The Crusades began at the end of the eleventh century and would last over eight campaigns over the next two centuries. The casualties on both sides in the name of religion would leave a trail of blood across the mid-east that would echo in the ears and hearts of all throughout Europe. No one was immune. These Crusades, major military campaigns financed by popes and kings, fought by master and serf, took a tremendous toll physically and psychologically. Also called the 200 year war, the end result of the crusades was that Islamism gained a greater foothold in the mid-east, but was stopped from penetrating Europe for the Crusades helped to solidify the Christian cause, unifying various cultures throughout Christendom. Though they spoke different languages, they could always come together in worship under one language - Latin - during the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by chaplains who had joined the ranks. The word "Crusade" was taken from the Latin for "to mark with a cross" which was cruciare, and the French croisade as well as the Spanish cruzada. Hence, the word "crusade" became a household word. In short, it became a crusade to crusade for the Crusades. Every Crusader's emblem was a cross emblazoned on their chest, shield and/or banner.
Some of the greatest saints during this era were: Saint Bernard of Clairvaux whose wisdom guided many Popes; Saint Dominic who was given the Rosary as the most powerful prayer weapon we can have by the Blessed Virgin Mary in an apparition in 1208; Saint Francis of Assisi who was charged by God to "rebuild the Church" and founded the Order of Friars Minor - the Franciscans, though his greatest desire was to be a martyr in the cause of the Crusades; Saint Anthony of Padua who was one of Francis' most loyal friars and effected countless conversions in Italy. He also longed to be a martyr in the Crusades, especially with the Moors in Southern Spain. Another great saint was Saint Clare of Assisi who founded the Poor Clares and defended Assisi against the Saracens by exposing the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance on top of the gate to her convent crying out to God: "Deliver not to beasts, O Lord, the souls who confess to Thee." God responded, "My protection will never fail you." True to His word, the infidels fled. There were also Saint Simon Stock to whom Our Lady bestowed the Scapular for protection in an apparition in 1245, and the great scholar Saint Thomas Aquinas as well as Saint Bonaventure who presided at the Council of Lyons in 1274 and won countless Greeks over to the True Church despite the split between East and West.
During the two centuries we are covering in this installment, Pope Paschal II succeeded Pope Blessed Urban II, overlapping the eleventh and twelfth centuries. He died in 1114 and was followed by Pope Gelasius II (1118-1119) and Pope Callistus II (1119-1124). A year before Callistus' death he called the First Lateran Council held at St. John Lateran in Rome; thus the title. This was the ninth Ecumenical Council and it confirmed the 1122 "Concordat of Worms," an agreement between the Pope and Emperor Henry V which called an end to lay investiture whereby secular rulers would have no say in ecclesiastical matters. The Council also issued decrees on simony and celibacy. Pope Honorius II (1124-1130) succeeded Callistus II followed by Pope Innocent II (1130-1143). It was during Innocent's reign that the Second Lateran Council was convened in 1139. This Council, the tenth Ecumenical Council, condemned Albigensianism and set regulations for papal elections. In 1143 Pope Celestine II was selected to lead the Church for a year until 1144 when Pope Lucius II succeeded him from 1144 to 1145. It was Pope Blessed Eugenius III who ruled from 1145 to 1153 and who launched the Second Crusade in 1145 by commissioning Saint Bernard of Clairvaux to preach to the troops and recapture Edessa from the Moslems. The venture was met with defeat when they reached Damascus in 1148 and then failed to secure Edessa. This breakdown caused consternation with the succeeding Popes beginning with Pope Anastasius IV (1153-1154), Pope Adrian V (1154-1159), Pope Alexander III (1159-1181), Pope Lucius III (1181-1185), Pope Urban III (1185-1187), and Pope Gregory VIII (1187) who, having raised enough money, announced the Third Crusade. It was his successor Pope Clement III (1187-1191) who carried it through in 1188 with the cooperation of the the rulers at that time, most notably King Philip of France and the most famous of them all - Richard the Lion-Hearted. There was some assistance from the German Emperor Frederick Barbarosa but his lack of action caused heartache and defeat and he would