The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam

The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam

Jonathan Riley-Smith
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 136
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  • Book Info
    The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam
    Book Description:

    The Crusades were penitential war-pilgrimages fought in the Levant and the eastern Mediterranean, as well as in North Africa, Spain, Portugal, Poland, the Baltic region, Hungary, the Balkans, and Western Europe. Beginning in the eleventh century and ending as late as the eighteenth, these holy wars were waged against Muslims and other enemies of the Church, enlisting generations of laymen and laywomen to fight for the sake of Christendom.

    Crusading features prominently in today's religio-political hostilities, yet the perceptions of these wars held by Arab nationalists, pan-Islamists, and many in the West have been deeply distorted by the language and imagery of nineteenth-century European imperialism. With this book, Jonathan Riley-Smith returns to the actual story of the Crusades, explaining why and where they were fought and how deeply their narratives and symbolism became embedded in popular Catholic thought and devotional life.

    From this history, Riley-Smith traces the legacy of the Crusades into modern times, specifically within the attitudes of European imperialists and colonialists and within the beliefs of twentieth-century Muslims. Europeans fashioned an interpretation of the Crusades from the writings of Walter Scott and a French contemporary, Joseph-François Michaud. Scott portrayed Islamic societies as forward-thinking, while casting Christian crusaders as culturally backward and often morally corrupt. Michaud, in contrast, glorified crusading, and his followers used its imagery to illuminate imperial adventures.

    These depictions have had a profound influence on contemporary Western opinion, as well as on Muslim attitudes toward their past and present. Whether regarded as a valid expression of Christianity's divine enterprise or condemned as a weapon of empire, crusading has been a powerful rhetorical tool for centuries. In order to understand the preoccupations of Islamist jihadis and the character of Western discourse on the Middle East, Riley-Smith argues, we must understand how images of crusading were formed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51794-2
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. 1-8)

    The First Crusade was fought between 1096 and 1102. The crusading movement was at its most popular from the late twelfth century to the late fourteenth, but was still active in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The last crusade league was the Holy League, which began the recovery of the Balkans from the Turks between 1684 and 1699. The last operative order-state of a military order was Hospitaller Malta, which succumbed to Napoleon in 1798. A new military order was founded as late as 1890, although it had a very short life, as we will see. We are faced by...

  4. CHAPTER ONE Crusades as Christian Holy Wars
    (pp. 9-28)

    Crusades were penitential war pilgrimages, fought not only in the Levant and throughout the eastern Mediterranean region, but also along the Baltic shoreline, in North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, Poland, Hungary and the Balkans, and even within Western Europe. They were proclaimed not only against Muslims, but also against pagan Wends, Balts and Lithuanians, shamanist Mongols, Orthodox Russians and Greeks, Cathar and Hussite heretics, and those Catholics whom the church deemed to be its enemies. The crusading movement generated holy leagues, which were alliances of front-line powers, bolstered by crusade privileges, and military orders, the members of which sometimes operated...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Crusades as Christian Penitential Wars
    (pp. 29-44)

    In his account of the First Crusade the monk-historian Guibert of Nogent, who had not taken part himself, recalled the behavior of a knight named Matthew, whose family were vassals of Guibert’s parents. Guibert had heard of the scrupulous care with which Matthew, whom he believed had died a martyr, had followed the religious observances of a pilgrimage.¹ Matthew was exceptional, of course, but all crusaders were expected to behave as though they were penitents on pilgrimage. A list of regulations, drawn up by Rhinelander, Flemish, and English crusaders sailing from Dartmouth on May 23, 1147, included decrees against extravagant...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Crusading and Imperialism
    (pp. 45-62)

    On June 2, 1879, Archbishop Lavigerie of Algiers, gravely concerned by the dangers Catholic missionaries were facing in eastern central Africa, suggested to Cardinal Simeoni, the prefect of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, that it might be possible to “restore, under a new form, elements of the old military orders of chivalry, who rendered such great service to the Church in barbarous times and in similar circumstances.”¹

    Charles-Martial Allemand-Lavigerie, who had founded the missionary orders of the White Fathers and the White Sisters in 1868 and 1869, was one of the most influential figures in the European...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Crusading and Islam
    (pp. 63-78)

    On October 31, 1898, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, engaged in what the Berlin critic Alfred Kerr sardonically described as a “crusade in comfort,” made a fool of himself in Jerusalem. Pushing “to its extreme the arabico-medieval fantasy . . . in medieval garb in front with a Lohengrin breastplate and in Arab dress behind,” he wore a white uniform of his own design, embellished with a helmet surmounted by a gold eagle, to which he had added “a garment recalling in some measure his character as a pilgrim, a white silk dust dress, so fashioned as to resemble a...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 79-80)

    I have traveled from the eleventh century to the twenty-first, concentrating on the periods 1095 to 1300 and 1800 to 2007. We are today subjected to religio-political hostility, erupting in acts of extreme violence, and a war of words in the course of which the Crusades feature prominently. We cannot hope to understand the circumstances in which we find ourselves unless we are prepared to face up to fact that modern Western public opinion, Arab Nationalism, and Pan-Islamism all share perceptions of crusading that have more to do with nineteenth-century European imperialism than with actuality.

    The Crusades themselves were deeply...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 81-102)
    (pp. 103-116)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 117-126)