The Crusades are like White Castle hamburgers. Either you love them or you hate them. Of course, given the secular, anti-Christian education most people are subjected to these days, the overwhelming majority of people hate them as “Eurocentric” imperialism.
However, on what basis were they bad?
First of all, what were the Crusades? They were wars in which the Crusade Indulgence was granted by the Pope. While most people who hear the term think only of the Crusades to retake the Holy Land from the jihad, there were Crusades in other lands as well. There were Crusades against the jihad in the Iberian Peninsula, normally referred to as the Reconquista. There was a Crusade preached against the Albigensian Cathari in Languedoc in the South of France. There were the Northern Crusades, including the Wendish, Livonian, Swedish, Danish, and Prussian Crusades, and a Crusade against the Bogomils in Bosnia.
However, since the average person with a modern, secular education only knows of the Eastern Crusades and, possibly, the Reconquista, I will be discussing only the Crusades against the jihad in this article.
It is important to remember that at the founding of Islam by Muhammad, the world looked like this:
All of the purple area (fitting, it being the Imperial color) was Christian. This was pre-Great Schism, so while all of the Empire was Christian, not all Christian lands were part of the Empire (an important point later).
Satan first appeared to Muhammad in the guise of St Gabriel Archangel in 610 A.D.. From then, until the death of Muhammad in 632 A.D., Islam concentrated on consolidating control of the center of the Arabian Peninsula. By the next year, the Muslims had begun conquering the hinterlands of the Peninsula, and had started raids into the Zoroastrian Sassanid Empire to the East.
The following year, AD 634, they began raiding into the Christian Byzantine Empire to the north, and by September of that year Damascus, the jewel of the Empire in the Levant, had fallen to the jihad.
By AD 750, the map now looked like this. Everything west of the Arabian Peninsula that had been conquered by the jihad had been Christian land.
This includes the portion of the North African Littoral that had been the Kingdom ruled by the Arian Vandals, a Germanic tribe, tho’ the bulk of their subjects were orthodox Catholics. It had been conquered, just a few years before, by the Byzantine Emperor, but soon fell to the jihad.
It also includes the Visigothic Kingdoms on the Iberian Peninsula that had recently converted from Arianism to orthodox Christianity. You will notice a very small strip across the northwest littoral of the peninsula that is not coloured in as a part of the Muslim conquest. That is the Kingdom of the Asturias, from which the Reconquista was launched.
They had also crossed the Pyrenees, raiding France, until they were stopped at the Battle of Tours in AD 732 by Charles Martel, Duke and Prince of the Franks, founder of the Carolingian Dynasty, and grandfather of Blessed Charlemagne, Emperor of the Romans.
All of this territory, once Christian, Eastern or Western, had been conquered by force of arms, combined with looting, burning, raping, and forced conversion at the point of the sword.
By the time His Holiness Pope Urban II proclaimed the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont in 1095, the Holy Places had fallen to the Seljuk Turks. The previous rulers, the Arab Shi’ite Fatimid Caliphate had taken a relaxed view of the pilgrims from the West and the indigenous Christian population. This had changed under the Sunni Seljuks, causing great distress to native Christians and pilgrims alike (not that things had ever been peaceful between Christendom and the Muslims).
Above is a video from the Real Crusades History channel on Youtube which looks at the Western world on the eve of the Crusades. Real Crusades History is a favorite channel of mine because, in my opinion at least, they actually present a balanced view of the truth, without getting into “Those horrible Christians attacking peaceful Muslims” diatribes that are so common in this Age when discussing the period. In the Gesta Francorum et aliorum Hierosolimitanorum, The Deeds of the Franks And The Other Pilgrims to Jerusalem, is a Latin chronicle of the First Crusade written circa 1100 A.D by an anonymous author connected with Bohemond I of Antioch is important contemporary evidence in that it was written within a few years of the arrival of the Crusaders in the Holy Land. It records Pope Urban’s exhortation to begin the First Crusade thus:
When now that time was at hand which the Lord Jesus daily points out to His faithful, especially in the Gospel, saying, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” a mighty agitation was carried on throughout all the region of Gaul. [Its tenor was] that if anyone desired to follow the Lord zealously, with a pure heart and mind, and wished faithfully to bear the cross after Him, he would no longer hesitate to take up the way to the Holy Sepulchre.
It goes on to describe:
And so Urban, Pope of the Roman see, with his archbishops, bishops, abbots, and priests, set out as quickly as possible beyond the mountains and began to deliver sermons and to preach eloquently, saying: “Whoever wishes to save his soul should not hesitate humbly to take up the way of the Lord, and if he lacks sufficient money, divine mercy will give him enough.” Then the apostolic lord continued, “Brethren, we ought to endure much suffering for the name of Christ – misery, poverty, nakedness, persecution, want, illness, hunger, thirst, and other (ills) of this kind, just as the Lord saith to His disciples: ‘Ye must suffer much in My name,’ and ‘Be not ashamed to confess Me before the faces of men; verily I will give you mouth and wisdom,’ and finally, ‘Great is your reward in Heaven.”‘ And when this speech had already begun to be noised abroad, little by little, through all the regions and countries of Gaul, the Franks, upon hearing such reports, forthwith caused crosses to be sewed on their right shoulders, saying that they followed with one accord the footsteps of Christ, by which they had been redeemed from the hand of hell.
To which the assembled crowd of nobles and commoners responded with a mighty shout of ‘DEUS VULT!’ (God wills it), as they rushed forward to don the Cross of the Crusader.
Thus, a rational look at the history reveals that, far from being imperialist wars against a peace-loving Islam in that age, the Crusades were an ultimately unsuccessful attempt at freeing some of the lands conquered by the Muslim jihad in the preceding years.
For further research, here is a Youtube video from Dr. Bill Warner’s channel, Political Islam, that graphically illustrates the expansion of Islam and the comparatively paltry response of the Crusades to the unjustified aggression.