The subject of this paper illustrates the powerful effects of the law of association. Important events invest the spots where they occur with a peculiar sacredness. This is true not only in individual experience, but in general history. The principle has special application to religion. Every great religion has attracted popular devotion to its birthplace or its shrines, its ritual or its pilgrimages. Even Christianity is not without its holy places; for the very reason that it is a historical religion, as distinguished from a system of priestly ceremonial or of abstract doctrine, it bestows upon these holy places a genuine and a reasonable regard; the places are helps to its influence and verifications of its truth. The Jew looked with affection to the city where David built his capital upon the rugged heights of Zion, and the Christian looks with an equal though a different interest to that other hill where the Son of David was crucified and buried.
Christianity, however, differs from other religions, in that it is pre-eminently the religion of the Spirit. It accepts the help of the outward and visible so far as these can minister to inward devotion, but it counts these idolatry when they usurp the thought and worship that belong to God. It has felt at every step of its history the common tendency of human nature to exalt the means above the end, the form above the substance. And there have been whole generations in which the religion of Christendom, so-called, has well-nigh fallen back to the plane of the earthly and material. There were two hundred years of the middle age, when the church forgot her Kving Lord in her jealousy for the possession of his sepulchre. As Hegel has well expressed it in his Philosophy of History, '' She sought the truth of spirit in a tomb; she was met by the old words: Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen!" This mighty movement and culmination of an externalized Christianity we call the Crusades. My purpose is briefly to review the occasions, causes and results of the Crusades, with special reference to ecclesiastical history and to European civilization.
In the eleventh century pilgrimage was a thing of ancient date. It had begun even under the heathen emperors. Though Titus had burned the temple at Jerusalem and drawn the ploughshare over its ashes, and though Hadrian had founded a pagan colony on Mount Zion and built a temple to "Venus on the hill of Calvary, Christians even thus early found their way to the Holy City. The conversion of Constautine, and the royal progress of Helena, the mother of the emperor, with the breaking down of heathen
*An Essay read before The Club, Rochester, February 15, 1876.
altars and the discovery of the Savior's tomb which followed, rendered pilgrimage both common and fashionable. Constantine erected the church of the Holy Sepulchre; his mother marked the path of her pilgrimage by the churches which she built; it is only a natural result that we should possess, from a date so far back as the fourth century, an itinerary designed for the use of pilgrims from Bordeaux, by way of Constantinople, to Jerusalem.
The more sagacious and spiritual Fathers of the church, such as Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine and Jerome, protested against these pilgrimages as needless and dangerous. But the tide soon became too strong for resistance. The number who set out for the east continually increased. Hospitals were founded for the refreshment and care of the pilgrims. They were exempted from tolls and taxes. The staff and wallet, the scallop-shell upon the hat, from the shore of the Mediterranean, and the palm-branch from Jericho in the hand, became insignia of a lower order of nobility, to which the poor as well as the rich might aspire. Not only were there rewards at the hands of men. The journey to Palestine became a work of merit which availed with God. In connection with the growing faith in works of supererogation, thousands persuaded themselves that bathing in the Jordan was a baptism which washed away all sins, and that the shirt in which they entered the Holy City, if only preserved for a winding-sheet, would in the last great day ensure them a blessed resurrection.
In the year 637, only five years after Mohammed's death, the wave of Saracenic invasion under the Caliph Omar swept over Syria and Egypt, and for a centnry thereafter it rolled onward almost without a check. But almost the last great act of the undivided Roman Empire was the repulse of the Moslems from Constantinople in 718 by sturdy Leo, the Emperor of the East. But for this staggering blow, and that other crushing defeat which they suffered at the hands of Charles Martel a little later at Tours (732), the Saracens might have descended upon Christendom while her social and governmental institutions were yet unformed, and we might be the heirs of an Asiatic instead of a European civilization. When the empire was actually divided, and Charlemagne united the western lands, the crisis of Saracen fury and ambition had passed. Pilgrimage to Jerusalem, not wholly interrupted by the recent wars, began anew and with redoubled enthusiasm. The very hazards of an expedition to a foreign land and among the infidels stimulated the imagination. The holy places of the Christian were holy places of the Moslem also. Though hatred of the western image-worship was difficult to conceal, Saracen thrift seemed to get the better of Saracen bigotry. Or, did the Moslems learn courtesy from their Caliph Haroun al Raschid, who assured all Franks of safety, and in token thereof sent to Charlemagne the keys of the church of the Holy Sepulchre? Whatever may be the explanation, it is certain that the great Charles helped on the growing tendency of the times by proclaiming in the eighth century that throughout his whole realm pilgrims to Palestine should be gratuitously provided for, at least to the extent of lodging, fire and water.
No proper estimate of the events that followed can be formed, without taking into account the traditional hold which pilgrimage had come to have upon people of every class, the almost unobstructed freedom of it from the first to the tenth centuries, and the sacrilege which seemed involved in every attempt to prevent or hinder it. There were indeed occasional outbursts of Saracen insolence from the time of the Fatimite Caliphs, descendants of Fatima, daughter and only child of Mohammed, in 972. But it was not until 1063 that the real persecution of pilgrims began. In that year the Seljuks — for the Turks proper did not appear until the thirteenth century — pressed down upon the empire of the Saracens, as the Teutonic tribes had pressed down upon old Rome,— though Findlay tells us that they did not take Jerusalem till 1076. They were half heathen and utterly barbarous. They had embraced Mohammedanism in its bigotry and its warlike spirit, but they had not yet imbibed the Mohammedan civilization. In one vast horde they poured in from the east and north, overran all Palestine, put an end to the Saracen dominion in Syria, and threatened the very existence of the Eastern Empire at Constantinople. They scorned the Christians, whom they knew only from the degraded Syrians and Greeks, and from the dust-stained pilgrims who thronged the roads to Jerusalem. Then came the first real and protracted suffering. The unsettled and despotic nature of the Turkish rule, the barbarity of Turkish manners, the extortions, robberies and outrages perpetrated either by fanatical zeal or by native cruelty upon Christians of both sexes and of every European land, were deeper wrongs than had been suffered by the church since the persecutions of the Pagan Emperors. These were the more intolerable and roused the deeper indignation throughout the west, from the fact that the idea of the outward unity of the church, and its supreme authority over all earthly powers, had nearly reached its final height,— or, to put it in fewer words, it was the time of the great Hildebrand, known to history as Pope Gregory the Seventh.
