Sunday, November 25, 2012

What were the Crusades, and were they justified? 26 November, 2012. Feast of St.Sylvester, Ab. St. Peter of Alexandria, BpM

What were the Crusades, and were they justified? - by Bro. Peter Dimond (MHFM)


"This is Bro. Peter Dimond, (   I want to talk about the First Crusade and the Battle of Antioch.

In our day the Crusades have been demonized as unjust acts of aggression by European Christians against Muslims.   However, an honest assessment of the issue tells a different story.

In this video, I want to focus on not only why the concept of the Crusades was justified, even if not every single act of every single Crusader was, but also some of the miracles and the more interesting events that occurred during the First Crusade.   So the first question is, what were the Crusades and what was the First Crusade?

The Crusades were a series of military campaigns by European Christians to Jerusalem with the goal of liberating the Holy City from Muslim domination.

Now, immediately the objection is frequently posed by liberals, that this was an unjust war of aggression because the European Christians were travelling out of their territory south to Jerusalem into Muslim territory to attack them.  I recently viewed a video by a raging liberal who was condemning the Crusades on that very basis.

This clip is from an episode of a show called "The Young Turk, " Feb 24, 2011 ... "The idea that the Crusades and the fight for Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical."  Radio host... "They amaze me, man. They do it every day. How is it anti-historical?  Have you ever read any history?  The Muslims didn't come up from Jerusalem and march up to Europe and attack Christendom.  No! The Christians marched down to Jerusalem to attack the Muslims!"

And this is obviously a slanted and distorted view of history, because what he's forgetting or failing to tell people, is that prior to the rise of Islam, Jerusalem as well as the surrounding Palestinian area and Egypt and Syria, were all Christian territories inside the Roman Empire.
They were Christian lands, but once the false religion of Islam was born and it began to spread and attack its surrounding areas and grow, it actually took possession of Jerusalem.

So the Muslims had actually launched the first strike by taking over what was a Christian city.  Technically, therefore, the Christians were onloy moving to recapture what was their city.  As historian, Thomas F. Madden, says on P.4 of his book, "The New Concise History of the Crusades," ..."like the Reconquista, the Crusades began as a result of a Muslim conquest of Christian territory."   In addition, Islam had showed itself to be a bellicose Empire, that was attempting to expand its boarders.   In fact, just a few years before Pope Urban II preached the First Crusade, Islamic Turks had captured the Byzantine Emperor at the Battle of Manzikert, and I want to quote from the "New Concise History of the Crusades" by Thomas F. Madden.

He says, "in 1071, Emperor Romanus IV ( the Byzantine Emperor) arrayed his forces against the Turkish assault on Asia Minor at the Battle of Manzikert.  The Turks destroyed the Byzantine armies and captured the Emperor.  Within a few years the citizens of Constantinople could look across the Bosphorus and see the land of the Turks."  And he goes on to say that the new Byzantine Emperor, Alexius I, asked the Western Christians for help against the expanding Islamic Empire.

Now, to put this in modern terms, and to refute the objection against the Crusade in a different way.  Suppose for a moment, that Iran attacked Israel in our day.

 If Iran were to attack Israel, undoubtedly, almost every voice in the mainstream media, would not only say that the U.S would be justified in sending its forces into the Middle East against Iran, but such a military campaign would be necessary.  They would justify it, and in fact demand it.  Yet we have a similar situation in the Crusading period.  We have the Muslims demonstrating aggression against the European Christians neighbour, the Byzantine Empire.

They recently captured the Byzantine Emperor and were threatening its boundaries in Asia Minor.  The Byzantine Emperor is asking the European Christians for help, and if the Byzantine Empire were to fall, it would pose a direct threat to Western Europe, unlike Iran, which poses no direct threat to the U.S. at all.

Yet, today's wisdom claims that the Crusaders were not justified in coming to the defence of the Byzantine Empire, while the U.S. would be required to come to the defence of Israel.   Some might say. "well, they not only came to the defence of the Byzantine Emperor, they also travelled further south.   And, of course, anyb war involves tactical strikes on the power base of the enemy.  The power base of the Muslims extended all through that region down to Jerusalem which had been a Christian city, therefore assaults up and down the area were justified in this war against two opposing empires

So, we have an expanding bellicose empire that has already conquered numerous Christian territories and was threatening the Byzantine Empire, and if they could take that, they were a direct threat to Westaern Europe.

