THE EARLY CRUSADES



The idea of a 'holy war' is alien to Christian theological tradition. It is self-evidently incompatible with the recorded teachings of Christ, and would have been abhorrent to the mind of the ancient Church. Of course, Christian rulers — such as Justinian and Charlemagne — had often enough shown themselves willing to coerce 'faith' from their more intractable subjects, for the sake of state unity. But none, as far as we know, ever presumed to represent his military adventures as divine missions.


[The capture of Antioch during the First Crusade on 3 June 1098, from a manuscript illumination. This crusade's journey across Asia Minor had been bloody and arduous; from an original force of 100,000, only 40,000 made it to the gates of Antioch]


At the very end of the 11th century, however, the notion that a war might be not merely 'just,' but also a 'sacred cause', insinuated itself into Catholic thought. Ironically enough, this was in part the result of a concerted effort on the part of the Church to discourage and limit warfare. From the late 10th to the mid-11th century, Church synods in France had instituted the convention called the 'Peace of God', which threatened excommunication for private wars and attacks upon women, peasants, merchants, clergy or other non-combatants, and which required every house to pledge itself to preserve the peace. Other synods, over the course of the 11th century, introduced the 'Truce of God', which prohibited armed conflict on so many days of the year - penitential periods, holy days, harvests, and from Wednesday evening to Monday morning every week — that ultimately more than three-quarters of the calendar were off limits.


(A  CHURCH  ONCE  MORE  CONNECTED  TO  GOVERNMENTS;  RULING  GOVERNMENTS  -  Keith Hunt)


High Ideals and Low Motives


It may seem somewhat ironic, then, that it was at the Council of Clermont in 1095 — which reaffirmed and expanded the 'Truce of God' — that Pope Urban II (c.1035—99) called for the First Crusade. But chief among the guiding ideals of the Truce was a commitment to protect the defenceless against the depredations of violent men, and Urban was responding to tales coming from the East of Christians (native Easterners and Western pilgrims to the Holy Land) who had been robbed, enslaved and murdered by the Seljuq Turks, as well as to the appeals of the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus (1057-1118) for military aid in resisting Seljuq aggressions in the Eastern Christian world —Anatolia, Armenia, Byzantine Asia Minor and West Syria.


The cause of Crusade, however, attracted an element that in all likelihood the pope had not expected. Rather than armies of the chivalrous and saintly eager to rescue the oppressed, many of the forces that assembled consisted in little more than armed gangs of brigands. Several of these, in fact, began their journey by robbing and murdering Rhineland Jews in their thousands in 1096, and even attacking local bishops who attempted to protect the Jews within their diocesan boundaries — and then, as a rule, disbanding before ever actually reaching the East.


(SO  EVIL  OFTEN  COMPOUNDS  THE  ORIGINAL  EVIL,  THOUGH  IT  WAS  NOT  THOUGHT  OF  AS  EVIL  TO  RESCUE  PEOPLE  FROM  THE  UN-CHRISTIAN  EVIL  -  Keith Hunt)


The properly organized crusader armies, however, were under the command principally of French noblemen, and began a more orderly eastward advance in August 1096. In all, some 4000 knights assembled in Constantinople in 1097, bringing with them between 20,000 and 30,000 foot soldiers. Alexius, fearing with good cause that his new allies might ultimately prove as dangerous as his enemies, insisted that the knights swear to restore to the Eastern empire all Byzantine territories they might liberate.



[Pope Urban called for the conquest of 'Tierra Santa' at the Council of Clermont in 1095, thus instigating the First Crusade]


In June 1097, the crusaders recovered Nicaea from the invaders and indeed promptly returned it to the Byzantines. From there,Western and Byzantine forces passed through Anatolia — winning a major battle at Dorylaeum against the Turks in July - and in August began a long and difficult siege of Antioch. When Alexius despaired of capturing the city, however, and ordered his forces withdrawn, the crusaders who continued the siege concluded that he had relinquished his claim on the city. Accordingly, on finally taking Antioch in June 1098, they kept it as their lawful prize. In January 1099, the march upon Jerusalem began.


