The Political Effects of the Crusades on Europe

To understand the political effects of the Crusades, we must first ask ourselves why one would want to take part in such wars. Well, it's quite simple. Leaders took part in the Crusades for the support of the Church. It all started when Pope Urban II gave his support to nobles who were inclined to respond to requests for aid from the East. Eventually, he caught the full attention of the West. Forgiveness for sins meant a bright afterlife, which was greatly sought out for. This was also an opportunity for leaders to gain a tremendous amount of power due to the fact that during the Crusades, the Church became extremely prominent.
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King Richard the Lionheart <http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/58/Richard_I_of_England.png>

One of the most famous leaders of the Crusades we know today is King Richard the Lion-Hearted. In fact, he was so successful during the Third Crusade that some refer to it as Richard's Crusade. During this Crusade, he recovered the city of Acre and gained his title, Lionheart, for his campaign against Saladin, who "was arguably the greatest of Muslim generals." Although he did not regain control of Jerusalem, he did conclude a truce with Saladin.
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Another leader who added to his prestige after participating in the Crusades is King Louis IX. [2] His career as a crusader began with the conquest of Damietta, Egypt. Then he attempted to take his war to Egypt, only to be defeated by the sultan of Egypt. Later, he was released and returned to France. After his death "Pope Boniface VIII canonized him on account of his pious life and his efforts to rescue the Holy Land from the Turks," bestowing him with the title Saint. This title became even more popular than King Louis IX. [3]
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King Louis IX a.k.a Saint Louis <http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2a/Louis-ix.jpg/200px-Louis-ix.jpg>

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Only being titled a Crusader alone was enough to gain several perks. "A would-be crusader swore to carry out an armed 'pilgrimage' in support of the Holy Places. He then usually received a cloth cross which he could place on his clothes to signify his new status." The benefits of being a Crusader included protection of property and people under the Church. To add on, Crusaders were offered an indulgence (possible forgiveness for sins by unpleasant task to compensate for them) in return for fighting. This innovation was significant because so many people practiced religiously, making the reward one to envy. As result, many people were induced to become Crusaders. Excommunication (the ending of communication with the Church) was always a threat if one didn’t meet his expected duties as a Crusader.[4]


Economically speaking, the Crusades played a significant role. Due to the fact that nobles needed to finance journeys to the Holy Land, "they allowed peasants to pay rents in money instead of grain or labor. Peasants began to sell their goods in towns to earn money, a practice that helped to undermine serfdom, [the condition of being a serf]." Another leader who added to his prestige after participating in the Crusades is King Louis IX. [5]


After the Crusades, the once aristocratic society went under the rule of the monarchy. While nobles were failing to return, the monarchs were taking control of their estates. Nobles that did return were enjoying their new treasures but, unfortunately, they were enjoying it too much. Many nobles wound up spending all of their money and went into bankruptcy. Another important effect of the crusades was that while Turkish invasion was being held back, the fall of Constantinople was prevented for another three centuries. This allowed the Christian society located in Germany to strengthen itself as much as it could and was able to defend itself from Mohammedan attacks on Europe in the fifteenth century. [6]

Once the Crusades had ended, it had led to the fall of the Byzantine empire. The Turks had defeated the Byzantines during the battle for Anatolia. This area was a cultural hub for the Byzantine Empire and after they lost it, it was only a matter of time before the empire would fall. The Crusaders blamed the Byzantines for the loss of troops in Anatolia and the Byzantine emperor gave up asking for reinforcements. He would rather surrender to the Turks than beg for help from the Crusaders. Once the Turks sacked Constantinople, the once powerful Byzantine Empire came to close. It’s citizens would be spared only because the Turks found them useful for their future plans.[7]
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http://tristenheffelfingerkelseyroush.wikispaces.com

As result, Italian cities replaced Byzantines as merchants in the Mediterranean, increasing their power over the area. This power also provoked Atlantic powers to look for trade routes to India and China. This later opened most of the world to European trade colonization. This caused to a shift of the center of trade from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.[8]

Impact on the Catholic Church

The Catholic Church played a critical role in the Crusades thus leaving lasting effects on the Church’s influence and presence in Eastern Europe. The Crusades at first increased the wealth and power of the Papacy. Wealth of churches and monasteries were increased through conquered land. Estates were sold to the church for a fraction of their real price. With the land the Church was able to gain power. Along with these the church still received the ordinary flow of gifts. Enthusiastic members brought money or items to donate, greatly increasing the it's wealth.

