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In tracing the causes of the Crusades, that fearful drama whose nine acts ran the weary length of nearly two centuries, and at a low computation cost Europe two millions of lives, the word itself becomes our guide. The dictionaries give the obsolete croisade as well as the modern form crusade, and plainly show that the word, like the thing itself, is of French origin, and in the first instance denoted a league of Christians against heretics and infidels, especially miscreants of the Mohammedan faith; afterwards it was applied to Christian expeditions undertaken in vindication of the right of pilgrims to visit the Holy Sepulchre. These pilgrims wore on their garments a cross, the sign and pledge of their new vocation. Thus the French croix, cross, gave to the expeditions the name croisade, crusade, and to the pilgrims that of crusaders. Public opinion in the tenth and eleventh centuries approve as holy not only the primary object of the crusades viz; free access to the Holy Sepulchre, but also the conquest of the Holy Land, into which it speedily expanded, and for this reason the crusades are often defined as Holy Wars. A holy war may justly strike us as a strange combination, especially when we call to mind the incontestable fact that of all wars those called holy are the most sanguinary and cruel...
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Copyright © 2016 by J.I. Mombert
Published by Endymion Press
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THE COUNCIL OF CLERMONT, A.D. 1095.
FIRST CRUSADE. A.D. 1096-1099.
1. PETER AND HIS HOSTS.
2. THE ARMY PROPER.
3. THE CROSS TRIUMPHANT.
THE KINGDOM OF JERUSALEM. A.D. 1100-1145.
SECOND CRUSADE. A.D. 1146-1148.
3. THE CAMPAIGN.
THE FALL OF JERUSALEM, A. D. 1154-1187.: 1. MOSLEMS AND CHRISTIANS.
2. THE CRESCENT VICTORIOUS.
THIRD CRUSADE. A. D. 1187-1192.: 1. FREDERIC BARBAROSSA.
2. RICHARD AND PHILIP.
3. SICILIAN AFFAIRS.
4. CONQUEST OF CYPRUS.
6. PROGRESS AND END OF THE CAMPAIGN.
HENRY VI.’S EXPEDITION. A.D. 1194-1198.
1. THE PAPACY AND THE EMPIRE.
3. HEADLESS ARMIES.
FOURTH CRUSADE. A.D. 1202-1204.: 1. INNOCENT III.
2. WORK IN EARNEST.
4. CAPTURE OF CONSTANTINOPLE.
5. A DANGEROUS THRONE.
6. FINAL CONQUEST.
THE LATIN EMPIRE OF ROMANIA. A.D. 1204-1261.
THE ALBIGEOIS CRUSADE. A.D. 1208-1249.
FIFTH CRUSADE. A.D. 1217-1221.: 1. PRELIMINARY.
2. THE CRUSADE.
SIXTH CRUSADE. A.D. 1228-1229.
1. FREDERIC II.
2. THE CRUSADERS IN EGYPT.
3. FAILURE OF THE EXPEDITION.
4. STRUGGLE FOR SUPREMACY.
5. FREDERIC VICTOR.
SEVENTH CRUSADE. A.D. 1248-1254.: 1. SURVEY.
2. THE CRUSADE.
EIGHTH CRUSADE. A.D. 1270
1. COMMOTION IN THE EAST.
2. THE CRUSADE.
CATASTROPHE AND NEMESIS. A.D. 1262-1312.
IN TRACING THE CAUSES OF the Crusades, that fearful drama whose nine acts ran the weary length of nearly two centuries, and at a low computation cost Europe two millions of lives, the word itself becomes our guide.
The dictionaries give the obsolete croisade as well as the modern form crusade, and plainly show that the word, like the thing itself, is of French origin, and in the first instance denoted a league of Christians against heretics and infidels, especially miscreants of the Mohammedan faith; afterwards it was applied to Christian expeditions undertaken in vindication of the right of pilgrims to visit the Holy Sepulchre. These pilgrims wore on their garments a cross, the sign and pledge of their new vocation. Thus the French croix, cross, gave to the expeditions the name croisade, crusade, and to the pilgrims that of crusaders. Public opinion in the tenth and eleventh centuries approve as holy not only the primary object of the crusades viz; free access to the Holy Sepulchre, but also the conquest of the Holy Land, into which it speedily expanded, and for this reason the crusades are often defined as Holy Wars. A holy war may justly strike us as a strange combination, especially when we call to mind the incontestable fact that of all wars those called holy are the most sanguinary and cruel.
