The enemy now changes his tactics. The pope had gained little or nothing by his long wars with the empire, and the common sense of mankind had been insulted by his unexampled insolence. Means more plausible, more deceiving, more pious, must be devised. How can the spiritual power gain complete ascendancy over the temporal? was still the one question to be solved.
The evil genius of Rome presiding in her councils suggests a holy war for the purpose of rescuing the sepulcher of Christ from the hands of the unbelieving Turks. Pope Urban immediately embraced the suggestion, and became its champion. The whole Vatican agreed. It was perfectly evident that by these long expeditions to Palestine, the blood of Europe must be drained, its strength exhausted, and its treasure wasted. There was no thought of seeking to convert the unbelieving to the faith of Christ — the true mission of Christianity — but of weakening the power of the temporal monarchs, that the pontiffs might reign over them. The papacy is essentially infidel. "Marriage is honorable in all" — in all, says the word of God. No, said Gregory, it is concubinage in the priesthood — a soul-damning sin. But the word of God stands unchanged and unchangeable. Marriage is honorable in all — not in some only, but in all; and mark, honorable, in all. It was instituted by God Himself who "brought the woman to the man," sanctioned by Christ, and proclaimed "honorable in all," by the Holy Spirit. "Preach the gospel to every creature" is the Savior's commission to all who own Him as Savior and Lord. No, says Urban, slaughter the unbelievers without mercy. This is the work which God requires at your hand. Let the tares be torn up by the roots, and cast into the fire that they may be burned up. But this was not all. The power of the nations must be reduced that the pontiff may triumph over them. Results will soon show that such were the counsels of the evil genius of popery.
From an early period pilgrimages to the Holy Land became a ruling passion with the more devout and superstitious. Jerome speaks of the crowds which from all quarters thronged the sacred places. But the supposed discovery of the real sepulcher, the disinterment of the true cross, the magnificent church built over the sepulcher by the devout Helena and her son Constantine, awakened in all classes a wild enthusiasm to visit the Holy Land. From this time (A.D. 326), the stream of pilgrimage continued to flow, and with increasing fullness, down to the period when Jerusalem was captured by the Mahometans, under the Caliph Omar, in 637. The pilgrims had been protected and cared for by the way; they had only to encounter the privations and perils of a long journey. But under the Mahometan government they were prevented from entering the holy city, unless they purchased the privilege by paying tribute to the Caliphs. This being agreed to, the pious soon began to flock in undiminished numbers to perform their devotions at the holy sepulcher.
About the year 1067, a new race of conquerors gained possession of Palestine, who proved to be harder masters than the Saracens. These were the Seljukians, a tribe of Tartars, now familiarly known as the Turks. They came originally from Tartary. They had embraced the Mahometan religion, and were more fanatic Islamites than the Arabian followers of the 'prophet.' But with the intolerant zeal of recent converts to Islam they combined the tyranny and inhumanity of barbarians. Under these new lords of Palestine, the condition of the Christian inhabitants and the pilgrims was greatly altered for the worse. In place of being treated as merely tributary subjects, they were despised as slaves, and the pilgrims exposed to severe persecutions.
The feelings of European Christians were naturally excited by the reports of the cruelties and outrages to which their brethren in the East were subjected by the infidel possessors of the Holy Land; and this gave an appearance of justice to the idea of a religious war.
In the year 1093, Peter, a native of Amiens, as a pilgrim monk, visited Jerusalem. His spirit was greatly stirred by the sight of the indignities which the Christians had to endure. The blood of the martial Frank became as fire when he saw the sufferings and degradations of his brethren. He spoke to Simeon, the patriarch of Jerusalem, on the subject of their deliverance; but the desponding Simeon deplored the hopelessness of their condition, as the Greeks, the natural protectors of Christians in Syria, were too weak to render them any assistance. Peter then promised him the help of the Latins. "I will raise the martial nations of Europe in your cause," he exclaimed, and he believed his vow was ratified in heaven. When prostrate in the temple, he heard the voice of the Lord Jesus, saying to him, "Rise, Peter, go forth to make known the tribulations of my people; the hour is come for the delivering of my servants, for the recovery of the holy places." It was a convenient habit in those days, for monks in austere solitude with an excited imagination, to believe whatever they wished, and then to have confirmed by dreams and revelations whatever they believed.
