THE pope is the bishop of Rome, and the traditions of the papacy delight in recalling the humble origin of his vast monarchy, at once spiritual and temporal, ecclesiastical and secular. If the poor Galiæan fisherman ever entered the Eternal City, it was as a stranger who had come to be the guide and friend of a small knot of men who saw and hated and wished to keep themselves aloof from the abominable corruption of Roman society.
THE Crusades were a series of popular wars, waged by men who wore on their garments the badge of the Cross as a pledge binding them to rescue the Holy Land, and the Sepulchre of Christ from the grasp of the unbeliever.
A.D 1095, November
The dream of such an enterprise had long floated before the minds of keen-sighted popes and passionate enthusiasts: it was realised for the first time when, after listening to the burning eloquence of Urban II. at the council of Clermont, the assembled multitude with one voice welcomed the sacred war as the will of God.
If we regard this undertaking as the simple expression of popular feeling stirred to its inmost depths, we may ascribe to the struggle to which they thus committed themselves a character wholly unlike that of any ear her wars waged in Christendom, or by the powers of Christendom against enemies who lay beyond its pale. Statesmen (whether popes, kings, or dukes) might have availed themselves eagerly of the overwhelming impulse imparted by the preaching of Peter the Hermit to passions long pent up; but no authority of pope, emperor, or king, could suffice of itself to open the floodgates for the waters which might sweep away the infidel.
In this sense only were men stirred, whether at the council of Piacenza in 1094 or in that of Clermont, to a strife of a wholly new kind. If Urban II. gave his blessing to the missionaries who were to convert the Saracens at the point of the sword, the papal benediction had been given nearly thirty years before at the instigation of Hildebrand to the expedition by which the Norman William hoped to crush the free English people and usurp the throne of the king whom they had chosen.
Distinction between the Crusades and other wars of the Middle Ages
But the movement of the Norman duke against England was merely the work of a sovereign well awake of his own interest and confident in the methods by which he chose to promote it. Under the sacred standard sent to him by Pope Alexander II. he gathered, indeed, a motley host of adventurers; but the enthusiasm by which these may have fancied themselves to be animated had reference chiefly perhaps to the broad acres to which they looked forward as their recompense. The great gulf which separated such an undertaking from the crusade of the hermit Peter lay in the conviction, deep even to fanaticism, that the wearers of the Cross had before them an enterprise in which failure, disaster, and death were not less blessed, not less objects of envy and longing than the most brilliant conquests and the most splendid triumphs.
They were hastening to the land where their Divine Master had descended from his throne in heaven to take on Himself the form of man- where for years the everlasting Son of the Almighty Father had patiently toiled, healing the sick, comforting the afflicted, and raising the dead, until at length He carried his own Cross up the height of Calvary, and having offered up bis perfect sacrifice, put off the garments of his humiliation when the earthquake shattered the prison-house of his sepulchre.
For them the whole land had been rendered holy by the tread of his sacred feet: and the pilgrim who had traced the scenes of his life from his cradle at Bethlehem to the spot of his ascent from Olivet, might sing the Nune dimittis, as having with his own eyes seen the divine salvation.
Absence of local feeling in the earliest Christian traditions.
Thus the crusade preached by Peter the Hermit, and solemnly sanctioned by Pope Urban, was rendered possible by the combination of papal authority with an irresistible popular conviction. That papal authority was the necessary result of the old imperial tradition of Rome; the popular conviction was the growth of a tendency which had characterised every religion professed by Aryan or Semitic nations; and both these causes were wholly unconnected with the teaching of Christ and of his disciples, as it is set before us in the New Testament.
Far from ascribing special sanctity to any one spot over another, the emphatic declaration that the hour was come in which men should worship the Father not merely in Jerusalem or on the Samaritan mountain, proclaimed a gospel which taught that al] men in all places are alike near to God in whom they live, move, and have their being.
If we turn to the narrative which relates the Acts of the Apostles, we shall find not a sign of the feeling which regards Bethlehem, Jerusalem, or Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, or the banks of the Jordan, as places which of themselves should awaken any enthusiastic or passionate feeling.
