What is a Crusade? How did a Crusader crusade? What caused him to seek “holy war?” Is a Crusade a Holy War or a Pilgrimage? Did a crusader only leave to find his own economic benefits? What caused the success of the first crusaders? These are some of the many questions that laid before me when I started my research. The crusading movements are such widely debated among the modern historian that they leave many readers confused about what actually caused the crusades, and what a crusade actually entails. In the coming pages I hope to give my reader something to ponder, understand, and acknowledge about it’s origins, and eventually lead my reader into the first crusading movement. Thus, the argument I intend to make examines the events in previous centuries, and the culmination of political and moral changes, as well as economic ones that occurred before Urban’s call for crusade. We will explore Feudalism, it’s war-centric society and how this caused Urban (as well as some Popes and religious figures before him) to seek a peaceable solution that would ensure safety for the clergy, the peasant, and the non-violent. Furthermore, Pope Urban sought to continue Pope Gregory's (and Cluniac) reform to solidify Papal authority over Christendom, and respond to years of Muslim raids along the Mediterranean and upper Italian Coastlines that threatened Italian unity. In effect, the first crusading movement represented and embodied the European culture, society, and ideologies of the time.
The rise of feudalism in Europe has also been debated about by historians. A feudal society may have formed in the later Merovingian dynasty where a variety of capitularies slowly made the peasant more reliant, and subservient to his lord. Though we see the first signs of a developing feudal society during that period, we cannot confuse the Merovingian land based agreements with that of the 10th century feudal one. Under the Carolingians, peasant society found itself forced into a crop share agreement with their local lord. In essence, the seignorial society declared that land was owned by one unit, usually a lord, lady, bishop, or monastery, whom rented out “his” land to a working class peasant. The peasant would thence work on the lord's demesne, in which all its produce would go to the lord; in return, the peasant received his own (rented) land to support his family. This set a basic social and economic unit that would take a central role in Feudal society. Feudalism indeed came into being during the later stages of the Carolingian rule. After Charlemagne's death in 814, his son, Louis the Pious, found himself on a precarious, if not unstable throne. The local lord became unruly, doing as he pleased. His sons sought to depose him; more severely, new enemies attacked Christendom from the North, South, and East.
Europe found itself constantly assaulted, a time when they were on the defensive against savage attacks from all known fronts. When Vikings attacked...