I. Causes of the Crusades.
In extending their conquests eastwards, the Saracens came into collision with the Turks, who, from the fall of the Hunnish Empire in the fifth century, had occupied the broad plains between the Caspian and the Indus. For about five hundred years the Turks were more or less under subjection to the Saracens, from whom they gained some slight notions of civilization, and whose religion they adopted. In the beginning of the eleventh century, the Turks began to rise against their masters and to carve out fresh territories for themselves. From the broad plains beyond the Caucasus they streamed down on western lands. These Turks were fierce warriors of Tartar descent, wild barbarians, savagely cruel, and animated with the most intense hatred of Christianity. Their leader, when they appeared on the confines of Europe, was Togrul Beg, grandson of a chieftain called Seljuk, from whom this race takes its name of Seljukian Turks. Pressing forward with irresistible perseverance, they conquered Armenia, Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt.
Their conquests were not like those of other nations. They never settled down peaceably among the vanquished people, but remained as an armed force in the midst of the few scattered wanderers who escaped the slaughter which had followed on the pillage of their homes and cities. The least provocation was sufficient to throw the invading hordes, with unbridled fury, on the miserable remnants of the subjugated people who then perished in thousands along their path.
The dominion of the Seljukian Turks lasted about two hundred years, and throughout the whole period they were never at peace. Their wretched subjects would organize revolts or join in the attack of frontier tribes. So we find the Turks constantly at war with Saracens, Kurds, and other Mohammedans, and note that sometimes one of these tribes and sometimes another successively obtained possession of the same spot. This was notably the case with Jerusalem.
The empire of the Seljukian Turks fell eventually through the combined efforts of European Christianity and of Mongol invasion. The work of European Christianity is known as the Crusades, which we are about to study. That of the Mongol Genghis Khan deserves a passing notice. This founder of a military empire, which only lasted about sixty-five years, began his career at the age of thirteen on the confines of the Pacific Ocean. His tribe held the vast pastoral plain up to the Wall of China, which had been built against the Huns—savage warriors who began their depredations in the second century B.C. After subduing all his neighbours, Genghis Khan started, in 1211, on that military raid of fourteen years which made him master of the wide lowlands from the shores of the Pacific to the eastern frontier of Germany. His whole army was composed of horsemen, and numbered some hundreds of thousands. They merely rode over the land, destroying everything they came across, robbing, slaying, and passing on, leaving ruin and desolation where, but a few weeks before, magnificent cities and happy homesteads had dotted the plains. Fiercer even than the Turks themselves, they boasted that where their horses' feet had trod nothing ever flourished again. Such were the savage warriors who, at the time when the later Crusades were on foot, helped to destroy the empire of the Turks. The Seljuks gave way before their fierce onslaught, but not before they themselves had threatened Europe, and had almost made themselves masters of Constantinople.
In speaking of the Turks, Cardinal Newman says: "This unhappy race, from the first moment they appear in the history of Christendom, are its unmitigated, its obstinate, its consistent foes." It is a mystery, but the fact stands, since the year IO48 the Turks have been the great antichrist among the races of men. From the first the Popes saw the frightful danger that the Turks would prove to Christendom, and had warned European Powers against allowing them to advance their frontier westward, and for seven centuries their voice was raised against them. St. Gregory VII. suggested the earliest idea of an expedition against them. In 1074 he told Henry IV. of Germany that he had fifty thousand men, whom he could send against the Turks. If this sovereign had turned his arms and devoted his prowess against the infidel instead of against the Pope, with what glory would he not have covered his name, and how different would have been the course of European history!
