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Augustine of Hippo
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Augustine of Hippo..... author of the ... Confessions and City of God

Augustine was born in 345 in Thagaste, a town south the port city of Hippo in north Africa. This area was then part of the Roman province of Numidia. Augustine was born into a Roman family possessed of a large farm. His mother Monica was a devout Christian, his father a pagan, (until his deathbed when he converted). Augustine attended local schools where he excelled. At age 17 he transferred to a much better school in Carthage, 100 miles to the east, where he studied logic and rhetoric (i.e. public speaking and debate). He then taught in Thagaste for several years.

During this period, Augustine was exposed to the works of Cicero (particularly an essay entitled, Hortensis, which has since been lost to us) on Plato’s philosophy which stimulated a interest in the writings of the Neoplatonists (e.g. Plotinus and Porphyry) and Plato himself. These writers supported the idea of a human soul. They also promoted the idea of human “free will” where each man makes his own decisions for good or ill.

This paper caused Augustine to give up his loose attachment to Christianity and take up with the Manicheans (i. e. a heretical sect that taught each man is possessed two natures one filled with God’s light, the other divorced from God and filled with darkness and a tendency to sin). Augustine involvement with the Manicheans ended when the Manichean Bishop, Faustus, while visiting Carthage, was unable to satisfy the logical concerns that Augustine raised.

Shortly thereafter Augustine, who was living with a concubine, decided to seek his fortunes in Italy by opening his own school of rhetoric in Rome.

After about a year and a half, Augustine gave up his school in Rome, and took a permanent teaching position in Milan. This move brought him into contact with Bishop Ambrose of Milan, who was generally considered the best informed, most capable speaker among the Christians. Augustine went to hear Ambrose’s sermons was delighted by his rhetorical skills, but Augustine was also surprised by how logical the substance of his sermons were. Suddenly he had a person who could answer his questions about philosophy and religion. However, Augustine remained a religious skeptic.

In the fall of 386, Augustine was reading in his garden when a child’s voice rang in his head. It said “take and read”. At his elbow was a copy of Paul’s Epistles which he opened. His eyes fell on Romans Chap. 13:13 - 14.

This event caused him to decide to become a Christian. He spoke to Ambrose who said he could be baptized in the Spring of 387. His father was died, but his mother was in Milan to see him baptized and initiated into the Christian faith. Her prayers were being answered.

At this time, she convinced her son to give up his common law wife, who was by then the mother of Augustine’s son, Adeodatus (372 - 388), and take a proper wife in an arranged marriage. Monica had a suitable 10 yr old girl in mind who she felt would make Augustine a suitable wife. Augustine sent the concubine away while retaining his son. He and Monica made arrangements to return to North Africa with Adeodatus.

Back in Africa, Augustine faith deepened and he began to think about total commitment to Christianity. At this point, his son died and that event helped Augustine decide on a life of total commitment to his faith. So he broke off his engagement to the 10 yr old and sold his family’s land giving the money to the poor and creating a small monastery in the farmhouse where he had grown up.

This suited Augustine until one day he was at Mass in Hippo when he was spotted by the local bishop who changed his sermon and essentially harangued the congregation into surrounding Augustine demanding that he accept appointment as a Presbyter (i.e. a modern day parish priest). The congregation obeyed and Augustine found himself moving into the clergy by the end of the day.

In a few years, Augustine himself was elevated to the position of Bishop of Hippo. In this position he delivered many sermons, 350 of these survive; he wrote several books of a religious and philosophical nature.

Augustine’s Most Famous Works

(NOTE: The following is a pared down version of the material found in Wikipedia on these two very famous works.)

The Confessions was produced following Augustine’s return to North Africa.

The work is not a complete autobiography, as it was written during Augustine's early 40s. He lived another 30 years. Nonetheless, it does provide an unbroken record of the development of his thought and is the most complete record of any single person from the 4th and 5th centuries. It is also a significant theological work, featuring spiritual meditations and insights.

In the work, Augustine writes about how much he regrets having led a sinful and immoral life. He discusses his regrets for following the Manichean religion and believing in astrology. He came to feel both were not only incorrect but evil. He praises Ambrose's role in his conversion to Christianity.

The first nine books are autobiographical and the last four are commentary and significantly more philosophical. The books were written as prayers to God, thus the title, which is based on the Psalms of David. The work begins with "For Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee."

The first nine books -

Starting with his infancy, Saint Augustine reflects on his personal childhood in order to draw universal conclusions about the nature of infancy: the child is inherently violent if left to its own devices because of Original Sin. Later, he reflects on choosing pleasure and reading secular literature over studying Scripture, choices which he comes to understand deserved the punishment of his teachers, although he did not recognize that during his childhood.

Then Augustine reflects on his adolescence during which he recounts two examples of grave sins that he committed as a sixteen-year-old: the development of his God-less lust and the theft of a pear from his neighbor's orchard, despite never wanting for food. In this book, he explores the question of why he and his friends stole pears when he had many better pears of his own. He explains the feelings he experienced as he ate the pears and threw the rest away to the pigs. Augustine argues that he most likely would not have stolen anything had he not been in the company of others who would share in his sin.

He begins the study of rhetoric at Carthage, where he develops a love of wisdom through his exposure to Cicero's Hortensis. He blames his pride for lacking faith in Scripture, so he finds a way to seek truth regarding good and evil through Manichean belief.

Between the ages of 19 and 28, Augustine forms a relationship with an unnamed woman who is not his lawfully wedded wife, and with whom he has a son. At this same time that he returned to Tagaste, his hometown, to teach. Augustine’s had an unnamed friend who fell sick, was baptized in the Catholic Church, recovered slightly, then died. The death of his friend depresses Augustine, who then reflects on the meaning of love of a friend in a mortal sense versus love of a friend in God; he concludes that his friend's death affected him severely because of his lack of love in God. Things he used to love become hateful to him because everything reminds him of what was lost. Augustine then suggests that he began to love his life of sorrow more than his fallen friend. He closes this book with his reflection that he had attempted to find truth through the Manicheans and astrology, yet devout Church members, who he claims are far less intellectual and prideful, have found truth through greater faith in God.

