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HOLY WAR IN THE HOLY LAND
In the eleventh century there was a great Christian religious revival across Europe. Unfortunately, it would end up having grim consequences. The Catholic Church began a major campaign to expand its political power. This brought it into conflict with the Medieval German Empire. For many years there were competing Popes.
During this conflict Pope Urban II had to flee Rome. While in Clermont in France he launched one of the grimmest chapters in Christina history, the Crusades. Pope Urban II stated at Clermont when first calling for a crusade against the east: "undertake this journey eagerly for the remission of your sins, with the assurance of the reward of imperishable glory in the kingdom of Heaven."
What follows are some documentary records of the slaughter and religious delusion that ultimately ended in failure and disaster.
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The World Future Fund serves as a source of documentary material, reading lists, and internet links from different points of view that we believe have historical significance. The publication of this material is in no way whatsoever an endorsement of these viewpoints by the World Future Fund, unless explicitly stated by us. As our web site makes very clear, we are totally opposed to ideas such as racism, religious intolerance, and communism. However, in order to combat such evils, it is necessary to understand them by means of the study of key documentary material. For a more detailed statement of our publications standards click here.
CAMPAIGNS AGAINST ISLAM
The beginning of the First Crusade in 1096 initiated a series of campaigns against the foes of Christendom. Eight subsequent crusades would be launched against Islam by various popes and European kings before the final defeat of the Crusader kingdoms in Syria in 1291.
The First Crusade
The First Crusade was launched in 1095 after a speech given by Pope Urban II at Clermont in France. Its goal was to "liberate" Jerusalem and the rest of the Christian Holy Land from Muslim control. The First Crusade was actually comprised of several military campaigns, some of which were initiated by religious fanatics like Peter the Hermit, and others by noblemen like Raymond of Toulouse and Godfrey of Bouillon. The First Crusade was marked by numerous atrocities perpetrated against Jews and Christian communities in Europe and the Middle East. The First Crusade culminated in the sack of Jerusalem in 1099 and merciless slaughter of the city's populace. A particularly morbid event was the mass murder of all the city's Jews.
The Second Crusade
Launched by Pope Eugene III in 1145, the Second Crusade had as its goal the recapturing of the province of Edessa in Asia Minor. It began with Eugene III's call to a Crusade in the papal bull Quantum praedecessores. Although the Second Crusade ended in the defeat of Crusader forces at Damascus in 1148, it did have a notable success, this being the capture of Lisbon from Muslim forces by English Crusaders in 1147. The Second Crusade also saw the beginning of campaigns into The Baltic States and Northeastern Europe to conquer and convert pagans.
The Third Crusade
Following the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187, Pope Gregory VIII called a Crusade to recapture the city for Christendom. Gregory's call was answered first by Frederick I Barbarossa of Germany, who raised a massive army and marched into Asia Minor. Other European kings also answered the call, including Richard I (The Lion Hearted). Although Christian forces won several victories, the Third Crusade failed to capture Jerusalem. The city remained in Muslim hands, however, Saladin struck and agreement with Richard I allowing Christians to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem. The Third Crusade ended in 1192.
The Fourth Crusade
Called by Pope Innocent III in 1202 to re-capture Jerusalem from the Muslims via an assault on Egypt, the Fourth Crusade instead turned into an attack on Constantinople, the seat of the Byzantine Empire, and a Christian kingdom. The defenses of Constantinople overcome in 1204, the Crusader army mercilessly sacked the city for three days. The destruction of Constantinople and slaughter of its citizens is considered one of the greatest atrocities of the Medieval period. The Fourth Crusade never advanced beyond Constantinople.
The Fifth Crusade
Originally called by Pope Innocent III in 1213, the Fifth Crusade did not get underway until 1217, after Innocent had died. The goal remained the capture Jerusalem, once again via an assault through Egypt. This Crusade also did not meet its stated goal. The Crusader army got bogged down in a long siege of Damietta in Egypt. Damietta was eventually captured, but no further campaign was undertaken afterward.
