The medieval ages were populated with wars waged for differing reasons. Some of the most remarkable and expansive wars waged were the Crusades. The first crusade was summoned by Pope Urban II in 1095 and it was labeled the “war of liberation” aimed at reclaiming the Holy Land from the Muslims . The Christian army which carried out this war was made up of knights and peasants who marched to Jerusalem for battle. During this period in history, there existed a code of chivalry among the knights.
It has been suggested that the army which undertook the First Crusade idealized this code. This paper shall argue that the First Crusade represents the perfection of the chivalric ideal. To reinforce this assertion, the paper shall review some of the conducts of the Crusaders and how they demonstrated chivalry.
At the onset, chivalry was a way of life for the knights and it entailed nothing more than fighting in tournaments and in real wars. Morris notes that it is the First Crusade that prevented chivalry from degenerating into a mere society of fighters by giving it an opportunity to realize its ideals of bravery, loyalty and honor.
This is a sentiment which is echoed by Frank who notes that chivalry as a code of behavior was mostly forged by Pope Urban II who came up with a list of characteristics that the true soldier of Christ would possess. These ideals included; being wise, temperate, loyal and brave among other attributes and they acted as the standard that the Christian warriors strived to achieve.
Chivalry demanded that the knight or soldier became a champion and defender of the church as well as the poor. This code was articulated in an address by Pope Urban II which stated that the mission of the Knight was to “serve as the righteous and implacable enemy of the infidel, the compassionate protector of the weak and oppressed”. The First Crusade lived up to this ideal as can be seen from their valor as they set out to attack the Turks who had taken over the Holy land. This valor paid off and the Crusaders took over control of Jerusalem from the infidels.
One of the ideals that relate to chivalry is showing bravery and loyalty in the face of war. This is an ideal that the fighters in the First Crusade exhibited in great measure. Tyerman asserts that the crusading armies were held together by a strong loyalty to the cause and to the leaders and comrades at arms .
While the chivalry of the Knights as they engaged in their war against the Moslems is held in question by some historians owing to the indiscriminate killing of the enemy, it should be remembered that the code of the chivalry allowed for the killing of the “infidels” who had taken over the Holy Land and were oppressing its inhabitants.
Undoubtedly, the ideals of chivalry played a major role in the huge success that the First Crusade achieved. As a result of chivalry, the crusading army defeated the Turks and entered the Holy Land in 1099. However, the ideals of chivalry were degenerated as the Christian armies and rulers reveled in luxury. As a result of this degeneration, Morris notes that the Second Crusade was an utter failure and Saladin, the leader of the Saracens recaptured the Jerusalem from the Crusaders.
This paper set out to argue that the First Crusade represented the perfection of the chivalric ideal. To this end, the paper has articulated some of the chivalric ideals and gone on to demonstrate how the crusading army lived up to these ideals. The paper has also suggested that the chivalric ideals were responsible for the great victory that the First Crusade achieved.
Foss, Michael. People of the First Crusade. Arcade Publishing, 1998.
Frank, Daniel. The Knight Dismounted.
http://www.usi.edu/libarts/amalgam/2006/danielfrank.pdf (accessed Nov. 07, 2010).
Morris, David. A History of England. CUP Archive, 2000.
Tyerman, Christopher. Who Went on Crusades to the Holy Land? Herford College, Oxford, 1998.
Michael Foss, People of the First Crusade, (Arcade Publishing, 1998), 212.
David Morris, A History of England, (CUP Archive, 2000), 105.
Daniel Frank, The Knight Dismounted, (http://www.usi.edu/libarts/amalgam/2006/danielfrank.pdf), accessed Nov. 07, 2010.
Christopher Tyerman, Who Went on Crusades to the Holy Land? (Herford College, Oxford, 1998), 13.