Crusades - Prologue

The Norman conquest of Sicily was completed in 1091 and the waterway to the Orient was open again to Western Europe. The first Crusade shifted the scene of conflict from the western Mediterranean to the eastern. Most of the important crusading expeditions passed through Constantinople, "barbarian armies" in the presence of Byzantine Christians. Westerners distrusted the Greeks but the wealth of Constantinople appealed to them. Latin Christendom and Byzantium were spiritually linked yet intensely hostile to each other, each regarded themselves as true heirs of Caesar and Christ and both saw the other as an usurper. The westerners saw the Byzantines decadent, pompous and effete. Easterners saw the Europeans as rude and barbarous. Latins were jealous of the Greeks, as uneducated people generally are of their more cultivated neighbors especially when they put on airs. Besides, weren't these Byzantine heretics excommunicated and cursed by the Holy Pope? Byzantines had already grown to hate the Italian merchants and now the invading armies come. Things would quickly grow from bad to horrific.

Islam was far less complicated to the western mind. The Saracens were already enemies and fought Christians in Spain and the western Mediterranean. The Moslem religion was condemned as a diabolical heresy and Latin Christians felt justified in killing them. In 964, the Byzantine emperor Nicephorus Phocas (963-969) was about to go to war with the Arabs. He wrote a stupid letter to the Caliph with insults, threats and bragging about his previous victories. Nicephorus' successor, John Tsimiskes (969-976), wrote a letter in 975 to his ally, the King of Armenia, telling him of his campaigns against the Moslems in Syria where he had taken Damascus and Nazareth to free the tomb of Christ from Moslem insults. From these two tenth century documents, we have the spirit of the crusading movement.

During the ninth century a militant nomadic people, the Turks had entered Persia from the North and quickly converted to Islam. In the eleventh century another Turkish invasion of the caliphate was led by an even more aggressive dynasty - the Seljuk. The Seljuks were fierce Mongols from Central Asia with a reputation as brutes, spreading destruction as they went. The new leader assumed the title of Sultan. With the caliphate gone, Islam was no longer a serious threat to the west. Anyway, the Turkish Seljuks were constantly quarreling with each other with the usual motives of power, money lust and glory. Having crushed one Byzantine army in Asia Minor however, the Turks began to move toward the eastern capital itself. It was this emergency that caused the eastern emperor, Alexius, to send an urgent appeal for help to the west. The Papacy, stimulated by Byzantine appeals for military assistance against the Seljuks, proclaimed a holy war against Islam. This triggered the European movement known as the Crusades.

Toward the end of the millennium, many people believed that the end of the world was at hand and wanted to visit the holy land. Pilgrimages to Jerusalem were common from the earliest Christians around the world and as early as the fourth century, a continuous stream of immigrants from Western Europe was pouring into Palestine. Some came and went, like tourists, some stayed and settled in the Holy Land. For the most part, Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land were not interfered with and Christians living in Moslem countries enjoyed freedom of worship. Resentment began as more and more pilgrims came and saw all the holy sites being held by whom they thought to be infidels. This was an age of superstition and relic worship, ignorance and fanaticism intensified into war fever. Christians began to visit in even greater numbers at the beginning of the eleventh century, many sold everything and migrated to the Holy Land waiting for the coming of the Lord. They were favored when the Saracens ruled Palestine, the visitors brought them considerable profit and were encouraged and protected. That all changed when the Seljukian Turks wrested the country from the Egyptian caliphs, pilgrims were now subjected to every outrage that fanaticism and ignorance could dictate, oppression, extortion, robbery, sometimes death.

Pope Urban II reeived the plea from Alexius in early 1095. Sending a rescue force to the East well suited Urban's own political plans, the Pope knew that a holy war against the Turks would force the Byzantine emperor to recognize the supremacy of the pope over the entire Christian church. Lifting the prestige of the Roman curia this way, could unite Christendom and end the great schism of 1054 between Catholic and Orthodox. The Council of Clermont was being held in central France and Urban used this as his forum for launching the First Crusade. Pope Urban II said: "If you must have blood, bathe your hands in the blood of infidels... soldiers of hell become soldiers of the living God."

The Crusades began with romantic legends and the poetry of chivalry. They vanished in the reality of carnage and waste where only a whimper remained. Maybe in the eleventh century, the idea of the crusade may have been light in the sky but by the thirteenth, we can hear fed up people saying "oh no, not another crusade." The beginning of the crusades saw a naive and gullible people ready to follow the pope trustfully and simply, while the end brought an age of knowledge and skepticism.

For almost 200 years there was a continuous stream of crusaders, therefore we have the practice of calling Crusades by numbers, inaccurate, but helpful. From 1095 on, wave after wave was hurled against the Muslims, most often in Syria and Palestine, but also in Egypt. The process was finally complete by 1291, thereafter, although the crusading ideal continued to be preached in the west, no major expedition was ever launched to regain the Holy Land and it remained in Moslem hands.

[03, 05, 07, 08, 14, 20, 26, 48, 76]

The Lord has given Christians the grace to reconcile the children to their Fathers

As One Body

  • We prepare for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb
  • Harvest the Fruit of the Latter Rain
  • Follow Him as the Army of the Lord into His Glory

Help To Prepare A Holy Bride!

Issue Oriented Discussion Newsletter

Index | Search This Site | Aristide.Org | The Latter Rain | Babylon the Great | The Kingdom | The Nicolaitans | Jezebel
The Baptism With the Holy Ghost | The Grand Delusion | World Trade Org | Liberation Theology | Jay Atkinson | Alphabetical Index