Yet Hildebrand was not the leader of the movement which followed. Let us appreciate his position. He did not underestimate the danger of this new onset of barbarism. The swift advances of the Turkish power excited his grave apprehensions. Nor was the project of a united movement against the infidels a new one to him. A century before, the indignities put upon pilgrims by the Fatimite Caliphs had led Gerbert, Archbishop of Ravenna, to write an address in the name of the church of Jerusalem, exhorting all Christians to take arms for its rescue. Even thus early the Pisans had sent out a fleet and had invaded Syria with such effect that, for a little time, the Saracens supposed all Christendom was arming against them. And now the Byzantine emperor, fearing an attack of the Turks upon his capital, sent an embassy to Gregory, entreating his assistance. Gregory entered into the plan. With the two-fold aim of driving back the Turks and of bringing the Eastern Empire into the Latin fold, he addressed the rulers of the European states, urging a common war upon the Turks, and foreshadowing the Crusades. He showed that the Eastern Empire was but a feeble barrier against the infidel and barbarian enemy, and that if the west did not go to the east, the east would come to the west.
But the civil powers of Europe had learned to be suspicious of Gregory's uncompromising logic. They feared that the rousing of Europe against Asia might be only another scheme for enlarging and centralizing the papal power. They refused to second his plans, and thus in all probability was prevented that complete swallowing up of Europe in the Papacy, which would have resulted if the Crusades had been under the control of the great Hildebrand. Great revolutions break out from below. Rulers may guide them; they cannot originate them; they can seldom precipitate them. And Gregory found it so. Though the struggle with regard to the investitures was over, and Henry the Fourth had done his three days penance in the winter's cold at Gregory's gate, and the Holy Roman Empire had well-nigh yielded its claim of independent sovereignty to the Holy Roman Church, yet all the power of the Pope was inadequate to the stirring up of practical interest in the proposed undertaking — a practical interest which, when kindled twenty years later among the people, swept over all Europe like a prairie-fire in the drought of summer.
Thus forty years passed after the Seljuk conquest of Palestine, before any general effort was made to rescue Christ's sepulchre from the infidels, or to renew the conflict between two great religions, which had ceased four centuries before. But, during those forty years, every city and castle in Europe had received back its maltreated pilgrims, some of them maimed and just escaped with life, and all of them narrating their sufferings with the fervor of personal experience. In the preaching of these pilgrims we must find the immediate occasion of the Crusades. Foremost among them was Peter of Picardy. A youth of fiery spirit, he had been bred to the profession of arms. But he left the sword for the crucifix, aud a high-born wife for what in less stirring times might have been called a passionless bride, the Church. In a secluded hermitage he buried himself from the world. Self-mortification and intense meditation wrought their natural effects upon an ardent aud imaginative nature. Christ himself, as he believed, appeared to him in visions. He talked familiarly with the holy apostles. A letter from heaven fell at his feet. He made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and, yet more aroused by the sufferings aud outrages which he observed and experienced, he solemnly announced to the Patriarch of Jerusalem that he was commissioned by God to rouse the western nations to drive out the infidel oppressors.
Returning to Europe, Peter brought letters from the Patriarch to Urban II, the successor and imitator of Hildebrand. His recitals were received with tears. His general scheme was sanctioned, and he was sent, as special envoy of the Papal See, to preach the deliverance of the Holy Land through all the countries of Europe. Urban seconded his efforts with the utmost vigor. The Council of Piaeenza united the Italians; the Council of Clermont, in France, united the Transalpine peoples. At this latter gathering, after the Byzantine ambassadors had pleaded their country's cause and Peter had electrified the people by his eloquence, the Pope himself addressed the multitude. As he spoke, the thirty thousand laymen followed his adjurations with the shout, "Dens vult!"—and "Deus vult!" became the watchword of the holy wars. Each bishop hastened from the Council to his diocese, and roused his flock. Thus the cry " Deus vult!" spread from Clermont, in Anvergne, to every quarter of Europe, and, seized with sudden frenzy, all other business neglected, men of every nation and of every class sewed red crosses upon their shoulders and took arms to deliver Jerusalem. And so, in the years 1096 and 1097, the first Crusade began.
It would be impossible to give even a meagre sketch of the incidents and actors in these wars. And general description here is more intelligible and impressive than detail. To tell the story in few words, six millions of all classes, first and last, assumed the cross and vowed to go to Palestine. According to contemporary writers, six hundred thousand perished in the first Crusade, and historians variously estimate that from two millions to four millions was the total loss of life in the long conflict. And even the largest of these numbers will not seem impossible, when we consider how these worse than useless hosts were composed. Some of the armies comprised the very offscouring of Europe — very savages for ignorance and vice. The three hundred thousand whom the more shrewd leaders sent out under Peter the Hermit, asked, in their simplicity, if the nearest village to their homes were Jesusalem, the end of their wanderings. The northern forests sent forth hordes whom the Arabian chroniclers call an iron race, of gigantic stature, who darted fire from their eyes and spat blood upon the ground. Alas, that all were not such as the Arabian chronicles described! It was sacrilege to deter any from so holy a service. Women enlisted, and from the Rhine came a troop of Amazons under "the golden-footed dame." A regiment of boys, armed with cross-bows, made show of fight at Antioch. There was a Crusade of the Children, and thousands of weaklings who should have been in mothers' arms, after crossing the Alps in the depths of winter, were either shipwrecked in the Mediterranean or captured and sold for slaves. Thus the armies were a heterogeneous conglomeration of all races, languages, sexes and ages, without unity of plan or discipline or generalship. It is no wonder that they whitened every road to Palestine with their skeletons, and drenched the Holy Land with their blood.
