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Political Organization In The Early Middle Ages
The Church In The Early Middle Ages
Conclusion to Pages 1, 2 & 3
The Making Of Modern Britain
Beginnings of the French Nation
Re-conquest of Spain
Government in Germany & Italy
The Rise of Trade and Towns
The Church in the Middle Ages I
The Church in the Middle Ages II
The Intellectual Synthesis Of The High
Dancing In The Middle
of the Middle Ages
Influences of Christianity
The Rise of Towns
The Middle Ages
The most dramatic expression of Europe on the offensive in the High
Middle Ages was the Crusades. For hundreds of years peaceful pilgrims had
traveling from Europe to worship at the birthplace of Christ. By the tenth
century bishops were organizing mass pilgrimages to the Holy Land; the
of these, which set out from Germany in 1065, included about seven
During the eleventh century, however, Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land
became especially concerned and aggravated when the Seljuk Turks, who were
and fanatical converts to Islam, took over Jerusalem from the more
Abbasid Muslims. Byzantine forces desperately tried to bar the Seljuks,
the battle of Manzikert (1071) the eastern emperor was captured and his
scattered. Within a few years Asia Minor, the chief source of Byzantine
revenue and troops, was lost, and the emperor was writing to western
and to the pope seeking mercenaries with which to regain lost territories.
addition, tales of alleged Turkish mistreatement of Christian pilgrims
circulated throughout Europe, and though there is evidence that these
were propaganda, they inflamed Christian public opinion.
In 1095 Pope Urban II proclaimed the First Crusade to regain the Holy
Land. Preaching at the Council of Clermont in that year, he exhorted
Christians to take up the cross and strive for a cause that promised not
merely spiritual rewards but material gain as well. At the end of his
impassioned oration the crowd shouted "God wills it" - the expression the
crusaders later used in battle.
Although the pope saw in the crusade an outlet for the restlesss energy
of quarreling nobels - their warring fervor would be channeled for the
of God - the primary impetus behind the crusade was probably religious. It
viewed as a holy war, and following Pope Urban's appeal, there was a real
spontaneous outpouring of religious enthusiasm. The word crusade itself is
derived from "taking the cross," after the example of Christ.
The Results Of The Crusades
From the end of the eleventh century to the end of the thirteenth, there
were seven major crusades, as well as various small expenditions that from
time to time, warred against the Muslins in the Near East, whom the
called Saracens. The First Crusade, composed of feudal nobles from France,
parts of Germany, and Norman Italy, proceeded overland to Constantiople.
Having expected the help of European mercenaries agains the Seljuks, the
emperor Alexius Comnenus was taken aback when confronted by an unruly
what Pope Urban himself had called "aforetime robbers." He hastily
the crusaders out of Constantinople to fight the Turks. The First Crusade
the most successful of the seven; with not more than 5000 knights and
infantry, it overcame the resistance of the Turks, who were no longer
Above all, it captured Jerusalem, the Holy City. The First Crusade
narrow strip of land stretching from Antioch to Jerusalem and created the
Latin kingdom of Jerusalem (distinct from the city itself), over which
Crusaders and Muslims continued to battle until the region finally was
by the Muslims in 1291.
When the kingdom of Jerusalem became endangered, St. Bernard of Clairvaux
induced the kings of France and Germany to lead the Second Crusade in
never reached Jerusalem, having turned aside to attack Damascus where its
forces were routed.
The fall of Jerusalem in 1187 to the Muslims, reinvigorated under the
leadership of Saladin, the Kurdish sultan of Egypt and Syria, provoked the
Third Crusade in 1189. Its leaders were three of the most famous medieval
kings - Frederick Barbarossa of Germany, Richard the Lion-Hearted of
and Philip Augustus of France. Frederick was drowned in Asia Minor; and,
many quarrels with Richard, Philip returned home. Saladin and Richard
the protagonists, but finally agreed to a three year truce and free access
Jerusalem for Christian pilgrims.
The Fourth Crusade (1202-1204) was a disaster from a religious
perspective. No kings answered Pope Innocent II call, and the knights who
were unable to pay the Venetians the agreed-upon transport charges. The
Venetians persuaded the crusaders to pay off the sum by capturing the
Christian town of Zara on the Adriatic coast, which had long proved
troublesome to Venetian trading interests. Then, in order to absorb all
Byzantine commerce, the Venetians pressured the crusaders into attacking
Constantinople. After conquering and sacking the greatest city in Europe,
crusaders set up the Latin empire of Constantinople and forgot about
recovering the Holy Land.
The thirteenth century saw other crusades. The youngsters of the
ill-fated Children's Crusade in 1212 fully expected the waters of the
Mediterranean to part and make a path to the Holy Land, which they would
without fighting, but thousands of them were sold into slavery by
merchants. The Fifth Crusade in 1219 failed in its attack on Egypt, the
of Muslim power in the Near East. The unique Sixth Crusade in 1228 was
organized and led by the excommunicated enemy of the pope, the emperor
Frederick II, who by skillfull diplomacy succeeded in acquiring Jerusalem,
Bethlehem, and Nazareth from the sultan of Egypt without striking a blow.
arrangement ended in 1244 with the Muslim reconquest of the Holy City. The
loss inspired the saintly Louis IX of France to organize the Seventh
in 1248, but despite his zeal it ended in a fiasco when Louis was captured
Egypt and forced to pay an enormous ransom. This was the last major
regain Jerusalem, and the era of the crusades ended in 1291 when Acre, the
last stronghold of the Christians in the Holy Land, fell to the Muslims.
[See Latin Empire 1214 AD]
The Crusader States
Altogether four crusader principalities, with the kingdom of Jerusalem
dominant, had been established along the eastern Mediterranean coast. By
time Jerusalem fell to Saladin in 1187, however, only isolated pockets of
Christians remained surrounded by hostile Muslims. The crusader states
able to survive only by reason of frequent transfusions of strength from
Europe in the form of supplies and manpower.
The crusader states were defended by three semi-monastic military orders:
the Templars, or Knights of the Temple, so called because their first
headquarters was on the site of the old Temple of Jerusalem; the
or Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, who were founded originally to care
the sick and wounded; and the Teutonic Knights, exclusively a German
Combining monasticism and militarism, these orders had as their aims the
protection of all pilgrims and perpetual war against the Muslims.
The Crusades Evaluated
Even though the crusades failed to achieve their specific objective
permanently, they cannot be written off as mere adventures. On the
their influence extended over a much wider geographical field than just
Holy Land. Much of the crusading fervor carried over to the fight against
Muslims in Spain and the Slavs in eastern Europe. Politically the crusades
weakened the Byzantine Empire and accelerated its fall (see ch. 7).
the early crusades strengthened the moral leadership of the papacy in
the bad luck of the later crusades, together with the preaching of
against Christian heretics and political opponents, weakened both the
crusading ideal and respect for the papacy.
Contact with the East widened the scope of the Europeans, ended their
isolation, and exposed them to an admirable civilization. Although it is
to exaggerate the economic effects of the crusades, they did influence the
reopening of the eastern Mediterranean to Western commerce, which itself
an effect on the rise of cities and the emergence of a money economy in