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Crusades

holy, land, west, palestine, christian, pope and christians

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CRUSADES (Portug. cruzado, ((marked with the cross)), the military expeditions which were sent out by the Christian peoples of the West from the end of the 11th till the latter half of the 13th century for the conquest of Palestine. From the earliest times pilgrims had gone to what, because of Christ's life therein, was called the Holy Land. In 637 Palestine fell into the hands of the Mohammedans, but, though several churches were turned into mosques, Christians were allowed full liberty to come and go to the holy places in Jerusalem for nearly four centuries. In 969 the Fatimite dynasty extended its rule overand Palestine and with this change of rulers there came an end of the 'cordial relations. The in sults, and even injuries, that Christian pilgrims suffered aroused bitter feeling in the West. Finally Pope Silvester II (999-1003), one of the best known of the mediaeval popes and famous for his very practical character, issued a call for volunteers for the purpose of freeing the Holy Land. His summons met with no success. In 1073 Palestine came under the con trol of the Seljukian Turks and the conditions there became even worse than before for the Christians. Pope Gregory VII (Hildebrand), in 1074, asked the Western nations for help for their suffering brethren in the East and even suggested to the German emperor, Henry IV, that it would be easy to raise an army of 50,000 for the rescue of the Holy Land from the hands of unbelievers. The idea of the crusades that had thus been incubating in West ern minds for nearly a century did not come to fruition until 1095, when the awful state of affairs that Christian pilgrims had to encounter in the Holy Land became unbearable. Peter of Amiens, surnamed the Hermit, saw the terrible .situation while on a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre and succeeded in arousing the interest of Pope Urban II and obtained permission to preach a crusade.

The first great cause of the crusades, then, was earnest desire to free the Holy Land. It seemed to the medizval Christians to be a question of the maintenance of their religious honor that the infidel should not be allowed to occupy the holy places. Other causes conspired

for their occurrence just at this period. It was felt by Western rulers, and especially by the popes, that unless the Turks were repressed in the East, they would gradually acquire irre sistible power and eventually invade the West, with hope of success. For the lower classes in the West, on the other hand, life had become almost intolerable because of the oppression of the nobles, the frequent wars and the almost servile duties that feudalism enjoined. As an addition to other causes of dissatisfaction, the harvest had practically failed in the West for several years and the year 1095 proved to be a particularly bad year for farmers and many of those dependent on the land and its products suffered. severely from famine. These material difficulties predisposed the people to risk all in the hope of betterment. There was little chance to rise in the West and the vague opportunities of distant war seemed to promise much. Be sides, the spirit of chivalry had come in and many of the nobles devoted themselves to the cause with the idea that they would thus win favor of the heavenly queen, the mother of the Lord, whose life had been lived in Palestine and whom they had chosen for their patroness. De votion to the Blessed Virgin also caused women to urge their husbands, brothers and other male relatives to join in the holy war for the Chris tian possession of her home. It needed only the intimation of authority to precipitate an Eastern expedition and that came very naturally from the popes as the acknowledged spiritual heads of Christendom. Pope Urban II, having heard Peter of Amiens' story of Christian suf fering in the Holy Land, summoned a council to meet at Piacenza and gave Peter the oppor tunity to address the multitude, which assembled in such numbers that he had to talk in the open air. In the following November 1095, ambassa dors from all the nations were present at a council at Clermont, where Peter's words had so much power that with one voice the multi tude called ont °God wishes it," and this became the slogan of the crusade.

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