The thoughts of the disciples, if we confine ourselves to this record, were absorbed with more immediate and momentous concerns, Before their generation should pass away, the Son of Man would return to judgement, and the dead should be summoned from their graves to his awful tribunal. Hence any vehement longing for one spot of earth over another was wretchedly out of place for those who held that the time was short and that it behoved those who had wives to be as though they had none, those that bought as though they possessed not, and those that wept and rejoiced as though they wept and rejoiced not.
Nay, more, with a feeling almost approaching to impatience, the great apostle of the Gentiles could put aside the yearnings of a weaker sentiment and declare that although he had known Christ in the flesh, yet henceforth he would so know Him no more,
The Christianity of St. Paul
The image, therefore, of the great founder of Christianity was for him purely spiritual. In the letters which he wrote to the churches formed by his converts, there is not a sign that the thought or the sight of Bethlehem or Nazareth would awaken in him any deeper feeling than places wholly destitute of historical associations. If he speaks of Jerusalem, he never implies that it had for him any special sanctity. His mission was to preach a faith altogether independent of time and place, and not only not needing but even rejecting the sensuous aid afforded by visible memorials of the Master whom he loved.
The Christianity of the Roman Empire.
Such was the Christianity of St. Paul, and with such weapons, it went forth to assail and throw down the strongholds of heathenism. Three centuries later we behold Christianity as dominant as the religion of the Roman Empire, but in its outward aspect and in its practical working it has undergone a vast and significant change. It cannot be supposed that this change was wrought at once by the mere fact of its recognition by the temporal power. The endless debates, which fill the history of early Christianity, on the relations of the Persons of the Trinity and on the mystery of the Incarnation, may to some degree have helped to fix the minds of men on the land where the Saviour had lived, and on the several scenes of his ministry; but this alone would never have sufficed to work the revolution which Christianity has manifestly undergone, even before we reach the age of Constantine.
The victory won over heathenism, if not merely nominal, was at best partial. The religion of the empire knew nothing of the One Eternal God, who demands from all men a spontaneous submission to his righteous law, and bids them find their highest good in his divine love. That religion rested on the might of the Capitoline Jupiter and the visible majesty of the Emperor; but the real influences which were at work from the first to modify the Christianity of St. Paul lay in the lower strata of society, in the modes of thought and feeling prevalent among the masses who furnished the converts of the first two or three centuries. In these converts we cannot doubt that there was wrought a real change,—a change manifests chiefly in the conviction that the divine law is binding on all, and that the state of things in the Roman world was unspeakably shameful.
In the Jesus whom Paul preached, they beheld the righteous teacher who condemned the iniquities of godless rulers and a corrupt people, the avenger of their unjust deeds, the loving Redeemer in whose arms the weary and heavy-laden might find rest, the awful Judge who should be seen at the end of the world on his great white throne, with all the kindreds of mankind awaiting their doom before Him. The personal human love thus kindled in them turned only into a different channel thoughts and feelings which it would need centuries to root out,
Localism of heathen religions.
These thoughts and feelings had been fed by that tendency to localise incidents in the supposed history of gods or heroes which is the most prominent characteristic of all heathen religions; and of the vast crowd of these heathen religions or superstitions, there was if we may trust the statements of Roman writers, scarcely one which had not its adherents and votaries at Rome.
Here were gathered the priests and worshippers of the Egyptian Isis, the virgin mother of Osiris, the god who rose again after his crucifixion to gladden the earth with his splendour; here might be seen the adorers of the Persian sun-god Mithras, born at the winter solstice, and growing in strength until he wins his victory over the powers of darkness after the vernal equinox.
But this idea of the death and resurrection of the lord of light was no new importation brought in by the theology of Egypt or Persia. The story of the Egyptian Osiris was repeated in the Greek stories of Sarpedon and Memnon, of Tithonos and Asklepios (Aesculapius), of the Teutonic Baldur and Woden (Odin). The birthplace of these deities, the scenes associated with their traditional exploits, became holy spots, each with its own consecrating legends, and not a few attracting to themselves vast gatherings of pilgrims.