From the very dawn of Christianity Jerusalem was endeared to believers as the scene of some of the most affecting events in the life of our Lord. Who can doubt that the Apostles and Disciples regarded with the most tender and loving veneration every spot hallowed by His memory? Pre-eminently localities like the Cave at Bethlehem, the House at Nazareth, the Garden of Gethsemane, Golgotha, the rock-hewn Sepulchre, the Mount of Olives, and Bethany, must have been cherished and sacred from the very first, and remained so until Titus, A. D. 70, took Jerusalem and commanded the Tenth Legion to destroy it. The work of demolition, though not entire, was almost complete, for excepting a portion of the wall, and the three towers of Herod, preserved as memorials, the whole place, “the entire City and the Temple,” were “so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited.”
For more than half a century Jerusalem vanishes from history, and, on its re-appearance as a new Roman colony, it bears the name of Aelia Capitolina, Aelia after the Emperor Aelius Hadrianus, and Capitolina after Jupiter Capitolinus, whose temple occupied the site of the temple of Jehovah. The statue of the same deity stood over the spot hallowed by the Resurrection of Christ; a splendid fane consecrated to Astarte, the Phoenician Venus, desecrated and insulted the Holy Sepulchre; a statue of Hadrian was set up on the Holy of Holies, and the marble effigy of a boar, a military ensign of the Romans, told those approaching the city from the South the story of her degradation. Though not a vestige remained of Jerusalem as it was in the days of Jesus, the Christian inhabitants of the city had not forgotten the ancient topography and indicated to the numerous pilgrims from far and near the traditional sites of the Holy Places.
The conversion of the Emperor Constantine, and the pilgrimage of his mother, the Empress Helena, inaugurated a new era in the history of the Christian Church, and in that of pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Visiting under the guidance of Bishop Macarios the sacred localities, she deplored the condition in which she found them, and especially the loss of the Cross. The bishop thought that it was not lost, but only buried under the rubbish, and, at her request, forthwith caused excavations to be made on the spot where according to general tradition, Jesus was crucified. The demolition of the Temple of Venus, and the removal of the rubbish entailed much hard work, but it was work well bestowed, for the diggers soon struck the native rock, and brought to light the empty tomb. This wonderful success increased the energy of the pious seekers, who soon found at a much greater depth, not one cross, but three crosses, and near it several large nails and a tablet or title. The inscription on the latter removed all doubt as the nature of their discovery, but there being three crosses it was difficult to determine to which it belonged. In his perplexity the bishop, it is said, prayed for divine guidance, and it came in the shape of a suggestion that the three crosses should be carried to a noble matron, lying at the point of death, in the expectation that God would discover which was the cross they sought for.” This was done in the presence of the Empress and others; the sick lady touched the first and second of the crosses without the slightest change in her condition, but the moment she felt the third—recovered health. This great miracle convinced all present that they had found the True Cross, and the Empress, in the fulness of her joy and gratitude, caused a portion of the precious relic to be sent to the Emperor, her son, and the remainder to be enclosed in a silver case, which she committed to the custody of Bishop Macarios. It is not known what the Emperor Constantine did with the piece of the cross, but the two nails which his mother sent at the same time, he turned to a rather peculiar use. One he fastened as an amulet to the bridle of his war-horse, and the other he set on the head of his statue at Constantinople. Opinion differs as to the number of the nails, some say that only three were found, but others claim four, five, and even seven, four for the body and three for the tablet. Bishop Macarios and his successors were wont to present small pieces of the cross to the pilgrims, and so many of them that a great writer of the next century speaks of the fragments filling the whole earth. In the ninth century it was believed that the wood of the true cross “had the supernatural property of sacred growth, and that its substance, though continually diminished, still remained entire and unimpaired.”
The successful finding of the cross was soon followed by the discovery of everything connected with the Passion of Christ; thus came to light the crown of thorns, the soldier’s lance, the sponge, and even the pillar at which He was scourged. Nay, more, every scene mentioned in the Gospels, the memorable events in the history of the early Church, were localized, and these localities together with the tombs of apostles and other distinguished personages became centres of sacred interest and pious devotion. The Empress Helena erected magnificent churches at Bethlehem and on the Mount of Olives, while Constantine commanded the Temple of Venus to be demolished to make room for the Church of the Resurrection, which still stands. Near by, and separated from it by a narrow passage, he built on the spot where the cross was found, a superb basilica, called the Martyrion, which eclipsed in splendor every other church then extant.
