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Christopher Tyerman The Crusades A Very Short Introduction

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  • Christopher Tyerman The Crusades A Very Short Introduction

    Christopher Tyerman The Crusades A Very Short Introduction

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    With flair and originality, Christopher Tyerman presents a clear and lively discussion of the Crusades, bringing together issues of colonialism, cultural exchange, economic exploitation, and the relationship between past and present. He considers the effects of the Crusades on ordinary life in Western Europe, and the parts played by ordinary men and women in the conflict, and explores the term "Crusade" for contemporary political ends. Whether the Crusades are regarded as the most romantic of Christian expeditions, or the last of the barbarian invasions, they have fascinated generations ever since, and their legacy of ideas and imagery has resonated through the centuries, inspiring Hollywood movies and great works of literature. In this book, Tyerman skillfully weaves together one of the most extraordinary and vivid episodes in world history.

    Crusading fervour gripped Europe for over 200 years, creating one of the most extraordinary, vivid episodes in world history. Whether the Crusades are regarded as the most romantic of Christian expeditions, or the last of the barbarian invasions, they have fascinated generations ever since, and their legacy of ideas and imagery has resonated through the centuries, inspiring Hollywood movies and great works of literature. Even today, to invoke the Crusades is to stir deep cultural myths, assumptions and prejudices.

    Yet despite their powerful hold on our imaginations, our knowledge of them remains obscured an distorted by time. Were the Crusaders motivated by spiritual rewards, or by greed? Were the Crusades an experiment in European colonialism, or a manifestation of religious love? How were they organized and founded?

    With customary flair and originality, Christopher Tyerman picks his way through the many debates to present a clear and lively discussion of the Crusades; bringing together issues of colonialism, cultural exchange, economic exploitation, and the relationship between past and present.
    ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

    Small but impressive ― Soldier Magazine



    Chapter 1. Definition

    Chapter 2. Crusades in the eastern Mediterranean

    Chapter 3. Crusades in the west

    Chapter 4. The impact of the Crusades

    Chapter 5. Holy war

    Chapter 6. The business of the cross

    Chapter 7. Holy lands

    Conclusion: Crusading our contemporary

    Further reading


  • #2
    While the 18th-century Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume thought the Crusades ‘the most signal and most durable monument of human folly that has yet appeared in any age or nation’, he admitted they ‘engrossed the attention of Europe and have ever since engrossed the curiosity of mankind’. The reasons for this are not hard to find. The twin themes of judgement on past violence and fascination with its causes have ensured the survival of the Crusades as more than an inert subject for antiquarians. Since Pope Urban II (1088–99) in 1095 answered a call for military help from the Byzantine emperor Alexius I Comnenus (1081–1118), by summoning a vast army to fight in the name of God to liberate eastern Christianity and recover the Holy City of Jerusalem, there have been few periods when the consequences of this act have not gripped minds and imaginations, primarily in western society but increasingly, since the 19th century, among communities that have seen themselves as heirs to the victims of this form of religious violence. With the history of the Crusades, modern interest is compounded by spurious topicality and inescapable familiarity. Ideological warfare and the pathology of acceptable communal violence are embedded in the historical experience of civilization. Justification for war and killing for a noble cause never cease to find modern manifestations. The Crusades present a phenomenon so dramatic and extreme in aspiration and execution and yet so rebarbative to modern sensibilities, that they cannot fail to move both as a story and as an expression of a society remote in time and attitudes yet apparently so abundantly recognizable. Spread over five hundred years and across three continents, the Crusades may not have defined medieval Christian Europe, yet they provide a most extraordinary feature that retains the power to excite, appal, and disturb. They remain one of the great subjects of European history. What follows is an attempt to explain why.

    The phenomenon of violence justified by religious faith has ebbed and flowed, sometimes nearing the centre, sometimes retreating to the margins of historical and contemporary consciousness. When I was asked to write this short introduction to the Crusades, holy war, Christian or otherwise, was not high on the public or political agenda. Now when I have finished, it is. So this work conforms to a pattern traced in what follows, of historical study relating to current events. My views on that relationship will, I hope, become clear enough. What remain hidden except to the lynx-eyed are the debts to many other scholars, colleagues, and friends from whom I have learnt so much and should have remembered so much more. They must forgive a collective thanks. The faults in this libellusare mine not theirs. The dedication is a very small recompense for incalculable munificence of advice, support, and friendship over so many years, in dark days as well as bright evenings of exhausting but inexhaustible hospitality.

    C. J. T.
    22 May 2005


    • #3
      Between 1189 and 1191, a cosmopolitan army of western invaders besieged the Palestinian coastal city of Acre, modern Akko. Their camp resembled the trenches of the Western Front during the First World War, fetid, disease-ridden, and dangerous. One story circulated to boost morale concerned the heroic death in battle a few years earlier of a knight from Touraine in France, Jakelin de Mailly. A member of the Military Order of Knights Templar, a soldier who had taken religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in order to devote his life to protecting Christians and their conquests in Syria and Palestine, Jakelin had been killed fighting a Muslim raiding party in Galilee on 1 May 1187. In describing what proved to be a massacre of the Christians, the story had Jakelin fighting on alone, hopelessly outnumbered and surrounded. The chronicler who recorded the story before 1192, possibly an Englishman and certainly a veteran of the siege of Acre, is worth quoting in full:

      He was not afraid to die for Christ. At long last, crushed rather than conquered by spears, stones and lances, he sank to the ground and joyfully passed to heaven with the martyr’s crown, triumphant. It was indeed a gentle death with no place for sorrow, when one man’s sword had constructed such a great crown for himself from the crowd laid all around him. Death is sweet when the victor lies encircled by the impious people he has slain with his victorious right hand . . . The place where he fought was covered with the stubble which the reapers had left standing when they had cut the grain shortly before. Such a great number of Turks had rushed in to attack, and this one man had fought for so long against so many battalions, that the field in which they stood was completely reduced to dust and there was not a trace of the crop to be seen. It is said that there were some who sprinkled the body of the dead man with dust and placed dust on their heads, believing that they would draw courage from the contact. In fact, rumour has it that one person was moved with more fervour than the rest. He cut off the man’s genitals, and kept them safe for begetting children so that even when dead the man’s members – if such a thing were possible – would produce an heir with courage as great as his.

      Except possibly for the suggestion of sexual fetishism, this story, which would not have convinced all who heard it by any means, represented a standard piece of crusade propaganda. Crusading, fighting for God in return for a promise of salvation, placed a premium on courage, physical prowess, martial skill, and religious conviction. As such, little separated it from other forms of organized violence. Yet the tale of Jakelin de Mailly emphasized certain features particularly characteristic of the Crusades, especially the belief or assertion that violence for the faith will earn heavenly reward. The killer, already a professed religious, becomes a holy man, a martyr, a witness for his God. Such is the hero’s spiritual potency that his physical remains retain a powerful material charge to confer his human qualities to others, even posthumously through his sexual organs. His horrible, violent death was interpreted as ‘gentle’ and ‘sweet’; his memory provided inspiration; his remains were thought to convey virtue. Death was a completion but no conclusion.

      On the face of it, few mentalities – enthusiastic for violence, fixed on an afterlife – could be less accessible to modern observers in the western cultural tradition than this. Yet no aspect of Christian medieval history enjoys clearer modern recognition than the Crusades, nor has been more subject to egregious distortion. Most of what passes in public as knowledge of the Crusades is either misleading or false. The Crusades were not solely wars against Islam in Palestine. They were not chiefly conducted by land-hungry younger sons, nor were they part of some early attempt to impose western economic hegemony on the world. More fundamentally, they did not represent an aberration from Christian teaching. Nonetheless, interest and invention exist as two sides of the same historical coin. That in part explains why the world of Jakelin de Mailly and his eulogist has not been consigned to the same obscurity as that of medieval scholastics or flagellants; that and the drama of the events themselves. Jakelin’s death in a desperate and foolhardy skirmish in the Galilean hills may arouse only modest interest. But his presence two thousand miles from his homeland; the cause for which he swore religious vows, fought, and died; the region for which he battled; and the memorable historical figures drawn into the conflict in which he served have ensured his endeavour and sacrifice can still touch a nerve. That is the excuse for this book.

      The word ‘crusade’, a non-medieval Franco-Spanish hybrid only popularized in English since the 18th century, has entered the Anglo-American language as a synonym for a good cause vigorously pursued, from pacific Christian evangelism to militant temperance. However floridly and misleadingly romantic, the image of mailed knights bearing crosses on surcoats and banners, fighting for their faith under an alien sun, occupies a familiar niche in the façade of modern western perceptions of the past. Despite, or perhaps because of, its lack of context, it remains the indelible image of crusading in popular culture, shared even by the sculptors of the late President Assad of Syria. Iconography is never innocent. Assad’s Damascus Saladin is defeating the Christians at their own imperialist game as surely as the Ladybird’s Saladin and Richard I are playing out some 19th-century cultural minuet. Polemicists and politicians know – or should know – that to invoke the Crusades is to stir deep cultural myths, assumptions, and prejudices, a fact recognized by Pope John Paul II’s apology to Jews, Muslims, and Eastern Orthodox Christians for the intolerance and violence inflicted by Catholic warriors of the cross. Although it is difficult to see how even Christ’s Vicar on earth can apologize for events in which he did not participate, over which he had no control, and for which he bore no responsibility, this intellectually muddled gesture acknowledged the continued inherent potency of crusading, a story that can still move, outrage, and inflame. One of the groups led by the fundamentalist religious terrorist Usama bin Laden was known as ‘The World Islamic Front for Crusade against Jews and Crusaders’. To understand medieval crusading for itself and to explain its survival may be regarded as an urgent contemporary task, one for which historians must take responsibility. To this dual study of history and historiography, of the Crusades and what could be called their post-history, this is a brief introduction.

      1. Richard I as a romantic warrior hero, depicted in the children’s Ladybird History Richard the Lionheart (1965). The contrast between the imposing figure of Richard and the semi-clad ‘native’ opponents speaks of a marriage between lingering 19th-century imperialism and stock fabrications of popular neo-medievalism.

      2. Eastern sophistication confronts western brute force. In this fictional encounter, from the Ladybird Richard the Lionheart, Richard I has broken an iron bar with his great sword while Saladin’s delicately sharp scimitar cuts a silk handkerchief. This typology traces its ancestry to Gibbon in the 18th century and beyond.

      3. Saladin as a modern Islamic hero. The statue shows Saladin as victor of Hattin, with an infantryman and a sufi – sword and faith. It was commissioned by the city of Damascus, Syria, in 1992.

      Casual modern acquaintance with the Crusades stems from the wide dissemination of crusading motifs from the early 19th century, a rather precious, sentimental vision of an invented medieval past, as in Walter Scott’s popular and influential Ivanhoe and The Talisman, the latter actually set during the Third Crusade. A similar sentimentality infected continental responses; romantic images of crusaders became a stock in trade for artists and poets. The cultural familiarity on which the force of these works relied was maintained into the 20th and 21st centuries chiefly by the popular media of Hollywood, television, and imaginative literature, not all of it describing itself as fiction. Crossovers between history and entertainment at least suggest a market, if only for what the great American crusader scholar of the first half of the 20th century, J. La Monte, forensically described as ‘worthless pseudo-historical trash’.


      • #4
        Crusading has left a physical imprint on Europe. Most obviously, impressive sites associated with crusading or the military orders remain, such as Aigues Mortes in the Rhone Delta, from where Louis IX of France embarked for Egypt in 1248, or the 14th-century headquarters of the Teutonic Knights at Marienburg in Prussia (now Malbork in Poland). Some reminders invoke a sombre message: the plaque at Clifford’s Tower in York commemorates the Jews who died there in March 1190, victims by murder and suicide of Yorkshire crusaders. More intimate evocation of personal responses and the strenuous conviction of individuals thirty to fifty generations ago can be found in quiet corners like the 11th-century church at Bosham, Hampshire, on the edge of Chichester Harbour, whose great chancel arch saw Harold Godwineson on his way across the Channel to a fateful meeting with Duke William of Normandy in 1064 and earned a place in the Bayeux Tapestry. Crosses etched deep in the stone of the door jambs and a cross of Jerusalem more lightly scratched on a nearby pillar, whether marks of anxious hope on departure or of thankful relief at a safe return, speak directly of a physical ideal, witness in almost the ultimate degree of devotion to a belief in the tangibility of the divine that allowed ordinary, faithful laymen, through their own action and the material relics of their God and His Saints, to touch Paradise. That identical crosses can also be seen incised on the walls of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem emphasizes both the startling reality of the experience of pilgrims and crusaders and the gulf between their age and our own. Yet, such memorials leave a trace in the mind.

        Visible reminders are strewn across the modern landscape. In London alone, without the Crusades there would be no shopping in Knightsbridge, no cricket at St John’s Wood, no law at the Temple – all places that derive their names from the medieval landlords of these suburbs, the Military Orders of the Temple and of the Hospital of St John, religious orders originally established to succour and protect pilgrims to Jerusalem in the aftermath of its conquest by the first crusaders in 1099. Linguistic and material survivals are matched by a more urgent and in some cases more insidious recognition that has woven the memory of crusading into some of the more intractable modern political problems, the Arab–Israeli conflict, responses to Terrorism, religious inter-faith conflict, the origins of western racism and anti-Semitism, and the nature of and reaction to European and American political and cultural imperialism.

