The Religious Motivation Of The Crusaders

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The Religious Motivation of the Crusaders


The Crusades were a sequence of religiously motivated military expeditions from western Europe, sanctioned by the papacy, to retrieve the Holy Land from Muslim control and later to impede the further expansion of Islam under Ottoman rule. Two background factors enter into the motivation for the Crusades. The first was the conquest of former Christian territories by Muslim forces in the seventh and eighth centuries in the Holy Land and other territories in the Middle East and in North Africa, Sicily, and Spain. After the Battle of Manzikert (1071) the Seljuk Turks even threatened the patriarchy of Constantinople, "the second Rome." The second factor was the desire of pilgrims to visit the holy sites and churches in the Holy Land, in the footsteps of Constantine's mother Helena, who built many of the first Christian basilicas in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and elsewhere in the Holy Land. These sites had become the destinations of pilgrimages from the West, which was threatened by turmoil in the Muslim world. (Turnbull, 72-78)

Theologically, the Crusades vitiated the early Christian opposition to war and even challenged Augustine's theory of just war by suppressing the criteria that make a war just. Popes offered indulgences, remission from temporal punishment due to sin, and the title "martyr" to those wearing the crusader cross and who died in combat. The ranks of crusaders attracted not only noble minded knights but also brigands and hangers-on out for profiteering. The campaigns witnessed not only warfare among combatants but also pillaging, rape, massacre, and wanton destruction. Innocent civilians were attacked, including both Jews along the Rhine and Eastern Orthodox in the Byzantine Empire. This paper explains the religious motivation of the Crusaders.


The Crusades were a historical movement primarily between 1096 and 1291 that arose in western Europe to liberate the Holy Sepulcher from the Muslims and restore Christian possession of it. The name, which evolved in the 13th century, derived from the sign of the cross, worn by participants. Various motives were behind the Crusades for individuals and groups, but the movement as a whole resulted from the combined effects of religious, political, social, demographic, and economic factors. (Cavaliero, 90-99)

The Religious Motivation Of The Crusaders

One religious prompting was connected with the spread of clerical and lay learning and preaching in Catholic Europe. This emphasized a spiritual and historical link to the holy places in Palestine, as the land of Israel, where the life and Passion of Christ took place. These feelings had earlier been expressed through pilgrimages that familiarized places like Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Galilee, and Judaea to a lot of people in western Europe. (Madden, 36-50)

The Crusades were a series of military campaigns waged by Christian armies against Muslim-controlled areas in the Holy Land beginning in 1095 and continuing an intermittent basis even as late as the sixteenth century. While the Crusading momentum seems to have begun with the justification of rescuing holy places from Muslim control, it is likely that the motivation for the First ...
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