The Crusades and the Spread of Christianity

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The Crusades, starting in the Eleventh Century, were attempts by the Western Church to strip Europe of the newly developed and invading Muslims. Many Crusades had taken place over the centuries, including both a children’s and peasant’s crusade, in making an effort to keep the new religious threat at a distance. Many popes, kings, and rulers consumed a great deal of money, time, and effort into these wars, but many ended up failing in their true purposes.

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However, much can be said about the success of these crusades considering these losses. With these successes that took place, is the spread of Christianity included? Although the various Crusades had many successes and failures, the original Crusades was unsuccessful in spreading the message of Jesus and promote Christianity through the events of war.

Before looking into the reasons as to why the spread of Christianity did not arise, one must look into the true nature of the Crusades along with what were the original goals that they were trying to accomplish. In 1095, Pope Urban II called together a council at Clermont (Madden 4). These meetings, mostly between French bishops and the pope, lasted nine days before the Pope gave a speech to the public. In this speech, the Pope designated upon the people of the church to defend the Eastern Church from the invading Muslims, liberate Jerusalem from them, and, ultimately stop the Muslim from moving any further. At the end of Pope’s speech, the people of the Church unanimously agreed, and soon the Pope was laying out the message to people across France and Germany. Many nobles, along with the populace, united on the cause. One practical reason as to this widespread acceptance of traveling across the empire was for the honor of knighthood. Some of the nobility understood that is was their duty to protect their people, especially from their own religion. The Muslims were attacking God’s church, and for a knight, their duty is to protect the Church and their people.

Another reason that the call to arms was answered was to protect Christianity as a whole. The Muslims took over many of the Church’s lands and they were not slowing down their invasion. In fact, it could be noted that Christians even feared that the Muslims would soon conquer all of Europe unless they were stopped (Galli 3). Pope Urban’s speech has been lost in history, but it appeared that he told his followers that the Eastern Church was falling, pilgrimages were ceased, and churches were being destroyed. As previously mentioned, the Eastern Church was collapsing and falling to the Muslims. In fact, most of the major Eastern cities fell, including the city of Antioch. The East and the West were still considered one church at the time so the church believed that it should help in the recovering of the cities.

During at this moment in Church history, part of the religious actions of the followers of the Church was to take part in visiting shrines and preserving relics. Some of the shrines included houses of certain saints, artifacts from the apostles, but most importantly, the city of Jerusalem (Shelly 2). Since Jerusalem was the place of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, many people would take pilgrimages to the holy city. In fact, pilgrimages to the city of Jerusalem became a form of penance. Unfortunately, Muslims eventually took control of the city, but they still allowed the pilgrimages to continue. However, in the Eleventh century, Christians do not have the ability to travel to the city anymore. So in order to have one of the most important shrines of the faith recovered, it would have to be taken by force.

In order for the Pope to acquire more people to rescue Jerusalem, he offered a gratification to all who volunteer to fight for Jerusalem, whether they live or die. In other words, all sins, including sins in the past, would be forgiven by the Pope if people joined to recover the holy land of Jerusalem. This promise by the Pope is most likely what caused so many men and women to join in the fight for the Holy Land.

In reality, the main reason for the Church getting the Crusades under way was to stop the eager Muslims from advancing further West. The Muslims had taken over many parts of the Eastern part of Church’s territory, as well as into Spain and Africa with no sign of stopping. It was this Muslim push for dominance that struck fear in the hearts of the Western Church (Tyerman 2). Action was taken which led to the Crusades.

This first Crusade was highly successful the Eastern Cities were recovered, Jerusalem was liberated, and the Muslims were stopped from moving further West. Everything that the Pope planned on doing was successful; however, overall, the Crusades was not successful in achieving their goals. After the initial Crusade, many more Crusades followed. Some of these Crusades were designed to recover Jerusalem after it fell, but many others had different and confusing goals. Not for long, the Church applied the idea of the Crusades to any religious deed to stop both other Christians or pagans. After many years of holding Jerusalem, the Muslim recaptured the city. Many of the other Crusades never even reached Jerusalem nor recaptured back the city. The Muslims were held at a distance by the Crusades, but they were never stopped. As a matter of fact, the Crusades actually hurt the relationship between Christians, Jews, and Muslims. All in all, the Crusades failed in its overall goal.

In the conquest of the Crusades, the spreading of Christianity was never the main goal. Simply restoring back what was theirs in the past and holding off the Muslims were the primary goals of the Crusades. However, that does not mean that Christianity did not grow during this time. Christianity did grow, but Christianity also suffered. During the Fourth Crusade, Crusaders attacked and stormed Constantinople in order to raise funds for their conquest (Encyclopedia Britannica 3). The Pope did not authorized the attack, but accepted the reward and believed that the Church was finally reunited’. However, this sequence of events caused bitterness in the East and ultimately promoted a true united Church to be put out of question.

Although the Church became divided during this time, the spread of Christianity did, in fact, occurred. Two groups, the Franciscan and Dominican friars, brought it upon themselves to spread the message of Jesus to both the Muslim lands and beyond (Wani 5). They were the primary people from each group of abbot, and because of their success, the Pope delivered missionary help to aid in their work. These efforts along with the natives of the land helped the growth of Christianity into Muslim territory.

Unfortunately, the Crusades themselves did not spread the message of Jesus Christ and Christianity. The Crusades took place primary to reestablish what had already been the Church’s dominions and to prevent the Muslims from entering deeper into Europe. Many Crusades attempted to regain Jerusalem and other Christian lands, but most failed. However, the Crusades were able to keep the Muslims out of Europe for a decent amount of time. During this time, though, Christian missionary efforts to the people whom the Church was trying to press were taking place but not with much success. Overall, it can be concluded that the Crusades did not promote the cause of Jesus Christ despite the successes they had on the initial Crusade.

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