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  • Crash Course on the Crusades

    by Steve Weidenkopf

    python

    The Crusades are one of the most misunderstood events in Western and Church history.  The very word “crusades” conjures negative images in our modern world of bloodthirsty and greedy European nobles embarked on a conquest of peaceful Muslims.  The Crusades are considered by many to be one of the “sins” the Christian Faith has committed against humanity and with the Inquisition are the go-to cudgels for bashing the Church.

    While the mocking and generally nasty portrayal of the Crusades and Crusaders on the big screen ranges from Monty Python farce to the cringe worthy big budget spectacles like Kingdom of Heaven (2005), it is the biased and bad scholarship such as Steven Runciman’s History of the Crusades, or the BBC/A&E documentary, The Crusades, hosted by Terry Jones (of Monty Python acclaim) that does real damage. From academia to pop-culture, the message is reinforced and driven home with resounding force: the Crusades were bad and obviously so. The real story is of course far more complicated and far more interesting.

    It is worth our time to be versed in the facts and especially to recall the tremendous faith, sacrifice, and courage that inspired the vast majority of the Crusaders to act in defense of Christendom.

    What were the Crusades?

    When answering the question “what were the Crusades” one has to keep in mind that Crusading took on many different forms throughout the movement which spanned a significant portion of European history lasting from 1095 – 1798.

    There were Crusades against the Muslims (in the Holy Land, in Spain, in the Balkans and even in Austria); against pagan tribes in the Baltic regions; against heretics (notably in southern France); and even against enemies of the Pope (e.g. the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II).

    Despite the many different forms, there were four essential ingredients that classified an armed expedition as a Crusade:

    The taking of the Cross

    Participants took a public, binding ecclesiastical vow to join a military expedition with defined aims. As a sign of their vow, they sewed a red cross onto their garments.  The cross could only be removed upon successful completion of their armed pilgrimage.

    Papal endorsement

    A Crusade had to be called by the Pope or endorsed by him. 

    Privileges

    A crusader received certain privileges from the Church, specifically, the protection of family and property.  Those who attacked a crusader’s land were subject to severe ecclesiastical penalties (including excommunication). Additional privileges included the right to demand and receive hospitality from the Church on the journey, exemption from tolls and taxes, immunity from arrest, and exemption from interest payments.

    Indulgence
    Crusaders were granted a partial or plenary indulgence for completion of their armed pilgrimage.

    When most people think of the Crusades they simple think it was a prolonged martial engagement of European knights against the Muslims in the Holy Land. The truth is that each expedition was launched for distinct reasons with years and even decades separating the campaigns. Crusade historians have traditionally numbered these distinct expeditions in the following manner:

    Crusade

    Dates

    Major Events

    Major Characters

    First 1096 –1102
    •   Liberation of Antioch
      - 1098
    • Liberation of Jerusalem
      - 1099
    • Godfrey of Bouillon
    • Raymond of Toulouse
    • Bohemond
    • Bishop Adhemar
    Second 1147 – 1149
    •   Siege of Damascus (failed)
    •  Louis VII of France
    • Conrad III – Holy Roman Emperor (HRE)
    Third 1189 – 1192
    •   Liberation of Acre
      – 1191
    • Treaty = Christian access to Jerusalem for 3 years
    • Saladin
    • HRE Frederick Barbarossa
    • Richard I – King of England
    • Philip II – King of France
    Fourth 1201 – 1205
    • Sack of Constantinople
      – 1204
    • Pope Innocent III
    • Doge Enricho Dandolo – Venice
    • Alexius Angelus
    • Boniface of Montferrat
    Fifth 1218 – 1221
    •   Invasion of Egypt
    • Cardinal Pelagius
    • St. FrancisAl-Kamil
    Sixth (a.k.a. Crusade of Frederick II) 1228 – 1229
    •   Restoration of Jerusalem by treaty
    • HRE Frederick II
    Seventh (First Crusade of St. Louis) 1248 – 1254
    •   Invasion of Egypt
    • King St. Louis IX of France
    Eighth   (a.k.a Second   Crusade of St. Louis) 1269 – 1272
    •   Invasion of Tunisia
    • King St. Louis IX of France

     

    With this backdrop, we can now address the five most enduring modern myths regarding the Crusades. 

    Myth #1: The Crusades were wars of unprovoked aggression

    From its beginnings, Islam has been a violent and imperialistic movement.  Within 100 years of the death of Mohammed, Islamic armies had conquered ancient Christian lands in the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain.  The Holy City of Jerusalem was captured in 638.  Islamic armies launched raids throughout the Mediterranean and even attacked Rome in 846.  Life in the conquered regions for Christians was not easy; many were forced to convert, others converted due to societal pressure (Christians and Jews were considered to be barely above the status of slaves in Islamic society); still others maintained the Faith at great risk.

    Although there were periods of relative peace and calm between Muslims and Christians, including Christian pilgrims from Europe, the situation radically changed in the early 11th century when the Egyptian Muslim ruler of Jerusalem ordered the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

    The church was later rebuilt, but the arrival of the Seljuk Turks (non-Arab Muslims), who conquered Jerusalem from the Egyptian Muslims in the late 11th century, negatively altered the landscape for the Christians.  In 1065 the Seljuks began a campaign of persecution against Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land in which the Bishop of Bamberg and 12,000 pilgrims were massacred by the Muslims only two miles from Jerusalem. They waged war against the Christian Byzantine Empire, winning a decisive victory at the Battle of Manzikert (1071).  It was this event that one historian has described as “the shock that launched the Crusades.”[1]

    After losing the Battle of Manzikert, the Byzantine Emperor wrote the Pope a letter requesting western aid.  It was for this reason and for the liberation of Jerusalem and other ancient Christian lands that eventually led Pope Bl. Urban II to call the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont on November 27, 1095.

    The Crusaders understood they were participating in an armed pilgrimage for the restoration of ancient Christian lands.  The Crusades were defensive wars aimed at the restoration of property not unprovoked aggressive campaigns of conquest.

    Myth #2:  The Crusades were about European greed for booty, plunder and the establishment of colonies. 

