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February 8, 2014
Crusades (1095 -1444) - Holy wars of Medieval World History
Crusades (1095 -1444)
The Crusades were Holy wars fought by the Christians of Western Europe against the Turks, and by the Muslims to have free access to their holy lands in the Middle East. Every Pious Christian considered it as his sacred duty to visit their holy places where the relics of Christ were available. Jerusalem was one such important place which was captured by Turks in 1071 from the Fatimid Caliph of Egypt. Upto 1076, there was no real problem due to the tolerant policy of Caliphate. But in 1076, Jerusalem went under the control of Seljuk Turks, who were religiously intolerant.
To save themselves from the persecution and humiliation and to retrieve access to their holy places the Christians undertook a crusade. Pope Urban II gave a call to the Christians all over the world to come together and to take arms. There were different factors responsible to their quick response. The religious fanatics joined to discharge their religious duty. Some joined to show their fighting skills and for plundering and looting. The wars of the “Cross against the Crescent” according to tradition, were eight in number. The first four were Major Crusades and the last four Minor Crusades. After a meeting of council at Clermont, they affixed cross on their garments. The Muslim had a crescent on their banners. Thus the crusades, the long drawn out “wars of the cross against the crescent” began.
Children's Crusade (1212)
The leaders of the children's crusade were Nicholas of Germany and Stephen of France. They believed in their heart of hearts that God would mysteriously guide and guard the children in their endeavors. But none of the children went beyond Italy. Many died of hunger and starvation.
Causes for the failure of the crusades
The wars were fought in a far distant, alien and inhospitable regions. It exhausted the energies and sapped the sprit of the people. The crusaders failed in their primary motive of recovering the holy places of Jerusalem and Bethelham.
The Crusades were not properly organized. There was lack of unity and discipline among the leaders. The struggle for supremacy between the papacy and their Empire had a baneful effect on the issue. The weakness of the Byzantine empire was another serious cause for the collapse of the crusades.
Results of the Crusades
The Crusades failed in their most important objective of recovering the holy places in Palestine but led to the establishment of new Christian kingdoms in Spain and Portugal.
The Crusades in the end left Byzantine power vastly reduced in prestige and honour. The loss of Byzantine prestige was never fully recovered.
The crusading sprit spread like a contagious disease and it led to the conversion of Slav races on the shores
of the Baltic sea to Christianity and the Germanisation of the population. Feudalism received its rudest shock from the Crusades.
The crusades seriously affected the future of the military orders. The power and prestige of the Popes increased.
The extensive travels undertaken during the crusades provided the people with an opportunity to promote their knowledge of geography. It prepared the way for the discovery of new trade routes in which Portugal and Spain became pioneers. It gave an added fillip to the ship building industry which in turn paved the way for the use of Mariner’s compass, etc.
The Crusades created a sprit of enquiry and prepared men's mind for the Renaissance of the 16th Century.