At age 29, he begins to lose faith in Manichean teachings, a process that starts when the Manichean bishop Faustus visits Carthage. Augustine is unimpressed with the substance of Manichaeism, but he has not yet found something to replace it. He feels a sense of resigned acceptance to these fables as he has not yet formed a spiritual core to prove their falsity. He moves to teach in Rome where he thinks the education system is more disciplined. He does not stay in Rome for long because his teaching is requested in Milan, where he encounters the bishop Ambrose. He appreciates Ambrose's style and attitude, and Ambrose exposes him to a more spiritual, figurative perspective of God.

The sermons of Saint Ambrose draw Augustine closer to Catholicism, which he begins to favor over pure philosophy. In this section his personal troubles, including ambition, continue, at which point he compares a beggar, whose drunkenness gives "temporal happiness," with his on going failure to discover happiness.[5]

In his mission to discover the truth behind good and evil, Augustine is exposed to the Neoplatonists view of God. He finds fault with this. Nevertheless he thinks that they understand the nature of God without accepting Christ as a mediator between humans and God. He explains his opinion of the Neoplatonists using the likeness of a mountain top: "It is one thing to see, from a wooded mountain top, the land of peace, and not to find the way to it [...] it is quite another thing to keep to the way which leads there, which is made safe by the care of the heavenly Commander, where they who have deserted the heavenly army may not commit their robberies, for they avoid it as a punishment."[7] From this point, he picks up the works of the apostle Paul which "seized [him] with wonder."[8]

He further describes his inner turmoil on whether to convert to Christianity. While reflecting in a garden, Augustine hears a child's voice chanting "take up and read."[9] Augustine picks up a Bible and reads the passage in Romans 13:13–14: "Not in revelry and drunkenness, not in debauchery and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and as for the flesh, take no thought for its lusts."[10] This incident confirms his conversion to Catholicism.

In preparation for his baptism, Augustine stops teaching rhetoric. Saint Ambrose baptizes Augustine along with his son, Adeodatus. He begins to return to Africa with his mother and son. Monica and Augustine have a joint religious vision in Ostia, shortly before she dies.

The Last Four Books -

Augustine shifts from personal memories to introspective evaluation of the memories themselves and of the self. He continues to reflect on the value of Confessions, the significance of prayer, and the means through which individuals can reach God. It is through both this last point and his reflection on the body and the soul that he arrives at a justification for the existence of Christ.

Augustine analyzes the nature of God’s creation and of time. He explores issues surrounding presentism. He considers that there are three kinds of time in the mind: the present with respect to things that are past, which is the memory; the present with respect to things that are present, which is contemplation; and the present with respect to things that are in the future, which is expectation. He relies on Genesis, especially the texts concerning the creation of the sky and the earth, throughout this book to support his thinking.

Through his discussion of creation, Augustine relates the nature of the divine and the earthly thorough an analysis of both the rhetoric of Genesis and the many interpretations that one might apply to Genesis. Comparing the scriptures to a spring with streams of water spreading over an immense landscape, he considers that there could be more than one true interpretation of a given passage.

He concludes the text by exploring an allegorical interpretation of Genesis, through which he discovers the Trinity and the significance of God's creation of man. Based on his interpretation, he espouses the significance of God’s periodic rests as well as the divinity of Creation: "For, then shalt Thou rest in us, in the same way that Thou workest in us now [...] So, we see these things which Thou hast made, because they exist, but they exist because Thou seest them. We see, externally, that they exist, but internally, that they are good; Thou hast seen them made, in the same place where Thou didst see them as yet to be made."[12]Confessions was not only meant to encourage conversion, but it offered guidelines for how to convert. Augustine extrapolates from his own experiences to fit others' journeys. Augustine recognizes that God has always protected and guided him. This is reflected in the structure of the work. Augustine begins each book within Confessions with a prayer to God. For example, both books VIII and IX begin with "you have broken the chains that bound me; I will sacrifice in your honor."[13]

Because Augustine begins each book with a prayer, Albert C. Outler, a Professor of Theology at Southern Methodist University, argues that Confessions is a "pilgrimage of grace [...] [a] retrac[ing] [of] the crucial turnings of the way by which [Augustine] had come. And since he was sure that it was God’s grace that had been his prime mover in that way, it was a spontaneous expression of his heart that cast his self-recollection into the form of a sustained prayer to God."[14] Not only does Confessions glorify God but it also suggests God’s help in Augustine’s path to redemption.

Written after the legalization of Christianity, Confessions dated from an era where martyrdom was no longer a threat to most Christians as was the case two centuries earlier. Instead, a Christian’s struggles were usually internal. Augustine clearly presents his struggle with worldly desires such as lust. Augustine’s conversion was quickly followed by his ordination as a priest in 391 CE, and then his appointment as bishop in 395 CE. Such rapid ascension certainly raised some criticism of Augustine. Confessions was written between 397–398 CE, suggesting self-justification as a possible motivation for the work. With the words "I wish to act in truth, making my confession both in my heart before you and in this book before the many who will read it" in Book X Chapter 1,[15] Augustine both confesses his sins and glorifies God through humility in His grace, the two meanings that define "confessions,"[16] in order to reconcile his imperfections not only to his critics but also to God.

The City of God

The sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410 left Romans in a deep state of shock, and many Romans saw it as punishment for abandoning traditional Roman religion for Christianity. In response to these accusations, and in order to console Christians, Augustine wrote The City of God, arguing for the truth of Christianity over competing religions and philosophies. He also asserted that Christianity was not responsible for the Sack of Rome, but instead was responsible for its overall success. He attempted to console Christians, writing that even if the earthly rule of the Empire was now imperiled, it was the City of God that would ultimately triumph. Augustine's eyes were fixed on Heaven, a theme of many Christian works of Late Antiquity, and despite Christianity's designation as the official religion of the Empire, Augustine declared its message to be spiritual rather than political. Christians, he argued, should be concerned with the mystical, heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, rather than with earthly politics.

The book presents human history as a conflict between what Augustine calls the Earthly City (often colloquially referred to as the City of Man, but never by Augustine) and the City of God, a conflict that is destined to end in victory for the latter. The City of God is marked by people who forego earthly pleasure to dedicate themselves to the eternal truths of God, now revealed fully in the Christian faith. The Earthly City, on the other hand, consists of people who have immersed themselves in the cares and pleasures of the present, passing world.