Peter now believed in his own mission, and this was a great means of others believing it. He hastened to Rome. The pope, Urban II., was infected by his fervor, and gave full sanction to his preaching the immediate deliverance of Jerusalem. The hermit having now the sanction of both heaven and the pope, he set forth on his mission. After traversing Italy, he crossed the Alps and entered France. He is described as short of stature, lean, dark complexion, but with an eye of fire. He rode on a mule with a crucifix in his hand, his head was bare, and his feet naked; his dress was a long robe girt with a rope, and a hermit's cloak of the coarsest material. He preached to high and low; in churches, and on highways, and in the market places. His rude glowing eloquence was that which stirs the heart of the people, for it came from his own. He appealed to every passion; to indignation and pity, the pride of the warrior, the compassion of the Christian, the love of the brethren, the hatred of the infidel; to the foul desecration of the land which had been hallowed by the Redeemer's birth and life. "Why," he vehemently exclaimed, "should the unbelievers be allowed any longer to retain the custody of such Christian territories as the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane? Why should the un-baptized followers of Mahomet, those children of perdition, pollute with hostile feet the sacred ground which had been the witness of so many miracles, and still furnished so many relics which manifested superhuman power? Bones of martyrs, garments of saints, nails of the cross, thorns of the crown, were all lying ready to be gathered up by the faithful priesthood who would lead the expedition. Let the floors of Zion be purified with the blood of slaughtered infidels."
When words and breath failed him, he wept, he groaned, he beat his breast, and held up a crucifix, as if Christ Himself were imploring them to join the army of God. The ravings of his frenzy had a prodigious effect on all classes and in all lands. Men, women, children, crowded to touch his garments; even the hairs which dropped from his mule were gathered up and treasured as relics. In a short time he returned to the pope, assuring him that everywhere his appeals had been received with enthusiasm, so that he had with difficulty restrained his hearers from at once taking arms and following him to the Holy Land. Nothing was now wanted but a plan, leaders, organization; and the pope boldly resolved to undertake this great work.
In March 1095, a council was summoned to meet Urban at Placentia, to consult about the holy war and other important matters. Two hundred bishops, four thousand clergy, and thirty thousand laity appeared; and, as no building was large enough to contain the vast multitude, the greater sessions were held in a plain near the city. Besides the project of the holy war, the pope embraced the favorable opportunity to confirm the laws and assert the principles of Gregory. And while at Placentia the final sanction was given to the two strongest characteristics in the doctrines and in the discipline of the Roman church — namely, transubstantiation and the celibacy of the clergy.
In November of the same year, another council was summoned to meet the pope at Clermont in Auvergne. The citations to this council were urgent, and the clergy were charged to stir up the laity in the cause of the crusade. A vast assemblage of archbishops, bishops, abbots, etc., were drawn together; the towns and neighboring villages were filled with strangers, while numbers were obliged to lodge in tents. The session lasted ten days; the usual canons being passed in condemnation of simony, etc., Urban ventured to advance a step beyond Gregory, by forbidding not only the practice of lay investiture, but that any ecclesiastic should swear fealty to a temporal lord — a prohibition which was intended entirely to do away with all dependence of the church on the secular power. Thus we see the crafty pope taking every advantage of his extreme popularity, and when the minds of all were engrossed with the greater subject of the holy crusade. No moment could be more favorable for the advancement of the great papal object of ambition, the acknowledged supremacy over Latin Christendom; or for the elevation of Urban himself over the rival Pope Clement, and the temporal sovereigns who supported him.
At the sixth session the crusade was proposed. Urban ascended a high pulpit in the market-place, and addressed the assembled multitudes. His speech was long and exciting. He dwelt on the ancient glories of Palestine, where every foot of ground had been hallowed by the presence of the Savior, of His Virgin Mother, and other saints. He enlarged on the present condition of the sacred territory — possessed as it was by a godless people, the children of the Egyptian handmaid; on the indignities, the outrages, the tyranny, which they inflicted on Christians redeemed by Christ's blood. Nor did he forget to speak of the progressive encroachments of the Turks on Christendom. "Cast out the bondwoman and her son," he cried. "Let all the faithful arm. Go forth, and God shall be with you. Redeem your sins — your rapine, your burnings, your bloodshed — by obedience. Let the famous nation of the Franks display their valor in a cause where death is the assurance of blessedness. Count it joy to die for Christ where Christ died for you. Think not of kindred or home; you owe to God a higher love; for a Christian every place is exile, every place is home and country." There was no passion which the self-seeking pope left unstirred. But his real design and one grand object was to dispose of unruly barons and obstinate monarchs by engaging them in a distant and ruinous expedition; and, in their absence, gather up into his own hand all the threads of this great movement and consolidate the lofty schemes of his predecessor and teacher, Hildebrand.
In conclusion, the blasphemous pope offered absolution for all sins — the sins of murder, adultery, robbery, arson — and that without penance to all who would take up arms in this sacred cause. He promised eternal life to all who should suffer the glorious calamity of death in the Holy Land, or even on the way to it. The Crusader passed at once into paradise. The great battle of the Cross and the Crescent was to be decided for ever on the soil of the Holy Land. For himself, he said, he must remain at home: the care of the church detained him. Should circumstances permit, he would follow; but, like Moses, while they were slaughtering the Amalekites, he would be perpetually engaged in fervent and prevailing prayer for their success.