Yet there were great leaders — men valiant themselves, and able so to marshal their few brave and disciplined followers, as to rout and overthrow twenty times their number of Paynim foes. The magnanimons Godfrey; the impetuous Robert, son of William the Conqueror; the cool and ambitious Bohemond; Tancred, the hero of Tasso's epic; the lion-hearted Richard of England, whose restless spirit of adventure Scott has so well described in Ivanhoe; Saint Louis, the best of all the kings of France ; and Frederick Barbarossa, the earliest and noblest model of chivalry, as he is the greatest of the crusaders — all these were mighty captains during the two centuries. Godfrey captured Jerusalem and built up a frost-work kingdom. Frederick II, the grandson of Frederick Barbarossa, excommunicated though he was, put the same crown upon his head in the next century. Baldwin seated himself upon the throne of the old capital of Constantine. A few got glory, but the best of them won only disease and death.
And yet these expeditions did not die out upon experience of the first disasters. From the same defeats seemed to rise the same enthusiasm. Generation after generation took the sword to perish in the same way. The eight Crusades were only more marked instances of what occurred every year of the two crusading centuries. Every summer saw its armed bands set out for Palestine,— priests and people blessing them as they departed from their homes, and accompanying them a little distance on their way. The great Crusades were but exaggerations of these annual expeditions, occasioned by some great calamity at home which demanded penance, or some great reverse abroad which necessitated reinforcements. And so the West was kept in continual commotion, from the first Crusade, when, in the words of the eastern princess, all Europe seemed loosed from its foundations and hurled upon Asia, to the last Crusade, when the good King Louis — Louis IX, of France —after wearing the red-cross for twenty years, died of the pestilence in Africa. Yet long before these two centuries, with their migration of nations, had expired, the Christians were driven from every Syrian stronghold, the two kingdoms they had founded were annihilated, and the Turks held again in peace the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. And thus the only enterprise in which all the western states engaged with equal ardor — an enterprise which was certainly the heroic event of modern Europe, uniting its various peoples into one, as did the siege of Troy the Greeks—an enterprise, too, in which Europe was first known as Europe, and in which European states first appeared as single states in history — this enterprise, in its immediate aim and conduct, must certainly be regarded as the most signal monument of human folly that has appeared in any age of human history. With Voltaire, we may call it a joint product of barbarism, ignorance and fanaticism. With Milman, we may describe it as the most wonderful phrensy that ever possessed mankind.
But it does not become us to rest content with an estimate like this. Such an estimate regards the vast movement only in its superficial aspects. Considered in the higher light of a necessary result and outlet of imprisoned forces, which were then exercised and improved for worthier tasks than the building up of Syrian* kingdoms or the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre, the Crusades are instinct with new principles and pregnant with consequences the most beneficent and sublime. Let us carefully distinguish between the causes of these wars, and their mere occasions or concomitants. It is very plain that the preaching of Peter the Hermit was in no proper sense the cause of the Crusades. The real cause was that hidden train that had been silently laid in the mind of Europe, and whose very existence was unknown until Peter's words put to it the torch. The kings of Europe were not the cause of the Crusades. They took no share in the first Crusade. They followed the great popular impulse, only when they found it irresistible. The leaders of the hosts were not the cause of the Crusades. They did not at first originate them, nor could they stop the movement when it had once begun,— for it had a deeper root than the wish to gain the kingdoms for Christians leaders, or to gratify the fantastic and adventurous whims of princes. It was like the rising of an ocean-flood, spontaneous, overwhelming, either bearing all obstacles upon its bosom or drowning them forever. From the beginning to the end the Crusades were essentially popular in their character; and they demonstrate, if demonstration were needed, that the millions are moved, not by climate, not by government, not by individual leaders, not by material interests, but primarily by ideas, and that, for an idea, a whole nation or a whole hemisphere may live and die. There was as idea that possessed the mind of Europe, and that explains the Crusades. Can history, or the philosophy of history, compel this subtle but mighty spirit to take form before us and announce its name?
Guizot has reduced the various influences which determined the Crusades to two great classes, the social and the moral. He claims that the social cause was the old barbarian taste for roving and for war, which, although confined for three centuries since the Empire of Charlemagne, had never been extinguished. When the Empire which Charlemagne had founded was divided and scattered, in the hands of his successors, all the old restlessness revived. The barbaric spirit awoke from its lethargy. There came again a chaos of confusion and isolation. The military ambition, the haughty independence, the uncurbed license, the private wars of the barons, began anew. The open country was the scene of disorder and outrage. The only pursuits of the noble of that day were war and rapine. He was the same old pagan under a Christian guise. Sprinkling him with a holy broom had not altered his nature. When he was asked to fight in a foreign land for the tomb of Christ, the call appealed alike to his instinct of wandering and his instinct of battle. The sacrifices which his fathers had offered to Thor or to Wodeu seemed to him most proper to lay upon God's altar. The slaughter of the enemies of the faith in the distant East became the natural object of his religious zeal.
