The time of the Crusades was a bloody era and has left a stain on the Christian name. There were many people murdered under the "Christian" name during the time of the Crusades. A lot of people in our era have modernized or made a spectacle of the Crusader period, but it was a bloody time in our history. The question is if God used this time of evil for His good. Often God will use the evils committed by mankind or by Satan himself to further His will. So this will explore the time periods of the Crusades and how it affected Christianity.
First to give some information on what the Crusades were about and who exactly were the Crusaders. The Crusades took place between the years of 1095-1270 A.D. (Not including some Crusades further on in the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries) According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia the Crusades main
objective was “to deliver the Holy Places from Mohammedan tyranny.” The
Mohammedan movement was derived from the false prophet Mohammed, which
started the Islam movement. The Crusades are split into eight separate divisions. Each Crusade was conducted by a leader looking to further the Christian name throughout the known land; but at what cost?
The first crusade was from about 1095 to 1101. The decree for war against the pagans went out by Pope Urban II to fight and win the Holy land back. The main
purpose of this first crusade was to rescue the Holy Sepulchre; which is the tomb that Jesus was supposed to be buried in. The Crusade started with a council in
Clermont-Ferrand that had many religious figures attending, as well as knights and people ready for battle. This is where the movement of the Crusades started it. People began rushing through Europe yelling “Deus vult!” which is Latin for “God wills it!” Most of these troops were disorganized, broke and didn't have much equipment, but they surged through German cities taking what they found and killing Jews on the way. The armies of Crusaders pushed on through many cities, even to Constantinople. The troops gathered on Constantinople and moved on again. Everywhere they went they caused destruction and murder. With help from locals and others favoring the cause, the Crusaders started making weapons to get into cities. Time and again the Crusaders were struck with riches, such as the Holy Lance, or they were struck with misfortune, such as sickness and being overrun by armies. But on July 14, 1099, the
Crusaders stormed Jerusalem killing everybody that they ran into regardless of gender or age. After conquering Jerusalem, the Crusaders named a lord over the conquest, who was Godfrey of Bouillon, whose brother would later be named King of Jerusalem. After this the Christians started forming treaties and started prospering and creating a more peaceful environment. So the good part to this crusade was that they got their homeland back, but there was a lot of bloodshed in the name of God during this
The second Crusade was headed up by King Louis VII from 1145-1147. Many of the Turkish people were starting to re-claim land from the First Crusade. So Pope Eugene III sent St. Bernard, a monk, to preach a second crusade. During this time King Lois was trying to find penance for slaughtering a group of people hidden in a church in a fire he started. So when the King heard the preaching for the Second Crusade, he stepped in to help lead the charge. This is one reason this Crusade was different from the first. The First Crusade started with a bunch of vagabonds, with people who had barely anything to their names. This Crusade started with Kings and princes. One of the kings in charge of an army was the German king. So you now have both the French king and the German king leading armies across Europe for the Crusaders, which causes friction and confusion. You have two separate leaders of two different armies doing the same thing. This Crusade failed fast. With bad leadership and bad decisions made by the German army, the support for this Crusade started failing. One of the things the German army did that didn't help the Christians is they destroyed the palace at Philopatium, which didn't help the Crusaders cause. Another reason this Crusade failed fast was King Louis was called home and left an empty army.
The Third Crusade, which was led by Richard Coeur-de-Lion; also known as Richard the Lionheart; and Philip Augustus, is probably one of the most famous because of the back story of Robin Hood. This Crusade lasted from 1188-1192. The land of Jerusalem was once again taken by pagans, or the Muslim people. The leader was King Saladin, who had fought for many years spreading the Muslim religion. The king met a group of Christians and slaughtered them and re-took Jerusalem. Pope Clement III called for a new Crusade to re-capture the Holy land and according to Donald this “call-to-arms was received enthusiastically by many of the great nobles and princes of Europe.” There were so many people slaughtered by Saladin that people, royals and Christians alike, were ready to re-capture the Holy Land. While the Crusade hit many bumps and bruises along their trip, there was a huge dark spot on the Christian name during this Crusade. At one time, Richard had captured some of Saladin's men. While negotiating with Saladin, Richard slaughtered over 2,700 men, women and children. At the end of the Crusade, they had yet to re-capture the Holy land, and they also caused a large bruise on the Christians as a whole.
The fourth Crusade was from 1202-1204. This Crusade was the Crusade that stood against what the goal of the church actually was. This Crusade was an attack against Constantinople. The church, under Pope Innocent III, started calling on knights and people to re-claim Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Innocent started calling on many Christians to join the Crusades and made treaties with many nations including
Germany. But with the influx in people, the church started losing control of the people. The Crusade attacked Egypt in 1201 and chose a ruler that was openly against the church. After this, unknown to the Pope, the Crusades went on and attacked
Constantinople. It's almost as the church lost all complete control of this Crusade and the people took matters into their own hands. But eventually the church changed their minds on the subject and as Gonzalez puts it “eventually decided that it was God's way of reuniting the church.”
In between the fourth and fifth Crusade was an interesting event, the “Childrens Crusade.” The Crusades were becoming the “popular” thing to do so a bunch of children, with some men, marched towards Lombardy where they lost terribly. It is said that many of these children were sold into slavery.
The fifth Crusade started in about 1217. The Christian Holy Land is still under pagan control and they have yet to take back Jerusalem. Since the church still needs to get their land back, Pope Innocent III starts calling for people to capture a Crusade to go to Jerusalem. But the Christians were sick of being defeated and they had different wars going on with each other. So Pope Innocent III turned to idle Christians and offered them indulgence for joining. In 1217 the new Crusade left for Acre. There were some successes in this Crusade as they gained some land back from the Egyptians. But as they got closer to the NIle, they forgot about flood season, and got trapped. So this Crusade ended up running back home.
The sixth Crusade from 1228-1229 was one of the shortest Crusades, but the most successful of the last few. The Roman Emperor Frederick II felt guilty for the last Crusade failing, so he started gathering forces to go attack Jerusalem to gain back the Holy Land. However, the papacy at the time didn't agree with his Crusade, so they excommunicated Frederick. Although he lost some favor and men, Frederick still went on to Jerusalem. In 1229 Frederick walked into Jerusalem and accomplished what the last many Crusades could not and reclaimed the Holy Land. Shortly after, the church lifted their excommunication. Not only did this Crusade do what many others couldn't, but it also decreased the popularity of the papacy.
About 15 years later, Jerusalem was recaptured by the Muslims. The next two Crusades are the last to re-capture the Holy Land, and they go on to fight against Egypt and the Muslim sect.
Throughout all of these Crusades, we see a lot of bloodshed on both sides of the war. Christians, or the church, claim just as many lives as the pagan communities. All the lives were claimed in the name of God. The lives of men, women and children were taken in the name of claiming the Holy Land. You have to ask yourself, was it worth it?
Bréhier, Louis. Crusades. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908), 4 May 2013 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04543c.htm>.
Donald, Angus. A Brief Overview of the Third Crusade. 2010. 4 May 2013. http://www.angus-donald.com/history/a-brief-overview-of-the-third-crusade/.
Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity. Vol. 1. (New York: HarperCollins), 2010