Towards the close of the eleventh century, when the Turks were still extending their conquests, their presence in Syria, where they had set up the Sultanate of Roum, was a considerable danger to the now decrepit Eastern Empire. Michael VII. appealed to Pope Gregory VII. for assistance; and there is no doubt that, had the zealous Pontiff been less engaged in contests with refractory ecclesiastics and haughty sovereigns, he would have prosecuted with his characteristic perseverance such a beneficent project. All through the Crusades the Greek Emperors played an important though a perfidious part. That the Crusades failed to attain the object for which they had been organized is largely due to the action of these monarchs. Constantly appealing to the West for help, they threw difficulties in the way of those who came to their assistance, refused the promised troops and provisions, and betrayed them into the hands of their savage foes. We shall see the retribution that befell them.
II. History of the Crusades
The occasion of the West taking up arms against the Turks was as follows: Pilgrimages to the scene of the life and the passion of our blessed Lord have always been a favourite devotion of Catholic peoples, and for some time previous to the Turkish invasion had been getting comparatively easy. But the ferocious new-comers treated all pilgrims with savage cruelty. Few escaped without fine, torture, or imprisonment. We are told of a band of seven thousand pilgrims, of whom only two thousand returned to Europe, and of horrible atrocities wreaked on the Patriarch of Jerusalem himself. Peter the Hermit, a monk of Amiens, returning from a long and painful pilgrimage in the Holy Land, recounted to Pope Urban II. not only the story of his own woes, but of those inflicted both on all pilgrims and on the Christians resident in Palestine. Peter was commanded by the Pope to tell the same sad tale throughout Christendom, and to endeavour to rouse the piety and kindle the warlike spirit of the knights with the desire of putting an end to such atrocities. In this he was eminently successful; and when, in 1095, the Pope called a Council at Clermont, in the South of France, and himself spoke in favour of a Holy War for the rescue of the sacred places and to ensure safety for pilgrims, he was answered by a mighty shout of "Deus vult!" (God wills it!), and thousands immediately offered themselves as warriors, receiving as a pledge of their engagement a red cross. This became the distinctive mark of the Christian heroes who enlisted for the Holy Wars, which were hence called Crusades.
A year was to be spent in preparation, but long before the day agreed upon for departure—namely, the Feast of the Assumption, 1096—several motley bands had set out of their own accord under the guidance of Peter the Hermit and a knight called Walter the Penniless. They marched overland towards Constantinople. Having no provisions, they indulged in pillage and plunder, and were slaughtered in thousands by the enraged populations of the lands through which they passed, their losses being greatest in Hungary. A few only crossed the Bosphorus into Asia Minor, where they were speedily exterminated.
By the given date six magnificent armies had been equipped and placed under the leadership of the most renowned knights of the time—men fitted by rank and virtue to lead such troops. The very flower of chivalry had gathered at the call of the pope. Their warlike ardour had not only a worthy, but a holy, object. They were thus fired with enthusiasm, springing from some of the best and strongest feelings of the human heart.
With unselfish generosity the knights chose Godfrey de Bouillon, Duke of Lower Lorraine (Brabant, Belgium), as their general. He was the bravest and most virtuous, and for these qualities he was placed over men who, though his superiors in rank, were proud to serve under his banner. Belgium gave several of the other leaders, among them the two brothers of Godfrey, and Robert, Count of Flanders. These, with Stephen, Count of Chartres, Robert, Duke of Normandy, and Hugh, Count of Vermandois, led the English, the Norman, and the French Crusaders. Raymond of Toulouse headed the armies of Burgundy, Provence, and Lombardy. The South of Italy sent a choice, though less numerous, band, led on by Bohemond of Tarentum, son of the famous Norman, Robert Guiscard. Perhaps the most renowned of all the knights was to be found in the last-named band. This was Tancred, later on Prince of Tiberias, a cousin of Bohemond, and the hero of many a tale of chivalric daring.
The glorious host gathered before Constantinople in the spring of 1097. The Greek Emperor, Alexius Comnenos, terrified at their multitude and their prowess, to ensure his own safety beguiled all the leaders, except Godfrey, Tancred, and Raymond, into doing him homage for the time they should pass in his territories. Then he gave them some very half-hearted assistance, and later on did all in his power to thwart their success.
