There were of different forms of Crusades during the movement that took a significant portion of the European history that took place between 1095-1798. One of the events in the church and the Western history that were misunderstood greatly were the Crusades. Some Crusades were against tribes that were pagan, the Muslims, heretics, and enemies of the Pope. The Crusades were considered to be a series of religious wars between the Muslims and the Christians. The wars which were mainly caused by the urge to control and secure holy sites which both the Muslims and Christians considered as being sacred (Hillenbrand 20). There were several reasons for the Crusades. People who engaged in the Crusades had motivations that were different. The motivations for the Crusades were either religious, financial or political. The Crusades had a lasting effect on Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
Causes of the Crusades
The Crusades were caused by the urge to secure land that was considered as being sacred. The Crusades took place for religious conviction. The early Christians considered undertaking a journey to a sacred place as being an act that was meritorious and pious. For the four centuries and more, Palestine was held by the Saracen caliphs. Saracen caliphs set up various policies towards the pilgrims and even considered them as being a source of income. In the eleventh century, Tartar tribe and prominent Muslims took almost all the Asiatic possessions from the caliphs. The sacred spot had to be rescued from the profanation of infidels to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre (Tyerman 35).
Another cause of the Crusades was the threat of the Turks. The Turks were advancing in the East constantly and were starting to act as a threat to Constantinople while Peter the Hermit had been arousing the West Warriors. Urgent letters were sent to the Pope by the Greek emperor with the aim of seeking help against the infidels. Unless the assistance was offered immediately, there was a possibility of the capital and holy relics falling into the barbarians hands.
The preaching of Peter the Hermit was also another cause of the Crusades. The first Crusade was as a result of the preaching of Peter the Hermit. After the Pope Urban II commissioned Peter the Hermit, he went addressing everywhere across France and Italy moving most people with sympathy by telling how their brethren's were suffering at the hands of the infidels or discussed the profanation of the holy places that were polluted by the insults and presence of the non-believers (Madden 28) .
The Crusades were also caused by the instinct to fight. The adventurous and restless spirit of the Teutonic people of Europe had not yet outgrown their barbarian instincts. The feudal lords and knights had been stirred by the spirit of chivalry that was rising and was ready to engage themselves in an undertaking that was in line with their new knighthood vows and their marital feelings.
It was considered to be the will of God to carry out the Crusades. Thousands used the cross and fixed it on their garments as a sign of pledge of their sacred engagement and determination towards rescuing the Holy Sepulchre claiming to be summoned by Jesus Christ.
Pope Urban II and the council of Clermont were also the cause of the Crusades. After Pope Urban II had called a great council of the Church at Placentia in Italy to consider the 1095 appeal, nothing took place. The Popes were never ready to think outside the box because they had a vested interest and hence the Islam and Christianity relationship spoiled in the entire Middle East.
The other cause of the Crusades was for financial gain. To some extent, the first Crusade was Euro-centered. The Muslims were forced to work in the fields. The Muslims were also authorized to houses and farmlands within the city and also in the outskirts of the city. Thousands of Muslims were sold as slaves during the Crusades.Why Some Jewish Historians refer to the Crusades as the "First Holocaust"
The Holocaust entailed the annihilation of Jews who were approximately six million and other Europeans who were about five million including children as well who were one and half million. During the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, about 70% of the Jews of Europe were exterminated by the Nazis. The elimination of the European Jews was one of the major priorities of the Nazis as compared to other groups the Nazis attacked. The churches of Europe being denominational institutions did not play their part as they failed to confront Hilters actions regarding the genocide that was taking place. Some Jewish historians refer to the Crusades as the first holocaust due to the killings that took place during the Crusades which are compared to those of the holocaust. The Jewish communities were subjected to forced baptisms and Christian face and refusal to comply resulted in death. The first Crusade is referred to the first Holocaust because of the massacres that were experienced by the Jews. In Germany, approximately 800 Jews were massacred for refusing to be baptized.
The Jewish communities were not lucky since most were on the paths that were used by the Crusaders on their way to Jerusalem. Just as the holocaust most of the Jews were murdered and there was also the destruction of synagogues and homes. After the seizing of Jerusalem, the Crusaders burnt the Jews while they were in their Synagogue in the Holy City.
