. Stephen narrowly escaped drowning with Henry I’s son, William Adelin, in the sinking of the White Ship in 1120; William’s death left the succession of the English throne open to challenge. When Henry I died in 1135, Stephen quickly crossed the English Channel and with the help of his brother Henry of Blois, a powerful ecclesiastic, took the throne, arguing that the preservation of order across the kingdom took priority over his earlier oaths to support the claim of Henry I’s daughter, Empress Matilda.

 

The early years of Stephen’s reign were largely successful, despite a series of attacks on his possessions in England and Normandy by David I of Scotland, Welsh rebels, and the Empress Matilda’s husband, Geoffrey of Anjou. In 1138 the Matilda’s half-brother Robert of Gloucester rebelled against Stephen, threatening civil war. Together with his close advisor, Waleran de Beaumont, Stephen took firm steps to defend his rule, including arresting a powerful family of bishops. When the Empress and Robert invaded in 1139, however, Stephen was unable to crush the revolt rapidly, and it took hold in the south-west of England. Captured at the battle of Lincoln in 1141, Stephen was abandoned by many of his followers and lost control of Normandy. Stephen was freed only after his wife and William of Ypres, one of his military commanders, captured Robert at the Rout of Winchester, but the war dragged on for many years with neither side able to win an advantage.

Stephen became increasingly concerned with ensuring that his son Eustace would inherit his throne. The King tried to convince the Church to agree to crown Eustace to reinforce his claim; Pope Eugene III refused, and Stephen found himself in a sequence of increasingly bitter arguments with his senior clergy. In 1153 the Empress’s son, Henry FitzEmpress, invaded England and built an alliance of powerful regional barons to support his claim for the throne. The two armies met at Wallingford, but neither side’s barons were keen to fight another pitched battle. Stephen began to examine a negotiated peace, a process hastened by the sudden death of Eustace. Later in the year Stephen and Henry agreed to the Treaty of Winchester, in which Stephen recognised Henry as his heir in exchange for peace, passing over William, Stephen’s second son. Stephen died the following year.

    Another important person who was an important aspect of the Crusades was Pope Urban II. On November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II made the most influential speech of the Middle Ages, giving rise to the Crusades by calling all Christians in Europe to war against Muslims in order to reclaim the Holy Land. Born Odo of Lagery in 1042, Urban was a protege of the great reformer Pope Gregory VII. Like Gregory, he made internal reform his main focus, railing against simony (the selling of church offices) and other clerical abuses prevalent during the Middle Ages. Urban showed himself to be an adept and powerful cleric, and when he was elected pope in 1088, he applied his statecraft to weakening support for his rivals, which was Clement III.

By the end of the 11th century, the Holy Land the area now commonly referred to as the Middle East had become a point of conflict for European Christians. Since the 6th century, Christians frequently made pilgrimages to Jerusalem, but when the Seljuk Turks took control of Jerusalem, Christians were barred from the Holy City. When the Turks then threatened to invade the Byzantine Empire and take Constantinople, Byzantine Emperor Alexius I made a special appeal to Urban for help. This was not the first appeal of its kind, but it came at an important time for Urban. Wanting to reinforce the power of the papacy, Urban seized the opportunity to unite Christian Europe under him as he fought to take back the Holy Land from the Turks.

At the Council of Clermont, in France, at which several hundred clerics and noblemen gathered, Urban delivered a rousing speech summoning rich and poor alike to stop their in-fighting and embark on a righteous war to help their fellow Christians in the East and take back Jerusalem. Urban denigrated the Muslims, exaggerating stories of their anti-Christian acts, and promised absolution and remission of sins for all who died in the service of Christ.

    Urban’s war cry caught fire, mobilizing clerics to drum up support throughout Europe for the crusade against the Muslims. All told, between 60,000 and 100,000 people responded to Urban’s call to march on Jerusalem. Not all who responded did so out of piety: European nobles were tempted by the prospect of increased land holdings and riches to be gained from the conquest. These nobles were responsible for the death of a great many innocents both on the way to and in the Holy Land, absorbing the riches and estates of those they conveniently deemed opponents to their cause. Adding to the death toll was the inexperience and lack of discipline of the Christian peasants against the trained, professional armies of the Muslims. As a result, the Christians were initially beaten back, and only through sheer force of numbers were they eventually able to triumph.

Urban died in 1099, two weeks after the fall of Jerusalem but before news of the Christian victory made it back to Europe. His was the first of seven major military campaigns fought over the next two centuries known as the Crusades, the bloody repercussions of which are still felt today. Urban was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 1881.

The Western Church was governed by the pope in Rome and the Byzantine emperor was the head of the Eastern Church. The division of the Roman Empire, as well as the different fates of the two areas, contributed to a growing disparity between the eastern and western branches of Christianity. Hugh persuaded King Baldwin the first of Jerusalem to give him a wing in the royal palace, which had once been a mosque and was situated in the area of the temple. He was King of England from 1135 to his death, and also the Count of Boulogne in right of his wife. When Henry I died in 1135, Stephen quickly crossed the English Channel and with the help of his brother Henry of Blois, a powerful ecclesiastic, took the throne, arguing that the preservation of order across the kingdom took priority over his earlier oaths to support the claim of Henry I’s daughter, Empress Matilda. When the Empress and Robert invaded in 1139, however, Stephen was unable to crush the revolt rapidly, and it took hold in the south-west of England. Captured at the battle of Lincoln in 1141, Stephen was abandoned by many of his followers and lost control of Normandy.

Urban showed himself to be an adept and powerful cleric, and when he was elected pope in 1088, he applied his statecraft to weakening support for his rivals, which was Clement III.By the end of the 11th century, the Holy Land the area now commonly referred to as the Middle East had become a point of conflict for European Christians. Wanting to reinforce the power of the papacy, Urban seized the opportunity to unite Christian Europe under him as he fought to take back the Holy Land from the Turks.At the Council of Clermont, in France, at which several hundred clerics and noblemen gathered, Urban delivered a rousing speech summoning rich and poor alike to stop their in-fighting and embark on a righteous war to help their fellow Christians in the East and take back Jerusalem. Urban denigrated the Muslims, exaggerating stories of their anti-Christian acts, and promised absolution and remission of sins for all who died in the service of Christ.             

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The Crusades: A Page In World's History. (2019, Aug 08). Retrieved May 26, 2022 , from
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