Western Humanities
Views of The Crusades

The Call to Crusade
Pope Urban II, 1095


From…Jerusalem and the city of Constantinople a horrible tale has gone forth and very frequently has been brought to our ears, namely, that a race from the kingdom of the Persians, an accursed race, a race utterly alienated from God, a generation forsooth which has not directed its heart and has not entrusted its spirit to God, has invaded the lands of those Christians and has depopulated them by the sword, pillage and fire; it has led away a part of the captives into its own country, and a part it has destroyed by cruel tortures; it has either entirely destroyed the churches of God or appropriated them for the rites of its own religion.


Until now you have fought unjust wars; you have often savagely brandished your spears at each other in mutual carnage only out of greed and pride…Now we are proposing that you should fight wars which contain the glorious reward of martyrdom, in which you can gain the title of present and eternal glory…


…Take the road to the Holy Sepulchre [Jerusalem], rescue that land from a dreadful race and rule over it yourselves…


On this account I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ's heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends. I say this to those who are present, it meant also for those who are absent. Moreover, Christ commands it…


All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission (forgiveness) of sins.


After reading this documents, respond to the following questions:


Do the crusades seem justified?  Why?



According to these documents, what did the people of Europe (crusaders) value?  What are their reasons for the crusades?  What seems to be important to them?


Ibn Al-Athir, from The Perfect History

From The Norton Anthology of English Literature


the Franks moved on to Jerusalem and besieged it for more than six weeks. They built two towers, one of which…the Muslims burnt down, killing everyone inside it. It had scarcely ceased to burn before a messenger arrived…to bring the news that the other side of the city had fallen. In fact Jerusalem was taken from the north on the morning of Friday 22 sha'ban 492/15 July 1099. The population was put to the sword by the Franks, who pillaged the area for a week. A band of Muslims barricaded themselves into the Tower of David and fought on for several days. They were granted their lives in return for surrendering….

In the Masjid al-Aqsa [mosque near the summit of the city] the Franks slaughtered more than 70,000 people, among them a large number of Imams [religious leaders] and Muslim scholars, devout and ascetic men who had left their homelands to live lives of pious seclusion in the Holy Place. The Franks stripped the Dome of the Rock of more than forty silver candelabra, … and a great silver lamp weighing forty-four Syrian pounds, as well as a hundred and fifty smaller silver candelabra and more than twenty gold ones, and a great deal more [treasure].

Refugees … reached Baghdad …[and] told the Caliph's[Muslim religious and political leader] ministers a story that wrung their hearts and brought tears to their eyes. On Friday they went to the Cathedral Mosque and begged for help, weeping so that their hearers wept with them as they described the sufferings of the Muslims in that Holy City: the men killed, the women and children taken prisoner, the homes pillaged. Because of the terrible hardships they had suffered, they were allowed to break the fast.


Ibn Al-Athir (1160–1233) wrote a history of the Moslem world from its beginnings to 1231. His is the most authoritative account, from the Moslem point of view, of the first three crusades. He was an eyewitness to the Third Crusade.


Jerusalem was conquered on 7/15/1099 and 60,000 non-Christians were killed. Bodies were slit open to search for gold coins they might have swallowed. Jews who had taken refuge in the city's synagogue were burned alive, thousands of muslims were chopped to death in Al-Aqsa mosque. According to the Archbishop of Tyre, who was an eye-witness:


"It was impossible to look upon the vast numbers of the slain without horror; everywhere lay fragments of human bodies, and the very ground was covered with the blood of the slain. It was not alone the spectacle of headless bodies and mutilated limbs strewn in all directions that roused the horror of all who looked upon them. Still more dreadful was it to gaze upon the victors themselves, dripping with blood from head to foot, an ominous sight which brought terror to all who met them. It is reported that within the Temple enclosure alone about ten thousand infidels perished."


After reading these documents, respond to the following questions:


Do the crusades seem justified?  Why?



According to these documents, what did the people of Europe (crusaders) value?  What are their reasons for the crusades?  What seems to be important to them?