        Yet here lurks a paradox. The continuing popular and political resonance of crusading feeds on an historical phenomenon that, both in its own time and later, has lacked objective precision in definition, practice, perception, or approval. In the Middle Ages there existed no single word for what are now known as the Crusades. While those who took the cross were described as crucesignati – people (not exclusively male) signed with the cross – their activities tended to be described by analogy, euphemism, metaphor, or generality: peregrinatio, pilgrimage; via or iter, way or journey; crux, literally cross; negotium, business. This allowed for a flexibility of target and ideology that was matched by a concentration in canon law (the law of the church) on the behaviour of the crusader and the implications of the various privileges associated with the activity rather than any general theoretical formula specifically defining a legal concept of a crusade. Thus at the heart of this form of Christian warfare lay a possibly convenient ambiguity of ideas and action that spawned a wide diversity of responses. The wars of the cross, initiated to regain Jerusalem for Christianity in 1095 and extended over the next few generations to encompass a wide variety of violence against the Catholic Church’s perceived external and internal foes, have been understood by participants, contemporaries, and later observers in a protean variety of ways.

        By turns, crusading has been variously interpreted. It has been presented as warfare to defend a beleaguered Faith or the ultimate expression of secular piety. Alternatively, some have regarded it as a decisive ecclesiastical compromise with base secular habits; a defining commitment of the church to accommodate the spiritual aspirations of the laity. As the admired pinnacle of ambition for a ruling military elite, crusading is portrayed as an agent as well as symbol of religious, cultural, or ethnic identity or even superiority; avehicle for personal or communal aggrandizement, commercial expansion, or political conquest. More narrowly, the Crusades appear as an expression of the authority of the papacy in imposing order and uniformity within Christendom as well as securing its external frontiers. Conflicting assessments of the Crusades have described them as manifestations of religious love, by Christians for fellow believers and by God for His people; an experiment in European colonialism; an example of recrudescent western racism; an excuse and incentive for religious persecution, ethnic cleansing, and acts of barbarism; or a noble cause. Steven Runciman, the best-known and most influential anglophone Crusade historian of the 20th century, imperishably condemned the whole enterprise as ‘one long act of intolerance in the name of God which is the sin against the Holy Ghost’.

        Even shorn of present prejudices and preoccupations, the history of the Crusades throws up concerns central to all societies, from the forging of identities through the communal force of shared faith and the use and abuse of legitimate violence to the nature of political authority and organized religion. Crusading exemplifies the exploitation of the fear of what sociologists call ‘the other’, alien peoples or concepts ranged against which social groups can find or be given cohesion: Communism and Capitalism; Democracy and Fascism; Christians and non-Christians; Whites and Non-Whites; Them and Us. There can be no indifference to such issues. That is why the study of the Crusades possesses an importance beyond the confines of academic scholarship. Equally, there can be no summoning of the past to take sides in the present. Plundering history to deliver modern indictments serves no rational or benign purpose. To observe the past through the lens of the present invites delusion; so too does ignoring the existence of that lens. However, the burden of understanding lies on us to appreciate the world of the past, not on the past to provide ours with facile precedents or good stories, although of the latter the Crusades supply plenty.

        4. ‘At last my dream comes true.’ Punch’s response to the entry of General Allenby into Jerusalem in December 1917. Note the Union Jack flying over the Jaffa Gate to the left of the cartoon. In fact, Allenby carefully avoided any demonstration of overt imperialist or Christian triumph, making his entry on foot.


        • #5
          Chapter 1 Definition
          At a council of the Church held at Clermont in the French Auvergne in November 1095 a decree was issued that marked a new beginning in western Christianity’s use of war to further its religious mission.

          Whoever for devotion alone, not to gain honour or money, goes to Jerusalem to liberate the Church of God can substitute this journey for all penance.

          This decree did not invent Christian violence. Nor did it define precise terms of a revolution in thought or practice, or determine how future generations would employ the precedent. Coming half way through a preaching tour of France conducted by Pope Urban II (1088–95), the Clermont assembly was best remembered not for the legal authority granted by the decree but for the pope’s sermon at the end of the council on 27 November. What the pope said is not known. Witnesses and later commentators subsequently depicted him as delivering a rousing call to arms to the fighting classes of western Europe to recover the Holy City of Jerusalem, insisting that this was no ordinary act of temporal warfare but a task enjoined on the faithful by God Himself, a message echoed back in the cries of ‘Deus lo volt!’ – ‘God wills it!’ – said to have greeted Urban’s words. To provide a focus for commitment and a sign of distinction, Urban instituted the ceremonial granting of crosses to those who had sworn to undertake the Jerusalem journey. Thus they became ‘signed with the cross’, crucesignati.

          5. Urban II (on the left, his hand raised in blessing) consecrates the new church at his alma mater, the Burgundian abbey of Cluny, a month before he proclaimed the First Crusade at Clermont in 1095.

          Over the following century writers in western European vernaculars began to describe these wars in similar terms – crozeia, crozea, or even crozada in early 13th-century southern French (langue d’oc). The appropriation of Christianity’s most numinous symbol, as badge, banner, and talisman, followed naturally from the pope’s conception of the enterprise to liberate ‘the Holy City of Christ, embellished by his passion and resurrection’. Observers and veterans of the enterprise understood the pope to have called for Christ-like sacrifice in obedience to the gospel command: ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me’ (Matthew 16:24). All Hebrew accounts of the 1096 massacres of Rhineland Jews by the passing Christian armies emphasized that the butchers wore the sign of the cross.

          The memory of Urban’s rhetoric at Clermont played a central role in how the events prompted by his speech were later portrayed, providing a convenient start to narratives of the startling consequences of the pope’s preaching. Urban’s decree explicitly proclaimed a holy war in which the effort of the campaign, including the fighting and the inevitable slaughter, could be regarded as equivalent to strenuous performance of penance provided it had been undertaken devoutly. The cause may have been seen as just, but that was not the point. This was an act of total self-abnegating faith demanded by God, hence the language of unrealistic absolutes that failed to match military, social, and psychological reality, an ideal to inspire and against which deeds could be judged. The Clermont decree instituted a holy war, its cause and motive religious, an act of Christian charity for ‘the love of God and their neighbour’ (the eastern Christians). As well as combining violence with a transcendent moral imperative, Urban appealed to a form of ‘primitive religious nostalgia’ embodied in the ambiguously liminal Holy City of Jerusalem, lost to Christendom since its capture by the Muslims in 638 yet central to Christian imagination as the scene of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Here, according to Christian texts familiar through the Mass and liturgy, earth touched heaven. In a short space, the Clermont decree identified reasons for the massive response: the certainties of faith; fear of damnation; temporal self-image; material, social, and supernatural profit; the attraction of warfare for a military aristocracy; an unequivocally good cause; and an iconic objective of loud resonance in the imaginative world of western Christians. It proved to be a formula of sustained power for the rest of the Middle Ages.

          What we today call a crusade could be described as a war answering God’s command, authorized by a legitimate authority, the pope, who, by virtue of the power seen as vested in him as Vicar of Christ, identified the war’s object and offered to those who undertook it full remission of the penalties of confessed sins and a package of related temporal privileges, including church protection of family and property, immunity from law suits and interest repayments on debt. The beneficiary earned these grants by swearing a vow symbolized in a ritual adoption of a cross, blessed by a priest and worn on the recipient’s clothing, the vow often being couched in terms parallel to those for a pilgrimage. The duration of the spiritual and temporal privileges was determined by the fulfilment of the vow, by absolution or by death. Those dying in battle or otherwise in fulfilment of their vow could expect eternal salvation and to be regarded as martyrs. At every stage, analogies with a quasi-monastic commitment were drawn, associating the activity with what remained the ideal conception of the perfect Christian spiritual life. Although details of the operation of the vow and its associated privileges developed over the following century or more to cover a multiplicity of political and ecclesiastical concerns, the first appearance and original justification for such a holy war in 1095 was the recovery of Jerusalem from Muslim rule. Thereafter, the Holy Land retained a primacy in rhetoric, imagination, and, for many centuries, ideology.

          6. A 15th-century drawing by a German pilgrim of the Edicule (small house) built over the Holy Sepulchre within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the physical destination of so many pilgrims and crusaders over the previous four centuries.

          Numbering the crusades

          Historians organize the past to help them make sense of the evidence. In doing so they run the risk of becoming imprisoned by their own artifice. Between 1095 and, say, 1500 there were scores of military operations that attracted the privileges associated with the wars of the cross. Yet only a few later became known by a number, all of them aimed at Muslim targets in and around Syria and Palestine in the eastern Mediterranean. Obviously, the nobles, knights, foot soldiers, unarmed pilgrims, and hangers-on who answered Urban II’s appeal in 1095–6 did not know they were embarking on the first of anything; they were told their efforts were in a unique cause. Subsequent events altered perceptions. The promoters of the next comparable eastern campaign, in 1146–9, invoked the precedent of 1095–6, casting into shadow smaller expeditions that had embarked to aid the Christian cause in the east in the interim. Thus, in the eyes of later scholars, the 1146 crusade became the Second Crusade. Subsequent numbering followed suit, attached only to general, large-scale international assaults intended to reach the Holy Land. Hence the inclusion in the canon of the Fourth Crusade (1202–4) that planned to attack Egypt, although getting no further than Constantinople. Other crusades are defined by objective, location, participants, or motive. Hence the Albigensian Crusades describe the wars against religious heretics in southern France around Albi between 1209 and 1229. The Baltic Crusades were campaigns launched against local pagan tribes of the region for two and a half centuries from the mid-12th century. The Peasants’ (1096), Children’s (1212), and Shepherds’ (1251, 1320) Crusades speak for themselves, socially pigeon-holed by historians’ (and contemporary) snobbery. The wars directed from the 13th century against papal enemies in Europe are called, somewhat judgementally, ‘Political’, as if all crusades, like all wars, were not political. The dozens of lesser crusades to the Holy Land not deemed large or glamorous enough have remained unnumbered. To add to the confusion, even within the canon, historians have disagreed over some numbers attached to Holy Land crusades in the 13th century. Some see Frederick II of Germany’s crusade of 1228–9 that briefly restored Jerusalem as the Sixth Crusade; others as the last campaign of the Fifth Crusade summoned in 1213. Louis IX of France’s Egyptian campaign of 1248–50 (the Sixth or Seventh depending on the view taken of Frederick II) and his campaign to Tunis in 1270 (the Eighth or Ninth) are not now generally described by number. Such games are not new. In the early 18th century some historians stuck to five (1096, 1146, 1190, 1217–29, and 1248) while others counted eight. Most modern historians, content to number crusades until the Fifth (beginning in 1213), thereafter dispense with numbering.

          7. The crusade as a penitential exercise was intimately linked to the practice of pilgrimage. Here, in a wall-painting from St Nicholas Church, Travant, France, a 12th-century pilgrim is shown returning from Jerusalem bearing a palm leaf as evidence of the completion of his journey. Palm leaves could be bought in the Street of Palms in the Holy City.


          • #6
            Chapter 2 Crusades in the eastern Mediterranean

            The First Crusade, 1095–9
            Between 1095 and the end of the Middle Ages, western Europeans fought or planned wars broadly understood as being in defence or promotion of their religion throughout the eastern Mediterranean, in the Iberian peninsula, the Baltic, and within Christendom itself. Yet no campaign rivalled the first in impact or memory. Contemporaries and subsequent generations have been astonished and moved by the exploits of the armies and fleets from western Europe that forced their way into the Near East between 1096 and 1099 to capture Jerusalem in distant Palestine. Excited western intellectuals employed the language of theology: for one, ‘the greatest miracle since the Resurrection’; for another, ‘a new way of salvation’, almost a renewal of God’s covenant with His people.

            The expedition arose out of a specific social, religious, ecclesiastical, and political context. Western Europe was held together by a military aristocracy whose power rested on control of local resources by force and inheritance as much as by civil law. The availability of large numbers of arms bearers, nobles and their retinues, with sufficient funds or patronage to undertake such an expedition, was matched by an awareness of the sinfulness of their customary activities and a desire for penance. For them, holy violence was familiar and Jerusalem possessed overwhelming numinous resonance. The invitation from the eastern Christian emperor of Byzantium (Constantinople), Alexius I Comnenus to Pope Urban suited the new papal policy of asserting supremacy over both Church and State developed over the previous half century. An earlier scheme by Pope Gregory VII (1073–85) to lead an army eastwards to Jerusalem had come to nothing in 1074. This time, Urban II, already a sponsor of war against the Muslims in Spain, seized on the opportunity to promote papal authority in temporal affairs. From its inception, crusading represented a practical expression of papal ideology, leadership, and power.