Augustine’s thesis depicts the history of the world as universal warfare between God and the Devil. This metaphysical war is not limited by time but only by geography on Earth. In this war, God moves (by divine intervention/ Providence) those governments, political /ideological movements and military forces aligned (or aligned the most) with the Catholic Church (the City of God) in order to oppose by all means—including military—those governments, political/ideological movements and military forces aligned (or aligned the most) with the Devil (the City of the World).

This concept of world history guided by Divine Providence in a universal war between God and Devil is part of the official doctrine of the Catholic Church as most recently stated in the Second Vatican Council's Gaudium et Spes document: "The Church ... holds that in her most benign Lord and Master can be found the key, the focal point and the goal of man, as well as of all human history ... all of human life, whether individual or collective, shows itself to be a dramatic struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness ... The Lord is the goal of human history the focal point of the longings of history and of civilization, the center of the human race, the joy of every heart and the answer to all its yearnings."

The following is a translation of Augustine’s summary of this work:

This great undertaking was at last completed in twenty-two books. Of these, the first five refute those who fancy that the polytheistic worship is necessary in order to secure worldly prosperity, and that all these overwhelming calamities have befallen us in consequence of its prohibition. In the following five books I address myself to those who admit that such calamities have at all times attended, and will at all times attend, the human race, and that they constantly recur in forms more or less disastrous, varying only in the scenes, occasions, and persons on whom they light, but, while admitting this, maintain that the worship of the gods is advantageous for the life to come. But that no one might have occasion to say, that though I had refuted the tenets of other men, I had omitted to establish my own, I devote to this object the second part of this work, which comprises twelve books, although I have not scrupled, as occasion offered, either to advance my own opinions in the first ten books, or to demolish the arguments of my opponents in the last twelve. Of these twelve books, the first four contain an account of the origin of these two cities—the city of God, and the city of the world. The second four treat of their history or progress; the third and last four, of their deserved destinies.

The 22 books can be divided into 5 groups which are recapped below:

Book I–V: A critique of pagan religions. Augustine realizes the Roman world is shocked by the sack of Rome which occurred in 410. He realizes that non-Christians are saying it was the rise of Christianity that had weakened the Empire and reduced its ability to resist the invaders. He also realizes the adherents to the old religion are saying the old Gods are using the sack of Roman as a punishment of the people for turning toward the new Christian God. Augustine points out that Rome had been sacked before the Christian era (in 390 BC). He points out that since 315 when Christians were allowed to operate openly, the Empire has been improving by allowing Christian values to shape government policy and enter the public square. Augustine asserts that it was not God who sacked Rome but other humans using their own “free will.

Books VI–X: A critique of pagan philosophy - Here Augustine systematically refutes religious and philosophical beliefs of traditional Romans. Augustine points out that even Varro, a pagan theologists held Rome Gods in contempt. Turning to philosophy, he says the Platonists have a philosophy that is closest to Christianity. He condemns those that feel man must pray asking devils to mediate between God and man. On the positive side, Augustine proves the devils are evil and should be avoided and he points out that good angels want all mankind to worship God. He notes no sacrifice is efficacious except for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

Books XI–XIV: A discussion on the City of God and its relationship to the Earthly City - Here Augustine talks about the two cities their origins and characteristics. The City of God results from the work of the angels, the city of man is from the devil. Augustine does a detail analysis of Genesis to support his belief. He then gets into showing how original sin promotes man’s proclivity for temporary pleasure as opposed to the true happiness that comes from following God’s plan. Augustine asserts that death is a consequence of original sin. He also points out that evil tendencies like lust are the consequence of Original Sin. Augustine feels those who sin should feel shame.

Books XV–XVIII: The history or progress of the two cities, including foundational theological principles about Jews. - Here Augustine reviews God’s action, as reported in the Old Testament, protecting and bringing forth the Jewish people to promote the city of God idea on earth from Abel to Abraham to Moses to David to Christ. This process of promoting the City of God is now capped off by the Jewish dispersion across the world that occurred after Rome destroyed Jerusalem. He mentions all the prophecies that occurred during the Old Testament that pointed to Christ.

. Books XIX–XXII: The deserved destinies of the two cities. Here Augustine discusses the eventual fates of the two cities. Those who live in the City of God will experience eternal happiness. Here he uses the term the “city of the devil”, and he assign eternal punishment to occupants of this city. Of course, he mentions the passages in the New Testament spoken by Christ and those reported in the Book of Revelation that support this view.

Conclusion and a Comment on Augustine’s View of Free Will, Predestination, and several heresies -

Regarding free will and predestination Augustine’s views evolved over time. This makes sense given 1) his history of first being a Manichean, then an admirer of Neoplatonic philosophy, and finally a Christian. 2) His personal movement was compounded by the fact that the Church he joined was itself changing. Recall the Nicene Creed, the first definitive doctrinal statement was only finalized in 381 AD. 3) Finally he lived in a time of a steady flow of new heresies, he dealt with perhaps five heresies that were operating during his life time.

With the forgoing in mind, consider the seeming dichotomy between free will and predestination (i.e. God’s foreknowledge of whether or not a individual will make it to heaven). Early in his career as a bishop, Augustine sort of felt God had predetermined who would be saved and who would end up being damned, and that despite all of a man’s efforts in this life his fate was already set. Later on Augustine came to the view that though God knows each man’s fate, He want to provide help (grace) to each man so everyman will have a chance, using their free will and His grace, to achieve heaven. The former view is a Calvinists (Protestant) view on this issue His later position is the current Catholic position on this issue. Thus Augustine is everyone’s favorite on this issue.

Regarding heresy, three heresies most fully engaged Augustine. The first was the Donatists who believed that a priest that had committed a serious sin could not validly administer any sacrament until the sin was forgiven. Augustine opposed the Donatist saying the sacraments really where coming from God and so they could validly be administered by a tarnished vessel. Another heresy inivolved the Pelagians who believed man was basically good and could though his own effort achieve heaven. Augustine helped flesh out Paul’s teaching that God’s grace is necessary for us to overcome our fallen nature and then using our free will perform acts pleasing to God. The Manichean heresy engaged Augustine personally for several years. Augustine realizing that God being all powerful precluded a world 50% controlled by God and 50% controlled by evil beings.