In fact, by the time the crusader force - numbering some 1500 knights and more than 10,000 soldiers - arrived at Jerusalem, the Seljuqs had already been driven out by the Egyptian Fatimids. This did not deter the crusaders, however. The siege lasted from early June to mid-July. When at last the walls were breached, the Norman commander Tancred of Hauteville (d. 1112) promised protection for the city's inhabitants; but the crusader army disregarded his orders and - on entering the city — indiscriminately massacred Muslims, Jews and Arab Christians, not sparing women and children. The scale of the atrocity can scarcely be exaggerated.


(AND  ALL  DONE  IN  THE  NAME  OF  CHRIST;  THINKING  THEY  WERE  DOING  GOD  A  SERVICE.  HOW  GREAT  CAN  BE  THE  DECEPTIONS  OF  THE  DEVIL  -  Keith Hunt)


Thereafter, a crusader protectorate was established in Jerusalem, which by late 1100 had evolved (or degenerated) into the Kingdom of Jerusalem under Baldwin I (c. 1058—1118). Other crusader states were founded and castles erected as Beirut, Acre (modern Akko in northern Israel) and other cities fell and new crusaders arrived from the West. In this way, Western European feudalism was imported into the Near East and parts of North Africa, and feudal realms were established from the Euphrates to the Levant, and even in Tripoli. Nor did the crusaders hesitate to seize Byzantine territories, such as the port of Latakia, or to anger the Eastern Church by establishing Latin rather than Greek patriarchs in Antioch and Jerusalem.


Warfare and Cultural Interaction


Viewed as a whole, the Crusades were a sporadic undertaking, and largely pointless. Their chief function, it sometimes seemed, was to provide an outlet — in an age when the population of Western Europe had drastically increased - for the energies of the fading warrior caste of the last Western barbarians. They did, however, rather contrary to the intentions of the crusaders, establish a generally stable — if intermittently bloody — cultural and mercantile contact between Western Christendom and the civilizations of the East, both Byzantine and Islamic. This allowed for a certain degree of fruitful cultural and intellectual interaction between East and West.


(SO  I'M  SURE  THAT  GAVE  JUSTIFICATION  TO  IT  ALL,  IN  THE  EYES  OF  MANY  -  Keith Hunt)


The Second Crusade was inaugurated in 1145 by Pope Eugenius III (d. 1153) and was preached by, among others, St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090—1153) in France and Germany. Two main forces — one under the German King Conrad III (1093—1152) and the other under the French King Louis VII (1120-80) - departed for the East in 1147. Conrad's army was all but annihilated by the Turks in Anatolia in October, but was joined in November by Louis' army in Nicaea the following month. After a visit to Antioch in March of the following year, where Raymond of Poitiers (c. 1115-49) reigned, both Conrad and Louis retreated to Constantinople and — with the assistance of other German and French nobles — undertook an assault upon Damascus with a force of some 50,000 men. It was a disaster. In July, after a siege of a few days, the crusaders had to retreat before a far superior force of Turkish reinforcements.


The crusader principalities of the 12th century did not expand beyond the territories captured in the days of the first Western campaigns; but they seemed stable enough to tempt a certain number of Western Christians to emigrate from Europe to the East. The Western Christian rulers of the second generation often learned to speak Arabic, married native women and adopted many regional customs. In addition to the armies of the crusader kings, there were two military monastic orders that added to the impression of a secure and settled feudal order. The Knights Templar, formed in 1128 to provide protection for Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, and the Hospitallers, formed in the 11th century with the express purpose of building and maintaining hospitals for pilgrims (and for others in need), but also 'militarized' in the 12th century.




This illusion of strength, however, was shattered by Salah al-Din - or, as he was known by Western Christians, Saladin (1137-93) - the daring, devout and often chivalrous Kurdish-born sultan and general whose jihad (or holy struggle) against the Latin occupiers recaptured almost all of the kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187, taking the city itself in October. He allowed those Christians who were able to do so to ransom themselves for a modest fee. Only the city of Tyre resisted his armies.


