God’s War

godswarGod’s War: A New History of the Crusades
by Christopher Tyerman
2007 / 1056 pages – Kindle (and no page numbers)

“We are still living with the images and legends of the crusades Tyerman tells us how the Church set about preaching the crusades, exploiting the perennial pessimism and guilt of the European nobility of the Middle Ages. He shows how crusading ideology penetrated the religious sensibility of the period, as well as its secular fiction and poetry Of all the modern histories of the crusades it is the shrewdest, the most reliable and the most complete.”  The Spectator

Prologue:  The stated purpose of the book is to address the Crusades in their own terms rather than as a “symbol” of the past  noting that “all historical investigations remain contingent on surviving evidence.” (Preface – loc 312)

Not an easy read – I don’t know if I really automatically associated Pope Urban II with the Crusades before this although I’d heard his name.  ( I’ve added a NOTES section for related info.)

I had a horrible time for much of the book and ended up skimming – but then I’d
get to some interesting parts and it was better.  Tyerman’s style goes on and off and
I think it has a lot to do with the interest.   Military maneuvers are NOT my
cuppa.   The ways the Church got folks to join up (“take the cross”) was
interesting.   The number of crusades was interesting – there were many but it also depends on what you count as being a crusade. The extent of Tyerman’s discussion was weird – he includes theBalkan wars of religion – Christianizing Finland, Estonia, etc.

In the first chapter or so there’s a bit about how the Catholic Church went from
being about the teachings of Jesus to embracing the concept of the “Pure War.”
But there’s really quite a lot about the economic factors, too – later on.

One thing is that I happened to read some of the last couple chapters and they piqued my interest so remembering that pushed me on when the going was rough. There are so many names and places that I’m not recommending it for anyone not really interested – this is a kind of definitive type work (but it’s not THE definitive one – that’s the three volume number by Steven Runciman – 1961,) where I wanted something a bit more in the over-view vein. I might try the book “Fighting for Christendom; Holy War and the
Crusades,” also by Tyerman (2005) which is only 264 pages and which I saw

Tyerman has written many books about the Crusades,  the most recent being
The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction (Jan 12, 2006).   I might recommend that one for a better introduction.

Here’s a map (click for a larger version):


There’s a great map of the European and Mediterranean areas by religion circa 1097 in the inset at  rberosian.com 

Also a really good site re the 1st Crusade is at Crusades and Crusaders


Charlemagne and the Pope

The Frankish king Charlemagne was a devout Catholic and maintained a close relationship with the papacy throughout his life. In 772, when Pope Adrian I was threatened by invaders, the king rushed to Rome to provide assistance. Shown here, the pope asks Charlemagne for help at a meeting near Rome.

Rome vs the Caliphate,  Christianity vs Islam.  A small but growing population of Jews in the Christian lands,  many Jews and Christians in the Muslim lands.  Growing trade between all areas. Papacy was oldest continuous institution –  Jerusalem fell to Muslims in 638.  The forged Donation of Constantine to expand empire.

Charlemagne was made emperor and established the Holy Roman Empire in 800.  By the 900s there was much need of reform in the Church with the issue of control (on a variety of levels) being central – Henry IV of Germany became HR Emperor by force and installed his own anti-pope who ruled from Rome for the next decade.

“The background to the First Crusade lay in this conflict, as Urban II sought to us the mobilization of the expedition as a cover to the pope’s position in Italy and demonstrate his practical leadership of Christendom, independent of secular monarchs.   The slogan of the papal reformers was ‘libertas ecclesiae’, ‘church freedom/ liberty/ rights’. This provided the central appeal of Urban II’s summons of 1095, when he called on the faithful to go to ‘liberate’ the churches of the east and Jerusalem. The crusade is impossible to understand outside of this context of more general church and papal reform.”  (Locations 460-466) 

This section goes on to discuss the expansion of the Empire and the various individuals who held power, Urban II,  Robert Guiscard,  Hugh Capet Peter the Hermit as well as figures from the East,   Alexius I (Komnenos) of the Byzantine Empire.   as well as a bit of the Muslim world – from the Vikings to the Arab pirates.

Chapter 1:


Pope Urban II

“Many saw Urban II’s holy war as the fulfilment of biblical prophecy or an imitation and renewal of scriptural struggles.” (Locations 859-860)

Chapter 1 is fascinating dealing with the philosophical underpinnings of a Christian war,  where that concept originated and how it was expanded.  Also,  how the western concept of that was different from that of Constantinople which was apparently more secular.   Tyerman doesn’t stop there – he notes that within a century of the Prophet’s death  Muslim controlled a huge swath from Central Asia to Northern India and as far west as Spain.


Telegraph – 


Journey With Jesus 

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