    Scholarship over the last forty years has clearly demonstrated the fallacy of this modern myth, yet it still persists.  The myth postulates the reason for the Crusades grew out of the European population boom experienced in the mid 11th century, which saw the rise of numerous second and third born sons who could not inherit the family land.  As a result, European society became violent and the Church channeled this violence by directing the attention of these latter born sons to the Holy Land where they could acquire land and wealth through violent conquest.  In short, the Crusades were colonial enterprises aimed at increasing European wealth.  This sounds logical; however, the facts do not fit the myth.

    Modern scholars have shown through meticulous research that it was the first-born sons, not the second and third, who made up the majority of Crusaders.  As one historian has remarked, “it was not those with the least to lose who took up the cross, but rather those with the most.”[2] The vast majority of Crusaders actually left the Holy Land and returned home upon completion of their vows; just as pilgrims today go to a church or shrine and then return home.

    Of the 60,000 fighting men who went on the First Crusade, only 300 knights and 2,000 infantry remained after the liberation of Jerusalem.

    If the Crusades were an ancient land-grab, then why did so many European knights travel 2,500 miles, finance four times their annual income for expenses and risk certain death to go?

    It is hard for the modern mind to grasp the reality that the society of the late 11th and early 12th century was a society rooted in the Catholic Faith.  Men left the comfort of home to engage in an armed pilgrimage because of their love for Christ and a concern for their souls.

    Records left by these first Crusaders show they were motivated by the granting of a plenary indulgence in reparation for their sins.  One crusader, Odo of Burgundy, undertook

    the journey to Jerusalem as a penance for my sins… Since divine mercy inspired me that owing to the enormity of my sins I should go to the Sepulchre of Our Savior, in order that this offering of my devotion might be more acceptable in the sight of God, I decided not unreasonably that I should make the journey with the peace of all men and most greatly of the servants of God.”[3]  Indeed, one contemporary chronicler remarked, “the Crusader set himself the task of winning back the earthly Jerusalem in order to enjoy the celestial Jerusalem.”[4]

    Although many crusaders were motivated by piety, of course not all participants had such pure motives.  As with any human undertaking, the Crusades also drew men more concerned with temporal affairs than spiritual affairs.  “A crusade army was a curious mix of rich and poor, saints and sinners, motivated by every kind of pious and selfish desire…”[5]

    Recognizing this reality does not give credence to the modern myth, rather it acknowledges human nature.  The fact remains that the vast majority of crusaders were pious warriors fighting to liberate the land of Christ from the yoke of the Muslims in order to bring peace. 

    Myth #3:  When Jerusalem was captured in 1099 the crusaders killed all the inhabitants – so many were killed that the blood flowed ankle deep through the city. 

    Soon after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, former President Bill Clinton gave a speech at Georgetown University wherein he embraced this modern myth and said one reason why Muslims dislike the Western world was because of the massacre of the inhabitants of Jerusalem in 1099.

    Despite the obvious physical inability for blood to flow ankle-deep through a city, this myth fails to take into account the harsh reality and rules of 11th century warfare.  Standard practice at the time dictated that a city that refused to surrender at the sight of a siege army would suffer any and all consequences of a successful siege; this is why many cities agreed to terms before commencement of the siege.

    Both Christian and Muslim armies followed this policy.  If a city surrendered before the siege, the inhabitants were allowed to remain in the city and keep their possessions. Crusaders allowed Muslims to keep their faith and practice it openly upon surrender. In the case of Jerusalem, most of the city had fled at the news of the incoming Christian army.  When the Crusaders broke through the defenses and took the city, they did kill many inhabitants, including non-combatants; others were ransomed and some were expelled.

    Myth #4: The Crusades were also wars against the Jews and should be considered the first Holocaust.

    As the First Crusaders marched through Europe on their way to the Holy Land via Constantinople, many smaller bands of armed men followed in their wake.  A leader of one of these bands, Count Emich took it upon himself to march down the Rhine valley targeting various Jewish communities.

    Emich embraced the anti-Semitic notion that it was pointless for Crusaders to march 2,500 miles to fight Islam when there were “enemies of Christ” in their midst.  His force engaged in pogroms in numerous German towns in search of money and a misguided and unsanctioned sense of holiness.  The Church in no way endorsed Count Emich’s tactics and many bishops tried to protect local Jews; indeed, the Bishop of Speyer had those engaged in pogroms arrested, tried and punished.  The Bishop of Mainz allowed local Jews to take up refuge in his palace; unfortunately, Count Emich violated this sanctuary, stormed the palace and killed them all.  It is important to note that numerous contemporary chronicles condemn the actions of Emich and like-minded men.  The Church also actively spoke out against such outrages.

    During the time of the Second Crusade (1147 – 1149), St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who after the Pope was the most well-known and respected churchman in Christendom, spoke out strongly against anti-Semitism.  He wrote, “We have heard with joy that zeal for God burns in you, but wisdom must not be lacking from this zeal.  The Jews are not to be persecuted, nor killed, nor even forced to flee.”[6]

    A Cistercian monk named Radulf preached and exhorted the people to engage in pogroms in the Rhineland.  Upon hearing reports of Radulf’s preaching, St. Bernard went to Germany, severely rebuked Radulf and sent him back to his monastery.

    None of the anti-Jewish “armies” made it to the East, after their rampage of murder and plunder, the brigands dispersed.  So, these groups cannot accurately be called Crusaders.  Although numerous Jewish populations were harmed during the time of the crusading movement, these attacks were not directly part of the movement as none of the main armies participated in them and the Church did not sanction the attacks, rather, she worked to stop them.

    Myth #5:  The Crusades are the source of the modern tension between Islam and the West

    Those searching for answers to explain the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks have turned to the Crusades.  They cite the Crusades as the reason for Islamic hatred of the West and believe Muslims are trying to “right the wrongs” of centuries of oppression stemming from the Crusades.  Little do these individuals know that the Crusades were mostly forgotten in the Islamic world until the 20th century.

    From an Islamic perspective, the Crusades were an insignificant historical period, only lasting 195 years (from 1096 – 1291); interestingly, the first Arabic history of the Crusades was not written until 1899.  The main reason for this lack of interest stemmed from the fact that the Crusades were unsuccessful in establishing the permanent liberation of the Holy Land.

