Contrary to many commonly held notions about the first crusade, in his book, The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading, Jonathan Riley-Smith sets out to explain how the idea of crusading thought evolved in the first crusade. In his book, Riley-Smith sets out five main arguments to show how these ideas of crusading evolved. Firstly, he argues that Pope Urban's original message was conventional, secondly that a more positive reaction was drawn from the laity (due to the ideas surrounding Jerusalem), thirdly, that the original message of crusading had changed because of the horrible experiences of the first crusaders, fourth, that due to these experiences the crusaders developed their own concept of what a crusade was, and lastly, that these ideas were refined by (religious) writers and turned into an acceptable form of theology. Riley-Smith makes excellent points about the crusade; however, before one can delve directly into his argument, one must first understand the background surrounding the rise of the first crusade. Throughout the ten-century, particularly in France, the world had become an extremely violent place. Feudal Knights were often quarreling over land possession, looting, and looking to lay people to provide them with sustenance . Likewise, the power of these knights and the extent of violence flourished due to the increasingly lacking power and authority of the kings . The Church, in an attempt to halt the violence and anarchy attempted to take control and issued such concepts as "the Peace of God" . Similarly, at this time other movements for peace by the Church were underway, and one of the commonly held ideas was the need to transform the world to more "monkish ideals". From these ideals also sprouted the concept of the laity having "God-given functions to perform, functions that could include fighting to protect the Church". Pope Leo IX (1049-1054) is an example of this idea; he often used militia to fight against his opponents. In the early eleventh century, there came a pivotal figure in the ideas of Church sanctioned war, Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085). Pope Gregory was involved in the Investiture Contest, and soon turned to scholars to seek out "justification for his conviction that violence could be used in defense of the Church and could be authorized by it". The movements generated by Pope Gregory, as well as the results of the Investiture Contest only furthered the violence, chaos, and lack of power of the kings in Western Europe. Throughout this chaos in Western Europe, there were stabilizing factors. One of the most important factors was religion. In the superstitious society of Western Europe in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries, people often looked to nature to interpret divine signs. Relics were becoming increasingly popular. Sin was a constant concern to these people. A popular way of ridding oneself of all sin was the pilgrimage. In this type of society, it is not very hard to see how the idea of crusading appealed to people from all different social ranks and classes. Pope Urban's message was not an overly original message. In fact, it seems to echo many of those formerly issued by the Papacy. Urban was responding to a request by the Eastern half of the old Roman Empire (Constantinople) to send warriors to assist in expelling the Turks. Urban directed the speech mainly at the French (Franks), at the young, strong, and male. He claimed to be issuing a call to war on behalf of Christ. To participate in the war was to act out one's love for God. Urban was drawing on many of the popularized concepts of religion and spirituality at the time. The idea of war for Christ had become popular at this time. Similarly, Urban presented the war as one of liberation (of Jerusalem), this fell into two categories, the liberation of baptized Christians, and the liberation of a place (Jerusalem). It was the concept of Jerusalem that made Urban's message so...
Bibliography: Works Cited
Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading. The United States of America: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986.
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