Freethought Archives > G W Foote & J M Wheeler > Crimes of Christianity



THE Crusades form one of the maddest episodes in history. Christianity hurled itself at Mohammedanism in expedition after expedition for nearly three centuries, until failure brought lassitude, and superstition itself was undermined by its own labors. Europe was drained of men and money, and threatened with social bankruptcy, if not with annihilation. Millions perished in battle, hunger, or disease; and every atrocity the imagination can conceive disgraced the warriors of the Cross. But there is a law of compensation in nature; good often comes of evil; and the Crusades broke up the night of the Dark Ages. The Christians were brought face to face with a civilisation superior to their own; their eyes were dazzled by the light of Arabian learning; and the mental ferment which succeeded in Europe led to the cultivation of science and literature, the foundation of universities, the study of the immortal classics of Greece and Rome, the growth of philosophy and scepticism, the Renaissance in Italy, and the Reformation in Germany. And these movements, in turn, led to the French Revolution, which sounded the death-knell of Feudalism, and to the Freethought of Voltaire, which pierced the heart of Superstition.

Religious fanaticism gave birth to the Crusades. Modern apologists of Christianity have assigned other causes, and some have argued that a political necessity impelled the rulers of Europe to make war on the hosts of Asia. But these are the excuses of a later age and a more timid faith. Long before the emperors of Constantinople solicited the aid of the papacy against the invading Saracens, the idea of arming Christendom against "the infidels" had occurred to the mind of Pope Sylvester II, who at the end of the tenth century "entreated the church universal to succor the church of Jerusalem, and to redeem a sepulchre which the prophet Isaiah had said should be a glorious one, and which the sons of the destroyer Satan were making inglorious." [173:1] Hallam remarks that the Christian cry, "It is the will of God," proves the motive with which the Crusades were undertaken.

"These words afford at once the most obvious and the most certain explanation of the leading principle of the Crusades. Later writers, incapable of sympathising with the blind fervor of zeal, or anxious to find a pretext for its effect more congenial to the spirit of our times, have sought political reasons for that which resulted only from predominant affection. No suggestion of these will, I believe, be found in contemporary historians." [173:2]
From the fourth century, when Queen Helena "discovered" the true cross, which was exhibited for money and chipped for sale by the priests, Jerusalem had been an object of pilgrimage, although according to the universal testimony of orthodox witnesses the holy city was a sink of iniquity. The very dust of Palestine was adored. It was treasured as a charm against demons, and St. Augustine mentions a young man who had some of the dust of Jerusalem suspended in a bag over his bed. During the Middle Ages the soil of Palestine was transported in large quantities to Europe [173:3] and at Pisa the cemetery called Campo Santo was said to contain five fathoms of holy land brought from Jerusalem in A.D. 1218. [173:4]

Pilgrimages were made at first for a very natural reason. The faithful desired to behold the places which had been hallowed by their Savior's presence, and to bend in worship over his tomb. But in the course of time other motives operated. Adventurous spirits, tired of the dulness of home, set out as pilgrims in order to see strange lands and profit by some new turn of fortune. Even ladies who were sick of cloistered life, and "chaunting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon," made pilgrimages to Rome and Palestine. Their modesty was seldom proof against the sights of their journey, or their chastity against its temptations. The lady pilgrims from England were notorious for their gallantries. A foreign bishop, in the ninth century, urgently besought the Archbishop of Canterbury to prohibit English women of every rank and degree from pilgrimising; and Muratori cites an old observation that "There are few cities in Lombardy, in France, or in Gaul, in which there is not an English adulteress or harlot, to the scandal and disgrace of the whole Church." [174:5]

Towards the end of the tenth century the millennium was believed to be at hand. The delusion was artfully cultivated by the Church for its own profit. People sold their property, and their very persons into slavery to the priests.

"They underwent the austerities of the cloister, and the pains and labors which the monks imposed. God's vicegerents on earth were propitiated by costly gifts, and so strong was the fanaticism, that private property was suffered to decay, and noble edifices were destroyed, from the conviction of their approaching inutility. From every quarter of the Latin world the poor affrighted Christians, deserting their homes and ordinary occupations, crowded to the holy land. The belief was general that on the place of his former suffering Christ would judge the world: his zealous but ignorant votaries thought that these voluntary sacrifices and penances would be acceptable with heaven. Years rolled on years; the thunderbolts of vengeance remained in the skies; nature held her appointed course. The world discovered that its interpretations of prophecy had been rash and presumptuous." [174:6]
But Jerusalem became dearer than ever to the Christian heart, and in the following century pilgrimages were carried to their greatest height. 

Jerusalem had long been in possession of the Mohammedans. It was captured by Omar in A.D. 637. The great caliph entered without bloodshed, and conversed amicably as he rode along with the patriarch of the city, on its antiquities. He granted the Christians the use of their churches and the free practice of their religion. His laconic decree is worth preserving: "In the name of the most merciful God. From Omar Ebu Al Khattab, 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." [175:7] The dignity and humanity of Omar, and the graceful chivalry of Saladin, who captured Jerusalem from the Christians in a later age, form a vivid contrast to the rudeness and ferocity of the soldiers of Christ.

In the course of time the Mohammedans "usurped" three-fourths of the city, but the Christians were safe in their own quarter, and a tribute of two pieces of gold was the price of their protection. The sepulchre of Christ and the church of the Resurrection were left in the hands of his votaries. The Greeks, the Latins, the Nestorians and Jacobites, the Copts and Abyssinians, the Armenians and Georgians, maintained their respective chapels and clergy. The worship of God in so many various tongues would have been an edifying spectacle, but "the zeal of the Christian sects was embittered by hatred and revenge; and in the kingdom of a suffering Messiah, who had pardoned his enemies, they aspired to command and persecute their spiritual brethren." [175:8] The same spirit continues to the present age. The Greek and Latin Christians are equally allowed to worship in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, but it is found necessary to allot each sect a separate half of the edifice, and a guard of Turkish soldiers stands between them to maintain the peace.

Towards the end of the tenth century the Christian pilgrims were ill-used by the Turks, who robbed them on their journey, gave them emetics of scammony water to make them vomit swallowed treasure, and sometimes ripped open their bodies. [176:9] These acts were not, however, instigated or sanctioned by the government. But the church of the Resurrection was, in A.D. 1009, demolished by the fanatical Hakem, who persecuted the "infidels," and "made some martyrs and many proselytes." The sacrilege astonished and afflicted the nations of Europe, "but instead of arming in the defence of the Holy Land, they contented themselves with burning or banishing the Jews." [176:1] Nearly a century later, the Turks indulged in more wanton acts of oppression. The pilgrims were despoiled, the clergy were insulted, and the church of the Resurrection, which had been rebuilt, was often desecrated by the followers of Mohammed. "The pathetic tale," says Gibbon, "excited the millions of the West to march under the standard of the cross to the relief of the Holy Land ... a nerve was touched of exquisite feeling; and the sensation vibrated to the heart of Europe." [176:2]

The principal agent of this excitement was Peter the Hermit, a native of Amiens in France. He had been a soldier, in his youth, but losing his desire to become a hero, he married a noble lady of the house of Roussy. She was, however, old, poor and ugly; and Peter "withdrew from her bed to a convent, and at length to a hermitage." [176:3] He there fasted and prayed until he saw the Savior in a vision and a letter fell from heaven. To expiate some early sins he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where the Patriarch gave him a lamentable account of the sufferings of his co-religionists. "As a penance for my sins," exclaimed Peter, "I will travel over Europe; I will describe to princes and people the degraded state of the church, and urge them to repair it." [176:4]

Peter kept his word. He repaired to Pope Urban II, who "received him as a prophet, applauded his glorious design, promised to support it in a general council, and encouraged him to proclaim the deliverance of the Holy Land." [177:5] Peter's appearance, like that of Saint Paul, was contemptible. All agree that "he had an ignoble and vulgar exterior." [177:6] "His small and mean person," says Mills, "was macerated by austerities," and his face was thin and careworn. [177:7] But his eye was keen and lively, and he was a splendid mob-orator. He preached the crusade through Italy and France to multitudes of people. Hrode, with bare head and naked feet, on a donkey or a mule, [177:8] which the public regarded as sacred, the very hairs of its tail being treasured as relics.