One thing though, did hurt the Church. During the Crusades thousands of men wounded physically or mentally sought for help within the Church. They would assimilate themselves in cloistral retreats. To keep these retreats together it took time and money for funding and staffing. These didn't have a profound effect on the net wealth of the Church. [9]

The effects of the Church during the actual crusades were prominent in the daily lives of everyone in Western Europe. The Catholic Church encouraged young men to conquer the holy land in the name of Christianity. Feeling obligated to follow the pope people enthusiastically supported and participated in the crusades. Feeling the war was for a higher cause, knights and the peasant armies fought with a ferocity not seen in the average political wars. This left an effect scarring generations of Muslims and Jews living in the areas of the holy land. [10]

Contrasting the short-term gain, the long-term effects had more negative impacts on the Church. The biggest effect being the stained Christian-Muslim relations. With war atrocities all forms of friendly relations we see are destroyed for generations to come. With the Crusades came the downfall of feudalism and the rise of Kings and central nobility. The Church and the nobility intermingled over issues like divorce and marriage. This damaged the Papacy's relationship with the monarchs and led to the decline of the Churches physical power in Europe. [11]

The Crusades greatly increased the power of the Church. They allowed the Church new-found political abilities like tax collecting. This height in power was short-lived because of monarchs who were rising to power. Another result of the crusades was the first schism between the Byzantines and the Catholic Westerners.[12]
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The wars helped members of the Church hierarchy gain more power as an authority figure. These figures became more involved in the daily lives of people by buying and selling property and the funding of town events. The church also provided a safe haven for those who lost everything in the wars. They provide living space and care to the physically and mentally ill. The people turned to religion as one of the most important aspects of their daily lives. This gave the church control over the minds and decisions of its followers. This alone was the most powerful aspect of the Church.[13]

Effects on Christian-Muslim Relations
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The Crusades were basically a Christian religious, military expedition, where their primary rival during the Crusades were the Muslims. In other words, the Crusades were a holy war between the Christians and the Muslims, in Palestine. It is known that even prior to the crusades, the Christians conflicted Islamic ideas and beliefs. When the Turkish-Muslims captured Jerusalem, the Seljuks restricted Christians access. This was a significant move by the Seljuks because the city of Jerusalem held a holy significance to the Christians. As result, the European Christians considered this unforgivable. An unforgivable act was to be countered with one just as unforgivable; the Christians ventured to the Holy Land and initiated the first Crusade. [14]

During the conquering, the Crusaders sacked Jerusalem killing many Muslim inhabitants. "The Crusaders then took over many of the cities on the Mediterranean coast and built a large number of fortified castles all over the Holy Land.” This was done to protect their new territories. [15] Due to events like this, the Muslim community had responded with war and hate towards the Christians, who invaded their holy land. The holy land, which the Christians invaded, was coincidentally the Muslim’s holy land as well. To further anger the Muslims, the Crusaders also killed the Muslim relief army sent from Egypt to recapture the city, in the battle of Ascalon.

The Muslims finally retaliated and, in 1144, a Seljuk governor, Zengi, conquers Edessa the capital of the crusader state in northern Syria. This act prompted the Second Crusade. The Muslims continued massing a large army and when the Christian general, Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux, attempted to take Damascus in Syria in 1147–49. The Muslims successfully annihilated his army, taking their revenge in the name of their religion. Because of this defeat, the Christians hated the Muslims and after this, the reasoning for wars shifted from religious conquest to desire for revenge and power along with land. The quote from Fulcher of Charters, Chronicle of the First Crusade, [16] “[We must] strive to help expel the Seljuks from our Christian lands before it too late… Christ commands it. Remission of sins will be granted for those going thither.” [17] The Seljuk’s were Muslim and they occupied the city of Jerusalem before the Christians attacked them, and conquered it. This quote was directed with hate towards the Muslim’s for their opposition towards who owns the city which both considered holy. The Christians believed that Jesus lived in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was also the location of the famous last supper within the Christian faith. To the Muslims the city of Jerusalem is the location of the third holiest site in Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque. [18] The conflict between the Crusaders (Christians) and the Muslims, had amplified to apparent blood feud’s when Nur ad-Din (son of Zengi) continues his father’s attacks on the crusader’s.

Atrocities committed were when the Christians had been accused of cannibalistic behavior towards the dead Muslim soldiers. Other, less specific, horrible deeds were usual wartime activities like looting, pillaging and rape to the opposing Faction. The Muslim’s were not necessarily clean and pure as they may have claimed and participated in the usual wartime evils. During the conquering, the Crusaders sacked Jerusalem killing many Muslim inhabitants.[19] "The Crusaders then took over many of the cities on the Mediterranean coast and built a large number of fortified castles all over the Holy Land.” This was done to protect their new territories. Due to events like this, the Muslim community had responded with war and hate towards the Christians, who invaded their holy land. The holy land, which the Christians invaded, was coincidentally the Muslim’s holy land as well. To further anger the Muslims, the Crusaders also killed the Muslim relief army sent from Egypt to recapture the city, in the battle of Ascalon.

