§ 58. The Last Stronghold of the Crusaders in Palestine.
With Louis the last hope of Christian tenure of any part of Palestine was gone. At his death the French army disbanded.
In 1271 Edward, son and heir of Henry III. of England, reached Acre by way of Tunis. His expedition was but a wing of Louis’s army. A loan of 30,000 marks from the French king enabled him to prepare the armament. His consort Eleanor was with him, and a daughter born on the Syrian coast was called Joan of Acre. Before returning to England to assume the crown, he concluded an empty treaty of peace for ten years.
Attempts were made to again fan the embers of the once fervid enthusiasm into a flame, but in vain. Gregory X., who was in the Holy Land at the time of his election to the papal chair, carried with him westward a passionate purpose to help the struggling Latin colonies in Palestine. Before leaving Acre, 1272, he preached from Ps. 137:5, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth." His appeals, issued a day or two after his coronation, met with little response. The Council of Lyons, 1274, which he convened, had for its chief object the arrangements for a Crusade. Two years later Gregory died, and the enterprise was abandoned.
In 1289 Tripoli was lost, and the bitter rivalry between the Military Orders hastened the surrender of Acre, 1291,481 and with it all Christian rule in Syria was brought to an end. The Templars and Hospitallers escaped. The population of sixty thousand was reduced to slavery or put to the sword. For one hundred and fifty years Acre had been the metropolis of Latin life in the East. It had furnished a camp for army after army, and witnessed the entry and departure of kings and queens from the chief states of Europe. But the city was also a byword for turbulence and vice. Nicolas IV. had sent ships to aid the besieged, and again called upon the princes of Europe for help; but his call fell on closed ears.
As the Crusades progressed, a voice was lifted here and there calling in question the religious propriety of such movements and their ultimate value. At the close of the twelfth century, the abbot Joachim complained that the popes were making them a pretext for their own aggrandizement, and upon the basis of Joshua 6:26; 1 Kings 16:24, he predicted a curse upon an attempt to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. "Let the popes," he said, "mourn over their own Jerusalem—that is, the universal Church not built with hands and purchased by divine blood, and not over the fallen Jerusalem."482 Humbert de Romanis, general of the Dominicans, in making out a list of matters to be handled at the Council of Lyons, 1274, felt obliged to refute no less than seven objections to the Crusades. They were such as these. It was contrary to the precepts of the New Testament to advance religion by the sword; Christians may defend themselves, but have no right to invade the lands of another; it is wrong to shed the blood of unbelievers and Saracens; and the disasters of the Crusades proved they were contrary to the will of God.483
Raymundus Lullus, after returning from his mission to North Africa, in 1308, declared484 "that the conquest of the Holy Land should be attempted in no other way than as Christ and the Apostles undertook to accomplish it—by prayers, tears, and the offering up of our own lives. Many are the princes and knights that have gone to the Promised Land with a view to conquer it, but if this mode had been pleasing to the Lord, they would assuredly have wrested it from the Saracens before this. Thus it is manifest to pious monks that Thou art daily waiting for them to do for love to Thee what Thou hast done from love to them."
The successors of Nicolas IV., however, continued to cling to the idea of conquering the Holy Land by arms. During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries they made repeated appeals to the piety and chivalry of Western Europe, but these were voices as from another age. The deliverance of Palestine by the sword was a dead issue. New problems were engaging men’s minds. The authority of the popes—now in exile in Avignon, now given to a luxurious life at Rome, or engaged in wars over papal territory—was incompetent to unite and direct the energies of Europe as it had once done. They did not discern the signs of the times. More important tasks there were for Christendom to accomplish than to rescue the holy places of the East.
Erasmus struck the right note and expressed the view of a later age. Writing at the very close of the Middle Ages making an appeal485 for the proclamation of the Gospel by preaching and speaking of wars against the Turks, he said, "Truly, it is not meet to declare ourselves Christian men by killing very many but by saving very many, not if we send thousands of heathen people to hell, but if we make many infidels Christian; not if we cruelly curse and excommunicate, but if we with devout prayers and with our hearts desire their health, and pray unto God, to send them better minds."486
§ 59. Effects of the Crusades.
"... The knights’ bones are dust
And their good swords are rust;
Their souls are with the saints, we trust."
The Crusades failed in three respects. The Holy Land was not won. The advance of Islam was not permanently checked. The schism between the East and the West was not healed. These were the primary objects of the Crusades.
They were the cause of great evils. As a school of practical religion and morals, they were no doubt disastrous for most of the Crusaders. They were attended by all the usual demoralizing influences of war and the sojourn of armies in an enemy’s country. The vices of the Crusading camps were a source of deep shame in Europe. Popes lamented them. Bernard exposed them. Writers set forth the fatal mistake of those who were eager to make conquest of the earthly Jerusalem and were forgetful of the heavenly city. "Many wended their way to the holy city, unmindful that our Jerusalem is not here." So wrote the Englishman, Walter Map, after Saladin’s victories in 1187.
The schism between the East and the West was widened by the insolent action of the popes in establishing Latin patriarchates in the East and their consent to the establishment of the Latin empire of Constantinople. The memory of the indignities heaped upon Greek emperors and ecclesiastics has not yet been forgotten.