"When he painted the sufferings of the natives and pilgrims of Palestine, every heart was melted to compassion; every breast glowed with indignation when he challenged the warriors of the age to defend their brethren and rescue their Savior; his ignorance of art and language was compensated by sighs, and tears, and ejaculations; and Peter supplied the deficiency of reason by loud and frequent appeals to Christ and his mother, to the saints and angels of paradise, with whom he had personally conversed." [177:9]
Urban the Second summoned a council at Placentia in March, A.D. 1095. It was attended by two hundred bishops, four thousand of the clergy, and thirty thousand laymen; and as no cathedral was large enough to hold the multitude, the session of seven days was held in a plain adjacent to the city. Audience was given to the ambassadors of the Greek emperor, Alexius Commenus, who sought assistance against the common enemies of Christendom. The assembly burst into tears, and declared their readiness to march. But the prudent Urban adjourned the final decision to a second synod. The Council of Clermont was held in November of the same year. Besides the court and council of Roman cardinals, thirteen archbishops, two hundred and twenty-five bishops, a host of clergy and knights, and a countless multitude of common people, attended from all parts of Europe. The deliberations were held in an open square. Seven days were devoted to various canons, and the eighth to the great object of the assembly. Finally the Pope ascended a lofty pulpit and delivered a long harangue, which may be found in the pages of Mills. [178:1] When he solemnly commanded a Crusade against the"infidels who were in possession of Christ's sepulchre, and promised a remission of sins to those who joined it, and paradise to those who fell in battle, his excited auditors shouted in various idioms, Deus vult! Deus lo vult! Dieux le volt!" God wills it, God wills it!" Yes, exclaimed the Pope,
"It is indeed the will of God; and let this memorable word, the inspiration surely of the Holy Spirit, be for ever adopted as your cry of battle, to animate the devotion and courage of the champions of Christ. His cross is the symbol of your salvation; wear it, a red, a bloody cross, as an external mark, on your breasts or shoulders, as a pledge of your sacred and irrevocable engagement." [178:2]
In conclusion the Pope quoted the text, "He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me." [178:3]

Christ's saying, "I come not to bring peace, but a sword," was to be verified, and the cross was to be the symbol of bloodshed. Imitating their Savior, who carried the cross on his shoulder, the Crusaders fixed the mark on their right shoulders, or on the upper part of their backs, and sometimes on the top of the arm. Its general color was red. The most frenzied crusaders cut the holy sign on the flesh itself, [178:4] and the stigmata was deemed an evidence of peculiar sanctity. "Women and children," says Michaud, "imprinted crosses on their delicate and weak limbs, to show the will of God." [178:5] The Abbé Guibert mentions a monk who made a large incision on his forehead in the form of a cross, and preserved it with a concoction of juices. He took care to report that the incision was the work of an angel, and it procured for him, during the voyage and the war, all the help he could desire. This astute and enterprising monk gained a prize by the deception, for he afterwards became archbishop of Caesarea. [179:6]

Religious fanaticism was the chief motive of this Crusade, but it was mixed with others. Chivalry had induced a love of fighting and adventure, and brave knights dreamed of carving out kingdoms from the empire of the infidels. The east was thought to abound in riches; the "wealth of Ormus and of Ind" gleamed on the imagination; and sensuality was allured by the fabulous flavor of oriental wines and the magical beauty of Grecian women. Avarice, ambition, and lust, co-operated with faith.

The Crusaders were also granted a plenary indulgence by the Pope; and "at the voice of their pastor, the robber, the incendiary, the homicide, arose by thousands to redeem their souls by repeating on the infidels the same deeds which they had exercised against their Christian brethren." [179:7] They also enjoyed temporal privileges.

"During the time that a crusader bore the cross, he was free from suit for his debts, and the interest on them was entirely abolished; he was exempted, in some instances at least, from taxes, and placed under the protection of the Church, so that he could not be pleaded in any civil court, except on criminal charges, or disputes relating to land." [179:8]
Many of the clergy took the cross, although the Pope declined to lead. Not a few of them, says Michaud, had their thoughts fixed on the rich bishoprics of Asia, and were led on by the hope of "some day occupying the most celebrated sees of the Eastern church." [179:9]

The most strenuous efforts were made to inflame the credulous multitude.

"Every means was used to excite an epidemical frenzy; the remission of penances, the dispensation from those practices of self-denial which superstition imposed or suspended at pleasure, the abolition of all sins, and the assurance of eternal felicity. None doubted that such as perished in the war received immediately the reward of martyrdom. False miracles and fanatical prophecies, which were never so frequent, wrought up the enthusiasm to a still higher pitch." [180:1]
Persons of every age, rank, and degree, took the cross. When men wanted faith, women left them in disgust and followed the holy banner, carrying infants in their arms. Sometimes a rustic shod his oxen like horses, and placed his whole family in a cart. Whenever a castle was sighted the poor creatures inquired if it was Jerusalem. Monks threw off their gowns and enrolled themselves as warriors. "Women appeared in arms in the midst of warriors," says Michaud, "prostitution not being forgotten among the austerities of penance." [180:2] "The moral fabric of Europe," says Mills, "was convulsed; the relations and charities of life were broken; society appeared to be dissolved." [180:3]

Walter the penniless, a gentleman of Burgundy, whose poverty was more remarkable than his military abilities, led the first body, which consisted of twenty thousand foot, and only eight horsemen. [180:4] They swept through Hungary and entered Bulgaria, where they were regarded as so many savage invaders, and refused supplies. Walter's mob turned their arms against the unfriendly Christians, but they were miserably beaten. Hundreds of them fled into a church, trusting that the Bulgarians would not spill blood in the house of God. The sanctity of the place was so far respected, but the edifice was set on fire, and many perished in the flames, while others were killed in leaping from the roof. Walter escaped with a few associates, and found refuge at Constantinople. [180:5]

Peter the Hermit led the second host of forty thousand [180:6] men, women and children, of all nations and languages. Arriving at Malleville they avenged their precursors by assaulting the town, slaying seven thousand of the inhabitants, and abandoning themselves to "every species of grossness and libertinism." According to Mills "virgin modesty was no protection," and "conjugal virtue no safeguard" [181:7] against these sanctified soldiers of the cross. King Carloman marched an army against them, and they fled. Many were drowned in the Save, on the other side of which the survivors were attacked by a large body of Turcomans. The French suffered heavily, but the Germans and Lorrainers avenged them; and Peter offered as a bloody sacrifice to God the few prisoners who remained after the battle.

Bulgaria was a desert before Peter's horde. The duke had gone to the fortified town of Nyssa, and the inhabitants had retreated into the forests. A band of Germans set fire to some houses near Nyssa, and the people rushed upon the rear of the Crusaders, avenging their wrongs with massacre and plunder. In turn the city was assaulted, but the Crusaders were repulsed with a loss of ten thousand. Peter lost heart and burst into tears, but some robuster lieutenants collected his scattered followers; and destitute of arms and money, and unable to procure provisions, they marched in a famishing state to Philipopolis, where Peter's eloquence obtained them assistance. Thence they marched to Constantinople, but the emperor prudently refused them admission, and ordered them to remain in Greece. He supplied them with provisions, and as soon as they recovered strength they "repaid his generosity by deeds of flagitiousness on his people. Palaces and churches were plundered to afford them means of intoxication and excess." [181:8] Alexius shipped them across the Bosphorus, where they recommenced their excesses. Michaud says that they "committed crimes which made nature shudder." [181:9] Peter lost all control over them, and returned to Constantinople. The French were distinguished for ferocity. They killed children at the breast, scattered their limbs in the air, and carried their ravages to the very walls of Nice. They took the castle of Xerigord, and slaughtered the Turkish garrison. But the Sultan attacked them with fifteen thousand men. Their leader, Reginald, with some companions, embraced Islamism. The rest persuaded Walter the Penniless to lead them, and soon met with the reward of their crimes. The Turks exterminated them, and made a pyramid of their bones. [182:1]

The third crusading wave was commanded by Godeschal, a German monk. His sermons

"had swept fifteen or twenty thousand peasants from the villages of Germany. Their rear was again pressed by a herd of two hundred thousand, the most stupid and savage refuse of the people, who mingled with their devotion a brutal license of rapine, prostitution and drunkenness." [182:2]
According to Michaud, they gave themselves up to intemperance; they forgot Constantinople and Jerusalem "in tumultuous scenes of debauchery," and "pillage, violation, and murder were everywhere left as the traces of their passage." [182:3] At Mersburgh they committed horrible outrages. On a trifling quarrel they impaled a young Hungarian in the market place. [182:4] The Hungarians rose in arms, the plains of Belgrade were covered with the Crusaders' bones, and only a few of Godeschal's rabble escaped to tell the tale.

The fourth wave issued from England, France, Flanders and Lorraine. Mills calls them "another herd of wild and desperate savages." Their leaders were a goat and a goose, [182:5] who were thought to be inspired by the Holy Ghost. The Turks being far off, they took to murdering the Jews, a crime which gratified at once their avarice and their fanaticism. Cologne was the first city they stained with blood. Thousands of Jews were massacred and pillaged in the towns on the banks of the Rhine and Moselle. Seven hundred were slaughtered at Mayence, despite the protests of the venerable metropolitan. The Bishops of Trèves and Worms protected the Jews on condition of their apostacy. Some noble spirits disdained the terms and slew themselves in the palace of the Bishop of Worms. At Trèves many Jews barricaded their houses, burnt their wealth, and perished in the flames; while in other cases "Mothers plunged the dagger into the breasts of their own children, fathers and sons destroyed each other, and women threw themselves into the Moselle." [183:6] The infernal multitude, as Mills calls them, "hurried on to the south in their usual career of carnage and rapine;" but at Memsburg their passage was opposed by an Hungarian army. It proved that "their cowardice was as abject as their boldness had been ferocious; and the Hungarians pursued them with such slaughter that the waters of the Danube were for some days red with their blood." [183:7]

Three hundred thousand Crusaders thus perished before a single city had been wrested from the infidels. Many died of famine and disease, and most of the others fell fighting against their fellow Christians.

