The Crusades were a religious, military, and economic movement that occurred between the 11th and the 14th century. The main cause of the Crusades was the difference in ideas between the two faiths, Christianity and Islam. Both the Western European and Byzantine Christians were concerned that the Muslims occupied the "Christian Territory" of Palestine and Syria, including Jerusalem, which was the birth place of Christ. The Muslims, who believed in Allah as their one true god were considered enemies of Christ, and therefore, enemies of all Christians. The Byzantines were particularly concerned about the Muslim occupation of the Holy Land and had for years requested that the Pope, the recognized leader of the European Christians, help them in their desire to wage war on the Muslims. In 1095 the Pope finally proposed that every Christian man should show their "knighthood" by going to war as soldiers of God in support of the Byzantines . By becoming crusaders and wiping out the Muslims, they would supposedly "obtain the remission of sins and be sure of the incorruptible glory of the kingdom of heaven." (Williams, 1962). "It is the will of God" became the battle cry of the First Crusade (Williams, 1962). And so the Crusades began. Were they considered to be a success or a failure? That is the question that we will examine.
The word crusade is derived from the Latin "crux" (cross). It is a reference to bible passages that suggest that Christians "carry their cross". Crusaders literally carried theirs by wearing a red cloth cross sewn on their shirts to let everyone see that they were soldiers of Christ. They often made public promises to serve as a soldier for Christ and sometimes were given special awards or privileges because they had become a crusader. Papal encouragement, the hope of eternal life in heaven, and the possibility of wealth and property motivated thousands of people to become crusaders. They also were anxious to have the opportunity to travel to other countries, to learn new things, and to enjoy the spoils of war. Money and land was theirs for the taking, and they had the Pope’s blessing and an army to support them. (Billings, 1987) How could they lose?
The crusaders started off on their mission with high ideals and expectations for success, but the trip proved to be not as exciting as they had originally thought, and certainly took longer. They traveled farther than they ever imagined they would before they were even close enough to Jerusalem to plan an attack. It took them months to travel overland from England, through France, Hungary, into Russia, and then into Syria. Many people died of battles, hunger and disease along the way. Not all of the countries that they crossed were friendly, and some crusaders were killed or taken as slaves. It was difficult to find food, clothing and shelter for the armies, and language was often a problem as they traveled across many different countries. Many crusaders traveled by sea instead of overland, which was a journey that took almost a year to make, depending on the speed of the boat and the weather. Because most men did not know much about the sea, many more died in ship wreaks. Whether they traveled overland or by sea, they literally fought their way to Jerusalem, and were rewarded when they got there as they captured the city, but it was at a cost of great blood shed. Both the Muslims and the Christians were determined to wipe out the other, and showed no mercy. The brutality during the battle was terrible and the death toll on both sides was staggering.
As the crusades progressed over the years, the crusaders won several battles over the Moslems in addition to the taking of Jerusalem. As the years went by, they eventually set up four Christian kingdoms. However, even with all the initial victories and triumph, from a military standpoint, the Crusades have to be considered a failure. All of the horrible destruction, killing, and fighting, was wasted because the Muslims eventually won back all the lands that they had lost, and this caused more death and destruction.
The military failure aside, the Crusades did have some very positive cultural results.