Crusades  

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"History in her solemn page informs us, that the crusaders were but ignorant and savage men, that their motives were those of bigotry unmitigated, and that their pathway was one of blood and tears. Romance, on the other hand, dilates upon their piety and heroism and pourtrays in her most glowing and impassioned hues their virtue and magnanimity, the imperishable honour they acquired for themselves, and the great services they rendered to Christianity. [...] Now what was the grand result of all these struggles? Europe expended millions of her treasures, and the blood of two millions of her children; and a handful of quarrelsome knights retained possession of Palestine for about one hundred years!" --Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841) by Charles Mackay


The Crusades Through Arab Eyes


"One of the best one-volume histories is Regine Pernoud's The Crusades which presents the story largely through the eyes of contemporaries, Christian and Moslem." --Fatal Victories, William Weir


Jonathan Riley-Smith considers that much of the popular understanding of the Crusades derives from the Tales of the Crusaders novels of Walter Scott and the History of the Crusades by Joseph François Michaud. The Crusades provided an enormous amount of source material, stories of heroism, and interest that underpinned growth in medieval literature, romance, and philosophy.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Crusades were a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church in the medieval period, especially the campaigns in the Eastern Mediterranean with the aim of capturing Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Islamic rule, to recapture Christian territory and defend Christian pilgrims. The term "crusades" is also applied to other campaigns sanctioned by the Church, fought to combat paganism and heresy or to resolve conflict among rival Roman Catholic groups, or to gain political or territorial advantage. The term crusades itself is early modern, modelled on Middle Latin cruciatae, and has in more recent times been extended to include religiously motivated Christian military campaigns in the Late Middle Ages.

The First Crusade arose after a call to arms in a 1095 sermon by Pope Urban II. Urban urged military support for the Byzantine Empire and its Emperor, Alexios I, who needed reinforcements for his conflict with westward migrating Turks in Anatolia. One of Urban's stated aims was to guarantee pilgrims access to the holy sites in the Eastern Mediterranean that were under Muslim control, but scholars disagree whether this was the primary motivation for Urban or the majority of those who heeded his call. Urban's wider strategy may have been to unite the Eastern and Western branches of Christendom, which had been divided since their split in the East–West Schism of 1054, and establish himself as head of the unified Church. Similarly, some of the hundreds of thousands of people who became crusaders by taking a public vow and receiving plenary indulgences from the church were peasants hoping for Apotheosis at Jerusalem, or forgiveness from God for all their sins. Others participated to satisfy feudal obligations, gain glory and honour, or find opportunities for economic and political gain. Regardless of the motivation, the response to Urban's preaching by people of many different classes across Western Europe established the precedent for later crusades.

Different perspectives of the actions carried out, at least nominally, under Papal authority during the crusades have polarised historians. To some their behaviour was incongruous with the stated aims and implied moral authority of the papacy and the crusades, in one case to the extent that the Pope excommunicated crusaders. Crusaders often pillaged as they travelled, while their leaders retained control of much captured territory rather than returning it to the Byzantines; During the People's Crusade thousands of Jews were murdered in what is now called the Rhineland massacres; and Constantinople was sacked during the Fourth Crusade rendering the reunification of Christendom impossible.

The crusades had a profound impact on Western civilisation: they reopened the Mediterranean to commerce and travel (enabling Genoa and Venice to flourish); consolidated the collective identity of the Latin Church under papal leadership; and were a wellspring for accounts of heroism, chivalry and piety. These tales consequently galvanised medieval romance, philosophy and literature. The crusades also reinforced the connection between Western Christendom, feudalism, and militarism.