The pope's speech was here interrupted by an enthusiastic exclamation from the whole assemblage, "God wills it — God wills it!" words which afterwards became the war cry of the Crusaders; and the whole assembly declared itself the army of God. The contagious frenzy spread with a rapidity inconceivable. "Never, perhaps," says one, "did a single speech of man ever work such extraordinary and lasting results as that of Urban II. at the Council of Clermont." "It was the first blast of fanaticism," says another, "which shook the whole fabric of society from the extremities of the West even to the heart of Asia, for above two centuries."
Having now stated as clearly and as concisely as possible the ostensible causes of the Crusades, or rather the motives of the papacy, we need do little more than give the dates and a few particulars of each expedition.
1. The festival of the Assumption, August 15th 1096, was fixed as the day on which the Crusaders should commence their march. Women urged their husbands, their brothers, and their sons to take the cross; and those who refused became marks for general contempt. Property of all kinds was sold to raise money; but as all wanted to sell and none to buy, it naturally fell to an exceedingly low price, and was bought up chiefly by the clergy; so that nearly the whole property of the country passed into their hands. Godfrey pledged his castle of Bouillon, in the Ardennes, to the bishop of Liege. The artisan sold his tools, the husbandman his implements, to raise the means of equipment. The fabulous splendor and wealth of the East were set before the imagination, already stimulated by the romantic legends of Charlemagne and his peers. Besides the religious enthusiasm which now animated all ranks, a variety of other motives was at work. For the peasant there was now opportunity to quit his depressed life, to bear arms, and forsake the service of his feudal lord. For the robber, the pirate, the outlaw, there was pardon and restoration to society; for the debtor there was escape from his obligations; and for all who took up the cross there was the assurance that death in the holy war would make them partakers in the glory and bliss of the martyrs. And so great was the excitement produced by this papal epidemic, that long before the time appointed for the commencement of the expedition, the impatience of the multitude was unable to restrain itself.
Early in the spring of 1096, Peter, the first missionary of the crusade, set out on his march for the East at the head of a wild and motley host. About sixty thousand of the populace from the confines of France and Lorraine flocked around the hermit, and pressed him to lead them to the holy sepulcher. He now assumed the character, without the abilities, of a general, and marched along the Rhine and Danube. Walter the Penniless, a poor but valiant soldier, followed with about fifteen thousand. A monk named Gottschalk pursued closely after Peter and Walter with about twenty thousand from the villages of Germany. A fourth swarm of about two hundred thousand of the refuse of the people, conducted by a Count Eraecho, pressed upon their rear. These successive crowds now numbered fully three hundred thousand warriors of the cross, so-called. But it was soon manifest that another spirit animated them. Not one of them knew the cross, save as an outward idolatrous emblem. Old and infirm, women and children, and the lowest dregs of the idle populace, followed the camp of the Crusaders!
Nothing could be more melancholy and disastrous than the conduct and fate of these deluded swarms. Their wants and numbers soon compelled them to separate. They were without order or discipline, and most of them unprovided with either armor or money. They had no idea of the distance of Jerusalem, or of the difficulties to be encountered by the way. So ignorant were they, that, at the sight of the first city beyond the limits of their knowledge, they were ready to inquire if this was Jerusalem. In place of sobriety and order in their march, it was marked by murder, plunder, dissoluteness, and infamous habits of every kind. The unoffending Jewish inhabitants of the towns on the Moselle, the Rhine, the Maine, and the Danube, through which they marched, were plundered and slaughtered as the murderers of Christ and the enemies of the cross. The population of Hungary and Bulgaria rose up against them because of their disorderly and plundering habits, and immense numbers of them were slain.
After repeated disasters and foolish adventures they reached Constantinople; but Alexius, the Greek Emperor, more alarmed than gratified with his allies, had them speedily, if not treacherously, conveyed across the Bosphorus. A great battle was fought soon after, under the walls of Nicaea — the Turkish capital. The army of the Hermit was cut to pieces by Solyman, the Turkish Sultan of Iconturn. Walter the Penniless was slain, with most of his followers; their bones were gathered into a vast heap to warn their companions of the hopelessness of their enterprise. It is reckoned that in these ill-conducted expeditions three hundred thousand had already perished; some extend the number to half a million. Of those who had started under the guidance of Peter and his lieutenants, not more than 20,000 survived; and these endeavored to find their way back to their home, but only to tell the sad fate of their companions who had died by the arrows of the Turks and Hungarians, or by want and fatigue. Hardly one of Peter's army ever reached the borders of the Holy Land. Pope Urban lived to hear of the distresses and miseries of his own evil work, but died before the capture of Jerusalem.
In the meantime, while the poor, naked, deluded, plebeian multitude had been cut down, the aristocracy of the West had assumed the cross, encouraged each other, and were preparing to depart on the same holy mission. Of the chiefs it will be necessary to say a little, that we may have some idea how thoroughly the epidemic had affected all classes.
