Defending Christendom Essay

1381 words - 6 pages

Though the beginning of the crusade can be directly traced to the speech Pope Urban II gave at the Council of Clermont in 1095, its’ roots can be established much earlier. The death of the prophet Muhammad in 632 marked the start of nearly a thousand years of military expansion and religious conversion. The timing of this assault on the Christendom was impeccable, with the collapse of the Roman Empire in 476 left a huge power vacuum in its’ previously stable boarder provinces, notably those in Spain, North Africa, Egypt, and the near-east. Though the eastern half of the Roman Empire would survive and became the Byzantine Empire, which would last, in one form or another last for a thousand years, the fall of the western half marked the beginning of the rapid loss of Christian lands to the Muslims. This forfeiture of lands would be the catalyst for the events known as the Crusades. The reason why the First Crusade should be categorized primarily as a war rather than a religious movement is because of the type of threat Europe felt from the Muslims. Christendom was not imperiled by the Muslim religion, it was their swords the heads of Europe feared. The Crusades were an armed response to the nearly four centuries of armed assault on Christian Europe by the Muslims.
The rapid expansion of Arab control over the Middle-East and North Africa is nothing short of astonishing. Within fifty years of Muhammad’s death, the Arabs had conquered Syria, Egypt, North Africa, and had already besieged Constantinople once. By the time of the First Crusade, the Muslims controlled one of the largest empires the world had ever seen, stretching from Spain to India. Within a few hundred years of it’s’ inception, it had reduced the Byzantine empire to a shadow of its’ former glory, and had even sacked Rome in 846.
When Pope Urban II received a message for aid from the Byzantine Emperor in 1095, he gives a speech at Clermont to rally support. In it he is described by Robert of Reims to have said that the Muslims have, “invaded the lands of those Christians and has depopulated them by sword, pillage and fire” (Peter, 27). This, though plausible, is a vague statement that could be easily said of any Muslim incursion into Christian territory. The point of this statement is that Urban II is concerned about the Muslim conquest of Christian lands and is trying to rectify the situation. It is also clear from this statement that the religion of the enemy, though a cause for concern, is not the focus of the speech, nor the armed endeavor he is planning. Pope Urban II is not rallying support to wage a holy war against Islam, he is asking that the lands of Christians that have been taken be restored to their original status. This message is reinforced by another quote form Urban, this one from Fulcher of Chartes, “the Turks, a race of Persians, who have penetrated within the boundaries of Romania... in occupying more and more of the lands of the Christians, have overcome them... and...

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