Kingdom of Heaven - WHY CRUSADE?

This map depicts the rapid spread of Islam, beginning with the Prophet Muhammad and continuing until 750. When Pope Urban II gave his call for a massive pilgrimage, later referred to as a Crusade, he encouraged people of Europe to reclaim the conquered lands. Map online, and copyright, Professor David Perry and Dominican University. Image provided here as fair use for educational purposes. Click on it for a better view.


Scholars today believe that outside the academic world, the Crusades are not well understood. Using new computer technologies to organize and study old archives and charters, they have learned much that is new.

Jonathan Riley-Smith, a Cambridge University professor, is widely known as the leading western authority on the Crusades. He has written for both serious students and popular culture. So has Thomas Madden, from St. Louis University, whose book Crusades: The Illustrated History is at once authoritative and approachable.

For modern insights and contemporary accounts from a Muslim point of view, we can look to The Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf.

Leading thinkers on the subject today insist that we cannot understand the Crusades by seeing them through modern eyes or by applying today's ideas and philosophies to medieval thought. As a case-in-point, would twelfth-century people understand today’s world?

Rather, we need to look at the records left behind and attempt to fit them within a reliable medieval context. Using that approach, scholars note the following key points:

  • Medieval people should be understood and judged on their own terms, not our terms.

  • Crusaders were not Europe’s "second sons" who were without land and future in their own country.

  • The costs to a Crusader were staggering, so the motivation to “free the Holy Land” had to be pious idealism, not greed.

  • Crusaders believed they were doing God’s will by expelling Muslim conquerors from former Christian lands.

  • Crusading, thus, was an act undertaken to do penance for one’s own sins and thereby gain eternal life.

Nearly half of those who left Europe on a crusade never returned. The slaughter, undertaken in the name of religion was - as it always is - incalculable.

The damage, caused by hundreds of warring years, still taints Western-Middle East / Christian-Muslim relations.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: May 01, 2005

Updated Last Revision: Mar 13, 2016

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"WHY CRUSADE?" AwesomeStories.com. May 01, 2005. Jan 26, 2020.
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