A more regular crusade was undertaken by the princes of feudal Europe in the following year. Nobles sold their estates, or exchanged them for arms and equipments, and it is worthy of notice that the chief purchasers were the clergy. Father Maimbourg declared that, while the secular princes ruined themselves for the cause of Christ, the princes of the Church took advantage of the general delirium to enrich themselves. [183:8]

Under the leadership of Godfrey of Bouillon the Crusaders arrived at Constantinople. Marching through Pelagonia they burnt a castle full of heretics. The Provençal contingent advancing through Greece were worried by the peasantry, but they terrorised the hostile natives by maiming and disfiguring those they caught. The Emperor Alexius, fearing the Crusaders more than the Turks, needed all his subtlety to divert them from attacking him; but at length, in May, A.D. 1097, they mustered on the plains of Nice, seven hundred thousand strong. [183:9]

Nice was saved by the subtle Greek emperor, and the Crusaders marched to Antioch. Having ravaged the country, they suffered from famine. Provisions rose to a fabulous price, the horses had to be eaten, and the siege reduced the cavalry from one hundred thousand to two thousand. Being encumbered with hosts of women belonging to their families the Crusaders were exposed to the most frightful sufferings, especially in their march across "burning Phrygia."

"Historians say that women were seen giving premature birth to their offspring in the midst of burning and open fields: whilst others, in despair, with children they could no longer nourish, implored death with loud cries, and, in the excess of their agony, rolled naked on the earth in the sight of the whole army." [184:1]
"Carrion was openly dressed," says Mills, "and human flesh was eaten in secret." He adds in a footnote that "Cannibalism was carried to a great extent by the lowest of the low." [184:2] Von Sybel says that the camp-followers made a virtue of it.
"Peter the Hermit became their spiritual leader and saint; they moreover elected a military commander whom they called Tafur, the Turkish for King of the Beggars; and laid down certain rules; for instance, no one was to be tolerated among them who possessed any money; he must either quit their honorable community, or hand over his property to the King of the Beggars for the common fund. The princes and knights did not venture into their camp except in large bodies and well armed; and the Turks said of the Tafurs, that at they liked nothing so well to eat as the roasted flesh of their enemies." [184:3]
Among the early French poems on the Crusades is one entitled The Leaguer of Antioch, of which Von Sybel gives an abbreviated translation:
  "Now lithe and listen lordlings, while the Christians' hap I tell,
That, as they lay in leaguer, from hunger them befell.
In evil case the army stood, their stores of food were spent:
Peter the holy Hermit, he sat before his tent:
Then came to him the King Tafur, and with him fifty score
Of men-at-arms, not one of them but hunger gnawed him sore.
'Thou holy Hermit, counsel us, and help us at our need;
Help, for God's grace, these starving men with wherewithal to feed.'
But Peter answered, 'Out, ye drones, a helpless pack that cry,
While all unburied round about the slaughtered Paynim lie. 
A dainty dish is Paynim flesh, with salt and roasting due.'
'Now by my fay,' quoth King Tafur, 'the Hermit sayeth true.'
Then fared he forth the Hermit's tent, and sent his menye out,
More than ten thousand, where in heaps the Paynim lay about.
They hewed the corpses limb from limb, and disembowelled clean,
And there was sodden meat and roast, to blunt their hunger keen:
Right savory fare it seemed there; they smacked their lips and spake,--
Farewell to fasts: a daintier meal than this who asks to make?
'Tis sweeter far than porker's flesh, or bacon seethed in grease.
Let's make good cheer, and feast us here, till life and hunger cease.'" [185:4]

Tancred deplores their brutish taste to the Turkish commander, but his reprobation is faint in comparison with the gusto of Tafur's cannibals.

Gibbon also says of the Crusaders that "in the dire necessity of famine, they sometimes roasted and devoured the flesh of their infant or adult captives." [185:5] Bohemond slew some Turkish prisoners and roasted them publicly. [185:6] Cannibalism was also resorted to at the siege of Marra. One chronicler dryly says there is nothing surprising in the matter, and wonders that they sometimes ate dogs in preference to Saracens. [185:7]

Mutilation of the dead was indulged in as a sport. The heads of two thousand Turks, who fell in a sortie from Antioch, were cut off; some were exhibited as trophies, others were fixed on stakes round the camp, and others shot into the town. On another occasion they dragged infidel corpses from their sepulchres, and exposed fifteen hundred heads to the weeping Turks. [185:8]

Fighting for Christ did not keep the Crusaders chaste. During the siege of Antioch they gave the rein to their passions, and "seldom does the history of profane wars display such scenes of intemperance and prostitution." One archdeacon of royal birth was slain by the Turks as he reposed in an orchard, playing dice with a Syrian concubine. [185:9] Michaud, who on the whole admires the Crusaders, is obliged to deplore that the temptations of a beautiful sky, and a neighborhood once devoted to the worship of Venus and Adonis, "spread license and corruption among the soldiers of Christ."

"If contemporary accounts are to be credited, all the vices of the infamous Babylon prevailed among the liberators of Sion. Strange and unheard-of spectacle! Beneath the tents of the Crusaders famine and voluptuousness formed a hideous union; impure love, an unbounded passion for play, with all the excesses of debauch, were mingled with the images of death." [186:1]
Antioch at last fell by treachery. Traitors inside lowered ropes in the night, by means of which the Crusaders scaled the walls. They seized ten towers and slew the guards. A gate was then opened and the whole army entered the city with trumpets braying. Shouting "Deus il vult," they began to butcher the sleeping inhabitants.
"For some time the Greeks and Armenians were equally exposed with the Mussulmans; but when a pause was given to murder, and the Christians became distinguished from the infidels, a mark was put on the dwellings of the former, and their edifices were regarded as sacred. The dignity of age, the helplessness of youth, and the beauty of the weaker sex, were disregarded by the Latin savages. Houses were no sanctuaries; and the sight of a mosque added new virulence to cruelty." [186:2]
The number massacred on this night was at least ten thousand. The Turkish commander escaped with a few friends and reached the mountains. An old wound opened in his head, the loss of blood produced giddiness, he fell from his horse, and was left behind. "His groans," says Mills, "caught the ear of a Syrian Christian in the forest, and he advanced to the poor old man. The appeal to humanity was made in vain; and the wretch struck off the head of his prostrate foe, and carried it in triumph to the Franks." [186:3]

The passion for plunder had been stilled by the thirst for blood:

"When, however, every species of habitation, from the marble palace to the meanest hovel, had been converted into a scene of slaughter, when the narrow streets and the spacious squares were all alike disfigured with human gore, and crowded with mangled carcasses, then the assassins turned robbers, and became as mercenary as they had been merciless." [187:4]
The Crusaders ate, drank, and indulged in the wildest debauchery. Unbounded license was given to every passion. In a few days they consumed all the provisions in the city, and they had so devastated the surrounding country that no fresh supplies could be obtained. The citadel, which in the first flush of victory they had left uncarried, was still held by the Turks, and now the victors were themselves besieged by Kerboga. The enemy was without and within. Their former distresses were nothing to the miseries they now suffered. The most nauseous vegetables were greedily eaten. They boiled the leaves of trees and stewed the leather of their accoutrements. Multitudes tried to escape by dropping from the walls at night, and earned the opprobrious epithet of rope dancers. Peter the Hermit was among the number, according to Gibbon; although Mills and Michaud place his attempted desertion in the first siege, when he fled with William the Carpenter, was brought back by Tancred, and only saved from execution by an act of royal clemency. Old Fuller says:
"When the siege grew hot his devotion grew cold; he found a difference betwixt a voluntary fast in his cell, and a necessary and indispensable famine in a camp; so that being well nigh hunger-pinched, this cunning companion, who was a trumpet to sound a march to others, secretly sounded a retreat to himself." [187:5]
The Christians were in despair. They openly rebuked God for deserting them; even the chiefs joined in these blasphemies, and during several days, not only were the ceremonies of religion neglected, but no priest or layman uttered the name of Christ. [187:6] At length the Virgin came to their assistance. Peter Bartholemy, a loose and cunning priest, was informed by St. Andrew that the Holy Lance which pierced the side of Christ was buried under the church of St. Peter. Workmen dug without discovering it, but Peter Bartholemy deposited there in the night the head of a Saracen lance, which was duly discovered in the morning, and exhibited to the troops. The wonderful object excited their courage. They sallied from the town and in a single battle annihilated or dispersed the enemy. But when the peril was over, scepticism asserted itself. Poor Peter was obliged to pass through the ordeal of fire to prove the truth of the miracle, and died from the injuries he suffered. [188:7]

The Crusaders still loitered at Antioch which they continued to disgrace by vice and disorder. Bitter strife broke out among the chiefs as to the division of the fruits of victory. It extended to their followers, whose bloody feuds paralysed every movement. The multitude of unburied corpses bred a plague which destroyed more than a hundred thousand. At last they moved towards Marra, which they captured. They slaughtered all the inhabitants who did not escape by suicide, and devoured their flesh; and it is even said that human flesh was publicly exposed for sale in the Christian camp. [188:8] The streets ran with blood until ferocity was tired. Bohemond then reviewed his prisoners. "They who were vigorous or beautiful," says Mills, "were reserved for the slave market at Antioch, but the aged and infirm were immolated at the altar of cruelty." [188:9]

By this time the crusading host was reduced to twenty thousand foot and fifteen hundred cavalry. Nearly a million soldiers of Christ, of all ages and conditions, and of both sexes, had perished in less than two years; to say nothing of those who fell victims to their cruelty and fanaticism. Yet the holy sepulchre was still in the hands of the infidels, the object of the Crusade was unaccomplished, and only a feeble remnant of the hosts that assembled at Nice were now ranged under the banner of the cross. But the bloody symbol had not lost its power, nor was their enthusiasm quenched; and the cry still broke from their lips, "On to the city of God!"

