Of their direct and professed purposes the Crusades had failed. After two centuries of war, Jerusalem was in the hands of the ferocious Mamluks, and Christian pilgrims came fewer and more fearful than before. The Moslem powers, once tolerant of religious diversity, had been made intolerant by attack. The Palestinian and Syrian ports that had been captured for Italian trade were without exception lost. Moslem civilization had proved itself superior to the Christian in refinement, comfort, education, and war. The magnificent effort of the popes to give Europe peace through a common purpose had been shattered by nationalistic ambitions and the “crusades” of popes against emperors.

Feudalism recovered with difficulty from its failure in the Crusades. Suited to individualistic adventure and heroism within a narrow range, it had not known how to adjust its methods to Oriental climates and distant campaigns. It had bungled inexcusably the problem of supplies along a lengthening line of communications. It had exhausted its equipment, and blunted its spirit, by conquering not Moslem Jerusalem but Christian Byzantium. To finance their expeditions to the East, many knights had sold or mortgaged their properties to lord, moneylender, Church, or king; for a price they had resigned their rights over many towns in their domains; to many peasants they had sold remission of future feudal dues. Serfs by the thousands had used the crusader’s privilege to leave the land, and thousands had never returned to their manors. While feudal wealth and arms were diverted to the East, the power and wealth of the French monarchy rose as one of the major results of the Crusades. At the same time both the Roman Empires were weakened: the Western emperors lost prestige by their failures in the Holy Land, and by their conflicts with a papacy exalted by the Crusades; and the Eastern Empire, though reborn in 1261, never regained its former power or repute. The Crusades, however, had this measure of success, that without them the Turks would have taken Constantinople long before 1453. For Islam, too, was weakened by the Crusades, and fell more easily before the Mongol flood.

Some of the military orders suffered tragic fates. Those Hospitalers who survived the massacre at Acre fled to Cyprus. In 1310 they captured Rhodes from the Moslems, changed their name to the Knights of Rhodes, and ruled the island till 1522; expelled then by the Turks, they removed to Malta, became the Knights of Malta, and continued to exist there till their disbandment in 1799. The Teutonic Knights, after the fall of Acre, transferred their headquarters to Marienburg in the Prussia they had conquered for Germany from the Slavs. The Templars, driven from Asia, reorganized in France. Possessed of rich holdings throughout Europe, they settled down to enjoy their revenues. Free from taxation, they lent money at lower interest rates than the Lombards and the Jews, and reaped lush profits. Unlike the Hospitalers, they maintained no hospitals, established no schools, succored no poor. At last their hoarded wealth, their armed state within the state, their insubordination to the royal power, aroused the envy, fear, and wrath of King Philip IV the Fair. On October 12, 1310, by his order, and without warning, all Templars in France were arrested, and the royal seal was set on all their goods. Philip accused them of indulging homosexual lusts, of having lost their Christian faith through long contact with Islam, of denying Christ and spitting upon the cross, of worshiping idols, of being in secret league with the Moslems, and of having repeatedly betrayed the Christian cause. A tribunal of prelates and monks loyal to the King examined the prisoners; they denied the royal charges, and were put to the torture to induce them to confess. Some, suspended by the wrists, were repeatedly drawn up and suddenly let down; some had their bare feet held over flames; some had sharp splinters driven under their fingernails; some had a tooth wrenched out day after day; some had heavy weights hung from their genitals; some were slowly starved. In many cases all these devices were used, so that most of the prisoners, when examined again, were weak to the point of death. One showed the bones that had fallen from his roasted feet. Many of them confessed to all the charges of the King; some told how life and liberty had been promised them, under the royal seal, if they would admit the allegations of the government. Several of them died in jail; some killed themselves; fifty-nine were burned at the stake (1310), protesting their innocence to the end. Du Molay, the Grand Master of the order, confessed under torture; led to the stake, he withdrew his confession; and the inquisitors proposed to try him again. Philip denounced the delay, and ordered him to be burned at once; and the royal presence graced the execution. All the property of the Templars in France was confiscated by the state. Pope Clement V protested against these procedures; the French clergy supported the King; the Pope, a virtual prisoner at Avignon, ceased resistance, and abolished the order at Philip’s behest (1312). Edward II, also needing money, confiscated the property of the Templars in England. Some of the wealth so appropriated by Philip and Edward was surrendered to the Church; some of it was granted by the kings to favorites, who by these means founded great manors, and supported the kings against the older feudal nobility.