The Sixth Crusade
The Sixth Crusade was the first campaign initiated by a Holy Roman Emperor and not a pope. In 1228, Frederick II initiated the crusade, with the blessing of Pope Honorius III. The goal was the capture of Jerusalem. Frederick was the first king to accomplish this goal via diplomacy and not force of arms. Ironically, Frederick also succeeded despite being excommunicated by Honorius II due to a political conflict between the two men. Frederick's success was based on taking advantage of conflicts between local Muslim rulers. This led him to seal a truce with the Egyptian Sultan al-Kamil in 1229. This truce included handing control of Jerusalem to the Crusaders in return for their support against al-Kamil's enemies. Following the end of the truce in 1239, Jerusalem once again fell into Islamic hands.
The Seventh Crusade
Following the precedent set by Frederick II, Louis IX, the King of France, launched the Seventh Crusade in 1248. Louis met with defeat in Egypt and turned his attention thereafter to rebuilding Crusader influence along the Mediterranean seacoast around Acre. He was never able to capture Jerusalem. The Seventh Crusade is notable for being the first in which the Mongols played a role as a third power to be contended with in the Middle East. Both the Crusaders and Muslim sultans would attempt to ally themselves with the Mongols against one another. The result would be the rise of Mongol influence at the expense of both.
The Eighth Crusade
Seeking to defend the remnant Crusader states in Syria, the French King Louis IX once again organized a Crusade to the Middle East. Louis set out from Sicily in summer 1270, headed to Tunis in North Africa, where he hoped to establish a base for operations against Egypt. Landing in Tunis in the heat of the summer, Louis and his men quickly began suffering from lack of drinking water and from disease. Louis himself succumbed to dysentery in October 1270, resulting in the end of the crusade.
The Ninth Crusade
The Ninth and final Crusade against Islam was launched by Prince Edward of England in 1269. Edward used Louis IX's base in Tunis as his starting point, before heading to the Crusader city of Acre on the Mediterranean seacoast. Edward arrived in time to see successive Christian defeats at the hands of the Turks in Antioch and Tripoli. Facing insurmountable odds, Edward returned home to England in 1271. Acre fell to Islam twenty years later in 1291, removing the final Crusader stronghold in the region.
CAMPAIGNS AGAINST "HERETICS"
Launched in 1209 by Pope Innocent III, the "Albigensian" Crusade has the distinction of being the first military campaign directed against a Christian group considered heretical by the Catholic Church. The target of the Crusade were the Cathars, a sect of Christians who renounced worldly pleasures, and denied the doctrinal authority of the Catholic Church. Cathar influence had spread into a mass movement throughout Europe by the thirteenth century, but it was especially widespread in the Languedoc region of Southern France.
Innocent III was determined to suppress Catharism and called a crusade against it. Military campaigns continued until 1229, with the fall of Avignon. Over the course of this time an estimated 500,000 people were killed by Christian armies. Massacres were commonplace as no distinction was made between the Cathar population of a besieged city and the Catholic population. Representatives of the Church showed particularly merciless attitudes toward accused populations. For example, according to the chronicler Caesarius of Heisterbach, upon successfully assaulting the city of Béziers, the papal representative, Abbot Arnaud-Amaury, declared "Slay them all! God will know his own."
After 1229, the task of combating Cathar heresy was taken up by the Inquisition. The operation of the Inquisition in Languedoc is considered by some to be a continuation of the original crusade.
CAMPAIGNS AGAINST PAGANS AND ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS
Declared in 1193 by Pope Celestine III, the Northern Crusades were led by Germans and Scandinavians against pagan peoples and Orthodox Christians living along the Baltic coastline. Groups like the Teutonic Order of Knights, which had been created in the Holy Land to fight Islam, led many of these campaigns. A state of near constant warfare existed in present-day Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as Crusaders sought to conquer and convert the peoples living there. Eventually the Teutonic Knights turned their attention toward conquering Orthodox Russia as well. However, these efforts came to an end at the defeat of the Teutons at the Battle of Lake Peipus in 1242.