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Purpose Of The Crusades History Essay

2546 words (10 pages) Essay in History

5/12/16 History Reference this

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A religious element can be observed within the secular western individuals, however it appears somewhat superficial. Their personal motivations, however, seem to be genuine. On arriving at Constantinople, Raymond, Baldwin, Godfrey, and Baldwin found it difficult to establish an oath of allegiance with Alexius as it would compromise their oath to God. This, on the one hand, acts as a strong argument for the four being religious and devout to their cause. However, recognising their lack of armed forces they were willing to compromise a position for military support, which clearly outlines a fundamental aim for the crusaders, one which was bound in the gain of land and power. Moreover, we see this ulterior motive in Bohemond of Taranto’s determination to create a principality of Antioch. The Gesta Francorum also used financial gain as an incentive to join the crusade stating that “you will all gain much booty” [3] . On the contrary, we see that a religious element is present in one of the first crusade leader, Godfrey, who refused to take the term “King” as he believed it belonged to Christ.

King Richard I, too, is an excellent example of the crusade distancing from religion and piety. With an issue of who should be King of Jerusalem, Richard or Philip, Richard took every opportunity to gain the upper-hand. The incidents in Cyprus illustrate that Richard had no issue with taking the lands of Christians, and highlighted not only his military strength, but also his determination for his personal ambition, Richard wrote that “not unnaturally we were spurred on by vengeance” [4] . The alliances that began to form, too, emphasize Richard’s political and imperial ambitions. For example, allying with King Guy to fight against Conrad of Montferrat meant that Richard could exploit this military support later on if necessary. Guy’s determination against the rejection of Conrad to be king also illustrates the third crusade as moving increasingly further away from religious salvage. The siege was an audacious move which was deployed solely to emphasize his military prowess and force Conrad to recognize him as king so that Guy could gain political leadership and the financial gains as a consequence. A similar incident can be observed in the Siege of Lisbon. King Afonso Henriques of Portugal needed some military support and ordered a representative to persuade the capture of Lisbon. Livermore and Phillips have suggested that this was not a consequence and crusaders were prepared for battle. Nonetheless, the King recognised the importance of religion and used it as a guise by employing the bishop of Oporto to appeal, and reassured the crusaders who had doubts that support would not divert from their initial purpose and they would receive generous financial rewards. Evidently we see that religion was merely a guise and an excuse for imperial conquest and expansion to King Afonso, and others.

Another factor which changed the nature and purpose of the crusades is the role of the popes. The appeal of the first crusade was pope Urban’s rhetoric which targeted all levels of society. It laid great emphasis on the act of religious salvation and the promise of a remission of all sins. The Council of Clermont recorded the fundamentals of Urban’s message: ‘Whoever for devotion alone, not to gain honour or money, goes to Jerusalem to liberate the Church of God can substitute this journey for all penance’ [5] . Urban’s background meant, too, that he was able to see how the crusade would appeal to the knights and the nobles’ aspirations and skills. Interestingly enough, there is the mention of “honour and money” [6] which would appeal to many noblemen and knights, but more importantly those with large debts to pay. This would remain at the heart of all future crusades, being emulated, reiterated, and alluded to in future speeches. Phillips offers the view that “the effectiveness with which he touched upon so many ideas and values of importance to the people of the Latin West is evinced by the scale of the response to his appeal.” [7] Moreover, Eugenius III’s Quantum praedecessores was addressed on Easter Sunday to King Louis VII which emulated the same rhetorical devices as Urban’s as his had proved effective in attracting people to crusade, illustrating again the effectiveness of Urban’s speech.

Furthermore, in the third crusade, Gregory VIII laboured the point of Urban, Phillip’s offers that “Gregory [was] repeating Urban II’s point that a crusade was a sufficiently arduous undertaking to be adequate penance for all properly confessed sins.” [8] However, piety appears to remain at the heart of the speech in attracting people along to crusade, even the noblemen. Although, the pragmatic language suggests to the nobility that there are large rewards to be gained. Moreover, the movement is constantly redefined by the different speeches and the aims extended each time. For instance, we see that by the Third Crusade, Gregory mentions the defence of Edessa and the importance of attacking Edessa in order to regain it, regardless of it’s lack of religious connotations. This links with the previous factor in that the guise of religion is used to justify the extension of the crusade.

However, this causes issues because by the Fourth Crusade people are less motivated by the religious aspect and are consequently less tolerant of operating under the banner of religion and feel that they can dictate it by their personal desires and ambitions. By the Fourth Crusade, we see that the goal has been wildly redefined and all emotional resonance has been removed, thus causing a diversion in the crusades. A diversion not merely between the leaders, but also between those ‘regular’ people involved as the pope’s who call for the crusade can no longer control them with the force of religion like they could in the First and Second Crusade. Additionally, we see each pope recognising the economical and political gains to come from Crusading. Even though the role of religion in crusading is perhaps deteriorating, the Pope’s influence certainly is not. Phillips offers the view that “the more secular aspirations [of the pope’s] cannot be ignored.” [9] We can see that, certainly by the Fourth Crusade, Gregory wishes to extend the role and influence of the church beyond Jerusalem, but throughout Europe.

