The 75 years from the middle of the eleventh century witnessed crucial events in the long history of the church. Forms were cast that would shape integral features of the Christian church as it lived its life in the centuries to come. The papacy, long in scandalous decline, woke up or, rather, was awakened to assume a role of active leadership. In the exuberance of its new awakening the popes disastrously but effectively severed the church from the Christians of the East, as disagreement became schism, and schism became permanent, yet not so permanent that, when threatened by Turkish invaders, Eastern Christians would not call upon the West for help. That help was the First Crusade. A church with a strong papacy, often in struggle with secular rulers, a church separated from its Greek-speaking brethren and a church embracing an ideal of war against the infidels – these were henceforth to be benchmarks of the medieval church.

Eleventh-century reform

The need to renew the Christian ideal, to reaffirm the essential meaning of Christianity, to revive the human spirit by a return to the pristine elements of Christian living was not limited to any one period in history and was as old as Pentecost and the early church. Ideals of their nature are goals never attained yet striven for, the horizon never reached yet still the destination one heads towards. A central belief of the Christian religion is the universality of the effects of original sin: human nature, while not depraved, was seriously weakened by the sin of Adam. The frailty of human nature, in this schema, excepted neither pope nor bishop nor priest. It was a church of men and women, children of Adam and heirs to his weakened humanity. In such a world, failure was a constant fear and a frequent reality. Almost integral to the Christian religion as it was lived was the need of reform, renewal, revival – the terms are really synonymous – which, at times, became so intense and so widespread as to constitute a movement. Such a movement occurred in the eleventh century.

Traditional historiography has labelled this movement as either the ‘Gregorian Reform’ or the ‘Hildebrandine Reform.’ Both names refer to Pope Gregory VII (1073–85), who, before he became pope, was called Hildebrand. These are inappropriate names. Two dangers lurk behind this usage. First, it assumes that this was a papally led reforming movement, which, only partially true, distorts the historical reality. Second, it gives to Pope Gregory VII the central role in the movement, a role it would be difficult to sustain by the historical record. The ‘Eleventh-century Reform’ better describes the variegated and complex forces at play throughout that century and into the first quarter of the next.

A brief outline might be useful. It can be said that the eleventh-century reform had two general periods. The first was the period up to 1049, when the papacy was corrupt and the plaything of local strongmen (see preceding chapter) and when reform was in the hands of local bishops, abbots and secular rulers outside of Rome. With the coronation of Pope Leo IX (1049) the papacy began to take control of the movement, yet with the pontificate of Gregory VII (1073–85) a clear shift took place. Leo IX and his immediate successors used papal power as a means of effecting ecclesiastical reform, but Gregory VII used the reforming movement as a means of enhancing papal power, or, to put it another way, he considered reform to include the enhancement of papal power. This led him into conflict with the German rulers, a conflict not settled until the Concordat of Worms (1122), and even then only tenuously. So much for the outline, now the details.

While the papacy was still wallowing in its corrupting dependence on the local house of Tusculum, sounds of Christian renewal could be heard off in the distance and even in the far distance. At different times and in different regions reforms occurred, some were monastic, aimed at restoring fidelity to the spirit of the Rule of St Benedict, while others were directed towards the secular clergy, who had the care of souls at a time when churches – what we might call ‘parishes’ – were multiplying. The area which was the ‘Middle Kingdom’ of the grandchildren of Charlemagne – the land between the kingdom of the East Franks and the kingdom of the West Franks – witnessed reforming efforts beginning in the tenth century, which should force us to see that century not merely in grey tones. By the eleventh century these efforts had influenced other regions of western Europe and finally reached Rome in mid century. The most famous is the movement associated with the monastery at Cluny in the French duchy of Burgundy. There in 909 William, the duke of Aquitaine, founded a monastery which would spawn hundreds of daughter houses and which would give its name to a monastic movement. It was intended as a reform monastery, returning to the Rule as articulated by Benedict Aniane (seechapter 5). Other monasteries with similar purposes were founded at about this time by wealthy patrons. What set Cluny apart was its independence. The very charter by which Duke William set an abbot and twelve monks down in this valley provided for the free election of the abbot by the community and for the pope, rather than local bishop or duke, to be its protector. In time, Cluny’s claim to be exempt from local jurisdiction and answerable only to the bishop of Rome gave Cluny the self-confidence to develop into a major force for ecclesiastical reform. William of Aquitaine’s charter declared ‘that our foundation shall serve for ever as a refuge for those who renounce the world and, as poor men, bring nothing but their good will’.

Cluny did not lasted ‘for ever’, as William wished, for it fell victim to the excesses of the French Revolution in 1791, its bells melted down for cannon and a road soon pushed through what had been the centre of the great abbey church. Yet, at its beginning, monks came to this valley to live in wooden huts and to worship in a wooden church. They spent long periods of each day in utter silence, raising their voices seldom save for periods of oral prayer. These two features – silence and oral prayer – became the hallmarks of Cluny. Its abbot Odo (926–44) crystallized its customs and became a missionary for the reform of other monasteries. By the mid tenth century only five monasteries were subject to Cluny. In time, hundreds of daughter houses (called priories) were established or recreated from existing monasteries. Hundreds of others were to become associated with Cluny, accepting its spirit and customs, although not part of what was in reality a religious order. The abbot of Cluny was pater et abbas (father and abbot) not only of the monks at Cluny itself but also of all the monks of its satellite priories. Under Abbot Mayeul, or Maiolus (954–94), these daughter and associate monastic houses were dotted throughout France, extending beyond, even into parts of Christian Spain and northern Italy. In 1077 Cluny established a priory at Lewes in England and, in time, had 35 houses in England and four in Scotland. That would happen in the future. Cluny by the end of the tenth century had become the single most powerful spiritual force in western Europe. The reformed monasteries of the Romance-language-speaking peoples largely took their lead from the abbey of Cluny, which stood then near the pinnacle of its power. Before the end of the eleventh century it produced two more long-ruling, sainted abbots, Odilo (994–1049) and Hugh (1049–1109), and placed on the chair of St Peter two popes of exceptional abilities, Urban II (1088–99) and Paschal II (1099–1118).

Yet not by Cluny alone was reform brought to western monasticism. In the German-speaking lands, notably in the areas of the Mosel River valley and the nearby Rhineland, monastic reform took root. The abbey of Gorze near Metz in 933 provided much of the stimulus for this renewal of Benedictine life. Monks from Gorze revitalized the ancient monastery at Trier, and monks from Trier brought their spirit of reform into the region centring on Cologne, where they founded new monasteries and renewed old ones. And, even somewhat earlier, the bishopric of Liège felt the reforming impulses from the monastery at Brogne. All this took place in Lorraine,

Map 8 Centres of reform in the tenth and eleventh centuries

which made it one of the principal centres of reforming ideas in the eleventh century. In England, where the dislocations of the Viking invasions and land-taking left most of the surviving monasteries as little more than communities of married clerics, it was St Dunstan who was the driving force for reform, and he had lived at the Brognean monastery at Ghent. These centres of reform were merely that: they did not blanket the map north of the Alps. Yet they did represent a growing sentiment in favour of the revival of the church, in which strong personalities, ecclesiastical and lay, played significant roles. The archbishop of Cologne, himself the brother of Emperor Otto I, encouraged events there. In England in the late tenth century there were three exceptionally able monastic bishops, all intent on reform: Dunstan at Canterbury, Ethelwold at Winchester and Oswald at Worcester. Also in England, King Edmund (939–46), King Edred (946–55) and King Edgar (955–59) gave the reformers the support essential to their task, and the revived monasteries of strict Benedictine observance such as Glastonbury, Abingdon and others were the result. In France, the second king in the long line of the Capetian dynasty, Robert the Pious (996–1031), supported the mission of Cluny. His contemporary in Germany, Henry II (1002–24), succeeded in bringing reform to the hitherto resistant abbeys of Fulda, Reichenau and others. His grandson, Henry III (1039–56), married a French noblewoman with close connections to Cluny. Henry III’s association with Cluny and with the broader reform movement provides an example of a Christian monarch not interfering in church affairs but fulfilling his obligation as an anointed king. It was Henry III who was to set in motion the reform of the papacy itself, which, in turn, was to change essentially the scope and direction of reform. As the end of the first millennium approached, there was a clearly identifiable impetus towards reform, and Cluny and Lorraine were the principal instruments in fostering a commitment to spiritual renewal.