            A. Medieval Europe and its frontiers

            The opportunity was no accident. Alexius I had been recruiting western knights and mercenaries for years. A usurper, he needed military success to shore up his domestic position. The death in 1092 of Malik Shah, Turkish sultan of Baghdad, was followed by the disintegration of his empire in Syria, Palestine, and Iraq. This offered Alexius a chance to restore Byzantine control over Asia Minor and northern Syria lost to the Turks since their victory over the Byzantines at Manzikert in 1071. For this he needed western troops. For political convenience the pope was an obvious and ready ally to choose. Once he had received the Byzantine ambassadors early in 1095, Urban transformed their request for military aid into a campaign of religious revivalism, its justification couched in cosmological and eschatological terms. The pope himself led the recruitment drive with a preaching tour of his homeland, France, between August 1095 and September 1096 that reached its defining moment at Clermont. With the kings of France and Germany excommunicated, the king of England, William II Rufus, in dispute with the pope, and the Spanish monarchs preoccupied with their own Muslim frontier, the pope concentrated on the higher nobility, the dukes, counts, and lords, while casting his net wide. Recruitment stretched from southern Italy and Sicily to Lombardy, across great swathes of France from Aquitaine and Provence to Normandy, Flanders and into the Low Countries, western Germany, the Rhineland, the North Sea region, and Denmark, although both Latin and Arabic sources dubbed them collectively as ‘Franks’ – Franci, al-ifranji. A recent guess puts the number of fighting men reaching Asia Minor in 1096–7 at between 50,000 and 70,000, excluding the non-combatant pilgrims who used the military exodus as protection for their own journeys.

            The first to set out for the agreed muster point of Constantinople in spring and summer 1096 included forces from Lombardy, northern and eastern France, the Rhineland, and southern Germany. One of their leaders was a charismatic Picard preacher known as Peter the Hermit. Some contemporaries attributed the genesis of the whole enterprise to Peter, who allegedly had been badly treated by the Turkish rulers of Jerusalem when on pilgrimage some years earlier. Although unlikely to have been the expedition’s instigator, Peter certainly played a significant role in recruitment, possibly with papal approval, and was able to muster a substantial army within three and a half months of the council of Clermont. Elements of these Franco-German contingents conducted vicious anti-Jewish pogroms the length of the Rhineland in May and June 1096, before moving east down the Danube. Together, these armies have been dismissed as ‘the Peasants’ Crusade’. This is a misnomer. Although containing fewer nobles and mounted knights than the later armies, these forces were far from the rabbles of legend and contemporary polemic. They possessed cohesion, funds, and leadership, managing to complete the long march to Constantinople largely intact and in good time. One of the commanders, Walter Sans Avoir, was not, as many have assumed, ‘Penniless’ – Sans Avoir is a place (in the Seine valley), not a condition. However, discipline proved hard to maintain. After crossing the Bosporus into Asia in August 1096, these armies were annihilated by the Turks in September and October, only a matter of weeks before the first of the princely-led armies reached Constantinople.

            Behind Peter’s expeditionary forces came six large armies from northern France, Lorraine, Flanders, Normandy, Provence, and southern Italy. Although the Provençal leader, Count Raymond IV of Toulouse, had been consulted by Urban II in 1095–6 and travelled with the pope’s representative, or legate, Adhemar, bishop of Le Puy, there was no single commander. The most effective field general proved to be Bohemund of Taranto, head of the Normans from southern Italy. Arriving at Constantinople between November 1096 and June 1097, each leader was persuaded or forced to offer an oath of fealty to Alexius I, who, in return, provided money, provisions, guides, and a regiment of troops. After the capture of Nicaea, capital of the Turkish sultanate of Rum (Asia Minor) in June 1097, the campaign fell into four distinct phases. An arduous march across Asia Minor to Syria (June to October 1097) that saw a major but close-run victory over the Turks north of Doryleaum (1 July) was followed by the siege and then defence of Antioch in northern Syria (October 1097 to June 1098). One contingent from the main army under Baldwin of Boulogne established control of the Armenian city of Edessa beyond the Euphrates. As their difficulties proliferated, the depleted western army increasingly regarded themselves as under the special care of God, a view reinforced by visions, the apparently miraculous discovery at Antioch of the Holy Lance that was said to have pierced Christ’s side on the Cross, and the victory a few days later (28 June 1098) over a numerically much superior Muslim army from Mosul. From June 1098 until January 1099, the Christian army remained in northern Syria, living off the land and squabbling over the spoils.

            The final march on Jerusalem (January to June 1099) was accompanied by reports of more miracles and visions, increasing the sense of the army being an instrument of Divine Providence. However, the crusaders may have been single-minded, pious, and brutal, but they were neither stupid nor ignorant. Their advance had taken account of local politics at every stage, notably the chronic divisions among their Muslim opponents that prevented united resistance. Amicable negotiations with the Egyptians, who had themselves conquered Jerusalem from the Turks in 1098, lasted for two years before collapsing only a few weeks before the westerners reached the Holy City. The final assault on Jerusalem (June to July 1099) was crowned with success on 15 July; the ensuing massacre shocked Muslim and Jewish opinion. Western observers described it approvingly, in apocalyptic terms. Their triumph secured by defeating an Egyptian relief army at Ascalon (12 August), most of the surviving crusaders returned to the west. By 1100, as few as 300 knights were left in southern Palestine. Of the upwards of 100,000 who had left for Jerusalem in 1096, and of those who had caught up with them during the following three years, perhaps no more than 14,000 reached Jerusalem in June 1099. Urban II had been right: the war of the cross had proved a very severe penance indeed.

            B. Europe and the Mediterranean: Christianity and its non-Christian neighbours

            The 12th century and the Second Crusade, 1145–9
            After the First Crusade’s establishment of bridgeheads at Antioch in Syria and Jerusalem in Palestine, four principalities were carved out on the Levantine mainland: the kingdom of Jerusalem (1099–1291); the principality of Antioch (1098–1268); the county of Edessa (1098–1144); and the county of Tripoli (1102–1289). Collectively these territories were known as Outremer, the land overseas. The eastern crusades were directed at expanding, defending, or restoring these conquests. In the first half of the 12th century, with Jerusalem in Christian hands, the pilgrim trade exploded, while campaigning in the Holy Land became part of chivalric training for some high-born nobles as well as a martial accessory to pilgrimage. A number of modest expeditions helped conquer the ports, plains, and immediate hinterland of the Syrio-Palestinian coast (for example, those of King Sigurd of Norway, 1109–10; Fulk V of Anjou, 1120 and 1128; and the doge of Venice, 1123–4). Increasingly, the model of penitential war was used on other Christian frontiers, such as Spain, and against papal enemies within Christendom.

            However, the Holy Land retained its primacy as a goal of holy war. The precedent of the First Crusade ensured that a new general summons to arms received an enthusiastic response. In December 1144, the Turkish warlord Zengi, ruler of Mosul and Aleppo (1128–46), captured Edessa, massacring the Frankish inhabitants. In response, Pope Eugenius III (1145–53) launched a fresh crusade with a bull (that is, a circular letter, so called after its seal, or bulla) that recited the heroics of 1096–9 as well as explaining the detailed privileges available to those who took the cross. In contrast with Urban II, Eugenius eagerly enrolled monarchs – Louis VII of France (1137–80) and Conrad III of Germany (1138–52). Recruiting lay chiefly in the hands of Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153), the dominant ecclesiastic and spiritual publicist of his generation who conducted a highly effective preaching tour of France, Flanders, and the Rhineland in 1146–7. Bernard’s message of intolerance to Christ’s enemies spilled over into more anti-Jewish violence in the Rhineland, although this was rather disingenuously blamed on a maverick monk called Rudolph. While the pope authorized separate crusading wars in Spain, Bernard allowed a group of disgruntled Saxon nobles to commute their Holy Land vows to fighting on the Baltic German/Slav frontier, which they did without conspicuous success or adherence to holy war in the summer of 1147. One substantial body of recruits from Frisia (a northeastern province of Germany, bordering the North Sea), the Rhineland, Flanders, northern France, and England, travelling east by sea, helped King Alfonso Henriques of Portugal (1139–85) capture Lisbon from the Moors (24 October 1147) after a brutal four-month siege. Some remained to settle, but most embarked for the Mediterranean the following spring, some finding service in the Spanish siege of Tortosa but the bulk reaching the Holy Land.

            C. The Near East in the 12th century

            D. The crusader states of Outremer

            There they found the remnants of the great German and French land armies. Arriving close together at Constantinople in September and October 1147 after following the land route through central Europe, each was defeated by Turkish forces in Asia Minor. The large German force was destroyed near Dorylaeum in October, King Conrad narrowly escaping but wounded. The French, having earlier rejected an offer of sea transport by King Roger II of Sicily, although badly mauled in western Asia Minor in the winter of 1147–8, managed to reach the port of Adalia, only for Louis VII to abandon his infantry and sail directly to Syria with an army of officers but few men. The subsequent Holy Land campaign failed utterly. Conrad III managed to reconstruct some sort of army from the crusaders who had sailed from Lisbon. With Louis VII and the king of Jerusalem, Baldwin III (1143–63), he led an attack on Damascus (23–28 July 1148) that ended in a hasty enforced withdrawal as the Christians lacked the resources for a prolonged siege or to protect themselves from Muslim relief armies. The disaster led to bitter recriminations and accusations of treachery that scandalized the west, casting the whole idea of such expeditions in doubt.


            • #7
              The Third Crusade, 1188–92
              The four decades after the failed attack on Damascus in 1148 witnessed a gradual erosion of the strategic position of Outremer. The unification of Syria under Zengi’s son, Nur al-Din of Aleppo (1146–74), the conquest of Egypt by his Kurdish mercenary commander Shirkuh (1168–9), and the creation of an Egypto-Syrian empire by Shirkuh’s nephew, Saladin (1169–93), meant that by 1186 Outremer was surrounded. The rhetoric of this new, cohesive Muslim power placed great emphasis on jihad – war against infidels. This coincided with Outremer’s financial weakness, lack of western aid and a descent, in the kingdom of Jerusalem, into debilitation and political instability. The royal succession passed in turn to a possible bigamist (Amalric 1163–74), a leper (Baldwin IV 1174–85), a child (Baldwin V 1185–6), and a woman (Sybil 1186–90) and her unpopular arriviste husband (Guy 1186–92). On 4 July 1187 Saladin annihilated the army of Jerusalem at the battle of Hattin in Galilee. Within a year almost all the Frankish ports and castles had surrendered or been captured; Jerusalem fell on 2 October 1187. Resistance was reduced largely to Tyre, Tripoli, and Antioch.

              The response in the west was massive. By March 1188, the kings of Germany, France, and England had taken the cross with many of their leading nobles. King William II of Sicily had sent a fleet east. Preaching and recruitment had begun and campaign strategies carefully developed. A profits tax, known as the Saladin Tithe, had been instituted in France and the British Isles. In 1189, King Guy of Jerusalem, recently released from Saladin’s captivity, began to besiege the vital port of Acre. For the next two years, this became the focal point of Christian military effort. In the same year fleets from northern Europe began to arrive. In May 1189, Frederick Barbarossa, king of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor, set out at the head of an army allegedly 100,000 strong. After successfully forcing a passage through the unhelpful Byzantine Empire and the hostile Turkish Anatolia, Frederick’s crusade ended in tragic bathos when he drowned trying to cross the River Saleph in Cilicia on 10 June 1190. Demoralized, his huge army disintegrated, only a small rump reaching Acre.

              8. The battle of Hattin, 4 July 1187. This fictional scene, drawn by the English monk Matthew Paris of St Alban’s (d.1259), shows the moment when the relic of the True Cross the Franks bore into battle was seized by Saladin (crowned on the left) from the Christians led by King Guy (crowned in the centre, trying to cling onto the relic). This personalized depiction testifies to the impact of the event in memory as at the time.

              Although English and French contingents began sailing eastwards in 1189, the kings did not embark until 1190, delayed by political feuding over the succession to Henry II of England (d. July 1189). Given the delicate relationship caused by the English king holding extensive lands as a vassal of the French crown, King Philip II of France (1180–1223) and the new king of England, Richard I (1189–99), decided to travel together. Richard’s skills as a general and administrator of men, ships, and materials and his vast reserves of cash soon elevated him to the central role in the crusade. Deflected not at all by anti-Jewish riots and massacres in English towns, notably York, in 1189–90, the kings departed in July 1190, making their rendezvous in September at Messina in Sicily, where they wintered. While Philip sailed for Acre in March 1191, arriving on 20 April, Richard’s larger forces were blown off course to Cyprus. With elements in his army being mistreated by its independent Greek ruler, Richard took the opportunity to conquer the island in a lightning campaign in May. Cyprus remained in Christian hands until 1571. Richard finally arrived at Acre on 6 June 1191. After a further six weeks’ hard pounding, the city surrendered on 12 July. On 31 July, Philip II abandoned the crusade, pleading illness and pressing business at home but clearly discomforted by Richard’s dominance. Most of his followers showed what they thought of his action by staying. After executing hundreds of Muslim prisoners in his impatience at Saladin’s prevarication over implementing the Acre surrender agreement, Richard began his march south towards Jerusalem on 22 August.