These marvellous discoveries, which in our century would have to run the gauntlet of enlightened criticism, were accepted as indisputable facts by the unthinking, superstitious, half-pagan, and credulous Christians of the fourth. The Emperor himself was by no means exempt from these blemishes; in the year A. D. 321, only four years before the great Christian Council of Nice, he set forth a law commanding the use of heathen magic as beneficial for the prevention and cure of maladies, for the protection of harvests, and as a safeguard against excessive rain and hail. It is true he was nominally a Christian, and flattering bishops, who ought to have known his private life, assured him that he was destined to share with Christ the Kingdom of the world to come. He was not even baptized and deferred that sacrament to his deathbed. What took place after his death illustrates both the spirit of his age and that of those early pilgrimages. The man who commanded the execution of his own son, and, among other enormities, committed his wife Fausta to the glowing furnace of a bath, and whose crimes, in the opinion of pagan priests and philosophers were past atonement, was canonized; lights were burned at his tomb, prayers were offered to him and miracles believed to be wrought by him.
Is it surprising that at such a time the report of the discovery of the Holy Place stirred the heart of Christendom, and that the example of the imperial family was imitated by multitudes from every quarter of the earth, eager to see the places where Christ was born, where he suffered and died? The pilgrimage of the Holy Land became the ruling passion, and was believed to be the sovereign remedy of every kind and degree of human misery and woe.
Were any inflicted with incurable diseases?—and they were more numerous in that unscientific age—let them go to Jerusalem and become whole! Did conscience smite, or sorrow overwhelm the sons and daughters of wickedness and vice? The remedy was still the same; they were counseled to make the pilgrimage of the Holy Land, wipe out the past, and begin life anew. The enterprise was not only laudable, but holy; sanctity not only attached to the monuments of Christian veneration, but passed to all who frequented them. General opinion saw a superior being in the pilgrim who had trod the earth and breathed the air of Palestine, visited the cave at Bethlehem and the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, wandered along the shores of Gennesaret and over the hill-sides of Galilee, and bathed in the river in which Christ was baptized; his privileges were second only to those of the saints in glory; his pilgrimage had effected his reconciliation; his sins were remitted; his bathing in Jordan was a second baptism and effective regeneration; yea, he believed that the garments he wore in Palestine had become charged with sanctifying virtue, and for that reason, laid aside his shirt as his winding sheet in the pious expectation that it would take him to heaven. In vain did disinterested and more enlightened men of the next age denounce the folly and danger of this popular and wide-spread delusion; they preached to deaf ears. In vain did the great Augustine lift his voice and remind his hearers that righteousness need not be sought in the East, nor mercy in the West; that men need not cross the sea, but might every-where love God and obey him; in vain wrote an Eastern bishop, “that change of place brings God not nearer; wherever thou art God will visit thee if the mansion of thy soul is fit for his reception; but if it is full of wickedness, then, if thou art at Golgotha, on Mount Olivet, or at the monument of the Crucifixion thou art still as far from having received Christ, as if thou hadst never confessed him.” Such was also the sentiment and precept, but not the practice of the most illustrious of the early pilgrims, the great Jerome. “Stay at home,” he wrote to Paulinus from the cave in Bethlehem, “heaven is opened as wide in Britain as at Jerusalem.” Yet in that cave, which he believed to be the cradle of Christianity, he spent thirty-four years of his life. There he prayed and dreamed, there he wrote his fiery epistles, and there made the famous translation of the Bible which to this day remains the standard in the Latin Church. Thither he drew multitudes of pilgrims, there he built and directed convents, and there at the rare old age of ninety one years he died. To that cave also belongs the touching scene of his last communion, which in the matchless color and eloquent expression of Domenichino’s wonderful picture in the Vatican still moves the sympathy and draws the admiration of all that see it.
If the pilgrims believed in the sanctifying power of the Holy Places they did so in defiance of a painful and costly experience, for the native population bore even then the unenviable reputation of exceptional depravity. But all the pilgrims were not rapt devotees and religious enthusiasts; many doubtless came from pure motives, but not a few for the sake of gain. The Holy Places were marts of relics and sacred mementos, and as these also in the opinion of the age had mysterious and salutary virtue, the demand for them, though excessive, did not in the least diminish their miraculous supply. Their sale, in the first instance, enriched, the custodians of the Holy Places, and in the second speculative pilgrims who in the West found eager purchasers, often at their own exorbitant price, of a splinter of the true cross, a scrip filled with dust from the Holy Sepulchre, a bottle containing water from the river Jordan, the bone of a saint and the like.