Let us romember, also, that the individualism of mediaeval society was almost perfect. The feudal system fostered it. And feudalism was the union of the old Roman grants of land upon condition of military service, with the Teutonic fealty of the individual warrior to the leader.whose fortunes he followed. But as yet the personal and Teutonic element was in the ascendant. There were a host of petty chiefs, each with his body of armed retainers, his castle and the huts of his vassals around it. The servant imitated the master. Only by valor could he rise. And war was needed, as the opportunity for valor. In war man was opposed to man, strength to strength. Gunpowder had not yet rendered personal prowess and might of arm of inferior account. Courage met its reward; the squire might win knighthood of his master, aud the knight might win an eastern principality.
For such habits of life, and for such warlike passions, what a field was opened on the plains of Asia! What California was to the broken-down merchant of a quarter of a century ago, what Dante's terrestrial paradise at the antipodes of Jerusalem was to Christopher Columbus on his two last voyages westward, that Jerusalem itself was to the Crusader — a city where fallen fortunes might bo raised again, or where ambition might carve its way to fabulous wealth and power. The knight need cramp his energies no longer in petty castle-warfare. His sphere of action widened boundlessly before him. Golden sceptres glittered in the distance. Diamonds and palaces, the si)i>ils of Turkish Emirs, Grecian wines and women, tempted his curiosity and roused his imagination. Many a mind had visions by night and day of palaces of cedar, paved with jasper and lined with gold. Every class of society felt the charm. The monk might escape the discipline of the conveut, and as a member of the Church militant yield himself again to the pleasures of the world. The oppress9d serf or citizen might gain freedom from the tyrannical restrictions of his lord. To join a Crusade, the vassal might alienate his land without consent of his superior, and enjoy all the privileges of the ecclesiastic. The debtor might escape from his creditors, the outlaw brave the law, yet be free from punishment, not only for all pasl, but for all future transgressions. Guy of Lusignau fled from France a murderer, and was raised to the throne of Jerusalem.
Yet it is evident that all these social influences were only of secondary account. They acted with energy only after the spread of some common idea, which could unite them with itself and take a coloring from them. Such narrow and selfish interests alone could never have roused or united Europe. The love of war and the barbaric desire of roving cannot be said to have inspired all the European classes. This cause-was most potent among the feudal nobility. Over vast multitudes it had but little influence. The serfs, the artisans, monks, citizens, women and youth, in fact, all the more timid and peaceful classes, were impelled by a far different desire, were animated by a feeling which passed the bounds of ordinary selfishness, and proceeded from deeper springs than the love of war and the curiosity of the traveler. A mere glance at the composition of the hosts that perished on every Hungarian road and on every Turkish plain puts this beyond all doubt. We are driven to the conclusion that, underlying all private interests and all social influences, there was a moral or religious cause, and it is only when we recognize this, that we can account for the marvelous facts of the history.
This cause was not by any means the papal influence. This is evident from the fact already alluded to, that even Gregory the Great, a pope of vastly more ability than Urban, was utterly unable to rouse the European princes, the very class over whom the social inducements had greatest power, although he summoned them to arms at the very crisis of danger, upon the first onset of the Turks and amid the first alarm of Europe. And now for forty years the Turks had held secure possession of Jerusalem, •and every year their treatment of Christian pilgrims grew less severe. There was but a single circumstance that seemed to promise greater success to Urban than to Hildebrand, and that was a division of the Mohammedan power between the Sultan of Bagdad and the Sultan of Asia Minor. And yet, in this time of peace and of immeasurably slighter provocation than that of twenty years before, the announcement of Peter's plans, and Urban's sanction of them, fired all Europe. In the last years of the Crusades, again, when the danger was greater than ever before, when the Turks were most united, powerful and threatening, when every Christian had been driven from Syria, when means of transport and the art of war were far better known than in the earlier Crusades, all the authority of the Popes, aided by royal influence, could not raise even the shadow of an army against an enemy now almost at their doors. These facts are explicable only upon the admission that the people, and not the popes, were the real movers in the Crusades.
Guizot has stated the moral cause to be the impulse of religious feeling and belief, and he calls the Crusades the crisis of the conflict which had been raging for four hundred years between two hostile religions. And Stanley, in his History of the Eastern Church, tells us that the Crusades owed their origin entirely to the conflict with Islam. There is a sense in which these utterances are true, but they are capable of leaving a radically false impression. They leave the impression that these wars were essentially offensive, and prompted by hatred of false religion. It may be doubted whether any long or extensive war has been carried on by a people solely from such motives. The individual soldier, and the army in mass, risk life from positive, not from negative motives; not simply to wreak vengeance, but to gain advantage ; not simply to destroy, but to win. Hatred of the Turk was but the negative and subordinate side, a necessary incident in the accomplishment of a positive aim. That the Crusades cannot be explained as a merely natural crisis of long cherished religious hostility, which had been growingin the mind of Europe for centuries, seems clear from the fact that the causes for this hostility were not nearly so great at this time, as they had been thirty or forty years before. Just forty years before Peter's preaching — about 1064, as Pindlay tells us — a pilgrimage was undertaken by certain German bishops with a retinue of seven thousand persons, and three fourths of this number perished from suffering and the sword. Christianity had overcome Mohammedanism in Europe four centuries before. Then, in reality, the question of precedence had been decided between the two rival religions; and it seems incredible that, after four centuries of peace, the hostility that remained should have ripened naturally, under no peculiarly favoring circumstances, into an intensity of hatred so universal and so stupendous in its results.
