Friday, May 16, 2014

Did the idea for the Crusades originate in Spain?

It is new to me that the idea for the crusades may have originated in the efforts the Spanish were making to reconquer their land from the Muslims.

“Pope Urban’s letters reveal that he was fully cognizant of the efforts of Christian Spain to conquer lands held by the Muslims. Indeed, he seems to have had a broad view of the relationship between the Islamic world and Christendom. If he could offer remission of sins and indulgence to the Catalans striving to repopulate and defend Tarragona, he could extend the same benefit some years later to those going on crusade to the Holy Land. Just ten years after the fall of Toledo and four to six years after urging the restoration of Tarragona, he launched the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont in 1095. The same remission of sins offered by Alexander II in 1063 and Urban II in 1089– 91 was now offered to those who would deliver the holy places from the “infidels.” In seeking the genesis of the First Crusade one must look to these Spanish antecedents.”  [from O'Callaghan, Joseph F. (2011-01-01). Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain (Kindle Locations 741-747)]

While the religious motive may have been paramount in Pope Urban’s thinking, O’Callaghan suggests otherwise:

He writes, “The second invasion of Spain by the Almoravids in 1089 brought home to Urban II, as Guibert de Nogent noted, the threat not only to Christian Spain but also to southern France. In order to counteract Islam the pope encouraged Archbishop Bernard of Toledo to restore the other metropolitan sees still under Muslim rule (namely, Tarragona, Braga, Mérida, and Seville) and to bring about the (namely, Tarragona , Braga , Mérida, and Seville) and to bring about the conversion of the “infidels.” The latter admonition— almost an afterthought— is the first indication of papal interest in a mission to Spanish Islam. In practical terms the restoration of the archbishopric of Tarragona in the northeast, though deserted, seemed most feasible.  With that intention, Urban II in 1089 exhorted the Catalan bishops and nobles, in remission of their sins, to rebuild Tarragona: We encourage those who will set out for Jerusalem or other places in a spirit of penitence or devotion to expend all the labor of that journey on the restoration of the church of Tarragona, so that that city . . . may be celebrated as a barrier and a bulwark against the Saracens for the Christian people, to whom, out of the mercy of God, we offer that indulgence which they would gain if they had fulfilled the journey [to Jerusalem]. [O'Callaghan, (Kindle Locations 717-728).]

In another place O’Callaghan tells us French knights were promised land in Spain if they would drive the Muslims from it – not land the Spanish were engaged in fighting for but other land, land the Muslims had held for many years and was not being immediately contested by the Spanish.  I read a couple of books 10 or 15 years ago on the Crusades and recall the comment that one of the Popes encouraged the Franks to go off and free Jerusalem in order to get them out of Europe where they kept stirring things up.  O’Callaghan doesn’t give us quite that picture of them during Urban’s time.

O’Callaghan’s book covers the “reconquest” and “crusade.”  Apparently his argument that the idea of the crusade originated out of the Spanish struggle against the Moors in Spain isn’t widely accepted.  He quotes a great number of occurrences where a Pope provides indulgences to leaders who agree to fight the Muslims and drive them from previously held Spanish land.  I’m sure all those references are accurate, but I often wonder if my Kindle isn’t inadvertently repeating something I’ve already read.

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