A final thought, Augustine is one of four men in western Christianity whose work enabled Christianity to successfully transit from the ancient work of Rome into the fragmented new world of medieval Europe. The other leaders were two contemporaries of Augustine - Jerome and Ambrose. The last was Gregory, who lived in Rome a century later. Of these four, Augustine’s personal story is most interesting and compelling.

The English historian Christopher Dawson noted that Augustine “was, to a far greater degree than any emperor or barbarian war-lord, a maker of history and a builder of the bridge which was to lead the old world to the new.”

Augustine left us a prayer which remains popular today:

Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient, O Beauty so new.

Too late have I loved you!

You were within me but I was outside myself, and there I sought you!

In my weakness I ran after the beauty of the things you have made.

You were with me, and I was not with you.

The things you have made kept me from you - the things which would have no being unless they existed in you!

You have called, you have cried, and you have pierced my deafness.

You have radiated forth, you have shined out brightly, and you have dispelled my blindness.

You have sent forth your fragrance, and I have breathed it in, and I long for you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you.

You have touched me, and I ardently desire your peace.

..... Confessions, X, 27, 38

...... (prepared by Hugh Murray on 12/15/2019)

The Crusades - Fact and Fiction

The word “crusade” was commonly used in the 11th thru the 15th century to describe any mobilized military effort to oppose heretics and/or any non-Christian believers who had gained control of formerly Christians lands. Crusades were mounted against pagans in Baltic regions, Albigensian heretics in Southern France, Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula, and, most famous of all, the nine efforts mounted to help persecuted Christians in Asia Minor and to recapture the holy places in and around Jerusalem. This paper will confine itself to these nine Crusades.

In the 10th century Europe had experienced a warming trend which improved crop yields and allowed a higher percentage of new born children to survive and thrive. Suddenly Europe had the manpower to field significant armies and the supplies to support armies in the field. This allowed Pope Urban II to respond positively when the Emperor Alexios of Constantinople in Asia Minor solicited his aid against the encroaching Muslims in 1095 AD.

There were two other factors which probably influenced the Pope’s decision. A few years earlier in 1054 Eastern Christianity had split off from the Vatican. Many on both sides were anxious to find ways to mend the rift and bring Christianity back to the unity Christ had ordained. Additionally, all Christians had been stunned by the violence which the Muslims had brought to the process of converting Christians to Islam. For 400 years Muslim armies had been capturing Christian cities, beheading some people, enslaving others, and imposing discriminatory taxes on those who refused to convert.

Only two of the nine Crusades made any headway toward re-establishing Christianity in the holy land. These two were the first and sixth Crusades. One Crusade, the fourth Crusade actually got involved in an internal struggle involving political control of the Byzantine Empire (formerly called the eastern Roman Empire) that was headquartered in Constantinople. The key dates from these three Crusades together with some other dates that put the Crusader effort in perspective (shown in italics).

Muslims take Jerusalem in 638 AD

Muslim advance across North Africa and through Spain into western France. They were finally stopped at Poitiers, France in 742 AD.

Pope Urban II announces a Crusade to help Constantinople and challenge Muslims attackers in 1095 AD

First Crusade takes Jerusalem in 1099 AD

Muslim commander Saladin defeats Crusaders at the Battle of Hattin 1187 AD. Crusaders gradually fall back into two heavily defended port cities of Acre and Tripoli.

The Fourth Crusade traveling via Constantinople gets involved in an internal power struggle there in 1204 AD, and it never goes on to the Holy Land.

The Sixth Crusade led by Frederic II frightens the Muslims into allowing Christians to re-occupy the Holy cities in 1229 AD. Christians hold these places until 1244 AD.

The port city of Tripoli falls to the Muslims in 1289 AD. The port city of Acre falls to the Muslims in 1291 AD.

The City of Constantinople falls to Muslim forces in 1453 AD

The last Muslim city in Spain (Granada) is captured by Christian forces in 1492 AD

A Muslim fleet is defeated in the southern Adriatic in 1571 AD near port of Lepanto.

The city of Vienna, while being besieged by Muslims in 1683 AD, is saved by a Christian army coming south out of Poland.

The remainder of this document contains: 1) a short summary on each of the nine Crusades, and 2) an analysis of these Crusades written by Thomas Madden, History Professor at St Louis University and author of several books on the Crusades.

The Nine Crusades to the Holy Land

Crusades were a series of nine military expeditions which sought to recapture Jerusalem and other places sacred to Christianity from the Muslims. They were formally launched by Pope Urban II in the late 11th century to help the Byzantine Empire against the Seljuk Turks. Soon, however, the Holy Land became the primary objective of the crusaders, many of which weren't led only by noble motives but economic, political and social as well. Listed below are 9 crusades to the Holy Land between the 11th and 13th centuries.

First Crusade (1096 - 1099)

The First Crusade was launched after Pope Urban’s call to help the fellow Eastern Christians against the Muslims. Conquered lands supposed to be returned to the Byzantine Empire but after capturing Jerusalem in 1099, the leaders of the crusade divided the territories among themselves. They created the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Principality of Antioch, County of Tripoli and County of Edessa and established themselves as the rulers of the newly formed crusader states in the Holy Land.

Second Crusade (1147 - 1149)

The second military expedition to the Holy Land was called for by the Church to recapture the County of Edessa that fell to the Muslims in 1144. Two kings, Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany, decided to lead the crusade. One year later, they laid siege to Damascus but after failing to capture the city, the German king decided he had enough and left the Holy Land. His French counterpart soon followed his example and the Second Crusade came to an end, failing to achieve anything.

Third Crusade (1189 - 1192)

Also known as the Kings’ Crusade because it was participated by as many as three European kings, the Third Crusade was launched after the fall of Jerusalem to the Muslim leader Saladin in 1187. However, Frederick I (Barbarossa) of Germany died on the way to the Holy Land, while Philip II soon departed for France due to conflicts with Richard I of England. The latter won several notable battles but failed to recapture Jerusalem. Before returning to Europe, however, the English king managed to negotiate a free access to Jerusalem for Christian pilgrims.

