The First Crusade
What was the cause for Western Europe to implement the Crusades? To answer this, we must go back the 11th century when the Seljuk Turks made their presence known in the east by conquering Armenia, Syria, and Palestine. They soon moved on to Jerusalem where they burned down Christian churches and murdered the clergy and many Christian pilgrims visiting there. Byzantium quickly saw the Seljuk Turks as a threat, and in 1071, met them at the Battle of Manzikert in Asia Minor. The Byzantines were slaughtered and it would not be long until the Seljuk Turks closed in on Constantinople. Byzantium's only hope rested on the shoulders of Emperor Alexius I Comnenus who quickly raised a mercenary army to help protect Byzantium. Alexius knew, however, that this army would not be enough to hold off the Turks, and going against his will, sent for help from the pope in Western Europe. The choice to ask for help from Western Europe was not a popular one due to the fact that the Byzantines saw there form of Christianity as heresy.
Pope Gregory VII saw Byzantium's call for help as a great opportunity to use Europe's soldiers in the service of God. The Pope had this vision of leading the army into the east to defeat the Turks. He saw this as an excellent way to help change people's view of the church. At this time the church was involved with ridding itself of lay control, and believed strongly that the Pope should have power over all rulers, that including Kings and Emperors. What else would better display the power of the Pope than that of him leading an Army into the east to defend Constantinople? Plus, since relations between Western Europe and Byzantium had been strained for quite some time because of the "Great Schism" of 1054, the Pope saw this as an excellent opportunity to help reunite them and perhaps bring them under the control of the Papacy. This expedition, however, was not to be seen as a crusade; but as an act of charity and mercy...
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