Another factor which changed the nature and purpose of crusading was the role of papal legates and preachers. Although their ability to attract wide audiences and followers of the crusade may have been manipulated, their devoutly religious views remained at the heart of each crusade. Adhemar’s role in the First Crusade was important in boosting the morale of crusaders and maintaining the army’s strength. We most definitely see a religious aspect to the First Crusade through the tactics and work of Adhemar; proclaiming a three-day fast, banning sex, gambling and swearing, his sermons were strictly adhered to by the most pious of the crusaders. And when there was success, Adhemar was held accountable. Phillip’s notes on Adhemar that he “had acted as an effective commander of the expedition, thus reflecting the pope’s role as initiator of the crusade.” In addition to Adhemar we see Peter the Hermit’s influence in the First Crusade, attracting a vast number of individuals to join. His deeply pious nature illustrated that preachers who aimed to encourage people to join were, at this point, operating simply out of religious devotion, rather than any political gain. However, even as early as the Second Crusade we see the papacy making use of these “effective commanders” with the role of Bernard of Clairvaux and his immense oratory skills. His role extended beyond encouraging men to join the crusade and subsequently we see the nature of crusading changing. His justification of the Knights Templars illustrates that the role of these papal legates and preachers was extending to a more political ambassador-like role for the papacy and the popes. Indeed, in the First Crusade they acted as a similar role, but Bernard’s letter justifying the nature of the Knights illustrates those legates to be more than orators encouraging to take arms. Phillips asserts that the “strength of Bernard’s argument and the enormously positive response to the launch of the Templars indicates that most were soon convinced.” [10] Evidently, we can observe a dramatic change in the role of the legates and subsequently the role of the papacy. The political power extended beyond legates and they could therefore utilise these devoutly religious monks and warriors to defend not only the cross, but also the fiefs which the papacy gained.

However, one other significant factor which changed the nature and purpose of crusading was the Muslim world’s unity and disunity. Carole Hillenbrand asserts that it “is a truism of crusader history that the warriors of the First Crusade succeeded because of Muslim disunity and weakness.” [11] Certainly in the First Crusade the bitterness and disjointed political aspect of crusading between the two leading groups, the Sunni Orthodox and the Shi’is, meant that they were willing to join with the Christians in order to beat the other rather than unite and defeat the Christians with ease. This contrasted with the rule of the Imad ad-Din Zengi and Nur ad-Din who, to some extent, filled the power vacuum which was evident in the First Crusade. Although not completely effective in the Second Crusade, their clearly defined agenda laid the foundations for future Islamic crusader states and their subsequent leaders. However, Christian fractions and disunity in the Second Crusade is also a reason for its failure and illustrates the changing nature and purpose. Whereas in the First Crusade there was a unified Christian front, by the Second Crusade there was a number of separate principalities with wildly different leaders who had opposing aims. With these leaders all opposing one another, the Muslim army could attack a weakened and demoralised army – or armies – who had no chance of defending themselves. Reports from the Siege of Damascus, for example, illustrates those in positions of power, notably Conrad, Raymond, and Thierry of Flanders, having issues with each other or local nobility, consequently leading to a magnanimous defeat as they focused on these disputes rather than the larger Muslim threat. Phillip’s offers the view that the reason for the defeat was “glory-seeking rulers in Damascus” [12] which changes the nature and purpose of crusading as the Muslim world gained from this victory and consequently devised the nature of jihad and holy war for the Islamic world which would define and dictate future crusader leaders, most notably Saladin.

After the death of Nur ad-Din the Muslim world seemed to fall back into the same state before his rise, however, the role of Saladin drastically changed the nature and purpose of crusading. His strict devotion to jihad and his political astuteness meant that he had the ability to unite the newly disjointed Islamic world. He illustrated his tactical prowess by the ways in which he changed crusading, too. Attacking Jerusalem in an unorthodox manner, he was able to take the city and continue his vast expansion. None of the crusaders were prepared for warfare in such a manner and were massacred on many occasions. However, there were other factors contributing the the rise of Saladin which made his success much easier. The Christian forces were led by a leper-king who perhaps may have had the political capabilities, but his illness caused him immense difficulties. Moreover, incessant disagreement within the Christian nobility from the Second Crusade continued to dominate the Christian and world and its primary agenda, such as the conflict which emerged between the two main groups of the Frankish nobility after Guy and Sibylla’s wedding, meaning Saladin could triumph. Additionally, the disastrous decision by Guy to march away from watered lands meant that Saladin could exploit the clearly disarrayed Christian army.

Richard the Lionheart’s addition to crusading only exasperated this clearly strained power struggle, too. For instance, although he offered a vast wealth and a large army, his agenda was one of political advancements, rather than in the First Crusade when it was primarily religious. Saladin still maintained the prestige he had acquired over a long period of battling and so the Muslim world still remained, to some extent, unified, meaning that Richard – and the other nobility which followed him – had a difficult task. However, Richard’s presence added much to the morale of the Frankish armies thus changing the nature and purpose of crusading allowing them to be far more successful in their attempts. It seems that Richard’s military additions – along with his invigorating persona – allowed for the Crusaders to successfully defeat Saladin. It was this minor victory which allowed, as Phillip’s describes, “a springboard for future crusades.” [13] There was much improvement by this point as opposed to 1187 in that the power struggle which had dominated the Franks had, to some extent, ameliorated.

The evolution of crusading, as we can see, was immense. Throughout the Christian world, for example, it saw the invitation of nobility and consequently their lack of presence in their respective countries. As mentioned at the start of this essay, crusading “meant different things for different people” however we begin to see that as the crusades developed there was an amalgamation of what crusading meant, and these desires became somewhat homogeneous. Although, as Fuller says, “the pretences were pious and plausible … [many] had a priority project beyond public design” [14] which accurately outlines the crusades. The undertones appear to be, therefore, solely secular and for the imperial gains. For those involved in the fighting, however – even the Knights Templars – it seems that truly religious aspects dictated much of the movement. There was, it seems, a clear divide between the leaders and the led and consequently a wildly different agenda. From the demagogues of power in the Muslim west to the Pope’s of the Catholic Church, religion has largely been used as a tool of crafting empires and it is clear to see where the word of God has been employed as a tool of political power.

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