Historians have examined in detail the lasting impact of the Crusades and have traced the devastating consequences of the sacralising of Mediaeval European military designs to retake the Holy Land from the 'infidels', whether Moslem or Jewish.36
The attempt to liberate the Holy Land from Moslem control was seen by many as a sacred endeavour and even as a form of pilgrimage. When Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade in 1095 he gave several reasons for this 'holy pilgrimage',
each of high moral value, first to defend Constantinople and by doing so heal the schism between East and West; second, to be a repentant act of faith that would culminate in the moral reformation and total renewal of Christendom; third, it was to be a mass pilgrimage of believers united in the expectation of the imminent return of Christ.37
How far this aspiration was shared by the Crusaders themselves is debatable. Zander seriously questions whether the Crusades ever really had anything to do with 'defending' the Church.38 Robert the Monk, commenting on Pope Urban's mobilisation speech, gave much more provocative reasons.
Let the Holy Sepulchre of the Lord our Saviour which is possessed by unclean nations, especially incite you, and the Holy Places which are now treated with ignominy and irreverently polluted with their filthiness... Enter upon the road to the Holy Sepulchre; wrest that land from the wicked race, and subject it to yourselves... This royal city, therefore, situated at the centre of the world, is now held captive by his enemies, and is in subjection to those who do not know God, to the worship of the heathens.39
For over a century, Bishops, clerics and Kings repeated the call 'to avenge the injury which had been inflicted upon Christ.'40 This explains why Christians had come to regard the land as their exclusive inheritance as the 'true' Israel.
The theological justification for the Crusades went through significant and progressive stages. Initially the motivation was simply to liberate the Holy Land as a means of achieving personal salvation and of hastening the apocalypse. Having conquered and settled the land and created Christian kingdoms, when Jerusalem was once again threatened by infidels, it became an opportunity for martyrdom and sacrifice. After Jerusalem was lost, the Muslim presence was seen as an insult to God, and the later Crusades were justified to avenge the injury to God. Toward the end of the Crusading era the Crusaders saw themselves as the successors of Israel; their duty to claim Christ's patrimony and inheritance.41
Such religious arrogance and the consequent extermination of the Jewish and Moslem inhabitants of Palestine by the European Crusaders unleashed a spiral of barbaric savagery which has fermented for a thousand years, each side locked in what Armstrong calls 'a murderous triangle of hatred and intolerance.^ Cragg draws some important conclusions about the effect of the Crusades and their religious imprimatur on the Arab psyche.
The Western, Latin Rome saw the Christian East in terms of judicial dominance and ecclesiastical power... The Crusades became an enduring symbol of malignancy as well as heroism, of open imperialism and private piety... They left noble piles of architecture on the eastern landscape but seared the eastern soul. They gave Arab Muslims through every succeeding century a warrant of memory to hold against Christian Arabs as, by association, liable to pseudo-Arabness or worse. What the crusaders did to the eastern psyche, long outlived their tenure The image of them is one no century since has been able to exorcise.43
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