The first exploit of the Crusaders was a seven weeks' siege of Nicaea, the capital of the Seljukian Turks. The place surrendered in June, and the vast army moved forward, harassed by the flying troops of Soliman, the Sultan, and his allies. The desperate battle of Dorylaeum, won by the Crusaders, opened the way into Syria. But the advancing army found that the retreating enemy had devastated the lands over which they had to pass, and thousands perished from hunger during the long and weary march. About four months were spent in the attempt to reach Antioch, the capital of Syria, and seven more in trying to take the city. The Crusading army gradually dwindled away, thinned by desertion and famine. Baldwin, the brother of Godfrey, had gone off on his own account with his contingent, and had taken possession of Edessa, of which he caused himself to be named Prince. At last Bohemond the Norman stormed Antioch by surprise a year after the taking of Nicaea. But once within the city, the Crusaders were in turn besieged; their situation grew desperate and courage was ebbing low, when the Holy Lance was miraculously discovered in the Church of St. Peter. This animated the Crusaders to fresh ardour, and Godfrey, Bohemond, and Tancred organized a sortie, and, fighting the besiegers outside the walls, forced them to flee. The way to Jerusalem was thus open. Bohemond was left behind to defend Antioch, and the scanty remnant of the magnificent army went on its way. It was May, 1099, When the Crusaders came in sight of Jerusalem, the goal of all their hopes.
But the enemy against whom the Crusades had been set on foot four years previously was no longer there. Jerusalem herself had been besieged
bile the Crusaders were starting to rescue her from the Turks, and it was a Saracen banner that again floated over her walls when the Christian host arrived. Godfrey and Tancred led men whose zeal was roused to the highest pitch of enthusiasm, and forty days sufficed to reduce the Saracens to submission. It was on July 15, 1099, a Friday afternoon, at three o'clock, when Godfrey planted the cross on the walls of Jerusalem. The Holy City was once more in Christian hands after four hundred and sixty-three years of captivity under Moslem rule. In the fury awakened by stern resistance, a fearful massacre ensued. At last the tide of carnage was stemmed, and the Crusaders, humbled and penitent, visited the holy places they had come to rescue.
The Holy City with the surrounding territory became the kingdom of Jerusalem, Godfrey de Bouillon being elected as its first sovereign. He would accept neither crown nor title, but the toils and anxiety of government he did not decline. As defender of the Holy Sepulchre, he ruled wisely for one short year, during which the famous Assizes of Jerusalem were held, when a code of laws, based on the feudal law of Europe, was given to the newly founded kingdom and the subordinate principalities. Godfrey had also won a complete victory over the Egyptian Sultan at Ascalon, and so firmly established the Christian power that it lasted for a hundred years. His brother and cousin succeeded him, as Baldwin I. and Baldwin II. Three lesser States had been founded, the principalities of Antioch (under Bohemond of Tarentum) and of Edessa, and the County of Tripoli, which comprised the territory between Antioch and Jerusalem. These principalities gradually increased in power, and the safety of pilgrims was thus ensured. All the newly conquered lands were divided into dioceses, with Jerusalem as the seat of a Patriarch.
But attacks from the vanquished enemy had to be guarded against, and a number of knights remained to defend the Holy Places, when the other Crusaders returned to Europe. Gradually many of them formed into religious communities, and without giving up their warlike duties, they took the monastic vows and led the life of the cloister when not engaged in actual combat. Their work included the care of the sick and of pilgrims. In all ports at which pilgrims touched on their way to and from the Holy Land these military monks were shortly to be found devoting themselves with untiring ardour to the task of facilitating the journeys of the pious travellers, and defending them from all enemies.
Barely fifty years passed before a second Crusade became necessary. The Latin princes were not agreed among themselves, and while thus weakened they were attacked by Zenghi, the Turkish Sultan of Aleppo, and Edessa was retaken in 1145, the Christian inhabitants being put to the sword.