Besides this traffic in holy goods, pilgrimage covered also that in such favored commodities as silks, jewels, spices and other oriental products. Merchant pilgrims, eager to make the best of both worlds, came in large numbers. A genuine pilgrim might travel from Britain and Gaul to Palestine free of charge, his route was mapped out for him, and at convenient stages he would find hospitals and religious houses, giving him gratuitous entertainment. In the reign of Charlemagne the law entitled him to lodging, fire, and water, and exempted him from the payment of tolls. He was mostly a welcome guest in the mansions of the rich, and at the end of his long journey found a home in the public caravanseries and hospitals at Jerusalem. It was but natural that such singular favors were greatly abused and provoked legislation restricting them to those pilgrims whose aspirations after the Holy Land were purely religious.
Thus happily flowed the tide of pilgrimage to the Mecca of the Christians for several centuries until the victorious arms of Chosroes the Persian rudely arrested it. In the year A. D. 615 his general Shahr Barz swept over Palestine and threatening the Christians with slavery or death unto extermination, laid siege to Jerusalem. After eighteen days he forced his way into the place and gave it over to plunder and destruction; the churches of Helena and Constantine were burnt or ruined; the greater part of the city was demolished, and in the general massacre which ensued, the almost incredible number of ninety thousand Christians is given as that of the slain. Another account with more probability reduces the victims to seventeen thousand, and there is no doubt that many thousands of the clergy, monks, and nuns perished in the catastrophe. As many as thirty five thousand were carried into ignominious captivity; among these was the aged patriarch Zacharias, and, conspicuous among the spoils of war, the famous relic of the true cross, which was taken to Ctesiphon, and by command of Chosroes, committed to the care and veneration of Shirin, his favorite Christian wife. Two of the most prized relics, the holy sponge with which the soldiers gave Jesus vinegar to drink, and the holy lance with which they pierccd his side, the patrician Nicetas found means to save, and by the hands of trusty messengers to send to Constantinople, where on two solemn occasions they were publicly exhibited and venerated.
In the ebb and flow of continuous warfare victory after the lapse of fourteen years once more crowned the Roman arms on the bloody field of Nineveh.
Though the battle was not decisive it enabled Heraclius to carry the war far into the enemy’s country, and dismay into the heart of Chosroes. The Persian monarch fled before him without venturing to meet him in battle or even attempt the defence of his magnificent palace of Dastagherd, where Heraclius found, besides bullion, the choicest products of Sassanian skill, and in the paradise or park adjoining it, lions, tigers, and other animals confined there for the purpose of being hunted, and flocks of gazelles; ostriches, peacocks, and pheasants kept for the amusement of more than three thousand ladies who formed part of the royal establishment; he also recovered three hundred Roman standards, tokens of the departed glory of the fugitive King; the precious things which were too heavy to carry off he burnt, and then completely demolished the rest. Heraclius marched upon Ctesiphon, but within sight of the city retraced his steps.
The shelter of Seleucia beyond the Tigris might protect Chosroes from the pursuit of the Romans, but not from the machinations of an unnatural son and a most cruel death “by arrows,” in the “House of Darkness,” the strong place where he kept his money.
Immediately after the murder of his father, the new king, Kobad the Second (also called Siroes), wrote to Heraclius that having been elevated to the throne by the special favor of God,” and cherishing only feelings of love and friendship for his clement brother, he desired to learn the terms upon which the Emperor would consent to make peace. An amicable solution was found and a peace concluded in virtue of which the belligerents accepted the territorial conditions existing before the war, surrendered the captives, and Persia restored to the Romans the precious relic of the true cross.
Heraclius carried it in great triumph to Constantinople, and in token of his gratitude for his victories undertook in the following year a grand pilgrimage to Jerusalem, intending with his own hands to replace it in the shrine from which it had been taken. The story runs that he placed it upon his shoulders, but was not able to go forward. The Patriarch of Jerusalem who was walking beside him explained that his imperial pomp sadly contrasted with the humility of Christ when He bore the cross. “You walk in your gaudy imperial robes,” he said, He was meanly clad; you have on your head a rich diadem, He wore a crown of thorns; you go with your shoes on, He walked barefoot.” Heraclius thereupon laid aside his purple and crown, put on mean apparel, went along barefoot with the procession, and had no difficulty in carrying the cross, which he devoutly replaced where it stood before. It still remained intact in its silver case; the patriarch and clergy examined the seals and found them whole; then they opened the case, and after venerating the sacred relic, showed it to the people; this ceremony, which is one of great and solemn pomp, is called the Exaltation of the Cross.
The triumph of Heraclius aud the dominion of the Christians in the Holy City were of short duration. Eight years later the victorious Arabs laid siege to it, and after an obstinate defence of four months the Patriarch Sophronios surrendered to the Caliph Omar in person, A. D. 673, on terms unequalled for leniency in the history of Arab conquest. Omitting the tolerant and humane details of the terms of capitulation, it may suffice to record the text of the writing executed under his own hands which Omar gave to the Christians.
