The Crusades: God's Will or Man's?

Essay by mamayersteinUniversity, Master'sA, July 2007

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Jerusalem and the Holy Lands came under Muslim rule as early as the 7th century. The next 700 years would bear witness to radical political, economic and religious changes in the world in general, and in the Holy Land in particular, that impact us to this very day. By AD 1000 Christianity was growing rapidly in a feudal Western Europe. The Papacy was about to secure its overall domination of the Western Church while, at the same time, it was streaking toward the inevitable schism of AD 1054 with the Eastern Church. Despite this turmoil, in the West the Catholic Church was a force in every area of life, and promised an eternal salvation into an existence much different than the difficult one currently being lived by both noble peasant classes alike. Also, Christians fully expected the imminent return of Jesus Christ, Who would establish His Millennial Kingdom and then bring judgment upon His people.

In a desperate desire to atone for their sins, and to avoid the looming specter of eternal damnation, the clergy was often consulted to determine what might be a suitable penance. Not surprisingly, "The Church itself still frequently imposed pilgrimage as a penance" . However, a pilgrimage to the Holy Land was expensive and not an easy task, as the road to Jerusalem was fraught with danger and pilgrims were often murdered by thieves. Those pilgrims who did return from the Holy City of Jerusalem …"recounted tales, often grossly exaggerated, of the horrible pollution of the sacred places at the hands of the Turks." Other stories, such as the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the burial place of Jesus, by the Turks surfaced in the early eleventh century. These stories and others, just as horrific to the minds of 11th century Christians,