              9. A portrait of Frederick I of Germany dressed as a crusader c.1188. The inscription urges him to fight the ‘Saracens’. On the right the provost of Schäftlarn is presenting him with a copy of a popular history of the First Crusade by Robert of Rheims, a sign of how stories of past crusades influenced crusade mentalities and expectations.

              The Palestine war of 1191–2 revolved around security. Since overwhelming victory eluded both sides, the only resolution lay in a sustainable political agreement. Richard I used force to try to frighten Saladin into restoring the pre-1187 kingdom of Jerusalem. If diplomacy succeeded, battles and sieges became unnecessary. The conflict was prolonged because neither side achieved sufficient military advantage to persuade the other to make acceptable concessions. On 7 September 1191, Richard repulsed Saladin’s attempt to drive the crusaders into the sea at Arsuf, the major engagement of the campaign. Twice Richard marched his troops to within twelve miles of Jerusalem (January and June/July 1192) only to withdraw each time, arguing he had insufficient men to take or keep the city. These were prudent decisions but jarred with the reason why he was in southern Palestine in the first place. With Saladin failing to take the important port of Jaffa in late July 1192 and Richard unable to develop a scheme to attack Saladin’s power base in Egypt, military stalemate dictated a diplomatic conclusion. Negotiations proved tortuous. Saladin refused to contemplate suggestions of any formal Christian authority within Jerusalem, but was otherwise prepared to accept a measure of Palestinian partition. The Treaty of Jaffa (2 September 1192) left the Franks in control of the coast from Acre to Jaffa and allowed access to Jerusalem for pilgrims and freedom of movement between Muslim and Christian territories. Ill and eager to return home, Richard sailed from Acre on 9 October. Ironically, Saladin died less than six months later (4 March 1193).

              While failing to recapture Jerusalem, the Third Crusade determined the pattern for later eastern crusades. Thereafter, support for the reconstituted kingdom of Jerusalem, which lasted until 1291, came exclusively by sea. Cyprus provided a new and valuable partner for the Frankish settlements of the mainland. Diplomacy and truces between Muslims and Christians became standard practice. The subjugation of Egypt adopted centre stage in western strategic planning. Preaching and recruitment for crusading became increasingly professional, with finance being arranged by governments or the church through taxation. A more precise theology of violence refined the privileges and obligations of the crusaders themselves. After the failures of 1191–2, even the focus on Jerusalem shifted, the iter Jerosolymitana (Jerusalem journey) became subsumed into the negotium terrae sanctae (the business of the Holy Land), or simply the sanctum negotium (the holy business).

              10. A 12th-century impressionistic ground plan of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, with the shrine at the centre of the rotunda at the bottom. Such images penetrated widely in Christendom, inspiring journeys to Jerusalem and architectural imitations of the rotunda itself, a circular design seen in churches such as that of the Temple in London.

              The Fourth Crusade, 1198–1204
              The thin strip of Palestinian coast restored to Christian rule by the Third Crusade proved a commercially viable base for a restored, if reduced, kingdom of Jerusalem over the following century, although the Holy City itself only returned to Christian rule between 1229 and 1244. After recovering much of the coast during the 1190s, the Franks found protection in a sequence of truces with Saladin’s heirs in Egypt and Syria. Until the mid-13th century, western aid came largely on its own terms rather than in response to a specific crisis. The inception of the Fourth Crusade rested with Pope Innocent III (1198–1216), who envisaged all Christians as to some degree obliged to pursue the Lord’s War. This Innocent promoted as part of the general devotional life of the west through preaching and the liturgy. An enthusiast for wars of the cross against a wide range of perceived threats to the church, Innocent regarded the recovery of the Holy Land as a central and urgent objective. One of the first things he did was to proclaim a new eastern expedition in August 1198.

              By 1201, Innocent’s call had been answered by a group of powerful northern French barons, including Count Baldwin of Flanders, who chose as their leader the well-connected northern Italian marquess Boniface of Montferrat, whose family had a long history of close involvement in the eastern Mediterranean. Egypt was chosen as the target of the expedition. The absence of kings denied the crusaders access to national taxes or fleets, forcing them to seek transport from Venice. Unfortunately, the agreement with Venice stipulated an optimistically large number of crusaders and a commensurately inflated price to be paid. It became apparent in the summer of 1202 that the crusaders, by now gathered at Venice, could not raise the agreed sum. As well as supplying 50 warships of their own, the Venetians had committed much of their shipping and hence annual income to carry the crusade. Realistically, they could neither abandon the enterprise nor cancel the debt. As a solution, the doge, Enrico Dandolo (d.1205), offered a moratorium on the debt in return for the crusaders’ help in capturing the port of Zara in Dalmatia, even though this was a Christian city belonging to a fellow crusader, King Emeric of Hungary. Despite evident qualms and papal disapproval, the crusaders had little option if they wished to pursue their ultimate objective. Zara fell to the Veneto-crusader force on 24 November 1202.

              By then, elements in the crusade and Venetian leadership were considering a further diversion to Constantinople in support of Alexius Angelus, son of the deposed Byzantine emperor Isaac II (1185–95). Young Alexius promised to subsidize the crusaders’ attack on Egypt if they helped him take the Byzantine throne from his usurping uncle Alexius III (1195–1203). Many crusaders were disgusted by the plan and withdrew, but the leadership and the bulk of the army sailed with young Alexius and the Venetians to Constantinople, arriving in June 1203. A month later an amphibious assault on the city persuaded Alexius III to flee, allowing for the restoration of Isaac II with his son, now Alexius IV, as co-emperor. Their dependence on loutish westerners alienated Greek opinion, while their inability to honour Alexius’ promise of subsidy and assistance undermined support from the crusaders. In January 1204 they were deposed, murdered, and replaced by Alexius V Ducas Murzuphlus, who began hostile manoeuvres against the crusaders. Faced with a crisis of survival, the western leaders decided to impose their will on the Greeks, in March 1204 agreeing to conquer and partition the Byzantine Empire. On 12–13 April, the crusaders breached the walls of the city. Alexius V fled and the victorious westerners were allowed three days of pillaging.

              Although probably exaggerated, this atrocity has rung down the centuries in infamy. Within weeks a Latin emperor, Baldwin of Flanders, had been appointed and the territorial annexation of the Greek Empire begun. A year later, hopes of continuing the crusade to Egypt were abandoned. The Latin empire of Constantinople lasted until 1261; western occupation of parts of Greece for centuries. The precarious state of parts of the Frankish conquests in Greece prompted crusades to be proclaimed against the Greeks from 1231 until well into the 14th century.

              The capture of Constantinople was not an accident; it had been considered by every major expedition since 1147. Successive popes had voiced disappointment at Greek failure to contribute to the recovery of the Holy Land. In the circumstances of 1202–3, conquest appeared viable; in the spring of 1204 necessary. However, it was never the ultimate object of the crusade, and for Venice marked a new departure into territorial instead of simply commercial imperialism. The diversion was a result of policy not conspiracy, its motives a mixture of pragmatism, idealism, and opportunism that characterized all other wars of the cross.


              • #8
                The Fifth Crusade, 1213–29
                More than its predecessors, the Fifth Crusade reflected the institutionalization of crusading in Christian society as envisaged by Innocent III. In the context of a wider process of semi-permanent evangelization, crusading acted as one manifestation of Christian revivalism. The papal bull Quia Maior (1213) launching the new eastern enterprise extended access to the crusade remission of sins, the indulgence, to those who sent a proxy or provided a proportionate sum of money in redemption of their vow. In 1215 the Fourth Lateran Council of the western Church authorized universal clerical taxation to support the cause. A massive and carefully orchestrated campaign of recruitment, propaganda, and finance produced a series of expeditions to the east between 1217 and 1229. The bulk of recruits came from Germany, central Europe, Italy, and the British Isles instead of France, the traditional heartland of crusade enlistment. After early contingents landed at Acre in 1217–18, including one led by King Andrew of Hungary (1205–35), the focus of military operations turned to Egypt when, in 1218, the crusaders attacked Damietta, a port in the eastern Nile Delta. The city fell only after a difficult and costly siege in November 1219. Egyptian proposals to exchange Damietta for Jerusalem were rejected as improper and unworkable by a group led by the Cardinal Legate, Pelagius, whose control of the purse strings gave him considerable authority within the crusade army. Lack of leadership proved more damaging. The westerners refused to accept orders from the king of Jerusalem, John of Brienne (1210–25). However, the commander chosen by the pope, Frederick II of Germany (1211–50), remained in Europe. In the summer of 1221, to prevent the crusade disintegrating through inactivity, the Christian army moved south towards Cairo, only to be cut off by floods, harried by the Egyptians, and forced to surrender on 30 August. Damietta was evacuated on 8 September 1221.

                Recruiting continued almost unabated despite the setback in Egypt. In 1227, Frederick II finally embarked for the east, only to turn back immediately because of sudden and serious illness. Although Pope Gregory IX (1227–41), a veteran crusade recruiting agent, lost patience and excommunicated him, Frederick, undaunted, sailed to the Holy Land in 1228. Exploiting the rivalries between the rulers of Egypt and Syria, in February 1229 Frederick agreed a treaty with the sultan of Egypt that restored Jerusalem to the Franks. The city was to be open to all and the Haram al-Sharif, the Temple Mount, to remain under the Islamic religious authorities (not dissimilar to the arrangements in Jerusalem after 1967). However, unpopular for his high-handedness, when Frederick embarked for the west from Acre on 1 May 1229 he was pelted with offal. With a brief interruption in 1240, Jerusalem remained in Christian hands until captured by Khwarazmian raiders, Turkish freebooters in the pay of the sultan of Egypt, in 1244. The city remained under Muslim control until 1917.

                The 13th century
                After 1229, eastern crusades progressed from the pragmatic to the optimistic to the desperate. Truces with feuding Muslim neighbours continued to sustain Frankish Outremer until the accession to power in Egypt of the militant Mamluk sultans, members of a professional caste of Turkish slave warriors, who replaced the heirs of Saladin in the 1250s. The Franks’ alliance with the Mongols who invaded Syria in the late 1250s, followed by the Mongols’ defeat by the Mamluks and withdrawal from the region in 1260, left them vulnerable to the new Egyptian sultan, Baibars (1260–77), who was committed to eradicating the Christian settlements. Successive western expeditions under a series of great nobles (the Count of Champagne in 1239; the Earl of Cornwall in 1240; the Lord Edward, later Edward I of England, in 1271) achieved little other than temporary advantage or respite. Rulers, such as the kings of France and Aragon, despatched occasional relief flotillas or stationed modest garrisons in Acre. Despite the continued popularity of crusading as an ideal and activity, between 1229 and the final loss of the last Christian outposts in Syria and Palestine in 1291, only one international campaign of substance reached the eastern Mediterranean, the crusade of Louis IX of France, 1248–54.

                Louis IX’s crusade proved the best prepared, most lavishly funded, and meticulously planned of all. It was also one of the most disastrous, its failure matching its ambition. Louis intended to conquer Egypt and change the balance of power in the Near East. Taking the cross in December 1244, over the next three years he assembled an army of about 15,000, a treasury of over 1 million livres, and a stockpile of food and equipment stored in Cyprus, where Louis arrived in the late summer of 1248. The following spring, supported by the Outremer Franks, Louis invaded Egypt, capturing Damietta the day he landed (5 June 1249). The assault on the interior began on 20 November, only to get bogged down in the Nile Delta for more than two months. After a hard-fought but indecisive engagement outside Mansourah on 7 February 1250, Louis’s army could make no further progress and became cut off from its base at Damietta. Withdrawal in early April turned into a rout as the Christian army disintegrated through disease, fatigue, and a superior enemy. Louis himself, suffering badly from dysentery, was among those captured, being released in return for Damietta and a massive ransom. Stunned by what he saw as God’s chastisement, Louis remained in the Holy Land until 1254 bolstering defences (those at Caesarea can still be seen) and shoring up Outremer’s diplomatic relations with its neighbours. Yet while securing his reputation for piety, Louis’s stay did nothing to reverse the verdict of 1250. The best-laid crusade plan had failed dismally.

                Following the defeat of the Mongols in 1260, Baibars of Egypt and his successors Qalawun (1279–90) and al-Ashraf Khalil (1290–3) systematically dismembered the remaining Frankish holdings in Syria and Palestine. Antioch fell in 1268; Tripoli in 1289; and, finally, after an heroic but futile defence, Acre in 1291, after which the remaining Christian outposts were evacuated without further resistance. To ensure the Franks would not again return, the sultans levelled the ports they captured. The west watched this collapse with alarm, concern, and impotence. Political rivalries, competing domestic demands, and a more realistic assessment of the required scale of operation conspired in the failure to organize adequate military response. Louis IX’s new projected eastern expedition of 1270 reached no further than Tunis on its way to Egypt. There Louis died on 25 August 1270 and most of his followers went home. Yet after the final loss of Acre in 1291, plans continued to be hatched and raids conducted in the Levant throughout the 14th century until the new threat of the Ottoman Turks in the Balkans and the Aegean supervened from the 1350s and again in the mid-15th century, redirecting the focus of holy war.