In the name of the most merciful God. From Omar Ebno’l Alchitab to the inhabitants of Aelia. They shall be protected and secured both in their lives and fortunes, and their churches shall neither be pulled down, nor made use of by any but themselves.”
Entering the City, the Caliph, being met at the gate by the Patriarch, went in his company through the church of the Holy Sepulchre and that of Constantine at one of the five set times of prayer, which Moslems religiously observe, and asked Sophronios to show him a place where he might perform his devotions. Here,” said the Patriarch, but Omar refused to pray in either church, and deliberately withdrawing alone to the eastern steps of Constantine’s church, knelt down there. He afterwards asked the Patriarch if he understood his motive. No,” said the latter. “I will tell you,” Omar replied, I promised you that none of your churches should be taken from you, and that you should possess them quietly yourselves. Now had I prayed in either church, the Moslems would surely have taken it from you, and in spite of your remonstrances would have said, ‘Here Omar has prayed, and we. will pray here too.’ Thus you would have been turned out of your church against my intention and your expectation; and, lest my praying on the steps cause future annoyance, I will do what I can to prevent it.” And suiting the action to the word he called for writing material and then and there ordered, that Moslems should not pray in multitudes upon the steps, but only one at a time; that they should never meet there to go to prayers, and that the muezzin, or crier, that calls the people to prayer, should not stand there.”
His singular fidelity, however, was not imitated by his brethren, for they built a mosque over the spot where he had prayed, but that which bears his name stands on the traditional site of Jacob’s Stone, so called from his dream in which he saw the angels of God ascend and descend on the ladder. This venerated stone Sophronios is said to have indicated to Omar as appropriate for the building of a mosque; it being thickly covered with dirt, Omar scraped some off and put it in his vest. His companions immediately followed his example, some filling their bucklers, others their vests and baskets, and so quickly that in a short time the stone was perfectly clean.
Beyond the inconveniences just narrated the Arab conquest of Jerusalem imposed no great hardship on the Christians. The Holy City was more than ever a place of pilgrimage not only to Christians but to Moslems, who held the Mosque of Omar almost as sacred as the Caaba at Mecca.
In the next century the friendly intercourse between the enlightened Caliph Harun-al-Rashid and Charles the Great made the Moslem possession of the Holy Places a purely nominal affair. His envoys carried to the great Emperor of the West the keys and other symbols of the Holy Places, thus making him virtually their lord, and placing the Christians under his powerful protection. His munificence supplied the means for the erection of a hospital for the entertainment of Latin pilgrims, and of a church in the valley of Jehoshaphat; he ordered alms to be collected throughout his dominion in aid of the Christians, and authorized the Patriarch of Jerusalem to levy the annual tax of two gold coins from every merchant carrying on business in the market place before the hospital. The condition of the Christians, nevertheless, rapidly grew worse, partly in consequence of the bigoted and deadly feuds of the Arabs, partly in consequence of their own rivalry and mutual hatred, and last, not least, in consequence of the blasphemous and transparent pious fraud of the so called Holy Fire, pretended to be annually and miraculously kindled on Easter Even in the church of the Holy Sepulchre. The precise date of its introduction is not known, but the monk Bernard, who made the pilgrimage of the Holy Land in A. D. 870, was an eye-witness of the performance, which edified credulous pilgrims, and stirred the scornful indignation of the Moslems. After the lapse of a thousand years the sacrilegious farce is still repeated to the shame of Oriental Christianity and the general contempt of the rest of Christendom.
With the fall of the Abbassides the Holy Land passed into the hands of the Fatimite Caliphs whose liberal policy seemed to be auspicious to the Christians. They concluded a treaty of commerce and amity with the Republic of Amalfi in which her citizens are described as “friends and importers of useful commodities.” Her vessels transported the Latin pilgrims to the ports of Egypt and Palestine and maintained a traffic of mutual advantage. These amenities, however, were short-lived and followed by a season of fierce and sanguinary persecution in the earlier years of the reign of the famous, and infamous Caliph El Hakem. That frantic youth, whose life was a wild mixture of vice, folly, and blood-thirsty cruelty, began his career as a bigoted arid fanatically intolerant Moslem and ended it as a god. In the former character he cooled his wrath in the indiscriminate slaughter of eighteen thousand victims,—Sunnite or orthodox Moslems, Christians, and Jews—for the unpardonable sin of holding creeds different from his own. His latter character, that of a god, though seemingly incredible, is a sober and well attested historical fact. Its announcement to the world was fortunately accompanied by an edict of toleration to the children of Abraham and the followers of Jesus.
