Battles for the Holy Lands Changed Europe
The Crusades were a series of 8 Christian initiated battles against the Muslims. Christians believed that should rightfully possess the Holy Land, which was under Muslim control at the time, and began a movement inspiring their people to fight for control of it at all costs. These battles began in 1096 and ended in 1270 C.E. While the reasons to fight varied for individual crusaders, the ramifications of the crusades themselves are more universal. What began as a fight to win back possession of the Holy Lands eventually escalated religious intolerance, shifted political power, and increased trade and commerce. Before the Crusades, relationships between the Christians and the Muslims were strained, but the Crusades drastically increased religious persecution and intolerance between the two groups.
Although Jerusalem was under Muslim control before the Crusades, from many accounts, it would seem that Christians were still granted access to these Holy lands and allowed to worship there. In his account, Usama ibn Munqidh says, “When I went into the al-Aqsa Mosque—where the Templars, who are my friends, were—they would clear out that little mosque so that I could pray in it.” This uneasy agreement changed When Pope Urban the II called the Christians to war against the Muslims. He claimed that it was because they needed to recover Jerusalem and in return for their service, crusaders were promised immediate remission of sins. Pope Urban said, “All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins. This I grant them through the power of God with which I am invested”. Zealous crusaders used this call to not only justify persecution against Muslims in Jerusalem but also against anyone they believed did not stand with them in their Christian ideals. This included all Muslims and Jews who were the killers of Jesus himself. This increase in intolerance caused millions of deaths during the crusades and continues to affect the way people view and treat each other in the world today. Another effect of the Crusades was the shift in political power. Although the excommunication of Gregory VII had already begun to give the pope increasing power over the state when Emperor Alexius Comnenus asked Pope Urban II for support in regaining Jerusalem this political power shift increased even more. For the next 200 years, the religious fervor started by Pope Urban II continued.
Popes asserted that they had the ultimate rule and that the kings were subject to their judgment. However, as the crusades wore on, the power of the King began to rise again. Prior to the crusades the noblemen often had more control over their territory than the king did. As more and more of these noblemen went off to fight in the Crusades, many died and their lands went back to the state, and those who remained were more concerned about external enemies causing them to unite with the King in purpose. This shift in political power was an unexpected result of the Crusades. Finally, an additional impact the crusades had on the West was that it increased trade and commerce. As crusaders went off to other lands to fight, they were inadvertently exposed to new goods and ideas. They experienced new foods such as sugar, coffee, and rice and learned that the Muslims had been trading for these goods with people from the East. They also found that the Muslim traders had superior mirrors, compasses, and textiles, as well as other products not found in Europe. The desire for these items inspired Europeans to establish permanent trade networks of their own which they had never before had.
These routes revolutionized commerce in Europe and paved that way for a more sophisticated society as goods and ideas were spread among them. When Pope Urban II called for the Crusades, he hoped to regain control over the Holy Lands from the Muslims. After a series of 8 mostly unsuccessful crusades, the effects are much different and widespread than he likely imagined. Instead of Christian’s regaining control of Jerusalem, the crusades served to increase religious intolerance, alter political power, and revolutionize trade and commerce in Europe.