2.1 The Crusades: Christian vs. Christian

Feudalism was a competitive political system: rival lords fought one another over land, honour, money and power. Knights didn't need any excuse to fight; they lived for it (it was their job). Knights were taught from a young age to both glorify war and live for the thrill of battle. Therefore, in an attempt to get Christians to stop fighting one another Pope Urban II called the Council of Clermont (1095).

At the Council of Clermont, the Pope commanded Christians to stop wasting their time killing one another so they could kill enemies of the faith. The true enemy, the Pope argued, were Muslims who occupied the birthplace of Jesus Christ. He commanded Christians to "take up the cross" and fight a crusade against the so-called Arab infidels.

Fulcher of Chartres quotes Urban II as saying the following during the Council of Clermont: "I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ's heralds to publish this everywhere and too persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and too destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends. I say this to those who are present, it is meant also for those who are absent. Moreover, Christ commands it."

To convince Christians to take up arms against Islam, Urban deliberately told lies about how Muslims were descecrating holy places and slaughtering Christians in Palestine. The Pope's lies convinced many knights it was their sacred duty to kill Saracens. Urban II sweetened the deal by offering to forgive the sins of any Christian who took up the cross; and if you happened to die during the crusade the Pope proimised you would automatically go to Heaven.

jerusalemNow the sad thing about the whole situation was that in Jerusaleim the Christians, Jews and Muslims actually lived quite peacefully together. (Some historians actually refer to Jerusalem before the First Crusade as one of the few genuine examples of a cosmopolis in history.) Although Muslims politically controlled Jerusalem and the surrounding lands, they allowed Christians and Jews to live there. Christians didn't need saving. Ironically, when the Christian armies of Western Europe finally arrived at Jerusalem and took the city they indiscriminantly killed Jews, Muslims and Christians.

By focusing the attention of Christians against the Muslim World, Urban II brought temporary peace and stability to Europe. In the process, he unleashed a mass migration of Christians to the Holy Land who ended up committing mass murder in the name of Jesus Christ. If this seems at all a contradiction, Urban II assured his followers that "God wills it!"