Crusades IV

The final question remaining to be addressed in my paper is:  What other aims and values of high medieval culture do the records of the crusades reveal? 

Since you are at a disadvantage as to the source materials perused in preparation for the assignment, I begin with a brief review of the selections, described in general terms.  Most of the source materials were recorded by scribes working for the Church or noblemen who had taken the cross and led armies into the Holy Land.  Noticeably absent are materials written by heretics; many documents created by heretics during the High Middle Ages were destroyed in the Crusades.

Pope Innocent III’s call to arms was recorded by Fulcher of Chartres, and his response to the murder of Peter of Castelnau by one of the Count of Toulouses’ foolish squires recorded by William of Tudela.  In each the Pope states the objective: fight the enemy and gain both atonement and prosperity.  Both documents are written in the expected flowery style, embellished with declamatory statements and Biblical references; in other words, impressive speech intended to intimidate listeners into taking up the cross.

The chronicles of the travelers themselves are similarly written in a bold and almost poetic style which conveyed strength and no little arrogance.  These were mainly men who were the equivalent of a modern mayor, accustomed to demanding results from staffpeople.  The forcefulness of each chronicle is tempered by a statement of humility; the conditions of both travel and battle were clearly challenging, and these noblemen proclaimed themselves at God’s mercy under several occasions.

These behaviors reveal the value the laity placed in acquiring wealth, ensuring their own place in the afterlife, and preserving their good reputations.

While the noblemen who responded to the Pope’s call to arms clearly stated their firm commitment to supporting the Church, the lure of treasure was certainly an important consideration when making the decision as to whether or not they would join the fight.  In an era marked by great violence, illiteracy, and poor medical care, the laity were equally compelled by the promise of salvation.

The High Middle Ages were a time of great disparity between wealthy and poor, and though a small middle class was emerging by the eleventh century, life was filled with financial uncertainty.  Among commoners, both men and women worked very long hours for little compensation, and often barely made due with these paltry earnings.  Wealthy nobles also experienced financial challenges; maintaining large households which included servants, and ensuring that the less prosperous members of the feif were provided for was a burden.  Meeting their financial obligations was not merely a matter of survival in the material sense, it also maintained the noble’s reputation as a man of wealth and wisdom. 

In such an uncertain time, the uneducated were frequently not exposed to the work of great thinkers.  Their interaction with educated persons was usually limited to some fortunate nobles, and to the Church.  As a consequence, the Church was extraordinarily influential over the lives of common people.  The prospect of being excommunicated would have been a frightening possibility to the laity, who had been convinced by priests and other Church orators that excommunication would result in an eternity in hell.


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