All Europe was roused at the news. St. Bernard of Clairvaux was urged by Pope Eugenius III. to preach a new Crusade. Fired with a zeal equal to that of Peter the Hermit, and already renowned for the sanctity of his life, the great abbot's influence soon made itself felt. The German
Emperor Conrad III. (father of Frederic Barbarossa), and the French King Louis VII., took the cross. Their armies advanced separately. Conrad, whose troops were accompanied by a vast multitude of priests, women, and children, took the same route as the preceding Crusaders, and passed by Constantinople. The Greek Emperor, Manuel Comnenos I., did all in his power to stop their progress. He deceived them with fair promises, robbed them of their money, gave them bad provisions, and, it is said, betrayed them to their enemies. Conrad's army was almost cut to pieces in Asia Minor, and the survivors retreated to Nicaea. There the French army met them, and a march towards Jerusalem was decided on. But envoys came from the Holy City begging the Crusaders to abandon all thoughts of retaking Edessa, and to endeavour to capture Damascus instead. After an unsuccessful siege of that city, and a series of battles with the hordes of Turks, who swarmed round the advancing army, the Christians had to beat a speedy retreat. News of disorder at home induced the Crusading kings to return to Europe. The second Crusade was an utter failure. St. Bernard had to suffer a full measure of reproach for having induced such a magnificent body of men to go forward to destruction. Though intensely grieved at the disaster, St. Bernard answered that he had been but an instrument in God's hands, that the cause must be sought for in the excesses of the Crusaders themselves.
The collapse of the Second Crusade encouraged the Turks, who, under Nureddin, son of Zenghi of Aleppo, extended their territory to the frontiers of Africa, where their advance was checked by another Mohammedan power, just rising into prominence. Saladin, a Kurdish chief, had already made himself master of Egypt. On the death of Nureddin he declared himself Sultan, and in an incredibly short time added that monarch's domains to his own. The young and enterprising Saladin is one of the finest characters among Moslem sovereigns. His rule was wise and generous; he was a lion of bravery and a courteous and honourable foe. In 1187, Saladin, who was by this time making himself master of the whole of Palestine, overthrew the Crusaders at Tiberias, the King of Jerusalem and the Grand Masters of the Templars and of the Knights of St. John being among the prisoners. He then took Jerusalem from the diminished band of Christian defenders, and the work of nigh a hundred years was overthrown.
The terrible news startled the chivalry of Europe. Private quarrels were forgotten in the common woe, and the noblest sovereigns gathered their troops round them and marched towards the Holy Land. Frederic I. (Barbarossa), the German Emperor, who had during the earlier part of his reign carried on an ignoble strife against the Popes, and who now desired to repair his errors, started first. His route was overland, and this time the Greek Emperor, Isaac II. (Angelus), was forced to assist the Crusaders, but when they reached Asia Minor their progress was harassed night and day by armed bands of Turks. The march to Iconium may be styled a twenty days' battle, so fierce and ceaseless were their onslaughts. Frederic took this city, and thus opened the way for the other armies, but he was drowned while crossing the Cydnus, and such of his troops as were not disbanded joined the banner of Guy of Lusignan. Henry II. of England had taken the cross on the first news of the fall of Jerusalem, but he died almost immediately after. His warlike son, Richard Coeur de Lion, was only too ready to go in his place. Seeing that disaster had always overtaken the forces which took the land route to Jerusalem, Richard of England and Philip Augustus of France determined on going by sea. Through his erratic exploits on the way, Richard was the last to arrive. Philip Augustus was besieging Acre with little prospect of success, when Richard's presence and the arrival of fresh troops speedily secured victory to the Crusaders. Philip Augustus, partly through jealous quarrels with Richard and partly through ill-health, returned to Europe, taking with him two-thirds of his fine army. Only ten thousand Frenchmen remained to co-operate with Richard. The fall of Caesarea and Jaffa followed, but the troops were not numerous enough to allow of a siege of Jerusalem, one of the strongest cities on the globe. The English King therefore signed a truce with his generous enemy Saladin, who agreed that Christians should have free access to the Holy Places. The Holy Cross, which had fallen into Moslem hands, was restored; and for a time at least the advance of Mohammedan conquests in the direction of Europe was arrested.