The conditions in Rome, with the pope little more than a puppet in the hands of local families, scandalized much of Christendom, and, when Henry III marched on Rome in 1046, he did so to set in motion papal reform. The synod he convoked at nearby Sutri marks for many historians the beginnings of the papal stage in the movement of reform. Three contesting ‘popes’ were dismissed, and Henry imposed the German bishop of Bamberg on Rome as its bishop, yet the new pope died within ten months but not before crowning Henry III emperor. The new emperor imposed another German on the papal throne, but he died, probably of malaria, within 23 days. It was with the next pope, another German bishop imposed by Henry III, that the programme of papal reform began in earnest. Leo IX (1049–54), as bishop of Toul in Lorraine, had vigorously sought the reform of religious men and women as well as the secular clergy. Now on a larger scale, strengthened by his ties of kinship to the emperor, he instigated a bold programme to reform the universal church. From the time of Leo IX the pope was taking charge.

Leo IX brought with him from Lorraine men steeped in the culture of reform. Chief among them was the passionate and, as events would prove, extreme and rigid Humbert of Moyenmoutier, who soon became cardinal bishop of Silva Candida. A politically well-connected reformer who came to Rome with Leo was Frederick of Lorraine, brother of Godfrey, duke of Lorraine: both brothers will reappear in this story, Frederick as abbot of Monte Cassino and Pope Stephen IX, and Godfrey as husband of the formidable Matilda, countess of Tuscany. Also in Leo’s entourage was the Roman monk Hildebrand, who, in the tumult of 1046, fled north with Gregory VI, whose secretary he was and whose name he was later to take as pope. From Italy itself there came to Rome at about this time a monk from an abbey nestled in the Apennines, Peter Damian, himself later (1057) to become cardinal bishop of Ostia.

The newly chosen pope approached the city of Rome not in triumphal splendour but in the garb of a humble pilgrim, and, once there, he refused to be crowned pope until the emperor’s selection of him was confirmed by the Roman clergy and people. One might see in this the first step in the papacy’s attempt to throw off the power of secular rulers, even the well-intentioned intervention of men like Henry III. Conflict about the intervention of secular rulers lay in the future. The pressing issue in 1049 was reform, and less than two months into his reign as pope Leo IX convened a synod at Rome which deposed several bishops and castigated unworthy clergy. One month later he packed his bags and left Rome to convene synods at Pavia, Rheims and Mainz, at which his personal presence vividly highlighted the exigency of reform. In a papacy of only about five years he also went in person to southern Italy and to Langres, Trier, Pressburg, Ratisbon, Augsburg and Mantua, spending less than six months at Rome. Energetic and vital, Leo was clearly in control in an active way unknown to his predecessors, and his agenda was one of reform.

The reforming agenda needs spelling out. Two major issues preoccupied Leo and his ‘cabinet’ of advisers: simony and clerical concubinage. Simony took its name from Simon Magus, the man in the Acts of the Apostles (8, 9–24) who tried to buy from St Peter the miraculous power of laying on of hands. Although in a general way simony meant the buying and selling of holy things, its meaning in the eleventh century focused on the paying for an ecclesiastical office (e.g. a bishopric or abbacy) or for ordination, and those buying these holy things were denounced as simoniacs. In time, Cardinal Humbert took the view, in his Adversus simoniacos (‘Against Simoniacs’), that the sacraments conferred by a simoniac were invalid. Thus, in his view, a priest ordained by a simoniacal bishop was not a priest and could not validly say Mass or perform other priestly functions. More moderately, Cardinal Peter Damian held that it was indeed gravely sinful to buy an office but the sacraments conferred by a simoniac were valid: their validity did not depend on the worthiness of the minister. And Damian’s view prevailed. If Humbert had won the day, one can only wonder at the confusion and severe crises for souls, even, and especially, for the devout, that would have ensued. Good sense saved the church from the excesses of radical reformers.

Clerical celibacy was another matter and much less clear-cut. While a few would defend the buying and selling of church offices or ordinations as part of a gift-giving culture, the practice was widely condemned. Clerical marriage, however, was not so obviously a matter of right and wrong. No biblical text could be cited prohibiting it and requiring priestly celibacy. Most of the apostles were known to be married. The practice of the Eastern Church was – and, indeed, is – to allow married men to become priests. Even in the West an unmarried clergy only slowly and not at all uniformly became the rule. Individual councils legislating for their regions and even individual popes, responding to individual cases, called for married men who became priests either to put their wives aside or to live with them as brother and sister. Married clergy not following these injunctions could be found in almost every part of the West, and in Dr Parish’s view ‘marriage remained the norm for a substantial proportion of parish clergy’. Even a rigorous canonist would have had to admit that these situations were allowed by legitimate custom, at a time when long-standing custom was considered to replace even contrary law. A lively debate on this issue ensued: Peter Damian arguing for celibacy and others, like the bishop of Imola in central Italy, arguing that celibacy was a vocation distinct from the vocation to the priesthood. Those reformers favouring a celibate secular clergy were mostly monks, who were by definition and choice celibate. Damian was a monk of Fonte Avellana, Humbert a monk of Moyenmoutier, Hildebrand a monk of Santa Maria on the Aventine Hill in Rome. From 1073 to 1119 the papacy itself was held by former monks, something unrivalled in its long history. More was at stake here than the matter of clerical celibacy: it was the ideal of Christian perfection. That ideal, it was held by Damian and others, was to be found in the life of a monk, but, if one could not become a monk, one should live as close as possible to the life of a monk in the world. And for the secular clergy, the reformers believed, that required a celibate life. The real struggle was over the soul of Christian spirituality, and the monks won this round, although the matter of clerical celibacy was not settled until the Second Lateran Council (1139) ruled that a priest, a deacon and even a subdeacon could not contract a valid marriage; if any were already married, they were to lose their benefices.

Against these two perceived evils Leo IX and later reformers appealed to ancient practices by extracting texts from early synods, papal directives and the teachings of the Church Fathers. The reform was accomplished by invoking tradition and pristine practice, not by fulminating new decretals, new laws, new texts. Thus, collections of such texts were compiled. One can almost see the reformers at Rome, scouring through existing collections of old texts in search of references to use for their own contemporary needs. The collection made by Burchard of Worms (before 1020) had reached Rome by mid century. Both Burchard’s and a collection in 74 titles, which was made at Rome, were used by the greatest compiler of canon-law texts of the time, Ivo, bishop of Chartres, in the 1090s. To him should be given much of the credit for establishing canon law as a scholarly discipline. And Anselm, bishop of Lucca, in the mid 1080s produced a collection of canons strongly supportive of the papal power to reform. With such canonical references in hand the reformers could insist on a renewal of traditional church practices. Resistance there surely was, but Leo IX, presiding over provincial synods, simply rolled over opposition by intimidation and sanctions, not hesitating to depose reluctant bishops. Reluctance to accept reforms, particularly clerical celibacy, led to near riotous scenes at Rouen and Paris, at Erfurt and Passau and elsewhere. But reforms were imposed, and canon law played a considerable role in this process.

