This is a discussion of how consistently attractive the Crusades were between 1095 and 1294. It seeks to provide an analysis of what was happening over this period and hopefully help us understand what motivated the variety of Crusades that were taken within and outside Western Europe

The Discussion
“Now become soldiers of Christ you who a little while ago were robbers. Now legally fight against barbarians, you who once fought against brothers and blood-relatives”

Thus Pope Urban II preached the 1st crusade. He began a famous phenomenon attempting to unite the forces of Christendom to regain the Holy Land especially Jerusalem. Yet there were very many different crusades to different lands and the idea of crusade itself lacked proper legislation. The term crusade first appears after the 3rd Crusade and even then it was crusesignati rather than the fully developed idea subsequent people have developed. Dr. Tyerman makes a simple but prescient point when he states “We know there were crusades, they did not”. The Crusade as an idea developed over a long period of time probably beginning with St. Augustine of Hippo. Once it began as a movement it changed depending on the political circumstances of the time. For this was the dominant feature of the crusades. There was religious fervour bound up with the religiosity but it varied in its extent. The profusion of military orders sapped the attractive nature of crusading for members of these orders were not crusaders. There were four main areas of crusading: the Holy Land, Spain, the Baltic and within Christendom itself. Of these Spain and the Baltic were most political and most detached from an overriding religious objective and are very interesting to show how different the attractiveness could be. The Holy Land is the area, which has most fascinated people, and it is interesting to see the effect of the success of the 1st Crusade on Crusading: its success spelt remarkable apathy. 12th century crusading was remarkably reactionary in the Holy Land. The internal Christian crusades such as the Albisengian Crusade one can be seen to spark mass fervour to eliminate heretics but are also bound up with the political situation of the region. Thus one can see the complexity of what was going on from 1095 until 1294. The crusades attractiveness did change over time and became less and then more and then less attractive as one would expect. The problem comes with trying to become specific and understanding the reasons for this.

The first crusade was not separate from earlier Christian tradition. 9th Century Popes granted remission of sins to certain warriors and Popes John X (914-28) and John XII (955-63) personally took part in fighting. What has subsequently become a crusade was in 1095 seen as an armed pilgrimage. The Pope preached at Clermont and subsequently went to do the same at Limoges, Angers, Le Mans and Nimes. He had two goals: the liberation of Jerusalem and the liberation of baptised people from Muslim domination. He tried to incite the people into mass fervour stating:

“Let the Holy Sepulchre of the Lord our Saviour, which is possessed by unclean nations, especially incite”(Robert the Monk version of his Clermont speech).
But he also gave the incentive of stating “remission of sins will be granted for those going thither.” The political situation of the time meant that it was the men of Northern France who were most enthusiastic to go and it was they who were probably the best military figures to do so. Crucially it captured the imagination of key nobles who would be vital co-ordinating figures: Hugh the Great, brother of the King of France, Bohemond the Norman, son of Robert Guiscard, Raymond, Count of Provence, Robert, Count of the Normans, Stephen, Count of Blois and Robert, Count of Flanders number amongst these. With them came countless lesser people whose reasons may well have differed from the glory and salvation-seeking nobles. For although the nobles had much to gain there was also much to lose. For example Robert of Normandy secured a huge loan from his brother and in return entrusted his Duchy to him. Failure in the Holy Land could have destroyed him (ironically success did not prevent his fall either). Those that had less in the first place had far more to gain and Urban II played on this fact:
“This land which you inhabit…is too narrow for your large population; nor does it abound in wealth”.
Thus one can see the popularity of the 1st crusade. But it would be good to note the reluctance of Southern France and the Germans to become involved and the lack of Kings. Even this crusade was limited in its appeal irrespective of the success it enjoyed.

This was closely followed by the crusade of 1101. By this stage there had been a massive demobilisation of troops in the Holy Land: the crusaders in general were pilgrims not settlers. Pope Paschal II attempted to use the success of the first crusade to tempt new crusaders. But there were many problems. Henry IV of Germany and the Pope had bad relations, Philip I was at odds with the Papacy over marriages, William Rufus and Henry I were cynical and depriving Robert I of his rights and the Spanish already faced the Muslims. There was the problem of the existence of those that took the cross and then failed to fulfil their vows, which indicates that even amongst those who were convinced there could be a change of heart. There was a council at Poitiers in 1100 where as Abbot Bernard put it the legates: “violently exiting the people that they should quickly aid the faithful in God’s war”. Many nobles, clergy and simple folk took the cross including William IX, Duke of Aquitaine and Odo, Duke of Burgundy. Regions such as these not represented in the first crusade now took the opportunity for a leading role and so one can see that the appeal shifted from region to region. Perhaps one should add that this crusade resulted in three defeats for the crusaders and little good for the Kingdom of Jerusalem save the capture pf Tortosa. The lack of glorious success so soon after the great first crusade damaged the desire for crusading. Now Jerusalem had been captured it would be more difficult to raise armies to fight that war.