Influence of these local religions on Christianity.
It was not wonderful therefore that the worshippers of these or other like gods should, on professing the faith of Christ, carry with them all that they could retain of their old belief without utterly contradicting the new; that his nativity should be celebrated at the time when the sun begins to rise in the heavens, and his resurrection when the victory of light over darkness is achieved in the spring,
The worshipper of the Egyptian Amoun, the ram, carried his old associations with him when he became a follower of the Lamb of God; and the burst of light which heralded the return of the Maiden to the Mourning Mother in the Greek mysteries of Eleusis was reproduced in the miracle still repeated year by year by the patriarch of Jerusalem when he announces the descent of the sacred fire in the sepulchre of Christ.
Growth of local association in Palestine.
Thus for the Christians of the third century, if not of the second, Judea or Palestine became a holy land; and with the growth of devotion to the human person of Christ grew the feeling of reverence for every place which He had visited and every memorial which He had left behind Him. The impulse once given soon became irresistible. Every incident of the gospel narratives was associated with some particular spot, and the certainty of the verification was never questioned by the thousands who felt that the sight of these places brought them nearer to heaven and was in itself a purification of their souls.
They could follow the Redeemer from the cave in which He was born and where the Wise Men of the East laid before Him their royal offerings, to the mount from which He uttered his blessings on the pure, the merciful, and the peacemakers, and thence to the other mount on which He offered his perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.
The spots associated with his passion, his burial, his resurrection, called forth emotions of passionate veneration which were intensified by the alleged discovery of the cross on which He had suffered, together with the two crosses on which the thieves had been condemned to die.
If the presence of the tablet containing the title inscribed by Pontius Pilate still left it uncertain to which of the crosses that tablet belonged, and to which therefore the homage of the faithful should be paid, all doubt was removed when a woman at the point of death on whom the touch of two of these crosses had no effect was restored to strength and youth by the touch of the third.
Growth of pilgrimage to the holy places of Palestine
The splendid churches raised by the devout zeal of Constantine and his mother Helena over the cave at Bethlehem and the sepulchre at Jerusalem became for the Christians that which the Temple had been to the Jew, or the sacred stone at Mecca and the tomb of the prophet at Medina became afterwards for the followers of Islam, nor can we be surprised if the emperor whose previous life had been marked by special devotion to the Greek and Roman sun-god transferred the characteristics of Apollon (Apollo) to the meek and merciful Jesus whose teaching to the last he utterly misapprehended.
The purpose which drew to Palestine the long lines of pilgrims, which each year increased in numbers, was not the mere aimless love of wandering which is supposed to furnish the motive for Tartar pilgrimages in our own as in former ages, The Aryan, so far as we know, was never a nomadic race; but we can understand the eagerness even of a stationary population to undertake a long and dangerous journey, if the mere making of it should insure the remission of their sins.
Nothing less than this was the pilgrim led to expect, who had traversed land and sea to bathe in the Jordan and offer up his prayers at the birthplace and tomb of his Master. A few men, of keener discernment and wider culture, might see the mischiefs lurking in this belief, and protest against the superstition.
Augustine, the great doctor whose ‘Confessions’ have made his name familiar to thousands who know nothing of his life or teaching, might bid Christians remember that righteousness was not to be sought in the East nor mercy in the West, and that voyages are useless to carry us to Him with whom g hearty faith makes us immediately present. In these protests he might be upheld by men like Gregory of Nyssa and Jerome; but Jerome, while he dwelt on the uselessness of pilgrimage and the absurdity of supposing chat prayers offered in one place could be more acceptable than the same prayers offered in another, took up his abode in a cave at Bethlehem, and there discoursed to Roman ladies, who had crossed the sea to listen to his splendid eloquence.
