A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CRUSADES, Thanks to SamRosenberg 2/11/15 🙂
Considering that, when the First Crusade was called in 1095 by Pope Urban II, it had been about 400 years since any Muslim army had set foot in Europe, the claim that it was a “defensive” war falls apart pretty quickly. The Muslim invasion of france was halted in 736 AD at the Battle of Tours, by Charles Martel (grandfather of Charlemagne). The next time a Muslim Army would enter Europe would be the Ottoman invasions of the Balkans in the 1450s.
During the Crusader Era, 1095-1291, there were fragmented Muslim Kingdoms in Egypt, Spain, Morocco, Syria, and what is now Iran, as well as Turks moving from the Asian steppes into what is now called Turkey. This land was controlled by the Byzantines, who practiced Eastern Orthodoxy and had schismed from the Papacy in Rome in 1054. In the 1060s, the Byzantines were attempting to regain the power of their empire that had been eroding for decades, and launched an invasion across their borders in Eastern Turkey. They were disastrously defeated at Manzikert in 1071 by Seljuk Turks, who (in response to Byzantine aggression) proceeded to conquer most of what is now Turkey.
The Byzantine Emperor appealed to the Pope for help regaining territories that had been lost through his own military blunders, and the first Pope he asked essentially told him to go fuck himself. The next Pope, however, had plans for Europe. He saw the warring kingdoms and the knightly classes constantly fighting among themselves and decided that the best way to get them to stop killing each other all the time was to get some of them out of Europe. His call for a Crusade at Clermont in 1095 met with rousing success from Frankish, German, and English Christians, because he essentially promised them that anyone who died on Crusade would go immediately to heaven, skipping purgatory and any required penance. The warlords who led the Crusade (except for Godfrey of Bouillon) were almost certainly in it for little more than financial gain; they saw opportunities to carve out new fiefs and kingdoms for themselves in the Holy Land, to rule in addition to their territories in Europe.
The common people, however, had no interest other than imposing Christianity on the region. They joined these Crusades by the tens of thousand, for two centuries, because they believed in their hearts that Christianity had the right to rule over the Holy Land