The Crusades, Part 3.

A significant result of the First Crusade was the further alienation of the Eastern & Western Churches. The help provided Byzantium by the crusaders were not what The Emperor Alexius was looking for.

It also resulted in an even greater alienation of the Muslims than had been in place before. 200 years of Crusading rampages across the Eastern Mediterranean permanently poisoned Muslim-Christian relations and ended the spirit of moderate tolerance for Christians living under Muslim rule. The only people who welcomed the crusaders were a handful of Christian minorities who’d suffered under Byzantine or Muslim rule; people like the Armenians and Lebanese Maronites. The Copts in Egypt saw the Crusades as a calamity. They were now suspected by Muslims rulers of holding Western sympathies while being treated as schismatics by the Western Church. Once the Crusaders took Jerusalem, they banned the Copts form making pilgrimage there.

Things really went sour between East & West when the Roman church installed Latin Latin patriarchates in historically Eastern centers at Antioch & of course Jerusalem. Then, during the 4th Crusade, a Latin patriarch was appointed to the church in Constantinople itself!

To give you an idea of what this would have “felt” like to the church in Constantinople, imagine how Southern Baptists would feel if a Mormon bishop was installed as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention. You get the picture = No Bueno.

Another longer lasting effect of the Crusades was that they weakened the Byzantine Empire and hastened its fall to the Ottoman Turks. Arab governments were also destabilized and left susceptible to Turkish and Mongol invasion.

A significant new development in monastic history was written at this time in the rise of the knightly monastic orders. The first of these was the Knights Templar, founded in 1118 under Hugh de Payens. King Baldwin gave the Templars their name, and from them the idea of fighting for the Temple passed to other orders. Bernard of Clairvaux, although not the author of the Templar rule as legend have it, did write an influential piece called In Praise of the New Militia of Christ which lauded the new orders of knights.

The Templars were imitated by the Hospitallers, who had an earlier origin as a charitable order. They’d organized in 1050 by merchants from Amalfi living in Jerusalem to protect pilgrims. They provided hospitality and care of the sick, and helped morph the word “hospitality” into “hospital.” Under Gerard in 1120, the Hospitallers gained papal sanction. Gerard’s successor was Raymond de Provence who reorganized the Hospitallers as a military order on the pattern of the Knights Templar. The Hospitallers, also known as the Knights of St. John eventually moved to the isalnds of Rhodes, then Malta, where they held out in a protracted siege against the Turks in one of history’s most significant battles.

The Hospitallers are one of my favorite topics so we’ll come back to them in a future episode.

Another important military order, the Teutonic Knights arose during the 3rd Crusade in 1199. The knightly monastic orders had certain features in common. They viewed warfare as a devotional way of life. The old monastic idea of fighting the demons, as seen in the ancient Egyptian desert hermits, evolved into actual combat with people who were cast as being agents of evil. Spiritual warfare became actual battle. Knights & their attendants took the vows similar to other monks. They professed poverty, chastity, & obedience, along with a pledge to defend others by force of arms. While personal poverty was vowed, using violence to secure wealth was deemed proper so it could be used to benefit others, including the order itself. The Templars became an object of envy for their immense wealth.

In studying the relations between Christianity and Islam during the Middle Ages, we should remember there were many peaceful interchanges. Some Christians advocated peaceful missions to Muslims. These peaceful encounters can be seen in the exchange of art. Christians highly valued Muslim metalwork and textiles. Church vestments were often made by Muslim weavers. Such a vestment is located today at Canterbury. It contains Arabic script saying, “Great is Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.”

On the positive side, if there was anything positive to be gleaned from the Crusades, it did promote a greater sense of unity in Western Europe. Remember that one of the reasons Pope Urban sparked the Crusade was to vent the violent habits of the European nobles who were constantly at each other’s throats. Instead of warring with each other back and forth across Europe, watering its fields with blood, they united to go against the infidels way over there.

The Crusades also led to increased prestige for the papacy as they were able to mobilize huge numbers of people.  The Crusades also stimulated an intellectual revival in Europe as Crusaders returned with them new experiences and knowledge from another part of the world.