Lest we should be suspected of exaggerating the number of Crusaders who perished before Jerusalem was reached, we may observe that Mills estimates it at eight hundred and eighty thousand. [189:1] Hallam's calculation is nearly as high.

"So many crimes and so much misery have seldom been accumulated in so short a space as in the three years of the first expedition. We should be warranted by contemporary writers in stating the loss of the Christians alone during this period at nearly a million; but at the least computation it must have exceeded half that number." [189:2]
Of the seven hundred thousand who assembled at Nice only about forty thousand remained, and of these only twenty thousand foot and fifteen hundred cavalry could be reckoned as soldiers.

On their march to the holy city Raymond wished to sack Tripoli, but the other generals preferred a ransom of fifteen thousand pieces of gold. At Ramula they obtained much spoil, as well as the canonised bones of their patron, St. George. The Crusaders were passionately fond of such articles. There is an amusing story of how the Venetian contingent, in A.D. 1098, quarrelled with the Pisan contingent over the bones of St. Nicholas. The two fleets, consisting of several hundred vessels, joined at Rhodes.

"The little island of San Nicolo contained the body of the saint from whom it was named--a deposit of much value in the eyes of the Venetians ... Whether the purchasers were niggardly in the price which they offered, or whether the Caloyers, to whom the merchandise belonged, were exorbitant in their demands, is not now to be ascertained; but the Venetians, unable to complete a satisfactory bargain, resolved to possess by force that which they could not obtain by negotiation. The relics were torn from their shrine, and conveyed to one of the Venetian galleys; not, however, to be received in peace, for the partition of the spoil became an object of dispute between the allies. The Pisans urged that, being on the spot, they were entitled to at least half the booty; the Venetians denied their claim to any part of it. Angry words were quickly succeeded by direct hostilities; and the two Christian fleets, designed to rescue the Holy Sepulchre from unbelievers, directed their arms, in the first instance, to purposes of mutual destruction for the possession of a dead man's bones." [190:3]
The Venetians were victorious, taking twenty Pisan galleys, and five thousand prisoners. After a few months' piracy in the Levant, they returned home, and devoutly deposited the relics of St. Nicholas in a chapel on the isle of Lido.

Leaving Ramula, after a sojourn of three days, the Crusaders set out for Jerusalem. On sighting the holy city they shouted its name, and shed tears of joy. The garrison consisted of forty thousand Egyptian troops, commanded by Istakar, a favorite general of the caliph. [190:4] Without much skill the city was invested and its walls battered unsuccessfully. The besiegers suffered greatly from hunger and more from thirst. "Misery," says Mills, "produced disorder and crime; and the clergy complained that in the short space of a month, the character of the Christian soldiers before Jerusalem had become as immoral as it had been in the long and painful siege of Antioch." [190:5]

After a procession round Jerusalem, in the fashion of the ancient circuit of Jericho, led by barefooted priests carrying crosses and shouting "Deus id vult," while the multitude marched to the melody of hymns and psalms, a fresh assault was made on the city, which was at length successfully stormed on Good Friday. At the very hour when Christ was crucified they erected their banners on the walls of Jerusalem. Tasso's description of the scene is very beautiful, and would be delightful if we were ignorant of what followed. Instead of making the "holy hour" an occasion for mercy, the Crusaders acted like wild beasts, and turned the city of the sepulchre of Christ into a hell of rapine, murder and lust.

Fleury hints that there was something miraculous in the capture of Jerusalem, the obstacles being so great and the enterprise so ill-conducted. He surmises that God gave the victory as a reward to a few good knights, like Godfrey of Bouillon, who were truly religious. But he admits that "the Christians abused the victory by putting all the Mussulmans to the sword, and filling Jerusalem with blood and carnage." [191:6] Gibbon's censure is still more vigorous:

"A bloody sacrifice was offered by his mistaken votaries to the God of the Christians: resistance might provoke, but neither age nor sex could mollify their implacable rage. They indulged themselves three days in a promiscuous massacre; and the infection of the dead bodies produced an epidemical disease. After seventy thousand [191:7] Moslems had been put to the sword, and the harmless Jews had been burnt in their synagogue, they could still reserve a multitude of captives, whom interest or lassitude persuaded them to spare." [191:8]
As the conduct of the Crusaders in Jerusalem, on reaching the goal of their hopes, is a crucial test of their general character and of the influence of their creed, we shall cite other authorities on this subject.

Michaud gives a graphic account of the massacre:

"The Saracens were massacred in the streets and in the houses. Jerusalem had no refuge for the vanquished. Some fled from death by precipitating themselves from the ramparts; the others crowded for shelter into the palaces, the towers, and above all in their mosques, where they could not conceal themselves from the pursuit of the Christians. The Crusaders, masters of the mosque of Omar, where the Saracens defended themselves for some time, renewed there the deplorable scenes which disgraced the conquest of Titus. The infantry and cavalry rushed pell-mell among the fugitives. Amid the most horrid tumult, nothing was heard but the groans and cries of death; the victors trod over heaps of corpses in pursuing those who vainly attempted to escape. Raymond d'Argiles, who was an eye-witness, says that under the portico of the mosque the blood was knee-deep and reached the horses' bridles. [191:9]

Mills writes to the same effect:

"Such was the carnage in the Mosque of Omar, that the mutilated carcasses were hurried by the torrents of blood into the court; dissevered arms and hands floated into the current that carried them into contact with bodies to which they had not belonged. Ten thousand people were murdered in this sanctuary. It was not only the lacerated and headless trunks which shocked the sight, but the figures of the victors themselves reeking with the blood of their slaughtered enemies. No place of refuge remained to the vanquished, so indiscriminately did the insatiable fanaticism of the conquerors disregard alike supplication and resistance. Some were slain, others were thrown from the tops of the churches and of the citadel." [192:1]
After the massacre these warriors of the meek and lowly Jesus "with tears of rapture, and in a state of ecstatic piety, threw themselves down to pray at the Holy Sepulchre, surrounded with heaps, of the slain." [192:2] They laid down their arms, washed off the stains of blood, and put on the robes of penitence for their sins, among which they did not include the slaughter of the infidels. The clamor of their thanksgiving, says an old chronicler, was loud enough to have reached the stars. Peter the Hermit was recognised and embraced as the apostle of the expedition. This is the last we hear of him. His future is shrouded in obscurity. Various traditions prevailed as to his subsequent movements. Wilken says that he returned home and founded a monastery at Huy, where he died sixteen years afterwards. [192:3]

After paying their devotion to Christ, and worshipping on the various spots that were hallowed by his presence, the Crusaders resumed the murder of his enemies. Three hundred prisoners, to whom Tancred had promised safety, were perfidiously massacred. This, and what followed, was not the result of the unbridled rage of the soldiery, but a deliberate act of a council of the chiefs. [192:4]

"All the captives whom humanity or the lassitude of carnage had at first spared, all those who had been saved in the hope of a rich ransom, were slaughtered. The Saracens were forced to throw themselves from the tops of towers and houses; they were burnt alive; they were dragged from their subterranean retreats; they were haled to the public places and immolated on piles of the dead. Neither the tears of women, nor the cries of little children, nor the sight of the place where Jesus Christ forgave his executioners, could mollify the victor's passion." [192:5]
Mills also says "It was resolved that no pity should be shown to the Mussulmans."
"The subjugated people were therefore dragged into the public places, and slain as victims. Women with children at the breast, girls and boys, all were slaughtered. [192:6] The squares, the streets, and even the uninhabited places of Jerusalem, again were strewed with the dead bodies of men and women, and the mangled limbs of children, No heart melted into compassion or expanded into benevolence." [193:7]
As especial objects of malevolence, the Jews were reserved for the worst fate. Their synagogues, into which they were driven, were set on fire, and they all perished in the flames.

Michaud remarks that the contemporary Christian historians describe these frightful scenes with perfect equanimity. Even amid recitals of the most disgusting details they "never allow a single expression of horror or pity to escape them." [193:8] Nor did the clergy feel any more compunction than the laymen. There is a letter written by Daimbert, archbishop of Pisa, to the Pope, in which he says: "If you desire to know what became of the enemies we found in Jerusalem, know that in the portico of Solomon and in the temple, our soldiers had the vile blood of the Saracens up to the knees of their horses." [193:9]

Amid the pursuits of piety and murder, the Crusaders did not neglect to enrich themselves. Each soldier became the owner of any house at whose portal he set his buckler. The treasures of the mosques were devoted to the Church. Raymond's Provençals, entering the city last, had not the usual share of spoil; they therefore burnt piles of Saracen bodies, hoping to find gold and silver among the ashes. [194:1]

Such was the conquest of Jerusalem by the bloody warriors of the cross. There is no blacker chapter in the world's history; and although the genius of Tasso has adorned the first Crusade and embellished its leaders, justice condemns the expedition as wicked and insane, and truth brands alike the soldiers and their chiefs as the vilest horde of pious savages that ever polluted the earth.