                • #9
                  Chapter 3 Crusades in the west

                  Popular uprisings
                  The ideology and rhetoric of the Holy Land wars were applied easily to internal religious and political conflicts within Christendom and to frontier wars with non-Christians. Socially, its grip was exposed in the popular outbreaks of revivalist enthusiasm for the recovery of the Holy Land witnessed by the so-called Children’s Crusade and the Shepherds’ Crusades. The Children’s Crusade in the summer of 1212 comprised two distinct outbursts of popular religious enthusiasm prompted by an atmosphere of crisis provoked by the preaching of the threats to Christendom simultaneously posed by the Muslims in the Holy Land, the Moors in Spain, and heretics in southern France. A series of penitential and revivalist processions in northern France, led by Stephen of Cloyes from the Vermandois, marched to St Denis near Paris voicing vague appeals for moral reform. There is no clear evidence these marchers intended to liberate Jerusalem. Further east, at much the same time, large groups of young men and adolescents (called in the sourcespueri, meaning children but also anyone under full maturity) as well as priests and adults, apparently led by a boy called Nicholas of Cologne, marched through the Rhineland proclaiming their desire to free the Holy Sepulchre. It seems some of these marchers reached northern Italy seeking transport east but probably getting no further. Their holy war was of the spirit. Taking the church’s teaching literally, they apparently believed their poverty, purity, and innocence would prevail where knights could not. Experience soon taught them otherwise.

                  The marches of 1212 found parallels in the Shepherds’ Crusade of 1251, a populist rising in France that blamed Louis IX’s Egyptian debacle on a corrupt nobility. Once its leaders were exposed not as holy men but disorderly rabble-rousers, the movement was violently suppressed. However, there were similar expressions of social and political anxieties through support for the transcendent cause of the Holy Land in Italy in 1309 and France in 1320. All were closely linked to news or rumours of external threats to Christendom, the dissemination of a clearly defined redemptive theology incorporating the crusade as a collective penitential act, and the perceived failure of the leaders of society to live up to their obligations on either count.

                  Crusades against heretics and Christians
                  Official Church teaching increasingly encouraged the wide application of wars of the cross, even if Innocent III, in his bull Quia Maior (1213), was at pains to stress the priority of the Holy Land. From the 1130s Jerusalem indulgences on the model of 1096 were being offered to those fighting political enemies of the pope such as Roger II of Sicily (1101–54) or Markward of Anweiler in Sicily in 1199, assorted heretics, their protectors and mercenary bands. These indulgences were seemingly granted without the attendant vows, preaching, or cross-taking. The first time the full apparatus of the wars of the cross was directed against Christians came with the war declared by Innocent III in 1208 against the Cathar heretics of Languedoc, known later as the Albigensians, and their Christian protectors. One of the most notorious of all medieval wars, the Albigensian Crusades (1209–29) degenerated from a genuine attempt to cauterize widespread heresy, which many saw as a dangerously infectious wound bleeding all Christendom, into a brutal land seizure. The puritanical dualist Cathar heresy had grown in strength in parts of Languedoc controlled by the count of Toulouse. The assassination of the Papal Legate for the region in 1208 led Innocent III to offer Holy Land indulgences and the cross to northern French barons. Under a militant monkish zealot, Arnald-Amaury, abbot of Cîteaux, and an ambitious adventurer, Simon de Montfort, the crusaders began to annex the county of Toulouse and its surrounding provinces, often with great savagery meted out indiscriminately to local Christians as well as heretics. The sack of Béziers in 1209 was remembered as especially brutal. In 1213, Simon defeated and killed the count of Toulouse’s ally King Peter of Aragon at the battle of Muret. After Simon’s death in 1218, the impetus of the crusade faltered until revived by King Louis VIII of France (1223–6) in 1226. By the end of the year Languedoc had effectively been conquered, its subjugation confirmed in the Treaty of Paris (1229).

                  Ironically, for all its ultimate political success, the Albigensian Crusade failed to eradicate the Cathars, a task effected by the more pacific and reasoned methods of the Inquisition. However, crusades against heretics remained in the Church’s arsenal for the rest of the Middle Ages and beyond. Six crusades were launched or planned against the Czech Hussite evangelicals of Bohemia between 1420 and 1471. Protestant Reformations in the 16th century stimulated a revival of crusade schemes against enemies of the Catholic Church, such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I of England, and remained a traditional resort for devout and threatened Catholics in the new Wars of Religion, for example against the Huguenots in France in the 1560s.

                  To assert and sustain the 13th-century papacy’s plenitude of power, drive for doctrinal and liturgical uniformity, and acquisition of a temporal state in Italy, popes found the crusade a malleable instrument. Those attacked by crucesignati as ‘schismatics’ included peasants in the Netherlands and the Lower Weser (1228–34); Bosnians opposed to Hungarian rule (from 1227); and rebels against the pope’s vassal Henry III of England (1216–17 and 1265). The main crusades against Christians were fought over papal security in its lands in Italy. From the 1190s, popes were fearful of being surrounded by the Hohenstaufen dynasty, kings of Germany who were also rulers of southern Italy and Sicily. This caused the Thirty Years’ War with the Hohenstaufen Frederick II and his heirs (1239–68) that ended with a papal nominee, Charles of Anjou, as ruler of Sicily and Naples. Following a Sicilian rebellion against Charles in 1282, much of the fighting during the Wars of the Sicilian Vespers (1282–1302) also attracted the apparatus of crusading: cross, preaching, indulgences, church taxation, and so on. This habit continued for the regular local or regional campaigns in pursuit of papal interests in central and northern Italy during the popes’ residence at Avignon (1309–77). These Italian crusades scarcely pretended to conceal papal corporate or personal interest, to the disgust of critics such as Dante. The failure of crusades launched by both contending parties to end the Great Papal Schism (1378–1417) led to the abandonment of this form of holy war, only occasionally to be revived by bellicose popes such as Julius II (1503–13).

                  The ceremonies and privileges associated with expeditions to Jerusalem had been extended to cover those fighting the Muslims in Spain since the 1090s, a process regularized by the First Lateran Council in 1123. Further authorization for crusades against the Moors came in 1147–8, during the Second Crusade, and at intervals thereafter. A church council in Segovia in 1166 even offered Jerusalem indulgences to those who defended Castile from Christian attack. The later 12th-century invasions of Iberia by the Muslim fundamentalist Almohads from North Africa threatened Christian conquests and provoked a greater frequency in crusading appeals, culminating in the crusade of 1212 against them. This led to the great Christian victory of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212) over the Almohads. Thereafter the campaigns of the Spanish Reconquista became more obviously national concerns, although still liable to elicit crusade status, as with the conquests of the Balearic Islands (1229–31) and Valencia (1232–5) by James I of Aragon (1213–76).

                  E. The Spanish Reconquista

                  With the fall of Cordova (1236) and Seville (1248) to Ferdinand III of Castile (1217–52), formal or active crusading against the Moors, now penned in the emirate of Granada (until 1492), became effectively redundant. Ironically, the peninsula’s most intimate subsequent experience of crusading was as victim when the French invaded Aragon in 1285 as part of the crusade called at the start of the War of Sicilian Vespers (1282–1302).

                  The Baltic
                  The Baltic crusades acted as one element in a cruel process of Christianization and Germanization, providing a religious gloss to ethnic cleansing and territorial aggrandizement more blatant and, in places, more successful than anywhere else. Crusading in the Baltic, first applied to Danish and German anti-Slav aggression between the Elbe and Oder in 1147 during the Second Crusade, cloaked a missionary war which, given the Christian prohibition on forced conversion, represented a contradiction in canon law. These wars directly served local political and ecclesiastical ambitions. The main areas of conquest after 1200 included Prussia, Livonia, Estonia, and Finland. In Prussia, the expansion of land-grabbing German princes in Pomerania gave way to the competing interests of Denmark and the Military Order of Teutonic Knights. This order had originally been founded by Germans in Acre in the wake of the Third Crusade in the 1190s, but because of its regional associations soon became heavily, and ultimately almost exclusively, involved in fighting for the cross in the north. The fighting in Livonia devolved onto the church under the archbishop of Riga and the Military Order of Sword Brothers (founded in 1202). In Estonia the Danes again clashed with the Military Orders, as well as with Swedes and Russians from Novgorod. Finland became the target of Swedish expansion. By the 1230s, control of war and settlement in Prussia, Livonia, and southern Estonia had been taken up by the Teutonic Knights, with whom the Sword Brothers were amalgamated in 1237. In 1226 their Master, Hermann von Salza, was created imperial prince of Prussia, which was declared a papal fief held by the Teutonic Knights in 1234. Although some specific grants for crusades in the Baltic continued, most of these northern wars adopted the character of ‘eternal crusades’ once Innocent IV in 1245 confirmed the right of the Teutonic Knights to grant crusade indulgences without special papal authorization. This gave the Teutonic Knights a unique status, not held even by the rulers of the kingdom of Jerusalem, of a sovereign government possessed of the automatic right of equating its foreign policy with the crusade. Cashing in on this in the 14th century, the Knights developed a sort of chivalric package tour for western nobles eager to see some fighting, enjoy lavish feasting, earn indulgences, and gild their reputations. The Knights’ appeal slackened with their failure to overcome Lithuania-Poland and the conversion of pagan Lithuania in 1386. Their transformation into a secular German principality was completed in 1525 when the Master of the Teutonic Knights in Prussia embraced Lutheranism and secularization. The Livonian branch followed suit in 1562.

                  11. Moors fighting Christians in 13th-century Spain. The artist is at pains to show a (probably exaggerated) contrast in weapons, shields, and armour between the two sides.

                  F. The Baltic


                  • #10
                    Frontiers, medieval or modern, can be religious, ethnic, cultural, and social as well as geographic. In such cases, wars of the cross added a particular edge of hostility or intensity. While no crusades were specifically directed against the Jewish communities anywhere in Europe or Asia, the ideology of crusading encouraged violence against them, despite official secular and ecclesiastical disapproval. The ringing condemnation of enemies of the cross and the concentration on the Crucifixion story in the preaching of Urban II in 1095–6, or Bernard of Clairvaux’s in 1146–7, needed little misunderstanding to be applied to the Jews. The pogroms in the Rhineland in 1096 and 1146–7 and in England in 1190 were not the sum of anti-Jewish violence, which spread widely in northern Europe. But the Jews were only ever collateral targets of crusading. Local rulers reserved exploitation and expropriation to themselves; Richard I condemned the attacks on Jews in London in 1189 because he regarded their property as his. A cultural myopia on the part of Christians refused to see Jews as fully human, a dismissive attitude prominently displayed by the great crusader Louis IX of France. Such discrimination could translate into persecution, although increasingly it led to expulsion from regions of the British Isles and France in the later 13th and 14th centuries. Lacking civil rights or in most cases effective systems of autonomous rule or defence, Jews in medieval Europe suffered through Christian schizophrenia. Protected by Christian Biblical prescript, Jews were politically not sufficiently visible to constitute the sort of material threat that would elicit a crusade against them. Yet at the same time Christian teaching also saw them as malign and therefore a religious challenge to Christianity. Increasingly, blood libels, accusations of Jews murdering Christians, rather than crusades, provoked massacres. Where daily experience and long tradition denied both Jewish malignity and cultural invisibility, as, ironically, in two regions most infected by active crusading, Spain and Outremer, Jews were less molested, even tolerated. Crusading played a part, at times a gory one, in constructing a closed, intolerant society. However, to blame the excesses of anti-Semitism, medieval or modern, on the wars of the cross is facile and unconvincing. That well of hatred fed from many streams.

                    The end of crusading
                    The traditional terminal date for the Crusades, the loss of Acre in 1291, makes no sense. People continued to take the cross, if in diminishing numbers. The attendant institutions of indulgences, legal obligations, and taxation persisted in use by rulers and popes for centuries. At least until the outbreak of the Hundred Years’ War in the 1330s, the recovery of the Holy Land seemed viable, if difficult and expensive. In the Mediterranean, attacks on piratical Turkish emirs and the Mamluks continued sporadically, such as the sack of Alexandria in 1365 by Peter I of Cyprus. The growing power of the Ottoman Turks from the mid-14th century redefined the objective of crusading, throwing Christendom once more on the defensive. At Nicopolis on the Danube (1396) and Varna on the Black Sea (1444) western crusade armies sent to combat the Ottomans in the Balkans were crushed, on both occasions with the Turks receiving aid from Christian allies, respectively Serbs and Genoese. Rhodes, occupied by the Military Order of St John, the Hospitallers, since 1309, held out until 1522 before relocating to Malta, from where they were evicted by Napoleon in 1798. Cyprus remained in Christian hands until 1571, Crete until 1669; both fruits of earlier crusades. Crusading mentalities were re-forged in the Adriatic and central Europe in the face of the Ottoman advance in the 15th century. After the Turkish capture of Constantinople in 1453, crusading again seemed a vital necessity to the Renaissance papacy. In response to the fall of the Greek imperial capital a new crusade was proclaimed. Belgrade was saved in 1456 by an unlikely crusading force gathered by John of Capistrano. As long as the Ottomans presented a danger, crusading ideas retained relevance and interest, even into the 17th century, when Francis Bacon dismissed them as ‘the rendezvous of cracked brains that wore their feather in their head instead of their hat’. Yet the appeal lingered. Men may have taken the cross and expected indulgences in the anti-Turkish Holy League (1684–97). The end of crusading came not in the drama of a failed campaign or a siege lost, but as a long, dying fall, finally obliterated as kingdoms and secular powers, not churches or religion, claimed the morality as well as control of warfare.