constantly be at odds with the Holy See. In the reign of Clement's successor Pope Celestine III, Richard was able to achieve a truce with Saladin, the notorious leader of the Saracens. No sooner did Celestine die in 1198 than his successor Pope Innocent III, who reigned until 1216, urged the Crusaders in 1202 to launch the Fourth Crusade since the Moslems had broken the truce. Not having Richard or any of the other influential regal leaders, this crusade met with much in-fighting and rebellion and by 1204 the leaders had abandoned their ideals and many were excommunicated including the Holy Roman Emperor. Undaunted, Innocent sent the Fifth Crusade into the jaws of death in 1212. So obsessed was Innocent III that, even without proper commanders to lead, he dispatched over 40,000 children into battle under the false belief that the Holy Land could be won back by the pure of heart who he misinterpreted as children. It met with terrible consequences and set the cause back quite a bit. The children, mostly French and German, were either killed or sold into slavery by traitorous Christian merchants. Very few youngsters returned home to their parents. In the aftermath of this turmoil and the twelfth Ecumenical Council - the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. Pope Honorius III, the 175th in the line of Peter, was left to pick up the pieces. He reigned from 1216 to 1227 and was followed by Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241). Tricked by the false enthusiasm of the Emperor Frederick II, the Sixth Crusade was undertaken in 1228. Because of the professionalism of the troops, who had been embarrassed by the previous campaign, the Crusaders were victorious and gained the City of Jerusalem, signing a treaty with the sultan in 1229. In 1241 Pope Celestine IV succeeded Gregory IX but ruled less than a month. Upon his death Pope Innocent IV was elected, serving until 1254. It was during his papacy that the First Council of Lyons was convened. At this 13th Ecumenical Council the emperor Frederick II, who had betrayed the trust placed in him, was excommunicated and a plea was sent to go once again to the Holy Land to free the land which Christ once trod. Thus the Seventh Crusade commenced, led by the king of France Saint Louis IX. But the Crusaders, overconfident from the last time, underestimated their foe and St. Louis was first imprisoned by the Saracens and then deported home. Pope Alexander IV followed Innocent in 1254, reigning until 1261. Upon his death Pope Urban IV became the 180th pontiff to ascend the throne where he ruled until 1264. He was succeeded by Pope Clement IV (1265-1268) who instigated the Eighth Crusade which, like the one before it, met with fierce opposition by the infidels. However, led again by St. Louis, the Crusaders were on the verge of victory in Tunis when the saintly monarch died in 1270 of a malignant fever. Pope Blessed Gregory X (1271-1276) succeeded Clement and called the Second Council of Lyons where, supported by such saints as Saint Bonaventure and Saint Philip Benizi, this 14th Ecumenical Council declared the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, mandated that unleavened bread be used for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that there is true Transubstantiation at the Consecration of the Mass and declared the supreme primacy of the Holy Roman Church over the entire Catholic Church, and reunited parts of Greece with the Church. The rest of the Eastern Church, however, remained even farther apart in schism, and unfortunately, one of the side effects of the Crusades was that it opened the door to allow more heresy into the Church through the liberal encouragement of commerce and trade in conquered countries.
Gregory X was followed by Pope Blessed Innocent V and Pope Adrian V, both in 1276, then Pope John XXI (1276-1277), Pope Nicholas III (1277-1280), Pope Martin IV (1281-1285), Pope Honorius IV (1285-1287), Pope Nicholas IV (1288-1292), Pope Celestine V (1294, and Pope Boniface VIII who reigned from 1294 ushering in the fourteenth century - a century that would be fraught with widespread abuses within the Church, the Avignon exile and the Inquisition, innocently established by Pope Gregory IX in 1233.
Though the eight combined Crusades over a two-hundred year period failed to save Palestine, it had a huge impact on history, establishing Europe and the Church as world powers with rome as the center of Christendom. In the next installment we will cover the time leading up to the Avignon exile and the significance of the second six hundred-sixty-six years as Our Lady explained in her eye-opening message to Italian mystic and private messenger Father Don Stefano Gobbi.