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The Causes of the Crusades

1 April 2010 8 Comments

The following material is an excerpt from an article on the Rite of Strict Observance by By Burton E. Bennett, published in the 1920s. It is presented to show the view point still common among historians of that era.

It has been stated that the purpose of the Crusades was to recover the sepulchre of Christ from the Infidel. The underlying causes, however, were deeper and far greater. They were:

the desire of the Papacy for conquest

the desire of the mercantile classes to open up trade routes to the East,

the desire of the Byzantine emperors to recover their lost territories and

the desire of princes to carve new kingdoms out of the East.

The barbarians who overran the Roman Empire had hardly become settled among the ruins they had caused, and commenced to repair them, when Scandinavian pirates sailed up their rivers and sacked and plundered their towns just as they had sacked and plundered the mighty cities of the Empire. Some of these pirates finally settled down in Northern France and established the Dukedom of Normandy. In 1066 the Norman Duke, William the Bastard, conquered England and established his kingdom of England. In 1090 the Norman Duke Roger conquered Sicily from the Moslems and established his kingdom there. The Norman Duke Godfrey was one of the commanders in the first Crusade. On July 15, 1099, Godfrey took Jerusalem, and while the shrieks of the dying were heard and the rivers of blood still gurgled and eddied, he founded his Norman kingdom of Jerusalem. The traders, the princes, the Emperor and the Pope devoutly thanked God for the successful termination of so glorious a cause. But the Crusades for the purpose of conquering the world for Christianity, and extirpating the Infidel, was a complete failure. However, good came out of them–incalculable good. They helped to dissolve feudalism, to develop trade, to build up cities and to increase knowledge. It would be foolish to say that they were the cause of all this, but they certainly contributed toward it.

But above all, by far, they show the strivings of man for an ideal, for the infinite, for immortality, as nothing on this earth has ever done before or since; they attempted to answer the age-old question as it has never been done before nor since–can mortality be shaken off for immortality, can the finite be merged in the infinite?

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8 Comments »

  • Eggs Maledict said:

    This post is riddled with mistakes and unsubstantiated claims.

    “the desire of the Papacy for conquest”

    What evidence is there for this? It’s been rejected by almost all modern scholars.

    “the desire of the mercantile classes to open up trade routes to the East”

    Which crusades are you claiming that this contributed to?

    “the desire of the Byzantine emperors to recover their lost territories”

    This played no real role in causing the Crusades.

    “the desire of princes to carve new kingdoms out of the East.”

    The carving out of realms was more of a consequence than a cause.

    “On July 15, 1099, Godfrey took Jerusalem, and while the shrieks of the dying were heard and the rivers of blood still gurgled and eddied, he founded his Norman kingdom of Jerusalem.”

    The Kingdom was not a Norman kingdom in the slightest. Why would you suggest that? Furthermore, Godfrey didn’t form his kingdom in the middle of the battle; it took the commanders of the Crusade quite some time and at any rate, he was elected. Possibly the least problematic mistake here: the chroniclers writing about the vast amounts of blood weren’t giving literal descriptions, they were quoting Biblical passages, as in much of the writing about the Crusades.

    “But the Crusades for the purpose of conquering the world for Christianity”

    The Crusades were never intended to conquer the world.

    “But above all, by far, they show the strivings of man for an ideal, for the infinite, for immortality, as nothing on this earth has ever done before or since; they attempted to answer the age-old question as it has never been done before nor since–can mortality be shaken off for immortality, can the finite be merged in the infinite?”

    I don’t even know what this is. What is it doing here? It has nothing to do with the Crusades at all, as far as I can tell.

  • admin (author) said:

    You are quite right. In transferring the content over to this new format, I failed to include the original intro.

    The materialis an excerpt from an article on the Masonic Rite of Strict Observance, published in the 1920s.

  • Pryme said:

    Eggs,

    Godbless you brother for clearing that up.

    It is very unfortunate that we live in a world of educated fools.

    I believe that the true and righteous legacies will return…but thats just my guess

  • Cliff said:

    Have you by any chance had the opportunity to read Mr Rodney Stark’s book God’s Battalions?

  • admin (author) said:

    Of the many books ont he crusades, that is not one I own currently.

  • Echen said:

    Greetings, Knights.

    Greetings, Benedict.

    I respectfully must say, that while dates or times or details may have been innacurate, thats really not the point.

    I will explain.

    “On July 15, 1099, Godfrey took Jerusalem, and while the shrieks of the dying were heard and the rivers of blood still gurgled and eddied, he founded his Norman kingdom of Jerusalem.”

    Yes, sounds dramatic, yes, sounds emotional. And scholars think little of emotion, I do not blame them. Emotion causes bias.

    But emotion has its wisdom.

    To be fair, I did my own research.

    Paul Tobin, in the book The Rejection of Pascals Wager, states quite clearly that nine million died.

    Even if it was half, or even if it was one million, thats still significant.

    What were the traumatized and terrified people to do, coldly list out the names of the dead, as if they could stand to count them?

    What are you defending, Sir?

    And by the way, the Pope may have not technically intended to “conquer the world”, but think about this for a moment.

    Jerusalem is the holiest city in the world. It is the center of the world.

    It is the world, sir. Is it not true that by conquering Jerusalem they would have had complete control over All?

  • Baphomet and the Templars said:

    [...] [...]

  • archerktj said:

    I had a longer reply typed up but lost it, while the Crusades definitely had various motives, for this 1920 author to suggest it was only for the following is easily disputed:

    the desire of the Byzantine emperors to recover their lost territories – the Byzantines were caught off guard as the Crusades defended from the North, they tried to turn back the hordes such as those led by Peter the Hermit came south – ill prepared for the journey and consumed like locusts on their way down. Similarly, Peter the Hermit and 20,000 pilgrims of the “People’s Crusade” sacked Semin and Belgrade and had to fight their way into Byzantium, suffering serious losses at Nish in July 1096. http://www.fanaticus.org/DBA/armies/IV7.html

    the desire of princes to carve new kingdoms out of the East. – When the Pope called for the Crusades, many nobility were more concerned with carrying on their feuds against their neighbors. Sir Godfrey and Baldwin were minor nobles. After the conquest of Jerusalem Sir Godfrey refused the title of King.

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