Leo’s reign, however successful its early years, ended in personal failure. Younger sons of noble families in Normandy, serving as mercenaries (or freebooters), had invaded southern Italy by the time of Leo’s accession and were threatening church lands there. Leo raised an army under the papal banner and personally led it against these Norman Christians. It was a fatal error. His army was quickly defeated and Pope Leo was captured and kept in benign imprisonment for nine months. Within a few weeks after his release in April 1054, the first of the great reforming popes died, dispirited and disillusioned.

Subsequent popes continued this programme, convening synods, but not travelling so widely themselves, instead, sending legates across the Alps to act in their name. There still remained the crucial issue of papal elections. Leo’s successor, Victor II (1055–57), was the last imperially selected pope. A change of momentous significance occurred within months of the coronation of his successor, Nicholas II (1058–61). He issued an electoral decree that, with some later changes, has regulated the election of popes ever since. The pope was to be elected by the cardinal bishops. While ‘saving the honour and reverence’ due to the emperor, the decree did not include him in the election process. A word must be said about cardinals. Seven bishoprics in the suburbs around Rome were served by bishops who came eventually to provide, first, liturgical services and, later, administrative services for the pope. They became the cardines (hinges) of the Roman church; they were cardinal bishops. The presiding priests of the great Roman basilicas adopted the term ‘cardinal’ as, in time, did certain deacons in the papal service. Thus, three orders of cardinals developed: cardinal bishops, cardinal priests and cardinal deacons. By Pope Nicholas’s decree it was the cardinal bishops who had the initial voice in the selection of future popes, their choice to be confirmed by the other cardinals and, finally and only formally, by the clergy of Rome. It was the function of cardinals in the election of popes that was to give them in time a corporate sense, the sense of being a ‘college’.

The purpose of the election decree was to make the election free, devoid of external influence whether from German emperors or from the Roman aristocracy. The decree was soon tested by the death of Nicholas II in 1061. The German king, Henry IV (1056–1106), was but a boy, and a ten-year regency complicated the situation. Only the firm action of Hildebrand ensured the application of the new decree. The election of Alexander II (1061–73) created a storm in Germany, and the Germans elected their own pope (known to history as an anti-pope). Intense negotiations and a flexible Alexander II resolved the matter in his favour.

A long pontificate, longer than his six predecessors combined, gave Alexander opportunity to carry forward the work of reform, to which he had been long committed. He sent a legate to Aragon, one of the Christian outposts in northern Spain. He even involved himself in the succession of the English crown. When King Edward the Confessor died early in 1066, Duke William of Normandy sent a mission to Rome, seeking papal support for his claim to the English crown: Harold, the claimant, had perjured himself and Stigand, the archbishop of Canterbury, had received the pallium from an anti-pope. One source, whose reliability is not universally accepted, relates that the pope actually sent a blessed papal banner, under which William defeated Harold at Hastings. The dubious banner apart, papal support was given to William, and Alexander II sent two papal legates to preside over a synod at Winchester (1070), which deposed Stigand and other bishops. The bishop of Lichfield, a married man with children, resigned his see and took himself to a monastery. With the learned Lanfranc, abbot of Bec in Normandy, now at Canterbury as archbishop, the English church had become a part of the papal reform programme and England was drawn towards the Continent from its remote, comfortable insularity.

Central to any historical view of this whole period lies the figure of Hildebrand, who, in 1073, under exceptional circumstances became Pope Gregory VII. His 12-year pontificate created considerable controversy not only for his contemporaries but also for modern historians. His supporters in the historical profession have given his name to the reform movement, of which he was but a part and arguably not the principal part. The view presented here is that the pontificate of Gregory VII was a failure, perhaps even a monumental failure. He disturbed the forward progress of reform by picking unnecessary fights with secular rulers. What betrayed his papacy was that perennial scourge of the church, ‘the priest in politics’.

The unusual nature of his election was an augur of things to come. At the funeral of Alexander II, according to sympathetic accounts, Hildebrand was spontaneously selected by the Roman populace and, despite his unwillingness, he was ordained priest and consecrated bishop of Rome. Most obviously, this procedure, however the truth of his reluctance, stood the Nicholas election decree on its head. In the future Gregory’s enemies would attack him for the manner of his election.

Not content to push forward the usual programme of reform against simoniacs and married priests, Gregory VII added a new issue: lay investiture. To say succinctly that lay investiture meant the investing of a bishop or abbot with the insignia of his office by a layman (a king or prince) is not to say enough. Lay rulers, as has been seen, viewed their office as a holy one, a view which, for example, led King Henry III of Germany to descend on Rome in 1046 to sort out the problems there. Such a ruler would have a voice, often a definitive voice, in the selection of bishops and abbots. In addition, these ecclesiastical officials generally held considerable lands from the king or prince. Thus, when the person took office, he took an office both ecclesiastical and secular, and the ruler understandably felt that he had rights. When a man became a bishop or abbot, the sacramental rites were performed by the appropriate ecclesiastic, but it was the secular ruler who very frequently invested him with ring and staff. To Gregory this constituted gross interference by the laity in ecclesiastical matters. Papal claims in the growing controversy were to change the Gelasian image of God handing one key each directly to the pope and emperor to the image of God granting both keys to the pope, who, in turn, gave one to the emperor. There logically followed a papal claim to the power to depose secular rulers. Matters moved very far very fast, and the catalysts were Pope Gregory VII and King (later Emperor) Henry IV.

Trouble began early in Gregory’s pontificate. In the first week of Lent 1075 a Roman synod strongly attacked so-called lay investiture, an attack aimed with little subtlety at the Germans:

If anyone receive a bishopric or abbey from the hands of a lay person, he shall not be considered a bishop or abbot … Likewise, if an emperor, king, duke, margrave or anyone vested with secular power presumes to invest a person to bishoprics or other ecclesiastical offices, he shall likewise be condemned.

Henry IV, king but not yet crowned emperor, was soon free of troubles in Saxony and turned his attention to the Lombard lands which he held, particularly to the vexed problem about the great see of Milan. Two claimants to that see had been in contention for several years, and King Henry, perhaps imitating his father’s action during the papal crisis of 1046, secured the elimination of the two claimants and the consecration of a third. This infuriated the pope, who, on 8 December 1075, threatened Henry with excommunication and deposition for interfering in the appointment of bishops. Within weeks Henry had gathered a synod at Tribur, which deposed the pope, claiming his election invalid.

To about this same time – possibly in the spring of 1076 – can be dated one of the most tantalizing and puzzling documents of this whole period. It is the Dictatus papae, which means the dictations of the pope to a secretary. It consists of 27 simple statements. They all concern papal power and seem to be chapter headings for a canonical collection never made or, if made, now lost. Several of these ‘dictates’ illustrate its general thrust:

·       9.  That the pope’s feet and no else’s are to be kissed by all princes.

·     11.  That his title is unique in the world.

·     12.  That he may depose emperors.

·     19.  That he is to be judged by no one.

·     27.  That he may absolve subjects from their fealty to evil persons.

The twelfth ‘dictate’ would not be long in being tested, for at the Lenten synod at Rome in 1076, the pope not only excommunicated the German king but went much further:

I deprive King Henry, son of Emperor Henry, who has audaciously rebelled against the church, of the government over the whole kingdom of Germany and Italy, and I release all Christians from allegiance sworn to him.

Henry quickly responded by presiding over a church council in June 1076, which excommunicated Gregory ‘not pope but false monk’. But Henry had misjudged his support among the Germans, a people not sympathetically disposed to centralizing kings. Confronted with this opposition, Henry agreed, in October 1076, to appear before an assembly at Augsburg in February of the following year, an assembly over which the pope would preside and whose purpose it would be to consider Henry’s position. Few would have bet on Henry’s chances for surviving the greatest crisis of his reign. Yet he did.