Count Emich who was an enemy of the Jews showed no mercy, and his followers attacked the children, the old as well as the women. Count Emich went ahead and attacked the Jews of Mainz who had gone to seek shelter at Bishop Ruothard place. The Bishops men had fled themselves instead of protecting the Jews from Enmich and his followers. The Jews were slaughtered with no one to rescue them. The Pope instead of assisting in ending the war he played a role in encouraging the wars. Pope Urban II sent a call out rallying Christians to be part of the first Crusade with an aim of eliminating the Turks and opening the Holy Land way which was considered as being a priority to the Christians .This was after the Western Emperor Alexios Komnenos had informed the Pope that the Turks were threatening his Empire. The pope inspired the Army of the Crusader rather than protecting the people. In the Catholic religion the pope represents Jesus Christ Himself, and therefore it was outrageous that it was the will of God for the Jews to be massacred (Madden 15).
During the Second Crusade, Radulph who was a French monk preached that the Jews should be considered as being the enemies of the Christians. This resulted in the Jews being massacred in Cologne, Mainza, Speyer, Worms and Rhineland.
Effects of the Crusades
Crusades had a negative impact on the relationship between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The Crusades affected the relations between Christianity and Islam. The interfaith between Christianity and Islam was sabotaged by the Crusades yet during the time of Prophet Muhammad the two communities were living peacefully. This led to distrust between the Christians, Muslims and the Jews. Most of the Muslims, slams, and Jews lost their lives during the Crusades. Most Christians were wounded or killed during the battle while others died due to traveling hardships and diseases. The mentality of the Crusader was that Christianity was supposed to displace Islam at all costs. The Muslims lost their lives, and also during the battle, the Crusaders destroyed their properties. The Jews faced several violent persecutions since most of the countries hated the Jews. Such countries included Germany, England, and France whereby the Jews were even banned from those countries and were forced to separate from their communities (Lewis).
The Crusades resulted in the moral authority of the Church being undermined. During the reformation of the Protestant at the beginning of the 16th century, the killing of the Muslims and the Jews was used as an indictment against the Roman Catholic Church (Asbridge 17).
The second Crusade resulted in the expansion of the European territorial. Kingdoms like Sweden and Denmark were expanded as also there was the creation of new political units. As a result of the Crusades, many islands were colonized, and this helped the Christians to control most of the trade routes of Mediterranean. The Jews were expelled from the country.
The Crusades opened a way for future conquests of Europe by the Muslim. The Crusaders were compelled to conquer the Byzantine capital of Constantinople as animosity increased between Byzantine and Roman Catholics. The Crusades led to the destruction of Byzantine when the Ottoman Turks began advancing into Europe (Asbridge 15).
Despite the negative impacts, the Crusades also had a positive impact on the Christians and the Muslims. The positive impact of the Crusades on the Muslims is that they gained exposure to military ideas and new weapons which enabled them to adopt a permanent army. The positive impact of the Crusades on the Christians was that the monarchs became more and more powerful as the knights and nobles left their homes to go and fight in the Middle East. The Christians also learned about new goods and foods from different countries which were traditional to them (Madden 25).
The Crusades were considered to be a series of religious wars between the Muslims and European Christians. The main groups that were affected by the Crusades were the Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The three groups were fighting to be in possession of the area that is considered holy to all the three religions. That is the area where Jesus lived, Muhammad is said to have risen to heaven in his night journey from that particular area, and it was the traditional homeland of the Jews. The Crusades were the beginning of a poor relationship between Christians, Muslims, and Jews which still have an impact on the world today. During the Crusades, most of the Christians and Muslims lost their lives and also the destruction of property.
Asbridge, Thomas. The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land. Simon and Schuster, 2012.
Hillenbrand, Carole. The crusades: Islamic perspectives. Psychology Press, 2000.
Lewis, Bernard. The crisis of Islam: Holy war and unholy terror. Random House Incorporated, 2004.
Madden, Thomas F. The Fourth Crusade: Event, Aftermath, and Perceptions: Papers from the Sixth Conference of the Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East, Istanbul, Turkey, 25-29 August 2004. Routledge, 2016.
Madden, Thomas F. "The Real History of the Crusades." Crisis Magazine 20 (2002): 109-11.
Riley-Smith, Jonathan Simon Christopher, and Jonathan Riley-Smith. The First Crusade and Idea of Crusading. A&C Black, 2003.
Tyerman, Christopher. Fighting for Christendom: Holy war and the crusades. Oxford University Press, USA, 2004.
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