Publisher’s Note: The following material on the Causes of the Crusades is an excerpt from an article on the Rite of Strict Observance by By Burton E. Bennett, published in the 1920s. It is presented to show the view point still common among historians of that era.
It has been stated that the purpose of the Crusades was to recover the sepulchre of Christ from the Infidel. The underlying causes, however, were deeper and far greater. They were:
• the desire of the Papacy for conquest
• the desire of the mercantile classes to open up trade routes to the East,
• the desire of the Byzantine emperors to recover their lost territories and
• the desire of princes to carve new kingdoms out of the East.
The barbarians who overran the Roman Empire had hardly become settled among the ruins they had caused, and commenced to repair them, when Scandinavian pirates sailed up their rivers and sacked and plundered their towns just as they had sacked and plundered the mighty cities of the Empire. Some of these pirates finally settled down in Northern France and established the Dukedom of Normandy. In 1066 the Norman Duke, William the Bastard, conquered England and established his kingdom of England. In 1090 the Norman Duke Roger conquered Sicily from the Moslems and established his kingdom there. The Norman Duke Godfrey was one of the commanders in the first Crusade. On July 15, 1099, Godfrey took Jerusalem, and while the shrieks of the dying were heard and the rivers of blood still gurgled and eddied, he founded his Norman kingdom of Jerusalem. The traders, the princes, the Emperor and the Pope devoutly thanked God for the successful termination of so glorious a cause. But the Crusades for the purpose of conquering the world for Christianity, and extirpating the Infidel, was a complete failure. However, good came out of them–incalculable good. They helped to dissolve feudalism, to develop trade, to build up cities and to increase knowledge. It would be foolish to say that they were the cause of all this, but they certainly contributed toward it.
But above all, by far, they show the strivings of man for an ideal, for the infinite, for immortality, as nothing on this earth has ever done before or since; they attempted to answer the age-old question as it has never been done before nor since–can mortality be shaken off for immortality, can the finite be merged in the infinite?
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