El Hakem, also called Mokanna, and familiar to the readers of Lalla Rookh as the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan, being a Fatimite, dressed in white in opposition to the Abbasside Caliphs who adopted black in their garments, turbans, and standards; he also wore a veil to cover his extraordinary ugliness, as is generally believed, although his adherents accepted its use as a necessary and merciful protection from the dazzling and perilous splendor of the rays which shot from his divine countenance. An adept in legerdemain and natural magic, El Hakem pretended to work miracles, and among them that of making moons has earned for him the title of Sagendeh Nah, moon-maker.
It is said that he wrought this pretended miracle to the delight of the people of Neksheb who saw him night after night for two entire months evoke from the bottom of a well a luminous body resembling a moon, so brilliant that it shone for miles around, and eclipsed in brightness the heavenly orb itself. His end is shrouded in mystery; some say that he was assassinated, others that he committed suicide by leaping into a cistern filled with burning acid in which the whole of his body, a few hairs excepted, was dissolved, in order that men might believe him to have ascended to heaven alive. This is actually the belief of his followers, for the Druses of Lebanon to this day accept him as their divinity, holding both that he disappeared and that he will return to judgment when the triumph of Unitarianism, the name he gave to his religion, shall be the signal of the discomfiture of all other religions.
A few years before the appearance of this new divinity in the East, all Christendom was agitated by the millenial delusion. The almost universal belief that the world would come to an end in the year A. D. 1000, and that Christ would hold the Last Assize in the Valley of Jehoshaphat greatly stimulated the pilgrimage to Palestine. Men hastened thither to be spectators of the momentous transactions foretold in the Scriptures, expecting to meet the Lord in the air, or, if they should die before that time, to answer the summons of the last trump from a grave in the Holy Land. The year 1000 came and the world went on as before, but the tide of pilgrimage ran higher than ever; the enthusiasm was not confined to one country or to particular classes; it was all but universal.
Pilgrimage at this time, entailed no particular hardship, and the greatest indignity was the exaction by the Moslems of a byzant from every visitor to the Holy Sepulchre.
Matters, however, changed rapidly for the worse with the advent of the Seljukian Turks, who took Jerusalem A. D. 1076, and inaugurated a state of cruel fanaticism and oppression, which roused Western Christendom and burst out in the Crusades.
ABOUT THE TIME OF THE First Crusade, Alexius Comnenas was Emperor at Constantinople; the Normans were established in Apulia and Sicily; Ruy Diaz, called the Great Cid, fought the Moors on the Spanish Peninsula; William Rufus was King of England; Philip I., bore the title of King of France; Henry IV., was Emperor, and Conrad, his son, figured as King of Italy; the rich and priest-ridden Mathilda was Countess of Tuscany; Urban II., was Pope, and Clement III., his rival, or Antipope.
In the year 1093, Peter of Amiens, called the Hermit, made the pilgrimage of the Holy Land. His parentage is obscure; his education was doubtless primitive, but may have extended to the arts of reading and writing; his vocation was that of a soldier, and he fought, without distinction, under the banner of the Count of Boulogne. On the death of his wife,—some say during her life—he forsook the world, and turned monk and hermit. Praying and fasting he had visions, and in response to these, as he said, he donned the Pilgrim’s garb and went to Palestine. When he came to the Holy Places, and saw the insults which the Turks heaped upon the pilgrims and the native Christians, the whole man was on fire with grief and indignation.
Pouring out his soul to the persecuted patriarch Simeon, he wept as he heard from his lips the sad story of the cruel insolence of the Seljukian Turks, and of the hopeless impotence of the Greek emperor to stop the outrage.
“If the Christians of the East,” said Peter, “are too weak too wrest the Holy Places from the infidels, those of the West will come and do it.” Of this, he said, he was absolutely sure; for as he lay prostrate in prayer in the Temple, he saw Christ. Rise, Peter!” said the Saviour, “go forth and make known the tribulations of my people. The hour is come for the deliverance of my servants, and for the recovery of the Holy Places.”
It is impossible to tell if this is fact, or illusion. At any rate, Peter said that it was true, and, if the account, which has come down to us, is true, the Patriarch Simeon believed Peter, and gave him a letter to Urban II., depicting the sufferings of the Christians, and imploring his assistance.
Peter, according to the same account, thereupon set out for Italy and delivered the letter.
Urban read it with deep emotion, and is said to have caught the bearer’s enthusiasm, as he spoke of all he had heard and seen, of his wonderful vision in the Temple, and delivered an oral message from Christ, enjoining the Pope to summon Christendom to the sacred work of rescuing the Holy Sepulchre from the grasp of the infidels, and to promise the kingdom of heaven to all who should engage in it.