So many unsuccessful attempts to recover the Holy Places were made during the next thirty years that historians differ considerably as to which merit the name of Crusade. The greater number pass over the abortive efforts of Henry II. of Germany, and give the name to an expedition in 1202, headed by Baldwin of Flanders and Boniface of Montferrat, although it never even reached the Holy Land. Pope Innocent III. instigated this attempt, but warned the Crusaders (and the event showed with what good reason) that if they undertook to right political wrongs on the way the object of their war would be lost sight of.
No great princes joined in this Crusade, but a number of feudal lords with their retainers swelled the armies of Baldwin and Boniface. English readers will be most interested to hear of Simon de Montfort, father of the founder of the first House of Commons, and of Louis of Blois, of the same family as the English King Stephen. The Crusaders secured the assistance of the important maritime city of Venice, which lent its ships on condition that the army should recover the town of Zara in Dalmatia for the Republic. The Doge, Enrico Dandolo, accompanied the fleet, and was speedily recognized as the leading spirit among the Crusaders. His aim, however, was not to take Jerusalem, but to storm Constantinople, with which city the Venetian Republic was at feud. Circumstances favoured his project.
Isaac II. (Angelus), Emperor of the East, had shortly before been deposed, blinded, and imprisoned by his unnatural brother, Alexis III., the Tyrant. The son of the captive monarch met the Crusaders, and implored them to free his father. A siege was decided on, and the Western troops invested the place. The usurper fled, and the old king and his son shared the throne between them. But they had promised, as a condition of assistance being given, to reunite the Eastern Church with the Western, and to assist the Crusaders by means of heavy subsidies. The populace, angered at the imposition of the taxes thus rendered necessary, massacred the newly-reinstated sovereigns, and civil war ensued. The Crusaders, profiting by the disorder, seized Constantinople. By the influence of Dandolo the Doge, a Latin Government was set up, and Baldwin of Flanders was declared emperor.
If anything had been wanting to complete the animosity of the Greeks against the West it was this. All hope of the reunion of the schismatic Eastern Church with Rome was over, and, as the Pope had foreseen, the Crusade itself was abandoned. The Byzantine or Greek Empire was broken up for a time. Two so-called empires came into existence—that of Nicaea, comprising the northwest of Asia Minor, and that of Trebizond, along the southern shores of the Black Sea. Greece and Epirus still owned the Greek yoke, but the Venetians took possession of most of the Grecian islands of the Archipelago, and thus Venice became mistress of the Mediterranean. Constantinople was retaken by the Nicaean Emperor, Michael Palologus, in 1261, after the Latin Empire had lasted fifty-seven years.
Owing to the failure of the Fourth Crusade, another was set on foot by the King of Hungary and John of Brienne, titular King of Jerusalem. Numerous bands of knights from other lands set out, but having no concerted plan of action, they were doomed not to succeed. This Crusade is only remarkable for the change in tactics adopted by the Crusaders. They determined on advancing through Egypt and on seizing Cairo as the key to the Holy Land. Damietta was captured, but had to be restored, as the only means of securing a peaceable retreat for the Crusaders who were shut in by the rising of the Nile.