The most eminent was Godfrey of Bouillon, a descendant of Charles the Great. The first rank is assigned to him both in war and in counsel. He had accompanied William of Normandy, in his invasion of England; again, in the service of Henry the Fourth, he has the reputation of giving Rudolph his death-wound, which ended the civil war; and he was the first of Henry's army to mount the walls of Rome. He is represented by the chroniclers as remarkable for the depth of his piety and the mildness of his character in ordinary life; but wise in counsel, and bold as a lion in the battlefield. He was accompanied by his two brothers, Eustace and Baldwin; Hugh, brother of the King of France; the Counts Raymond of Toulouse, Robert of Flanders, and Stephen of Blots; and Robert Duke of Normandy, son of William the Conqueror. But so great and so general was the excitement, that nearly all the gallant chiefs of Europe were inspired with knightly courage and national rivalries, to distinguish themselves in this holy war.
Six hundred thousand men are supposed to have left their homes at this time, with innumerable attendants, women and servants, and workmen of all kinds. The difficulty of procuring subsistence for so many, led them to separate their forces and proceed to Constantinople by different routes. It was agreed that they should all meet there, and from thence begin their operations against the Turks. After a long and painful march, in which thousands perished, the survivors reached the Eastern capital. Alexius, though he would have been thankful for a moderate force from the West, to assist him against the Turks, who were dangerously near him, was astonished and alarmed at the approach of so many powerful chiefs and large armies. The peace of his borders had been disturbed by the thefts and unruliness of the promiscuous multitudes under Peter the Hermit; but he dreaded more serious consequences from the arrival of such formidable troops under Godfrey. Learning from one company that another would soon follow, he had them artfully decoyed across the Bosphorus, so that they might not be united in the neighborhood of his capital. By this means, though not without threatened hostilities, the Crusaders had all passed into Asia before the feast of Pentecost.
The zeal and the indignation of the pilgrims were greatly excited when they saw the pyramid of bones which marked the place where Walter and his companions had fallen. Nicaea was besieged, and yielded in about five weeks; but they were greatly disappointed of their expected plunder. When the Turks found that their position was no longer tenable, they secretly agreed to surrender the city to Alexius. The imperial banner was planted on the citadel, and the important conquest was guarded with jealous vigilance by the perfidious Greeks. The murmurs of the chiefs were unavailing, and after a few days' rest, they directed their march towards Phrygia.
The great battle of Dorylium was fought about a fortnight after the siege of Nice. Solyman rallied his Turkish hordes and pursued after what he called the western barbarians. He surprised and attacked them before they reached Dorylium. His cavalry is stated by the Christians to have numbered three hundred thousand. So fearful was the onset and so thick the poisoned arrows, that the Crusaders were overwhelmed. They were thrown into such confusion, that but for the personal valor and military conduct of Bohemond, Tancred, Robert of Normandy, and the timely help of Godfrey and Raymond, the whole army might have perished. At length the long contest was decided in favor of the Crusaders, and the camp of Solyman fell into their hands. Superstition affirmed that the victory was gained by heavenly champions, who descended to aid the Christians.
In a march of five hundred miles through Asia Minor, the army suffered severely. Hunger, thirst, the extremity of heat, the scarcity of food, the difficulty of the march, greatly thinned their ranks. Thirst was fatal to hundreds in a single day. Nearly all the horses died. And, to add to their confusion and dismay, disunion appeared among the leaders, even to open feud. But in spite of every difficulty, the great mass of the Crusaders, who survived these calamities, held on their way to Jerusalem. Baldwin, the brother of Godfrey, succeeded in getting possession of the town of Edessa, and founded the first principality of the Latins beyond the Euphrates.
On the 18th of October, 1097, the "warriors of the cross" laid siege to Antioch, where the disciples were first called Christians, and which soon afterwards became the center of the great apostle's missionary labors. But how changed the spirit, object, and ways, of his so-called successor — of him who assumed the blasphemous title of the vicar of Christ; but at whose door the guilt and bloodshed of this, the greatest of all popular delusions, for ever rests. Jezebel may still reign both in Church and State, and friends as well as foes must be sacrificed to gain her ends and gratify her ambition. But the day is fast hastening on when requisition shall be made for blood, and judgment adjusted according to the motives as well as the actions in guilt. The testimony, thanks be to God, that went out from Antioch in the first century, is as plain and true now as it was then, and of equal authority over the heart and conscience, notwithstanding the ten thousand corrupt streams which professedly flow from the same fountain.
It is with the apostles' doctrine, not the tradition of the Fathers that we have to do. In all ages the Christian's creed should be, the person of Christ for the heart, the work of Christ for the conscience, and the word of God for the path.
The siege of Antioch lasted eight months. The miseries endured during that period were frightful. For a time the luxuries of the soil and climate were enjoyed, even to excess, but the winter set in and their enjoyment was at an end. The heavy rains flooded their camp, and the winds demolished their tents. Famine and pestilence with their many consequences prevailed. The flesh of horses, dogs, and even of their slaughtered enemies was greedily devoured. At the beginning of the siege, their horses numbered seventy thousand, at the end they only numbered two thousand, and scarcely two hundred fit for service. At length however, help came, or they must have perished to the last man. Through the treachery of a Syrian officer in the city, who had the favor of the emir, and who commanded three towers, a gate was opened. The army rushed into the devoted city, shouting the Crusaders' war-cry, "God wills it!" and Antioch was once more in the hands of the Christians. But the victory was not complete. The citadel refused to surrender, and soon after this apparent victory, an overwhelming force of Turks appeared, under Kerboga, Prince of Mosul. For five-and-twenty days the Crusaders were again on the verge of complete destruction between Kerboga and the garrison of the fortress.