Possibly some of the Crusaders had learned in the East a new tolerance for sexual perversions; this, and the reintroduction of public baths and private latrines in the West may be included among the results of the Crusades. Probably through contact with the Moslem East, the Europeans returned to the old Roman custom of shaving the beard.61 A thousand Arabic words now came into the European languages. Oriental romances flowed into Europe, and found new dress in the nascent vernaculars. Crusaders impressed by the enameled glass of the Saracens may have brought from the East the technical secrets that led to the improved stained glass of the developed Gothic cathedrals.62 The compass, gunpowder, and printing were known in the East before the Crusades ended, and may have come to Europe in the backwash of that tidal wave. Apparently the Crusaders were too unlettered to care for “Arabic” poetry, science, or philosophy; Moslem influences in such fields came rather through Spain and Sicily than through the contacts of these wars. Greek cultural influences were felt by the West after the capture of Constantinople; so William of Moerbeke, Flemish Archbishop of Corinth, furnished Thomas Aquinas with translations of Aristotle made directly from the original. In general the discovery, by the Crusaders, that the followers of another faith could be as civilized, humane, and trustworthy as themselves, if not more so, must have set some minds adrift, and contributed to the weakening of orthodox belief in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Historians like William, Archbishop of Tyre, spoke of Moslem civilization with a respect, sometimes with an admiration, that would have shocked the rude warriors of the First Crusade.63

The power and prestige of the Roman Church were immensely enhanced by the First Crusade, and progressively damaged by the rest. The sight of diverse peoples, of lordly barons and proud knights, sometimes of emperors and kings, uniting in a religious cause led by the Church raised the status of the papacy. Papal legates entered every country and diocese to stir recruiting and gather funds for the Crusades; their authority encroached upon, often superseded, that of the hierarchy; and through them the faithful became almost directly tributory to the pope. The collections so made became customary, and were soon applied to many purposes besides the Crusades; the pope acquired, to the active dissatisfaction of the kings, the power to tax their subjects, and divert to Rome great sums that might have gone to royal coffers or local needs. The distribution of indulgences for forty days’ service in Palestine was a legitimate application of military science; the granting of similar indulgences to those who paid the expenses of a Crusader seemed forgivable; the extension of like indulgences to those who contributed to funds managed by the popes, or who fought papal wars in Europe against Frederick, Manfred, or Conrad, became an added source of irritation to the kings, and of humor to the satirists. In 1241 Gregory IX directed his legate in Hungary to commute for a money payment the vows of persons pledged to a crusade, and used the proceeds to help finance his life-and-death struggle with Frederick II.64 Provençal troubadours criticized the Church for diverting aid from Palestine by offering equal indulgences for a crusade against the Albigensian heretics in France.65 “The faithful wondered,” says Matthew Paris, “that the same plenary remission of sins was promised for shedding Christian, as for shedding infidel, blood.”66 Many landowners, to finance their crusade, sold or mortgaged their property to churches or monasteries to raise liquid funds; some monasteries in this way acquired vast estates; when the failure of the Crusades lowered the prestige of the Church, her wealth became a ready target of royal envy, popular resentment, and critical rebuke. Some attributed the disasters of Louis IX in 1250 to the simultaneous campaign of Innocent IV against Frederick II. Emboldened skeptics argued that the failure of the Crusades refuted the claims of the pope to be God’s vicar or representative on earth. When, after 1250, monks solicited funds for further crusades, some of their hearers, in humor or bitterness, summoned beggars and gave them alms in the name of Mohammed; for Mohammed, they said, had shown himself stronger than Christ.67

Next to the weakening of Christian belief, the chief effect of the Crusades was to stimulate the secular life of Europe by acquaintance with Moslem commerce and industry. War does one good—it teaches people geography. The Italian merchants who throve on the Crusades learned to make good charts of the Mediterranean; the monkish chroniclers who accompanied the knights received and transmitted a new conception of the vastness and variety of Asia. The zest for exploration and travel was stirred; and Baedekers appeared to guide pilgrims to and through the Holy Land. Christian physicians learned from Jewish and Moslem practitioners, and surgery profited from the Crusades.

Trade followed the cross, and perhaps the cross was guided by trade. The knights lost Palestine, but the Italian merchant fleets won control of the Mediterranean not only from Islam but from Byzantium as well. Venice, Genoa, Pisa, Amalfi, Marseille, Barcelona had already traded with the Moslem East, the Bosporus, and the Black Sea; but this traffic was immensely enlarged by the Crusades. The Venetian conquest of Constantinople, the transport of pilgrims and warriors to Palestine, the purveyance of supplies to Christians and others in the East, the importation of Oriental products into Europe—all these supported a degree of commerce and maritime transport unknown since the most flourishing days of Imperial Rome, Silks, sugar, spices—pepper, ginger, cloves, cinnamon—rare luxuries in eleventh-century Europe—came to it now in delightful abundance. Plants, crops, and trees already known to Europe from Moslem Spain were now more widely transplanted from Orient to Occident—maize, rice, sesame, carob, lemons, melons, peaches, apricots, cherries, dates … shallot and scallion were named from the port, Ascalon, that shipped them from the East to the West; and apricots were long known as “Damascus plums.”68 Damasks, muslins, satins, velvets, tapestries, rugs, dyes, powders, scents, and gems came from Islam to adorn or sweeten feudal and bourgeois homes and flesh.69 Mirrors of glass plated with metallic film now replaced those of polished bronze or steel. Europe learned from the East to refine sugar, and make “Venetian” glass.

New markets in the East developed Italian and Flemish industry, and promoted the growth of towns and the middle class. Better techniques of banking were introduced from Byzantium and Islam; new forms and instruments of credit appeared; more money circulated, more ideas, more men. The Crusades had begun with an agricultural feudalism inspired by German barbarism crossed with religious sentiment; they ended with the rise of industry, and the expansion of commerce, in an economic revolution that heralded and financed the Renaissance.

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