The Crusades

The Crusades ushered us from the Dark Ages into the Renaissance. They also brought changes ~ in economics, politics, religions, and societies.

Their birth and cause began in the late 9th century. European borders were becoming stabilized. But the Vikings, Slavs, and Magyars had developed a large class of armed warriors. And all the energy these men had used to fight one another, and terrorize the local people, had to go somewhere.

On the Iberian Peninsula of Spain and Portugal, knights and mercenaries were still fighting the Moors. In 1063 Pope Alexander II gave his blessing to the Iberian Christians, granting an indulgence for those killed in battle.

Beginning in 1074 the Emperors of Byzantium asked for help repelling the Seljuks, who were powerful Sunni Muslim Turks. With the blessings of the Pope, they set out for Jerusalem, claiming they were avenging those who had been murdered on Pilgrimages to the Holy City. So this world changing event became, at least partially, an outlet for religious piety and for the knights and mercenaries who only knew how to fight.

For a large group of people whose jobs had disappeared into boredom, this latest campaign was just what they needed to feel they were doing their job ~ including rape, murder, and pillage.

Some Crusaders were sincere, others were along for the ride, while still others found a new outlet for their aggressive, unrestrained behavior.

On the good side, the changes in politics, economics, and society helped bring Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance. Some things the Crusaders brought home from the Middle East ~

  • algebra
  • optics
  • advanced engineering
  • spices
  • ivory
  • jade
  • diamonds
  • silks
  • improved glass-manufacturing techniques
  • early forms of gun powder
  • oranges
  • apples

These years of travel into the Near East also gave us a vast selection of charges, or symbols, for heraldry. Among those would be palm trees, camels, gemstones, pomegranate, oranges, lemons, and a wide variety of crosses.

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