When the hearts of all began to sink, and a general indifference to life prevailed, a cunning monk of the name of Bartholomew, presented himself at the door of the council chamber, and declared it had been revealed to him from heaven in a dream, that under the great altar of the church of St. Peter would be found the spear which pierced the Savior on the cross. The ground was opened, but after digging to the depth of twelve feet, they had not found the object of their search. In the evening, barefooted and in the penitent's dress, Bartholomew himself descended into the pit; he soon came upon the head of a lance. The ring of steel was heard, it was the sacred weapon. At the first gleam of the holy spear the desponding Crusaders passed from despair to enthusiasm. A martial psalm was chanted by the priests and monks, "Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered." The gates of Antioch were thrown open, and the now fanatical warriors rushed forth, the holy spear being carried by the legate's chaplain. The charge was irresistible; the Saracens [Moslems - lk] fled before the unexpected attack, leaving behind them an immense mass of spoil. Bohemond was proclaimed Prince of Antioch, under conditions that he would accompany them to Jerusalem.
In place of marching at once to Jerusalem, when so cheered and strengthened by victory, and their enemies over-awed, they idly spent their time, enjoying the luxuries of Syria, for nearly ten months, and, when marching orders were given the following May, only a very small part of the once mighty host remained. Three hundred thousand, it is supposed, reached Antioch; but famine, disease, and the sword, had reduced their force to little more than forty thousand. The relics of the army moved off in the month of May. As they drew nearer the object of their long and perilous journey, and recognized the sacred places, such as Tyre, Sidon, Caesarea, Lydda, Emmaus, and Bethlehem, their enthusiasm knew no bounds. But when an elevation was reached which gave them a full view of the holy city, a cry of, "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! God wills it! God wills it!" burst forth. All threw themselves on their knees, and kissed the sacred ground. The scenes of gospel history filled their minds with enraptured delight. But Jerusalem was yet in the hands of the infidels, and they were unprovided with the necessary engines of assault.
The siege lasted forty days, but they were forty days of great suffering to the besiegers; especially from the fierce thirst produced by the midsummer sun of that parched country. The brook Kedron was dried up; the cisterns had been destroyed or poisoned; their provisions were exhausted; indeed, so great was their distress, they were on the point of yielding to despair. But, as on former occasions, relief was at hand. Superstition came to the rescue. Godfrey saw on the Mount of Olives a heavenly warrior waving his bright shield as a signal for another assault. With renewed military ardor they attacked the unbelievers, and, after a fierce struggle, they became masters of the holy city. Historians agree in saying, that on the 15th of July, A.D. 1099, being a Friday, at three o'clock in the afternoon, the day and hour of the Savior's passion, Godfrey of Bouillon stood victorious on the walls of Jerusalem. He leaped into the devoted city, accompanied by Tancred, and followed by the soldiers, who filled every street with slaughter.
"The crusaders," says Robertson, "inflamed to madness by the thought of the wrongs inflicted on their brethren and by the obstinate resistance of the besieged, spared neither old man, woman, or child. Seventy thousand Mahometans were massacred; many who had received a promise of life from the leaders were slaughtered by the soldiery. The temple and Solomon's porch were filled with blood to the height of a horse's knee; and, in the general rage against the enemies of Christ, the Jews were burnt in their synagogue. Godfrey took no part in these atrocities, but immediately after the victory repaired, in the dress of a pilgrim, to the church of the holy sepulcher, to pour out his thanks for having been permitted to reach the holy city. Many followed his example, relinquishing their savage work for tears of penitence and joy, and offering at the altar the spoil which they had seized; but, by a revulsion of feelings natural to a state of high excitement, they soon returned to their savage work, and for three days Jerusalem ran with blood."
Jerusalem, which had been under the Mahometan yoke since the conquest of Omar in 637, was again in the hands of the Christians; and eight days after this memorable event the victorious chiefs proceeded to the election of a king. By the free and unanimous voice of the army, Godfrey of Bouillon was proclaimed the most worthy champion of Christendom and king of Jerusalem. But the humble and pious pilgrim, while he accepted the place of responsibility, refused the name and ensigns of royalty. How could he be called king and wear a crown of gold, when the King of kings, his Savior and Lord, had worn a crown of thorns? He contented himself with the humbler title of Defender and Baron of the Holy Sepulcher.