It is also a fact that Christians who attempted pilgrimages to the holy city of Jerusalem, were being given a difficult time and many sacrileges were committed, and these were some of the things that Pope Urban II mentioned in his famous speech at the Council of Clermont in the year 1095, which kicked off the Crusading movement.

He said, "They ( the Muslim Turks) have invaded the land of those Christians and have depopulated them by the sword, pillage and fire.  They have led many away and part of the captives into their own country, and a part they have destroyed by cruel tortures."  And he goes on to mention some of the other things they were doing.

Council of Clermont
Therefore, with all these reasons in mind, that these lands had been Christian territories, that the Islamic Empire was posing a threat to the Byzantine Empire, and eventually to the Christian part of Europe, the military campaigns to weaken Islamic domination in the region and recapture Jeruslem, were absolutely justified, and that should be admitted even by those who do not favor the Christian cause.

In the face of the Islamic threat, Pope Urban II was outraged.  He called upon European knights and warriors to do something about it.  He inspired the Crusading movement by his speeches and organized an effort in which Christians would make a vow to travel to Jerusalem, to make a pilgrimage, but it would be an armed pilgrimage, because in order to fulfil their vow, and in order to reach the Holy City, they would undoubtedly have to fight their way through Islamic forces.

It was an oath taken to God, and the goal was the liberation of of the Holy City.  As Thomas F. Madden says, in his book. "The New Concise History of the Crusades," p.9 and p.10, published by Rowman and Littlefield, "Each Crusader joined the enterprise by taking a pilgrims vow.   During the taking of the Cross or "Crossing," a Crusader swore to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre.  Because of the great expense and difficulties of such a journey, a Crusaders lands and properties were placed under the protection of the Church until his return.  A Crusaders vow was frequently accompanied by other vows of fasting or abstention from sex or by special devotions to be performed during the course of the pilgrimage."

Pope Urban II
The Crusaders were also granted indulgences, which are not permissions to commit sin or a pardon of future sin, rather a forgiveness of the temporal punishment due to already forgiven sins.  This brings us to another objection which claims that the Crusaders were not spiritually motivated, but were motivated by greed, they wanted to expand territories, they wanted to acquire wealth.

In this video, I am going to be quoting quite a bit from the book I just mentioned by Thomas F. Madden and a lot from another book by Thomas Asbridge, "The First Crusade," published by Oxford University Press.   Now, both authors are professional historians, secular historians.  Neither could be called a defender of the Catholic Church.   Asbridge especially, is humanistic and irreverent in his approach.  He puts miracles in quotes almost every time he makes reference to the word.  He doesn't even speak of the years after Christ as A.D. ( in the year of the Lord ), rather he prefers to use the secular humanist designation of C.E. referring to Common Era.

The point is, that he is not a Catholic, he is not an apologist, but he is forced to admit that the Crusaders were not motivated by greed primarily.  He says on p.68 of his book, "The First Crusade," ..."We know that greed cannot have been the dominant motive among the First Crusaders, not least because, as recent research has shown, for most participants the expedition promised to be utterly terrifying and cripplingly expensive."  He points out that they did not stand to gain wealth in many cases.  In many instances they were risking their wealth and their territories and their properties at home.  They were also risking death, of course.

On p.70 "the evidence for the aristocratic response to the Crusading message strongly suggests that spiritual concerns dominated the minds of Latin nobility as they took the Cross."

Preaching the First Crusade
The Crusading movement gained such widespread support almost immediately, because many in Europe were truly appalled by what the Muslims were doing to formerly Christian territories.  Asbridge points out on p.41 of his book, that contemporary historians of that period as well as historians of today were amazed by how many people took up the effort.  He says, "It was nonetheless a gathering of human force and resources on a scale unparalleled in this age.  Contemporary observers from within Europe and without gazed in wonder."

People also allege that some Crusaders unjustifiably murdered Jews along the way to Jerusalem,  "And, then, oh Jews. they killed how many thousands of Jews, massacres on their way into Jerusalem, and , of course, when they get to the Muslims, well, we came here to kill the Muslim, so that makes sense."

