The Papal Monarchy: The Western Church from 1050 to 1250

By Colin Morris | Go to book overview

19
PROCLAIMING THE FAITH

i. Crusade and Mission

The first half of the thirteenth century was the golden age of crusading. After the loss of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187 a major expedition set out to the eastern Mediterranean in every decade. Crusades were used as a solution to every sort of problem, and were directed against the pagans of the Baltic, the Greeks, the Spanish Moslems, Cathars and the political enemies of the papacy. It is not an accident that the widest extension of crusading coincided with the greatest effectiveness of the papal monarchy, for the crusade put at the disposal of the Roman Church privileges which it could employ to promote military action against its enemies. The process of defining the rights of crusaders, which had begun in the twelfth century, was taken much further. The decree of Fourth Lateran, Ad liberandam, was the fullest statement so far of a crusading plan, and the clarification was completed in the works of the great canonist Hostiensis. The crusader bound himself by a vow, which was enforced by canonical sanctions unless it was commuted for a money payment or some other undertaking. He wore the cross as his badge and received an indulgence, the forgiveness of all sins and release from the penance which would otherwise have been due. His lands and rights were protected by the church, and the expedition might be financed by papally authorized funding. Strangely, this formidable machinery for the promotion of holy wars did not have a name. The term 'crusade' barely existed, although such expressions as the French croiserie or the Latin crucesignati are sometimes found. More commonly the members of the expedition continued to describe themselves by the undifferentiated term 'pilgrims'. Historians have been anxious to give a precise definition to the word 'crusade', but it is important to remember that this was not a thirteenth-century problem. As far as the Roman curia was concerned, it had at its disposal a body of privileges which could be granted, in whole or

-478-

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