An Examination of the Causes and Success of The First CrusadeReligion has served mankind for thousands of years in our search for meaning and direction. Religion serves as a way of defining our lives and providing a sense of meaning or direction, having done so since the beginning of time. While religion may appear to be a peaceful endeavor, it is an endless source of violence and bloodshed. The duality of religion is accurately portrayed in the Christian crusades. The crusades of the late antiquity exemplified this duality of religion and the horror religion can bring. Thousands upon thousands fought and died, not for king or country, but under God. The kingdoms of Christendom united under the common goal of retaking the holy land and driving the Muslims from Jerusalem. The crusades were by no means a small affair; it was the first time since the collapse of the Western Roman Empire that Europe became organized against a common threat. This holy war served not only as a way to guarantee relative peace throughout Europe but also provided opportunity to acquire wealth and land. The crusades provided an outlet for aggression and greed without fear of excommunication of religious backlash. Thus the crusades were not a simple mission of aid to the Byzantine Empire; rather it was an opportunity to satisfy the needs of Christendom at the expense of Muslims, a people to which little was known in the western world. According to Palmer Throop, there lie three reasons for a crusade: the first is the honor and fame received by any leader who presents a great army against the enemies of the cross. Secondly, it provides merits and indulgences, which in turn help to attain salvation amongst its participants. And thirdly, the cleansing of the holy land from the filth of Muslims it would result in a purification of true faith. Thus, the aim of this paper is two fold; first, to determine the factors leading to the beginning of the first crusade, as well as determining to what degree the crusade can be deemed successful.
The term crusade refers to the conquests by European powers into the east in an attempt to cleanse the Christian holy land from Muslims in the name of God. Near the end of the 10th century, Spain had been invaded by Muslim forces which had established themselves in the north. The monks of Cluny, interested in safe passage in pilgrimage to the shrine of saint James, encouraged princes and knights of France and Lorraine to confront the Muslim presence. These conflicts throughout Spain introduced some of the ideals found in the crusades including indulgences as well as land rights. The crusades were formally announced in 1095AD with Pope Urban II at the council of Clermont. The council urged Christians to aid Christians in the east against Muslim invaders. Through Clermont, many problems throughout Europe are presented as well as the crusades as their solution. Europe in the 11th century was still under the influence of the feudal system, known for its unstable alliances and presence of violence. To help manage this situation, the church attempted to impose limits to the practice of war through numerous meetings between 1020 and 1030 . The purpose of these meetings was to make the practice of war and killing of fellow Christians punishable. This punishment usually meant excommunication, which was the damnation of ones soul and denial from heaven by God's representative on earth, the pope. The following extract from Robert the monk, a historian of the first crusades, illustrates the concerns of European violence at the council of Clermont:Let none of your possessions detain you, no solicitude for your family affairs, since this land which you inhabit, shut in on all sides by the seas and surrounded by the mountain peaks, is too narrow for your large population; nor does it abound in wealth; and it furnishes scarcely food enough for its cultivators. Hence it is that you murder one another, that you wage war, and that...
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