After the 1st Crusdae, over the next 60 years, Jerusalem saw a succession of weak rulers while the Muslims from Damascus to Egypt united under a new dynasty of competent & charismatic leaders. The last of these was Saladin. He became caliph in 1174 & set out to retake Jerusalem.

The king of Jerusalem at the time was (warning: I’m going to butcher this poor guy’s name) Guy de Lusignan. Let’s just call him “Guy.” He led the Crusaders out to a hill on the West of the Sea of Galilee called the Horns of Hattin. Both the Templars and Hospitallers were there in force, and the much vaunted “true cross” was carried by the bishop of Acre, who himself was clad in armor. On July 5, 1187, the decisive battle was fought. The Crusaders were completely routed. 30,000 perished. King Guy, the leaders of the Templars & Hospitallers along with a few other nobles were taken prisoner. Saladin gave them clemency. The fate of the Holy Land was decided.

On Oct. 2, 1187, Saladin entered Jerusalem after it made brave resistance. The conditions of surrender were most creditable to the chivalry of the Muslim commander. There were no scenes of savage butchery as followed the entry of the Crusaders 90 years before. The people of Jerusalem were given their liberty if they paid a ransom. The Europeans & anyone else who wanted to, were allowed to leave. For 40 days the procession of the departing continued. The relics stored in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre were redeemed for the sum of 50,000 bezants; the bezant was a gold coin weighing about 5 grams. It was named after Byzantium were they originated.

Thus ended the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem. Since then the worship of Islam has continued on Mount Moriah w/o interruption. The other European conquests of the 1st Crusade were then in danger from the unending feuds of the Crusaders themselves, and, in spite of the constant flow of recruits and treasure from Europe, they fell easily before Saladin.

He allowed a merely ceremonial Latin ruler to hold the title King of Jerusalem but the last real king was Guy, who was released, then travelled around claiming the title of king but w/o a court or capital. He eventually settled in Cyprus.

We’ll go into less detail for the rest of the Crusades as we finish them off over the next couple episodes.

The 2nd Crusade was sparked by 2 different events; the Fall of the Crusader state of Edessa & the preaching of Bernard of Clairvaux. And note that the 2nd Crusade took place BEFORE the arrival of Saladin on the scene.

Edessa fell to the Turks in Dec. of 1144.  They built a fire in a large breach they’d made in the city wall. The fire was so hot it cracked a section of the wall a hundred yards long. When the wall collapsed, the Turks rushed in & unleashed the same kind of brutality the Crusaders had when they conquered Jerusalem.

Pope Eugenius III saw the Turk victory at Edessa as a threat to the continuance of the Crusaders in Palestine and called upon the king of France to march to their relief. The forgiveness of all sins and immediate entrance into heaven were promised to all embarking on a new Crusade who might die. Eugenius summoned Bernard of Clairvaux to leave his abbey & preach the crusade. Bernard was the most famous person of his time and this call by the Pope came at the zenith of his fame.  He considered the Pope’s summons as a call from God.

On Easter in 1146, King Louis of France vowed to lead the Crusade. The Pope’s promise of the remission of sins was dear to him as he was stricken by guilt for having burned a church with 1300 people inside. How grand to be able to gain forgiveness by killing some more people! He assembled a council at Vézelai at which Bernard made such an overpowering impression by his message that all present pressed forward to take up the Crusading cause. Bernard was obliged to cut his own robe into small fragments, to give away to all those who wanted something of his they could carry to the East. He wrote to Pope Eugenius that the enthusiasm was so great “castles and towns were emptied of their inmates. One man could hardly be found for 7 women, and the women were being everywhere widowed while their husbands were still alive.” Meaning most of the men set off on the Crusade, leaving the population of France with 7 women to every man. Hey – lucky them!

From France, Bernard went to Basel, in modern day Switzerland, then up thru the cities along the Rhine as far as Cologne. As in the 1st Crusade, persecution broke out against the Jews in this area when a monk named Radulph questioned why they needed to go to the Middle East to get rid of God-haters & Christ-killers. There were plenty of them in Europe that ought to be gotten rid of.  Bernard objected vehemently to this. He called for the Church to attempt to win the Jews by discussion & respect, not killing them.

