Defining A Crusade Research Paper

Submitted By bcopado
Words: 1947
Pages: 8

Defining a Crusade

Brandon Copado

HY 300-005

An intense scholarly debate that is ongoing between several experts even now is the discussion over what the crusades as a whole were and how to define the word crusade itself. Norman Housley described it best in his book Contesting the Crusades with the quote, “The answer is that no clear template or yardstick for a crusade exists against which we can measure the features of other expeditions to check if they ‘qualify’” (pg. 1). A question that Housley proposes is whether the crusades were a holy war or an armed pilgrimage. In this essay, by the end, I intend to define what I believe a crusade is in terms that best encompass all of the facts available. I will base my argument around the different actions that took place by the crusaders and their motivations for such actions. As well as what led up to the different places they attacked and why those places specifically. I intend to back up my writing with researched facts, historical texts, and personal intuition. Were the crusades a holy war, an armed pilgrimage, or something else entirely? The answer is that they walked a line between the three and it constantly shifted from crusade to crusade. To start at the beginning, the holy war part of the definition is founded mainly on the papacy’s call for the crusades to spark it all. The crusades really began with the growing power and aggression of the Seljuk Turks and their taking of Jerusalem from the Byzantines. During their occupation they slaughtered numerous Christian pilgrims and destroyed Christian churches, which in turn led the Byzantine emperor to request aid from Europe, and more specifically pope Urban II. The pope answered by issuing a call to all men to destroy the “heathens” and reclaim that which had been lost for the Byzantines. Housley can even be directly quoted as stating that crusaders had a “role in Urban II’s crusade plans” (pg. 34). Furthering the claim that a crusade is a papacy calling. Bishops and priests spread the message quickly across Europe which led countless people to answer the call and assembled towards Constantinople. Some were barons whom kings had volunteered to represent them with scores of men at the baron’s command, others ranged from ordinary men who chose to go for their own personal reasons. Their reasons could have been anything from faith, wonder lust, fortunes, or simply something new. Whatever their reasons, the goal was clearly illustrated. Retake the holy land from the Muslim conquerors and retake the city of Jerusalem. The crusades were heavily religious in terms of their motivations and goals. However one must not conclude that to define it as a holy war is all that is needed to accurately describe the crusades, even for the first crusade. The first crusade was also an armed pilgrimage at times due to certain events that transpired during and after the crusade. The one thing that is not disputed among scholars is how vital the Frankish people viewed Jerusalem from a sacred point of view. However, if liberating Jerusalem and driving out the aggressors had been their only goal then why did the Latin kings come to power? Housley acknowledges this by stating, “the church was always conscious that what was being promoted as a holy war carried the possibility of material gain for those taking part” (pg. 76). The answer to this question is simply the lust for territory, money, and power. Had the Franks truly gone for the sole purpose of liberation, the territory they had retaken would have been returned to the previous owner, the Byzantines. This is not what transpired however. Instead new states arose in the Middle East known as the county of Edessa, the principality of Antioch, the kingdom of Tripoli, and the kingdom of Jerusalem, the most influential of the group. The original question that was posed was whether the crusades were a holy war, an armed pilgrimage, or somewhere in between. The previous information that has