                    • #11
                      Chapter 4 The impact of the Crusades
                      Traditionally, the crusades outside Christendom have been credited with profound influence over the distribution of political and religious power in the regions they affected. Yet their impact as well as success was determined by forces usually beyond the crusaders’ control. Without the disintegration of the unity of the Muslim Near East in the late 11th century and of Muslim Spain two generations earlier, wars of the cross against Islam would probably not have begun or would have rapidly stalled. Conversely, without the westerners’ political and economic capacity to sustain conquest and colonization, in the Mediterranean and the Baltic, these wars would have proved evanescent. The 13th-century failure of the Muslim powers of North Africa and southern Iberia and of the disparate tribes of the southern and eastern Baltic to maintain any concerted resistance to Christian expansion allowed crusades to prevail. In marked contrast stood the rise of Lithuania in the 14th century that successfully resisted further crusading advances in the Baltic, a unification comparable strategically to that of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt under the Ayyubids (c.1174–1250) and the Mamluks (1250–1517) which sealed the fate of Outremer.

                      The consequences of crusading activity varied hugely. In Spain, the Christian reconquest decisively reoriented the political and cultural direction of the region. In the Baltic, the conquest and Christianization of Prussia, Livonia, and Finland redefined the area and its peoples within Latin Christendom. In Greece and its islands, large areas of which were occupied by western nobles and Venetians after the Fourth Crusade, in some cases for centuries, the effect of western conquest tended to be superficial, but while it lasted, as in the case of Venetian Crete (held until 1669), often unpleasant or downright brutal for the indigenous population. By contrast, in the Near East, with the exception of Cyprus which fell to Richard I of England in 1191 and remained in the hands of Latin Christians until 1571, the western presence that had begun when the first crusaders burst into Anatolia and northern Syria in the summer and autumn of 1097 left few traces except physical and, possibly, cultural scars. Although western-sponsored coastal raids continued into the 15th century, after the expulsion of the last Latin Christian outposts on the Levantine shore in 1291, the systematic destruction of the ports by the sultans of Egypt prevented any prospect of return, apart from a trickle of determined, well-heeled pilgrims and a few friars as resident tourist guides. Nothing remains of the Latin presence in Syria and Palestine except stones, some still standing as built but mostly ruins, and a revived memory of bitterness.

                      12. A medieval world map, from a 14th-century copy of the Englishman Ranulph Higden’s encyclopaedic Polychronicon. Typically, Jerusalem is shown at the centre, the navel of the world. (East is at the bottom.)

                      G. The Aegean in the 13th and 14th centuries

                      It is possible to argue that suppression of heresy within Christendom in the 13th century and papal campaigns against their political opponents from the 13th to the 15th centuries did not require a special ideology of holy war. Similarly, the frontier expansion in the Baltic and the integration into the polity of western Europe of powers such as Denmark and Sweden preceded their association with crusading ideology and practices. In Spain, the Christian reconquest, or Reconquista, predated its reinvention as a holy war. The wars would have occurred in any case. By contrast, the wars in the eastern Mediterranean can be seen only as the consequence of this new form of holy war. Geographically, Syria and Palestine did not lie on western Christendom’s frontiers. Only through imaginative empathy did the politics of the Near East directly impinge on Latin Christendom, a consequence of the ubiquity in the west’s religious culture of endless repetition of the Bible stories, in preaching, liturgy, and the plastic arts. Perhaps the strangest aspect of crusading to the Holy Land lay precisely in its lack of connection with the domestic circumstances of the territories whither the armies were directed. While the First Crusade answered the interests of the eastern Greek Christian empire of Byzantium, it was hardly portrayed as such and developed a momentum quite removed from Greek frontier policy. There existed no strategic or material interest for the knights of the west to campaign in Judaea. This is where comparisons with modern imperialism collapse. For the land-hungry or politically ambitious adventurer, other regions nearer home offered easier, richer pickings. With the partial exception of the Third Crusade (1188–92), currents of western enthusiasm and policy, as in the Fourth and Fifth Crusades, determined the timing and recruitment of eastern crusades rather than the immediate needs of the western settlements in the Levant. More generally, while the presence of western warriors and settlers on the immediate frontiers of Muslim Iberia or the pagan Baltic made some economic or political sense, this was not true for the Holy Land, where the motive for occupation depended on its status as a relic of Christ on earth, a fundamentally religious mission however material the methods employed to achieve it. Consequently, the Christian wars of the 12th and 13th centuries in the Near East provide startling testimony to the power of ideas.

                      The Crusades and Muslim power
                      How significant, therefore, were these eastern crusades in the development of international patterns of power? They certainly thrust westerners into geopolitical events otherwise far removed from their orbit of interest. A particular religious perception of world history led to western European involvement in fashioning the political destiny of Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Iraq in a period of decisive re-alignment of Near Eastern power.

                      Urban II possessed an acute interest in Christian political history, which often made gloomy reading. The successes of the acceptance of Christianity by the Roman Empire in the 4th century and the subsequent conversion of the Germanic successor powers in the ruins of the western empire from the 5th to 7th centuries had been offset by the irruption of Islam in the 7th and early 8th centuries. The rapid Arab conquests of the Christian provinces of Egypt, Palestine and Syria, North Africa, and most of the Iberian peninsula between 634 and 711 had reduced Christendom, as one late medieval pope had it, to an ‘angle of the world’. Jerusalem had fallen to Arab rule in 638; almost all the Biblical scenes familiar to the faithful lay under Muslim control. Further advances in the 9th century, including the capture of Sicily and bases in southern Italy, seemed to threaten Rome and convert the western Mediterranean into a Muslim lake. The two most powerful regimes in the west, the Carolingian Empire of the 8th century or the German emperors of the 10th and 11th, despite laying claims to an Italian kingdom, rarely engaged directly with the loss of southern Christian provinces. For the empire of Byzantium, with its long frontiers with Islamic states, the confrontation occupied a habitual rather than urgent element of foreign policy, especially after the stabilization of borders in eastern Anatolia from the 8th century.

                      The hundred years before 1095 saw a transformation. In the western Mediterranean, Muslim pirates were ejected from bases in southern France at the end of the 10th century. Between 1061 and 1091, Italian-Norman forces conquered Sicily. Further west, the collapse of the caliphate of Cordova in Spain in 1031 and its replacement by a patchwork of competing principalities, ruled by the so-called taifa (or ‘party’) kings, presented Christian rulers and mercenaries from outside the peninsula with opportunities to extract tribute and extend territory. Driven by politics and profit, not religion, Christian rule advanced piecemeal, Muslim–Christian alliances being as common as conflict. The famed conqueror of Valencia in 1094, the Castilian Roderigo Diaz (d.1099), ‘El Cid’, spent as much of his career fighting for Muslim lords against Christians as vice versa. However, when the usually squabbling Christian princes united, significant gains were achieved, notably the capture of Toledo by Alfonso VI of Castile in 1085. Dynastic and ecclesiastical links drew recruits from Catalonia and north of the Pyrenees, although only with hindsight could they be equated with crusaders.

                      In the eastern Mediterranean in the second half of the 10th century, Byzantine armies had re-established a foothold in northern Syria, capturing Antioch in 969, which remained in Greek hands until 1084, only a decade and a half before the arrival of the First Crusade. Otherwise, the Anatolian/Syrian frontiers had remained largely static. The tripartite balance of power in the region was based on the Byzantine Empire to the north and west; the orthodox Sunni Muslim Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad in nominal control ofIran, Iraq, and Syria; with the Shia Muslim Caliphate of the Fatimids in Egypt since 969. In the 11th century the political configuration of the Near East was severely jolted by the eruption of the Seljuk Turks from northeast Iran. Establishing themselves in control of the Baghdad Caliphate in 1055 as sultans (sultan is Arabic for power), the Seljuks pushed further west, by 1079 establishing their overlordship in most of Syria and Palestine, having in 1071 defeated a Byzantine army at Manzikert in northeastern Anatolia. Within twenty years, a Seljuk Sultanate had been consolidated in Anatolia with a capital at Nicaea close to Constantinople. However, despite the Seljuk conquests, Muslim unity was a charade, especially after the outbreak of civil war between the heirs of Sultan Malik Shah. The Seljuk empire in Iraq and Syria comprised a loose confederation of city states, often controlled by Turkish military commanders (atabegs) and slave mercenaries (Mamluks) who owed allegiance to one or other rival Seljuk prince. Throughout the region ethnic diversity and alienation of ruler from ruled prevailed. In parts of Syria, immigrant Turkish Sunnis ruled an indigenous Shia population or forced their protection on local Arab dynasts. The Shia Fatimid Caliphate of Egypt, with power in the hands of often non-Arab, Turkish or Armenian viziers, ruled a largely Sunni population. Such complexity ensured a continuing political volatility that offered rich opportunities to the ambitious, the ruthless, the skilful, and the fortunate. The appearance of the western armies of the First Crusade in 1097–8 merely added one more foreign military presence to an area already crowded with competing rulers from outside the region.

                      In contrast with the impact of wars of the cross in and around western Europe, the conquests in Syria and Palestine played only a modest role in defining the political direction of the Near East in the 12th and 13th centuries and none thereafter. Developments beyond the Muslim frontiers and Christian control largely determined the settlers’ fate. The 12th century witnessed the establishment first of Syrian unity under Zengi of Aleppo (d.1146) and his son Nur al-Din (d.1174) and then of the unification of Syria with Egypt under Nur al-Din’s Kurdish mercenary commander turned independent Egyptian sultan, Saladin (d.1193). Apart from a serious attempt to contest control of Egypt between 1163 and 1169, the Christian rulers in Palestine, the Franks, observed the process as largely impotent bystanders. Only after he had secured the three inland Muslim capitals of Damascus, Aleppo, and Mosul did Saladin turn his armies on the Franks in the crushing campaign of 1187–8 that gave rise to the Third Crusade.

                      13. Mamluk warriors training. The Mamluks were professional Turkish mercenaries enlisted as warrior slaves in the armies of Egypt who took control of the country after 1250 and drove the Franks from the mainland of Syria and Palestine in 1291.


                      • #12
                        Although Saladin, Zengi, and Nur al-Din all located their policies in the vanguard of a Muslim religious revival that swept westwards from Iran and Iraq, decking their wars with the language of jihad, most of their energies and violence was directed both materially and ideologically against other Muslims. Saladin’s capture of Jerusalem in 1187 was matched by his suppression of the heretical Fatimid Caliphate in 1171. For Saladin and his successors, their main concerns focused on the internal maintenance of their empire, reflected in Saladin’s pragmatic approach to negotiating the partition of Palestine with the Franks during the Third Crusade. The repeated civil wars among Saladin’s successors, the Ayyubids, encouraged them to enter into truces with the Franks, who still controlled much of the Syro-Palestinian coast between the 1190s and 1260s. Beyond temporary panics following their capture of Damietta (1219 and 1249), the Ayyubid military system successfully resisted the two Christian attacks on Egypt (1218–21 and 1249–50), although in 1250 the role in defending Egypt played by corps of Mamluk mercenaries precipitated their assumption of the Egyptian sultanate. The advent of the Mamluks, by origin Turks from the Eurasian steppes, conformed to the pattern of alien rule in the Near East, as did the chief challenge to their new empire, the Mongols, who by the late 1250s had penetrated Iraq and Syria. Baghdad had been sacked and the last caliph executed in 1258; Frankish Antioch had become a client and Syria briefly occupied. The defeat of a Mongol army by the Mamluks of Egypt in September 1260 at Ain Jalut in the valley of Jezreel helped determine which of the two dominant Near Eastern forces would rule in Syria and roughly where the frontier between them would fall in a political settlement that lasted until the Ottoman conquest of the Mamluk Empire in 1517. The Franks and their western allies could only watch.

                        The final expulsion of the Franks, begun by the fearsome Baibars and completed by al-Ashraf Khalil in 1291, carried a negative charge generated by the conquerors not the Franks themselves. In annexing the Christian strongholds of the coast, the Mamluks deliberately razed them to the ground, thereby, in H. E. Mayer’s words, achieving the ‘destruction of the ancient Syro-Palestinian city civilisation’. The decisive verdicts of 1260 and 1291 crowned the Mamluks as victors in the long struggle over which foreign group would rule in Egypt, Syria, and Palestine – Greeks, Kurds, Turks, Franks. The last were merely one of many who lost out; their role in the reconfiguration of the political map intrusive, not decisive.