According to the clergy, the first duty in Jerusalem, after cleaning the city, was to elect a patriarch. Arnold was ambitious of this office, but "the debaucheries of this priest were the subjects of the songs of the army." [194:2] The knights despised his claims, and proceeded to the election of a king, the choice falling on Godfrey of Bouillon, who reigned only a year, and was rapidly followed by a series of successors, whom we need not enumerate. A feudal kingdom was established, in which princes and bishops, priests and knights, lorded it over the common herd. Its jurisprudence included trial by battle, and its social economy included villains and slaves, "the peasants of the land and the captives of war, who were almost equally considered as the objects of property." [194:3] Like hawks or hounds, if they strayed away they might be claimed and recovered. Whoever harbored a fugitive villain had to pay two hundred golden besants. The value of a female villain was one hundred pieces. A female falcon fetched the same price, and a war-horse thrice the sum. [194:4] New organisations were formed for the defence of the Holy Land; and the soldier-priests, the Knights of St. John and the Knights Templar, became famous in history.

Fanaticism was rampant in the new kingdom. "It behoved the champion of the sepulchre," says Mills, "to wade through seas of blood." When Baldwin, Godfrey's immediate successor, captured Caesarea, all the inhabitants were put to the sword. "The Christians," says Michaud, "particularly the Genoese, carried away by a thirst for pillage, and still more by vengeance and the fury of battle, stained their victory by horrible cruelties." [195:5] Similar atrocities were committed at Ptolemaïs. After a brave resistance the garrison proposed to surrender on honorable terms. The gates were opened to the Christians, and the inhabitants were departing with their valuables; but the Genoese, avaricious of such booty, "paid no respect to the capitulation, and massacred without pity a disarmed and defenceless people." [195:6] What wonder that the disgusted Saracens retaliated the cruelties of the Christian invaders, and that when they captured Edessa they indulged in an indiscriminate massacre, sparing neither age nor sex.

Superstition also was rife. A piece of the true cross was found, and the precious relic was carried into every engagement, with some milk of the Blessed Virgin. [195:7] Perfidy was common. The Latin Christians broke treaties with the Moslems, on the principle that faith with infidels is not binding. Baldwin III gave the Moslems liberty of pasturage round Paneas; and as soon as the ground was covered with flocks of sheep, the Christian soldiers carried them away and murdered the keepers. Vice was everywhere prevalent. The clergy and the laity were alike depraved, and William of Tyre complained that there was not one chaste woman in Palestine. A Council was held at Naplousa in A.D. 1120, "and if the state of morals can be judged of from the code of laws then promulgated, vice must have reached its maturity of corruption." Palestine had the same evil celebrity at the close of the Crusades. Villani says that the fall of Acre, which led to the total loss of the Holy Land, in A.D. 1291, was a great and just judgment of God, for the city was full of wicked men and abandoned women. [195:8] According to Michaul, who refers to Jacques de Vitri's account of the Christians in the East, "The satires of Juvenal would appear moderate by the side of the pages of this historian, who had been in the Holy Land in the quality of a legate."

"The leaders of the Christian colonies, equally with the heads of the Church, themselves set the example of licentiousness. The Christians beheld a queen of Jerusalem, the widow of Baldwin III, keep up a criminal intercourse with Andronicus, and seek an abode among the Saracens with the companion of her debaucheries. Bohemond, prince of Antioch, repudiated his wife Erina, to espouse a courtesan ... The sight even of the tomb of Christ was unable to inspire more holy thoughts. The patriarch Heraclius, who only owed his elevation to mundane and profane qualities, lavished the treasures due to pilgrims and the poor upon infamous prostitutes." [196:9]
France, Italy and Germany poured forth fresh hordes on hearing that the holy sepulchre was wrested from the infidels. Led by dukes, counts and barons, over four hundred thousand streamed into Asia Minor, where they swiftly perished of famine, disease, and the sword. The Crusaders marched off to their doom gaily, and frequently made ample provision for carnal enjoyment. William, count of Poictiers, for instance, left behind him a voluptuous court, but he set out for the East "accompanied by a great number of his vassals, among whom were a vast many women and young girls." [196:1]

The second Crusade was preached by St. Bernard with such success, that, in his own words, "the towns were deserted, or the only people that were in them were widows and orphans, whose husbands and fathers were yet living." In support of the Crusade, says Jortin, "he wrought such a multitude of miracles, that the Martins and Symeons are hardly fit to hold a candle to him." He cured the blind, the deaf, and the dumb, to say nothing of the sick, and performed no less than thirty-six miracles in a single day. [196:2] The upshot, however, was lamentable.

"Having promised the Croisez great success in the name of the Lord, and finding them soundly banged and utterly discomfited, he wrote an Apology for himself, justifying his promises, and laying the fault entirely on the vices of the Croisez. You never knew a fanatic pretending to prophecy who ever blushed when his predictions came to nought, or ever was at a loss for some paltry subterfuge in his own vindication." [197:3]
Louis VII of France joined this Crusade. In reducing the count of Champagne, he had massacred the inhabitants of Vetri after their submission, and burnt sixteen hundred of them in a church; and as popular indignation sharpened his conscience, he resolved to expiate his sins by a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The emperor of Germany was also persuaded to join the expedition. Each sovereign commanded over seventy thousand troops. A considerable troop of women, armed with spear and shield, rode among the Germans. Nor were the French behind in this mixture of sexes, which naturally led to much depravity. "A great number of women," says Michaud, "attracted by the example of Eleanor of Guienne, took up the cross, and armed themselves with sword and lance." [197:4] There was a separate troop of Amazons, commanded by a female general, whose dress was more admired than her courage, and whose gilded boots procured her the name of "the lady with the golden legs."

Later Crusades were joined by children. A shepherd boy in Vendôme, in A.D. 1212, raised armies of boys and girls. They marched to Marseilles, believing that the sea would open before them, and that they should reach the Holy Land dry-shod. They were plundered and murdered by older Christians; and two merchants, who got the rest to embark for Palestine, sold the boys as slaves and the girls to fill the harems of the infidel. The movement extended to Germany, but was suppressed by the Pope, who approved the Vendôme mania. Twenty-five years later there was another abortive child pilgrimage. Thousands perished miserably, as though, says Fuller, the Devil "desired a cordial of children's blood to comfort his weak stomach, long cloyed with murdering of men." [197:5]

Louis and Conrad marched to the Holy Land, wasted much time, treasure and blood, and returned to Europe without gaining anything.

Meanwhile the famous Saladin was rising to his zenith. With the simplicity and justice of his uncle, the great Noureddin, he combined a chivalry which was all his own. He was sometimes cruel, but more often humane; a strict Mohammedan, but "otherwise of enlarged mind, great heart, generous and gay, accessible to every mental stimulus or social impression." [198:6] He was affable and patient with the meanest of his servants, and accessible to the poorest suppliant against himself or his ministers. His liberality was boundless, and at the time of his death only forty-seven drachms of silver and one piece of gold were found in his treasury. [198:7]

He died on the 3rd of March, A.D. 1193, at Damascus. "Take this cloak," said he on his death-bed to his servant, "show it to the faithful, and tell them that the ruler of the East could take but one garment with him into the grave." [198:8] By his last will Saladin ordered charities to be distributed to the poor, without distinction of Jew, Christian, or Mohammedan. [198:9]

Saladin defeated the Christians at Tiberias in July, A.D. 1187, and advanced to Jerusalem. Unwilling to stain the venerated city with blood, he offered the people money and settlements in Syria if they would capitulate. They refused, but prayer was a poor defence, and after several days' fighting they threw themselves on his mercy.