In response, I would say that in any army or military campaign, there will be examples of brutality, sin, murder, and / or immorality.  These do not necessarily reflect upon or relate to the worthiness of the campaign itself.   The question is did the campaign call for such acts?  And the answer is, in the case of the First Crusade, is NO.  There are bands of evil men in any large crowd.   Moreover, one can legitmately question whether the stories of murders have been exaggerated over the years along with the modern momentum to condemn the Crusaders and everything relating to them.

Many of these reports come from surviving Jewish eyewitnesses who would have an ax to grind in exaggerating of at least the extent of what really occurred.  So, even if one grants that unnecessary killings did occur along the way, they can be classified as individual acts of a few men in a large army.  These do not represent or comport with the purpose of the Crusade..  In fact, as we will see, since the Crusade was a loosely organized military force, one man was not responsible for the hostile actions of other parts of the army. 

Route of the First Crusade
The first move of the Crusades was to the east to meet up with the Byzantine Emperor.  He had requested the Crusaders assistance, but at the same time he was wary of them.  He was concerned that they might use their force to overrun Constantinople and take control of his Empire.  Thus, he wanted to use them but at the same time keep his distance from them.

He actually wound up abandoning the Crusaders when it looked like they were going to die and be crushed at Antioch, and that's what I want to talk about mainly, in this video is the great Battle of Antioch which historians will say was really the key to the entire First Crusade.

Before they got to Antioch, they had to make their way through Asia Minor and they engaged in numerous battles and endured hardships.  About half of their force actually died in Asia Minor either due to disease, death in battle or starvation.  But they eventually made their way to Antioch in Syria, which was one of the great cities of the East and of course was an ancient Christian city, and it had been captured by the Muslims in the year 1085.   That again points us back to why the First Crusade was justified, even if you do not favor the Christian cause. This was a city that was an ancient Christian city.

Antioch, in fact, was the place where the disciples of Christ were first called Christians as we read in Acts 11:26.   It's also interesting that the first term of the term Catholic that we have recorded, comes from St. Ignatius of Antioch, around the year 110A.D.   I find it very significant that the first use of the term Christian is associated with Antioch.  he Catholic Church is the original Christian Church. 

So, they approached the great city of Antioch which had been captured by the Muslims, and it was imperative for them to take Antioch, because there was no way that they could complete their pilgrimage all the way to Jerusalem, if this great city remained in enemy hands.  They could not keep keep their supply lines open-there's just no way they could pull it off.  the problem, however, was that Antioch was one of the most fortified cities in the world, and it would be a daunting and extremely dangerous task to attempt to take it.

On pages 158 and 159, Asbridge says, " The Crusades were deeply shocked and intimidated by their first glimpse of the city.  Stephen of Ware (sp) noted in a letter to his wife... 'we found the city of Antioch very extensive, fortified with incredible strength and almost impregnable.  The city lies at the foot of two craggy mountains and until modern expansion was hemmed in to the west by the Orontes River.  In the 6th century these natural features were enhanced by a remarkable construction program, 5km in length, 2 metre thick and up to 20 metres in height."

The seige of Antioch
Realizing that it would be almost impossible to breach the walls of Antioch, they decided to starve the inhabitants of the city into submission.  They thus began a long and gruelling effort to cut off the cities supplies, however, in the process they began to starve themselves.  "The  winter of 1097-1098  was a particularly cold and difficult one.   40,000 people require a great deal of food and there was little to be had.  Foraging parties, already had exhausted nearby lands, so they were sent even further in search of provision.

Hunger, starvation and disease descended on the soldiers. Many knights who had not lost their horses during the gruelling journey, were forced to slaughter them for meat.  At that time, the famished ate the shoots of bean seeds growing in the fields and many kinds of herbs unseasoned with salt, also horses, asses and camels, and dogs and rats.  The poor ones ate even the skins of beasts and the seeds of grain found in manure. Many died of starvation and some even turned to cannibalism.

When they were about to despair outside the walls of Antioch, they got news that the larger Muslim army was coming to crush them.  This created a panic.  The situation was even more tenuous, because the way the Crusade had been arranged, there was no central military leader.  It was a loosely organised army of pilgrims who were allied with a few dominant princes.