                        Steven Runciman, the most read anglophone historian of the Crusades, thought the Crusades proved to be a disaster for Christendom because the Byzantine Empire was weakened as a result of the Fourth Crusade. Permanently undermined, Byzantium ‘could no longer guard Christendom against the Turk’, this incapacity ultimately handing ‘the innocent Christians of the Balkans’ to ‘persecution and slavery’. Yet it may be worth considering that the victory of the Mamluks in the second half of the 13th century saved not only western Asia from the Mongols but southern and eastern Europe too. The failure of Byzantium to defend itself in 1203–4 did not augur well for any putative role as a bastion against future Turkish attacks; the occupation of parts of the Greek Empire by Franks and Venetians at least ensured lasting western investment in the later resistance to the Ottomans. Its disastrous failure to accommodate the crusaders before 1204 makes it hard to believe Byzantium left to itself would have coped any better with the Turks. While scarcely interested in the minutiae of local politics and religion, the Mongols might have proved even more disagreeable conquerors than the Ottomans.

                        Although fatal to the Franks of Outremer, the Mamluk triumph restricted the Mongols to Persia and preserved an Islamic status quo that can only be condemned on grounds of race or religion. Precisely the same can be said of those who assume the malignity of Ottoman rule or that fractious Christian rule in the Balkans would have proved more beneficial to their inhabitants. While easy to re-fight the Crusades in modern historical or cultural prejudices, it remains unprofitable if not actually harmful. One legacy of the Crusades was the estrangement of Greek and Latin Christendom, but not the triumph of the Turk.


                        • #13
                          Chapter 5 Holy war
                          Christian holy war, although a conceptual oxymoron, has occupied a central place in the culture of Christianity. Crusading represented merely one expression of this warrior tradition. Urban II did not invent Christian holy wars in 1095; neither did they cease with the demise of the Crusades; nor were the Crusades the only manifestation of medieval religious violence. However, the Crusades have appeared almost uniquely disreputable because of the apparent diametric and exultant reversal of the teaching of Christ and the appropriation of the language of spiritual struggle and the doctrine of peace for the promotion of war, exquisitely demonstrated in the ubiquitous use of the image of the cross. In the New Testament seemingly the ultimate symbol of Christ’s explicit refusal to fight or even resist in the face of death; in the hands of crusade propagandists the cross became a sign of obedience through the physical sacrifice of martial combat, a war banner, an icon of military victory through faith, the mark of those, in the words of a charter of one departing crusader in 1096, who fought ‘for God against pagans and Saracens’ and saw themselves as ‘milites Christi’, warriors or knights of Christ. ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me’ (Matthew 16:24) appears an incredible battle-cry in the context of Christ’s words in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:52–4): ‘Put up again thy sword . . . all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.’

                          This transformation can be illustrated startlingly in the writings of Bernard of Clairvaux (d.1153), chief propagandist and recruiting agent for the Second Crusade, one of the most influential interpreters of Christian spirituality of the entire Middle Ages. As if to counter directly those who condemned the church’s advocacy of holy war as unchristian, Bernard took New Testament passages and radically reinterpreted them. The Epistles of St Paul used military metaphor to emphasize the revolutionary nature of the new faith in contrast to the Roman world dominated by religiously sanctioned military systems: ‘We do not war after the flesh: for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal’ (II Corinthians: 3–4). In the Epistle to the Ephesians Paul descants on this spiritual military theme:

                          Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood . . . Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace . . . taking the shield of faith . . . and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.

                          (Ephesians 6:11–17)

                          Bernard redirects Paul in his tract welcoming the founding of the Templars, ‘a new sort of knighthood . . . fighting indefatigably a double fight against flesh and blood as well as against the immaterial forces of evil in the skies’; ‘the knight who puts the breastplate of faith on his soul in the same way as he puts a breastplate of iron on his body is truly intrepid and safe from everything . . . so forward in safety, knights, and with undaunted souls drive off the enemies of the Cross of Christ’. While not entirely new – similar transmutations of Paul’s spiritual armour date back to the 8th century at least – the volte face seems complete.

                          Scripture and Classical theory
                          The ideology of crusading may thus appear casuistic in its interpretation of Scripture, if not downright mendacious. Yet the contradiction of holy war in pursuit of the doctrines of peace and forgiveness boasted long pedigrees. While remaining a utopian model, the behaviour and circumstances of the Early Church soon ceased to reflect the idealism or experiences of Christianity. Although Biblical authority remained one of the cornerstones of belief, literalism proved intellectually and culturally untenable and Christianity evolved only indirectly as a Scriptural faith. The foundation texts of the Old and New Testaments needed translation, literally and conceptually, to nurture accessible and sustainable institutions of thought and observance in a context of the lives of active believers within a temporal church. The works of the so-called Church Fathers (notably Origen of Alexandria, Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo, and Pope Gregory I) found ways of reconciling the purist doctrine of the Beatitudes with the Graeco-Roman world. A mass of apocryphal scripture, imitative hagiography, legends, relic cults, and lengthening tradition expressed, informed, and developed popular belief, while ecclesiastical and political authorities codified articles of faith, such as the Nicene Creed (325). The church’s teaching on war exemplified this process.

                          The charity texts of the New Testament insisting on forgiveness were interpreted as applicable only to private persons not the behaviour of public authorities, to whom, both Gospel and Pauline texts could be marshalled to show, obedience was due. In Jerome’s Latin version of the Bible, the Vulgate (c.405), which became the standard text in the medieval west, the exclusive word for enemy in the New Testament is inimicus, a personal enemy, not hostis, a public enemy. Paul, conceding that ‘kings and those in authority’ protect the faithful in ‘a quiet and peaceable life’, sanctioned public violence to police a sinful world. For those justifying religious war, the Old Testament supplied rich pickings. In contrast to modern Christians not of Biblical fundamentalist persuasion, the medieval church placed considerable importance on the Old Testament for its apparent historicity, its moral stories, its prophecies, and its prefiguring of the New Covenant, as in the 13th-century stained glass windows in the nave of Chartres Cathedral where Old Testament scenes are coupled by their exegetical equivalents from the New. Bible stories operated essentially on two levels (although medieval exegetes distinguished as many as four): literal and divine truth. In the Old Testament the Chosen People of the Israelites fight battles for their faith and their God, who commands violence, protects his loyal warriors, and is Himself ‘a man of war’ (Exodus 15:3). Not only does God intervene directly, but He instructs His agents to kill: Moses enlisting the Levites to slaughter the followers of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32:26–8); God instructing Saul to annihilate the Amalekites ‘men and women, infant and suckling’ (I Samuel 15:3). Warrior heroes adorn the Scriptural landscape – Joshua, Gideon, David. In the Books of the Maccabees, recording the battles of Jews against the rule of Hellenic Seleucids and their Jewish allies in the 2nd century BC, butchery and mutilation are praised as the work of God through His followers, whose weapons are blessed and who meet their enemies with hymns and prayers. ‘So, fighting with their hands and praying to God in their hearts, they laid low no less than thirty-five thousand and were greatly gladdened by God’s manifestation’ (II Maccabees 15:27–8). Many Old Testament texts, especially those concerning Jerusalem (for example Psalm 79: ‘O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps’, were easily incorporated into crusading apologetics and polemic, but nowhere was the idiom of crusading more apparent than in the Books of the Maccabees.

                          Of course, stories regarded by some as authorizing legitimate or even religious warfare could be interpreted by others as prefiguring Christian spiritual struggle, the sense of St Paul as well as many medieval commentators, or consigned to the Old Covenant not the New Dispensation. Trickier for Christian pacifists were the apocalyptic passages in the New Testament. The Revelation of St John described a violent Last Judgement when celestial armies followed ‘The Word of God’ and judged, made war, smote nations, and trod ‘the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God’ (Revelation 19:11–15). It is no coincidence that one of the most famous and vivid eyewitness descriptions of the massacre in Jerusalem on 15 July 1099 quoted verbatim Revelation 14:20: ‘And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horses’ bridles.’ Apart from examples of godly mayhem, the Bible imposed a generally providential and specifically prophetic dimension on Christian holy war that is hard to underestimate. If wars are seen as God’s will, then they act as part of His scheme, either in imitation of past religious wars or, more potently, as fulfilment of Biblical prophecy, a fixation as appealing to crusaders as later to Oliver Cromwell.

                          Christian holy war, therefore, derived from the Bible its essential elements: Divine command; identification with the Israelites, God’s chosen; and a sense of acting in events leading towards the Apocalypse. The historical and emotional vision of the holy warrior encompassed the temporal and supernatural. The fighting was only too material but the purpose was transcendent. However, it is difficult to see how even the most bellicose interpretation of Scripture alone could have produced such an acceptance and later promotion of warfare without the need to reconcile Christianity with the Roman state in the 4th and 5h centuries ad. While the Bible bore witness to the Law of God, old and new, the Helleno-Roman tradition had developed laws of man on which Christian writers drew to devise a new theoretical justification for war. Aristotle, in the 4th century BC, had coined the phrase ‘just war’ to describe war conducted by the state ‘for the sake of peace’ (Politics I:8 and VII:14). To this idea of a just end, Roman law added the just cause consequent on one party breaking an agreement (pax, peace, derived from the Latin pangere, meaning to enter into a contract) or injuring the other. Just war could therefore be waged for defence, recovery of rightful property, or punishment provided this wassanctioned by legitimate authority, that is the state. Cicero argued for right conduct – virtue or courage – in fighting a just war. Consequently, all Rome’s external wars against hostes, public enemies, especially barbarians, were regarded as just wars.

                          With the 4th-century recognition of Christianity as the official religion of the empire, Christians shouldered duties as good citizens, encouraged to fight in just wars for the defence of the Christian empire. For the Roman state, religious enemies joined temporal ones as legitimate targets for war: pagan barbarians and religious heretics within the empire who could be equated with traitors. However, no sooner had Christian writers such as Ambrose of Milan (d.397) integrated Christian acceptance of war based on the model of the Israelites with the responsibilities and ideology of Roman citizenship than the political collapse of the empire in the west threatened to undermine the whole theoretical basis of Christian just war. This conundrum was resolved by Augustine of Hippo (d.430) who, in passages scattered unsystematically through his writings, combined Classical and Biblical ideas of holy and just war to produce general principles independent of the Christian/Roman Empire. To the Helleno-Roman legal idea of right causes and ends, Augustine added a Christian interpretation of moral virtue to right intent and authority. From his diffuse comments three familiar essentials emerged: just cause, defined as defensive or to recover rightful possession; legitimate authority; right intent by participants. Thus war, inherently sinful, could promote righteousness. These attributes form the basis of classic Christian just war theory, as presented, for example, by Thomas Aquinas (1225–74). But Augustine did not regard violence as an ideal, preferring the world of the spirit to that of the flesh. His justification of war looked to the wars of the Old Testament: ‘the commandment forbidding killing was not broken by those who have waged war on the authority of God.’ Augustine was implicitly moving the justification of violence from lawbooks to liturgies, from the secular to the religious. However, his lack of definition in merging holy and just war, extended in a number of pseudo-Augustinian texts and commentaries, produced a convenient conceptual plasticity that characterized the development of Christian attitudes to war over the subsequent millennium and more. The language of the bellum justum became current, while what was often described came closer to bellum sacrum. This fusion of ideas might conveniently be called religious war, wars conducted for and by the Church, sharing features of holy and just war, in a protean blend that allowed war to become valid as an expression of Christian vocation second only to monasticism itself.

                          A just war was not necessarily a holy war, although all holy wars were, per se, just. While holy war depended on God’s will, constituted a religious act, was directed by clergy or divinely sanctioned rulers, and offered spiritual rewards, just war formed a legal category justified by secular necessity, conduct and aim, attracting temporal benefits. The fusion of the two became characteristic of later Christian formulations. Where Rome survived, in Byzantium, the eastern empire of Constantinople, the coterminous relation of Church and State rendered all public war in some sense holy, in defence of religion, approved by the Church. However, Byzantine warfare remained a secular activity, for all its Divine sanction, not, as it became in late 11th-century western Europe, a penitential act of religious votaries. Elsewhere in Christendom, while the ideals of pacifism remained fiercely defended by the monastic movement and its ideal of the contemplative life, Christians and their Church had to confront new secular attitudes to warfare consequent on political domination by a Christianized Germanic military elite and new external threats from non-Christians.


                          • #14
                            New Defenders of the Faith in the early Middle Ages
                            War occupied a central place in the culture as well as politics of the Germanic successor states to the Roman Empire from the 5th century. The great German historian of the origins of the crusading mentality, Carl Erdmann, argued that for the new rulers of the west war provided ‘a form of moral action, a higher type of life than peace’. Heavily engaged in converting these warlords, the Christian Church necessarily had to recognize their values, not least because, with the collapse of Roman civil institutions, economic and social order revolved around the fiscal and human organization of plunder, tribute, and dependent bands of warriors held together by kinship and lordship. Their Gods were tribal deliverers of earthly victory and reward. It has been said that the early medieval army, the exercitus, assumed a role as the pivotal public institution in and through which operated justice, patronage, political discipline, diplomacy, and ceremonies of communal identity, usually with the imprimatur of religion, pagan or Christian. The effect of the conversion of these Germanic peoples worked in two directions: the Christianizing of their warrior ethic and the militarizing of the Church.