No, it was a new feeling, a hitherto unthought of impulse, which absorbed this hostility into itself and used it for its purpose. The struggle which followed was a religious struggle, not simply in the sense of war to the death against falsehood, but in the sense of war to the death for what was conceived to be positive truth. We assert that a universal awakening of religious feeling, and of religious feeling that had in it an element of truth, was the moving cause of the Crusades, and that a great part of this feeling was earnest and genuine. We cannot define this universal sentiment in any terms which would imply that it was predominantly sensual or selfish. We caunot attribute the sudden rising of Europe to the special indulgences which were now for the first time granted. These had their influence, but when we search for the main cause of these wars, we may almost disregard them. There were two classes of Crusaders — those who went from utterly selfish motives, and those who were animated by a purer spirit. There were those of the first class — " moderate sinners," as Gibbon calls them, who had already incurred a debt of three hundred years of penance— a debt which, under ordinary circumstances, neither their lives nor their fortunes could pay. These were under absolute subjection to the priests, and the remission . of all past penance and indulgence for all future sin were surely worth a journey to Palestine. "God," says the Abbot Guibert, "invented the Crusades, as a new way for the laity to atone for their sins and to merit salvation."
But, after all, the majority of Crusaders were possessed by a higher impulse than this. The " Deus vult!" which followed the speech of Urban, had in it a real significance. It was an imaginative and curious age. God was believed to interfere in the affaire of men. Political affairs were governed, not so much by considerations of state-craft, as by theological considerations. Anxieties about the balance of power in Europe would have been an anachronism. And the great idea of the Middle Ages was the idea of the external unity and supreme authority of the Church. The traditions of the Roman Empire had descended to Ilildebrand and to Innocent III, as well as to Henry IV and to Frederick II, and of these the Church and not the State was at this time the world-conquering and world-ruling power. It was an idea which could take possession of prince and people alike. National animosities and royal jealousies yielded to its influence. A kingdom of Christ on earth, before which serf and emperor alike should bow, and under whose shadow the nations should rest secure — this was the dream of the time. And this kingdom was to be a literal and visible kingdom of Christ himself. Far and wide over Europe was spread the idea that the thousand years of prophecy were nearly accomplished, and that the great dragon was to be loosed. Christ was to judge the earth in Palestine, and all true followers should meet him there. Charters granted at that period begin with the words: "Appropinquante mundi termino." Many were the saints who, before the Crusades broke out, had abandoned all and fled to Palestine. What extravagance could be deemed impossible when the general rising once began! The great design of delivering the Holy Sepulchre, already all-important in the mind of Christendom, gained at once a novel and surprising power. The whole system of sensuous worship culminated in the worship of the Holy Sepulchre, and to meet Christ in the Holy City, after having delivered his tomb from the sacrilege of infidel possession, was the highest ambition of millions.
Thus a general belief in an express and direct command of God, an unhesitating conviction of the sole right of the Church to world-wide sway, and an identification of that sway with the possession of Christ's tomb in Palestine, were the sources of a religious enthusiasm, such as the world has never seen before or since. All other causes were as nothing compared with this generous and uncalculating zeal for the outward dominion of Christ and his Church. No one can see the hosts of Crusaders led on by ignorant monks, or by men taken from the rabble, through German forests and Byzantian plains, falling by hundreds at every step, yet pressing on through , famine and pestilence and death, refusing to halt after their toils in the soft Phrygian vales, refusing to assist their leaders in any scheme of conquest but the conquest of Jerusalem, yet half a million of them perishing before they got to Antioch,— no one, I say, can look upon this spectacle and not believe that there was one feeling that united them, and that this feeling was a deep though misplaced religious ardor. These most disastrous yet most unselfish of wars, as Lecky calls them, were due to an intense religious enthusiasm — an enthusiasm which for two hundred years rose again and again, fresh and ardent, from utter and hopeless defeat. How great the problem is, may be judged from the following significant words of Michand, the modern historian of the Crusades. "No power on earth," he says, "could have been able to produce such a revolution. It belongs only to Him whose will marshals and disperses tempests, to throw all at once into human hearts that enthusiasm which silenced all other passions, and drew on the multitude as by an invisible power." What Michaud would seem to relegate to the category of miracle, we prefer to call Providence and the working of second causes, and our final word of explanation is this: The Crusades were the climax of a vast popular movement towards the sensuous and external in Christianity; a movement which the Popes guided, but did not originate; a movement which had power, because whole ages thought it to be in the interests of Christ; a movement which, in its utter defeat, gave useful demonstration to all after ages that Christ's words were true: "My kingdom is not of this world."
In passing to consider the effects of the Crusades, we shall find it needful to distinguish between the immediate and the more remote. Of the former, I have spoken of but one — the short-lived conquests in the East. They were short-lived for many reasons. The Turks had learned much of the art of war from their Christian invaders, and were increasingly prepared to repel attack. Let us add to this the diminished interest of the West in the Crusades themselves. Without proper reinforcements, the Franks wasted away, till the whole army of the King of Jerusalem consisted of less than six thousand men, and of this number, according to William of Tyre, less than a thousand were mounted knights. Luxury and an enervating climate, together with habits of unbridled license, enfeebled the Latins. To their weakness the Turks at last opposed the solid union of all the Mohammedan principalities under a single chief. The hearts of the Crusaders sank within them. In the first Crusade, the patron saints of each nation were seen in the van of battle, as the Greeks at Marathon saw Theseus with his mighty brazen club leading on the charge. But these wonders grew less frequent, and as imagination gave place to reason, the Latins shed no tears on resigning the keys of the Holy Sepulchre again into the hands of the infidels.