"He consented to accept the city and to spare the inhabitants. The Greek and Oriental Christians were permitted to live under his dominion; but it was stipulated that in forty days all the Franks and Latins should evacuate Jerusalem and be safely conducted to the seaports of Syria and Egypt; that ten pieces of gold should be paid for each main, five for each woman, and one for every child; and that those who were unable to purchase their freedom should be detained in perpetual slavery." [198:1]
Saladin paid the ransom of thousands of the poorest himself. Malek Adel followed his example, redeeming two thousand. Eventually only about an eighth of the inhabitants were unredeemed, and many of these embraced Mohammedanism. Unlike the brutal Crusaders, who massacred without distinction of age or sex, Saladin melted with compassion at the tears of women, and when they begged of him their fathers, husbands and brothers, he granted their request and loaded them with presents. [199:2] Michaud pays a warm tribute to this noble infidel.
"He rendered to the mothers their children, and to the wives their husbands, among the captives. Several Christians had abandoned their furniture and most precious effects, and carried on their shoulders their old and enfeebled parents or their sick and infirm friends. Saladin was touched (attendri) by this spectacle, and recompensed with his charities the virtue and the piety of his enemies. Taking pity on all unfortunates, he allowed the Knights of the Hospital to remain in the city to tend the pilgrims, and those who were prevented by grave maladies from leaving Jerusalem." [199:3]
Gibbon justly says that "in these acts of mercy the virtue of Saladin deserves our admiration and love." [199:4] Dante places Saladin in Hell, as became a good Christian, but in the best society; with Brutus, Cornelia, Aristotle, Socrates and Plato. [199:5]

Saladin's humanity was in striking contrast with the villainy of the nearest Christian prince. "Many of the Christians who left Jerusalem," says Mills, "went to Antioch: but Bohemond not only denied them hospitality, but even stripped them. They marched into the Saracenian country, and were well received." [199:6] Michaud gives some striking details of Christian inhumanity to the exiles from Jerusalem. Repulsed by their brethren of the East, they wandered miserably about Syria, many dying of grief and hunger. Tripoli shut its gates against them, and "one woman, urged by despair, cast her infant into the sea, cursing the Christians who refused them succor." [199:7]

Gregory VIII issued a bull for a third Crusade, and all Europe flew to arms. Frederic Barbarossa came from Germany, Philip Augustus from France, and Richard Coeur de Lion from England. Their armies amounted to hundreds of thousands. A general tax, called the Saladine tenth, was imposed on the laity and clergy to raise the sinews of war. "The practice," says Gibbon, "was too lucrative to expire with the occasion; and this tribute became the foundation of all the tithes and tenths on ecclesiastical benefices which have been granted by the Roman pontiffs to Catholic sovereigns, or reserved for the immediate use of the apostolic see." [200:8]

This crusade was as vain as its predecessor. Barbarossa was drowned in a Syrian stream. Richard Coeur de Lion performed prodigies of valor, but was outwitted by Saladin. He sighted Jerusalem without being able to attack it, and finally signed a treaty with the Sultan, which allowed the Christians to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem, and exempted them from taxation. Saladin generously granted, at the request of the bishop of Salisbury, the establishment of Latin priests at the Holy Sepulchre, and at Bethlehem and Nazareth. On his way home to England, Richard was clapped into prison by his brother Crusader, the Duke of Austria, and only liberated, after a long detention, by the payment of an inordinate ransom.

Like other Crusades, this one was marked by the grossest debauchery. While the French king was encamped before Ptolemaïs, and his army was a prey to famine and disease, they indulged in the worst excesses. Three hundred women arrived from Cyprus and the Greek islands, and prostituted themselves in the Christian camp, while the Saracens beheld the spectacle with disgust. [200:9] Michaud sums up the depravity of the soldiers of the cross by saying that all the vices of Europe and Asia had met in one spot.

The most flagrant crime of this Crusade was perpetrated by Richard at Acre. During the siege, and after the capture of this city, the Crusaders wallowed in vice. Richard's courage, however, gave them the victory. Saladin agreed to give up a piece of the holy cross, and pay two hundred thousand pieces of gold for the prisoners. Incensed by a trifling delay, the savage Richard on the Friday after the Assumption marched two thousand five hundred Saracens outside the walls, and murdered them before the Sultan's eyes. "It was done," says an ancient writer, "with the assent of all." No danger from the prisoners was alleged as an excuse; the act was one of simple ferocity. After the butchery, "With a superstition equally cruel and fierce, the Christians searched the carcasses of the murdered Turks for golden byzants, and converted the gall which was found in their dead bodies into medicines." [201:1] Saladin might have made reprisals, but he disdained to emulate the barbarity of Richard, and sent back his prisoners unharmed. [201:2]

The gains of the third Crusade were exceedingly trivial. Ptolemaïs was captured, and Ascalon demolished. For this Germany lost a great emperor and a fine army, and other countries suffered in proportion. Out of six hundred thousand Crusaders scarcely a hundred thousand returned to their native lands. [201:3]

Two years after the death of Saladin, Pope Celestine III promoted a fourth Crusade, which was also abortive. "All the powers of the West," says Michaud, "miscarried in an attempt upon a little fortress in Syria." This Crusade calls for little comment. The German garrison at Jaffa was massacred by the Saracens while "celebrating the feast of St. Martin with every excess of drunkenness and debauchery." While besieging the castle of Thoron the warriors of the cross gave themselves up to their usual vices. Men who had left their wives to fight for Christ attached themselves to the vilest prostitutes; in fact, "the vices and disorders of the Crusaders were so disgraceful that the authors of the old chronicles blush whilst they retrace the picture of them." [201:4]

The fifth Crusade was proclaimed in A.D. 1200 by Innocent III, who simply wanted to raise money "for the gratification of his luxury and avarice." [202:5] Fulk, of Neuilly, preached up the expedition. He was an illiterate priest, but a good missionary.

"The fame of his sanctity and miracles was spread over the land: he declaimed, with severity and vehemence, against the vices of the age; and his sermons, which he preached in the streets of Paris, converted the robbers, the usurers, the prostitutes, and even the doctors and scholars of the university." [202:6]
Richard of England, however, would not yield to Fulk's persuasions. "You advise me," he said, "to dismiss my three daughters -- pride, avarice, and incontinence: I bequeath them to the most deserving -- my pride to the Knights Templars, my avarice to the monks of Cisteaux, and my incontinence to the prelates."

Gibbon devotes a magnificent chapter to this Crusade, which, instead of attacking the infidel, turned its arms against Constantinople, and subverted the Greek empire. Before the city was carried, it suffered from the bigotry of some Flemish pilgrims.

"In one of their visits to the city they were scandalised by the aspect of a mosque or a synagogue, in which one God was worshipped, without a partner or a son. Their effectual mode of controversy was to attack the infidels with the sword, and their habitation with fire; but the infidels, and some Christian neighbors, presumed to defend their lives and properties; and the flames which bigotry had kindled consumed the most orthodox and innocent structures. During eight days and nights the conflagration spread above a league in front, from the harbor to the Propontis, over the thickest and most populous regions of the city." [202:7]
Constantinople was the capital city of a Christian empire, but the Crusaders sacked it as though it were inhabited by Saracens. The Crusaders put to the sword every Greek they met with on entering the city. "It was a horrible spectacle," says old Villehardouin, "to see women and young children running distractedly here and there, trembling and half-dead with fright, lamenting piteously, and begging for mercy." [202:8]

"The scenes of female violation," says Mills, "need not be described." [203:9] According to Gibbon, "Pope Innocent III accuses the pilgrims of respecting, in their lust, neither age, nor sex, nor religious profession; and bitterly laments that the deeds of darkness, fornication, adultery, and incest, were perpetrated in open day; and that noble matrons and holy nuns were polluted by the grooms and peasants of the Catholic camp." [203:1] The Crusaders were insensible to pity. For several days they enacted the worst scenes of outrage and spoliation, within and without the walls of Constantinople. "Villages, churches, and country houses," says Michaud, "were all devastated and given over to pillage. A distracted crowd covered the roads, and wandered about at hazard, pursued by fear, bending under fatigue, and uttering cries of despair." [203:2] Nicetas, the Byzantine historian, whose daughter was with difficulty preserved from violation, reproaches the Crusaders with having surpassed the infidels in barbarity; he reminds them of the example of Saladin's soldiers, who, when masters of Jerusalem, neither violated the modesty of matrons and virgins, nor subjected the Christians to fire, sword, hunger, and nakedness. [203:3]

Churches were despoiled as well as other buildings. Some of these scenes of sacrilegious plunder are inimitably described by Gibbon.

"After stripping the gems and pearls, they converted the chalices into drinking cups; their tables, on which they gamed and feasted, were covered with the pictures of Christ and the saints; and they trampled under foot the most venerable objects of the Christian worship. In the cathedral of St. Sophia the ample veil of the sanctuary was rent asunder for the sake of the golden fringe; and the altar, a monument of art and riches, was broken in pieces and shared among the captors. Their mules and horses were laden with the wrought silver and gilt carvings which they tore down from the doors and pulpit; and if the beasts stumbled under the burden, they were stabbed by their impatient drivers, and the holy pavement streamed with their impure blood. A prostitute was seated on the throne of the patriarch; and the daughter of Belial, as she is styled, sang and danced in the church to ridicule the hymns and processions of the Orientals." [204:4]
Thus, many centuries before the French Revolution, the Crusaders anticipated the famous performance of the Goddess of Reason. Demoiselle Candeille, who sat on the high altar of Notre Dame while Chénier's Ode to Liberty was chanted by the Convention, was not a prostitute however, as she is generally described by the apologists of Christianity, nor did she officiate, as they allege, in a state of nudity. She was an actress and a handsome woman, but no more than her face was visible, the rest being decently covered; [204:5] while the girl whom the Crusaders hired to dance and sing wantonly in the Christian cathedral of St. Sophia was a notorious courtesan, whom Nicetas, the contemporary historian, describes as a follower of demons and priestess of the furies. [204:6]

Not satisfied with pillage which amounted to millions, the Crusaders destroyed or mutilated the artistic treasures of the capital of eastern Christendom.

