The Middle Ages:
The Crusades- Different Perspectives from Primary Sources
In the Crusades, both Christians and Muslims believed that God was on their side. They both felt justified in using violence to win or to keep the Holy Land. The following excerpts show their belief in the rightness of their deeds.
Document A: Pope Urban II
In 1095, Pope Urban II issued a plea that resulted in the First Crusade. The pope assured his listeners that God was on their side. Let the holy sepulcher of our Lord and Saviour, which is possessed by the unclean nations, especially arouse you. . . . This royal city [Jerusalem], situated at the center of the earth, is now held captive by the enemies of Christ and is subjected, by those who do not know God, to the worship of the heathen. Accordingly, undertake this journey eagerly for the remission of your sins, with the assurance of the reward of imperishable glory in the kingdom of heaven.
Document B: William of Tyre
A Christian bishop, William of Tyre, drew upon eyewitness accounts of the capture of Jerusalem by Crusaders. It was impossible to look upon the vast numbers of the slain without horror; everywhere lay fragments of human bodies, and the very ground was covered with the blood of the slain. It was not alone the spectacle of headless bodies and mutilated limbs strewn in all directions that roused horror in all who looked upon them. Still more dreadful was it to gaze upon the victors themselves, dripping with blood from head to foot, an ominous sight which brought terror to all who met them. It is reported that within the Temple enclosure alone about ten thousand infidels perished, in addition to those who lay slain everywhere throughout the city in the streets and squares, the number of whom was estimated as no less.
Document C: Saladin
This is an excerpt of Saladin’s reply to a letter from Frederick I (Barbarossa) threatening Saladin. Saladin wrote the letter after he recaptured Jerusalem. Whenever your armies are assembled . . . we will meet you in the power of God. We will not be satisfied with the land on the seacoast, but we will cross over with God’s good pleasure and take from you all your lands in the strength of the Lord. . . . And when the Lord, by His power, shall have given us victory over you, nothing will remain for us to do but freely to take your lands by His power and with His good pleasure. . . . By the virtue and power of God we have taken possession of Jerusalem and its territories; and of the three cities that still remain in the hands of the Christians . . . we shall occupy them also.
Document D: Luttrell Psalter
The illustration below from a Latin text shows Richard the Lion-Hearted (left) unhorsing Saladin during the Third Crusade. However, the two men never actually met in personal combat.
1. Using specific phrases or passages from Source A and Source C, demonstrate how their attitudes were similar
2. What directive in Source A might have been at the root of the action described in Source B?
3. What evidence in Source D reveals the artist’s bias about the confrontation between Islam and Christianity?