Even though there were different factions surrounding Bohemond and Raymond, and other prominent leaders, no one leader could demand the obedience of everyone.  This complicated matters throughout the Crusade and made their eventual victory even more astonishing.   As they were at death's door outside the walls of Antioch, about to die of starvation or despair with a larger Muslim force coming, it was at this time that they saw signs which they interpreted as God's displeasure.

Asbridge says on p.175, " On top of all this, a series of natural phenomena, including a comet and an aurora, were experienced in Northern Syria and interpreted by the Crusaders as miraculous signs of God's displeasure.  One Frank recalled, 'that at the time we saw an astonishing glow in the sky, and in addition, we felt a great movement of the earth, which made us all quake.  Many saw a certain sign in the shape of a Cross, whitish in color advancing toward the East in a straight path,'

They concluded that God was punishing them for their sins, that their sins were the reason that God had not allowed them to achieve the submission and capture of Antioch.   Hence, they made an effort to purge the army of vices and grave sins.  Around this time, the Crusaders were forced to split up their forces, keeping some of their troops outside the wall of Antioch, and sending some of their troop on an expedition for food and related matters.

An expeditionary force of the Crusaders encountered a Muslim army that outnumbered them more than 12:1.   "The Crusaders were facing an immense challenge to repel some 12,000 Muslims with under 1000 troops of their own.  The shear imbalance of these forces makes one wonder whether the Frankish sources exaggerated the severity of their predicament, but for once even the Arabic sources confirm that the Aleppan army was numerically superior.

How then, could the Crusaders hope to prevail against such odds?  Looking back on the battle one Crusader argued that God had miraculously multiplied the number of Latinites from 700 to 2000 as the fighting began.   So, Behemond, protected on all sides by the Cross, charged the Turkish forces like a lion which has been starving for three or four days.   His attack was so fierce that the points of his banner were flying right over the heads of the Turks.  

The other troop seeing Bohemond's banner carried ahead so honorably, stopped the retreat at once, and all of our men in a body charged the Turks, who were amazed and took flight.   Our men pursued and massacred them right up to the Iron Bridge,'  Asbridge, "The First Crusade," p.185, and keep in mind he's not a Catholic historian, and he's describing this stunning victory.   The entire Crusade, it could be said, rested on the outcome of this battle.   And this was not a battle for Antioch itself, but a battle to survive outside the walls of Antioch, and this larger Muslim relief force was still coming.  

It's fascinating that these historians point out that Kerbogha, the Muslim leader, delayed coming to Antioch with his huge Muslim army, just long enough so that the Crusaders could get inside the city after they had taken control of it.   Thomas F. Madden says on p.28 of his book, "Instead of heading straight for Antioch, Kerbogha first stopped off at Edessa, in an unsuccessful attempt to wrest the city from Baldwin.   He was delayed there for three weeks, a crucial delay that allowed the Crusaders time to hold off in Antioch.   Had the Sultan not stopped he would have caught the Christians outside the walls of Antioch, just as they feared."

Spending many months outside the walls of Antioch, the Crusaders attempted to bribe some of the Muslim guards who were watching the walls in different parts of the city.  Eventually, they got a person inside Antioch to betray the Muslims, and to give the Crusaders access up one area of the formidable walls.  And it was an extremely tense situation, because they were risking lives going up the walls.  "A knight from Shard (?), named Fulcher, was the first to mount the wall, but now, in their panic desperation not to be caught in mid-climb, too many Crusaders rushed up the ladder, and overburdened, it toppled, killing some and injuring others." p.209. Asbridege's book.

So, basically, they got this Muslim, they paid him off, so he would allow them in the middle of the night, to climb up one area of the walls, but if they were discovered and the entire Muslim garrison within Antioch had been alerted, they could have been massacred as they were going up the walls, and they were moving so quickly, the ladder fell over and killed some of them."

"However," he continues," at last the remaining men reached the wall top and the most dangerous moment of the entire assault, speed and silence were essential, for had the general alarm been raised, the entire attack might have been thwarted.   Amazingly, the Crusaders managed to kill the patrolling watchman and the sleeping guards.'  He says, on the next page, "In those first crucial minutes, the combination of surprise, the confusion of darkness, and the fear of the Crusaders unrestrained brutality, paralysed the defenders.   According to one eyewitness, panicked by the sight of our troops on the overhanging hill, some of the Antiochians rushed through the gates, while others leapt from the walls.  The Lord threw them into such chaos that not a single one of them stood and fought."

