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Medieval Religion

Were the Crusades a success?


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November 14, 2010 3:16AM

In the grand scheme of thing the Crusades were an unmitigated disaster. At the beginning of each Crusade there had been high ideals preached by the hierarchy of the Church and temporal rulers promised to reestablish Christendom in the lands where God had walked as man. Knights enlisted with thoughts of winning glory for God, for themselves and to drive the heathen from the Holy Land. Very quickly this disintegrated into personal greed, nationalism and brutal conquest among the weaker and more unscrupulous knights.

The journey was long and took casualties; many knights perished because of their failure to adapt: the hotter Mideastern climate practically cooked them in their heavy armor and many soldiers perished. Battle losses were heavy as the Muslims had adapted to the climate and wore lighter armor and thus were far more maneuverable. The historically confusing Children's crusade, in its pious naivety, literally marched thousands of youths and poor on a self-declared prophet's vision and disbanded in disillusionment at the Mediterranean where some died from starvation, some got lost and were sold into slavery to the Muslims and others wandered back home. Other Crusades diverted into settling political scores.

Ignorance of the Christian pockets that still existed combined with language barriers found the Crusaders attack Christian villages and cities and kill the inhabitants. Such repeated instances did not help the Orthodox/Catholic relations that had already eroded to a schismatic split. Victories did come, however, and for long stretches certain regions and cities were under European control with European monarchs setting up trade, establishing castles and even setting up members of their royal line to rule. This was all lost in the end. Out of this came the bristling nationalism that would emerge from the Middle Ages and the peoples of Christendom would begin to wage much sharper battles and social intrigues against their own.

The wealth that came from the Crusades is both true and false. Much of it was squandered and some was sacrilegiously removed from the Orthodox churches and lost, destroyed, recovered or preserved other's collections. The secret wealth of the temple that the Templar knights are to have found deep in the foundations has never been confirmed, and indeed, is highly doubtful. The cost of maintaining troops and earthworks and peasants was a great drain and sometimes the home kingdom simply abandoned them. Fame and legend were romantically extracted from these debacles, which indeed had their glorious and even charitable moments, however, the Crusades had never been endorsed by all, sometimes not even by the Church, and very few had affects that lasted more than a few decades. As a result the Muslims were ultimately victorious and dug in and were poised to invade Europe itself. In this later instance, Christendom was able to defend itself and repel them, but not before the Muslims had gotten as far as modern day Austria.