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Cause of the Crusades

Medieval life and Times

Cause of the Crusades
The reason and cause of the crusades was a war between Christians and Moslems which centered around the city of Jerusalem and the Holy places of Palestine. The City of Jerusalem held a special Holy significance to the Christian religion. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem commemorated the hill of crucifixion and the tomb of Christ's burial. Pilgrims throughout Medieval times made sacred pilgrimages to the Holy city of Jerusalem and the church.

Although the city of Jerusalem was held by the Saracens the Christian pilgrims had been granted safe passage to visit the Holy city. In 1065 Jerusalem was taken by the Turks, who came from the kingdom of ancient Persia. Three thousand Christians were massacred and the remaining Christians were treated so badly that throughout Christendom people were stirred to fight in holy crusades. These actions aroused a storm of indignation throughout Europe and awakened the desire to save the Holy Land and Jerusalem from the grasp of the "infidel."

Cause of the Crusades - Three thousand Christian Pilgrims massacred in Jerusalem
Among the early Christians it was thought a pious and meritorious act to undertake a journey to some sacred place. Especially was it thought that a pilgrimage to the land that had been trod by the feet of the Saviour of the world, to the Holy City that had witnessed his martyrdom, was a peculiarly pious undertaking, and one which secured for the pilgrim the special favor and blessing of the church and Heaven. The Saracen caliphs, for the four centuries and more that they held possession of Palestine, pursued usually an enlightened policy towards the pilgrims, even encouraging pilgrimages as a source of revenue. But in the 11th century the Seljukian Turks, a prominent Tartar tribe and zealous followers of Islam, wrested from the caliphs almost all their Asiatic possessions. The Christians were not long in realizing that power had fallen into new hands. Three thousand Christian Pilgrims were insulted and persecuted in every way. The churches in Jerusalem were destroyed or turned into stables.

Cause of the Crusades - Religious Conviction
If it were a meritorious thing to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre, much more would it be a pious act to rescue the sacred spot from the profanation of infidels. This was the conviction that changed the pilgrim into a warrior, this was the sentiment that for two centuries and more stirred the Christian world to its profoundest depths, and cast the population of Europe in wave after wave upon Asia.

Cause of the Crusades - The Instinct to Fight
Although this religious feeling was the main cause of the Crusades, still there was another concurring cause which must not be overlooked. This was the restless, adventurous spirit of the Teutonic peoples of Europe, who had not as yet outgrown their barbarian instincts. The feudal knights and lords, just now animated by the rising spirit of chivalry, were very ready to enlist in an undertaking so consonant with their martial feelings and their new vows of knighthood.

Cause of the Crusades - The Preaching of Peter the Hermit
The immediate cause of the First Crusade was the preaching of Peter the Hermit, a native of Picardy, in France. Having been commissioned by Pope Urban II. to preach a crusade, the Hermit traversed all Italy and France, addressing everywhere, in the church, in the street, and in the open field, the crowds that flocked about him, moving all hearts with sympathy or firing them with indignation, as he recited the sufferings of their brethren at the hands of the infidels, or pictured the profanation of the holy places, polluted by the presence and insults of the unbelievers.

Cause of the Crusades - The Threat of the Turks
Whilst Peter the Hermit had been arousing the warriors of the West, the Turks had been making constant advances in the East, and were now threatening Constantinople itself. The Greek emperor (Alexius Comnenus) sent urgent letters to the Pope, asking for aid against the infidels, representing that, unless assistance was extended immediately, the capital with all its holy relics must soon fall into the hands of the barbarians.

Cause of the Crusades - Pope Urban II & the Council of Clermont
Pope Urban II called a great council of the Church at Placentia, in Italy, to consider the appeal (1095), but nothing was effected. Later in the same year a new council was convened at Clermont, in France, Pope Urban  purposely fixing the place of meeting among the warm tempered and martial Franks. Pope Urban II himself was one of the chief speakers. He was naturally eloquent, so that the man, the cause, and the occasion all conspired to achieve one of the greatest triumphs of human oratory. Pope Urban II pictured the humiliation and misery of the provinces of Asia; the profanation of the places made sacred by the presence and footsteps of the Son of God. Pope Urban II then detailed the conquests of the Turks, until now, with all Asia Minor in their possession, they were threatening Europe from the shores of the Hellespont.

Cause of the Crusades - "It is the will of God"
"When Jesus Christ summons you to his defence," exclaimed the eloquent pontiff, "let no base affection detain you in your homes; whoever will abandon his house, or his father, or his mother, or his wife, or his children, or his inheritance, for the sake of my name, shall be recompensed a hundred-fold, and possess life eternal." Here the enthusiasm of the vast assembly burst through every restraint. With one voice they cried, "Dieu le volt! Dieu le volt!" meaning "It is the will of God! It is the will of God!" Thousands immediately affixed the cross to their garments as a pledge of their sacred engagement to go forth to the rescue of the Holy Sepulchre. The fifteenth day of August of the following year (1096) was set for the departure of the expedition - the Crusades had begun led by Godfrey of Bouillon and Tancred.

Cause of the Crusades
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