The capture of Antioch
It was then a rout once they got their soldiers inside the city, and they killed almost everyone.  It was amazing how they were able to take the city and subdue it so effectively.  So after months of struggkle in an attempt to take the city of Antioch, they had finally been successful and were securely within its walls.   However, the very next day, the huge Muslim relief force under Kerbogha arrived, and now the Crusaders were being besieged by the Muslims outside the city, just as they had previously besieged the city.

You think that it's just a coincidence that the huge Muslim relief force which almost certainly would have crushed the Crusaders outside the wall, arrived only one day after the Crusaders were able to capture the city, and make their way inside the walls.   I don't think so.  I believe God arranged it, so that the Muslim relief force would not arrive until the Crusaders made their way into the city.   However, their situation now was even worse than it had been before.   As Asbridge points out on p.213, "After such a triumph, their ultimate nightmare had come to fruition, thousands of kilometres from home.   Already exhausted by months of battle and suffering, they were about to be surrounded by an overwhelming force from which there was seemingly no escape.   The Crusaders quickly decided they were in no position top meet this new threat in a full scale battle, as they had done with Radwan's army in February.

Kerbogha's force was much larger, outnumbering their own by as much as 2:1, and more importantly, the Crusaders themselves were now critically short of cavalry, having run out of horses."   Since most of the supplies within the city of Antioch had been depleted as a result of the Crusaders own effort to cut off the city from outside supplies, they were now starving.   Kerbogha's forces also gained control of a small part of the city, the citadel.

Surrounded, isolated, outnumbered and starving, the Crusaders army which had managed to gain control of Antioch, was now on the verge of collapse.   "On 11 June, another rumour spread throught the army suggesting that the princes themselves were preparing to flee towards the coast, and the Crusade leaders were able to calm their troops, only by each swearing an oath not to abandon Antioch.   One Crusader noted that even then, only the closing of the gates of Antioch by order of Bohemond and Adhemar, prevented wholesale evacuation."

As the Crusading army was about to collapse, they saw a sign, Asbridge says on p.219, "Then, on the night of the 13th and 14th June, with the Frankish resistance close to collapse, a strange light was seen in the heavens.  One of Bohemond's followers recalled, 'there appeared a fire in the sky coming from the west, and it approached and fell upon the Turkish army, to the great astonishment of our men and the Turks also.   In the morning, the Turks who were all scared by the fire took flight and panicked."

After their repositioning, the Muslims increased their stranglehold on the city and completely cut off the Crusaders.  The Crusaders were now truly suffering from starvation.   Our Frankish eyewitness recounted 'the blasphemous enemies of God keep us so closely shut up in the city of Antioch, that many of us died of hunger.   So terrible was the famine, that men boiled and ate the leaves of figs, vines, thistles and all kinds of trees.'   All the eyewitness sources indicate that total defeat seemed inevitable and imminent.

At this time a peasant named Peter Bartholomew, claimed that he had received visions about the location of the Holy Lance that had pierced the side of Christ.

After the alleged discovery of the Holy Lance, the armies morale was boosted and they were inspired to attack the much larger Muslim force.   Hans Mer, an authority on the Crusading movement, has written, "The immediate effects of the discovery of the Holy Lance were enormous.  The armys moral was raised, and all were united in the urgent determination to break the blockade and destroy Kerbogha." 

At this point the Muslim army, outside Antioch, beseiging the city, outnumbered the Crusaders 7:1.   The Crusaders were starving, yet inspired by the apparent discovery of the Holy Lance.  The combination of these two factors, persuaded them to launch a super aggressive and extremely dangerous strategy of breaking out of the city, and confronting the huge Muslim army which was seven times bigger, head on.

