The Crusades, also know as the “Holy Wars”, were fought in the name of Christ and Christianity. Muslims controlled Jerusalem after the fall of the Roman Empire and they allowed religious freedoms to the Christians and Jews that also resided here. In the early 11th century, however, the Seljuk Turks (also Muslim) took rule of Jerusalem and the surrounding Palestine region. The Turks endorsed Islam and ended religious freedoms for both Jews and Christians. The Turks attempted to expand their reign and began to invade the Byzantine Empire. The Christian emperor of Byzantium decided to seek help from the Pope, who in turn sent Christian forces from Western Europe to go to war with the Muslim armies and to stop the spread of Islam in the Holy Land. These wars left an everlasting legacy medieval society, Islam, Europe and the Jews. The effects of the Crusades on these aspects can still be seen in the world we live in today.
The Crusades aided the movement towards a new way of government. The political effect of the Crusades impacted everything from existing nations' relationships with each other to the formation of completely new political states. Vassals thought themselves to be masters and Kings had a difficult time obtaining obedience from them. “The collection of money made for the crusades paved the way for tax systems; the protection of crusaders' property legitimized the intervention of sovereigns.” (Richard). Lords often deserted a family legacy of increasing the wealth of their land after they transferred ownership rights of their lands to another when they left to support the crusades. All of these had profound effect in benefiting political powers.
The crusades strengthened Christendom while simultaneously destroying the broader aspects of the Christian world. While Muslims were the main intended targets, the religious devotion inspired by the crusades led to the massacre of many Jewish communities, the most during the first crusade, but more were slaughtered during the subsequent crusades. They also formed an uniform relentless hostility towards the Greek Christians. “The broader Christian world, Latin and Greek, was damaged, if not irreparably broken.” (Rubenstein). The crusaders were fighting in the name of Christ while slaughtering others who also lived in His name. Instead of unifying the churches from the West and East, the crusades only succeeded in emphasizing and increasing their differences.
Not only did the crusades separate the world of Christianity but they also permanently separated the Christians from the Muslims. As the crusades progressed throughout the Holy Land they stopped the spread of Islam and created a division that has lasted forevermore. “...in the relations of Christianity and Islam, creating for two centuries a sense of unbridgeable ideological separation between the two faiths which have very similar origins.” (Roberts and Westad). These wars ended any hope of the two religions being able to live and thrive together in peace. This contrast is one of the most enduring legacies of the crusades for it is still present in today's world.
The effects of the Crusades on these aspects can still be seen in the world we live in today. The crusades were an act of contribution, love and loyalty, for the people of the medieval era. Though the wars can be seen as morally unjust and evil, they were a means for Christians to defend their world, culture, and way of life. Millions of lives were taken for the sake of a cause, religion, the main reining force behind wars today. Close to every war in the history of the world can be traced back to a spiritual dispute. Where there is religious doctrine there will always be conflict. Religion can be the strongest belief in any culture, and every culture is willing to fight with no restraints for that belief. This idea started at the beginning of time, was enforced by the crusades and still stays true in today’s society.
Richard, Jean., & Birrell, Jean. (2001). The Crusades. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Roberts, John M., Westad, Odd A. (2013). The History of the World (6th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse. New York: Basic Books.