Fourth Crusade (1202 - 1204)

Unable to cope with the loss of Jerusalem, Pope Innocent III energetically preached for crusade. He succeeded to raise an army of crusaders who, however, never made it to the Holy Land. On their way to Jerusalem, they captured the Adriatic city of Zara for Venice and shortly thereafter got involved in the struggle for the Byzantine throne. Instead of recapturing Jerusalem as the Pope hoped, the Fourth Crusade ended with the Sack of Constantinople and formation of the short-lived Latin Empire on the conquered Byzantine territories.

Fifth Crusade (1217 - 1221)

Despite the infamous failure of the Fourth Crusade, the Popes continued to preach for military expeditions to the Holy Land. Pope Innocent’s successor Honorius III managed to convince Andrew II of Hungary and Leopold VI, Duke of Austria to take up the cross and lead the expedition. However, they chose to start their campaign in Egypt. In 1219, they captured the port of Damietta and were offered all the holy cities in return for withdrawing from Egypt. Encouraged by the success, the crusaders refused which proved to be a mistake. The march to Cairo failed and the crusaders were forced to return home without capturing either Egypt or the holy cities.

Sixth Crusade (1228 - 1229)

The Sixth Crusade was a major success for the crusaders despite the fact that it saw little action. At the same time, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederic II who led the campaign was at the time under excommunication. Shortly after arriving to the Holy Land, Frederick II entered into negotiations with the Egyptian sultan who agreed to cede Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem and other holy cities to the Christians for a decade.

Seventh Crusade (1248 - 1254)

The Seventh Crusade was launched by the French king Louis IX who decided to recapture the Holy Land by conquering Egypt first. Just like the leaders of the Fifth Crusade, Louis IX succeeded to capture Damietta but he failed to capture Cairo. In addition, he was taken captive while trying to return to the port of Damietta. A ransom was paid and the French king was released. But as he prepared for a campaign to the Holy Land, he received a letter that his mother died and returned to France.

Eighth Crusade (1270)

In 1270, the French king Louis IX decided to give it another try and launched his second crusade. But rather than the Holy Land or Egypt, this time he chose to start his campaign in Tunis. However, disease broke out among the troops shortly after landing and the French king who got ill himself died shortly thereafter. His brother Charles of Anjou who arrived one day before his death immediately entered into negotiations with the Caliph of Tunis to ensure safe departure of the crusader army.

Ninth Crusade (1271 - 1272) The last in the series of military expeditions that sought to recapture the Holy Land from the Muslims was launched by Prince Edward of England who also took part of the Eight Crusade. After the French king’s death and the departure of the French crusaders, the English prince decided to launch his own expedition. In 1271, he landed in Acre and tried to win support for his cause but lack of interest and news from England about his father’s illness prompted him to return home. With Prince Edward’s departure, the attempts of the Christian Europe to capture the Holy Land finally came to an end.

Other Activities

People's Crusade

Pope Urban’s speech at the Council of Clermont where he called for crusade had a major impact on the European public. Although the Pope’s call was aimed at the Christian knights, it also managed to mobilize ordinary people who set out to the Holy Land themselves in 1096. People’s army, consisting mainly of inexperienced and poorly equipped peasants that preceded the First Crusade, however, didn’t stand a chance against the Muslim forces and was destroyed before the main army arrived to the Middle East. Children's Crusade

In the early 12th century, several thousand children set out to the Holy Land. The idea was that the knightly army failed to capture Jerusalem and other holy places due to impurity and that children would succeed with their innocence. Many, however, perished from disease and hunger before reaching the Italian ports, while others were sold into slavery. Only a few managed to return home.

Francis of Assisi Visits the Holy Land

St. Francis passed through part of the Holy Land in 1219 and 1220, demonstrating the humility and love needed to minister to the population of the land as well as living out the devotion and veneration of the holy sites that have been exemplified by the Franciscans in the Holy Land up to the present moment.


Explanation of the Historical Forces behind the Crusades ...... by Thomas Madden

Misconceptions about the Crusades are all too common. The Crusades are generally portrayed as a series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics. They are supposed to have been the epitome of self-righteousness and intolerance, a black stain on the history of the Catholic Church in particular and Western civilization in general. A breed of proto-imperialists, the Crusaders introduced Western aggression to the peaceful Middle East and then deformed the enlightened Muslim culture, leaving it in ruins. For variations on this theme, one need not look far. See, for example, Steven Runciman's famous three-volume epic, History of the Crusades, or the BBC/A&E documentary, The Crusades, hosted by Terry Jones. Both are terrible history yet wonderfully entertaining.

So what is the truth about the Crusades? Scholars are still working some of that out. But much can already be said with certainty. For starters, the Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression — an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands.

Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Christianity — and for that matter any other non-Muslim religion — has no abode. Christians and Jews can be tolerated within a Muslim state under Muslim rule. But, in traditional Islam, Christian and Jewish states must be destroyed and their lands conquered. When Mohammed was waging war against Mecca in the seventh century, Christianity was the dominant religion of power and wealth. As the faith of the Roman Empire, it spanned the entire Mediterranean, including the Middle East, where it was born. The Christian world, therefore, was a prime target for the earliest caliphs, and it would remain so for Muslim leaders for the next thousand years.

From the safe distance of many centuries, it is easy enough to scowl in disgust at the Crusades. Religion, after all, is nothing to fight wars over.

With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed's death. They were extremely successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt — once the most heavily Christian areas in the world — quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.

That is what gave birth to the Crusades. They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.

Pope Urban II called upon the knights of Christendom to push back the conquests of Islam at the Council of Clermont in 1095. The response was tremendous. Many thousands of warriors took the vow of the cross and prepared for war. Why did they do it? The answer to that question has been badly misunderstood. In the wake of the Enlightenment, it was usually asserted that Crusaders were merely lacklands and ne'er-do-wells who took advantage of an opportunity to rob and pillage in a faraway land. The Crusaders' expressed sentiments of piety, self-sacrifice, and love for God were obviously not to be taken seriously. They were only a front for darker designs.

