The Later Crusades, 1274-1580: From Lyons to Alcazar

By Norman Housley | Go to book overview

14
Government and the Crusade 1274-1580

'ALL the great expeditions which were made in times past beyond the sea, against the Saracens, were made with the consent of the holy father of Rome; and those who have read the histories of times past well know this.' This statement by the legal commentator Honoré Bonet in his ' "The Tree of Battles"' (c. 1380) reflects the awareness amongst educated people in the late Middle Ages of the pivotal role played by the papal Curia in launching crusades. No crusade had taken place in the past, or could be set in motion in the future, without the clear authorization of the Curia. In the first place, the Curia retained its exclusive authority to grant the necessary indulgences and sanction the preaching of the cross, without which an expedition was not regarded as a crusade at all. Equally importantly, the papacy controlled the purse strings of crusade finance; without access to such funds major expeditions, to the East at least, could not be undertaken. But even apart from these basic functions of definition and financial support, the Curia's assistance was highly desirable in order to facilitate the intensive preliminary work which a crusade called for: the internal political ordering and military preparations, the external peacemaking and search for allies, which underpinned crusading of virtually any kind.

Even had it been possible to strip the Curia of its control over the issuing of crusade indulgences and privileges, and fully to secularize crusade finances, the crusade could not be dissociated from papal authority without effecting a revolution in religious and political thinking; the negotium Christi (' Christ's business') was bound to be seen as the peculiar responsibility of his Vicar. In 1462 George of Podiebrady, the heretical King of Bohemia, put forward a boldly innovative proposal for placing the struggle against the Turks in the hands of a ' League of

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