Even sceptical secular historians call the outcome of this battle miraculous and astounding.  The Crusaders prepared for their charge by three days of spiritual activity.  " On 28 June, 1098 they were ready to fight, and at first light they began marching out of the city, while clergy lining the walls offered prayers to God.   The Crusaders staked the fate of the entire expedition upon this desperate strategy, yet historians have only recently begun to provide a convincing explanation for the astounding outcome of the battle that followed."  Asbridge p.233

He also explains some of the dangers involved in their effort.  "What was needed now, was a General capable of adjusting his battle tactics to the tools at hand, and that Commander was Bohemond.  He faced a seemingly insurmountable task.   First, the Crusaders would have to break through  the Muslim cordon surrounding Antioch, and avoid being cut to pieces during what would inevitably be a painfully slow piecemeal deployment outside the city.   There was every possibility that the first wave of Crusaders might be stopped in its tracks, and decimated before the first weight of the Frankish army could even get out of the city.  Once arrayed on the plains of Antioch, they would then somehow, have to overcome the enemy." p.234.

However, their storm out of the city strategy worked.  The Muslim army that had been blockading the city panicked and began to flee.   As they retreated they ran into the larger Muslim force that was slowly advancing.  This threw the entire Muslim army into disarray and they fled.   Even a Muslim chronicler acknowledges, " The Franks, though they were in the extremity of weakness, advanced in battle order against the armies of Islam, which were at the height of their strength and numbers, and they broke the ranks of the Muslims and scattered their multitudes."  Asbridge p.238.  

Beginning of the Great Battle of Antioch

 Asbridge points out on p.239, "The significance of the Great Battle of Antioch cannot be overstressed.   It was without a doubt, the single most important military engagement of the entire expedition.   To contemporary writers, this achievement was so extraordinary, that it could only be explained as a miracle.  They argue that the Franks had been saved from certain defeat by only one thing, direct, palpaple intervention by the hand of God.

Numerous miracles were recorded.   Raymond recorded that, "in the beginning of the march out to battle, the Lord sent down upon all His army, a divine shower, little, but full of blessing.   All those touched by this were filled with all grace and fortitude, and despising the enemy, rode forth as if nourished on the delicacies of Kings.   This miracle affected our horses no less." 

An eyewitness who actually fought in the battle added, " there came out of the mountains, also, countless armies with white horses whose standards were all white.   And so, when our leaders saw this army, they were entirely ignorant as to what it was, and who they were, until they recognised the aid of Christ, whose leaders were St. George, Mercurius, and Dimetrius.   This is to be believed for many of our men saw it."

Secular historian, Asbridge also calls their victory seemingly miraculous on p.241 of his book.  This is from a man who uses C.E. Common Era, instead of A.D. in the year of the Lord, and puts the word miracle in quotes almost every time he uses it.  

Historian, Thomas F. Madden, on p.30 of his New Concise History of the Crusades, also acknowledges the seemingly miraculous intervention.   He says, " Against all odds, the Crusaders has won a smashing victory, but not alone.   Many of the combatants and those watching from the walls, attested to the presence of armies of angels and saints, as well as the spirits of fallen comrades, fighting alongside Bohemond's troops against the forces of Turks."

Presence of armies of angels and saints
One could say that the contemporary accounts of miraculous intervention were all fabricated by the Crusaders, however, even the most hardened sceptic and secular historian reports the fact that the Crusaders triumph at Antioch was stunning and defied all odds.

After the Crusaders had defeated the army outside of Antioch, they used the opportunity to rest and recuperate.    However, greed and ambition among the princes of the Crusade almost derailed the entire Crusading effort.   This speaks to a larger point.   In almost all efforts against evil, impure intentions thwart what would have been greater successes.   The conflict between doing God's will and doing one's own is a constant struggle, the outcome of which, often determines whether good or evil has the upper hand.   The effects of holy enterprises are almost always minimized by men who have deviated from the course God set out for them.

And, when such enterprises are successful, it's the result of men having overcome the temptation to serve themselves instead of God, or to serve themselves while serving God.

What occurred, was that one of the leaders of the Crusade, Bohemond, desperately wanted to retain possession of the city of Antioch, for himself as a prize.   Raymond of Toulouse, another leader, did not want to let him have it.   As a result the Crusade stalled.

Eventually, the general army threatened rebellion and abandonment if someone did not lead them to Jerusalem to fulfil their vow.  Raymond finally agreed, while Bohemond remained in Antioch.