Heaven, he insisted, was as accessible from Britain as from Palestine: but his actions contradicted his words, and his example exercised a more potent influence than his precept.
Gradual decay of spiritual religion.
The purely spiritual faith on which Jerome laid stress was as much beyond the spirit of the age as the moral feelings of a later age were behind those of the woman who in the crusade of St. Louis was seen carrying in her right hand a porringer of fire, and in her left a bottle of water. With the fire she wished, as Joinville tells us, to burn paradise, with the water to drown hell, so that none might do good for the reward of the one, nor avoid evil from fear of the other since every good ought to be done from the perfect and sincere love which man owes to his Creator, who is the supreme good. Such a tone of thought was in ludicrous discord with the temper which brought Jerome himself to Bethlehem, and which soon began to fill the land with those who had nothing of Jerome’s culture and the sobriety which in whatever degree must spring from it.
Encouragement given to pilgrimages.
The contagion spread. From almost every country of Europe, wanderers took their way to Palestine, under the conviction that the shirt which they wore when they entered the holy city would, if laid by to be used as their winding sheet, convey them (like the carpet of Solomon in the Arabian tale) at once to heaven, An enterprise so laudable roused the sympathy and quickened the charity of the faithful. The pilgrim seldom lacked food and shelter, and houses of repose or entertainment were raised for his comfort on the stages of his journey as well as in the city which was the goal of his pilgrimage.
Here he was welcomed in the costly house which had been raised for his reception by the munificence of Pope Gregory the Great. If he died during his absence, his kinsfolk envied rather than bewailed his lot; if he returned, he had their reverence as one who had washed away his sins, and still more perhaps as one who had brought away in his wallet relics of value so vast and of virtue so great that the touch of them made the journey to Palestine almost a superfluous ceremony.
Trade in relics.
Wherever these pilgrims went, these fragments of the true cross might be found; and the happy faith of those who gave in exchange for them more than their weight in gold never stopped to think that the barren log which was supposed to have produced them must have spread abroad its branches wider than the most magnificent cedar in Libanus.
Nor probably even in the earliest ages, was the traffic consequent on these pilgrimages confined to holy things.
Stimulus given by pilgrimages to commerce with the East.
The Ease was not only the cradle of Christianity, but a land rich in spices and silks, in gold and jewels: and the keen-sighted merchant, looking to solid profits on earth, followed closely on the steps of the devotee who sought his reward in heaven.
The long struggle between Rome and Persia.
The first interruption to the peaceful and prosperous fortunes of pilgrims and merchants was caused by one of the periodical ebbs and flows which for nearly seven hundred years had marked the struggle between the powers of Persia and of Rome. The kings of the restored Persian kingdom had striven to avenge on the West the wrongs committed by Alexander the Great, if not those even of earlier invaders; and the enterprise which Khosru Nushirvan had taken in hand was carried on forty years later by his grandson Khosru (Chosroes) II.
Capture of Jerusalem by the Persian king, Khosru II.
Almost at the outset of his irresistible course, Jerusalem fell, nor was it the fault of the Persians that the great churches of Helena and Constantine were not destroyed utterly by fire.
Ninety thousand Christians, it is said, were put to death: but, according to the feeling of the age, a greater loss was sustained in the carrying off of the true cross into Persia.
Persian invasion of Egypt.
From Palestine, the wave of Persian conquest spread southward into Egypt, and the greatness of Khosru seemed to be unbounded when from an unknown citizen of Mecca he received the bidding to acknowledge the unity of the Godhead and to own Mahomet as the prophet of God.
The Persian king tore the letter to pieces, and the man of Mecca, whose successors were to carry the crescent to Jerusalem and Damascus, to the banks of the Nile and the mountains of Spain, warned him that his kingdom should be treated as he had treated his letter.
Campaigns of the Emperor Heraclius
For the present, the signs of this catastrophe were not to be seen. The Roman emperor was compelled to sign an ignominious peace and to pay a yearly tribute to the sovereign of Persia. But Heraclius (Herakleios) woke suddenly from the sluggishness which marked the earlier years of his reign.