At the twelfth General Council, the fourth Lateran, 1215, it was decided that a renewed attempt must be made to rescue Palestine. Frederic II. of Germany was the most powerful monarch of Christendom, and in virtue of his position ought to have taken the lead; he had, moreover, pledged himself by oath to join the Crusades. During ten years Pope Honorius III. vainly urged him to carry out his promise. At last a magnificent army gathered in the ports of the Mediterranean—it is said that sixty thousand Englishmen alone were there, who had joined in response to the preaching of St. Edmund Rich. No transports were forthcoming, and forty thousand Crusaders perished of hunger and pestilence while waiting for the perfidious monarch. At last the merited excommunication fell. Then, without an attempt at reconciliation with the Church, Frederic started for the Holy Land. But no fighting took place, and the German sovereign was accused at the time of bribing the Sultan to grant a shameful peace. There was to be truce for ten years; some of the Holy Places were restored to the Christians, and Frederic was to be recognized as King of Jerusalem. He crowned himself, because no one could be found to crown an excommunicated prince; and after amusing himself during some months and fraternizing with the Moslems, Frederic returned home to commence a still wilder career of wickedness than that in which he had hitherto indulged. In spite of the inroads of the Mongols, who were now advancing westwards, the Turkish hordes were able to possess themselves again of Jerusalem, 1243. The Holy City to this day remains in the hands of the Mohammedans.
(A.D. 1248–1250 and 1270–1274.)
The deplorable state to which Palestine was again reduced, together with the lessening power of the Seljukian Turks, now fiercely attacked by Mongols, and a vow he had made in sickness to take the Cross if he recovered, caused the saintly king Louis IX. of France to undertake the Seventh Crusade, 1248. His army of forty thousand men was composed almost entirely of Frenchmen, and he was accompanied by his virtuous and beautiful queen, Margaret of Provence, and all his children. The queen-mother, blanche of Castile, was left Regent of France during the king's absence. The troops were delayed in Cyprus waiting for reinforcements, and it was during the Nile floods that an attack on Damietta was made. By desperate bravery the town was taken, but another time of waiting for more troops proved fatal to success. The army could not get across the flooded delta, nor ford the canals. At length a bridge was constructed across the Mansourah Canal. But the king's brother, the Count of Artois, impatient of the wiser counsel of the Earl of Salisbury, without waiting till the whole army had crossed, dashed at the Mamelukes, fierce warriors who were defending the opposite bank, and a most unequal battle was fought. The bravery of St. Louis won that fight and a second shortly after, but victory was useless to troops who were dying of malaria.
Harassed, decimated, and struck down by disease, the French army was captured by the Mamelukes, Louis himself, exhausted by fever, and his brother being among the prisoners. The greater number were slain, and Damietta was hourly expecting an attack, when the Egyptian Sultan died. Then the fierce chief of the Mamelukes was slain. This proved the safety of the French, for the widow of the Sultan accepted the terms that had been offered by St. Louis. Damietta was given up as the king's ransom, and a million of gold bezants was paid down for that of the troops. The French queen and her retinue were put on board ship, and St. Louis and the prisoners were freed. The king's splendid courage and manly piety had won the admiration of even his savage captors. Ill though he was, Louis remained behind with a few companies of soldiers and went on to Palestine, where he strengthened Acre and the other coast cities, so that they were able to make a stand against the Turks. He also made a pilgrimage to the Holy Places, but the death of his mother, the Queen Regent, recalled him to France, 1254.
ST. LOUIS ENTERING PARIS WITH THE HOLY CROWN OF THORNS.