Historiography

Five major sources of information exist on the Council of Clermont that led to the First Crusade: the anonymous Gesta Francorum (The Deeds of the Franks), dated about 1100–01; Fulcher of Chartres, who attended the council; Robert the Monk, who may have been present, and the absent Baldric, archbishop of Dol and Guibert de Nogent. These retrospective accounts differ greatly. In his 1106–07 Historia Iherosolimitana, Robert the Monk wrote that Urban asked western Roman Catholic Christians to aid the Orthodox Byzantine Empire because "Deus vult" ("God wills it") and promised absolution to participants; according to other sources, the pope promised an indulgence. In these accounts, Urban emphasises reconquering the Holy Land more than aiding the emperor, and lists gruesome offences allegedly committed by Muslims. Urban wrote to those "waiting in Flanders" that the Turks, in addition to ravaging the "churches of God in the eastern regions", seized "the Holy City of Christ, embellished by his passion and resurrection – and blasphemy to say it – have sold her and her churches into abominable slavery". Although the pope did not explicitly call for the reconquest of Jerusalem, he called for military "liberation" of the Eastern Churches.

During the 16th-century Reformation and Counter-Reformation, Western historians saw the Crusades through the lens of their own religious beliefs. Protestants saw them as a manifestation of the evils of the papacy, and Catholics viewed them as forces for good. 18th-century Enlightenment historians tended to view the Middle Ages in general, and the Crusades in particular, as the efforts of barbarian cultures driven by fanaticism. These scholars expressed moral outrage at the conduct of the Crusaders and criticised the Crusades' misdirection - that of the Fourth in particular, which attacked a Christian power (the Byzantine Empire) instead of Islam. The Fourth Crusade had resulted in the sacking of Constantinople, effectively ending any chance of reconciling the East–West Schism and leading to the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Ottomans. In The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 18th-century English historian Edward Gibbon wrote that the Crusaders' efforts could have been more profitably directed towards improving their own countries.

The 20th century produced three important histories of the Crusades: one by Steven Runciman, another by Rene Grousset, and a multi-author work edited by Kenneth Setton. Historians in this period often echoed Enlightenment-era criticism: Runciman wrote during the 1950s, "High ideals were besmirched by cruelty and greed ... the Holy War was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God". According to Norman Davies, the Crusades contradicted the Peace and Truce of God supported by Urban and reinforced the connection between Western Christendom, feudalism, and militarism. The formation of military religious orders scandalised the Orthodox Byzantines, and Crusaders pillaged countries they crossed on their journey east. Violating their oath to restore land to the Byzantines, they often kept the land for themselves. The Fourth Crusade is widely considered controversial in its "betrayal" of Byzantium. Similarly, Norman Housley viewed the persecution of Jews in the First Crusade - a pogrom in the Rhineland and the massacre of thousands of Jews in Central Europe - as part of the long history of anti-Semitism in Europe.

With an increasing focus on gender studies in the early 21st century, studies have examined the topic of "Women in the Crusades". An essay collection on the topic was published in 2001 under the title Gendering the Crusades. In an essay on "Women Warriors", Keren Caspi-Reisfeld concludes that "the most significant role played by women in the West was in maintaining the status quo", in the sense of noble women acting as regents of feudal estates while their husbands were campaigning. The presence of individual noble women in Crusades has been noted, such as Eleanor of Aquitaine (who joined her husband, Louis VII). The presence of non-noble women in the Crusading armies, as in medieval warfare in general, was mostly in the role of logistic support (such as "washerwomen"), while the occasional presence of women soldiers was recorded by Muslim historians.

The Muslim world exhibited little interest in European culture until the 16th century and in the Crusades until the mid-19th century. There was no history of the Crusades translated into Arabic until 1865 and no published work by a Muslim until 1899. In the late 19th century, Arabic-speaking Syrian Christians began translating French histories into Arabic, leading to the replacement of the term "wars of the Ifranj" - Franks - with al-hurub al Salabiyya wars of the Cross. Namik Kamel published the first modern Saladin biography in 1872. The Jerusalem visit in 1898 of Kaiser Wilhelm prompted further interest, with Sayyid Ali al-Harri producing the first Arabic history of the Crusades. Muslim thinkers, politicians and historians have drawn parallels between the Crusades and modern political developments such as the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon, Mandatory Palestine, and the United Nations mandated foundation of the state of Israel.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Crusades" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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