The Lone Success of the First Crusade
The First Crusade was the pinnacle of the entire Crusade campaign. Its lone success in the long line of Crusades proves its uniqueness among the six others that were mostly ineffective. Certain fortunate circumstances definitely contributed to the Christian success in taking the Holy Land on their first try. Similarly, many other circumstances were responsible for why the following crusades were less successful and in some cases disastrous. From the first crusade being a holy pilgrimage for military and religious reasons, the following crusades were for personal gain, power, and wealth. Also, the distance between Europe and the Holy Land gradually took a toll on the Christians in the later crusades. The success of the First Crusade and the failures of the following ones occurred because the motives behind them slowly changed for the worse.
The idea of Jerusalem being under Western rule was a dream for all Christians from serfs to the pope. In 1095, Emperor Alexius of Byzantium sent a group of Byzantines to the Vatican asking for Western help against the surging Turks. The Seljuk Turks had begun to expand their territory and as a result they began taking neighboring land belonging to the Byzantine Empire. Stretching across Palestine to Anatolia, the Turks’ empire was growing rapidly closer to the capital city of Constantinople itself. Upon hearing the request for help, Pope Urban II intended to help the Byzantines to mend the broken relationship between Eastern and Western Christianity. Forty years prior, the Great Schism divided the Eastern and Western churches so aiding the Byzantine Empire in their time of need would only strengthen the relationship between Constantinople and the Vatican (Great Schism). More importantly, the pope recognized the close proximity between Constantinople and the Holy Land and saw an opportunity to reclaim that area from Islamic rule.
The common dislike of Islam among the West was rooted in the Reconquista when Muslim invaders attempted to make a religious state on the Iberian Peninsula (Whittemore). As Christian Spaniards and Portuguese struggled to fight against the invading Muslims, soldiers from France, Italy, and other European areas came to the aid of their fellow Christians. Even though the Moors who invaded Spain and the Seljuk Turks who controlled the Middle East were vastly different, they both equally represented a frightening trend in the eyes of the West. The early stages of the Reconquista had introduced the Muslims to Europeans as a warring religion that posed a threat to Christianity. This fear only rallied Christians together and seeded a deep dislike for Islam among Europeans. To alarm Christian Europeans even more, the Muslims began to control the majority of the Christians’ pilgrimage routes that ran from Constantinople to the holy city of Jerusalem (Byzantine Empire). Rumors began to spread across Europe that Muslims were slaughtering innocent Christians who were making their religious journey to Jerusalem. The Islamic regime had taken land that originally belonged to Christians since the time of the Romans and then supposedly began killing innocent Christians in those same lands. The combination of that, the Reconquista, and the goal of reclaiming religious land motivated European Christians enough to declare a religious war against Islam.
With religious pride being a major component, the Christians in Europe needed little motivation to go off to a foreign land and fight infidels who threatened their holy sites, cities, and religion in the Holy Land. The fate of the crusades was sealed when Pope Urban II called upon Christians from all across Europe to join together and liberate the Christian East from wicked Islamic rule. The numerous kingdoms/papal states across Europe had different cultures, lifestyles, and languages. Before the Crusades, the different empires and kingdoms across Europe had fought amongst each other...
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