A.D. 622 – 625
The Persians were defeated among the defiles of Mount Taurus, and the destruction of the birthplace of Zoroaster offered some compensation for the mischief done to the churches of Helena and Constantine.
A.D. 627 Battle of Nineveh
Two years later the Roman emperor carried his arms into the heart of the enemy’s land; and during the battle of Nineveh, in which he won a splendid victory, he slew with his own hands the Persian general Rhazates. Khosru fled across the Tigris; but he could not escape from the plots of his son, and his death in a dungeon ended the glories of the Sassanid dynasty, under whom the Persian power had, in the third century of our era, revived from the death-sleep into which it had sunk after the conquests of Alexander.
A.D. 628 Restoration of the true cross by the Persians
With Siroes, the son and murderer of Khosru, the Roman emperor concluded a peace which not merely delivered all his subjects from captivity, but repaired the loss which the church of the Holy Sepulchre had sustained by the theft of the true Restoration cross. The great object of pilgrimage was thus restored to Jerusalem, and thither Heraclius (Herakleios) during the following year betook himself to pay his vows of thanksgiving.
A.D. 629. Pilgrimage of Heraclius to Jerusalem
With the pageant which marked this ceremony, the splendour of his reign was closed. Before his death, the followers of Mahomet had deprived him of the provinces which he had wrested from the Persians.
A.D. 637. Conquest of Palestine by Omar.
Eight years only had passed after the visit of Heraclius (Herakleios) to Jerusalem, when the armies which had already seized Damascus advanced to the siege of the Holy City. A blockade of four months convinced the patriarch Sophronios that there was no hope of withstanding the force of Islam: but he demanded the presence of the caliph himself at the ratification of the treaty which was to secure a second sacred capital to the disciples of the Prophet.
After some debate his request was granted; and Omar, who on the death of Abubekr had been chosen as the vicegerent of Mahomed, set out from Medina on a camel, which carried for him his leathern water-bottle, his bags of corn and dates, and his wooden dish.
Terms of the treaty made by Omar with the Christians and Jerusalem.
The terms imposed by the caliph sufficiently marked the subjection of the Christians, but they imposed no severe hardships and perhaps showed a large toleration. The Christians were to build no new churches, and they were to admit Mahomedans into those which they already had, whether by day or by night. The cross was no longer to be seen on the exterior of their buildings or to be paraded in the streets. The church bells should be tolled only, not rung. The use of saddles and of weapons was altogether interdicted, and the Christians, distinguished from their conquerors by their attire, were to show their respect for the latter by rising up to them if they were sitting. On these conditions, the Christians were not only to be safe in their persons and fortunes but undisturbed in the exercise of their religion and in the use of their churches.
Omar and the patriarch Sophronios.
For the observance of this last stipulation, the rugged and uncouth conqueror showed a greater care than the patriarch who regarded his presence in the church of the Resurrection as the abomination of desolation in the holy place.
The hour of prayer came, and Omar asked Sophronios where he might offer his devotion ‘Here,’ answered the patriarch; but Omar positively refused, and repeated his refusal when he was led away into the church of Constantine. At last, he knelt down on the steps outside that church and afterwards told the patriarch that had he worshipped within the building, the document securing its use to the Christians would have been worthless.
His words were verified by the zeal of his followers, who insisted on inclosing within a mosque the steps on which he had prayed: but the mosque which bears Omar’s name rose over the great sacrificial altar of the temple, which passed for Jacob’s stone.
Effects of Arabian conquest on pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
This second conquest may have again checked the rush of pilgrims to the Holy Land; but the difficulties which it placed in their way only added to the glory and the benefits of the enterprise: and, after all, the victory of Omar did little more than share the holy city between two races each of which acknowledged its sanctity and reverenced the relics of the righteous men whose bodies reposed beneath its sacred soil. Nor had the Christians any stronger ground of complaint than that the Saviour whom they worshipped was regarded by their conquerors as a prophet if not equal, only inferior, to the founder of Islam.