The Hermit’s story agreed in the main with that of other pilgrims, and seemed to confirm the statements of the Greek ambassadors to Urban, whom he had recently met in Apulia.
Peter’s fiery eloquence, and glowing zeal, his intense earnestness, and indomitable courage, so impressed the Pope, that he gave him authority to travel through the countries, and, testifying before men of high and low degree to the scenes he had witnessed, call upon them to prepare for the immediate deliverance of the Holy Sepulchre,
That was the watchword of the Crusade, which on the hps of Peter inflamed the world.
He was about forty years old, a man small of stature, and ungainly of aspect. His emaciated frame told the story of an abstemious life; his deep-set eyes glowed like carbuncles. He rode on a mule, and wore under a hermit’s cloak a long cassock girt with a cord; his head and feet were bare; he carried a crucifix in one hand, and in the other a letter, which, he said, was written in heaven and addressed to Christians everywhere.
He preached wherever he found men together; in churches, in market-places, by the roadside, in the palaces of princes, in the cots of the poor. Immense crowds gathered round him, and received his words like an oracle’s. His oratory was wonderful and irresistible ; he believed in his visions, and the success of his work.
He painted the sufferings of the pilgrims, and of the Syrian Christians, in torrents of strong, impassioned words; when his vocabulary failed him, he wept and groaned, smote his breast, and lifted his arms to heaven. Kindling the piety and indignation of his hearers, he challenged the warriors, all men able to carry arms, to hasten to the punishment of the infidels, the defence of their brethren, the rescue of their Saviour. Again and again he told his visions, and passionately raising the crucifix, called upon the Lord Himself, the Virgin Mary, upon angels and archangels, upon all the saints and martyrs, to bear witness that he spoke true; if he met any who like himself had knelt at the Holy Sepulchre, he made them stand forth and confirm by their testimony his own declaration.
The effect of his preaching was wonderful not only in the immediate object of his mission, but in other respects; he reconciled enemies, persuaded the most worldly men to take holy vows, the most vicious to reform. Gifts and alms showered upon him, he gave them to the poor; he was venerated as a saint; people of every rank and age entreated his intercession, crowded upon him that they might touch the hem of his garments, and in their eagerness to obtain from him something, snatched up as precious relics the very hairs which dropped from his mule.
Such was Peter the Hermit, preaching the deliverance of the Holy Sepulchre and a Holy War, and preparing the way for Urban. The idea of such an undertaking was not original with him, nor inspired; it took shape gradually, begotten not of a sudden impulse, but of political necessity. The grand scheme of united Christendom marching forth against Mohammedanism engaged the attention successively of Popes Silvester II., and Gregory VII. The last, the Caesar of the Pontiffs, would fain have led a conquering host to Constantinople, and, at the price of the Greeks accepting the supremacy of Latin Rome, offered it to the Emperor of the East. More than fifty thousand warriors, he said, were ready under his lead to march against the enemies of God and deliver the Holy Sepulchre. But domestic troubles, especially his quarrel with the Emperor Henry IV., nipped the plan in the bud.
A deadly quarrel it was; the Pope excommunicated the Emperor; the Emperor retaliated and deposed the Pope; then the bishops on the Emperor’s side made Guibert, Archbishop of Ravenna, Pope; the old Pope answered by excommunicating the new Pope, known in history as the Antipope Clement III.
The death of Gregory did not heal the breach; his mantle fell, after the brief pontificate of Victor III., on Urban II., the first Frenchman who ascended the throne of St. Peter. In hierarchical pretensions and aggressiveness he was Gregory’s equal; in crafty, and unscrupulous diplomacy his superior. Where Gregory used the naked sword. Urban chose a dagger dipped in venom. The Emperor and the Antipope he hated with deep and implacable hatred.
One of his first home-thrusts at the former, other than the customary interdict, came through the Countess Mathilda; he forced her—a maiden lady in her forty-fourth year—solely on political grounds to wed the younger Guelf, a youth of eighteen, the son of the Duke of Bavaria, the most powerful and dangerous of the Emperor’s opponents. The event brought Henry to Italy to crush the alliance; fortune favored his cause for two years, then it turned, and the victorious Mathilda hung up his dishonored banner in the castle church at Canosa. When the young Bavarian prince having only sought her possessions, discovered that the title to these had been given to the Church, and that the Pope had deceived him, he shook off the un natural yoke, and re-crossed the Alps. Urban, however had accomplished his purpose.
