Skip to comments.Historians reconsider the Crusades
Posted on 09/07/2005 3:51:52 PM PDT by sionnsar
I like nothing more than healthy doses of truth that debunk misconstruals hoary with age and falsehoods atavistically - and piously - mouthed.
Fr Joseph Honeycutt recently posted an article by Thomas Madden, Chair of the Department of History at St Louis University, challenging long-held suppositions by taking a look at The Real History of the Crusades.
You might also want to take a look at Professor Maddens article in the June/July issue of First Things, Crusaders and Historians, in which he reviews three recent books which take a fresh look at these much-maligned wars of European Christians on the Muslim conquerors of the Holy Land.
The Crusades were truly a defensive war. It is a pity so many have lost sight of that. Islamic Armies had since the mid-seventh century overrun Christian kingdoms in the Holy Land, Anatolia, Egypt, North Africa, Spain, Sicily and even invaded Italy. It wasn't until the mid-eleventh century that the Normans of Italy drove the invaders from Sicily and established a Christian kingdom there again. Spain was under a yoke and had been stopped from going further by Charles Martel (a good French general (gasp)). The Crusades were truly defensive, to reclaim lost kingdoms and relieve the pressure on the Eastern Bulwark of Europe, the Roman Empire of Byzantium.
My, how many have lost their memory of History. When I described the crusades this way to fellow college students a year ago, they were taken aback and immediately disagreed. No evidence was provided to support their assertions.
The History department at SLU is probably one of the best in the country. I would have loved to study there..
When they get done revealing the truth about the Crusades they would do well to destroy the black legend of the Spanish Inquisition too. Both black legends were largely created by the Protestant Reformers as a usual tool to bash the Catholic Church.
Obviously I didn't give the whole story, that would take a PhD and about 400 pages. No one wants to read what I have to read for that long. And of course, there were other motivations for the Crusaders, there always are. Many of them were not their for the Crusade, but for purely mercenary reasons. I am not familiar with Mr. Johnson, what else would he contend motivated the Crusades?
As a substitute for penance and source of indulgences (page 233): "In 1095, Urban II, propagating the first crusade, laid it down that a crusade to the Holy Land was a substitute for any other penance and entailed complete remission of sin....Throughout the twelfth century, crusading was the only source of indulgences..."
Migration (page 244): "What really created the crusade...sprang from the vast increase in western population in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and the consequent land hunger...The idea that Europe was a Christian entity, which had acquired certain inherent rights over the rest of the world by virtue of its faith, and its duty to spread it, married perfectly with the need to find some outlet both for its addiction to violence and its surplus population."
Racial arrogance (page 45): "From the start, then, the crusades were marked by depredations and violence which were as much racial as religious in origin."
Ecclesiastical control (page 249): "It is, in fact, a misleading over-simplification to see the crusade simply as a confrontation between Christian Europe and the Moslem East. The central problem of the institutional church was always how to control the manifestations of religious enthusiasm, and divert them into orthodox and constructive channels. The problem was enormously intensified when large numbers of people were involved...A crusade was in essence nothing more than a mob of armed and fanatical Christians." (page 250): "Naturally, when antinomian mobs were liable to sweep away church institutions, established authority was anxious to get them out of Christendom--preferably in the East, whence few would return."
Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity, A Touchstone Book/Simon & Schuster, 1976; first Touchstone edition 1995.
Note that none of what Johnson writes contradicts that the Crusades were in essence a just war. What Johnson does is, he spreads some key words to which a modern reader has a Pavlovian negative reaction, such as "indulgences" or "violence", or "mob of armed and fanatical Christians". He also silently takes for granted that the East was Muslim. I never thought of Johnson as a yellow historian before (I read his History of the American People and some polemical articles) but these quotes convince me otherwise.
These are mere excerpts from a much broader context. They fit well in his overall thesis. Rejecting him out-of-hand, as you do, ignores that.
Some excerpts reveal a mindset. His is a secular humanist drivel, adequate in discussing the events of the 19 century, completely useless in comprehending the Middle Ages. In addition, the tone of the excerpts is unprofessionally propagandistic, as he goes from one anti-Catholic button to the next.
My understanding is that he is, in fact, a practicing Roman Catholic. Perhaps his response to your criticism would be that a realistic appraisal of past Catholic error is not "anti-Catholic" at all.
I think they had a chunk of Portugal also.
At first the pilgrims came simply to venerate the relics of the Apostles and martyrs; but in course of time their chief purpose was to gain the indulgences granted by the pope and attached especially to the Stations. Jerusalem, too, had long been the goal of these pious journeys, and the reports which the pilgrims gave of their treatment by the infidels finally brought about the Crusades. ... Similar concessions were frequently made on occasions, such as the dedication of churches, e.g., that of the old Temple Church in London, which was consecrated in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 10 February, 1185, by the Lord Heraclius, who to those yearly visiting it indulged sixty days of the penance enjoined them -- as the inscription over the main entrance attests.
As the first ten centuries of the Christian era passed, there were no indications of an indulgence being present, as we would practice the doctrine. But by the eleventh century, many examples can be cited.37 It appears that practice may have developed at the local level first, rather than with any papal policy. This hearkens to the Fourth Lateran Council, which criticized the practices of some local bishops. But with time, the Church and particularly the Popes recognized this as a legitimate practice, based upon the doctrines of the faith. Further, it marked a shift in the practice of what was the forerunner of indulgences. Previously, these were granted on an individualistic basis. Now, in the eleventh century and after, general grants, available to all, could be attained to remit temporal punishments by visiting churches, making pilgrimages and giving alms.
37 Lepicier, p. 281. Cf. Hagedorn, p.33.
Very true, nearly all of Portugal. I was using Spain to refer to the entire Iberian Peninsula, when I probably should have said the muslims controlled all of Iberia.
It is, unfortunately, not uncommon to be Catholic and anti-Catholic at the same time these days.
I was excerpting long quotations in response to a broader issue and chose to omit Johnson's cited qualification. He followed that phrase with a statement that limited exceptions were made to that general rule.