Bernard was THE celebrity of the day & thousands flocked to hear him. Several notable miracles & healings were attributed to him. The German Emperor Konrad III was deeply moved by his preaching & convinced to throw his weight to the Crusade.

Konrad raised an army of 70,000; 7,000 of whom were knights. They assembled at Regensburg & proceeded thru Hungary to the Bosphorus. All along their route they were less than welcome. Konrad & the Eastern Emperor Manuel where brothers in law, but that didn’t keep Manuel from doing his best to wipe out the German force. The guides he provided led the Germans into ambushes & traps then abandoned them in the mountains. When they finally arrived at Nicea, famine, fever & attacks had reduced the force to a tenth is original size.

King Louis set out in the Spring of 1147 & followed the same route Konrad had taken. His queen, Eleanor, famed for her beauty, & many other ladies of the court accompanied the army. The French met up w/what was left of Konrad’s force at Nicea.

The forces then split up into different groups which reached Jerusalem in 1148. They met King Baldwin III of Jerusalem and under the walls of the city of Acre pledged to unite their forces in an attempt to conquer Damascus before proceeding on to retake Edessa. The siege of Damascus was a total failure. The European nobles fell to such in-fighting that their camp fragmented into warring groups. Konrad left for Germany in the Fall of 1148 & Louis returned to France a few months later.

Bernard was humiliated by the failure of the Crusade. He assigned it to the judgment of God for the sins of the Crusaders & Christian world.

A little more about King Louis’s wife Eleanor. Eleanor of Aquitaine was really something. In a world dominated by men, Eleanor’s career was really something special. She was one of the wealthiest and most powerful people in Europe during the Middle Ages.

Eleanor succeeded her father as the ruler of Aquitaine and Poitiers at the age of 15. She was then the most eligible bride in Europe. 3 months after her accession, she married King Louis VII. As Queen of France, she went on the 2nd Crusade. Back in France after the Crusade, she got an annulment from Louis on the basis that they were relatives, then married Henry Plantaget, Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou, who soon became King Henry II of England in 1154. This despite the fact that Henry was an even closer relative than Louis had been & 9 years younger than she. They were married just 8 weeks after her annulment. Over the next 13 years Eleanor bore Henry 8 children: 5 sons, 3 of whom would become king, and 3 daughters. However, Henry and Eleanor eventually became estranged. She was imprisoned between 1173 and 1189 for supporting her son Henry‘s revolt against her husband.

Eleanor was widowed in July 1189. Her husband was succeeded by their son, Richard I, known as the Lionhearted. As soon as he ascended the thrown, Richard had his mother released from prison. Now the queen dowager, Eleanor acted as regent while Richard went on the 3rd Crusade. She survived Richard and lived well into the reign of her youngest son John, known as the worst king in England’s long history. It’s this King John who’s cast as the chief villain in the story of Robin Hood.

The 3rd Crusade is referred to as the Kings’ Crusade due to the European monarchs who participated in it. It was an attempt to reconquer the Holy Land from the Muslims who, under Saladin, had reclaimed the lands the Crusaders took in the 1st Crusade. The 3rd Crusade was for the most part successful but fell short of its ultimate goal, the re-conquest of Jerusalem.

When Saladin captured Jerusalem in 1187, the news rocked Europe. The story goes that Pope Urban III was so traumatized, he died of shock. Henry II of England and Philip II of France ended their dispute with each other to lead a new crusade. When Henry died 2 years later, Richard I, the Lionheart stepped in to lead the English. The elderly Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa also responded to the call to arms, and led a massive army across Turkey. Barbarossa drowned while crossing a river in June, 1190, before reaching the Holy Land. His death caused the great grief among the German Crusaders. Most of his discouraged returned home.

After driving the Muslims from the port of Acre, Frederick’s successor Leopold V of Austria and King Philip of France left the Holy Land in August 1191, leaving Richard to carry on by himself. Saladin failed to defeat Richard in any military engagements, and Richard secured several more key coastal cities. But the English King realized a conquest of Jerusalem wasn’t possible to his now weakened force & in September of 1192, he made a treaty with Saladin by which Jerusalem would remain under Muslim control, but allowed unarmed Christian pilgrims & merchants to visit the city. Richard departed the Holy Land a month later.