During the past two decades, computer-assisted charter studies have demolished that contrivance. Scholars have discovered that crusading knights were generally wealthy men with plenty of their own land in Europe. Nevertheless, they willingly gave up everything to undertake the holy mission. Crusading was not cheap. Even wealthy lords could easily impoverish themselves and their families by joining a Crusade. They did so not because they expected material wealth (which many of them had already) but because they hoped to store up treasure where rust and moth could not corrupt. They were keenly aware of their sinfulness and eager to undertake the hardships of the Crusade as a penitential act of charity and love. Europe is littered with thousands of medieval charters attesting to these sentiments, charters in which these men still speak to us today if we will listen. Of course, they were not opposed to capturing booty if it could be had. But the truth is that the Crusades were notoriously bad for plunder. A few people got rich, but the vast majority returned with nothing.

Urban II gave the Crusaders two goals, both of which would remain central to the eastern Crusades for centuries. The first was to rescue the Christians of the East. As his successor, Pope Innocent III, later wrote:

How does a man love according to divine precept his neighbor as himself when, knowing that his Christian brothers in faith and in name are held by the perfidious Muslims in strict confinement and weighed down by the yoke of heaviest servitude, he does not devote himself to the task of freeing them? ...Is it by chance that you do not know that many thousands of Christians are bound in slavery and imprisoned by the Muslims, tortured with innumerable torments?

At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.

"Crusading," Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith has rightly argued, was understood as an "an act of love" — in this case, the love of one's neighbor. The Crusade was seen as an errand of mercy to right a terrible wrong. As Pope Innocent III wrote to the Knights Templar, "You carry out in deeds the words of the Gospel, 'Greater love than this hath no man, that he lay down his life for his friends.'"

The second goal was the liberation of Jerusalem and the other places made holy by the life of Christ. The word crusade is modern. Medieval Crusaders saw themselves as pilgrims, performing acts of righteousness on their way to the Holy Sepulcher. The Crusade indulgence they received was canonically related to the pilgrimage indulgence. This goal was frequently described in feudal terms. When calling the Fifth Crusade in 1215, Innocent III wrote:

Consider most dear sons, consider carefully that if any temporal king was thrown out of his domain and perhaps captured, would he not, when he was restored to his pristine liberty and the time had come for dispensing justice, look on his vassals as unfaithful and traitors...unless they had committed not only their property but also their persons to the task of freeing him? ...And similarly will not Jesus Christ, the king of kings and lord of lords, whose servant you cannot deny being, who joined your soul to your body, who redeemed you with the Precious Blood...condemn you for the vice of ingratitude and the crime of infidelity if you neglect to help Him?

The reconquest of Jerusalem, therefore, was not colonialism but an act of restoration and an open declaration of one's love of God. Medieval men knew, of course, that God had the power to restore Jerusalem Himself — indeed, He had the power to restore the whole world to His rule. Yet as St. Bernard of Clairvaux preached, His refusal to do so was a blessing to His people:

Again I say, consider the Almighty's goodness and pay heed to His plans of mercy. He puts Himself under obligation to you, or rather feigns to do so, that He can help you to satisfy your obligations toward Himself.... I call blessed the generation that can seize an opportunity of such rich indulgence as this.

It is often assumed that the central goal of the Crusades was forced conversion of the Muslim world. Nothing could be further from the truth. From the perspective of medieval Christians, Muslims were the enemies of Christ and His Church. It was the Crusaders' task to defeat and defend against them. That was all. Muslims who lived in Crusader-won territories were generally allowed to retain their property and livelihood, and always their religion. Indeed, throughout the history of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, Muslim inhabitants far outnumbered the Catholics. It was not until the 13th century that the Franciscans began conversion efforts among Muslims. But these were mostly unsuccessful and finally abandoned. In any case, such efforts were by peaceful persuasion, not the threat of violence. The Crusades were wars, so it would be a mistake to characterize them as nothing but piety and good intentions. Like all warfare, the violence was brutal (although not as brutal as modern wars). There were mishaps, blunders, and crimes. These are usually well-remembered today. During the early days of the First Crusade in 1095, a ragtag band of Crusaders led by Count Emicho of Leiningen made its way down the Rhine, robbing and murdering all the Jews they could find. Without success, the local bishops attempted to stop the carnage. In the eyes of these warriors, the Jews, like the Muslims, were the enemies of Christ. Plundering and killing them, then, was no vice. Indeed, they believed it was a righteous deed, since the Jews' money could be used to fund the Crusade to Jerusalem. But they were wrong, and the Church strongly condemned the anti-Jewish attacks.

Fifty years later, when the Second Crusade was gearing up, St. Bernard frequently preached that the Jews were not to be persecuted:

Ask anyone who knows the Sacred Scriptures what he finds foretold of the Jews in the Psalm. "Not for their destruction do I pray," it says. The Jews are for us the living words of Scripture, for they remind us always of what our Lord suffered.... Under Christian princes they endure a hard captivity, but "they only wait for the time of their deliverance."

Nevertheless, a fellow Cistercian monk named Radulf stirred up people against the Rhineland Jews, despite numerous letters from Bernard demanding that he stop. At last Bernard was forced to travel to Germany himself, where he caught up with Radulf, sent him back to his convent, and ended the massacres.

It is often said that the roots of the Holocaust can be seen in these medieval pogroms. That may be. But if so, those roots are far deeper and more widespread than the Crusades. Jews perished during the Crusades, but the purpose of the Crusades was not to kill Jews. Quite the contrary: Popes, bishops, and preachers made it clear that the Jews of Europe were to be left unmolested. In a modern war, we call tragic deaths like these "collateral damage." Even with smart technologies, the United States has killed far more innocents in our wars than the Crusaders ever could. But no one would seriously argue that the purpose of American wars is to kill women and children.

By any reckoning, the First Crusade was a long shot. There was no leader, no chain of command, no supply lines, no detailed strategy. It was simply thousands of warriors marching deep into enemy territory, committed to a common cause. Many of them died, either in battle or through disease or starvation. It was a rough campaign, one that seemed always on the brink of disaster. Yet it was miraculously successful. By 1098, the Crusaders had restored Nicaea and Antioch to Christian rule. In July 1099, they conquered Jerusalem and began to build a Christian state in Palestine. The joy in Europe was unbridled. It seemed that the tide of history, which had lifted the Muslims to such heights, was now turning.

But it was not. When we think about the Middle Ages, it is easy to view Europe in light of what it became rather than what it was. The colossus of the medieval world was Islam, not Christendom. The Crusades are interesting largely because they were an attempt to counter that trend. But in five centuries of crusading, it was only the First Crusade that significantly rolled back the military progress of Islam. It was downhill from there.

