Most would say, they know all there is to know of the drama of crusades. The barbaric and the onslaught of attacks that were launched from the christian west onto the mostly islamic east. From high school to the higher institutional studies, almost countless people study, re-enact and learn in-depth details of the crusades. I watched the part 1 of Dr Thomas asbridge’s, BBC sponsered, three-part series on the crusades, yesterday. It promises to re-examine the crusades based on new-found evidence of personal accounts from both sides of the table. With this in mind i hope to seek out this new evidence which may in fact be the ‘new’ out of the ‘old’, emaciated story of crusades.
To begin with, Dr Thomas asbridge highlights the causes that lead to the crusades and the point at which the whole western world was able to unite and find a common cause. Until then the eastern and the western world of Christendom was in turmoil, between the eastern greek version christianity with that of the latin version, in the west. Both were at odds with each other as to which held the true version of teachings ascribed to jesus christ (as). It is interesting to note here that, when the instigator of the crusades pope urban the second ascended to the station of papacy. By then, the once high held and respected station of papacy was in disarray, it was losing its powerful influence it had on people and many within the christian faith were becoming delusional in the papacy’s ability to inspire religion in the individual life. All that changed however, when Pope urban the second took firm ground as the new pope. From the time he made his now infamous speech in Clermont, france. The christian world found a cause to which it could rally together and the cry for vengeance was herald. Every person from peasants to knights had found finally found a cause to take arms and be proud of their ailing faith in christianity.
I have to give some credit to Dr Thomas Asbridge in that he highlights some of the inaccuracies which the then pope used to inspire, revitalise and rejuvenate the christian world. The inaccuracies included false accouantablities and narratives of a new alien race” taking over the ‘christian’ holy land. – A group of men who are “enemies of god” whom were causing havoc and destruction in the holy land and pillaging it of its beauty, its ‘christian’ people and putting to the sword anyone who was found to be a christian. Be that a man, woman, child or an elderly.
It appears that the false notion of popes’ being sinless, – a divine figure, was brushed to the side and hands were needed to be shaken with the devil in order to cook up a propaganda, a fabricated, and misinformed story to hold on to power and control, The irony being, “doing gods work, for God’s cause, for his people” whilst seeing the need to lie and deceit people! To say its was an early form of bigoted propoganda will not be far-fetched of an idea, having history testify otherwise to the claims made by pope urban the second. With it being only part one, it begs to be seen what will part 2 and three uncover from the ‘new’ and striking evidence found in the helms of Dr Thomas Asbridge’s studies of the age old narrative of ‘the crusades’. Although the holy land, Jerusalem, was in muslim control for more than 400 years by the time pope urban the second seized power, the fabricated story of a new race taking over the holy land from its christian brethren found roots amongst the masses. This made the cause all the more worthy in the eyes of the peasant and the knight. He saw a way to enter into the “kingdom of heaven” he had lost long ago. A means to earn the lord’s redemption was ecchoed from the mouths of every bishop, priest and abbot. Those who had sinned, could now be forgiven and enter into heaven should he choose to go on this “holy” cause.To add weight to the words of the priests, the bishops and the abbots, the pope urban the second, had issued a decree. Whoever fought in the crusades can be assured a guaranteed place in paradise!
This lead masses of the people to flood into the cause for the crusades and sign themselves up to going for the holy war. Hundreds and thousands of people streamed into the lines and ranks of the crusader army. From all the corners of the land they came, all hoping to earn the lord’s pleasure and promise.
Without sounding cynical of Dr Thomas Asbridge’s attempts, it has to be said after all, i found it strange and charming to note that he does have a tendency to portray the crusaders as ‘superhumans’ who could withstand any adversity and calamity that befell them. That, despite their odds of hunger, thirst and demoralization of longing to return home from the 3 year-long journey, they were able to defeat many of the unfathomable and large armies of the muslims. Therefore being able to push far onto reaching the holy land within 3 years.
Shedding light on the reasons why the crusade did in fact manage to break the lines of the muslims was because the muslim khalifate more or less by that time had been divisionalized. Only the outer shell of the ‘khalifate’ remained. Something which was by then powerless and an impotent entity! The vast muslim empire had broken into small internal governments and kingships. Each governor or ruler of a provincial state was claiming ownership of the land and the right to rule. So, internal civil wars were widespread amongst the arabs by then. The once powerful, and authoritative ottoman empire had already dissolved and was fast going to the verge of complete collapse. Each arab nation rivaling the other for power and control. They began to indulge in lavish living, lavish pleasures and wealth instead on being concerned with what was happening at their doorstep!
Realising this and seizing on the given opportunity, pope urban the 2nd launched his campaign. With the crusaders losing half of the army in its journey to the holy land due to illnesses, diseases and death, they were still able to crush the muslims armies easily. Not because of “superhuman” abilities, but because of the state khalifate was in by then.
Only under the banner of Saladin did the muslims find a cause to re-unite once again and everyone knows what happened once they did.
However, i wait to see if Dr Thomas Asbridge will show that once Saladin had died, the mighty army of Saladin again began to fall into dispute and arguments which causes them to lose it grip of the holy land once again.
Lastly, it was abnormal to see the programme being aired in primetime viewing hours of the BBC, 9-11. To me this is alluding to a more sinister cause. Is the BBC trying to re-ignite the 200-year-old debate in the western lands once again? By exposing this programme to as many people as possible? maybe, just maybe.
Dr Thomas Asbridge ends part one with the words of pending doom and destruction which is to fall on the christian invasion of Jerusalem. Leaving the audience once more to create the sterotypical image of the ‘terrorist’ muslim in his her mind! always bent on causing havoc and harm to a fellow being.