It is very popular to have a completely negative view of the Christian Crusades that took place between 1095 and 1291. In fact, I have often heard people apologize for them. Why? I am coming to believe that there is a significant amount of revisionist history going on that has poisoned the well. In fact, until recently, I also bought into this tainted way of looking at them.
Over a few blogs, I am going to briefly give four misconceptions about the Crusade that I hope will add some perspective.
Misconception 1: The Crusades were not provoked
Often people will say that the Christian Crusades had no external reasoning behind them. In this, there is no blame that can be placed on the “peaceful” Islamic dynasties which were the innocent victims of ruthless Christians coming from the West.
However, any look at the preceding six hundred years of history will show that this idea cannot be sustained in any way. Notice the progression maps I have created to show a snapshot of world events:
Muslims had been on a conquest of the Eastern world for over five hundred years. Two-thirds of the formerly Christian lands were now ruled by Muslims. Muslim pirate camps were set up all over, threatening the East and the West. They were threatening southern France and Italy, coming as far as the island of Sicily. In 1009, a mentally deranged Muslim ruler, Abu ‘Ali Mansur, destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and ordered the destruction or confiscation of 30,000 churches. A Muslim Seljuk Sultan set up a capital in Nicaea, the site of the first great ecumenical Christian council in 325, just 125 miles from Constantinople.
Is it any wonder that Alexis I, Patriarch of Constantinople, called on Pope Urban II in Rome for help? Is it any wonder that Urban responded by calling on the West to come to the aid of their brothers and sisters in the East, who had long suffered the aggressive tyranny of Islamic invaders?
Far from being unprovoked, the call for the Crusades was one of the most just calls for war in all of history.
God’s Battalions is a great book on the Crusades. Get it.