ANNE W. CARROLL
This history and apologetic for the Crusades is suitable for junior or senior high school social studies or history students.
Pope Blessed Urban II and the first crusade
Urban had been a
Urban's main achievement was convoking the Council of Clermont, November 1095, which called the First Crusade. The Byzantine Emperor, Alexius Commenus, had sent a desperate appeal to Urban for armed knights to defend Christianity against the Moslem enemy. When the Pope laid the Emperor's pleas before the knights in Clermont, the main concern of the noblemen there was not so much the defense of
Thus the Pope concluded his speech to the council with these words: “Men of God, men chosen and blessed among all, combine your forces! Take the road to the Holy Sepulcher assured of the imperishable glory that awaits you in God's kingdom. Let each one deny himself and take the Cross!” With a shout — "God wills it” — the Assembly rose. They adopted a red cross as their emblem, and within a few hours no more red material remained in the town because the knights had cut it all up into crosses to be sewn on their sleeves. Because of their emblem (crux is the Latin word for cross) they were given the name Crusaders.
It is important to understand that the Crusades were a just war. The Church is frequently attacked on the question of the Crusades, sometimes on the grounds that the Christian nations of
First, the Christian nations of
Second, it certainly was and is appropriate for Christians to defend themselves and the innocent and helpless against attacks, which is exactly what the Crusaders were doing. It is also appropriate for Christians to try to regain lands which their enemy had conquered, as was the case with the
Finally, there were certainly abuses during the Crusades, most notably the Sack of Jerusalem and the Sack of Constantinople, both of which are discussed below. But an immoral action during a war does not detract from the justice of the cause of the war. The immoral action should be condemned, as Godfrey de Bouillon condemned the Sack of Jerusalem and Simon de Montfort condemned the Sack of Constantinople, but the war itself remains just.
In the summer of 1096 the various contingents of Crusaders began making their way to the
The lack of a unified command was only one of the reasons why, from a purely worldly standpoint, the Crusade seemed unlikely of success. The Crusaders would be fighting far from home, whereas the Moslems would be on familiar ground. The economy of
The main Crusader contingents arrived in
Bohemond and his men bore the first onslaught. He exhorted his men to stand firm and sent messengers for help. The
On they went, through the midsummer heat, finally reaching fertile lands in August. After a rest they were on the march again, reaching the important city of
The leaders let their army rest and recuperate until November 1. In August Bishop Adhemar died, leaving no successor. Without his steadying hand, the leaders quarreled among themselves. Bohemond considered that
Finally, on January 13, 1099 Raymond led the Crusaders on the final march to
But the siege of
The men had loved Bishop Adhemar and they all responded to this request. The Crusaders had renewed confidence and courage, and on July 15 the final assault was launched. Godfrey led it, from a wooden siege tower, at one point even holding up a cracked beam with his own back. His men flung open the Gate of St. Stephen. Through it came the
As the men entered the city, all their pent-up frustration erupted. They went wild, looting the city and killing many innocent people. This behavior was totally against the promises these men had made at knight-hood, and marred what would otherwise have been a splendid victory. Neither Godfrey nor Raymond, however, participated in or in any way approved of the Sack of Jerusalem.
The Crusaders now offered the crown of
Soon after the conquest of
Carroll, Anne W. “The Crusades.” In Christ the King: Lord of History. (Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers Inc., 1994), 163-167.
Reprinted by permission of the author.
Anne W. Carroll was the founder and director of