The Crusades Begin, Tenth & Eleventh Century, A History of the Christian Church, Lesson 10, 15-17

To all outward appearances, this army that formed was not only the largest ever raised to this time, but because of its single objective, the most powerful. However, the army was composed of fortune hunters, slaves, boys, criminals and the lowest segment of the social life. Nevertheless, in 1096 this army set out for the Holy Land. It went in several segments, and the principal segment marched under the direction of Peter the Hermit and on its way committed such crimes of murder and robbery that the inhabitants of the country rose up in arms and massacred most of them. Several other segments ended up in the same manner, but there were several of smaller size which were well led and which arrived in the Holy Land in the year 1097.

In 1097, the Crusaders captured the city of Nice, the capital of Bythnia. In 1098, they captured Antioch and in 1099, after a siege of five weeks, captured Jerusalem. Christian governments were set up over each of these cities and the majority of the army was sent home to Europe, a small army being kept to keep order. Much of the history of the next century is concerned with this Christian kingdom and later Crusaders.

There were two effects of this first crusade that we should mention. The first of these effects was upon the church. The motives of beginning the crusade probably were imbedded in a corrupt religion, for it was thought inconsistent that the land which Jesus lived in should be ruled by His enemies. Furthermore, there were some who were anxious about the possibility of the Saracens carrying their arms into Europe. A later motive for the crusades was that the Popes found how much they increased their power and influence, and furthermore, they found how the crusades destroyed their enemies and rivals.

The European nations and the people themselves suffered on account of the crusades. Great numbers of men were carried off into the crusades, decimating the population. Furthermore, the leaders of the governments and families often were lost in the crusades. The church was often the winner, because many men of wealth made wills leaving all their wealth to the church, and most of those who went on the crusades never came home. Those kings and princes who led the crusades raised their armies and funds by oppressing their vassals to such an extent that these vassals enlisted in the army in despair rather than from choice. These so-called Christian armies committed all sorts of crimes as they passed through Europe and Asia Minor, for which they weren’t accountable, setting a bad example for those who weren’t of the Christian faith.

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