    As an example of the lack of import Islam placed on the Crusades concerns Kaiser Wilhelm II (1888 –1918) and the Muslim general Saladin.

    Saladin was the great liberator of Jerusalem, re-conquering the city from the Christians in 1187 after a decisive victory over a large Christian army at the Battle of Hattin.  He also fought battles against the legendary King Richard I, the Lionheart, during the Third Crusade, as a result, the name and fame of Saladin was well remembered in Europe throughout the centuries.  In 1899, Kaiser Wilhelm traveled to Damascus and while there desired to visit the tomb of Saladin.  When he found it, he was shocked at its dilapidated state.  The tomb of the man who had united Islam in the 12th century and re-conquered most of the Crusader states, had been forgotten and allowed to decay.  The Kaiser laid a wreath with the inscription, “to the Hero Sultan Saladin” and then paid for the restoration of the tomb. [7]

    It wasn’t until widespread European colonialism after the breakup of the Ottoman Turkish Empire in the early 20th century that the Crusades came to be used as anti-imperialist propaganda both in European academia and in the Muslim world.  This propaganda has, unfortunately, found widespread acceptance and focus in the Muslim world and has led to a gross historical misunderstanding.

    One Crusade historian has remarked how “generations of Arab school children have been taught that the crusades were a clear case of good vs. evil.  Rapacious and zealous crusaders swept into a peaceful and sophisticated Muslim world leaving carnage and destruction in their wake.”[8]

    This false history was exploited by the likes of Osama bin Laden and continues with other Jihadists groups today, which frequently use crusading imagery and even the term “crusaders” in relation to the Western world.  Mehmet Ali Ağca, the man who attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II, was enamored with this false history as he stated, “I have decided to kill Pope John Paul II, supreme commander of the crusades.”[9]

    There are many reasons for the current tension between Islam and the West but the Crusades are not one of them. In The New Concise History of the Crusades Thomas Madden summarizes the situation today well:

    “…that led to the attacks of September 11, but the artificial memory of the crusades constructed by modern colonial powers and passed down by Arab nationalists and Islamists.  They stripped the medieval expeditions of every aspect of their age and dressed them up instead in the tattered rags of 19th century imperialism.  As such, they have become an icon for modern agendas that medieval Christians and Muslims could scarcely have understood, let alone condoned.”[10]

    Pope Benedict XVI has emphasized the need for a “New Evangelization” to re-spread the Faith to areas of the world where it has been lost or forgotten.  Part of the New Evangelization is learning the authentic history of the Church and Western Civilization.  No greater example, of an area where authentic learning is paramount, is found than the Crusades.


    [1] Hilaire Belloc, The Crusades – the World’s Debate, ( Rockford, IL:  TAN Books and  Publishers, Inc., 1992), 17.
    [2] Thomas Madden, New Concise History of the Crusades, (New York, NY:  Rowan & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2005), 12.
    [3] Quoted in Ibid., 148.
    [4] Quoted in Regine Pernoud, The Crusaders – the Struggle for the Holy Land, trans. Enid Grant, (San Francisco, CA:  Ignatius Press, 2003) 23.
    [5] Madden, New Concise History, 13.
    [6] St. Bernard, Epistolae, quoted in Chronicles of the Crusades, ed. Elizabeth Hallam, (New York, NY:  Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989), 126.
    [7] Jonathan Riley-Smith, The Crusades – A History, 2nd ed., (New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press, 2005), 305.
    [8] Madden, New Concise History, 220.
    [9] Madden, editor, Crusades the Illustrated History, (Ann Arbor, MI:  The University of Michigan Press, 2004), 208.
    [10] Madden, New Concise History, 222.

    The views expressed by the authors and editorial staff are not necessarily the views of
    Sophia Institute, Holy Spirit College, or the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.

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    • Tom

      It is high time that, as Catholics, we start looking at history without rose tinted glasses. History has several roles. The most common is to create myths, to aggrandize a particular power structure or persons. Basically a distortion or frank confabulation as from of marketing. A totally different discipline is to, as much as possible, make sense of what happened, using evidence, like archeology or forensic sciences. I am no historian, but this article seems to be an example of the former, by deliberately skipping and downplaying Crusades in Europe. There are two in particular: 1) The Albigensian Crusade, which was particularly brutal. Even the current Pope appropriated blame on both sides in one of his Communio papers. This was not a crusade against Jews, but an other belief . There are lessons to be learned by examining this tragedy. 2) Crusades by the Knights of the Teutonic Order, where most of the myths mentioned by the author were true. But the author, in almost racist fashion, dismisses Poles and Lithuanian as “pagan tribes in the Baltic regions”.  The fact is they were already Catholic, and the Teutonic Order main goal was political conquest, similar to what happened in WW2. Although the order was powerful,  “approved by the Pope” and well finance (Hanseatic League backing), they were annihilated in battle by Catholic Poles and Lithuanians. This is a lesson for today, as an example of a “Pope approved” order that was disbanded not by the Pope, but by regular Catholics that had enough. Who said there are no lessons to be learned from history? But form marketing, not so sure. Just this error, for me, casts doubts on the rest from this author. 

      • iwka

        Yes, Poles, Lithuanians and Prussians didn’t experience the glory, but the horror of the crusaders. Battle of Grunwald took care of that problem. :-)

      • J G

         The glasses that are tinted are the ones that see Catholics as the villains. The Albigensians were no angels and today their beliefs would land them in prison. And I see no connection with WWII and the crusades.  Perhaps you should try on a different set of glasses.

        • Al_Kilo

          You mean the fact that an army coming from what is now Germany, to attack what is now Poland and Lithuania does not resemble WW2? If you say so. Catholics are not villains, but we are humans. God calls us to be honest.

          • J G

             Germany in WWII was not a Catholic nation. They had many Protestants and were motivated by National Socialism not religion. Apples and oranges. If you want villians then consider that it was the Muslims who invaded other nations and oppressed them. To this day they oppress Christians. They continue to attack us and seek to conquer us. That is the honest truth and the more pressing problem.