Pope Gregory, to break the long, hazardous journey from Rome across the mountains in winter on his way to Germany for the assembly, stopped over in late January at the castle at Canossa in northern Italy, nestled in the Apennine Mountains, where he was the guest of the formidable Matilda, countess of Tuscany. There he was to receive a visitor. Henry IV, desperate to keep his crown, donned the guise of a penitent pilgrim, slipped out of Germany with but a few companions, fellow pilgrims, to intercept the pope. This he did at Canossa. Henry arrived there on 25 January and begged the pope’s absolution. For three days Gregory kept him waiting, barefoot in midwinter outside the castle gates. Who knows what went on within the castle? Matilda counselled the pope to absolve the penitent king. So did Abbot Hugh of Cluny. One suspects that they might have played a behind-the-scenes role in this dramatic meeting and that the whole choreography might have been pre-arranged. On the third day Gregory absolved Henry. Having saved his crown, Henry immediately returned to Germany. A substantial group of German nobles refused to accept him and raised a reluctant Rudolph of Swabia as king, and Germany was engulfed in a bloody civil war. The usually decisive, even impetuous, Pope Gregory delayed taking sides in the civil war, and, when he did, in favour of Rudolph in 1080, it was too late. Henry had all but defeated Rudolph, who, in any event, died shortly after the papal decision. The penitent’s garb long since put away, an angry Henry marched on Rome, installed a new pope and had himself crowned emperor. Thirteen of the cardinals – a majority – defected, and Gregory was in full retreat. He fled Rome and sought refuge with his Norman supporters, moving south to Monte Cassino and, finally, to Salerno, where, on 25 May 1085, he died. His last words, echoing Psalm 44, are said to have been, ‘I have loved justice, hated iniquity and, therefore, die in exile’, to which he might have added, ‘And I die a failure.’

There was no winner in the investiture controversy just as there was no right party and no wrong party. It took over 30 years for the controversy to be resolved by compromise. Pope Urban II (1088–99) lowered the temperature of papal rhetoric and pretensions, but most remarkable was the solution proposed by Pope Paschal II (1099–1118). He could see that the core of the problem over investiture was the fact that bishops and abbots held territories from kings and princes, since, besides being spiritual rulers, they were secular rulers. The pope recognized that the king clearly had rights with respect to the temporal possessions of these ecclesiastics. The problem would not exist if these bishops and abbots ceased to be secular rulers. Hence, with unassailable logic, Paschal, in February 1111, ordered the bishops and abbots of Germany to return their temporal possessions to the king. ‘The church,’ he said, ‘will remain free’, dependent on the free-will offerings of the faithful for its needs. Many modern historians consider this proposal a naive non-starter, but the danger here (as elsewhere) is to read history backwards and to conclude that, because the proposal failed to be accepted, it was bound to fail. This gesture of Paschal II must be judged among the boldest made by the medieval popes. Our minds boggle at what the subsequent history of the church would have been had the church renounced temporal possessions in the early twelfth century. As it was, the church held on tenaciously to its territorial possessions until 1870, when Piedmontese troops took Rome and the pope became ‘the prisoner in the Vatican’. In 1111 vested interests, particularly among the German bishops, helped to defeat the initiative of Paschal II.

The resolution of the investiture struggle, when it came under Calixtus II (1119–24), left the king and pope both able to claim victory. Troubles in England between King Henry I and Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, had been settled in 1107 in a way which provided a precedent for the eventual compromise: the king gave up his practice of giving the bishop his pastoral staff, and the bishop would give homage to the king for lands which he held from the king. The Concordat of Worms (1122) made a similar distinction: the election would be free, although in the presence of the king, but the latter would not invest the bishop with symbols of his office, receiving instead homage from the new bishop. Somewhat different terms would apply to parts of the empire outside Germany. The fundamental issue between pope and emperor over jurisdictions still remained, and future clashes would occur.

The Eastern Church

An event vividly remembered in the Eastern Church occurred in the afternoon of Saturday, 16 July 1054, at the great church of Santa Sophia in Constantinople. Unexpectedly, while services were about to begin, three western ecclesiastics walked briskly down the nave to the high altar. They turned and faced the startled congregation, said something unintelligible (probably in Latin) and then placed a document on the altar. Not waiting for a reaction, they retraced their steps, and, at the door, they turned and shouted, ‘Let God see and judge.’ They were papal legates sent by Leo IX, and the document was a bull deposing and excommunicating the patriarch of Constantinople. Few events in the history of the medieval church have provoked such wildly different interpretations. Dismissed by some as but a minor bump on the road of East–West relations, it is seen by others as the crucial moment when the schism between the Churches of East and West occurred, a schism which, despite flickering moments of reunion in 1274 and in the 1440s, has continued to the present day.

The situation in Italy sparked these events, at least in a proximate way, although long-standing differences between the churches of the East and West were clearly at work here. The political landscape in Italy was seemingly straightforward at this time: the north under the control of the Germans, the middle under the popes, the south under the Byzantine emperors. Yet on the ground the situation was not so clear-cut, and this was particularly true in the south. Theoretically the Byzantines held jurisdiction south of a line drawn across the boot from Terracine to Termoli. In fact, the Lombards controlled two duchies in that territory (Spoleto and Benevento) as well as several towns including Naples. Byzantine rule from Constantinople extended to the almost totally Greek province of Calabria and to Apulia, which had mixed Greek and Latin populations with churches serving both peoples. The matter became more complicated in 1020, when Latin Apulians rose against Eastern rule and invited the help of warriors from Normandy. These soon became the dominant force in southern Italy, even threatening Rome itself. Pope Leo IX decided that the crisis required an alliance with the Byzantine emperor against the rampaging Normans. It proved a disaster, when, after the briefest of campaigns, the pope’s forces were defeated in June 1053 and Leo IX was held as an honoured prisoner of the Christian Normans. Not only were the Normans Christians, they were Latin Christians and had insisted on Latin liturgical usages in southern Italy and did not allow Greek churches to follow their traditional practices.

There entered the scene at this point the redoubtable patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, who, in response to the Normans, caused Latin rituals to cease at the Latin churches in Constantinople. Cerularius also objected, in the most strenuous of language, to the Latin practice of using unleavened bread at Mass. The pope, in January 1054, responded by sending three legates to Constantinople, headed by the tactless reformer, Cardinal Humbert, whose extreme views on simony we have already met. With two leading roles being played by such unpredictable men as Cerularius and Humbert, an explosive condition existed. The first meeting of the papal legates with the patriarch ended with the legates abruptly walking out. Matters deteriorated from there. The legates, the patriarch was soon to assert, were not true legates for their documents had been tampered with and, in any case, the pope who had issued them had already died (15 April 1054), not an unreasonable objection. At one point during the subsequent weeks, Humbert in a moment of anger insisted that one of the patriarch’s spokesmen was the son of a whore. It was thus in this atmosphere of mutual distrust and of great ill-temper on both sides that the legates excommunicated the patriarch at Santa Sophia. The patriarch responded with his own excommunications.

Was this, then, the crucial moment in the relations between the churches of East and West, the defining moment of the schism? The bump-on-the-road historians hold that contemporaries did not see it as a decisive moment. After all, they argue, the legates had excommunicated only the patriarch, and, in any case, their power had died with Leo IX before the excommunications. Also, Cardinal Humbert, far from being seen as a failure, was treated as a triumphant hero on his return to Rome. Furthermore, subsequent popes were in communication with the East without a word of the events of 1054 being whispered.