Whether we admire the Crusaders or not, it is a fact that the world we know today would not exist without their efforts.

When the Crusader County of Edessa fell to the Turks and Kurds in 1144, there was an enormous groundswell of support for a new Crusade in Europe. It was led by two kings, Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany, and preached by St. Bernard himself. It failed miserably. Most of the Crusaders were killed along the way. Those who made it to Jerusalem only made things worse by attacking Muslim Damascus, which formerly had been a strong ally of the Christians. In the wake of such a disaster, Christians across Europe were forced to accept not only the continued growth of Muslim power but the certainty that God was punishing the West for its sins. Lay piety movements sprouted up throughout Europe, all rooted in the desire to purify Christian society so that it might be worthy of victory in the East.

Crusading in the late twelfth century, therefore, became a total war effort. Every person, no matter how weak or poor, was called to help. Warriors were asked to sacrifice their wealth and, if need be, their lives for the defense of the Christian East. On the home front, all Christians were called to support the Crusades through prayer, fasting, and alms. Yet still the Muslims grew in strength. Saladin, the great unifier, had forged the Muslim Near East into a single entity, all the while preaching jihad against the Christians. In 1187 at the Battle of Hattin, his forces wiped out the combined armies of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem and captured the precious relic of the True Cross. Defenseless, the Christian cities began surrendering one by one, culminating in the surrender of Jerusalem on October 2. A tiny handful of ports held out.

The response was the Third Crusade. It was led by Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa of the German Empire, King Philip II Augustus of France, and King Richard I Lionheart of England. By any measure it was a grand affair, although not quite as grand as the Christians had hoped. The aged Frederick drowned while crossing a river on horseback, so his army returned home before reaching the Holy Land. Philip and Richard came by boat, but their incessant bickering only added to an already divisive situation on the ground in Palestine. After recapturing Acre, the king of France went home, where he busied himself carving up Richard's French holdings. The Crusade, therefore, fell into Richard's lap. A skilled warrior, gifted leader, and superb tactician, Richard led the Christian forces to victory after victory, eventually reconquering the entire coast. But Jerusalem was not on the coast, and after two abortive attempts to secure supply lines to the Holy City, Richard at last gave up. Promising to return one day, he struck a truce with Saladin that ensured peace in the region and free access to Jerusalem for unarmed pilgrims. But it was a bitter pill to swallow. The desire to restore Jerusalem to Christian rule and regain the True Cross remained intense throughout Europe.

The Crusades of the 13th century were larger, better funded, and better organized. But they too failed. The Fourth Crusade (1201-1204) ran aground when it was seduced into a web of Byzantine politics, which the Westerners never fully understood. They had made a detour to Constantinople to support an imperial claimant who promised great rewards and support for the Holy Land. Yet once he was on the throne of the Caesars, their benefactor found that he could not pay what he had promised. Thus betrayed by their Greek friends, in 1204 the Crusaders attacked, captured, and brutally sacked Constantinople, the greatest Christian city in the world. Pope Innocent III, who had previously excommunicated the entire Crusade, strongly denounced the Crusaders. But there was little else he could do. The tragic events of 1204 closed an iron door between Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox, a door that even today Pope John Paul II has been unable to reopen. It is a terrible irony that the Crusades, which were a direct result of the Catholic desire to rescue the Orthodox people, drove the two further — and perhaps irrevocably — apart.

The remainder of the 13th century's Crusades did little better. The Fifth Crusade (1217-1221) managed briefly to capture Damietta in Egypt, but the Muslims eventually defeated the army and reoccupied the city. St. Louis IX of France led two Crusades in his life. The first also captured Damietta, but Louis was quickly outwitted by the Egyptians and forced to abandon the city. Although Louis was in the Holy Land for several years, spending freely on defensive works, he never achieved his fondest wish: to free Jerusalem. He was a much older man in 1270 when he led another Crusade to Tunis, where he died of a disease that ravaged the camp. After St. Louis's death, the ruthless Muslim leaders, Baybars and Kalavun, waged a brutal jihad against the Christians in Palestine. By 1291, the Muslim forces had succeeded in killing or ejecting the last of the Crusaders, thus erasing the Crusader kingdom from the map. Despite numerous attempts and many more plans, Christian forces were never again able to gain a foothold in the region until the 19th century.

One might think that three centuries of Christian defeats would have soured Europeans on the idea of Crusade. Not at all. In one sense, they had little alternative. Muslim kingdoms were becoming more, not less, powerful in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. The Ottoman Turks conquered not only their fellow Muslims, thus further unifying Islam, but also continued to press westward, capturing Constantinople and plunging deep into Europe itself. By the 15th century, the Crusades were no longer errands of mercy for a distant people but desperate attempts of one of the last remnants of Christendom to survive. Europeans began to ponder the real possibility that Islam would finally achieve its aim of conquering the entire Christian world. One of the great best-sellers of the time, Sebastian Brant's The Ship of Fools, gave voice to this sentiment in a chapter titled "Of the Decline of the Faith":

Our faith was strong in th' Orient,

It ruled in all of Asia,

In Moorish lands and Africa.

But now for us these lands are gone

'Twould even grieve the hardest stone....

Four sisters of our Church you find,

They're of the patriarchic kind:

Constantinople, Alexandria,

Jerusalem, Antiochia.

But they've been forfeited and sacked

And soon the head will be attacked.

From the safe distance of many centuries, it is easy enough to scowl in disgust at the Crusades. Religion, after all, is nothing to fight wars over. But we should be mindful that our medieval ancestors would have been equally disgusted by our infinitely more destructive wars fought in the name of political ideologies. And yet, both the medieval and the modern soldier fight ultimately for their own world and all that makes it up.

Of course, that is not what happened. But it very nearly did. In 1480, Sultan Mehmed II captured Otranto as a beachhead for his invasion of Italy. Rome was evacuated. Yet the sultan died shortly thereafter, and his plan died with him. In 1529, Suleiman the Magnificent laid siege to Vienna. If not for a run of freak rainstorms that delayed his progress and forced him to leave behind much of his artillery, it is virtually certain that the Turks would have taken the city. Germany, then, would have been at their mercy.