The Second Crusade of 1147 was very different. Firstly as one German chronicler put it: “To the initiators of the expedition it seemed that one part of the army should be sent to the eastern regions, another into Spain and a third against the Slavs who live next to us”. Thus it was a seen as a war on three fronts. For the moment we are concerned with the Holy Land and so this aspect will be looked at. Pope Eugenius III followed the 1st Crusade tradition and gave special privileges to crusaders, used authorised preachers to spread the word and so on. Crucially he and St. Bernard of Clairvaux secured the support of important lay rulers such as Louis of France and Conrad of Germany and so one can see perhaps an increase in appeal to the significant members of Western Christendom. Yet Godfrey, bishop of Langres in Louis’ court discussed the arrogance of the heathen and the oppression of Christians as the motives for travelling. Papal significance was negligible. 1146 preaching at Vezelaz of Bernard gained many important followers such as Thierry of Alsace, Count of Flanders and the bishops of Noyon and Lisieux. Although Jerusalem was in Christian hands the 1144 fall of Edessa, the desire for salvation and other factors were clearly enough to make the crusade attractive to many. But it is interesting to see the lack of interest of those from Italian trading cities such as Genoa and Pisa to actually take the cross: they had opportunities at home. But one can see with evidence such as the De Expugnatae Lyxbonensi that describes English, Normans and Scots who travelled without a Prince:

“Among these people of so many different tongues the firmest guarantees of peace and friendship were taken; and furthermore they sanctioned very strict laws”
The intriguing spirit that what we now call crusading fostered.

The 3rd Crusade of 1189 to 1192 once more saw Kings enthusiastic: Henry II then Richard I of England, Philip II of France (who left early) and Frederick Barbarossa of Germany (who drowned on the way). The plight of the Holy Land attracted the powerful men of Western Christendom after the Battle of Hattin and the loss of the true cross which Peter of Blois emphasised:

“As elephants are roused to battle by the sight of blood, so, and more fervently, does the sight of the Holy Cross and the remembrance of the Lord’s passion rouse Christian knights.”
But this new popularity did not lead to the reconquest of Jerusalem; indeed the Crusaders did not attempt it. They may have taken up the cause but they were not willing to be martyred as a whole. Thus the 4th Crusade was devised by Pope Innocent III. This saw Philip Augustus of France too busy conquering Angevin lands to be involved personally and this marks the contemporary lack of lay ruler involvement in the 4th crusade. The Venetians who were transporting the force were more interested in being paid in one satisfactory way or another rather than aid crusade success. Ultimately Constantinople was taken in 1204!! The crusade had gone seriously wrong.

The 5th Crusade saw an attempt to rectify this and saw the birth of a new strategy. Egypt was to be attacked and ultimately Damietta captured. In return the Crusaders would be given the Holy Land. This new war gained lay power support with Frederick II taking the cross but then being hindered from leaving by Otto IV contesting his throne. Thus appeal could be present but appeal did not translate to actual support. Important French nobles were not enthused by the prospect of helping Syrian Christians who James of Vitry in 1213 claimed were tainted by Muslim customs. Spiritual and temporal penalties meant little to them. They remained concerned with internal and personal issues. It left King Andrew II of Hungary and Duke Leopold VI of Austria to take the lead and so one can see the appeal it had to lesser leaders such as these who could lead Christendom to war and massively increase their power and prestige. The crusades appear able to always appeal to people in a certain area. Appeal may have shifted from region to region indicating that it could spend its force but it is interesting to see the broad nature of its appeal that it could be taken up by such a wide variety of people.