There is much truth in all this, yet the belief grew in the West that a schism had occurred at this time. This can be seen in several contemporary chronicles. Also, subsequent popes could have but did not repudiate the legates for acting beyond their authority. The excommunication itself merits a closer look. The crucial part reads,

We subscribe that our most reverend pope has denounced Michael and all those who follow him in these errors and presumptions, unless they repent. They are excommunicated. Maranatha. Amen. Amen. Amen.

What should be seen here is that the legates did more than excommunicate Cerularius: they excommunicated all who supported his positions, some ritual and some theological. Of course, most of the positions attributed to him were patently untrue (e.g. that communion was forbidden to men with beards), yet the crucial theological issue concerned the filioque (‘and from the Son’) clause in the creed of faith. Essentially, the filioque dispute concerned how the three persons of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) were related to one another, especially the Holy Spirit to the other two. The Eastern position held that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father through the Son, whereas the Western position held that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father ‘and from the Son’ (filioque). The whole matter might seem arcane to the modern mind, yet at this time it was seen as a crucial element in the description of the Christian God. The Eastern Church rejected the filioque, and, hence, the anathema pronounced by the legates could be read to have a wider application than we might at first believe and could be taken to include the whole Eastern Church. By the fourteenth century the widespread view in the East was that the schism dated from the excommunication of 1054. It had been a view long held in the West. So persistent has been this belief in both churches that, on 7 December 1965, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople, in a dramatic expression of irenic good will, embraced and mutually repudiated the excommunications of 1054 and expressed the wish that the excommunications and accompanying offences and insults be erased from Christian memory, a wish that even a respectful historian cannot honour.

The First Crusade

The first thing that must be said about the First Crusade is that no one at the time knew it was the first crusade. When Pope Urban II preached this crusade at Clermont in France in 1095, he had no idea of beginning a movement, whose ambitions would grow beyond the retaking of the Holy Land to encompass and, indeed, justify attacks against the infidels elsewhere and even against fellow Christians. The very word ‘crusade’ and the neat numbering of the Crusades were the inventions of a later period. For all the romance and adventure popularly associated with them, the crusades were marginal events in the general flow of medieval history. The central lines of the history of this period would remain essentially unchanged if the crusades had never occurred: the crusades were but one element among many in medieval history and clearly not in the first rank. An argument can be made that the Crusades featured more prominently in the history of the Middle East than in the history of western Europe. No historian would deny that the life of the medieval church was influenced by soldiers fighting war with papal authorization under the banner of the cross, yet the temptation to overemphasize the place of the crusades in the life of the church in the Middle Ages should probably be resisted.

All that having been said, it must be added that in one particular aspect the crusades have had an enduring effect on the history of Western civilization, an effect whose influence it would be difficult to measure. In its beginning Christianity was a religion of peace. There resonated in the ears of the early Christians the words of their founder: ‘Turn the other cheek’ (Matt. 5, 39); ‘Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword’ (Matt. 26, 52). The pacificism of the early church received reinforcement from the fact that the army in which Christians would have fought was the army of an empire hostile to Christianity. The conversion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century clouded matters, and Christian men, particularly in the West, took up arms in support of Christian rulers. The teaching of St Augustine of Hippo (354–430) allowed warfare by Christian rulers under severely limited restrictions, but such restrictions were often forgotten or overridden in the turmoil of actual war. A culture giving heroic stature to the warrior developed and long remained a fixture of Western life. Yet the pacifist view never died, and exponents of it can be found in virtually every generation, reminding contemporaries of the injunctions of their founder. By restating the ideal, if only in a partial and, at times, half-hearted way, a peace movement emerged. In the closing decade or so of the tenth century, church councils in Aquitaine urged that the clergy and poor be spared from violence. At Poitiers, in 1000, a council forbade, under pain of excommunication, the settlement of disputes by arms. The French king supported this for his lands as did other regional councils in France. Oaths were taken to this end, and the Peace of God came into being, the expression of the yearning for a settled life, free from the human consequences of violent warfare, a peace supported by religious principles. More important was the kindred movement, the Truce of God. This called for a total abstinence from war – a truce – during specific times. At first, it was limited to the daylight hours of Sundays and holy days. (Even the troops on the western Front observed an unofficial Christmas truce in 1914 to the consternation of their officers.) By the middle of the eleventh century, the period of the truce was extended to include the period from Wednesday evening to Monday daybreak, and much of Europe accepted this, at least in theory. Duke William of Normandy, in 1042, not only accepted the truce but extended it, yet this did not stop him from fighting against King Harold at Hastings on 14 October 1066, a Saturday. Not effective always and everywhere, the peace movement at least provided some restraint against unlimited violence in a society containing some but few other restraints.

Map 9 Routes of the First Crusade

A war called by a pope, preached by bishops and priests and fought under the banner of the cross against unbelievers seemed to legitimize the use of armed force to resolve human problems. The First Crusade and the others which followed served not only to allow war but to sanctify it: war had become holy. Indeed, ‘holy wars’ existed in the West before 1095, but these were limited to campaigns in Spain and Sicily. With the First Crusade we have the beginnings of a movement whose ideals were accepted by the vast majority of Christians in every part with only some voices of dissent. In almost every subsequent war between Christian countries each side prayed to God for victory, believing that God was on their side. Some may argue that the brutalities of war needed an approving God to justify them.

On Tuesday, 27 November 1095, Pope Urban II mounted a platform in a field outside the gates of Clermont in central France and before a throng numbering at least in the hundreds announced a holy war. Four different accounts, each written sometime after the event, attest to the dramatic sermon. Three of the chroniclers may have been present; one says that he was. The exact words of the pope were not recorded, and what we have are attempts to reconstruct the substance of Pope Urban’s address. The Turks were threatening Christian brothers in the East and desecrating their shrines. It was time (in the words of one version) for ‘you, who are girt with the belt of knighthood, who arrogantly war against your brother, who cut each other into pieces, who oppress children, plunder widows, commit crimes of murder, sacrilege, robbery’ to become soldiers of Christ and now fight against the heathen. Did he ask the warriors of the West to recapture Jerusalem from the Muslims? Probably not. At any rate, soon thereafter he was to include as the goal of the crusade the ‘freeing’ of the Holy City and, particularly, the Holy Sepulchre, where it was believed Christ had been buried. Much of what happened at Clermont may have been carefully choreographed in advance. His listeners shouted repeatedly, ‘Deus le volt’ (‘God wills it’), and the crusades had a motto. The bishop of Le Puy cast himself on his knees before the pope, offering to go, and many others did the same. The crusades had begun.

What lay behind this dramatic pronouncement at Clermont? We should distinguish between remote and proximate factors leading to the pope’s call for a crusade. Historians, looking at the remote factors, agree in seeing the meeting of two elements here: pilgrimages, particularly to Jerusalem, and the holy war. They disagree on the weight to be given to each of these. Pilgrims had been going to Jerusalem for centuries. The city had fallen to Muslim Arabs in 636, yet they did not hinder the pilgrims from access to the holy places. From the tenth century pilgrimages from the West became more common and included high-born ladies such as the countess of Swabia and the duchess of Bavaria as well as prominent bishops and abbots. In the eleventh century monks of the Cluniac family helped to organize pilgrimages, and there was a corresponding increase in the number of pilgrims, especially from France and Lorraine. Two great archbishops – of Trier and Mainz – were among them as was Duke Robert of Normandy (1035). The Norseman Harald Hardrada, who in 1066 was to try to conquer England, went on pilgrimage in 1034. In 1051 Earl Swein Godwinson, whose brother Harold was to succeed Edward the Confessor as king of England, for his many sins, including the seduction of an abbess and treacherous action towards the king, went as a penitent pilgrim and died on his way home in 1051, as he was walking barefoot through the mountains of Anatolia. In 1065 a band of German pilgrims, probably numbering about 7,000, travelled the pilgrim route to the sacred places. And so it went, the annual, largely untroubled trek of pilgrims to the Holy Sepulchre. And after the conversion of the king of Hungary (975) an overland route was possible. Alternatively, many sailed from ports on the west coast of Italy, especially Bari, across the Adriatic and then overland through the Balkans. The immediate destination in either case was Constantinople on the Bosporus, from which pilgrims, generally in large groups, made their way across Anatolia (the Asiatic part of modern Turkey), then south to Jerusalem. Events were to disturb this peaceful arrangement.