It's also interesting that one of the visionaries, Peter Bartholomew, had allegedly received new visions, but these were considered so outrageous that he was compelled to submit to a trial by fire.   He prepared for the trial for four days, and then walked into a blazing inferno of branches.   According to one account he emerged unharmed, but he died two weeks later.

As the Crusading army made their way to Jerusalem, at least the portion that did not remain at Antioch and in other places, they liberated the territories along the way.   They freed Bethleham, the birth place of Jesus Christ as well as the Christians who had lived under Muslim domination there.

Crusaders first view of Jeruslem
But, as they moved towards Jerusalem, they became increasingly isolated and exposed, for they were deeper into Islamic territory, vulnerable to Muslim armies from North Africa, and further away from the base they had established.   "For close on three years the Crusaders had marched across the face of the known world, enduring terrible suffering to reach the most sacred Christian city on earth.  

Jerusalem, in their eyes was the centre of the cosmos, the city where Christ had lived, died, and been resurrected.   Many Crusaders believed that if only the earthly city of Jerusalem could be recaptured, it would become one with the Heavenly Jerusalem, a Christian paradise.

Not surprisingly, many wept openly when the long sought objective of their pilgrimage finally came into view on 7 June, 1099."

Asbridge continues on p.299, "With their nearest allies hundreds of kilometres distant, well aware that before long, the Fatimids would launch a massive counter attack, the Crusaders had still raced to Jerusalem.  It was a move of the utmost daring, at once expedient and visionary, knowing they lacked the manpower or resources to overcome all Palestine, the Franks chose to make a last ditch strike at its heart, but they would probably never have taken such an immense gamble if not possessed by pious conviction, a steadfast belief in the force of divine protection.

In the cold light of strategic reality, failure to secure the almost immediate capture of Jerusalem, would leave the stranded expedition, facing extermination."

Seige tower
Jerusalem was also protected by formidable walls and the Muslims had poisoned all the wells of water outside the city.   The Crusaders needed seige towers, and they lacked the material to build them.   They were now also suffering greatly from thirst.   "The worst water taken from filthy marshes reportedly contained leeches, which were often accidently swallowed by the poorest Crusaders, in their rush to gulp down what they could, causing an agonizing death."
Asbridge, p.304.    

At this time, ships from the Mediterranean had arrived near Jerusalem.   They contained the materials that would enable the Crusaders to construct seige towers to complete their assault on Jerusalem.   The Crusading princes squabbled over who would get to rule Jerusalem, but they eventually united, realizing that they needed complete unity and determination to avoid extermination.

The Muslims in Jerusalem saw the Christian army and taunted them.   They spat upon and urinated upon crosses, and the Crusaders yelled things back .

The manner in which the Crusaders army breached the walls of Jerusalem was quite interesting.  The Muslims in Jerusalem could see the Crusaders constructing a seige tower in a certain area of the city, so as a result, the Muslims beefed up their defences accordingly.   But, in the middle of the night, the Crusaders quickly disassembled the seige tower, moved it about a 1/2 mile to the east, and then assembled it there.  

Crusaders marching around the walls of Jerusalem
 What followed was a brutal battle, but the Crusaders strategy had worked.   They were able to use the recently moved seige tower to breach the walls at a point where the Muslim defence was weaker, while the Crusaders still had an army fighting off the Muslims, where their defence was stronger.    "Forced to defend the northern and southern walls, the Fatimid garrison stretched its resources to the breaking point."  Asbridge p.313.  Once the Crusaders breached the wall and entered the city, the Muslims defence collapsed, and it was a massacre.

Modern historians comment with horror upon what the Crusaders did to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  Reports are that they killed and plundered everything they could.   While there is no need to defend every act of every Crusader, one must remember, that in times of war, inhabitants loyal to an enemy force, can be considered, on some level, enemy combatants.  Their existence within the city can pose a threat to one's security, and while there were certainly some excesses, one has to see the sacking of Jerusalem in that light.

The Crusaders also had just completed a deadly and difficult task of beseiging a large and well defended city.   They were exhausted and in battle mode.    Was it reasonable for them to trust the Muslim inhabitants of the city, or to believe that they posed no threat to their long term occupation of Jerusalem? 

In numerous places in the Old Testament, God commanded His people to eliminate everyone in a city they had just conquered.