Another immediate effect of the Crusades was the outlet which it afforded to the lawless passions and unoccupied strength of feudalism. We are told by Gibbon, that the waste of life and treasure was an uncompensated loss to the world. It remains for Gibbon, if he would maintain his thesis, to show, what is contrary to all the evidence, namely, that feudalism was not verging upon a state of utter anarchy, in which the overboiling spirit that showed itself in desolation and outrage all over Europe, would without a seasonable outlet have blown to pieces the whole fabric of society. The lives lost in the East would almost beyond a doubt have otherwise been lost in infestine strife at home. We regard the Crusades therefore as a politic diversion to Asia of the tide of war, which else would have deluged the frontiers of the European kingdoms, and prevented the quiet growth of those institutions of modern times which were then in embryo. Or, to return to the former figure, we see in the Crusades from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries the very safety-valve of European civilization.
Yet another great and immediate effect was the strengthening of the barrier against the Turks — a horde of barbarians far more rude and predatory than the original followers of the Prophet. It is indeed so certain that, but for the Crusades, the states of Europe would have fallen one by one into the hands of the advancing enemy, that Michaud has said that "this is the first and greatest of all the benefits they have conferred upon humanity." Constantinople, the bulwark of the West, was on the point of falling. The Crusades saved the life of that capital for yet four hundred years. Within those four hundred years, Europe became civilized, and her arts and sciences came to be her sure and eternal defense against the infidels. The Crusades constructed a barrier against the Turks,— but the greatest barrier was, as Freeman has pointed out, not a barrier of arms, but a moral barrier. The principle was once, and once for all, established, that all Christian powers were natural allies against Mohammedan powers. In short, Europe appears as Europe, first in the Crusades.
If we turn from the immediate results to those which are more remote, we find much greater difficulty in tracing, and as a natural result, much greater diversity of opinion with regard to them among historians. It is, indeed, not yet a century, since the opinion of Hume and Gibbon seemed to be that the holy wars were simply a monument of human folly, without any rational and sufficient end. Of course, we can believe this of no single event, — much less of the great drama before us. Let us first inquire what were the results to the Church. Michaud divides the period of the Crusades into two parts, each of a hundred years. In the first of these, the Papal authority increased until it reached its final height. In the second, it again declined, until at the end of the two centuries it was smaller than it had been at the beginning. The truth is that it was not till the second Crusade that the Popes saw the power they might exert. The spirit of the Crusade surprised them, for they did not originate it. Striving then by all means to make themselves its masters, though they gained great power at first, the staff on which they leaned soon broke, and they fell even below their former authority. Some of the advantages which they gained were these. The Crusades from first to last were preached in their name. By leading, they secured general reverence. They became possessed of power, as the protectors of the families of the absent crusaders. They assumed to dispense from all civil and religious penalties. They were made arbiters in all disputes between rival princes and kings. They made the Crusades the pretext for usurping in all the states of Europe the attributes of sovereignty. They levied armies and taxes for the holy wars. Their legates exercised supreme authority in their name. By an admirable legal fiction, the legate received by proxy the submission due to the master, and as if he were the Pope himself, had absolute command of the clergy, then the most influential body in the state. Crusading vows were held in terrorem over even princes and emperors. And when all these prerogatives were assumed, the empire of the Popes had no limits, —the Bishop of Rome was the liege lord of mankind.
As the rightful leaders of religious wars, the Popes were enabled to bend these wars to their own ends. The secular power became the mere instrument of the pontifical will. "Thus," says Hallam, "was developed that persecuting spirit, which produced the devastation of Langnedoc, the stakes and scaffolds of the Inquisition, and which rooted deep in the religious theory of Europe those maxims of intolerance, which it has so slowly and so imperfectly renounced." And Milman has shown how Crusades against the Turks were fitly accompanied by the slaughter of Jews in every city on the Rhine, and how the massacre of the Albigenses in the south of France, the expeditions of Teutonic knights against the northern heathen, the expulsion of the Moors from Spain, the conquest of Mexico by Cortez, and Philip the Second's exterminating war upon the Netherlands—in short, every war against those whom the Pope was pleased to call heretics and infidels — came to be dignified and hallowed by the sacred name of the cross. Of all the religious persecutions conducted or sanctioned by the Roman See, the fruitful seed was planted when Urban made his plea at Clermont eight hundred years ago.
And yet vaulting ambition never more signally overleaped itself, than in these mighty assumptions of temporal power on the part of the Papacy. The hand that grasped began to wither, even as it touched the prize. The Popes gained no lasting influence in the East. Instead of being reconciled and absorbed, the Byzantine empire was alienated forever,— the crusading armies were swarms of locusts that stripped the eastern provinces that they visited, of every green thing. The disputes in which the sovereign Pontiff was arbiter, often embarrassed him without giving him real power. As time advanced, his commands were not seldom disobeyed, and, without secular power to enforce his decrees instantly and without appeal, his authority fell into disrepute. Amid the disorders of the eastern wars, and far from all prospect of punishment, the Crusaders learned an independence of ecclesiastical, as well as of civil, authority. Orders of armed monks, like the Templars and the Hospitalers, attained a dangerous wealth and influence. The armies blessed by the Popes were too often diverted from their sacred object to wars of ambition and conquest. The tenths for every Crusade, and for every attempt at a Crusade, led to searching questions as to their disposal. Funds raised, but misappropriated, furnished strong weapons to Luther even after the lapse of three centuries. The personal motives with which the later Crusades were preached became too plain to be mistaken. Complaint began, and complaints against the Vicar of God, though a novelty at first, grew at last so deep and strong as to endanger all that had been gained throngh centuries of usurpation.
The Papal authority suffered greatly from the growth of temporal powers which the Crusades assisted. There had been reason enough why the Church should rule. There was no other stable element in society. It alone, of all mediaeval institutions, was stable, because it had its root in opinions and beliefs. Without this possession of great power on the part of the Church, it is difficult to see how Europe could have been civilized. But, as the governments of the several States became efficient, the need of Church power diminished. As we shall see, the Crusades did much to bring about this settlement of the monarchies of Europe. It was only a natural consequence that, as the great temporal powers became established and consolidated, the Popes should lose their ascendency in European politics.