The caliphates that ruled the Islamic world were largely at peace with their Christian neighbours. The Fatimid caliphate, centred at Cairo, controlled Palestine and did not disturb Christian pilgrims. To the east the Abbasid caliphate, centred at Baghdad, provided a buffer against the warlike peoples of central Asia. A crisis occurred at Baghdad in the eleventh century with the result that it could no longer prevent the intrusion of large numbers of Turks in search of new lands, particularly Seljuk Turks. And a Turk soon ruled at Baghdad. During their migration west from central Asia the Turks accepted the religion of Islam. By the 1060s these Muslim Turks were in Armenia and threatening the Byzantine Empire. The defeat of the Byzantine army at Manzikert in Armenia in 1071 left Anatolia open to Turkish penetration. In the same year Turks took Jerusalem from the Fatimids. Christians in Jerusalem did not suffer harsh treatment from their new rulers, although in 1091 some priests who were suspected of intriguing with the Fatimids were expelled. Pilgrims continued to travel to Jerusalem, but their numbers were greatly reduced because of the difficult passage across Anatolia. The pilgrimage to the holy places, which had become a popular expression of religious fervour, was no longer feasible except for the very few. The call of Urban II to recover the Holy Land resonated deeply in the religious sensibilities of Western Christians.

Not so much need be said of the other factor, the holy war. The Christian kingdoms in the north of Spain, never conquered by the Muslims, had begun in earnest a war to reconquer the Muslim lands to the south (see chapter 13). In 1063 Pope Alexander II supported their cause by helping to raise an army to fight in Spain; Gregory VII actively supported an expedition in 1073 and again in 1080. (He also toyed with the idea of sending Christian knights to fight for the Eastern emperor, but it all came to nought as Gregory became involved in the great conflict with Henry IV.) Knights from Christian Europe, particularly from France, crossed the Pyrenees to fight the infidel in Spain. Most of the ingredients for the crusades are visible here: papally endorsed or organized military campaigns by Christian knights against unbelievers. Add the ingredient of regaining pilgrim access to Jerusalem, and we have the First Crusade.

It is only when we draw back a distance from the day-to-day events of the time that we can join these two factors of pilgrimage and holy war and see that they created the climate in which the First Crusade took place. Yet it was the day-to-day, year-by-year advance of contingencies that, in the final analysis, produced the crusade: even given the two powerful remote factors, it is to the immediate events that we should turn in locating the reason why this crusade took place. The essential fact is that Pope Urban II was asked by Emperor Alexius I for troops against the Turks. The what-might-have-beens of history are not really history, but one may legitimately wonder if the crusades would have happened if the emperor had not requested military assistance. His position was not perilous in 1095: he had the situation in Anatolia well under control and the Turks posed no immediate threat. What Alexius needed were fresh recruits for his army, since the traditional recruiting grounds were not as accessible as they once were. With one major offensive he felt he could drive the Turks completely out of Anatolia and, thus, effectively destroy their military power once and for all. To this end Alexius sent envoys to a papal council held at Piacenza in March 1095. They asked the fathers of the council to urge knightly warriors to fight for Alexius; it would serve, they argued, to reopen the routes for Christian pilgrims to reach the Holy Land. And it was later, in November, of that year that Urban II gave his rallying cry at Clermont. What Alexius wanted was Western mercenaries; what he got was the First Crusade.

Recruitment for the crusade posed no problem. Leaving Clermont, the pope preached the crusade at Limoges, Toulouse, Angers, Tours and elsewhere in France. Great princes took the crusader’s oath, sewed the cross on their shoulders and prepared for the journey east: Raymond, count of Toulouse, Robert, duke of Normandy (eldest son of William the Conqueror), Godfrey, duke of Lower Lorraine, and his younger brother Baldwin as well as others from the noble class, each with his own army. Back in Italy in August 1096, Urban got support from Genoa, Bologna and, especially, after a slight delay, from the Normans in the south, where Bohemond, son of their leader, Guiscard, took the cross. To avoid or, at least ameliorate, discord among these ambitious princes, Urban appointed the bishop of Le Puy as leader of the crusade, directly responsible to the pope.

Now, as happens occasionally in history, a person stepped out of near obscurity to play an unexpected part. Peter the Hermit began preaching the crusade within weeks of Clermont, travelling by donkey through parts of France and Lorraine. His fervour and eloquence so electrified crowds wherever he went that, by the time he reached Cologne in April 1096, he had with him perhaps as many as 10,000 who had responded to his call. At Cologne he attracted Germans to follow him, and when he left there his crusade numbered about 20,000. Often called the People’s Crusade, Peter’s crusade was more than that. Indeed, his followers were drawn in large numbers from the peasantry, but they also included many warriors from the knightly class, who would provide the military leadership of the expedition. A lack of discipline soon appeared. Peter’s crusaders killed 4,000 inhabitants of one town in Hungary. When they reached Belgrade, they savaged the population and burned the town. At Sophia they were given an escort to accompany them to Constantinople, which they reached on 1 August 1096. One can only imagine the interview between the resplendent, sophisticated emperor and the unwashed, coarse, simple hermit from Picardy. Alexius had the sense to move them quickly across the Bosporus, but in Anatolia they suffered a disastrous defeat on 21 October. A remnant dispersed, and Peter, escaping the fate of the army and later surviving the disgrace of desertion, was still later to enter Jerusalem with the conquering Christian army.

Before following the main part of the crusade in its march across Europe and Asia Minor, a difficult question must be asked: what motivated the crusaders to take up the cross and join a military expedition to the Holy Land? The most difficult area of the past which any historian faces is individual human motivation. What was in the minds of countless men, whose names are lost to us, as they left home, family and country to go on the crusade? At the remove of 900 years answers do not come easily. These cautions should not stop historians from asking why men volunteered for the crusades, but they should oblige us to think in the subjunctive mood.

An Italian priest’s remarks on this subject were reported by an early twelfth-century chronicler:

Different reasons are given by different people. Some say that all pilgrims are moved by God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Others say that the Frankish nobles and a majority of the people have set out on their journey motivated solely by frivolous reasons.

That remark places the matter at its sharpest dichotomy. The non-religious reasons can be summarized. A burgeoning population, recent flooding in 1094, drought and famine in the next year, vulnerability to attack by outlaws and hostile neighbours – these were all facts of life in the years leading up to the crusade. Younger sons with slim prospects could be found everywhere in a society which set high store on the manly art of warfare. The influence of regional lords and, perhaps even more importantly, the expectations of gain in certain families, were factors not to be minimized. There was the prospect of gaining land in the East and, for princes, perhaps their own kingdoms or principalities. Yet, when a knight bade farewell to his wife and children, he could not know what lay ahead, quite possibly death in battle, or, at least, years of separation. Since much human motivation is very often mixed, one should not exclude a spiritual element. To go to the Holy Land as an armed pilgrim, to enter Jerusalem, to kneel at the Holy Sepulchre and to venerate the cross of Jesus would have moved many a conventionally pious Christian. We should perhaps add a penitential factor, including the ‘crusading indulgence’, often misunderstood even in the eleventh century. The Council of Clermont granted an ‘indulgence’ for those going on the crusade. The text merits quoting,

To whoever solely out of religious devotion and not for acquiring honour or wealth proceeds to liberate the church of God at Jerusalem his journey will count for all penance.