            • Al_Kilo

              Let me draw a picture: the analogy was that in both cases an army from what is now German invaded Poland and Lithuania for very selfish reasons. In both cases, it had nothing to do with religion, but what ever.
               
              In regards to Muslims, the situation is a lot more complex than people imagine. To start with, Sunni and Shia represent very different, and at times, incompatible views of Islam, in particular the strict Sunni/Wahabi interpretation.  I would suggest that you read more about what is going on with the Arab Spring. Yes, there are extremists. Shia extremist are clearly state sponsored (Iran). It is not clear who supports the Sunni/ Wahabi Al Qaeda groups, but somebody clearly does.  There is also a part that want change, that is not extremist and I hope, wins. The landscape is changing fast. A distant analogy could be that of what happened to the Catholic faith after Vatican 2. Its just the beginning and nobody knows where it will end. It’s important for Catholics to understand what is going on, including because of the important presence of Christians in that part of the world, who need critical protection now. Not many do, outside of those living there.
               

              • Brian English

                What are you talking about?  The Muslim Brotherhood is now in now in charge in Egypt, is releasing terrorists, and is calling for the release of the Blind Sheik, the guy responsible for the WTC Bombing. 

                • Tom

                  The MB is also evolving. It has a long history, some moderate, some not.  Let’s hope for the best, but nobody knows. This is why defending the interests  of Christians in the ME is so important.  The MB did meet with them, and so far so good. The worse that can happen is for ignorant knee jerk idiots on both sides to spark extremisms.  But yes that can happen.  Fortunately Egypt Muslims and Christians have lived together, granted with  tensions, for millennia, so they are use to this. It’s important to let them work things out. Its important for us to offer backing for the underdogs (Christians), while not imposing our ignorance, either (like for example, liberal US know it all NGOs that preach secular agendas, but just breed resentment). I think the Catholic Church can play an important role.

                  • J G

                     Evolving? The leopard is not changing his spots. Copts are being persecuted even more since the MB took over. Extremism is in the Islamic DNA.

                    • y W

                      well thats not stereotyping at all…

              • J G

                 The Arab Winter has led to Islamic radicals taking power. The Muslims got the vote and elected the terrorists. The Muslims invaded and have persecuted Christians ever since. Perhaps we do need a new crusade.

            • Caleb Yarbrough

              Actually, al Queda and a few other Islamic extremist groups are the only muslims who want to conquer the US. It is unfair to the millions of muslims who do not hold that belief to see them all as villains. But what you said about Germany was true

              • TruthWFree

                Shortly after 9/11, I talked to a moderate Muslim man in Texas and asked is Osama bin Ladin a man of God or a murderer? He said man of god. The belief for Muslims to kill unbelievers is in the Quran (9-5, 9-29 and at least a 100 more). Sura 2-193 say to fight until the religion is supreme. The Quran is supposed to be allah’s word revealed to Muhammad for a Muslim. Those Muslims who do not hold that belief are in opposition to their allah…and I would submit that Muslims who hold that belief are MANY of not MOST. Muhammad said in the Hadiths that Jihad in the way of allah is the highest action that will get a Muslim to his sensuous Islamic paradise.

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    • John Key

       
      Tom,
       
      While I agree we can’t paper over unpleasant events in history, I think you’re coming down way too hard on the author. This piece is clearly a 1000 foot view addressing the POPULAR myths about the crusades, not the complicated politcal realities in Europe. I would argue that this is exactly the type of material Catholics need to have at their finger tips as they are constantly challenged in social settings and throughout mass culture with the litany of “sins” the Church has committed. I would add to the list the Inquisition and how the Church did “nothing” too protect Jews during WWII. I hope the author will address these as well.
       
       

      • Al_Kilo

        Don’t get me wrong, I am sympathetic to the notion of people going out to defend the faith. I also agree that secular propaganda is just that, propaganda (and usually not very sophisticated, to boot). But, as the inside Europe crusades indicate, there were other motives as well. Similar motives probably existed in crusades outside of Europe. Humans are humans.  It’s ridiculous to only look at a mythical glorious side, just as it is ridiculous to look at the mythical bad side.
        Unfortunately The Church is continuing to do this to this day, and even back peddle. In 1983 checks and balances put into place after the reformation were removed by abolishing the office of promoter of faith. This undermined the “saint” making process, in other words, “official” church history writing, allowing self promoting myths to be propagated, with all too often agendas attached. St Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!
        Tom (same one that posted before)

    • Dcn John Saturus

      You can disagree with or argue with Runciman, but simply to characterise his work as “biased and bad scholarship” is ridiculous.  Yes, his sympathies are on the side of Byzantium and the Eastern Empire, which were pretty much destroyed (or at least doomed) by the attacks of their fellow-Christians from the Latin West.  But he doesn’t hide that sympathy, and he amasses a great deal of solid data to back up his historical judgments.  In any case, Runciman was a great historian and a fine writer, and deserves better than a quick dismissal.

      • Brian English

        ” Yes, his sympathies are on the side of Byzantium and the Eastern Empire, which were pretty much destroyed (or at least doomed) by the attacks of their fellow-Christians from the Latin West.”

        Nonsense.  The Byzantines had doomed themselves well before 1204 through their military failures and political intrigues.  Even though the First Crusade bought them more time, the duplicity of Alexius and subsequent emperors set the stage for Byzantium’s final downfall.    

        And while I enjoy reading Runciman’s History of the Crusades, his view that the Crusades were the greatest crime against humanity of all time, expressed only a decade after WW II, can only be described as deranged. 

         

    • Lancelot

      Monty Python And The Holy Grail, as I recall the movie, has nothing at all to do with the Crusades.  It was about Arthurian myth and legend which I’m not aware had anything to do with the Crusades.  The entire story as the ending makes clear took place entirely in modern day England.  The movie had nothing at all to do with the Middle East, Muslims or anything related to the Crusades.  To refer to this movie in this article can be said to be cringe worthy and bad scholarship.  And to be so incorrect so early in the article will only make skeptical readers only more skeptical about what is written.

      • John H.

        Lancelot,
        Are you reading a different version of this article? From what I can tell, this is how he refers to Monty Python: “The Crusades, hosted by Terry Jones (of Monty Python acclaim) that does real damage.”

