The Crusades Seen as a Whole Had Primarily Negative Consequences for Europe

The Crusades referred to the series of military campaigns that Western European Christians carried out in order to free the Holy Land from Muslim control. From 1096 to the late 13th century, these religious wars were waged against both internal and external opponents of Christianity. The Crusades, however, eventually became “any (form of) military effort by Europeans against non-Christians” (MSN Encarta, n. pag. ). Under the guise of militant Christianity, it was used as a means of European expansion (MSN Encarta, n. pag. ).

Most of the effects of the Crusades in Europe proved to be very detrimental. For one, the power of the Papacy was increased. Crusaders who were either preparing for battle or returning home from combat gave vast tracts of land to the Roman Catholic Church in exchange for prayers and pious benedictions (Middle-Ages. org. uk, n. pag. ). Consequently, the Pope abruptly became more affluent and influential than most monarchies during this period. This sudden increase in wealth, in turn, allowed him to institute both spiritual and secular supremacy over the royalty (Infoplease, n. pag. ).

It is no longer surprising, therefore, if the Popes during the Crusades were always involved in power struggles and disputes with several European monarchs. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I and King Henry II of England were embroiled in a squabble with Pope Alexander III. Despite strong opposition from Emperor Otto IV and Emperor Frederick II, Pope Innocent II declared himself as the virtual ruler of the West. The quarrels between the Popes and the monarchs in this period became so frequent that it ultimately became the basis for a papacy’s clout (Infoplease, n. pag. ).

Another negative consequence of the Crusades in Europe was the senseless murder of non-Christian peoples both inside and outside the continent. The Crusaders’ decision to attack Constantinople, for instance, was motivated by the need to pay off their debt to Venice. The payment of the Crusaders to the Doge Enrico Donalo – 86,000 marks – ended up short of 34,000 marks. To compensate for the missing amount, he convinced them to assault Constantinople. Donalo had a hidden agenda – Constantinople “was the main obstacle to prevent Venice from rising to dominate the trade of the Mediterranean Sea” (Roman-Empire. net, n. pag. ).

The Crusaders invaded Constatinople on April 13, 1204. They stripped Orthodox churches of their mosaics, vestments, religious scriptures and altar pieces. Thousands of innocent civilians were also killed. Moreover, Venice was able to occupy Greece shortly afterwards (Cooke, n. pag. ). The Roman Catholic Church used the Crusades within Europe to increase its membership and dominion. The Crusaders in the Baltic, for instance, were infamous for seizing the lands of Orthodox Christians in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe.

One of the Crusaders’ organizations in the Baltic, the Teutonic Knights, violently slaughtered pagan tribes such as the Letts, the Balts and the Livs. The Archbishop of Riga urged Pope Clement V in 1308 to put an end to the carnage, to no avail (Ekelund, Tollison, Hebert, Anderson and Davidson, 147). In Spain, paramilitary orders such as the Belchite and the Monreal sequestered lands for the nobles and the Roman Catholic Church. These groups were able to carry out their operations under the guise of “(opening) a new route to Jerusalem along the North African coast” (France, 145).

But the truth was that they were merely pawns in the desire of the Roman Catholic Church and the nobles to acquire more land. Religion was used to get away with injustice. It would be fair to say,

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therefore, that the Crusades was one of the darkest chapters of human history. The original teachings of the Roman Catholic Church – charity, forgiveness, compassion – were distorted to suit secular and military interests. Consequently, other religions were violated and their followers killed. Religion became a means of enriching a selected few.

Works Cited Cooke, Nicholas A. “The Sack of Constantinople. ” 2000. St. Michael the Archangel Church. 14 November 2008 <http://aggreen. net/church_history/1204_sack. html>. “Crusades. ” 2008. MSN Encarta. 9 December 2008 <http://encarta. msn. com/encyclopedia_761561210/Crusades. html>. “Effects of the Crusades. ” n. d. Middle-Ages. org. uk. 9 December 2008 <http://www. middle-ages. org. uk/effects-of-crusades. htm>. Ekelund, Robert Burton, Robert D. Tollison, Robert F. Hebert, Gary M. Anderson, and Audrey B. Davidson.

Sacred Trust: The Medieval Church as an Economic Firm. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. France, John. The Crusades and the Expansion of Catholic Christendom, 1000-1714. New York: Routledge, 2005. “In the Middle Ages. ” 2008. Infoplease. 9 December 2008 <http://www. infoplease. com/ce6/society/A0860222. html>. “The Sack of Constantinople: The Conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders in AD 1203/1204. ” n. d. Roman-Empire. net. 9 December 2008 <http://www. roman-empire. net/constant/1203-1204. html>.

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