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Sunday January 27th 2019Tim Candler9

 

     A possibly bias analysis of the First Crusade might not make a Sunday. Oh sure, the Christian Byzantium Empire, last bastion of the Roman Empire, was being challenged by followers of Mohammed and the Eastern Emperors were having a particularly difficult time finding ways to deal with a tribe of people in that part of the world which is now called Turkey, a people who basically became the founding fathers of the Ottoman Empire. And there was the whole problem of Christendom trying to hold on to Jerusalem. But these were not Pope Urban II's main worries. The evangelistic efforts of the Western Church had advanced in a most impressive manner, even the Vikings had become Christians for goodness sake, but in the absence of an overwhelming European Authority some of the old ways lingered especially with the warrior class who had a bit of habit of doing stuff like stealing church property, robbing monks, and generally behaving in that restless way so characteristic of those us who are fundamentally bored and looking to get their old job back. One of the Church's first responses to this poor behavior from far too many of the warrior class was to go Pagan. Church boffins had read Tacitus and had produced passage or two from him about a more Northern Goddess of Earth who when she progressed through the multitude of permanently quarrelling northern tribes would cause "the sound of war to hush, quarrels suspended, arms laid aside" and everyone got a chance to realize the blessings of peace and if only briefly learn something. The church in Europe, without going all goddess of earth, decided to use this old idea as best they could. Soon enough people were being excommunicated for stealing from the church, or going into churches with stuff like weapons, or robbing people who were in churches, and in places there were sanctuaries where people, whatever their perceived sins, were left in peace.

 

Past

       It was an apparently novel idea, but when people thought about it, searched back in the stories of the past, there was a realization that it made huge sense to have a safe place somewhere on earth. The Peace and Truce of God became popular, and it kind of worked to inform the behaviors of those of us who might be ruled by the viler passions. At the same time many had an understanding that it was a fragile truce, not like the Roman Peace where if you did something even a little bit wrong you could get yourself crucified upside down. About a hundred years after the truce was declared Pope Urban II, who'd had a problem or two achieving the title of Pope, there was a lot of opposition, the ruling classes and their restless warriors thought him a little strict in his interpretations of God's word, chose to firm up his position with the idea of a crusade to save the Byzantium empire and while they were about it take back the Holy Land for Christendom. The restless warrior class were absolutely delighted, couldn't wait to test their metal and get themselves a little booty for a cause that had obviously been ordained from on high. Ordinary people were very enthusiastic, they'd slag off anyone of military age who had bone spurs or whatever, snitches would inform the priest and not only where these objectors to the crusade excommunicated but anyone who had tried to go on the crusade but had returned home without being able to actually find the front lines were given a D minus and  also excommunicated. Pope Urban II and his church became increasingly powerful, something to be reckoned with, and he himself became big man on the block. For three, four thousand years, since we people started recording thoughts in a written form, the more existentially minded have considered the idea of reoccurrence. Not so much as History Repeating Itself but asking the desperate question "Is this what we are?" There'll be debate of course, some of it rough, but the answer is "no one will ever know."

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