Scarcely had Godfrey been seated on his throne, when he was again summoned to the field. A large force of Saracens from Egypt were hastening to avenge the loss of Jerusalem. But again the Crusaders were victorious in what is called the Battle of Askelon. Their position in the Holy Land being now considered secure, most of the army prepared to return to Europe. After ascending the hill of Calvary, amidst the loud anthems of the clergy, bedewing with their tears the holy ground, bathing in the Jordan, carrying with them palm-branches from Jericho, and relics innumerable, they bent their way homewards. Among those who returned was Peter the Hermit, who spent the remainder of his days in a monastery of his own founding, at Huy, near Liege, until his death in 1115.
Three hundred knights and two thousand foot-soldiers were all that Godfrey retained for the defense of Palestine. But the infant kingdom was soon to be assailed by a new enemy, and one with whom we are too well acquainted — a voracious priest of Rome. In the name of the pope, he was installed Patriarch of Jerusalem, and claimed such revenues and property for the Church that the State was left poor indeed. The pious Godfrey submitted; both he and Bohemond received investiture from the priest, and thus the scepter of Jerusalem fell into his hands, or rather was seized by the ambitious pope. Wearied with all his labors, and feeling that his great work was now done, Godfrey was little disposed to fight against the priest, and so allowed him to usurp and place of jurisdiction, both in spiritual and temporal matters. The Greek Christians were persecuted by the Latins as schismatics; and, of course, the breach was widened between the East and the West.
After establishing the French language, and laying the foundation of a code of laws, afterwards famous under the name of the "Assizes of Jerusalem," and holding his dignity for little more than a year, the brave and victorious Godfrey — the true hero of the crusade — died August 17th, A.D. 1100.
Having thus given a somewhat minute and detailed account of the first crusade, we need do little more than give the dates, with a few particulars, of the following seven. The same unreasonable, and unscriptural, but exciting causes, and the same disastrous results, are apparent in each of the expeditions. They have been styled as so many faint and unsuccessful copies of the original.
The immediate descendants of the first Crusaders are described as giving way to a life of Syrian ease and luxury, and so becoming utterly depraved and effeminate. But, on the other hand, the Mahometans, having recovered from their sudden terror and consternation, collected large forces, and harassed the Christians with perpetual wars. In 1144 Zenghis, prince of Mosul, made himself master of Edessa. The inhabitants were slaughtered, the city plundered, and utterly destroyed. The exultation of the Mahometans was boundless; they threatened Antioch, and the courage of the Christians began to sink. With tears they now implored the help of the christian kings and the armies of Europe. The enemies of the cross are advancing, they cried; thousands of Christians have been massacred, and not one will be left alive in the Holy Land unless help come speedily.
The Roman Pontiff, Eugene III., favored these petitions, and resolved to stir up a new crusade. The kings, princes, and people of Europe were summoned by the pope's letters to the holy war; but the preaching of the crusade over these countries he wisely delegated to the celebrated St. Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux. He was a man of immense influence, of saintly character, and of great reputation for working miracles. In the most glowing eloquence he pictured the sufferings of the Eastern Christians, the profanation of the holy places by the infidels, and the certain success of the armies of the Lord. Louis VII. of France, his queen, and a vast number of his nobles, took the vow, and devoted themselves to the holy war. Conrad III., Emperor of Germany, after resisting for a time the appeals of St. Bernard, at length declared himself ready to obey the call to God's service. Many of the chiefs of Germany followed the Emperor's example in taking up the cross — as the phrase then was — but it was a cross without either truth or grace, the fearful delusion of Satan, and the wicked prostitution of that sacred symbol to the blinding and ruin of millions.
No sooner had these monarchs taken the vow than preparations for the expedition were urged on. Troops and supplies of every kind were collected; and in 1147 their mighty armies, composed chiefly of French, Germans, and Italians, and numbering over nine hundred thousand, moved forward in two columns towards Palestine. Proceeding, as they thought, and as Bernard had assured them, under the sanction of heaven, they expected the final blow would now be given to the power of the Mahometans, that the kingdom of Jerusalem would be firmly established, and that peace would be secured to the Latin Christians. In some respects the second crusade differed from the first. That was the result of popular enthusiasm; this was a great European movement, headed by two sovereigns, followed by their nobles, and supported by the wealth and influence of nations; but they were equally unsuccessful with the army of Peter the Hermit. They were cruelly betrayed by the treacherous Greeks, who were more afraid of the Crusaders than they were of the Mahometans. The approach of a hundred and forty thousand heavy-armed knights, with their immediate attendants, in the field, besides the light-armed troops, infantry, priests and monks, women and children — in all numbering nearly a million — so alarmed the effeminate Greeks, that the Emperor sent envoys, requiring them to swear that they had no design against the empire. But their terror took the form of hostility, and, as the Crusaders entered the imperial territory, difficulties thickened on every side.