                            Contemporary descriptions of the conversion and early Christian kings of the new political order are peppered with martial heroes in the style of Constantine himself, such as Clovis the Frank (d.511) or Oswald of Northumbria (d.644). Conversely, Christian evangelists and holy men were depicted exercising physical aggression as God’s agents in the style of the Old Testament Moses. Unsurprisingly, Germanic warrior values infected the language of the faith being conveyed, even if only in the seedbed of metaphor. In the 8th-century Anglo-Saxon Dream of the Rood, Christ is depicted as ‘the young warrior’, ‘the Lord of Victories’; death on the cross as a battle, with Heaven a sort of Valhalla. A 9th-century Old German poetic version of the Gospel story shows Christ as a lord of men, ‘a generous mead-giver’, his disciples a war band travelling in warships, Peter ‘the mighty noble swordsman’. While fiercely resisted by many academics and monks, this militarized mentality received the powerful confirmation of events.

                            The historical as well as literary type of the early medieval warrior was Charlemagne (d.814), king of the Franks and, from 800, emperor of the west, his wars against pagan Saxons and Avars portrayed by eulogists, official propaganda, and the Church in terms of the Faith. Given that forcible conversion acted as part of his policy of subduing the Saxons, the image reflected actual war aims. Through prayers, blessings of warriors and their arms, liturgies, and differential scales of penance, the Frankish Church elevated these conflicts into holy wars. More widely, the Church presided over a political culture in which the figure of the armed warrior increasingly received religious as well as social approbation, a development sharply illustrated in contemporary saints’ lives. Warfare came to be recognized as possessing positive moral as well as political value. As with the Roman Empire it professed to be reviving, in the Carolingian Empire of the 8th and 9th centuries, public war was ipso facto just and sanctioned by God. This became even more apparent from the mid-9th century when, with the disintegration of Carolingian power, western Europe was beset by new external attacks from Muslims, Vikings, and Magyars which lent an urgent, dynamic quality to the practice as well as theory of Christian warfare. Political and religious survival became synonymous as a concept of a religious community, Christendom (Christianitas), replaced the disintegrating political community of the Frankish Empire. Confronted by Muslims threatening Rome itself, Pope John VIII (872–82) offered penitential indulgences remitting the penalties of sin to those who fought and died fighting. His predecessor Leo IV (847–55) had similarly promised salvation to warriors against the infidels. The identification of religion and war surfaced across western Europe. Monkish propagandists invariably called the Danish enemies of Alfred, king of Wessex (871–99), pagans; his commanders decorated their swords with Christian motifs and their battles were accompanied by prayers and alms. A Frankish monastic annalist similarly described Danish attacks as an ‘affront not to us but to Him who is all powerful’. Such explicit Christian militancy, designed to inspire resistance and confirm communal solidarity, enlisted some unlikely recruits. Even St Benedict (d.c.550), founder of the main contemplative monastic movement of western Europe, was depicted in the later 9th century as fighting the Vikings ‘with his left hand directing and shielding the cavalry and with his right killing many enemies with his staff’.

                            This militarization of western Christian culture that long predated the Crusades should not be exaggerated. The monastic ideal persisted, Aelfric of Cerne, abbot of Eynsham, at the end of the 10th century insisting on the monks’ vocation as ‘God’s champions in the spiritual battle, who fight with prayers not swords; it is they who are the soldiers of Christ’. Although examples of warrior saints, or saints who were once warriors, proliferated in the 10th and 11th centuries, the moral dangers of fighting continued to be recognized. However, at least from Carolingian penitential observances onwards, churchmen drew a distinction between killing in a public conflict authorized by a legitimate secular (or religious) authority, bellum, and illicit private war, sometimes distinguished by the wordguerra, those fighting in the former receiving lighter penances for their killing than those engaged in the latter. Still, the actual act of combat remained sinful; despite fighting under a papal banner in a cause considered by their clergy to be just, William of Normandy’s followers in 1066 were forced to perform modest penance for the slaughter they inflicted at the Battle of Hastings. The late 11th-century revolution lay particularly in the settled transformation of the actual violence, rather than its purpose, scale, or intent, into a penitential act.


                            • #15
                              The origins of the crusade in the 11th century
                              The changing articulation of the long-held acceptance of legitimate religious war that combined elements of the Helleno-Roman and Biblical traditions was fashioned as much by political circumstance as by theology. Renewed attention to Augustinian theory from the late 11th century came in response, not as an inspiration, to greater ecclesiastical militancy. Secular influences included the problem of public authority and social order after the collapse of Charlemagne’s empire in the 9th and 10th centuries; the altered terms of the frontier conflicts with Islam, with Christians from the 10th century increasingly on the offensive; and a greater ideological and political stridency of the papacy. Behind all of these lay the cultural identity between lay and clerical rulers who belonged to the same propertied aristocracy. Bishops took the field in battles, sometimes in armour, often at the head of their own military entourage, occasionally engaging in physical combat. Equally, many of the most vicious secular lords were patrons of monasteries, went on exhausting and dangerous pilgrimages, and died in monastic habits as associate members of religious orders.

                              This cultural intimacy, a feature of the whole of the early Middle Ages, took on greater significance in the development of holy war as the apparatus of civil authority devolved downwards nearer to the human and material resources on which all power depended as public authority was usurped by private lordships. Although less anarchic than once imagined, new social conditions by the end of the 10th century encouraged violence as a means of settling disputes as well as achieving more larcenous or territorial ambitions. This fragmentation of power in western Francia (more or less the region from the Rhine to the Pyrenees, later the cradle of the crusade), by negating kingship, resulted in a deficit of effective public arbitration or political discipline. In such circumstances, to secure protection and status, many churchmen deliberately promoted the responsibility of men of violence to protect the church. To achieve this, the activities of the warrior had to receive explicit praise not just on the level of public wars against pagans and heretics. This acceptance of the need for warlike protectors can be traced in saints’ lives and monastic chronicles that exhibit a characteristic schizophrenia when tackling the gilded ‘faithful to God’ who were also self-serving killers, the contrast later favoured by crusade apologetics between militia and malitia.

                              The symbiotic relationship of church and local military aristocracies found concrete expression in formal proceedings organized by local or regional clergy to ensure the physical protection and policing of their property. From the late 10th century, across the duchy of Aquitaine and Burgundy, later spreading to northern France and the Rhineland, church councils were convened that proclaimed the Peace of God with arms bearers swearing, in public ceremonies, to protect those outside the military classes, effectively churchmen and their property. From the 1020s specific periods of weeks or months were designated as Truces of God, during which all such violence should cease, again to be policed by sworn warriors. Although some have challenged the direct influence of the Peace and Truce of God on the origins of crusading, the Council of Clermont in 1095 authorized a Peace of God at the same time as initiating the Jerusalem campaign. These local churchmen, often in concert with regional counts, were not simply condemning illicit attacks on their interests but approving, indeed promoting, violence to prevent them. From being called upon to bless wars for causes sacred and profane, the Church now assumed the roles of author and director, its warriors that of religious votaries.

                              This trend received strong impetus from the 1050s through the concern of successive popes with the idea and practice of holy war as a weapon to establish the independence of the Church from lay control, contest the authority of the German emperor, ensure the political autonomy of the Roman see, and recover the lost lands of Christendom. The moral standing of those who fought for the papal agenda became an important aspect of the general policy, both in the need to attract support and to assert the uniqueness of the cause. In 1053, Leo IX (1048–54), leading an army in person against the Normans of southern Italy, offered German troops remission of penance and absolution for their sins, a tradition followed by his successors. Papal banners were awarded to the Norman invaders of Muslim Sicily (1060) and England (1066) and to the Milanese Patarines, street gangs contesting control of the city against the imperialists in the 1060s and 1070s in a struggle elevated in papal rhetoric to a bellum Dei, a war of God. To combat the ecclesiastical power of Emperor Henry IV (1056–1106) in Germany and his political ambitions in Italy, Pope Gregory VII (1073–85), one of whose favourite quotations was ‘Cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood’ (Jeremiah 48:10), sought to recruit his own army, the militia Sancti Petri. Papal apologists began to write of an ordo pugnatorum, an order of warriors, who fought ‘for their salvation and the common good’, very much the target audience identified by Urban II in 1095. By the end of his pontificate, Gregory’s rhetoric transformed the status of his warriors, comparing their service in defence of the Church as an imitation of Christ’s suffering against ‘those who are the enemies of the cross of Christ’. War had become an act of penance. An abortive project for an eastern expedition in 1074 proposed by Gregory VII to aid Byzantium evinced many elements later deployed by Urban II. Gregory referred to the mandate of God and example of Christ; the goal of Jerusalem; help for the eastern church as an act of charity; and the offer of ‘eternal reward’. All that was missing were the vow, the cross, and the associated privileges.

                              The papacy’s advocacy of a more embracive theory and practice of holy war mirrored a wider transformation in the religious life of 11th- and 12th-century western Europe from an essentially local and cultish faith, with regional saints and liturgies, to one more regulated by pastoral uniformity, canon law, and international ecclesiastical discipline. Devotion to saints and their relics became increasingly universal, with a concurrent emphasis on the historicity of the gospel stories, the humanity of Christ, and the cult of the Virgin Mary, which began to dominate church dedications across Christendom. Coupled with the development of elaborate Easter rituals featuring Christ’s agonies for Man’s Redemption and an increased concentration on the Christocentric aspects of the Mass (for example the Real Presence, the use of crucifixes, and so on), the image of the Holy Land, of Christ’s suffering, and of Christian obligation penetrated far beyond the reach of papal rhetoric. The increased popularity of international or Biblical saints reflected anxiety over salvation that the new conception of war addressed directly. The perceived celestial clout of saints had long been a factor in their level of popularity, leading to the strenuous promotion of local shrines by their guardians and the reciprocal gifts of alms and property from the faithful. Penance emerged as a most urgent issue for laymen because the methods for laymen to attain remission of the penalties of sin remained rudimentary. The problem may have appeared especially acute for lay arms bearers, paradoxically because their function had come under such close ecclesiastical scrutiny and acceptance. If monastic charters and chronicles can be believed, penitential war answered a genuine craving to expiate sin. The First Crusade drew excited praise as ‘a new way of salvation’ for the military classes. Apart from donations to monasteries so that monks could pray for their souls, increasingly laymen in the 11th century found pilgrimages promoted by the clergy as a means to expiate sin, with Jerusalem prominent in practice and imagination. Psychologically, if not legally, religious wars, especially against distant targets such as infidels, lent themselves to identification with pilgrimages as both were conducted for God and involved journeys, always a powerful spiritual metaphor. Gregory VII’s reference to going on to the Holy Sepulchre in his 1074 plan suggested a fusion of war (to help eastern Christians) and pilgrimage, a connection repeated by Urban II in granting indulgences in 1089 to those colonizing Tarragona on the Muslim frontier in Spain. The Pisans who attacked Mahdia in Tunisia in 1087 fitted in a pilgrimage to Rome. The concept of an armed pilgrimage has frequently been identified as the key to explain the novel appeal of the expedition preached by Urban II, offering a familiar frame for a new secular act of penance.

                              However, there remain problems with this interpretation of Urban’s scheme. On the one hand, armed pilgrimages to Jerusalem predated 1095; at least one group of armed German pilgrims in 1064 also wore crosses. On the other, in his correspondence in 1095–6, Urban avoided any explicit reference to pilgrimage, talking instead of a military expedition (expeditio) to ‘restrain the savagery of the Saracens by their arms’. The portrayal of the Jerusalem war as a pilgrimage emerged during the recruitment process, possibly fromthe clergy who had to broadcast the message and articulate crusaders’ motives when compiling records of their fundraising. Urban’s penitential journey could best be understood canonically as a pilgrimage, with the emphasis on its spiritual quality. The pope’s language and many charters were less ambivalent, calling for the violent expulsion of the infidel from the holy places ‘to fight for God against pagans and Saracens’, as one Burgundian charter put it. Images of infidel atrocity, brutality, and force permeate Urban’s letters stressing the legitimacy of the war, both in terms of right authority (the pope’s) and right intent (‘devotion alone’) to counter any unease at such a blatant call to arms. Early responses, such as the Rhineland massacres, indicated the centrality of violence in the enterprise. The current historiographical emphasis on the pious motives of crusaders can obscure the direct relationship between piety and violence that influential elements in the Church had willingly encouraged, recognizing them as mutually engaged mentalities: service to Christ as physical vengeance; the dangers of campaigning as the imitation of Christ’s sufferings; war as an act of charity. In addressing a violent society, Urban, a French aristocrat as well as a former monk, did not compromise with its values: he and his ideology were part of it. Charters provide as much evidence for martial as for pious responses to the First Crusade. Even the letters of crusaders on the march are sparing in their association with pilgrimage, although by 1099 and after the link became ubiquitous. As a holy war, transcendent, spiritual, emotive, the Jerusalem journey was rendered special by the plenary indulgences and the elevated goal of the Holy Sepulchre. Given its stated objective – Jerusalem – an armed pilgrimage may have seemed an appropriate analogy to clerical observers, as nervous of unashamed innovation as of unfettered violence. Only by virtue of the Jerusalem journey becoming a habit did it require fitting into the existing structure of devotional exercises. Urban seemed to have conceived of the operation as unique and unrepeatable; he preached it openly as holy war not armed pilgrimage, a new vision of a very old idea.