The Turks continued to lose their hold on the Western Provinces while the Mongols were consolidating their power. This encouraged the Saracens of Egypt to fresh action, and they seized Antioch. In 1270 St. Louis set out for the Holy Land for what proved to be the final attempt at rescuing Palestine from the infidels. His allies were his own relatives, three of his sons, his two brothers, two of his nephews (one being Prince Edward of England), and his son-in-law, the King of Navarre. Louis was led to believe that if he appeared before Tunis, the Sultan would become a Christian. He therefore landed his troops on the sandy plains near the site of the ancient Carthage. Whether or no a trap had been laid for him, the result was most disastrous. Louis, with no means of defence, was soon surrounded by enemies. Pestilence, fostered by foul water and the intolerable heat of the sun, broke out among the harassed troops. The king was at last struck down, and amid sufferings borne with heroic patience, he gave counsels of great practical wisdom to his son, afterwards Philip III., and endeavoured to provide for the safety of his followers. Prince Edward landed in time to hear that Louis had just died, August 25, 1270, and that success was almost hopeless. The French troops returned home, but Edward went on to Palestine, though even his bravery could not rescue the Holy City. He, too, had to abandon the undertaking, and was on his way back to England when he was met with the tidings of his father's death and of his own accession, 1272. The Egyptian Saracens continued their career of conquest, and one Christian town after another fell into their hands. Acre was the last to hold out, but it, too, was taken in 1291, and the Latin dominion in the East was a thing of the past.
III. Results of the Crusades
Though the Crusades failed to achieve the purpose for which they were set on foot, their influence on the subsequent history of Europe can hardly be overestimated. From the time that the movement began there can be noticed a rapid development of political and constitutional liberty, together with a growth of commerce, industry, and learning, that changed the face of nations.
The decay of feudalism can most certainly be traced to these wars. Nobles sold or let their vast estates to tenants who could afford to pay them the money necessary for the equipment of their crusading troops. Thus, property and power passed into the hands of the rising middle classes, for, even if the crusader returned, he was rarely in a position to redeem his estates. Indirectly the influence of the sovereign rose, as he was no longer confronted by peers who were his rivals in dominions and often in power. The decay of feudalism not only meant the cessation of the private wars, which had been the bane of society for several centuries, but the growth of towns. This alone would have sufficed to effect a momentous change in politics.
Nations came to know each other better. In the brotherhood born of combats shared, of sufferings and toils endured for a common and holy cause, there was a beginning of communion between the various Western peoples. National prejudices, the result of ignorance and isolation, began to give way, and "the education of European States in a common school tended to promote manifold bonds of union in trade, language, civilization, and polish." The West learned from the East many sciences hitherto little cultivated. Mathematics and medicine began to be taught in Europe, the medieval schoolmen devoting considerable attention to developing the stores of learning which were thus opened up. Maritime routes laid open for military enterprise continued to be traversed for purposes of commerce; rich stuffs and precious gems were imported into European marts, and the sight of such rarities gave a new impetus to Western manufacturers.
That the Crusades were a great benefit to after years is now almost universally acknowledged. "The people of those ages were substantially right in regarding the Crusades as the means of forcing back the tide of Mohammedan eruption and Asiatic barbarism at the critical period of extreme danger for Europe. . . . It is now admitted that the survival of any Christianity at all in Asia was due to the Crusades; that the expulsion of the Moors from Spain and Portugal was part of the movement; and that the knights of Rhodes and Malta, whose splendid valour saved the nations of the Mediterranean, were the direct progeny of previous heroism."
While many of the more recent writers recognize the Crusades as a necessary and beneficial feature of the Middle Ages, it often escapes notice that they were not only no small indication of the intensely religious character of the age in which they occurred, but that they fostered that spirit by the heroism of self-sacrifice, and by the splendour of the faith which they evoked. The appreciation of the supernatural must have been keen in men who could give up everything that they held dear on earth for so unworldly an aim as the freedom of the Holy Places. That brave warriors fresh from conquests should have bound themselves by monastic vows, and thus originated that most characteristic and extraordinary product of religious medievalism—the military monk—is a still further demonstration of the same fact. The result on their contemporaries could not but be marked. So we note that from this time forward there is an immense activity in every religious movement. Thus the beneficent action of the Popes on the clergy was seconded by an admirable spirit of faith in the laity; and not the least gain to the Church was the multitude of her sons who gave up their lives in defence of their belief, and who thus testified to the supremacy of the claims of the supernatural over those of the natural man.