The First Crusade
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The main factor that led to the first crusade was the rising power of the Church at this time was another factor leading to the Crusades. This created a rising tide of piety in Western Europe that expressed itself in pilgrimages to Palestine before the Turks seized it, and adapted itself to a holy war (crusade) after the Turkish conquest. This rising tide of piety was part of a broader movement for Church reform led by the popes that had caused the Investiture Struggle with the German emperors over control of the election of Church officials. Both the reunification of the Catholic Church with Byzantium and the recovery of Jerusalem fit into the larger ambitions of Pope Urban II. If the pope could lead all of Christendom in a crusade to recover the Holy Land (Palestine), then his moral authority would far surpass that of the German Emperor.
I list this website in order to show Dr. Madden's credentials in this field. Another thing that brought about this defensive war was the capture of Jerusalem by the Seljuk Turks in 1073. Whenever this group of Muslims took over they were much more extreme than before and slaughtered most of the remaining Christians in the city. Many pilgrims coming to the city were treated badly also. Now, remember that just like the Iberian Peninsula, Jerusalem had also been under the control of the Christians. The Byzantine Empire had fought many enemies to try and keep it under its control. Another example of Muslim aggression against Europe was the capture of Sicily which happened in 902. Yet another example of Muslim aggressions against Europe and its friends is the attack and capture of Anatolia in 1073. Anatolia was also taken from the Byzantine Empire. It wasn't until Emperor Alexius came and beseached Urban the II for help to fight off the invading Muslims. By then, the Byzantines had lost almost half of their empire. I do agree with you that starting a Crusade would have been a great way to gain power. However, whatever Pope Urban's ambitions may or may not have been, (because no one really knows what they were) the First Crusade was a response to Muslim conquest of both European and Byzantium lands and the mistreatment of Christian pilgrims. For, if these things had not happened, Pope Urban II could have called for a crusade all he wanted and nobody would have responded.
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