        • Lancelot

          “While the mocking and generally nasty portrayal of the Crusades and Crusaders on the big screen ranges from Monty Python farce…”  refers to the movie.   “… or the BBC/A&E documentary, The Crusades, hosted by Terry Jones (of Monty Python acclaim) that does real damage.”  Terry Jones’ documentary was not a Monty Python project nor made for the big screen.  And the picture at the top of the article is from the Monty Python movie for the big screen, not the Terry Jones solo project.   If you are correct, then the sentence is very poorly written.  And that is not going to make the skeptical any less skeptical of what in what is trying to be put forth in the article.

          • Myriel

            I don’t think the sentence refers to the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. As I understand it, the sentence refers to the “mocking and generally nasty portrayal of the Crusades and Crusaders” and says that it  “ranges from Monty Python farce” to “big budget spectacles”. Perhaps what the author is trying to say is that some of these portrayals were farcical in their presentation, which is one way to understand that “Monty Python farce” remark.

            • Lancelot

              The picture accompanying the article is of the Python troupe in The Holy Grail and Monty Python is referred to as an example of a big screen farce which The Holy Grail was, and is referenced to in the accompanying picture but there is no reference to the movie.  Hmmm.      Then,  “While the mocking and generally nasty portrayal of the Crusades and
              Crusaders on the big screen ranges from Monty Python farce…”  should instead read “…Monty Python- like farce …”.  Or maybe “Pythonesque”.   Otherwise, the sentence is poorly written, liable to misunderstanding, and the accompanying picture only compounds the lack of clarity and understanding.  The reference remains cringe worthy. 
                   But  I guess we can also say that nothing referred to in the referred paragraph is referred to although it is referred to if the people referring to it wish not to refer to what they didn’t mean to refer to but in fact did refer to and no longer wish to refer to it since others referred to it in a manner inconsistent with the manner in which they wish it to be referred to.  –Sincerely, The Ministry of Silly References.         

          • http://www.facebook.com/BrandyMMiller1975 Brandy Miller

            Actually, Monty Python wasn’t just a movie. It was a long running british comedy show  
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Python's_Flying_Circus   
            that was decidedly anti-Catholic in its religious views.

            • http://profiles.google.com/pernoctate88 John Carter

              Originally playing to a largely Orangeman audience?  I have to admit I loved MP&theHolyGrail movie.  Yes, you have to overlook the over-the-top excesses.

            • Lancelot

              “Actually, Monty Python wasn’t just a movie. It was a long running british comedy show”     True, but irrelevant.  What does that have to do with the Crusades?  What does Monty Python in any of its manifestations have to do with the Crusades?

              “that was decidedly anti-Catholic in its religious views.”  They were anti a lot of things.  But why even mention it?  How does this relate to the Crusades?

              Monty Python has nothing to do with the Crusades yet they were given prominence with a picture of them immediately below the title and before the article and further mention in the second paragraph.  The fact that they are irrelevant to the author’s topic yet featured so prominently  can easily cause the reader to question any and all else written in the article.   Unless the author is only preaching to the converted this use of Monty Python in the article only diminishes the credibility of the author in the eyes of those to be persuaded.

              But maybe all this can be avoided if we call on Bicycle Repairman for assistance. 

              • mnemos

                Ummmmmmm….  Galahad is dressed as a crusader in the film and the picture above.  Too subtle??

                Off to my being-hit-on-the-head lesson….

                • Lancelot

                  Do explain how Galahad’s attire made the movie about the Crusades.  What did the movie say about the Crusades and how did they get it wrong?  Arthur’s knight’s adversaries were only and always French, never Muslim, Islamic, Middle Eastern or the like.

                  And Cpl. Klinger’s wearing a Toledo Mud Hen’s cap made MASH a TV series about minor league baseball.

                   

    • Lee Skinner

      Perhaps the best, most scholarly, and by far the best written, account of the crusades is “Islamic Imperialism”, by Efraim Karsh. While the book’s primary focus is not on the crusades, Professor Karsh sheds more light on them than I have found anywhere else.

    • Tom

      Well, regardless of all the warts and all, I am personally grateful for all the people fought to keep Europe’s Faith. Without them, we would not have democracy, let alone what later became the USA.  
      I am no historian, but what role did the crusades have in transforming Islam from, in a large part, reasoned thinking based  faith of the early middle ages (mathematics, etc, even St Thomas used their material), to a closed, siege mentality way of thinking of present days?
      North Africa and the middle East were the centers of learning in the first millennium (Christian and Muslim). Now only deserts exist. The only assets is oil, otherwise there is nothing. Lest hope and pray the the Arab spring is an awakening of the Muslim world, so they can regain scholarship and reason of the past.

      • Brian English

        “I am no historian, but what role did the crusades have in transforming Islam from, in a large part, reasoned thinking based faith of the early middle ages (mathematics, etc, even St Thomas used their material), to a closed, siege mentality way of thinking of present days?”

        None.  That happened long before the First Crusade.  Robert Reilly has a recent book on the topic, The Closing of the Muslim Mind.

        • Tom

          Not quite. The promiant muslim scolar, that St Thomas Aquinas debated, Averroes, lived bewteen 1126 -1198.
           

          • mnemos

            I would like to believe the Arab Spring will help restore civilized aspects of Islam, I think to myself of the Persian view that Arab culture is the greatest weakness of Islam.   In the end, I can’t help but think that the some of the violent contradictions in the Koran will undermine any progress for Islam. 

            As to the role of the crusades in transforming Islam – I think the example of Al-Andalus shows Islam turning on itself when orthodoxy takes note of the violence of the Koran.  The civilization, learning and scholarship of Al-Andalus were destroyed by rival orthodoxies “proving” themselves by persecuting all challengers – be they Christian, Jewish, or other Muslims – before the Reconquista. 

            I wish I had more hope.