Another evil was the deepening of the contempt and hatred in the minds of the Mohammedans for the doctrines of Christianity. The savagery of the Christian soldiery, their unscrupulous treatment of property, and the bitter rancors in the Crusading camps were a disgraceful spectacle which could have but one effect upon the peoples of the East. While the Crusades were still in progress, the objection was made in Western Europe, that they were not followed by spiritual fruits, but that on the contrary the Saracens were converted to blasphemy rather than to the faith. Being killed, they were sent to hell.487
Again, the Crusades gave occasion for the rapid development of the system of papal indulgences, which became a dogma of the mediaeval theologians. The practice, once begun by Urban II. at the very outset of the movement, was extended further and further until indulgence for sins was promised not only for the warrior who took up arms against the Saracens in the East, but for those who were willing to fight against Christian heretics in Western Europe. Indulgences became a part of the very heart of the sacrament of penance, and did incalculable damage to the moral sense of Christendom. To this evil was added the exorbitant taxations levied by the popes and their emissaries. Matthew Paris complains of this extortion for the expenses of Crusades as a stain upon that holy cause.488
And yet the Crusades were not in vain. It is not possible to suppose that Providence did not carry out some important, immediate and ultimate purpose for the advancement of mankind through this long war, extending over two hundred years, and involving some of the best vital forces of two continents. It may not always be easy to distinguish between the effects of the Crusades and the effects of other forces active in this period, or to draw an even balance between them. But it may be regarded as certain that they made far-reaching contributions to the great moral, religious, and social change which the institutions of Europe underwent in the latter half of the Middle Ages.
First, the Crusades engaged the minds of men in the contemplation of a high and unselfish aim. The rescue of the Holy Sepulchre was a religious passion, drawing attention away from the petty struggles of ecclesiastics in the assertion of priestly prerogative, from the violent conflict of papacy and empire, and from the humdrum casuistry of scholastic and conventual dispute.489 Even Gibbon490 admits that "the controlling emotion with the most of the Crusaders was, beyond question, a lofty ideal of enthusiasm."
Considered in their effects upon the papacy, they offered it an unexampled opportunity for the extension of its authority. But on the other hand, by educating the laity and developing secular interests, they also aided in undermining the power of the hierarchy.
As for the political institutions of Europe, they called forth and developed that spirit of nationality which resulted in the consolidation of the states of Europe in the form which they have since retained with little change. When the Crusades began, feudalism flourished. When the Crusades closed, feudalism was decadent throughout Europe, and had largely disappeared from parts of it. The need petty knights and great nobles had to furnish themselves with adequate equipments, led to the pawn or sale of their estates and their prolonged absence gave sovereigns a rare opportunity to extend their authority. And in the adjoining camps of armies on Syrian soil, the customs and pride of independent national life were fostered.
Upon the literature and individual intelligence of Western Europe, the Crusades, no doubt, exerted a powerful influence, although it may not be possible to weigh that influence in exact balances. It was a matter of great importance that men of all classes, from the emperor to the poorest serf, came into personal contact on the march and in the camp. They were equals in a common cause, and learned that they possessed the traits of a common humanity, of which the isolation of the baronial hall kept them ignorant. The emancipating effect which travel may always be expected to exert, was deeply felt.491 The knowledge of human customs and geography was enlarged. Richard of Hoveden is able to give the distances from place to place from England to the Holy Land. A respectable collection of historical works grew out of the expeditions, from the earliest annalists of the First Crusade, who wrote in Latin, to Villehardouin and John de Joinville who wrote in French. The fountains of story and romance were struck, and to posterity were contributed the inspiring figures of Godfrey, Tancred, and St. Louis—soldiers who realized the ideal of Christian chivalry.
As for commerce, it would be hazardous to say that the enterprise of the Italian ports would not, in time, have developed by the usual incentives of Eastern trade and the impulse of marine enterprise then astir. It cannot be doubted, however, that the Crusades gave to commerce an immense impetus. The fleets of Marseilles and the Italian ports were greatly enlarged through the demands for the transportation of tens of thousands of Crusaders; and the Pisans, Genoese, and Venetians were busy in traffic at Acre, Damietta, and other ports.492
In these various ways the spell of ignorance and narrowing prejudice was broken, and to the mind of Western Europe a new horizon of thought and acquisition was opened, and remotely within that horizon lay the institutions and ambitions of our modern civilization.
After the lapse of six centuries and more, the Crusades still have their stirring lessons of wisdom and warning, and these are not the least important of their results. The elevating spectacle of devotion to an unselfish aim has seldom been repeated in the history of religion on so grand a scale. This spectacle continues to be an inspiration. The very word "crusade" is synonymous with a lofty moral or religious movement, as the word "gospel" has come to be used to signify every message of good.
The Crusades also furnish the perpetual reminder that not in localities is the Church to seek its holiest satisfaction and not by the sword is the Church to win its way; but by the message of peace, by appeals to the heart and conscience, and by teaching the ministries of prayer and devout worship is she to accomplish her mission. The Crusader kneeling in the church of the Holy Sepulchre learned the meaning of the words, "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, He is risen." And all succeeding generations know the meaning of these words better for his pilgrimage and his mistake.
Approaching the Crusades in enthusiasm, but differing from them as widely as the East is from the West in methods and also in results, has been the movement of modern Protestant missions to the heathen world which has witnessed no shedding of blood, save the blood of its own Christian emissaries, men and women, whose aims have been not the conquest of territory, but the redemption of the race.493