Uninterrupted continuance of pilgrimage.
Nearly four centuries had passed away after the submission of Sophronios to Omar; and during this long series of generations the West had without let or hindrance sent forth its troops of pilgrims, in whose train merchants may have found sources of profit for more worldly callings.
If the palmy days during which the wanderers might regard themselves as practically lords of the land through which they travelled had passed away, they underwent at the worst nothing which could greatly excite their anger or rouse the indignation of Christendom.
A.D. 1010. Ravages of the Egyptian Caliph Hakem in Jerusalem.
Nor was this state of things materially changed by the furious onslaught of Hakem the mad Fatimite caliph of Egypt, when spurred on by a bigotry unknown to his predecessors, he resolved to destroy the Christian sanctuary in Jerusalem.
The rule of these earlier sovereigns of Egypt had been more beneficial to the Christians than that of the Abbasside caliphs of Bagdad. But Hakem cared nothing for the worldly interests of his kingdom or of the profits to be derived from trade with the unbeliever, and his soldiers were busied on the dignified task of demolishing the church of the Resurrection, and attempts to destroy with their hammers the very cave in which, as it was supposed, the body of the Saviour had been laid, In this task they had but a very partial success, and to Hakem probably the suspension for a single year of the descent of the sacred fire scarcely outweighed the risks of a combined attack from the maritime powers of Christendom.
Persecution of Jews in Europe.
For the present no such alliance was threatened; but a cruel persecution of the Jews in many Christian cities was a symptom of the temper which was placing a great gulf between men who professed nevertheless to worship the same Almighty Father.
Tax levied on pilgrims to enter the gates of Jerusalem.
After this violent but transient storm, the condition of the pilgrims became much what it had been before, except that a toll was now levied on each pilgrim before he was suffered to enter the gates of Jerusalem; but this impost may have been rather welcomed than resented by the Christians, as it gave to the richer among them an opportunity of discharging it for their poorer brethren, and so of securing for themselves a higher degree of merit. The world, too, seemed to have taken a new lease of existence, and everything appeared to promise a long continuance of comparative peace.
A.D. 1000 Expectations of the end of the world.
Ten years before, all Christendom was fluttering with the expectation of immediate judgement. At the close of the millennium, which came to an end with the year 1000, a belief almost universal looked forward to the summons which would call the dead from their graves and cut short the course of a weary and sin-laden world. But the tale of years had been completed, the sun continued to rise and set as it had risen and set before, and the flood of pilgrims soon began to stream towards the East in greater volume than ever.
Men of all ranks and classes left their homes to offer up their prayers at the tomb of Christ; bishops abandoned their dioceses, princes their dominions, to visit the scenes where the Redeemer had suffered and where He had achieved his triumph. More numerous, more earnest, more than all, were the Franks or the Frenchmen, whose name became henceforth in the East the common designation of all Europeans.
For the weak and the inexperienced, for the women and the youths, who pledged themselves to the enterprise, there might be special and grave dangers; nor were the strongest assured against serious, if not fatal, disasters. With thirty horsemen fully equipped, Ingulf, a secretary of William the Conqueror, set out on his journey to the Holy Land. Of these twenty returned on foot, with no other possessions than their wallet and their staff. But their losses had been caused probably by no human enemies, and the men who had died could claim the credit of martyrdom only in the sense in which it is accorded to the Holy Innocents massacred by the decree of Herod.
A.D. 997 Conversion of Hungary under King Stephen.
On the whole, the difficulties of the enterprise were as much smoothed down as in a rude and ill-governed age they could well be. The conversion of Hungary opened a safe highway across the heart of Europe, and the pilgrims had a defender, as well as a friend, in St. Stephen, the apostle of his kingdom.
But a change far greater than that which had been wrought by Omar was to be effected by a power which had been working its way from the distant East and menacing the existence of the empire itself.
Advance of the Seljuk Turks.
