Saturday, February 2, 2008

The First Crusade - Part 2

To understand just how humbling this was for the emperor it’s helpful to look at a little of the history between the East and West. When the Roman Empire was at its peak, it included both the east and west, as most empires do I suspect. The East was wealthier and eventually became the center of power. In 476, the western half of the Empire fell to barbarians leaving what was the east now the center.

While “Byzantine” is used today to refer to the eastern half, it was not used then. The east of that period considered themselves the Roman Empire, and the Western Europeans lovingly as the offspring of barbarians.

And there was also little incident of papal legates delivering a document of excommunication against the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Patriarch in turn anathemised (is that a word?) them in 1054. This was the final straw in rising tensions between East and West resulting in the “Great Schism”. With this all happening only a generation earlier, the relations between the two were a little icy.

But the emperor did send out the S.O.S. It was actually sent it out twice. The first went to Pope Gregory VII who immediately began plans to respond with noble hopes that the rift between east and west could be healed. But due to some “complications” at the time in Europe (the Investiture Controversy), Pope Gregory VII was not able to respond.

The second call for help was sent by the Emporer Alexeis I Comnenus to Pope Urban II in 1095, asking the western Christians to have pity on those of the east. Pope Urban II accepted the plea and made an appeal to the Knights of Europe. The Pope gave a speech outlining the atrocities and injustices done to Christians in the East, and especially Jerusalem. The speech, while not quite politically correct by today’s standards, had a great effect on those who heard it. And on November 1095 at Claremont France, the Crusades were born. Mother and child are doing well. It was decided that the Crusade would begin on August 15, 1096. This would allow one year to prepare the men, supplies, and money needed for the journey.

Preachers were sent out across Europe to preach the Crusade. When the population heard about what had happened at Jerusalem, the near impossibility of pilgrimage, and the cry for help from the eastern Christians they responded with great enthusiasm (and a little rage). With the battle cry of “God wills it!” thousands of warriors “took the cross” and made a vow to travel to Jerusalem, delivering mercy and justice along the way.

The people responded to such a degree in fact, that it had to be made clear the Pope was looking for warriors, not common folk to join the Crusade. The commoners were asked to stay home and support the effort any way they could, but to not travel with the warriors causing a burden to them since commoners are much better at eating food than they are swinging swords. Monks and clergy were also forbidden to join without had special permission.

Peter the Hermit was one of the preachers who went out across Europe. Peter was an extremely popular and effective preacher as all hermits are known to be. His preaching convinced thousands of people to take the cross and join the Crusade. But there was one small problem; the people he was convincing were commoners, not warriors. Peter managed to convince the people that God’s protection would be on them since they were fighting for God’s cause. Peter left early with his group of about 35,000 non-warrior types, leaving before the August 15, 1096 date set earlier by the Pope. This group is known as the “People’s Crusade”.

So the warriors of Europe, answering the call for help, set out to rendezvous at Constantinople led by the great knights of Europe. It was at Constantinople that they would gather together and begin their quest to help the Christians of the East and push the Muslims out of Jerusalem.

To be continued …

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