The Emperor had two sons, Conrad and Henry. Conrad was a youth of singular beauty, gentle and religious, but weak; in an evil hour he sent him to Italy. Urban, through his tools, the Countess Mathilda and a train of priests, persuaded Conrad that it was his duty to forsake his father, lying under the ban of the Church, and obey him, the Pope, assuring him that the act would turn to his eternal benefit in heaven, and be followed by his immediate and independent possession of the crown of Italy. Conrad thereupon was crowned King, first at Monza, and afterwards at Milan. Urban, moreover with intent to widen the unnatural breach, and attach him more closely to himself, arranged his marriage with the beautiful daughter of his opulent partisan, the Norman Roger, Count of Sicily.
The revolt of Conrad almost killed his father; it stunned him ; in the gloom of despair he would have fallen upon his own sword, had not his friends prevented him. But the last and most deadly blow Urban reserved for the great Church Council at Piacenza, to which two hundred bishops, four thousand of the clergy, and more than thirty thousand of the laity repaired, to witness, as all expected, his triumph over the empire, and other exciting scenes. No church, no building, of any kind, could hold such a multitude, and the Council met in the open plain. There they introduced the Emperor’s second wife, the Russian Praxedis accusing her husband of incredible crimes; the Pope and the Council believed them, and condemned him unheard. Urban’s triumph was complete; his enemy was crushed, his cause irretrievably lost.
To that Council came also the ambassadors of the Greek Emperor, Alexius Comnenus, entreating the Pope and assembled Latin Christendom to aid him against the Moslems. It were better, they said, to repel them on the frontiers of Asia than give them battle in the heart of Europe.
The Council wept at the sad tale they told, but did not commit itself to a promise. A number of the most faithful of Urban’s partisans nevertheless pledged themselves on oath, at his bidding, to join an expedition. The whole matter was left in his hands with the general understanding that in the event of a satisfactory arrangement with the Greeks the demonstration would be made, and that the crisis would come to a head in the Council which later in the year was to meet at Clermont in the Auvergne. There in his native land Urban expected to complete and celebrate his triumph. The scheme gathered strength and took shape in the interval. He crossed the Alps and conferred first, at Le Puy, with the bishop Adhemar de Monteil, who had recently made the pilgrimage of the Holy Land, and then, at St. Gilles, the home of Count Raymond of Toulouse, with that opulent, powerful, and influential man, whose interest and example would doubtless secure the co-operation of every noble between the Alps and the Pyrenees.
There is no doubt whatever that the whole course of the business to be transacted by the Council was most skillfully prepared, and arranged beforehand. The master-mind and artistic disposition of Urban gave consistency and effect to the whole. The interval of seven months between Piacenza and Clermont had been well employed; all Christendom was excited as never before; the highways of Europe were crowded with bishops and priests, abbots and monks, princes, nobles, knights, and their following on the way to Clermont. The city was crowded to excess, and though the season was far advanced, many thousands of people lived in the city of tents without the walls.
The records enumerate over and above the Court, and the Cardinals accompanying the Pope, thirteen archbishops, two hundred and twenty five bishops, four hundred abbots, one army of priests and monks, another of knights and soldiers, and a multitude of lords, chieftains, men of high and low degree in fabulous numbers.
The Council lasted eight days; in one of its earliest sessions the ancient Truce of God was made a general law; this was the first and necessary preliminary. Until then the operation of this beneficent institution, forbidding the baneful practice of private war, was limited to the days hallowed by the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord; the Council of Clermont extended it to the great church-seasons of Advent. Lent, Easter, and Whitsun, together with all feast and fast-days, and decreed, “that all churches and altars, monks, nuns, women, pilgrims, and merchants, together with all men and things belonging to agriculture should perpetually enjoy the truce of God, and that all Christians everywhere more than twelve years old should swear to keep it, on pain of loss, bodily suffering, and excommunication. This law, thus authoritatively set forth, awed the host of armed men present, and assured those unable or unfit to go to war, that their lives and possessions had the powerful protection of the Church while their natural defenders fought the infidel.
This impression was deepened by the solemn and formal excommunication, in the heart of his own country, of Philip I., King of France; all felt that the Pontiff who thus punished the immorality and disobedience of a crowned head, would not shrink from striking at less exalted offenders.
The tenth session of the Council was held in the Grande Place in presence of an immense multitude. On a lofty platform or stage stood an extemporized throne. Urban, followed by his Cardinals, and other high dignitaries, ascended it. At his side was Peter the Hermit, and prepared the way in one of his characteristic speeches, of the same tenor as that given on a former page. Then Urban addressed the Assembly in French.
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