[A 19th-century engraving depicting crusader forces abandoning their siege towers after a failed assault on Jerusalem during the Third Crusade]


The fall of Jerusalem prompted Pope Gregory VIII (d. 1187) to call for the Third Crusade. This war acquired a certain glamour in later legend, principally because of the relations between Saladin and the English King Richard III (1157-99), both of whom were masters of the craft of war, and each of whom often seemed to want to outdo the other in displays of courtly gallantry (though both could also be quite ruthless towards their enemies). Richard, for instance, after retaking the city of Acre from the Muslims in 1191, grew impatient with negotiations for the exchange of prisoners and executed all of his Muslim hostages (along with their families). Even so, communications between Richard and Saladin were never broken off, and - when they had fought each other to a standstill - they signed a peace treaty in September 1192. Richard left the Holy Land a month later, and five months after that Saladin died peacefully in Damascus.


(SO  MUCH  FOR  RICHARD  THE  LION  HEART,  OF  ROBIN  HOOD  FAME.  HE  WAS  A  ROMAN  CATHOLIC  OF  BLOOD  AND  GUTS  AS  THEY  SAY..... ABOUT  AS  BAD  AS  THEY  GET,  WHEN  HE  COULD  KILL  HOSTAGES  ALONG  WITH  THEIR  FAMILIES  -  Keith Hunt)



THE ALBIGENSIAN CRUSADE


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[When St Dominic (1170-1221) disputed with the Albigensians, legend recounts that both parties threw their books onto a fire; while those of the Cathars were consumed, Dominic's were miraculously spared]



Not every Crusade was waged in the Holy Land. One was fought in France. During the 12th and 13th centuries, the church of the 'Albigensians' or 'Cathars' (from the Greek for 'pure ones') appeared in the south of France and in Italy. This was a sect of Gnostics who derived their teachings from the Bogomils of the East, a cult that began in Bulgaria in the 10th century and survived in the Christian East into the 15th. The Cathars regarded the material world as the creation of the devil, foreswore procreation, believed the universe a prison in which spirits were incarcerated through successive incarnations, held traditional Christian teachings in contempt and sought salvation through inner enlightenment and asceticism. They also led peaceable and sober lives.


Initially, Pope Innocent III (c. 1160-1216) pursued a policy towards the Cathars of toleration and dialogue. But certain noble houses in the Languedoc region embraced the Cathar cause in the late 12th century and began in some cases to persecute the Catholic Church in their estates. The Comte de Foix, for example, evicted monks from their abbey in Pamiers, desecrated the chapel and seized the property for himself. The Vicomte de Beziers plundered and burned monasteries, imprisoned a bishop and an abbot, and - when the latter died - had his body propped up in a public pulpit. The Comte de Toulouse, Raymond VI, persecuted monks, sacked churches and conspired in assassinating a papal legate.


Innocent, unprepared for the crisis, began actively to promote the French crown's 'Crusade' against the south. For all its violence, however, this campaign proved largely ineffectual. It turned out to be little more than an excuse for the king of France to subdue Toulouse and the rest of the south, and for the nobles of the Norman north to steal southern fiefs from Catholic and Albigensian houses alike.


Finally, Pope Innocent IV (d.l254) - in part at the behest of King Louis IX of France (1214-70) - instituted a legal measure drawn from pre-Christian Roman law, contrary to Christian usage, but recently revived by the Holy Roman Empire: an inquisition.This succeeded where the 'Albigensian Crusade' had failed, and ultimately eradicated the Cathars.


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TO  BE  CONTINUED


IT  IS  OBVIOUSLY  CLEAR  TO  SEE  ROME  WAS  NOW  QUITE  WILLING  TO  WAGE  LITERAL  WAR;  KILLING  THOSE  WHO  IT  THOUGHT  WERE  WORTHY  OF  DEATH;  MUCH  MORE  OF  THIS  MENTALITY  WAS  TO  COME  IN  THE  FOLLOWING  CENTURIES  -  Keith Hunt