"Constantinople, which to this period had stood erect amidst the ruins of several empires, had collected within its walls the scattered relics of the arts, and was proud to exhibit the masterpieces that had been saved from the destruction of barbarous ages. The bronze, in which breathed the genius of antiquity, was cast into the furnace, and converted into money, to satisfy the greedy soldiers. The heroes and gods of the Nile, those of ancient Greece and of ancient Rome, the masterpieces of Praxiteles, Phidias, and the most celebrated artists, fell beneath the strokes of the conquerors." [204:7]
Many ancient writings also perished in the fires or the pillage, and several classics that existed in the twelfth century are now irretrievably lost. The soldiers of Christ were not avaricious of such contemptible treasures as the wisdom or the wit of antiquity, but they greedily sought and tenaciously kept the relics of superstition. According to Mills, the collection of such things "seems to have been the favorite occupation of the Crusaders when they relaxed from the labors of extermination. Accordingly, the western world was deluged by corporeal fragments of departed saints, and every city had a warehouse of the dead." [205:8] Such, adds Gibbon, was "the increase of pilgrimage and oblation," by the scattering of heads and bones, crosses and images, over the churches of Europe, that "no branch, perhaps, of more lucrative plunder was imported from the east." [205:9] The Western Christians rejoiced in the acquisition, while the Eastern Christians deplored the loss of such priceless relies as the bones of John the Baptist, an arm of St. James, a splinter of the true cross, and the baby linen and hair of Jesus Christ. [205:1]

The sixth Crusade was preached by Robert de Courçon, a friend of Pope Innocent III. "Women, children, the old, the blind, the lame, the lepers," says Mills, "all were enrolled in the sacred militia." [205:2] The king of Hungary, the dukes of Austria and Bavaria, and all the potentates of Lower Germany, united their forces in A.D. 1216. Their one achievement was the successful siege of Damietta. Mills describes their glorious victory after a leaguer of eighteen months.

"The legate and the king assaulted the walls, and soon entered the city, with the same ruthless feelings as had maddened the early Crusaders, when they first leaped on the battlements of Jerusalem. But revenge sought its victims in vain. Damietta was one vast charnel-house. Of a population, which at the beginning of the siege consisted of more than seventy thousand souls, three thousand only were the relics. The conquerors marched through a pestilential vapor. The streets, the mosques and the houses were strewed with dead bodies. The rich and the poor, the master and the servant, lay with no reference to distinction. The children at the breast had drawn the last remnants of life from their mothers." [205:3]
What a spectacle! How proudly the bannered cross must have floated over the scene!

The seventh Crusade was resolved on at the Council of Spoletto in A.D. 1234. Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land were for a while in the hands of the Christians, but were soon recaptured. An eighth Crusade was therefore planned at the Council of Lyons in A.D. 1245. This was headed by Louis IX of France, generally known as Saint Louis. Landing at Damietta, which had been retaken by the Moslems, Louis captured the city, fixed his residence there and turned the mosques into churches. His army exhibited the usual vices of Crusaders.

"The Barons emulated each other in the splendor of their banquets and the commonalty abandoned themselves to the lowest vices. So general was the immorality, that the king could not stop the foul and noxious torrent." [206:4]
Michaud writes to the same effect, and as his picture is in fuller detail, we give it also.
"The passion for gaming had got entire possession of the leaders and soldiers: after losing their fortune, they risked even their horses and arms. Even beneath the shadow of the standards of Christ the Crusaders gave themselves up to all the excesses of debauchery; the contagion of the most odious vices pervaded all ranks, and places of prostitution were found even in the close vicinity of the pavilion inhabited by the pious monarch of the French. To satisfy the boundless taste for luxury and pleasure recourse was had to all sorts of violent means. The leaders of the army pillaged the traders that provisioned the camp and the city; they imposed enormous tributes upon them, and this assisted greatly in bringing on scarcity. The most ardent made distant excursions, surprised caravans, devastated towns and plains, and bore away Mussulman women, whom they brought in triumph to Damietta." [206:5]
Joinville says that "the common people took to forcing and violating matrons and maidens." The Crusade was a hopeless failure, meeting beyond Damietta with little else than discomfiture and defeat, Louis being taken prisoner and afterwards ransomed, and most of his troops exterminated. Before the next Crusade the Templars and the Hospitallers fought each other, the red cross against the white. "Few prisoners were taken," says Mills, "and scarcely a Templar escaped alive." [206:6]

The fall of Antioch before the Moslems evoked the ninth Crusade in A.D. 1268. St. Louis joined it. Landing at Tunis, he fell a prey to the pestilential air, and, as Jortin says, "died like a fool, of the plague." [207:7] St. Louis was perhaps a great man, but he was a fierce fanatic, an implacable hater of heretics, and a great patron of the Inquisition.

Prince Edward of England continued the Crusade, giving an earnest of the savagery which Scotland afterwards so rued. He captured the birthplace of Christ, and Nazareth witnessed on a smaller scale "the barbarities which stained the entry of the Christians into Jerusalem two centuries before." [207:8] Every Mussulman found in the city was put to the sword. [207:9] The Syrian sun at length prostrated Edward's vigorous frame, and he gladly signed a treaty of peace with the Sultan of Egypt.

Gregory IX tried in vain to stimulate a fresh Crusade. A new Council of Lyons in May, 1274, ordered the clergy to pay a tenth of their revenues for six years, and boxes to be placed for collections in the churches. Money was raised, but Europe refused to fight. Meanwhile the Mamelukes swept through Palestine, capturing Acre, and murdering or imprisoning all the Christians who could not escape to Cyprus or Armenia. All the fruit of nine Crusades was lost, the possession of the Holy Land was finally resumed by the infidels, and, in the fine phrase of Gibbon, "a mournful and solitary silence prevailed along the coast which had so long resounded with the WORLD'S DEBATE."

But before Mohammed captured Constantinople, and substituted for the ancient and effete Greek empire the modern and vigorous despotism of the Turks, there were several spasmodic efforts to chastise the insolent infidels. These enterprises were chiefly stimulated by the Popes, who not only profited by the Crusades, but found them an admirable expedient to stifle the growing spirit of heresy and inquiry. Few are worth our notice, but one at least demands our attention, as it exhibits the striking manner in which the Christians combined business and religion. The Genoese contemplated a descent upon the coasts of Barbary, and on hearing the report a crowd of warriors issued from all the provinces of France. Embarking together, the French and the Genoese set sail, with music and streaming banners. After a rapid voyage they arrived at the coast of Barbary, and laid siege to the city of Africa. The inhabitants not only resisted, but being unable to conceive why they were attacked by strangers whom they had never injured, they sent deputies to the Christians to inquire the reason of their unexpected visit. Taken aback by this pertinent and sensible question, the Duke of Bourbon called a council of the principal leaders, and after a full deliberation the following answer was returned:

"Those who demand why war is made against them, must know that their lineage and race put to death and crucified the Son of God, named Jesus Christ, and that we wish to avenge upon them this fact and evil deed. Further, they do not believe in the holy baptism, nor in the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ; and all these things being considered is why we hold the Saracens and all their sect as enemies." [208:1]
The "Saracens" were not convinced by this extraordinary argument. "They only laughed at it," says Froissart, who gives an account of the expedition, "and said it was neither reasonable nor proved, for it was the Jews who put Christ to death, and not they." Perhaps they thought, with better logic than their invaders, that the foreign fleet was as anxious for plunder as for the honor of Christ. They kept them at a respectful distance, and the Christians had to return home empty-handed.

Despite the long and savage war waged against them by the Christians, the Mohammedans returned to the maxims of toleration which had originally been practised by the Saracens at Jerusalem. Pilgrims from Europe were freely allowed to visit the imaginary tomb of their Redeemer, and monks were permitted a safe residence at the sacred spot. Gradually the indignation of the Christian states subsided into a melancholy resignation, and the land of the Nativity and the Passion was suffered to remain in the undisputed possession of the infidel. The apostles of the cross only avenged their faith by cheap insults, like that of Brother Vincent, who declared that God withheld the Holy Land from the Christians lest they should sin there, and gave it to the Mohammedans, with whom he was not offended, because they were only dogs. [209:2]

Before closing this chapter it will be necessary to consider the pretexts by which the Crusades have been defended, and to see what were their effects on the civilisation of Europe.

Michaud's apology for the conflict of the Cross against the Crescent is a remarkable one. We should reflect, he says, on what splendid results would have flowed from the Crusades if they had been successful! [209:3] But this is a barren argument; nor is it certain that the substitution of Christianity for Mohammedanism in the East would have been a blessing. But there is a secondary plea advanced by Michaud which is more plausible. He maintains that the Crusades averted a Mohammedan attack on Europe. [209:4] Sir James Mackintosh urges the same argument. The eastern frontiers of Christendom were threatened, and "an attack on any Mohammedan territory was an act of self-defence; it was the means of securing themselves against attack." [209:5] Macaulay also writes in a similar strain. "It was better," he says, "that the Christian nations should be roused and united for the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre, than that they should, one by one, be overwhelmed by the Mohammedan power." [209:6]

This reasoning is based upon the assumption, either that there was a special danger of attack from the East at the time of the first Crusade, or that the Mohammedans were bent on subjugating Christendom whenever an opportunity occurred.

