Byzantium and the West in the Age of the Crusades: The Dividing of Christendom?
November 14, 2013
(Reviewed by Professor Harding)
Christianity has played a crucial role in world history since the death of Christ. From its humble beginnings along the Sea of Galilee until its solidified spread amongst Western European nations, the religion has had its fair share of conflict. Most notable would be the Crusades. An in depth look at the motivation, conflicts, and outcomes of the Crusades can be perfectly associated with the History of Jerusalem, Siege of Constantinople, and letters from Pope Innocent III. The Crusaders began as a religious mission, originally for the reinstatement of Christian presence in the Holy Land. However, as time waged on and soldiers returned glorified and rich, the intentions of future Crusaders desired wealth, not just the preservation of Roman Catholicism in the Levant. These accounts share the Western perspective directly involved with the Crusades and their missions, illustrating the struggles, as well as the successes of Christianity at that time. The author, Baldric of Dol, was a French Christian bishop. The bishop is most famous for his work, the History of Jerusalem, which accounts the First Crusade. This source provides a description of Pope Urban’s declaration to retake Jerusalem in 1095. Urban stated to all Roman Catholics in the West that the primary goal was to recapture the Holy Land in the East. Although not being a direct transcript, Dol’s account conveys the major points made by the Pope for the Roman Catholics throughout Western Europe. With this, the History of Jerusalem is a vital source for the First Crusade. In respect to historical context, recognizing Dol’s glorification of what the Pope said is crucial. It may not be a direct transcript, but its accuracy can be confirmed from comparison with other similar accounts. The original objective is a clear and religiously devoted cause, however it would soon lead to future Crusades on behalf of ulterior motives among the knights. Nevertheless, the History of Jerusalem proves to be an essential source regarding one of the most notable speeches in world history. Similar to the History of Jerusalem, the following source regarding the siege of Constantinople in 1205 was also recalled by a Frenchman, a knight named Robert of Clari. Robert’s account of the capture is an extremely honest perspective from a regular soldier. The thirst for satisfaction by the Roman Catholic warriors is evident, fitting accurately with the historical sacking of the city. The Fourth began as a quest to Jerusalem, but with low funding, a change of plans was needed. Cutting the mission halfway, the Venetian sailors aimed to cripple their rival port city of Constantinople. With the French knights inevitably seeking wealth, led to compromise the Fourth Crusades original religious intent. Clari’s account explains the justifications made by the Crusaders in attacking the caesaropapist Greeks, becoming a cover for their violent siege for wealth. Therefore, this piece became an essential reference for the Christians in Western Europe regarding the Fourth Crusade. The final source being compared would be two letters from Pope Innocent III. The first letter from 1204 congratulates the Crusaders in their victory over the schismatic Eastern Orthodox Greeks. Innocent originally prohibited any military stray from the original target, the Holy Land. However, once he learned of the triumphant siege, the Pope congratulated his French general Montferrat. Although less than a year later, Innocent issued a statement declaring the Crusaders disobedient and counterproductive to the original objective. He exclaimed that the Crusaders disregarded papal authority and instead of repelling the Muslims, they killed their Christian brothers. With these documents,...
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