Monday, March 20, 2006

More on the Crusades

Article in the London Times talks about Vatican moves to "rehab" the Crusaders...
Vatican change of heart over 'barbaric' Crusades

The Vatican has begun moves to rehabilitate the Crusaders by sponsoring a conference at the weekend that portrays the Crusades as wars fought with the “noble aim” of regaining the Holy Land for Christianity...

...At the conference, held at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University, Roberto De Mattei, an Italian historian, recalled that the Crusades were “a response to the Muslim invasion of Christian lands and the Muslim devastation of the Holy Places”.

“The debate has been reopened,” La Stampa said. Professor De Mattei noted that the desecration of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem by Muslim forces in 1009 had helped to provoke the First Crusade at the end of the 11th century, called by Pope Urban II.

He said that the Crusaders were “martyrs” who had “sacrificed their lives for the faith”. He was backed by Jonathan Riley-Smith, Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Cambridge University, who said that those who sought forgiveness for the Crusades “do not know their history”. Professor Riley-Smith has attacked Sir Ridley Scott’s recent film Kingdom of Heaven, starring Orlando Bloom, as “utter nonsense”.

Professor Riley-Smith said that the script, like much writing on the Crusades, was “historically inaccurate. It depicts the Muslims as civilised and the Crusaders as barbarians. It has nothing to do with reality.” It fuels Islamic fundamentalism by propagating “Osama bin Laden’s version of history”.

He said that the Crusaders were sometimes undisciplined and capable of acts of great cruelty. But the same was true of Muslims and of troops in “all ideological wars”. Some of the Crusaders’ worst excesses were against Orthodox Christians or heretics — as in the sack of Constantinople in 1204...

Full article.

It's certainly an interesting topic. As the last line quoted above makes clear, the crusading period was far from Western Christendom's finest hour - the sack of Constantinople has to count as one of history's great tragedies, along with the atrocities committed against the Rhineland Jews. Nevertheless, I always find the modern tut-tutting about the Crusades to be quite ridiculous. The popular picture of the Christians (and especially the Pope) as greedy, blood-thirsty barbarians attacking the noble, tolerant Muslims unprovoked is laughable, and, as my grandmother would say, it is quite frankly a useful tool for figuring out who's the worst educated fool at the tea party.


  1. Hello maggie....i used to visit your blog a while back....seems not much has changed....what happened to Sebo (Shannon)...? Keep up the good work!

  2. Hi Greg! :) Shannon's still around, she just very busy 'cuz she's getting a lot of new responsibilities at work, and doesn't have as much free time.

    It's good to hear from you again! :)