The successes of the 3rd Crusade allowed the Crusaders to maintain a considerable kingdom based in Cyprus & along the Syrian coast. Its failure to recapture Jerusalem led to the call for a 4th Crusade 6 years later.

The 3rd Crusade was yet another evidence of the European’s inability to form a lasting or effective union against the Muslims. The leaders & nobility of Europe made great promises of unity when they embarked on a Crusade, but the rigors of the journey, along with the imminent prospect of victory saw them more often than not falling out with each other in incessant & petty squabbles.

On Richard’s journey back to England he was seized by the afore mentioned Leopold, duke of Austria, whose enmity he’d incurred in the battle for the city of Joppa. The duke turned his captive over to the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry VI who also had a grudge to settle. The Lionheart was released on the humiliating terms of paying an enormous ransom and consenting to hold his kingdom as a fiefdom of the Empire.  It’s this hostage taking of Richard the Lionhearted that forms the backdrop for the tale of Robin Hood.

Saladin died in March, 1193, by far the most famous of the foes of the Crusaders. Christendom has joined with Arab writers in praise of his courage, culture, and the magnanimous manner in which he treated his foes.

Historians debate how many Crusades there were. It wasn’t as though Kings Henry & Philip said, “Hey, let’s make nice & launch the 3rd Crusade.” They didn’t number them as historians have since. History tends to ascribe 9 as the number of Crusades, but then add 2 more by assigning them with names instead of numbers; the Albigenian & the Children’s Crusades, which took place between the 4th & 5th Crusades.

Generally, the 5th thru 9th Crusades are considered lesser armed movements while the first 4 are called the Great Crusades.

We’ll finish this podcast with a quick review of the 4th Crusade.

Innocent III became Pope in 1198.  He called for the 4th Crusade which was the final blow that forever sundered the Western & Eastern churches, though that was certainly never his aim. In fact, he warned the Crusaders against it.

Pope Innocent’s plan was simply to destroy a Muslim military base in Egypt. The merchants of Venice had promised to supply the Crusaders with ships at a huge discount; one the Crusaders couldn’t pass up. So in the summer of 1202, they arrived in Venice expecting to sail to Egypt. But there was a problem: Only a third of the expected number of warriors showed. And they came up with a little more than half the required amount.

A prince from the East offered to finance the balance under one condition: That the Crusaders sail first to Constantinople, dethrone the current Emperor & hand it over to him. They could then sail on their merry way to Egypt. Pope Innocent forbade this diversion, but no one paid him any attention.

On July 5th, 1203, the Crusaders arrived in the Eastern capital. The people of Constantinople were by now fed up with these Europeans meddling in their affairs & formed a counter revolution that swept the current emperor off the throne, but only so they could install their own fiercely anti-Crusader ruler. Being now shut out of his hopes, the would-be emperor who’d paid the Crusaders way to Constantinople refused to pay their way to Egypt, leaving them stranded in increasingly hostile territory.

They were furious. Their leaders decided to try & make the best of things & called for a quick plundering of Constantinople. One of the Crusade chaplains proclaimed; in complete disregard for the Pope’s wishes, “If you rightly intend to conquer this land and bring it under Roman obedience, all who die will partake of the pope’s indulgence.”  That was like letting a rabid dog off its chain. For many of the Crusaders, this was not only an excuse to get rich by taking loot, it meant a license to do whatever they pleased in Constantinople.

On Good Friday, 1204, the Crusaders, with red crosses on their tunics, sacked Constantinople. For 3 days, they raped & killed fellow Christians. The city’s statues were hacked to pieces & melted down. The Hagia Sophia was stripped of its golden vessels. A harlot performed sensual dances on the Lord’s Table, singing vile drinking songs. One Eastern writer lamented, “Muslims are merciful compared with these men who bear Christ’s cross on their shoulders.”

Neither the Eastern Empire nor Church ever recovered from those 3 days. For the next 60 years Crusaders from the Roman church ruled what was once the Eastern Empire. The Eastern emperor established an Empire in exile at Nicaea. Rather than embrace Roman customs, many Eastern Christians fled there. There they remained until 1261, when an Eastern ruler retook the city of Constantinople.