The first assumption is obviously false. No danger hung over Europe when the Crusades commenced. The Mohammedans were themselves divided and engaged in internecine strife; and if they opposed a united front to the Christian invader, it was only because their "mutual jealousies yielded to the high necessity of preservation." [210:7] Europe was, indeed, threatened with subjection when France was invaded by the Spanish and African Moors; but no Crusade was preached then, and Christendom had acquiesced for ages in the existence of Islamism.

The second assumption is less obviously false, and has therefore been frequently employed. "The Turk," says Bacon in his Essays, "hath at hand, for cause of war, the propagation of his law or sect; a quarrel that he may always command." This notion is elaborated in a later work of Bacon's.

"In deliberation of war against the Turk it hath been often, with great judgment, maintained that Christian princes and states have always a sufficient ground of invasive war against the enemy; not for cause of religion, but upon a just fear; forasmuch as it is a fundamental law in the Turkish empire that they may, without any other provocation, make war upon Christendom for the propagation of their law; so that there lieth upon Christians a perpetual fear of war, hanging over their heads, from them; and therefore they may at all times, as they think good, be upon the preventive." [210:8]
No one will be surprised to find this argument repeated by Johnson, whose bigotry was constitutional.
"The lawfulness and justice of the holy wars have been much disputed; but, perhaps, there is a principle on which the question may be easily determined. If it be a part of the religion of the Mohammedans to extirpate by the sword all other religions, it is, by the laws of self-defence, lawful for men of every other religion, and for Christians among others, to make war upon Mohammedans, simply as Mohammedans, as men obliged by their own principles to make war upon Christians, and only lying in wait till opportunity shall promise them success." [210:9]
There is much virtue in an "if." Johnson, like Bacon, is theoretically right. The Koran does enjoin war against infidels, but so does the Bible; and the Jews and Christians, as Sale remarks, [211:1] have not been behind the Mohammedans in the practice of this pious virtue. But statesmen are not to be guided by theoretical reasons; otherwise every Protestant nation would be obliged to outlaw Roman Catholics because they acknowledge the supremacy of the Pope. Mohammedanism, like other religions, has learned to accommodate itself to circumstances. The ninth chapter of the Koran furnishes the doctors of Islam with a merciful and convenient passage, on which they found the law that the professors of other religions are to be tolerated on payment of a small tribute, which is remitted to the indigent. [211:2] Nor did Mohammed himself ever oppress the Christians who would live at peace with him. As Gibbon observes, he "readily granted the security of their persons, the freedom of their trade, the property of their goods, and the toleration of their worship." [211:3] Christian churches were allowed in Mohammedan states, though it is safe to affirm that no Christian state would have tolerated a Mohammedan mosque. Even in India the Mohammedan conquerors "spared the pagods of that devout and populous country." [211:4] The Arabian caliphs gave freedom to all the oriental sects. The patriarchs, bishops, and clergy, were protected in their domestic jurisdictions by the civil magistrate. Learned Christians were employed as secretaries and physicians; they were made collectors of the revenue, and sometimes raised to the command of cities and provinces. [211:5] When Saladin recaptured Jerusalem from the Crusaders, he made a distinction between the Latin and the Greek and Oriental Christians. The former were treated as captives of war, but the latter were permitted to remain as his subjects, and to worship their gods in their own fashion. Nor has this tolerant tradition been since violated, for to this day the Jews and Christians of the Turkish empire enjoy the liberty of conscience which was granted by the caliphs, and many a fugitive from Christian bigotry has found shelter with the "persecuting" Mohammedans.

Sir James Mackintosh urges the ridiculous plea that it was lawful for the Christians "to defend the safe exercise of their religious worship in Palestine." [212:6] But such rights must be reciprocal, or they cease to exist. How could the Christians claim what they were not prepared to concede? Is it not enough to reply that no Mohammedan colony would have been suffered in Christendom, and that the followers of Jesus, who were so incensed at a casual outburst of Turkish bigotry in Palestine, everywhere denied the Jews the common rights of citizenship?

Such subtle sophistries did not inspire the Crusaders. They were animated by a simple fanaticism. The tomb of Christ was in the possession of the infidel, and they revolted at the sacrilegious idea. "Religion," says Michaud, "was the principle which acted most powerfully upon the greater number of the Crusaders." [212:7] The expedition against the Mohammedans, as Robertson remarks, was "the only common enterprise in which the European nations ever engaged," and it remains a singular monument of human folly." [212:8]

Whether the Crusades produced good or evil, and in what proportion, may fortunately be decided by facts. Accordingly, there is a singular agreement among the highest authorities. Gibbon's opinion is that the Crusades "checked rather than forwarded the maturity of Europe." [212:9] Mills says that they "retarded the march of civilisation, thickened the clouds of ignorance and superstition, and encouraged intolerance, cruelty, and fierceness." [212:1] Macaulay says that the Italian commonwealths gained in commerce through the Crusades, which they might have done without them, but allows that "the inhabitants of other countries gained nothing but relies and wounds." [212:2]

The Crusaders could not help seeing that the Saracenic civilisation was superior to their own, but they were too bigoted to learn from the professors of a rival faith. Even literature was not stimulated or enriched. Berington, who, as a Catholic, would not needlessly censure a movement blessed by the Church, declares that the Crusades "were utterly sterile with respect to the arts, to learning, and every moral advantage." [213:3] Hallam also says that they had "little or no influence on literature," [213:4] and he points out that such learning as the degenerate Greeks possessed was irretrievably injured by the illiterate Latin dynasty which for sixty years followed the capture of Constantinople. Arabian learning had been trickling into Europe through Spain and Italy for two centuries before the Crusades, and it was not hastened in the least by the holy wars. [213:5]

Gibbon perceives "an accidental operation of the Crusades" in undermining Feudalism. Many barons wasted their estates, or extinguished their lines, in these expeditions. The sovereigns who stayed at home profited by such occurrences, and it is justly remarked by Robertson that "the regal authority rose in proportion as that of the aristocracy declined." The result was that "a more general and steady administration of justice began to be introduced, and some advances were made towards the establishment of regular government in the several kingdoms of Europe." [213:6]

A more positive result of the Crusades was the strengthening and enriching of the Papacy. They were "for the popes a pretext to usurp, in all the states of Europe, the principal attributes of sovereignty;" the clergy gained the greatest ascendancy, and "the empire of the, popes had no longer any opposition or limits." [213:7] Father Paul remarks that the popes, by their briefs, made themselves and the chief prelates the guardians of the families and affairs of the rich Crusaders, and encouraged them to make over their estates to the Church; while enormous sums were raised from devout people, which "nobody imagines was all laid out in the war." [214:8] The sale of indulgences grew out of the Crusades, and this in time led to the Protestant revolt in Germany. But it would be highly unphilosophical to ascribe the Reformation, as Heeren was tempted to do, to the action of the Crusades. The corruption of the Papacy led to a reduction of its power, as the excesses of burglars might lead to a better protection of our dwellings.

Another result was extremely pernicious, and must have been widespread. The natural tendency of a fanatical religious war, as Mills observes, is "to indurate the heart and brutalise the character," and the humanity of Europe must have deteriorated during these enterprises. The violation of domestic ties must also have contributed to the gross immorality of those ages. How far religion had extinguished the domestic sentiments in the breasts of the Crusaders was illustrated in the siege of Carac, when the soldiers of Christ, rather than surrender, actually sold their wives and children to the Saracens. [214:9] The sequel illustrated the superiority of the infidels; for when the fortress was yielded to Saladin, he not only granted the defenders their lives and liberties, but restored to them their wives and children whom they had barbarously sold into slavery.

The last and worst result of the Crusades was the growth of superstition and fanaticism. With equal fineness and truth Gibbon says:

"The principle of the crusades was a savage fanaticism; and the most important effects were analogous to the cause. Each pilgrim was ambitious to return with his sacred spoils, the relics of Greece and Palestine; and each relic was preceded and followed by a train of miracles and visions. The belief of the Catholics was corrupted by new legends, their practice by new superstitions; and the establishment of the Inquisition, the mendicant orders of monks and friars, the last abuse of indulgences, and the final progress of idolatry, flowed from the baleful fountain of the holy war. The active spirit of the Latins preyed on the vitals of their reason and religion; and if the ninth and tenth centuries were the times of darkness, the thirteenth and fourteenth were the age of absurdity and fable." [215:1]
Fighting the infidel abroad heightened the spirit of bigotry, and sharpened the sword against the heretic at home. Jortin remarks that the thirteenth century saw "hanging and burning for God's sake become the universal practice." [215:2] Milman also observes that the Holy War strengthened the doctrine that "The unbeliever was the natural enemy of Christ and of his Church; if not to be converted, to be punished for the crime of unbelief, to be massacred, exterminated by the righteous sword." [215:3] Besides the incalculable evils they directly caused, the Crusades led to the slaughter of the Northern pagans, the massacre of the Albigenses, and the other wholesale cruelties with which the Papacy afterwards desolated Europe.


[Webmaster's note: the projected Volume Two was never published.]

< Previous Chapter      Contents      Home      Top of Page
HTML © 2002 -