The Crusades Essay

1349 words - 5 pages

A major turning point in world history is the Crusades, which marked the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern times. In 1095, King Alexius of the Byzantine Empire asked Pope Urban II to help him organize an army to win back the Holy Land, Jerusalem, from the Muslims. The Christians set up several armies to fight in the Middle East. Several wars took place after the armies were assembled, they were called the Crusades, or the Holy Wars. Most of the wars took place in the Middle East and in Jerusalem and the Crusades overall lasted from 1095 until 1291. There still is a lot of controversy to this day as to what motivated the Christian soldiers to join the Crusades. However, the Christian soldiers' primary motivation was religious because by participating in the Crusades, one was also atoning for his or her sins, following God's will and regaining the Holy Land. Atoning for sins was a large part of Christian European life because religion was a large part of life and by joining the Crusades, the Europeans were being forgiven by God for their wrongdoings. People in Europe strongly believed that they needed to do good in order for God to forgive their sins. Traveling to the Holy Land and trying to win it back was a way to earn forgiveness from God. At the time, Europe: was one of the most guilt-ridden societies in history. Sin was ubiquitous in everyday life and the images of fire and torture so frequently depicted on churches reinforced the fear of eternal damnation. The need for all people -- whether rich or poor, nobles or laborers -- to atone for their actions helps to explain the level of enthusiasm for the crusaders' determination to fulfill their vows by completing the journey to Jerusalem. (Phillips) In Europe it was strongly suggested by the Church that one should earn forgiveness for his or her sins, and local churches enforced this by promoting harsh images of an afterlife in hell. These harsh images forced people to make right of their sins because if they did not, there would be punishment and worse, they would not be accepted into heaven and instead would spend eternity in hell. Because religion dominated everyday life, the concept of heaven and hell was very real. Being accepted into heaven and avoiding hell was perhaps the most important goal in life. People joined the Crusades in order to atone for their sins and gain entrance into heaven, a purely religious motivation. In addition, the Christian soldiers wanted to follow God's will, which was for the people to fight in the Crusades and this motivated people to join. According to Robert the Monk, Pope Urban II said: For, although the cry issued from numerous mouths, yet the origin of the cry was one. Therefore I say to you that God, who implanted this in your breasts, has drawn it forth from you. Let this then be your war-cry in combats, because this word is given to you by God. When an armed attack is made upon the enemy, let this one cry be raised by all the soldiers...

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