What the council meant was that the church would remit the penance due for their sins if they went on a crusade for pious reasons. It did not mean that their sins would be forgiven – these had to be sincerely repented of and confessed – but that the penance required to be performed would be remitted. In other words, the journey to Jerusalem was considered to take the place of the required penance, and this applied only to those crusaders motivated by religious ideals. All this having been said, the rhetoric of preachers could lead audiences to conclude that the crusader would gain remission of all sins, although, it should be added, the evidence of exaggerated preaching is scanty at best for this crusade. The promise of heaven or something akin to it would have made taking the cross attractive, perhaps even compelling, for thousands for whom life after death with eternal rewards or eternal punishments formed a fixed part of their view of life.

Three crusading armies raised in Germany to fight the infidel in the East began their crusade by slaughtering Jews in the West. At Worms, in May 1096, they killed all the Jews in the ghetto and even those given sanctuary by the Catholic bishop. These crusaders then went on to Mainz, where there was a massacre of Jews that lasted several days. Next to Ratisbon, and another massacre. They murdered Jewish communities at Neuss, Wevelinghofen and Xanten. In Bohemia, they exterminated Jews at Prague. Despite the attempts of local bishops to protect the Jews, barbaric savagery was carried out in the name of the cross. Many contemporary observers saw a divine judgement on these crusaders for they met disastrous defeats in Hungary. What motivated these crusaders in their treatment of the Jews? Probably greed and hatred and the excuse of having ‘unbelievers’ close at hand.

The main body of crusaders travelled east, using the traditional pilgrim routes: either overland through Hungary and the Balkans or across the Adriatic Sea to Dyrrachion and then over land. Their destination was Constantinople. The crusaders came in fairly large armies, but there were smaller groups as well. The earliest journeys of these armies began in October 1096, and by the following May (1097) they had all reached Constantinople. Provisioning an army whose total might have exceeded 60,000 created problems en route, and, when local peoples were unwilling or unable to sell the necessary provisions, violence erupted. Yet the movement of such a large number was remarkably free of major incident.

Emperor Alexius had two immediate aims: first, to acquire oaths of allegiance from the crusaders and, second, to move them out of the area of Constantinople as quickly as possible. The oath required the crusaders to return to the emperor any lands they captured which were previously held by the empire before the Turkish invasion and to swear their loyalty to the emperor for any other lands they might conquer. Only Raymond of Toulouse demurred, but even he took a modified oath. By the end of May 1097, the crusading armies had all been transported across the Bosporus to Asia and away from Constantinople. Alexius accomplished both objectives by diplomatic persuasion and by bounteous gifts to the leaders of the crusade. He could feel optimistic that his capital was safe and the prospects of recovering lands good.

The armies were on their way. On 19 June they captured Nicaea, remembered for its council in 325. On 1 July they handed the Turks a staggering defeat, and the way was now open to cross Anatolia. Only the great city of Antioch lay in their way to Jerusalem. They arrived at Antioch on 21 October, and there the crusade became stalled for eight months. Meanwhile, the ambitious Baldwin, brother of Duke Godfrey, led a spur into the lands of the Armenians, where he was welcomed as a liberator from Turkish control. On 6 February 1098, he entered Edessa, east of the Euphrates River, where he was adopted by the local Armenian ruler as son and heir. By the following March, Baldwin had become count of the county of Edessa. Having attained what he had set out for – a principality of his own – he abandoned the crusade, and the first crusader state had been established in the East.

Antioch with its high walls and its citadel invulnerable on one side by a steep precipice proved a formidable obstacle to the crusaders. It could not be bypassed, lest there be an enemy at their back, and had to be taken. A siege was decided upon, perhaps unwisely. It lasted eight months and ended only on 3 June 1098 with a victorious assault by the crusaders. It took another battle, on 28 June, for their possession of Antioch to be secure. The way was now open to Jerusalem, only 200 miles or so to the south. Yet before they could recover from the long siege and brutal battle and march to Jerusalem, the crusaders suffered a major setback: the bishop of Le Puy, the pope’s legate and the acknowledged leader of the crusade, died. Much of what followed might have been avoided if he had survived.

Plate 6 Crac des chevaliers. Reproduced by permission of A.F. Kersting.

Despite the proximity of Jerusalem it took more than a year for the less than united crusaders to reach the Holy City. A treacherous route lay before them with many fortified places to be pacified by gifts or taken by arms. The crusaders took Maarat (later site of Crac des Chevaliers), and the hungry victors actually ate their victims, the memory of which remained with Arabs for centuries. Not until the seventh day of June 1099 did the pilgrim-warriors catch sight of the walls of the city. A mighty fortress, Jerusalem was almost impregnable to direct attack. If the crusaders could construct a wooden siege-tower, built to the height of the walls and placed on wheels, they might gain entry and then open the gates. The unexpected arrival of ships at the port of Jaffa provided the necessary tools and foraging in Samaria provided the necessary wood. About noon on 14 July 1099, Godfrey of Lorraine and his men forced a bridge across from their mobile siege-tower to the top of the wall, and they were soon in the city. What followed is one of the saddest pictures in the history of the Christian church. In a wild butchery the crusaders slew a great number of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Muslims and Jews, men and women of every age, children and even infants fell to the savagery of the Christian sword. An observer relates that the victorious crusaders waded into the Temple ankle-deep in blood. And soon the crusaders were at the Holy Sepulchre, offering thanks to God for their victory.

It was not long before states were established in what Westerners would call ‘Outremer’ (overseas). In addition to the county of Edessa, a county of Antioch and even a kingdom of Jerusalem were created. Later, in 1109, a county of Tripoli was carved out. These four Crusader States continued as a presence in mid-eastern affairs into the second half of the thirteenth century. And military orders also appeared.

Map 10 Crusader States

In 1119, the crusader knight Hugh de Paynes and eight other knights took the religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in the church of the Holy Sepulchre. They took up residence on the Temple Mount, and thus their name the Knights Templar. They did not give up their arms but were armed monks, dedicated to the religious life and also to the protection of pilgrims and, more generally, to the protection of Jerusalem from the Muslims. St Bernard of Clairvaux supported them, and they grew in numbers and acquired considerable wealth. Their round churches can be seen in the West, for example, in London and Cambridge. Another order was soon created. Certainly by the 1160s – and possibly as early as the 1120s – the knights who had given up their swords to care for poor and sick pilgrims took up arms again as Knights Hospitaller. They too prospered, and Crac des Chevaliers became their best known fortress. Later, in 1198, the order of the Teutonic Knights developed from a German hospital established in Jerusalem. Thanks to generous donations from secular rulers, particularly German kings, they were to rule over vast territories in eastern Europe, in the thirteenth century their lands stretching along the Baltic Sea from Gdansk almost to the Russian border. (They feature in the great Eisenstein film Alexander Nevsky.) Some, but only a few of these religious knights, found their mission anomalous.

Other crusades will enter into these pages from time to time, but this might be the place to quote the judgement of the doyen of the history of the crusades, Sir Steven Runciman:

The triumphs of the Crusade were the triumphs of faith. But faith without wisdom is a dangerous thing. By the inexorable laws of history the whole world pays for the crimes and follies of each of its citizens. In the long sequence of interaction and fusion between Orient and Occident out of which our civilization has grown, the Crusades were a tragic and destructive episode. The historian as he gazes back across the centuries at their gallant story must find his admiration overcast by sorrow at the witness that it bears to the limitations of human nature. There was so much courage and so little honour, so much devotion and so little understanding. High ideals were besmirched by cruelty and greed, enterprise and endurance by a blind and narrow self-righteousness; and the Holy War itself was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God, which is the sin against the Holy Ghost.

