Give a brief account of The Crusades. What significance do they still have for Christianity today? What should contemporary Christians learn from them?
In this essay, this writer will give a brief account of The Crusades, demonstrate the significance they still have for Christianity today and what lessons contemporary Christians should learn from them.
The Crusades were a series of Holy Wars launched between 1095 and 1291 by the Christian states of Europe against the Saracens who were Moslems. The name Crusade is derived from an old French word ‘crois’, meaning ‘the cross’. The idea was to urge Christian warriors to go to Palestine and free Jerusalem and other holy places from Muslim domination (Internet Source 1). The first Crusade took place agaist the following historical backdrop.
In the seventh century AD, the Arabs had waged jihad on the Christian world, conquering and ruling two thirds of it for the next four centuries. At the time of the first Crusade, Western Europe was a collection of competing tribal kingdoms with noble families fighting each other for political dominance. On the other side of the world, the city of Jerusalem was host to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It commemorated the hill of crucifixion and the tomb of Christ’s burial and was visited by Pilgrims. In 1065, Jerusalem was taken by the Turks and it is alleged that three thousand Christians were massacred. This seems to have started a chain of events which contributed to the cause of the Crusades (Internet Source 1). And by 1071, the military action by Seljuk Turks on the frontiers of Eastern Christendom threatened the religious and political stability of the region, making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem impossible (Towey 2013: 284). It is against this background and following a direct appeal for military help from the Byzantine Emperor, that Pope Urban launched the first Crusade on 27 November 1095 at the Council of Clermont in France. MacCulloch (2009:383) argues that there was no immediate great crisis to rally the West against the Muslim aggression. He however provides no reason for such an assertion.
According to Haag (2011:74), Pope Urban’s first Crusade had the following several aims: To provide the Byzantine Empire with the necessary reinforcements to drive the Seljuk Turks out of Asia Minor and to avenge wrongs committed by the Turks. He was probably hoping that in return, the Orthodox Church would acknowledge the supremacy of Rome and that the unity of Christendom would be restored; to stop the imminent danger to France posed by the infidel Moslems; to rescue the holy lands of Palestine from Moslems who had invaded, depopulated, pillaged and set on fire these lands. It was reported that Christians had been nearly exterminated, with a few survivors taken as slaves after being mercilessly tortured. Churches had been either destroyed or appropriated after the aggressors destroyed or defiled the altars. MacCulloch (2009: 383) argues that Pope Urban gave a completely ‘imaginary’ account of the atrocities, but again, MacCulloch fails to provide a basis for such bold refutation; the other aim was to gain wealth and this is implied from the Pope’s statement that “your present land is too narrow for your large population, nor does it abound in wealth, scarcely furnishing food” (Internet Source 2). It is possible that some of the Crusade warriors may have been motivated by personal greed for wealth, desire for fame on their return, or hope of finding a better way of life away from famine and warfare that was occurring in France. On the other hand, this writer contends that other warriors must have genuinely felt it their Christian duty to come to the aid of their fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord in the spirit of solidarity. Haag (2011: 74) further states that as an incentive, the Pope promised to reward the warriors with eternal life if they undertook the mission. He inspired them by invoking the Gospel message “he...
References: Haag, M. 2011. The Templars: History and Myth. London: Profile Books.
MacCulloch, D. 2009. A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years. London: Penguin
Towey, A. 2013. An Introduction to Christian Theology: Biblical, Classical, Contemporary. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark.
Internet Source 1: (Visited 30/3/2015)
Internet Source 2 :< http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/source/urban2a.html> (Visited 11/04/2015)
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