From the deserts of central Asia, the Seljukian Turks had advanced westwards, overrunning the kingdoms of the Persian empire, and subjugating Asia Minor, the inheritance of the Caesars of Rome.
A.D, 1092. Division of the Seljukian empire.
In this task, they received no slight help from the neutrality of a great part of the Christian population, in whom financial exactions and ecclesiastical tyranny had awakened feelings of strong discontent, if not of burning indignation. The rulers of Byzantium had, indeed, done all that they could to make the way smooth for the invaders. The accumulation of land in the hands of a few owners had dangerously diminished the number of inhabitants; nor was it long before the Turks were in a majority throughout Cappadocia, Phrygia, and Galatia, and were enabled successfully to resist the crusading hosts in countries which they had conquered but as yesterday.
The Seljukian sovereigns who had advanced thus far on the road to Constantinople chose as their abode the city of Nice (Nikaia, Nicsea) in which the first general council of Christendom had defined the Catholic faith on the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity.
Here these fierce invaders proclaimed the mission of Mahomet as the prophet of God and issued the decrees which assigned Christian churches to profanation or destruction, and Christian youths and maidens to a disgraceful and shameful slavery.
Appeal of the Greek Emperor Alexios to Western Christendom.
Mountains visible from the dome of Sancta Sophia were already within the borders of Turkish territory. The danger seemed imminent, and Alexios, the Emperor of the East, invoked the aid of Latin Christendom: but the fire was not yet kindled, and for the time his appeal was made in vain.
A.D. 1076 Seljukian conquest of Jerusalem.
No long time, however, had passed before the Seljukian Toucush was master of Jerusalem; and the Christians learnt to their cost that servitude to the fierce wanderers from the northern deserts was very different from submission to the rugged and uncultured Omar.
Increased burdens and the Christian
The lawful toll levied on the pilgrims gave way before a system of extortion and violent robbery carried out in every part of the land, and the mere journey to Jerusalem involved dangers from which the bravest might well shrink. Insults to the persons of the pilgrim were accompanied by insults, harder to be borne, offered to the holy places and to those who ministered in them The sacred offices were savagely interrupted, and the patriarch, dragged by his hair along the pavement, was thrown into a dungeon, pending the payment of an exorbitant ransom.
Decline of commerce with the East.
For the pilgrims themselves, there might be dangers as they made their way through Europe: but these were increased tenfold on the eastern side of the Hellespont. Thus far they had journeyed in comparative security, and the merchants who sought to combine profit with devotion added to that security by their numbers and their prudence.
The Easter fair of Jerusalem had drawn to the ports of Palestine the fleets of Genoa and Pisa and had sufficiently rewarded the munificence of the merchants of Amalfi, the founders of the hospital of St. John. But commerce has no liking for perils of flood and field: and with the risk of disaster these fleets disappeared and the caravans were confined to those for whom the sanctuary of Jerusalem was a goal to be reached at all costs.
Oppression of the Christians of Palestine.
These went forth still by hundreds; they returned by tens or units to recount the miseries and wanton cruelties which they had undergone and to draw fearful pictures of the savage tyranny exercised over the Christians of Jerusalem and of the East generally. The church of Christ was in the iron grasp of the infidel, and the blood of his martyrs cried aloud for vengeance.
General indignation felt in Western Christendom.
Throughout the length and breadth of Christendom a fierce indignation felt was stirring the hearts of men, and the pent-up waters needed only guidance to rush forth as a flood over the lands defiled by the unbeliever, But unless the enterprise was to run to waste in random efforts, it must have the solemn sanction of religion.
The people might be ready, but popular fury acting by itself will soon spend its strength like the hurrying tempest, Princes might be willing for a time to abandon their dominions, but the pressure of difficulties abroad and at home would soon make them grow weary of the task.
Need of a religious sanction to sustain and direct this feeling.
There must be a constraining power; to keep them to their vows by sanctions which stretched beyond the present life to the life after death; and these sanctions could come only from him who held the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whose seat was the feeling rock of Peter, Prince of the Apostles.
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