            • Tom

              From what I understand (I only read spinets of the Koran), because it is so poetic, every third phrase can be interpreted in many different ways. This does not take into account issues of punctuations between transcriptions. Plus, like you say, there are contradictory passages. They developed a method to deal with that (passages written later, also usually more belligerent, are said to override earlier passages). The hope is that a re-emergence of reason is possible. There are signs of that. For example, if you read Al-Jazeera English, which is the mouth piece of the Emir of Qatar, they are exploring various questions (as long as Qatar or Saudi Arabia are never discussed). Unfortunately, for reasons that are not really clear to me, they hired the worse of US/UK Anglo liberals, that spout the worse of liberal academia clichés. It’s almost a farce. They have articles on how West country students protest a $300 tuition hike, but say nothing about slaves in their own kingdom! But to me it indicates a change, even if somewhat confused.  In all this, ME Christians need 110% support from Christians in the West, including insistence on reciprocity (if Muslims can worship in the West without restrictions, as any faith, so should Christians in the ME). Such pressure is definitively not going to come automatically from our government. But I also think in matters of family values, respect for life, Muslims could be allies with Catholics, as already has happened in the UN on several occasions. I guess prayer is important. Hope this makes sense!
              show more

              • J G

                 Islam eschews reason. Pope Benedict mentioned that in Regensburg. The result of mentioning Muslim violence was…more Muslim violence. This is not reason at work. I would argue Islam has never been reasonable.

            • J G

               In Andalusia the Muslims persecuted the Christians who fought for 700 years to drive the occupiers out. Viva Santiago.

          • Brian English

            That wasn’t a very fair debate, since Averroes had been dead for over 25 years before Aquinas was even born.

            In any event, Averroes was writing in Spain, and can hardly be considered to reflect Muslim thought in the Middle East.  I believe at the time Robert Reilly’s book came out, he had an article appear in Crisis that basically summarized the book.  If I remember correctly, the drastic change in Muslim thought occurred in the 9th Century.

    • Richardmdykstra

      Peaceful Moslems?  What history books have you been reading?

    • frjohnmorris

      You forgot to mention that one of the objectives of the the crusaders was to force the Eastern Orthodox to submit to Rome. The crusaders persecuted the native Eastern Orthodox Christians in the conquered lands, desecrated our churches and stole many sacred objects and icons . They drove out the Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch, Jerusalem and Constantinople and replaced them with Roman Catholic bishops. Indeed, the great scholar Stephen Runciman credits the crusades as the real cause for the estrangement between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism.  r.

      Fr. John Morris

      • Brian English

        That was never an objective of the Crusades.  The catalyst for the First Crusade was a request for help from Eastern Christians.

        As far as Mr. Runciman’s opinion, do you think Alexius’ duplicitous behavior caused any estrangement?  What about the Byzantine Empire allying with Saladin after Hattin?  What about the massacre of Latin Christians in Constantinople near the end of the 12th Century?

    • http://profiles.google.com/pernoctate88 John Carter

      Myth #3:  We all know there wasn’t enough blood for it to run ankle-deep throughout Jerusalem.  Isn’t that form of literalism a bit of a Red Herring?  Why even make this point if one is then going to proceed with an apologetic for the very myth at hand:  the sack and rapine of all of Jerusalem?

      The Church does not need to be sanitized in this way.  As to the fallible human instruments,  these are not helped by the wiff of nationalism and zealotry behind such efforts to justify the brutality of war.   Yes, many Muslim cultures were aggressive invaders and occupiers.  So were many Catholic cultures.  Let’s not confuse jingoistic nationalism with the Good News of the Gospel or the armies of western lands with the Body of Christ.  I find it disturbing when I hear justifications for both the Crusades and the actual Spanish Inquisitions … it is as though it is reasonable to claim red wine is good for heart health to the arresting officer in a DUI.

      • Brian English

        “We all know there wasn’t enough blood for it to run ankle-deep throughout Jerusalem. Isn’t that form of literalism a bit of a Red Herring?”

        Actually, “we” all don’t know that, which is why you still see that claim appearing, along with the absurd assertion that 70,000 people were killed in the sack of Jerusalem.

      • Brian English

        ” I find it disturbing when I hear justifications for both the Crusades and the actual Spanish Inquisitions”

        Why do you find the truth disturbing?  You really believe it is better to allow the lies that are regularly used to attack the Church to go unchallenged?  It is that type of attitude that has allowed these lies to flourish.

    • J17ghs

      I have read “The New Concise History of the Crusades” by Thomas Madden, a book cited by the article’s author and found it worthwhile for its perspective and research and as a reference guide that I keep for consultation. Marxism and Islam – both of which seek the destruction of the West — control too much of the world today. Propaganda is a big part of their merged strategy for they know, as Orwell wrote, that he who controls the present controls the past, and he who controls the past, controls the future.

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    • frjohnmorris

      An effort to force the Eastern Orthodox to submit to the papacy was certainly one of the results of the crusades. It was the ill treatment of the Orthodox by the Roman Catholic crusaders that finalized the Great Schism.  Instead of retuning captured cities to Constantinople, the crusaders set up kingdoms for themselves. In 1098 Bohemond the leader of the crusader army that took Antioch set himself up as prince of Antioch. In 1100 Bohemond expelled John the Oxite the legitimate Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and appointed a Bernard of Valence Patriarch of Antioch. Bernard with Bohemond’s support then tried to force the Greek Orthodox of Antioch to submit to the papacy and replaced the Byzantine Liturgy with the Latin Liturgy. This event finalized the Great Schism by bringing down to the level of the ordinary Christian what had before been a quarrel between the Eastern Patriarchs and Rome.   The  crusaders certainly did not act like Christians when they took Jerusalem.  They slaughtered 10,000 Muslims, burned a synagogue filled with Jews Once again, the crusaders expelled the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and set up a Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. In 1204 the orgy of rape,  pillage and plunder of Constantinople is one of the greatest atrocities in Christian history.   They committed sacrilege in the great Cathedral of Holy Wisdom, placing  a placed a prostitute on the Patriarch’s throne and a keg of beer on the altar. They stole everything they could take and even hacked to pieces the silver iconostasis of the Cathedral.  Although the Byzantines took back their city in 1261, historians generally agree that the Latin attack and rule so weakened the Byantine Empire that the fall to the Turks in 1453 became inevitable. By any objective standards the crusades were one of the saddest incidents  in Western history. 

