The Crusades?


Do you think the Crusades were a just war?


My vote: “Some but not all”

I don’t think anyone could justify the one where Roman Catholics sacked Constantinople. Perhaps if they’d actually made war on the right people it would have been just…

The Crusades as we generally lump them together, however, were instrumental in preventing the spread of Islam into the Western world. The Church as we know it may have ceased to exist if the Crusades had not occurred.


Well, we have to be very careful that we don’t put 21st century judgments onto 11th century (through 18th century) people.

Hindsight is always 20/20, and of course, we have the enviable position of being able to look on events AFTER they took place, when the people involved in the events certainly were NOT able to do so.

Was the Second World War a moral, just war? Were there episodes in it which were not? It’s not all “black and white”.

I don’t think that one can really ask, “was an event JUST” . . .there are too many factors, and the words themselves mean different things because of the emphasis that our current society places on them.

Justice, in the 12th century, almost always involved death sentences. Justice in the 21st century in the enlightened societies of today rarely does so.

Does that mean that people were WRONG then in their judgments, and RIGHT now. . .or vice versa?

I think not. One must be very careful to take time to understand the context of a given event, including the society of the time AND the culture and traditions BEFORE that event. What happened AFTER the event is important, true, but it would not have been known before or during the event.


[quote=JP2ImissU]Do you think the Crusades were a just war?

really want to know?


Best answer I’ve seen thus far:

I also highly recommend his book: “A Concise History of the Crusades.” Very short, easy read but full of detail.


Likely yes. Remember who started the whole jihad thing. The Byzantine Empire had been pressed into defensive position for centuries already at that time at the outskirts of Christendom. The lands in question belonged to Eastern Rome less than four hundred years before.

The bad thing was the great slaughters, the hipocrysy associated with sword-point conversions and sanctimonious attitudes of “holy warriors” who deserved excommunication more than anything else, and so on.


[quote=Tantum ergo]Well, we have to be very careful that we don’t put 21st century judgments onto 11th century (through 18th century) people.

I read that Cardinal Ratzinger gave a strong homily on the dangers of relativism recently. I don’t think that plunder, killing of Orthodox clergy, raping of Orthodox nuns, and vandalism can be justified.

According to an article by Nicholas A. Cooke:
“After receiving absolution, the Crusaders attacked. Constantinople fell after three days of the final, furious attack by land and by sea. Once inside the walls, the Crusaders began an orgy of carnage, brutality and vandalism not seen in Europe since the barbarians invaded seven centuries earlier. No one was spared: not bishop, priest, nun, man, woman or child. Few women escaped being violated, whether at home, in the street, or in the convent. Fires were started throughout the city. The butchery ended only when the Crusaders were so tired that they no longer could lift their swords. Then began looting and profanation on a scale unparalleled in history. A mob rushed into Santa Sophia. With the Image of the Pantacrator looking down upon them from the great dome, they broke up the altar for its gold content, smashed the icons, threw the Holy Gifts to the floor, seized the church vessels for their Jewels, and tore mosaics and tapestries from the walls. Horses and mules were brought into the church the better to carry off the sacred vessels, gold, silver, and whatever else they could gather. Drunken soldiers drank from chalices and ate from patens while riding asses draped with priestly vestments. A mocking prostitute was placed on the Patriarch’s chair to dance and sing obscene songs. This pattern of pilferage and desecration was repeated in churches, monasteries and palaces throughout the city. The tombs of the emperors were rifled, and all of the classical statues and monuments which had survived from ancient Greece and imperial Rome were destroyed. One writer wrote that never in history had so much beauty, so much superb craftsmanship been so wantonly destroyed in so short a space of time. What was not carried off was burned, smashed, melted down for its precious metal content, or stripped for its jewels.

After the killing, after the city had been subdued, there began a slow and steady removal of treasures out of the Orthodox temples and into the cathedrals, churches, monasteries, convents, cities and towns of Latin Europe. Some of these items had been venerated, cherished, and protected for centuries, others for a millennium. Now they were being carted away from over a hundred and fifty churches: altars, altar screens, tabernacles, antimins, icons, icon frames, processional, pectoral and altar crosses, gold and silver chains, panagias, mitres, croziers, chalices, patens, star covers and spears, Gospels, Epistle books, ladles, church plate, censers, votive lights, relics, candelabra, epitaphia, fans, reliquaries, vestments, banners, manuscripts, miniatures, ivories, carvings, mosaics, thrones, tapestries, furniture and architectural items. Cartloads of gold and silver from Santa Sophia found their way into the Vatican treasury. Constantinople had become the gold mine which supplied Latin Christendom."
(continued next)




according to the Catholic Encyclopedia online:

“On 12 April, 1204, [/font]Constantinople was carried by storm, and the next day the ruthless plundering of its churches and palaces was begun. The masterpieces of antiquity, piled up in public places and in the Hippodrome, were utterly destroyed. [/font]Clerics and [/font]knights, in their eagerness to acquire famous and priceless [/font]relics, took part in the sack of the churches. The [/font]Venetians received half the booty; the portion of each crusader was determined according to his rank of baron, [/font]knight, or bailiff, and most of the churches of the [/font]West were enriched with ornaments stripped from those of [/font]Constantinople.”