The idea has prevailed that the clergy amassed great wealth during the Crusades. This was true during the first Crusade, for which they were not compelled to pay. Landed property, in which the Jew did not deal, but upon which ecclesiastical establishments lent money, fell to the Church in immense tracts. But, in all the subsequent Crusades, contributions were levied upon ecclesiastics also. Churches sold their ornaments and sacred vases to pay these taxes, and a competent authority has estimated that in two hundred years the clergy expended for the holy wars a larger sum than would have purchased all their property. Hence, their crusading zeal perceptibly cooled, so that the Popes did not dare intrust the preaching of the later Crusades to the bishops, but committed it to the Mendicant Orders, who had nothing to lose by it.
Guizot mentions another effect upon the Church, which must be taken with a grain of allowance. Laymen, he urges, had hitherto had no direct communication with the centre of the Church. Now they passed through Rome. They saw the Papacy and its abuses, without ecclesiastical spectacles. Church and people were brought nearer to each other, and the latter acquired new boldness. It was the beginning of that inspection and inquiry which terminated in the revolt of Luther. But let us not attribute to the mediaeval traveler a spirit too far in advance of his time. There were other influences at Rome, which might have served to repress his skepticism. Whatever of art the West possessed was there. Passing through the Eternal City, may we not fairly represent him as dazzled with the splendors of the pontifical throne, and as departing with no greater diminution of his reverence than happens to a modern Catholic in his visit to the seat of St. Peter?
And yet, there was such a thing as corruption of the clergy, and a large part of the subsequent infamy of Popes and priesthood must be traced back to its beginning in these wars,—and here was the secret of the downfall of Papal power. What the Hohenstaufen could not accomplish by any outward force, that internal rottenness did accomplish, namely, the collapse of the lofty structure of pontifical supremacy over the princes and kings of the earth. Such corruption was inseparable from the life of armies,— and of those armies the clergy constituted a part. Prelates arrayed themselves in cuirass and helmet; country priests led ou their flocks to battle. The Crusades were one long school of licentiousness and ferocity. Morality was outraged by the excesses of ecclesiastics in the holy wars. Meddling in what were soon perceived to be mere human strifes, and carried away by every passion that degraded ordinary humanity, the ministers of the Church, and the Church itself, lost immeasurably more than they gained. If I am pointed to the great works of the scholastic theology which from this epoch began to proceed from the monasteries, I call them signs, not of advancing power in the Church, but rather of the new intellectual spirit which followed the Crusades, and which the Church could not resist. During these two hundred years, the doctrines and opinions of the Church suffered no material change. Dogmatic theology, like pure literature, seldom flourishes in times so averse to silent and steady thought; and, therefore, wo are warranted in asserting without reserve that, before the two crusading centuries were over, the acme of the power of Ecclesiastical Rome had passed, and the Papacy had entered upon that slow decline which has proceeded intermittently, but surely, from that time until the present day.
We have considered the influence of these great wars upon the Church,— let us look for a moment at their effects upon the State. The cardinal point on which mediaeval history turns is nothing else than the struggle of theocracy against feudal monarchy,— so says a great philosopher of history, and truly, German and metaphysician though he be. And what the Crusades did for feudalism, must be regarded as one of the foremost benefits which they have conferred upon mankind. They were the first great event of the period from the twelfth to the sixteenth century, in which the isolated elements of European society came for the first time together, and began those experiments which ended in the establishment of European as well as national unity. It is only since the thirteenth century that we can call France a nation, or really speak of monarchy and nobility, of government and people. From isolation and antagonism, these elements united with each other, and formed what was before unknown — the compacted State.
This is plain, when we compare the age which preceded with the age which followed the Crusades. Charlemagne had exhausted every power of royalty in the endeavor to establish a second Roman Empire; but, after his death, the bow was again unstrung, and society fell into its former isolation. He had waged war upon the feudal system, because it destroyed all protective power, all tutelary and national legislation. The monarch, without authority, could not be the supporter of innocence or the avenger of crime. Sovereignty was exercised by every man who had a sword, and the feudal noble was little inferior, and paid only nominal subjection to the King. Though this individualism was a protection against despotism and universal conquest, though it had within it the seeds of all after-ideas of chivalry and freedom, it did not give stability to government or to justice. It was necessary that individualism should give place to a concentrated power, which could punish offenders and build up a united state. From the ancient civilization, in which the State absorbed the individual, society had swung to the precisely opposite extreme,— each individual could say with Louis the Fourteenth: "I am the State." What was needed, if civilization should advance or even be rescued, was a combination of the two ideas — individual independence, with its variety and freedom, but individual independence regulated and harmonized into compact society by the overshadowing force of equal laws.
The first result of the Crusades that tended in this direction was the absorption of small fiefs into the large. Many a great baron who served in these wars died without heirs, and his estates reverted to the crown; many a vassal who was fired with crusading ardor, yet could not by feudal custom raise the expenses of his expedition by extraordinary taxes, sold his fief to the Crown, in expectation of conquering a richer one in Palestine. William Rufusbought his elder brother's dukedom of Normandy. By the assemblies, which, though disused for a hundred years, were now called to consult with the King, the Crown was aided in recovering the lost legislative power. The great vassals of France, besides, scarcely acknowledged a King of France until they beheld these Kings of France gathering glory and dominion in the holy wars. Thus, in France, was seen an aggrandizement of royalty, both in territory and influence, which was necessary to the future civilization of Europe,— and this aggrandizement was at the expense of a turbulent and powerful feudal nobility.
