The history of the first Crusade

During the year 1071, with the Turks’ army expending their power all around the Mediterranean, Jerusalem fell into Muslim hands when the Byzantine army got completely destroyed by them. This conquest led to a multitude of events causing some serious danger to the Catholic Church. That’s when, in 1095, the Byzantine emperor Alexios l Komnenos sent a message to the Pope calling for help regarding the growing issues concerning the Seljuk Turks.

The huge power of the Catholic Church following the Gregorian Reform, the violence that was used at this time of history to fixed territorial and political problems and the strong belief in Christianity of the people led Urban II to call for a crusade to take back Jerusalem and help the Romans in the name of Catholicism. To begin, it was officially on November 27, 1095 in the city of Clermont in France that the Pope Urban II called for a crusade during his speech at the council of Clermont. Taking in consideration the huge power of the Catholic Church following the Gregorian Reform that happened a couple years ago, it gave significant renew and transformation with a more adequate administration to it.

As his power was growing back, the Pope used it as a way to ask the catholic people for help when the Byzantine emperor needed it to get rid of the Muslims, who were way stronger than his army at that time. It was during his speech in France that Urban II said: ‘’I, Urban, invested by the permission of God with the papal tiara, and spiritual ruler over the whole world, have come here in this great crisis to you, servants of God, as a messenger of divine admonition. I wish those whom I have believed good and faithful dispensers of the ministry of God to be found free from shameful dissimulation.’’

As the bible says; “Whoever doth not carry his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14. 27). So, without any doubt, crusaders were responding in tens of thousands to the demand because they thought it was a duty to do so as a Catholic. But, of course, others came only because the Pope promised to forgive their sins or for personal wealth gains while stealing from conquered cities. It was also the People’s respect towards priests like Peter the Hermit, who used his power and admirable authority to get more people fighting for the religion.

Indeed, Guibert

de Nogent, a French historian and writer, talked about him in his Chronicle of the First Crusade by saying that; ‘’He was surrounded by so great throngs of people, he received such enormous gifts, his holiness was lauded so highly, that no one within my memory has been held in such honor.’’  In brief, the non-tolerance irreligious behavior that took place after the Gregorian Reform really helped the Catholic Church to gain followers who were willing to fight in their name during the crusade. To pursue, it was also a logic way for the Catholic Church to go in a crusade.

The massive amount of crusaders who joined the Byzantine army enabled them to gain back some territory that the Islamic took possession around the Mediterranean Sea during the previous years. It was probably a necessity as well as a chance for the Church to take back their Holy Land, Jerusalem, if they wanted to show superiority against the Arabs. Of course, it was all religion and politics. Those who had religious domination had control of the land, and the Catholics will of taking Jerusalem away from the Muslims was a way to stop Islamic spreading over the Middle East. Territorial wars were something a lot common in the 11th century and so was it something that drove this brutal conquest.

Finally, with the violent religious intolerance present during this time of history, the Pope had no choice but to protect his people who were being attacked. The Turks caused the murder of more than three thousands Christian and Jewish pilgrims who were refused access to Jerusalem in addition to the destruction of churches. Jerusalem was considered a Holy land for the Christians and the Jewish, but also for the Muslims who saw the city as the place where Muhammad went into heaven.

If the Muslims would’ve been more tolerant towards Catholics, this crusade could’ve had not occurred but there was no such thing as tolerance during that period. This Middle Age brutal mind-set can be seen in Raymond d’Aguilers’ chronicles of the First Crusade when he confessed about it saying; “But when the Saracens and Turks arose through the judgment of God, those Surians were in such great oppression for four hundred and more years that many of them were forced to abandon their fatherland and the Christian law. If, however, any of them through the grace of God refused, they were compelled to give up their beautiful children to be circumcised, or converted to Mohammedanism; or they were snatched from the lap of their mothers, after the father had been killed and the mother mocked.”

The chronicler knew that religion was a cause of a lot of violence. Being killed or being forced to give up his religion were some consequences used by the Turks against the Christians. The Catholic Church really had no choice but to protect its people using fire against fire to win their land back and protect innocents from being killed by the Muslim people.

In conclusion, many factors combined together led to the first crusade such as the renewed power of the Catholic Church following the Gregorian Reform in the beginning of the eleventh century, the continuous war for territory and the violent religious intolerance of this era. Even if this first Crusade ended with a successful victory of the crusaders, it was only a start to the non-stop war between Christianity and Islam until the fall of the Ottoman Empire. This war ended up to show us a perfect example about today’s enormous religious tolerance compared to how it was a thousand years ago; cold, cruel and deadly.