I don’t see how anyone can justify what happened during the Fourth Crusade.


No one has justified it. The Church vehemently condemned what happened. It was never the intention of the Church to ransack Constantinople.

It was after years of fighting on a journey to Jerusalem. I don’t have my history in front of me to quote but it is my understnding that Constantinople was more or less a “side-track” after years of exhaustion, no food, no rest that finally the dam burst and that was the horrible result. I’m not saying this to justify - as I said the Church condemned the action.

The Pope was highly upset and I believe passed sentences of excommunication on those involved - but I can’t be certain because I don’t have my books, as I said. I’m sure someone here can enlighten us further - or correct me.


my thesis on the crusades is this:

the crusades had more to do with the european monarchies than the church and the papacy. the point of the crusades was not to “go after the muslims” or to “take back the holy land (necessarily)”. it was to stop the spread of the islamic empire into europe and to protect some european christain pilgrims who were being attacked in the middle east. the crusaders figured “hey, as long as we’re doing this we might as well wear a cross.” many of their actions (especially the aforementioned sack of constantinople) show that they were anything but christian, especially since they killed other christians (who were essentially other catholics themselves)!!!


Hey, I’d recommend a short but poignant work called “What Were the Crusades” (The Third Edition is the newest.) Jonathan Riley-Smith is the Dixie Professor of Ecclesiatical History at the Univeristy of Cambridge and Fellow of Emmanuel College. The best point int he work relates to the concept of penitential war. Hope this haelps and your thesis goes well. Thanks and God Bless.


thanks for the reference; i’ll have to check that out. i’m not actually writing about the crusades yet, but when i get into some more mediaval history classes i’m sure i’ll get a chance and this seems like a really interesting topic to write on.

anyway, speaking of the crusades, who’s looking forward to “Kingdom of Heaven”? i cant wait till that comes out. looks great.


[quote=DianJo]No one has justified it.

  1. How do you interpret post #3?
  2. On the poll question, the response that the Crusades were a just war is getting votes.


I am afraid that history will soon repeat it self…


[quote=alfredo]1. How do you interpret post #3?
2. On the poll question, the response that the Crusades were a just war is getting votes.

That quote you reference is regarding the attack of Constantinople. Not all of the crusades combined.


Has it been pointed out that the 1204 abomination of a crusade was forbidden by the pope, who subsequently excommunicated the leaders?


[quote=chevalier]Has it been pointed out that the 1204 abomination of a crusade was forbidden by the pope, who subsequently excommunicated the leaders?

But according to the online Catholic encyclopedia: "most of the churches of the [/font]West were enriched with ornaments stripped from those of [/font][font=Times New Roman]Constantinople"
Why was the Catholic Church of the West so eager to enrich its Churches in the West with “ornaments” plundered from the Eastern Orthodox Churches? I read that even today, St. Mark’s of Venice contains treasures from the Fourth Crusade. Has there ever been a condemnation of exhibiting this plunder in Catholic Churches?


[quote=JP2ImissU]Do you think the Crusades were a just war?

which crusade? there were several, urged by different popes or other preachers, mounted by different kings, fought by soldiers sometimes motivated by faith and sometimes by greed, against different enemies. Without the Crusades Europe would have become a Moslem enclave with Christianity existing as a tiny, persecuted sect in isolated spots, as is true today in the Moslem world. Some of the later crusades targeted other Christians as the enemy, a continueing scandal to Christendom.


I recommend highly, alfredo, that you READ the links provided in messages 4 and 5.

And I was not attempting to justify “it” (there was no SINGLE Crusade, my friend), nor was I engaging in relativism in stating the simple and incontrovertible fact that a person living in the 11th century would have neither the knowledge of his future that we have of him (since we can see his entire life in our past), nor the particular cultural traditions that we have, since he did not experience (in the 11th century) the following: The Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, the Industrial Revolution, colonialization, the opening of Asia to trade, the repudiation of colonialism in Africa, the World Wars, the Cold War, the fall of the Soviet Union, and a host of other events too numerous to mention.

You really have to consider CONTEXT. Just because we have a centuries old tradition of “religious tolerance” does not mean that Crusader X had it, believed it, or understood it. And BTW, Crusader X (unless he happened to be an emperor or royalty–and even THEY were known to die out there) didn’t get “booty” even to equal the WW2 U.S. soldiers’ occasional Mauser pistols–did you know it COST MONEY TO BE A CRUSADER? That you didn’t come home with sacks of gold?

READ THE LINKS. Learn the balance and not just a one-sided smear view which is itself steeped in RELATIVISM.


[quote=Tantum ergo]…Crusader X …didn’t get “booty” even to equal the WW2 U.S. soldiers’ occasional Mauser pistols…

But the Catholic Encyclopedia online says that the Churches of the West were enriched with booty plundered from the Fourth Crusade. And I read that St. Mark’s of Venice still today has booty from the Fourth Crusade on display. Does that mean that it is OK to ravage and steal gold, silver, sacred vessels, and whatever, from Eastern Orthodox Churches and put them on display in Western Catholic Churches?

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