France undoubtedly furnishes the best illustration of the influence of the Crusades on feudalism. At the beginning of these wars, we see monarchy weaker in France than in any other European nation. At their close monarchy in France is stronger than in any other. Through the influences we have mentioned, there have come at last to be, in place of a variety of ruling classes — clergy, kings, nobles, citizens, husbandmen and serfs — only two, namely, government and people. Thus was brought about a localization of society and a union of its separate elements into the unity of the State, without which there could be no general administration of justice, no end of private war, no broad and wise legislation.
And yet, beyond the mere organization of elements hitherto scattered and inharmonious, something must be attributed to the new spirit of gentleness and conciliation which made this organization possible. No account of the settling of modern society can be complete which omits all mention of the influence of chivalry. The loyalty, liberality and courtesy of knighthood was to a large extent the fruit of the Crusades. It was something for a baron of the eleventh or twelfth century to take upon him even the semblance of a religious vow. It was more, when the youth became a knight through a prolonged novitiate in which his qualities of loyalty and bravery were equally tested, and his final enterprises received the sanction and blessing of the church. Service of the church in a war against infidels was not the highest conceivable service, but it was far higher than the brutal license and unprovoked marauding to which the Crusader had given himself at home. And men are civilized by frequent meeting with each other. Isolation would have left the French noble the same old barbarian. Company with brave men gave him the first start toward chivalry. Wonderful contrasts there doubtless are, in those old chronicles. Godfrey could burn Jews alive, but he would not be called King, in the city where Christ had worn a crown of thorns. The crusading army could slaughter seventy thousand Saracens without mercy, but they could close the day of carnage by falling on their knees with one accord, and bursting into tears as they thought upon the sufferings of their Redeemer. But on the whole they came back better than they went, and with them they brought into the life and intercourse of Europe the first beginnings of that spirit teuder and true, pitiful and brave-—the spirit of generosity and aspiration and loyalty and honor — which still in the modern gentleman preserves whatever of worth there was in chivalry.
Not simply the castles of the barons, however, but the towns and cities of Europe, felt the influence of the Crusades. The Mediterranean capitals, enriched by the transport and trade of the Crusaders, were enabled to assert their liberty or to buy it of their Suzerain. Alexander III struck an alliance with the whole group of Lombard towns; and, in order to construct a bulwark against Germany, he gave them freedom and constituted himself as their defender. The Italian cities became little republics, able to wage wars of offense through their hired troops, and to maintain their independence against all invaders. The seaports had their fleets and conducted their naval expeditions against the Saracens, or against enemies nearer home. Venice could lose thirteen thousand sailors in one defeat, yet easily recover from the blow. And, with Venice, Genoa, Pisa, Florence, all rose to magnificence, and shed abroad the influence of a free and enterprising spirit. Now were erected the Campaniles of Florence, Venice and Bologna, which, like the Belfries of Ghent and Bruges in the Netherlands, were none of them erected for purely sacred purposes, but as the means of summoning together inhabitants of town and surrounding country alike, in any sudden emergency in which free citizens might be called upon to act. So strong and widespread was this tendency to municipal freedom, that before the conclusion of the last Crusade, all the considerable cities of Italy had purchased or extorted large immunities from the Emperors and the Popes. From Italy the freedom of corporate towns spread to France and Germany, and a great body of the people in those lands became released from feudal servitude. These communities did much to introduce regular government, police, arts, and the spirit of liberty, among the mass of the people. And thus, to the political unity, which was one result of the Crusades, was added another, no less inqrortant, namely, the liberty of the individual citizen.
But one other result of the Crusades remains to be noticed — a result which, though the most difficult to be fully understood, was perhaps the greatest of their benefits, for it may be said to underlie all the others — I mean the impulse which the Crusades gave to the human intellect . We need only to compare the condition of Europe at the beginning of these wars — sunk in ignorance and barbarism — with the bright promise of all things at their conclusion, to realize that a great change had been already wrought. Travel showed to the Franks a new and unimagined world. Constantinople was the greatest and most beautiful city in Europe. The barbarian had never wasted it. Though freedom and virtue had departed, the ancient elegance of arts and manners remained. The Eastern Court was one of oriental magnificence. Even the Mohammedans had still the remnants of a high civilization. While the Arabian and the Greek writers always speak of the Franks as barbarians, William of Tyre never loses an opportunity to extol the virtues of Saladin, and the beauty of Constantinople. Western Europe caught an inspiration from the sight, and from this time advanced in refinement of manners and of arts. Manufactures were carried west. New inventions were imported into Europe. Navigation and discovery entered upon a new career of progress. The world began to travel. Marco Polo roved over Asia; a Franciscan of Naples became Archbishop of Pekin; and Sir John Mandeville, the poet and physician, traversed the jungles of Hindustan and the streets of Foutchou. Much need was there of travel, — for two hundred authors writing on Egypt make no mention of the Pyramids, and James of Vitry gravely talks about the Phoenix and the Amazons of the East.
In the chronicles of St. Denis, Anno Domini 1257, we read: "William, a physician, brought some Greek books from Constantinople." It was the first gleam of new light for the West. Then came the revival of literature and art. Poetry was written once more, and the foundations of modern literature were laid. The old French didactic poetry sprang into being. The Troubadours sang through the south of France, and the Minnesingers answered them from Germany. The mighty mediaeval architecture, full of a religious spirit from the age before, rose to the admiration of all after time. In Paris, and Oxford, and Bologna, ten thousand students were opening every day unthought-of mines of classic beauty, and were digging with all reverence into the treasures of the Roman law. From roots that lay deep hidden in the black soil of desolation and disaster, was growing up a fair new civilization.