Not all will concur with the Runciman judgement, yet it raises issues no serious student of our history can neglect.

Further reading

Many of the themes treated in this chapter and in the next two chapters can be seen in a broader context in Malcolm Barber, The Two Cities: Medieval Europe, 1050–1320 (2nd edn; London and New York, 2004).

On reform as inherent to the Christian church see Gerhardt B. Lardner, The Idea of Reform: Its Impact on Christian Thought and Action in the Age of the Fathers (Cambridge, MA, 1959). For a measured, well-informed approach to the reform of the eleventh century and for much else see Colin Morris, The Papal Monarchy: The Western Church from 1050 to 1250 (Oxford, 1989). Students of the subject will want to consult the important account by Kathleen G. Cushing in Reform and the Papacy in the Eleventh Century: Spirituality and Social Change (Manchester, 2005). Gerd Tellenbach has written two stimulating books on this period, the first when he was 29: Church, State and Christian Society at the Time of the Investiture Struggle (tr. R.F. Bennet; Oxford, 1940) and the second which appeared when he was 86: The Church in Western Europe from the Tenth to the Early Twelfth Century (tr. Timothy Reuter; Cambridge, 1993). Useful on several levels is The Papal Reform of the Eleventh Century: Lives of Pope Leo IX and Pope Gregory VII (I.S. Robinson, ed.; Manchester and New York, 2004) with a valuable introduction by the editor.

An excellent summary of the monastic reforming movements of this period is Joachim Wollasch, ‘Monasticism: The First Wave of Reform’, The New Cambridge Medieval History c.900–c.1024, vol. 3 (ed. Timothy Reuter; Cambridge, 1999), pp. 163–85. For the Lotharingian monastic reforms one will find a new perspective in John Nightingale, Monasteries and Patrons in Gorze Reform: Lotharingia, c.850–1100 (Oxford, 2001). For the English monastic reforms the classical text is David Knowles, The Monastic Order in England (2nd edn; Cambridge, 1963). For a review of scholarly developments one should see Catherine Cubitt’s ‘Review Article: The Tenth-Century Benedictine Reform in England’, Early Medieval Europe 64 (1997) 77–l94.

Opposing much of the conventional interpretation is Geoffrey Barraclough’s stimulating The Medieval Papacy (London, 1969). Every student of the period should have Brian Tierney, The Crisis of Church and State, 1050–1300 (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1964), whose valuable introduction provides a view of Gregory VII contrary to the view presented here. For a work of mature reflection see H.E.J. Cowdrey, Gregory VII (Oxford, 1998). For a broad view of the German king see Ian S. Robinson, Henry IV of Germany, 1056–1106 (Cambridge, 1999). An important study of a crucial pontificate is Mary Stroll, Calixtus II (1119–1124): A Pope Born to Rule (Leiden and Boston, 2004).The classic study of the question of celibacy is Henry C. Lea, History of Sacerdotal Celibacy(3rd edn; New York, 1907), which is now replaced by Helen Parish, Clerical Celibacy in the West, c.1100–1700 (Farnham, Surrey, and Burlington, VT, 2010). An excellent discussion of the arguments supporting clerical marriage is Anne Llewellyn Barstow,Married Priests and the Reforming Papacy: The Eleventh-Century Debate (New York, 1982). See, too, the summary in James A. Brundage, Law, Sex and Christian Society in the Middle Ages (Chicago, 1987), especially pp. 214–23.

For matters concerning disputes between the Churches of East and West see Steven Runciman, The Eastern Schism: A Study of the Papacy and the Eastern Churches during the XI and XII Centuries (Oxford, 1955) and Francis Dvornik, Byzantium and the Roman Primacy (New York, 1966). More recently we have the splendid summary of Henry Chadwick in East and West: The Making of a Rift in the Church from Apostolic Times to the Council of Florence (Oxford, 2003). Gilbert Dagron discusses the role of the emperor in the Eastern Church in Emperor and Priest: The Imperial Office in Byzantium (tr. Jean Birrell; Cambridge, 2003). Of specific interest is Richard Mayne’s article ‘East and West in 1054’, Cambridge Historical Journal 11 (1954), 133–48.

The literature on the crusades is prodigious and seems to grow exponentially. The starting place will be the work of Sir Steven Runciman, who towers over his modern critics; see A History of the Crusades (3 vols; Cambridge, 1951–54). A multi-authored work is Kenneth M. Setton, gen. ed., A History of the Crusades (2nd edn; 6 vols; Madison, WI, 1969–89). The works of Jonathan Riley-Smith have significantly opened up a variety of topics. One might begin with his one-volume work, The Crusades: A History (2nd edn; London and New York, 2005) and his The First Crusaders, 1095–1131 (Cambridge, 1997). A comprehensive account in one volume is Christopoher Tyerman, God’s War: A New History of the Crusades (London, 2006). The reader will also want to read Jonathan Phillips, The Crusades, 1095–1197 (London, 2002), which contains a useful file of documents, as well as his Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades (London, 2009). An analytical narrative is Thomas Asbridge, The First Crusade: A New History(London, 2004). Every student of the subject should read Amin Maalouf, The Crusades Through the Arab Eyes (tr. Jon Rothschild; London, 2006). An important work is Carole Hillenbrand, The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives (Edinburgh, 1999). For a critically important study see Benjamin Z. Kedar, ‘The Jerusalem Massacre of July 1099 in the Western Historiography of the Crusades’, Crusades 3 (2004) 15–75. For the military aspects of the First Crusade see John France, Victory in the East: A Military History of the First Crusade (Cambridge, 1994). An excellent article is E.O. Blake, ‘A Hermit Goes to War: Peter and the Origins of the First Crusade’, in Monks, Hermits and the Ascetic Tradition (ed. W.J. Shiels; Studies in Church History, vol. 21, 1984), pp. 79–107. For what are generally called the later crusades see N. Housley, The Italian Crusades: The Papal-Angevin Alliance and the Crusade Against Lay Power, 1254–1343 (Oxford, 1982) and The Later Crusades: From Lyons to Alcazar (Oxford, 1992). For a contemporary Eastern view see the account by the daughter of Emperor Alexius: Anna Comnena, The Alexiad of Anna Comnena (tr. E.R.A. Sewter; Harmondsworth, Mddsx, 1969). In addition, the publisher Ashgate is issuing a series of translations of crusade texts.

For the peace movement through the ages see Ronald G. Musto, The Catholic Peace Tradition (Maryknoll, NY, 1986), The Peace Tradition in the Catholic Church: An Annotated Bibliography (New York, 1986) and Catholic Peacemakers: A Documentary History (2 vols; New York, 1993–96). For informative essays on the peace movement in France see T. Head and R. Landes, eds, The Peace of God: Social Violence and Religious Response in France Around the Year 1000 (Ithaca, NY, and London, 1992) and for a detailed explanation of the origins of the peace movement in Aquitaine see Thomas Head, ‘The Development of the Peace of God in Aquitaine (970–1005)’, Speculum 74 (1999), 656–86.

For a general overview of the religious knights see A.J. Forey, The Military Orders: From the Twelfth to the Early Fourteenth Centuries (Basingstoke and London, 1992). For specific orders several studies are available to us: Malcolm Barber, The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple (Cambridge, 1994); Jonathan Riley-Smith, The History of the Order of St John (London, 1999); Helen Nicholson, The Knights Hospitaller (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2001) and her The Knights Templar: A New History(Stroud, Glos., 2001); and Nicholas Edward Morton, The Teutonic Knights in the Holy Land, 1190–1291 (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2009). A very useful source book is Malcolm Barber and Keith Bate, trs and eds, The Templars: Selected Sources Translated and Annotated (Manchester, 2002).

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