The Muslims finally retaliated and, in 1144, a Seljuk governor, Zengi, conquers Edessa the capital of the crusader state in northern Syria. This act prompted the Second Crusade. The Muslims continued massing a large army and when the Christian general, Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux, attempted to take Damascus in Syria in 1147–49. The Muslims successfully annihilated his army, taking their revenge in the name of their religion. Because of this defeat, the Christians hated the Muslims and after this, the reasoning for wars shifted from religious conquest to desire for revenge and power along with land. The quote from Fulcher of Charters, Chronicle of the First Crusade, [20] “[We must] strive to help expel the Seljuks from our Christian lands before it too late… Christ commands it. Remission of sins will be granted for those going thither.” The Seljuk’s were Muslim and they occupied the city of Jerusalem before the Christians attacked them, and conquered it. This quote was directed with hate towards the Muslim’s for their opposition towards who owns the city which both considered holy. The Christians believed that Jesus lived, and was brought a child in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was also the location of the famous last supper within the Christian faith. To the Muslims the city of Jerusalem is the location of the third holiest site in Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The conflict between the Crusaders (Christians) and the Muslims, had amplified to apparent blood feud’s when Nur ad-Din (son of Zengi) continues his father’s attacks on the crusader’s. [21]

Atrocities were committed when the Christians had been accused of cannibalistic behavior towards the dead Muslim soldiers. Other, less specific, horrible deeds were usual wartime activities like looting, pillaging and rape to the opposing Faction. The Muslim’s were not necessarily clean and pure as they may have claimed and participated in the usual wartime evils.
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  1. ^
    Timeline of King Richard the Lionheart. December 6 2011. <http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/timeline-of-king-richard-the-lionheart.htm>
  2. ^
    Elisabeth Ellis and Anthony Esler, World History, (Pearson Prentice Hall, Boston, 2011) 258.
  3. ^
    King Louis IX. December 6 2011. <http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/king-louis-ix.htm>
  4. ^
    Orbs --Crusades. December 7 2011. <http://www.the-orb.net/encyclop/religion/crusades/vows.html>
  5. ^
    Elisabeth Ellis and Anthony Esler, World History, (Pearson Prentice Hall, Boston, 2011) 258.
  6. ^
    Effects of the Crusades. December 6 2011. <http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/effects-of-crusades.htm>
  7. ^
    The Crusades. December 3 2011. <http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/westtech/xcrusade.htm>
  8. ^
    The Crusades. December 2 2011. <http://history-world.org/crusades.htm>
  9. ^
    Effects of the Crusades. December 11 2011. <http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/effects-of-crusades.htm>.
  10. ^
    Christian Apology for the Crusades. December 11 2011. <http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_cru1.htm>.
  11. ^
    CHRISTIANITY IN FEUDAL EUROPE by Jose Orlandis. December 11 2011. <http://www.churchinhistory.org/pages/middleages/feudal.htm>.
  12. ^
    Elisabeth Ellis and Anthony Esler, World History, (Pearson Prentice Hall, Boston, 2011) 258.
  13. ^
    Effects of the Crusades. December 5 2011. <http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/effects-of-crusades.htm>
  14. ^
    Middle Ages - Role of the Church, Crusades, Inquisition. December 4 2011. <http://mr_sedivy.tripod.com/med_hist3.html>
  15. ^
    The Crusades (1095-1291). December 3 2011.<http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/crus/hd_crus.htm>
  16. ^
    Timeline of Conflict between Muslim and Christian/Western Powers. December 2 2011. <http://www.lutheranwiki.org/Timeline_of_Conflict_between_Muslim_and_Christian_/_Western_Powers>
  17. ^ Elisabeth Ellis and Anthony Esler, World History, (Pearson Prentice Hall, Boston, 2011) 256.
  18. ^ The Crusades (1095-1291). December 3 2011.<http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/crus/hd_crus.htm>
  19. ^
    Elisabeth Ellis and Anthony Esler, World History, (Pearson Prentice Hall, Boston, 2011) 256.
  20. ^
    The Crusades (1095-1291). December 3 2011.<http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/crus/hd_crus.htm>
  21. ^ The Crusades (1095-1291). December 3 2011.<http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/crus/hd_crus.htm>