Yet, even while these close shaves were taking place, something else was brewing in Europe — something unprecedented in human history. The Renaissance, born from a strange mixture of Roman values, medieval piety, and a unique respect for commerce and entrepreneurialism, had led to other movements like humanism, the Scientific Revolution, and the Age of Exploration. Even while fighting for its life, Europe was preparing to expand on a global scale. The Protestant Reformation, which rejected the papacy and the doctrine of indulgence, made Crusades unthinkable for many Europeans, thus leaving the fighting to the Catholics. In 1571, a Holy League, which was itself a Crusade, defeated the Ottoman fleet at Lepanto. Yet military victories like that remained rare. The Muslim threat was neutralized economically. As Europe grew in wealth and power, the once awesome and sophisticated Turks began to seem backward and pathetic — no longer worth a Crusade. The "Sick Man of Europe" limped along until the 20th century, when he finally expired, leaving behind the present mess of the modern Middle East.

From the safe distance of many centuries, it is easy enough to scowl in disgust at the Crusades. Religion, after all, is nothing to fight wars over. But we should be mindful that our medieval ancestors would have been equally disgusted by our infinitely more destructive wars fought in the name of political ideologies. And yet, both the medieval and the modern soldier fight ultimately for their own world and all that makes it up. Both are willing to suffer enormous sacrifice, provided that it is in the service of something they hold dear, something greater than themselves. Whether we admire the Crusaders or not, it is a fact that the world we know today would not exist without their efforts. The ancient faith of Christianity, with its respect for women and antipathy toward slavery, not only survived but flourished. Without the Crusades, it might well have followed Zoroastrianism, another of Islam's rivals, into extinction.

An End Note about Today’s Situation:

Regarding the modern day reference to the crusades as a supposed grievance by Islamic militants still upset over them, Madden notes: "If the Muslims won the crusades (and they did), why the anger now? Shouldn't they celebrate the crusades as a great victory? Until the nineteenth century that is precisely what they did. It was the West that taught the Middle East to hate the crusades. During the peak of European colonialism, historians began extolling the medieval crusades as Europe's first colonial venture. By the 20th century, when imperialism was discredited, so too were the crusades. They haven't been the same since." He adds, "The truth is that the crusades had nothing to do with colonialism or unprovoked aggression. They were a desperate and largely unsuccessful attempt to defend against a powerful enemy." "The entire history of the crusades is one of Western reaction to Muslim advances," Madden observes.

Commenting on the recent scholarship of Oxford historian Christopher Tyerman in his recent, Fighting for Christendom: Holy War and the Crusades (Oxford, 2005), Professor Steven Ozment of Harvard writes how Tyerman: "maintains that the four centuries of holy war known as the Crusades are both the best recognized and most distorted part of the Christian Middle Ages. He faults scholars, pundits, and laymen on both sides of the East-West divide for allowing the memory of the Crusades to be 'woven into intractable modern political problems,' where it 'blurs fantasy and scholarship' and exacerbates present-day hatreds." Ozment notes how Tyerman also views "the Crusades as neither an attempt at Western hegemony, nor a betrayal of Western Christian teaching and practice." As Tyerman explains, the warriors who answered the pope's call to aid Christendom in the Holy Land were known as crucesignati, "those signed with the cross." Professor Tyerman considers the Crusades to have largely been "warfare decked out in moral and religious terms" and describes them as "the ultimate manifestation of conviction politics." He points out the Crusades were indeed "butchery" with massacres of Muslims and Jews, and that even among their contemporaries, crusaders had mixed reputations as "chivalric heroes and gilded thugs." However, as Ozment observes, Tyerman adds that rather "than simple realpolitik and self-aggrandizement, the guiding ideology of crusading was that of religious self-sacrifice and revival, and directly modeled on the Sacrament of Penance." See: Steven Ozment's "Fighting the Infidel: the East-West holy wars are not just history".

Whereas support for the crusades was far from universal within Christendom, in contrast Medieval Muslim expansion through the military conquest of jihad as dictated by the Koran was directly supported by Islamic scholars, who provided a spiritual imperative for violence. For example, Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328), who wrote: "Since lawful warfare is essentially jihad and since its aim is that the religion is God's entirely and God's word is uppermost, therefore according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought." And by Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406), who declared, "In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the [Muslim] mission and [the obligation to] convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force." (See: Robert Conquest's, Reflections on a Ravaged Century, reviewed at: http://victorhanson.com/articles/thornton100406.html).

A Comment by Victor David Hanson

Classical scholar, historian, and commentator Victor David Hanson, reviewing Christopher Tyerman's recent 1,000-page history of the Crusades, God's War (Belknap Press 2006), notes how Tyerman is careful beforehand to declare the political neutrality of his work: "This study is intended as a history, not a polemic, an account not a judgment, not a confessional apologia or a witness statement in some cosmic law suit." Tyerman's history then points out, as Hanson then succinctly summarizes, that "it was not merely glory or money or excitement that drove Westerners of all classes and nationalities to risk their lives in a deadly journey to an inhospitable east, but rather a real belief in a living God and their own desire to please him through preserving and honoring the birth and death places of his son." For the crusaders, religious "belief governed almost every aspect of their lives and decision-making. The Crusades arose when the Church, in the absence of strong secular governments, had the moral authority to ignite the religious sense of thousands of Europeans — and they ceased when at last it lost such stature." Noting the widespread ignorance of the true history of this subject among most modern Westerners, Hanson comments on how absent "is any historical reminder that an ascendant Islam of the Middle Ages was concurrently occupying the Iberian peninsula — only after failing at Poitiers in the eighth century to take France. Greek-speaking Byzantium was under constant Islamic assault that would culminate in the Muslim occupation of much of the European Balkans and later Islamic armies at the gates of Vienna. Few remember that the Eastern Mediterranean coastal lands had been originally Phoenician and Jewish, then Persian, then Macedonian, then Roman, then Byzantine — and not until the seventh-century Islamic. Instead, whether intentionally or not, post-Enlightenment Westerners have accepted [Osama] bin Laden's frame of reference that religiously intolerant Crusaders had gratuitously started a war to take something that was not theirs.”

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This page hopes to bring a common sense, old fashioned view to today's news. The comments displayed on this page were prepared by Hugh V. Murray, who can be reached at hvm@aol.com