      Fr. John W. Morris

      • Brian English

        ” Instead of retuning captured cities to Constantinople, the crusaders set up kingdoms for themselves. In 1098 Bohemond the leader of the crusader army that took Antioch set himself up as prince of Antioch.”

        Once Alexius turned tail and ran back to Constantinople when he learned a large Muslim army had beseiged the Crusaders in Antioch, the vow to return the city was invalidated.

        “The crusaders certainly did not act like Christians when they took Jerusalem. They slaughtered 10,000 Muslims, burned a synagogue filled with Jews Once again, the crusaders expelled the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and set up a Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.”

        The number was more like 3,000, primarily men in the garrison.  Contrary to popular belief, a large number of Jews also survived the sack.  But beyond that, you act as if this was some type of unusual event.  When cities were taken by storm, people were killed.  This was not unique to the Crusaders.

        “In 1204″

        The crusade that ended up in Constantinople was actually meant for Egypt.  The crusaders made the mistake of getting involved in Byzantine politics.  The books by Thomas Madden and Jonathan Phillips reveal that the entire situation was not the simplistic one usually presented.

        “Although the Byzantines took back their city in 1261, historians generally agree that the Latin attack and rule so weakened the Byantine Empire that the fall to the Turks in 1453 became inevitable.”

        Byzantium was already weak.  How do you think the city was conquered?

        • frjohnmorris

          You do not really deal with my arguments. Regardless of the political circumstances, the crusaders still persecuted the native Orthodox Christians by expelling their Patriarchs and installing Latin Patriarchs in an effort to force the  Orthodox Christians in areas they conquered to submit to the papacy and  become Roman Catholic.  The crusaders desecrated our Churches and took everything they could get their hands on with them back to Europe. Thus instead of liberating the Eastern Christians, the crusaders treated them as a conquered people by trying to make them abandon their Orthodox Faith and embrace Roman Catholicism.

          Fr. John W. Morris

          • Brian English

            You just can’t ignore the political circumstances, because the Byzantine Emperor was the head of the Orthodox Church.

            My point is, regardless of what happened later, the First Crusade set out to liberate and protect Eastern Christians.  I just picked up Peter Frankopan’s book, The First Crusade — The Call From the East, which I understand looks in depth at the circumstances surrounding Emperor Alexios’ request for help addressed to Urban II.

    • http://profiles.google.com/donaldsensing Donald Sensing

      Excellent summary, well done and badly needed. A few other points:

      First, the Crusades were defensive in nature. Spain fell under Arab domination in 713 and was not fully freed until 1492. In 732, an Arab army under Abd er Rahman marched toward Paris; it was defeated near Tours by Charles Martel.

      The Muslim Ottoman Turks penetrated into eastern Europe as far north as Poland, and into Russia all the way to St. Petersburg, where there is still today a large, active mosque.Arab naval raiders reached England, the west coast of Europe and even Iceland. 
      By the tenth century, the best army and navy in Europe were Muslim, under the command of Abd ar-Rahman III of Spain. The Crusades were a badly needed and long-overdue counteroffensive.

      As Princeton University’s Professor Bernard Lewis has pointed out, the Crusades ended in the defeat of the Crusaders; the Crusades were a Muslim victory. By 1300, Muslim armies were so decisively victorious in the Middle East that European armies did not return for five hundred years, when they were much more successful due to technological advantage and modern home-state economies. 

      After the last Crusade was vanquished, the Islamic caliphate counter-attacked. In 1480, Sultan Mehmed II captured Italy’s easternmost town, Otranto, and razed it. He intended to use it as a port for the conquest of Italy itself. The danger was so great that Rome was evacuated, but Mehmed died and nothing came of his plans. The overland route into Europe, through the Balkans, was repeatedly invaded by Muslim armies; one under Suleiman the Magnificent was defeated at Vienna not by European arms but by a rainstorm that negated his use of artillery. 

      It was not until an Ottoman army was decisively defeated at Vienna in 1683 that Islam began a retreat.

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    • Tom

      From what I understand (I only read spinets of the Koran), because it is so poetic, every third phrase can be interpreted in many different ways. This does not take into account issues of punctuations between transcriptions. Plus, like you say, there are contradictory passages. They developed a method to deal with that (passages written later, also usually more belligerent, are said to override earlier passages). The hope is that a re-emergence of reason is possible. There are signs of that. For example, if you read Al-Jazeera English, which is the mouth piece of the Emir of Qatar, they are exploring various questions (as long as Qatar or Saudi Arabia are never discussed). Unfortunately, for reasons that are not really clear to me, they hired the worse of US/UK Anglo liberals, that spout the worse of liberal academia clichés. It’s almost a farce. They have articles on how West country students protest a $300 tuition hike, but say nothing about slaves in their own kingdom! But to me it indicates a change, even if somewhat confused.  In all this, ME Christians need 110% support from Christians in the West, including insistence on reciprocity (if Muslims can worship in the West without restrictions, as any faith, so should Christians in the ME). Such pressure is definitively not going to come automatically from our government. But I also think in matters of family values, respect for life, Muslims could be allies with Catholics, as already has happened in the UN on several occasions. I guess prayer is important. Hope this makes sense!

    • Truthserum 1

      This is an extremely interesting and documented article and the comments also bring up many important sidelights – it’s always great to have hindsight, but one has to remember that the times were quite different – roads, communications etc. were primitive and even non-existant! Armies foraged on the lands thay passed through and the “natives were not always friendly”. The fact remains: The Muslims laid siege to Christian lands and mass murdered thousands in spreading their empire from Persia to Spain! The Crusades and a multitude of other battles were waged to stop ththe atrocities of the Arab. Persian and Turkish Armies who were merciless!!! THAT’S FACT!!

    • Doug Latimer

      The article justifies the Crusades because of what was done to the Christians first.
      I heartily agree. Islam then and now is often an aggressive enemy, not passive victim. However, doesn’t this line of argument lead to another conclusion:
      The Huguenots were justified in taking arms in the Wars of Religion in France, because of what was done to them first.

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    • Chris H.

