The Crusades - from chaos to shared ideal in Christian Europe

"Following the collapse of the Carolingian Empire in the 9th century, Christian Europe had wrestled with increasingly senseless and uncontrollable violence. Muslim and Viking invasions during that time caused internal disintegration that eliminated all centralized power. By the 11th century, knights--even kings--had become indistinguishable from brigands." How did the Crusades change this?

"External attempts to regulate the carnage--the Peace of God, the Truce of God, holy protection through saints ' relics, sanctuary on holy ground , and the concept of trifunctionality--had found distinctly mixed success. The Peace of God stipulated that noncombatants (Clerics, merchants, women and children) were to be exempted from harm. The Truce of God limited fighting to only a few days per week. Saints' relics were used as a deterrent against pillage; a powerful saint was believed to take revenge on anyone who desecrated his or her shrine. People also swore oaths upon relics (an old Germanic custom), incurring the saint's wrath if they broke their word.

The theory of trifunctionality divided medieval society into three interdependent Orders: those who prayed , those who fought, and those who worked. The first Order (the clerics) provided eternal salvation to society, the second Order (the knights) provided protection from earthly perils. The third
Order (the peasants) fed and clothed everyone else. This theory remained an ideal more than reality for the duration of the Middle Ages. It did, however, shape how medieval people saw themselves and justified their actions. 

The above experiments reflected the lack of law and order in the 11th century that the loss of centralized, secular power had caused . Urban II has not left his personal reasons, only his public ones, for calling a Crusade. Historians now believe, however, that one of Urban's greatest reasons for doing this was to rid Europe of its most chaotic elements by inflicting them upon the Muslims.

In the Templars, the knights offered a solution themselves--fighters acting as swords of Christ who would fulfill the knight's idealized function of societal protector by following established monastic principles. During the First Crusade, this new ideal was only partially articulated--and even more
imperfectly followed. It did not prevent the Crusaders from raping, murdering, looting, and cannibalizing their way through the Ionian peninsula. But, it was at least an ideal, finally , that the knights accepted."

This blog quotes freely from pp 14-16 of Between two faiths: the Arabization of the Knights Templar during the Crusades, a Master's Thesis presented in 1999 by Paula Regina Stiles at the University of Rhode Island. Open Access Master's Theses. Paper 1805, Illustration source

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