The history of the second crusade in the Holy Land is more pitiful, shameful, and disastrous than the first. In 1149 Conrad and Louis led back to Europe the few soldiers that survived. What had become of all the rest? Their bones were whitening all the roads and deserts over which they had passed. A million had perished in less than two years. Loud murmurs were heard against Bernard, as the priest by whose preaching, prophecies, and miracles, it had been chiefly promoted. But the crafty abbot convinced the people that he had been quite right in all he said, and that the failure of the expedition was a fit chastisement for the sins of the Crusaders. Thus we see that the only effect of the second crusade was to drain Europe of a great portion of its wealth, and of the flower of its armies, without bettering the condition of Christians in the East.
In the year 1187 the far-famed Saladin, Sultan of Egypt, invaded the Holy Land at the head of a large army. His avowed object was to retake Jerusalem from the Christians. Having gained a great victory at Tiberias, he pushed forward his army to the walls of the Holy City, besieged it, and took its monarch prisoner. It was surrendered to Saladin on the 3rd of October. The cross was thrown down, relics were dispersed, the sacred places profaned, and the Mahometan worship restored. Yet the conduct of Saladin, though a conqueror and a Mahometan, was wholly free from that revengeful spirit which stained the character of the Franks under Godfrey. He spared the holy sepulcher, and allowed Christians to visit it for a certain payment. His generosity to the captives is celebrated by all writers. Thousands were set free without a ransom, and numbers received a passage to Europe at his own expense. Christians were allowed to remain in their homes on condition of paying tribute.
The news of these fresh calamities, and especially of the conquest of Jerusalem, excited the greatest indignation and alarm throughout all Christendom. Again the cry for help was heard from the Christians in the East to their brethren in the West. But at first they were dull of hearing. Only forty years had elapsed since the last expedition, and Europe had scarcely forgotten her misfortunes, or recovered from her exhaustion. But the cause was vigorously taken up by the pope, Clement III. The cardinals bound themselves never to mount on horseback "so long as the land whereon the foot of the Lord had stood should be under the feet of the enemy," and to preach the crusade as mendicants. The interest increased, though men at first hesitated to commit themselves to the enterprise. But the priest persevered, and the three greatest princes in Europe were influenced to receive the cross from the hands of the bishop; their subjects were taxed, under the name of "Saladin's Tithe," to defray the expenses of the war.
In the spring of 1189 the third crusade was commenced by Frederick I. of Germany, surnamed Barbarossa; Philip Augustus of France; and Richard I. of England, surnamed Coeur de Lion, or the lion-hearted prince. Barbarossa, now sixty-seven years of age, with his large army, traversed the provinces of Hungary, Bulgaria, and Greece, as the former pilgrims had done, and were again molested by the first two, and betrayed by the last. Eighty-three thousand Germans crossed the Hellespont, and for a few days their march through Asia Minor was prosperous; but the guides and interpreters who were furnished by the Greeks had been bribed to deceive them, and after luring them into the desert, they disappeared. No markets could be found, horses died for want of food, and their flesh was greedily devoured by the soldiers. Still he was able to maintain discipline; and, though with greatly reduced numbers, he boldly attacked and defeated the Turks with great slaughter, while his son assaulted the city of Iconturn and compelled the Sultan to surrender it. The army, refreshed with the provisions of Iconturn, pressed onwards in the hope of speedily reaching the object of their expedition; but their great leader died the following year near Tarsus, and, Frederick the younger dying soon after, many of the survivors abandoned the crusade and returned to Europe. Sixty-eight thousand of the German army had perished in less than two years.
The English and the French armies reached Palestine by sea in the year 1190, and fought under the same banner. But after the reduction of Acre, Philip returned to Europe, leaving Richard to carry on the war. The valor of the "lion-hearted" king has been so fully celebrated, both in English and Mahometan history, that, we need only add, he defeated Saladin at Askelon and, having concluded a peace securing certain privileges to the pilgrims in Jerusalem and along the sea-coast, he returned to England in 1194, though not without great difficulty and expense. Saladin died in 1195, while Richard was on his way home. It is reckoned that, in the expedition thus ended, more than half a million of professedly Christian warriors perished. In the siege of Acre alone, one hundred and twenty thousand Christians, and one hundred and eighty thousand Mahometans, perished. Such were the alleged holy wars of the hell-inspired councils of Rome
The fourth crusade, which was commenced in 1195 by the Emperor Henry VI., was more political than religious. It had in view, not so much the deliverance of the Holy Land, as the destruction of the Greek empire. But after some successful engagements Henry died, and the Germans resolved to return home. Pope Celestine III., who had urged on the expedition, survived the Emperor only a few months. He died A.D. 1198.
To describe the Fifth and Sixth Crusades would involve much repetition, but the seventh and eighth deserve a few words.