The Spanish reconquista began before the crusades and although it was granted crusade status on various occasions for example 1147 one can see it firstly as a separate development and secondly as part of the development of Christian Holy War. There was no pilgrimage involved rather it was the resettlement of once Christian lands. Thus it was regaining what was rightfully Christ’s. Fernando I who died in 1065 was a key figure in the development of the Spanish kingdoms. But as Lomax observes the lack of forced conversions is:

“A fact which shows that the reconquerors wished to spread the political power of the Christian community rather than belief in the Christian religion”.
There was French aid motivated by friendship, self-defence and rewards but their help was mainly confined to the Ebro valley. Alfonso VI in 1085 gained Toledo. Thus one can see the banner of crusade was added to an ongoing venture. As the Archbishop of Compostella in 1125 stated: “Just as the knights of Christ opened the way to Jerusalem… so we should become knights of Christ”. The interest of the Christian monarchs and populations throughout this period in reconquering the Iberian Peninsula was undiminished and to an extent unquestioned. When they faced Almoravid and then Almohad aggression they reacted suitably and continued the ongoing process. Men such as El Cid showed that on the border there was much to be gained: he carved himself out the Kingdom of Valencia. The setting up of the military orders such as that of Santiago shows the influence of crusader orders.

The Baltic Crusades and internal Christendom Crusades also reflect the similarity of privileges granted to the Holy Land crusaders that the Spanish wars were granted. Pope Eugenius III in 1147 stated about the Baltic Crusades:

“To all those who do not receive the cross of Jerusalem and determine to go against the Slavs and remain in that expedition we concede… that remission of sins which our predecessor Pope Urban of happy memory instituted for going to Germany”.
These crusades were asked for by the Saxons who had begun in between 1140 to 1143 to take Wagrian and Palabian lands. Thus the Wendish Crusades had Saxons who wished for land and tribute, Danes who sought revenge and Poles who sought to intimidate the Prussians. It was quite popular and shows how specific regional crusades could be born. It continued throughout this period as lands further east were captured and converted under the banner of crusade but as discussed by Christiansen in relation to Canute V’s success in making Pomerania subject to him in 1185:
“The later stages of this war made it clear that the destruction of heathenism and the implantation of Christian Churches and abbeys had been only one of several ways in which Slav populations were made politically subject to outside invaders.”
The crusade remained appealing throughout this period in the Baltic as in Spain for highly political and gain related motives.

It is interesting to look at Muslim opinion on the first crusade. Ibn Al-Athir linked the conquest of Toledo, North African areas and the Holy Land together and saw it as “the intensification” of the activity of the Franks. They saw the crusades as western expansion. Looked at in this sense it is not difficult to see that the crusades would be appealing only so long as Christendom had the potential to expand and the individual regions within it specifically had this. Internal crusades were declared with those opposing Markward of Antweiler being given crusader status by Pope Innocent III. The Crusades as an idea were often criticised and the followers of St. Thomas Becket were amongst those who did. One can see a changing style in appeal. Hugh de Glanvill trying to convince Anglo-Norman doubters appealed to “the virtues of our ancestors”. The idea of being soldiers of Christ was not so great a pull by this 12th century stage. But the cause of Crusade could be consistently attractive even when a papal call was lacking for example Hugh de Payen’s 1128 recruitment tour. Yet the numbers of those attracted by crusades in terms of the population of a country was small. They numbered in their 1000s but this was never a massive pull on western manpower. Interestingly one can see how the appeal of crusading shifted from region to region, from monarch to monarch and often full circle. The level of appeal was not consistent: there were lulls and in Spain and the Baltic one can argue that although the appeal was greater and more consistent the idea of crusade was less important. Ironically it was in these more politically dominated battles that the appeal remained. The Holy Land crusades were much more difficult to keep consistent and it is the lack of constant initiative by the Christians that helped cause the downfall of the crusader states. Internal crusades such as those against the Cathars were always popular perhaps because of their ephemeral nature. But if one had to look at the extremely complex world of the crusades and say whether they were consistently appealing one would have to say no. Perhaps Odo of Chateauroux sums up the problem when he tried to revive interest in the cause:

“Someone says “The Muslims have not hurt me at all. Why should I take the cross against them?” But if he thought well about it he would understand that the Muslims do great injury to every Christian”.
This was the basic religious discussion for all crusaders especially those aimed at the Holy Land. The fervour would vary over time depending on political circumstances to decide whether or not individuals felt the Muslims have done me no harm or they harm my Christian community. Thus one can see how appeal could change based on the conflict between individual and community, political circumstances for example war between Philip Augustus of France and King John of England and the desire for material gain for example lessening of Genoese and Pisan interest as when their wealth and power was great.

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