The Crusades were a series of religious wars from 1095-1291, the main objective of which was to restore Christian control to Jerusalem and the Holy Lands which were presently being held by the Muslims. The Crusades lasted a total of two hundred years and consisted of nine separate crusades which tolled a death rate of about one and half million people. Although regaining the Holy Land may seem to be a clear reason for these 200 years of war there were actually many other motives which caused the Crusades such as the threat of the Turks, religious conviction, the instinct to fight, Pope Urban the II, and Peter the Hermit.
The Turks were a powerful group of Muslims that had been making advances in the East, starting with the attainment of Jerusalem in 1065. Very quickly the Turks became an advancing threat to the Christian world especially as they began to come closer to obtaining Constantinople. Alexius Comnenus, the Greek emperor quickly informed the pope of the arriving danger and stated that unless assistance and aid was sent to Constantinople that all of the religious artifacts would fall to this “barbaric” race. This threat was the leading cause of the first crusade and would begin one of the largest and most bloody thirsty wars in human history.
During the time of the Crusades religion was the most defining factor in a person’s life. These people held a strong conviction for their religion and would do anything possible to show their dedication to the church and their cause. In their eyes it was believed that it would be an extremely pious act to protect their Holy Land from those they considered to be no less then barbarians. With this religious conviction also came idiocy which lead to many horrific events such as the Children’s Crusade which sent thousands of children under the age of twelve into war, sadly to say only a few ever made it back alive. While on these Crusades this dedication reached even further astray when there was execution to anyone who did not follow their beliefs including Jews, Muslims, Pagan, Mongols, Russian and Greek Orthodox Christians, Hussites, and those who did not agree with the pope.
Beyond religious conviction many people were willing to fight to prove themselves as kings, knights, and lords. Many of these Teutonic people were not settled in the feudal lifestyle and wished to embrace their ancestor’s barbaric instincts and fight to prove their authority and the personal power that they possessed. Furthermore the concept of chivalry became a highly important theme in these peoples lives and especially those new to the knighthood felt that it was essential to prove that they have accepted chivalry and that it was apart of their way of life.
The Crusades were also saw by some as an opportunity to better their personal causes or situations. One of the most infamous men who tried to use the Crusades as a way for control and remembrance was Pope Urban II. Pope Urban II was willing to do anything necessary, including spreading propaganda and informing people that this war was Gods will just so that he would be linked to one of the most important events in history. Another such impostor was Peter the Hermit, a native of Picardy, in France who was commissioned by Pope Urban II to preach a crusade through out Italy and France. Many people fell for his propaganda as he told tales of the Muslims, their evil actions, and what they had been doing to their sacred Holy Land.
The Crusades are one of the most important yet tragic events in the Middle Ages. Even though it gave an insight into the mind of people during this era it is also a harsh reminder of what can happen when to much power is given to few and people are easily swayed by personal convictions.