Louis XI., king of France, who is commonly known by the name of St. Louis, believed that he was raised up from a serious illness by heaven to undertake the recovery of the Holy Land. Nothing could dissuade him from performing his vow. After four years' preparation he sailed to Cyprus in 1249, accompanied by his Queen, his three brothers, and all the knights of France. After a few trifling successes and the taking of Damietta, he was defeated and taken prisoner along with two of his brothers. The Earl of Salisbury, who had accompanied him, with almost all his English followers, perished. Pestilence and famine began to do their dreadful work among the Franks; the distress increased; the fleet was destroyed; and the Saracens, in vast numbers, were hovering around them. The liberty of the king was at length purchased by a large ransom, and a truce was concluded for ten years. After quietly visiting some of the sacred places, he returned to France. But amidst all the labors of government at home the pious Louis never forgot his crusading vow. He was haunted with the idea that he had been entrusted by heaven with this great mission.
At length, on the 14th of March A.D. 1270, he entered upon his second and the Eighth Crusade. He was so weak that he could neither bear his armor nor remain long on horseback. But scarcely had he landed his army on the shores of Africa, than all his sanguine visions perished. The Sultan's troops, the climate, the want of water and of food, began to produce their sad effects. His army was almost wholly destroyed, and Louis himself, with his son, John Tristan, sank and died in the month of August. The survivors returned to Europe; and thus terminated these holy wars, leaving the avowed object of the crusades as far distant as before the days of Peter the Hermit.
Between the fifth and sixth crusades, about the year 1213, the excitement and madness of the time produced one of mere children. A shepherd boy named Stephen, near Vendome, in France, professed to have been charged by the Savior in a vision to preach the cross. He soon gathered other children around him by his wondrous revelations, and they commenced their journey, expecting to conquer the infidels by singing hymns and saying prayers. They passed through towns and villages, displaying banners and crosses, and chanting, "O Lord, help us to recover Thy true and holy cross." A similar movement originated in Germany about the same time. We are told that the numbers swelled as they went along, until about ninety thousand boys, about ten or twelve years of age, were ready to march to the Holy Land. But the whole band in a short time melted away. Many of the unfortunate children died through hunger and fatigue; others were betrayed by ship-masters, who promised to convey them to the shores of Palestine, but who are supposed to have sold them into slavery. Such was the insanity of those times, that, in place of preventing such a movement, the pope declared that the zeal manifested by the children put to shame the listlessness of their elders.
Many and varied are the opinions of historians as to the origin, character, and effects of the crusades. That they had an immense influence on the course of human affairs, especially in Europe and Asia, all are agreed. They were the means, under the overruling providence of God, of changing the whole structure of society in this and other countries. From the serf to the sovereign all experienced a great change. The social condition of the serf and the vassal was raised, the number and power of the feudal lords were diminished, and the strength of the sovereign increased. By the same means commerce was greatly improved, and the barons not a little impoverished. Many of them mortgaged their estates to wealthy citizens, which in course of time led to the establishment of the third estate in the realm — the Commons. The liberties of Europe, both civil and religious, had their rise in this class.
But the Papacy was the chief gainer by the Crusades. A vast accession of power, influence, and wealth, to the pope, the clergy, and the monastic institutions was the immediate result. And this was the one grand object of the papal policy. What Hildebrand fought for and saw in the distance, Urban seized and used with great craft and power. And this supremacy he obtained by means apparently good and holy, but really most subtle and Satanic. The theory was this: — "the Crusader was the soldier of the church, and this was his first allegiance, which released him from all other." Never was there a more sweeping, levelling, unrighteous theory proposed to mankind. But in its apparent piety lay its deep subtlety.
When Urban placed himself at the head of the armies of the faith in 1095, he assumed to be the director of their movements, the dispenser of their blessings, their infallible counsellor and lawgiver. He preached that it was not a national war of Italy, France, or Germany, against the empire of Egypt, but a holy war of Christians against the Mahometans. No Christian was to go to war with another Christian, but all were to unite in a holy alliance against the common foe — the infidels. The privileges promised to all the soldiers of Christ were great and many, as may be seen by Urban's oration. They were assured of the immediate remission of all their sins, of the paradise of God, if they fell in battle, or if they died on their way to the Holy Land; and further, as to this life, the pope declared all temporal, civil, and social obligations dissolved, by taking the cross. Thus every tie was broken that binds society together, a new principle of obedience was substituted, and the pope became the liege lord of mankind.
We may just notice, before leaving the subject, that during these wars of the Christians with the Mahometans, three celebrated military-religious orders were founded — Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem, Knights of the Hospital, and Teutonic Knights. The principal duties of these knights, according to their founders, were to afford protection and assistance to the poor, the sick, and the wounded among the pilgrims, and to provide in every way for the defense of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. They soon became extremely popular. Many of the nobility of Europe accepted the cross and professed the vow of the knights of Palestine. Superstition enriched them, and, we need scarcely add, it also corrupted them; and their wealth excited the cupidity of others. After the Christians lost possession of the Holy Land, these knights were dispersed throughout several countries. The order of the Templars was dissolved by the Council of Vienne in the fourteenth century, and that of the Teutons in the seventeenth, by the German authorities. The Hospitallers obtained from Charles V. the possession of the island of Malta, and are now known as the Knights of Malta.
Chapter 21 - A. D. 1106 - 1122