Crusade Creationism versus Pope Urban II's Conceptualization of the Crusades

By Chevedden, Paul E. | The Historian, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview

Crusade Creationism versus Pope Urban II's Conceptualization of the Crusades


Chevedden, Paul E., The Historian


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. Jn 1:1-4

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 1 Cot 12:12

I

Today, much of Crusade scholarship remains committed to the creationist fallacy of the Crusades. Crusade creationism is a form of creationism that asserts that the Crusades testify to a creator's design manifested in a single common core of never-changing characteristics. The essence of Crusade creationism is that crusading was created functionally complete from the beginning. It did not develop by historical processes but was "created" or "invented by Pope Urban II in 1095," (2) or had its origin in an idea in the mind of Pope Urban (r. 1088-99; Fig. 1). (3) All Crusade essentials were present from the start, with only trivial modifications left to be added later. Thus, from the beginning, the leaders and organizers of the Crusades were popes, and the institutions of the indulgence, the vow, the Cross, and Crusader privileges were all in place. The local environment can modify the original form of the Crusades to give varieties of crusading--the Crusades in Spain, the Baltic, the Balkans, etc.--but these local varieties are seen as trivial and unimportant modifications of the original form of the Crusades as embodied in "Pope Urban's creation." (4) Crusading could not have developed step by step, first as a political force, followed by the development in successive stages of an institutionalized tradition into which its practitioners were initiated, because Crusade creationism envisions crusading to have been created whole and complete from the beginning, emerging simultaneously as a political force and as an institutionalized tradition. Crusade creationism ensures that there is no historical continuity between the situation at the time immediately preceding 1095 and the situation following it; in an instant, crusading appears in an already advanced state.

Scholars have relied on the notion of the unfolding of a creator's design such that all Crusades express the handiwork of Pope Urban. Those expeditions that are in harmony with Pope Urban's design, having a Jerusalem focus and an ecclesiastical apparatus matching the one attached to his Jerusalem Crusade, (5) or having this ecclesiastical apparatus alone, (6) are deemed true Crusades. (7) Two groups of Crusade creationists have emerged: "old" creationists and "new" creationists. "Old" creationists, such as Hans Eberhard Mayer and Jean Flori, believe that no Crusades occurred outside the creator's design. They contend that Pope Urban II not only initiated the Crusades but also in some meaningful sense controlled crusading in the furtherance of a purpose sanctioned explicitly by him. The Crusades were fixed at the moment of their supposed inception in 1095 and did not deviate from their original goal. (8) "New" creationists, such as Jonathan Riley-Smith, believe that Crusades were governed by a single set of common characteristics attributable to Urban that all and only the Crusades possessed, a set of characteristics that make a Crusade a Crusade. Some scholars list five core characteristics--usually comprising papal authorization, indulgence, vow, Cross, and Crusader privileges (9)-- while others allow for fewer. (10) "New" creationists do not restrict Crusades to Jerusalem-bound ventures, as do "old" creationists, but consider non-Holy Land expeditions to be legitimate Crusades, provided they manifest a record of the creator's design in a single common core of never- changing characteristics traceable back to Pope Urban.

"Old" creationists recognize that a Crusade and the fulfillment of a purpose are indissolubly linked, but they deny the possibility that a Crusade could ever be reinterpreted or adapted towards new ends and new purposes not envisioned or anticipated at the outset. …

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