      Only a theology which downplays human sinfulness and supports the notion of Christendom could pen such an article.   Of course there are myths, PC revisionism, and Muslim propaganda which distort the historical truth, but the bottom line is that the first and second “ingredients” listed above which mark a “Christian” crusade not only undermine the cause of Christ in the world, but even blaspheme against him by allying the preaching of grace with the use of force.   Crosses upon those who bear arms?   Really?   A leader Christian church endorsing a war?   I write this as a combat vet (Desert Storm) who believes in the State using force as a last resort (Just War theory); but this force is NEVER, NEVER to be identified with Christ’s Church which is offer only the Word and Sacraments to needy sinners — its only weapons love and persuasion.    The Church is to be a place of mercy and love, not temporal justice.   Or why else did Jesus tell Peter to put away his sword?  And where else in the whole NT do we ever see Christians resorting to force to “defend” the Faith?   And where is “holy land” today?  You need to take this whole discussion back to the New Testament and re-think everything.

      • Jim K

        Chris- search “Battle of Vienna” and “Battle of Lepanto” in Wikipedia.  Remember that much of North Africa, Spain, Palestine, and Turkey were largely Christian before the Mohammedan expansion began in the 600s.     While I agree that the Church’s role is not violence, do you really think Europe could have remained Christian had all the Christians of Europe “put down their swords”?

        • Sarutobi

          Couldn’t agree more with Jim K

    • Chris H.

      Sorry for many the typos below… but hopefully they do not detract from the main points.

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    • Sue

      Except Saladin did not follow the “standard practice” when he took Jersulam.  Indeed, he wen tou of his way to give the Christian and Jewish inhabitants every consideration he could. 

      While it is true that KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is fiction, it  only gives Saladin half the credit he deseves.

      I direct your attention to the excellent book, “Lionhears – Richrd I. Saladin, and the Era of the Third Crusade” by Geofrey Regan c1998, particularly pages 93-117.

      Saladin, who liked and respected Balian, (the knight in charge of Jersulem’s defense}, and was probably pleased to be spared responsibility for a massacre, agreed to accept the surrender of the city, and now held lengthy discussions with the Christian leader to set the level of ransom to be imposed. Eveytually, it was agreed that each man should pay 10 dinars, each woman 5, and each child just 1 dinar. The many poor, estimated to number 7,000, were to be ransomed for a total of 30,000 bezants, paid for from the gold Henry II of England had raised, and that the Templars made available to Balian. Saladin granted everyone 40 days in which to collect their ransoms, after which, if they failed to pay, they would be enslaved.

      The occupation of Jersulam by the Muslims in 1187 was in marked contrast to the horrors that accompanied the seizure of the city by the Crusaders in 1099. There was no looting of buildings and no rape of the women. Saladin had posted his own guards on the streets as much to keep his soldiers under control as to ensure that the Christians behaved themselves.

      At this time of crisis, it might be thought that the Latin Church would succor its people and be a rock upon which the Christians of Jerusalem could rely. Unfortunately, the leadership of the Patriarch Eraclius and his priests seemed based on indifference and parsimony. Rather than use church funds to ransom the poor, Eraclius paid just the 10 dinars for himself and left the poor to fend for themselves.

      When the 40 days that had been set aside for the collection of the ransoms had passed, Saladin found that there were still many poor Christians who had not been able to raise the money. Previous conquerors, of whatever faith, would have wasted no more time, and would have swept the “remnants” into slavery, but Saladin continued to find ways to stretch his own rules and help the poor, particularly the widows and orphans of those who had fallen as Hattin.

      On the other hand…

      Eraclius collected all the wealth of the church in Jersulem and took it out of the city on a caravan of carts. Gold and silver ornaments, fine tapestries and carpets were loaded onto the carts in full view of the poor, who, lacking the means to pay their ransoms, were facing slavery in Muslim lands. Even Saladin’s emirs were infuriated by the sight.  They urged Saldin to seize the wealth of this greedy and selfish man who, in the last days of the kingdom, was seen to be failing those who had regarded him as their spiritual link with God. But Saladin refused to break his oath to Balian to let those go who could pay their ransoms. As a result, although there had been enough money in the hands of the wealthy Christians, some 15,000 poor Jerusalemites were taken in columns to the slave markets of Damascus.

    • Vsablnj

      If Mr. Weidenkopf decides, as suggested, to study the role of the Catholic Church in WW II,  Sister Margharita Marchione has done extensive research on the matter.

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    • Don Wacker

      It is said that only one word brings to mind bloodshed and mass killings on flimsy evidence is the Inquisition. It is even today a word whispered by a few who fear it’s fury. And Churchmen were responsible  to all of the injustice that is associated with this word. If I had to choose which did more to the Church’s image,The Crusades or the Inquisition, it would been the later.  

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    • Todd

      This author reads like a salesman for a Western spin on facts. I can tell you as a resident of the Middle East, the Crusades are a clearly a center piece between Islam and the West, but you can miss the forest for the trees. Also…the idea the blood couldn’t come the ankles..that doesn’t change facts of a massacre. The Crusades were a great wrong and scar on the whole of Western history.

    • The Truth

      just reading everyones opinions and knowledge of religion… its safe to say that it is the cause of most wars in history.

    • Danny Hassan

      Throughout history of the Islam, Many people all over the world accepted Islam because of its humanitarian approach, of no caste system, universal brotherhood, adhering to strict principles of decency, honest incomes etc… When the battle of Yarmukh started, the Roman Emperor attacked the Muslims with a contingent of 100,000 or more soldiers and it was the talented General Khalid Ibne Walid who fought with pride and defeated the 10 times larger army. How? I believe u need to know the history from different sources to imagine the real truth. Why would the Roman Emperor travel with such large army? From then on, the wars started with fierce retributions on both sides and at present the enmity has not yet disappeared…. but the fact is, the wars made the people more knowledgeable about mathematics, alchemy, astrology etc. and look how far those knowledge have taken us. Very soon, we would realize, that, it was necessary for the world to move in a direction of conflict to find that peace is more valuable.

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    • god is not real

      catholics are pedophiles, muslims want christian blood, jews just want 2 be left alone and i think religion was made up by a group of friends who had drunk to much wine

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