After the sacking of Jerusalem, the Crusaders declared Godfrey ruler.   However, they had a new problem.  A large reserve Muslim army was coming to recapture Jerusalem.  The Fatimid Muslims had an army of about 20,000 coming toward the Crusaders, while the Crusaders had been reduced to about 10,000.   Outnumbered, the Crusaders decided they had to launch an aggressive surprise attack on the new Muslim army, and it worked.   They crushed the Muslims, driving many of them into the sea, causing others to flee into their forces.

The Muslim leader was "astonished at being so easily crushed by a force that Vizier had assumed would be a spent rabble."   Asbridge p.236.   With that victory, the Crusaders mission was complete.   The First Crusade was a miraculous success.   As Asbridge concedes, "With the victory of the battle of Ascalon, the main armies of the first Crusade reached the end of their journey.  Those that suvived, witnessed a "miracle".   The Holy City of Jerusalem had been recaptured against incalculable odds, and all the might of Islam had broken on the rock of Latin devotion.   Now, as summer waned, the thoughts of most turned to home."  p.237.

The Crusaders maintained control of the region for 200 years.   It's also very interesting, to note that late arrivals to the First Crusade, waves of warriors, who set out for Jerusalem well after the first army, never even made it out of Asia Minor.   As Thomas F. Madden points out in his book, "The New Concise History of the Crusades," p.41, "None of the other new arrivals of Crusaders met with any more success.   All of them were crushed in Asia Minor, before they could reach Antioch.    In the failure of these expeditions, the largest that Europe had launched, the astounding success of the first Crusade seemed even more miraculous."

Some Christians might ask, since God miraculously supported the First Crusade, enabling them to capture Jerusalem, and the region, why didn't He do the same with the later Crusade efforts?   I believe the answer is multi-faceted.    First, in order for evil to be eradicated and good to prevail, God often requires the co-operation of men.   The evidence indicates that the response to Pope Urban II's calls for the First Crusade was sincere and widespread.   While some Crusaders were, of course, selfish and ambitious, on the whole, this was a genuine effort of Christian Europe to put aside differences and unite for Christ against infidel.

Frederick II
As a result, the true God of the Christians showed His power, and gave the Crusaders a miraculous victory deep into Muslim territory.   Once God had shown His power, and the truth of the Christian religion, by enabling the Crusaders to miraculosly retake Jerusalem and the entire region, from the hands of the Muslims, God was not, thereafter, inclined to give miraculous victories to people who were so divided, selfish and sinful.

And, the fact is, the leaders of Europe were frequently divided, selfish and sinful.   As an example, one of the leaders of the later Crusade effort, Emperor Frederick II, had been excommunicated for consistently encroaching on the rights of the Church.   He was a bad man, and had to be pressured to take part in a Crusade.    God was not inclined to give smashing victories to such people, especially when He had already shown His power in the First campaign.

If the Christians of Europe had been more devoted and sincere in their intentions, I believe that God would have given them more success in the later Crusade efforts.

Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain
In fact, it is very interesting to consider, that in the 15th century, when Islam was rising and threatening Europe, God enabled Ferdinand and Isabella to expel Muslims completely from Spain in the "Reconquista".   I believe that's because, this king and queen were truly Catholic and dedicated to the reign of Christ the King.     Indeed, they followed it up by expelling all non-believers from the country, and shortly thereafter, were rewarded by God with the discovery of the New World via their representative, Christopher Columbus.

Christopher Columbus
If more European leaders had been like Ferdinand and Isabella, they probably would have enjoyed similar success against the Muslims.   That is not to say none of the later Crusade efforts were to Jerusalem were successful at all.     The Third Crusade, for example, under Richard the Lionheart, was considered highly successful, even though he did not take Jerusalem.    He smashed Saladin's army and regained much of what the Crusaders had lost in the region.

I also believe it's not an accident, but providential that four of the five original Patriarchal Sees of Christianity eventually fell under the yoke of Islam.  Those Sees were Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.   By 1453, all but Rome were under Muslim control.

I believe God allowed this to occur, to manifest the truth, that Rome is the Primary See, with a unique authority and protection from God, for Rome was the See of St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and head of the Universal Church, by the institution of Christ Himself."

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