Short Catechism of Church History - J. Oechtering

The Crusades

91. Q. What were the crusades?

R. The crusades were sacred wars, undertaken by the chivalry of Christian nations for the deliverance of the Holy Land and the Sepulchre of Our Lord from Mohammedan oppression.

The name crusader is derived from the cross, which the warriors wore on their breasts as a sign of their undertaking.

92. Q. Name the principle crusades.

R. The First Crusade  was preached by Peter the Hermit, who had returned from the Holy Laud. He had witnessed the desecration of the holy places, where Our Lord suffered and died. Riding on a donkey through Europe, be aroused the Christian people by his fiery eloquence. At the great assembly of Clermont, under Pope Urban II., princes, knights, and people took the cross with the enthusiastic cry, "God wills it." Duke Godfrey of Bouillon led the immense army, and on July 15, 1099, Jerusalem was delivered from the Turks and became a Christian kingdom, with Godfrey as its king.

The Second Crusade  was under the leadership of Emperor Conrad III. of Germany, and Louis VII. of France, in the year 1147. It was preached by St. Bernard.

The Third Crusade, in 1189, was led by the emperor of Germany, Frederick Barbarossa, who gained brilliant victories over immense Turkish armies, but died suddenly at Tarsus while swimming on his horse through the Kalykadnus river. Philip Augustus, king of France, and the chivalrous Richard Lionheart, king of England, continued the crusade against the famous Sultan Saladin.

The Fourth Crusade  took place in the year 1203 under Baldwin of Flanders. It ended with the capture of Constantinople and the erection of the so-called Latin Empire on the Balkan Peninsula.

The Fifth Crusade  took place in the year 1217 under King Andrew II. of Hungary and Duke Leopold of Austria.

In the year 1212, thousands of children formed an army and went singing and praying through Europe for the deliverance of the Holy Sepulchre. It was called the Children's Crusade.

The last two crusades were undertaken by St. Louis IX., king of France.

When about to enter upon his last voyage (1270), St. Louis stood on the deck of his ship, holding the banner of France, and, looking once more towards his country and then up to Heaven, he said: "Now I have no other kingdom but that of Heaven." He died a holy death during the siege of Tunis in Africa.

93. Q. What were the results of the crusades?

R. 1) The crusades caused a great revival of religious fervor and Catholic unity.

2) They elevated the standard of Christian knighthood.

3) They advanced knowledge, science, and art.

4) They developed commerce and navigation.

5) They improved the condition of the lower and middle classes and increased the spirit of liberty and public charity.

94. Q. What great orders of Christian knights were founded in the Middle Ages for the defense of the Holy Sepulchre?

R. 1). Knights of St. John  ( A.D. 1099). Their military cloaks were black, with a large white cross. After the fall of Jerusalem, they moved to the Island of Rhodes and finally to Malta. Theirs is a record of grand faith, heroic bravery, and unstained honor.

2) Knights Templars  ( A.D. 1118), so called, because their fortified convent stood on the site of Solomon's Temple. Their cloaks were white, with a red cross. The order was abolished in 1311 by the council of Vienne at the urgent request of King Philip, the Fair, of France.

3) German Knights  ( A.D. 1143). Their cloaks were white, with a black cross. In the year 1226 they moved from Palestine to Prussia, where they defended the Christians against the inroads of the heathens.

95. Q. What did these knightly orders do?

R. These orders of knights protected and defended the pilgrims who came to the Holy Land, and fought the Turks in defense of the Holy Sepulchre.

The deep faith and piety, which animated these monks in armor, appear in the ritual of their reception: "Do you solemnly promise, beloved brother, in the name of God and the Blessed Virgin, to practice faithfully a lifelong obedience to your superiors? Do you promise perpetual celibacy and perfect purity of soul and body? Do you pledge yourself to renounce for ever all worldly goods, and to serve the order in poverty and submission, and to risk your life for the deliverance of the Holy Land? As you promise each and all of these things we receive you into the holy brotherhood, and promise you bread and water, the simple garb of our monastery, and labor and trials in abundance."

96. Q. Did the Turks continue to be a grave danger to Europe and Christianity?

R. The Turks continued to be a grave danger to Europe and Christianity. In the year 1453 they took Constantinople and the Balkan peninsula, and threatened Europe by continual attacks. The Angelus prayer was introduced to invoke God's help in the wars between the Cross and the crescent.

97. Q. In which great battles was the Turkish power finally reduced?

R. 1) Through the zealous efforts of Pope Pius V., a great fleet under Don Juan d'Austria was formed, and it annihilated the Turkish navy in a brilliant victory at Lepanto ( A.D. 1571). Thus the Turkish power, on sea, was broken forever.

2) In the year 1683, the Turkish land army was completely routed before the city of Vienna by Christian forces, composed of Poles under King Sobiesky, and of Germans under Charles of Lorraine.

3) In the battle of Belgrade ( A.D. 1717) Prince Eugene, famous as a Christian general in the songs of the people, destroyed the Turkish power on land.

98. Q. How was the Mohammedan power broken in Spain and Portugal?

R. From the time of the conquest of Spain and Portugal by the Mohammedans in the 8th century, the Christian chivalry fought them by continual crusades and with heroic bravery, until in the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella (A: D. 1492), the last Mohammedan ruler was forced to surrender and to leave the peninsula.

99. Q. To whom principally is the destruction of the terrible Turkish danger due?

R. The destruction of the Turkish power is due, mainly, to the popes who rallied the Christian nations to the defense, bore the greatest expense of these wars, and obtained divine help, through the recital of the Rosary and the Angelus in all Christian lands.

NOTE.—Chivalry or Christian knighthood of the middle ages owed all its grandeur to the elevating influence of the Church. Before her altar the candidate for knighthood had to bind himself by a solemn vow to defend the faith, the weak, and his country. Thus the warlike and indomitable spirit of the barbarian nations, which she had converted, was softened and consecrated to noble and ideal aims.