[lit-ideas] Did the idea for the Crusades originate in Spain

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Lit-Ideas " <Lit-Ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 15 May 2014 05:58:32 -0700

From what I read on Amazon, O’Callaghan is one of the brightest historian
writing in English on Spain at the present time.  It was new to me that the
idea for the crusades may have originated in the efforts the Spanish were
making to reconquer their land from the Muslims.


Pope Urban’s letters reveal that he was fully cognizant of the efforts of
Christian Spain to conquer lands held by the Muslims. Indeed, he seems to
have had a broad view of the relationship between the Islamic world and
Christendom. If he could offer remission of sins and indulgence to the
Catalans striving to repopulate and defend Tarragona, he could extend the
same benefit some years later to those going on crusade to the Holy Land.
Just ten years after the fall of Toledo and four to six years after urging
the restoration of Tarragona, he launched the First Crusade at the Council
of Clermont in 1095. The same remission of sins offered by Alexander II in
1063 and Urban II in 1089– 91 was now offered to those who would deliver the
holy places from the “infidels.” In seeking the genesis of the First Crusade
one must look to these Spanish antecedents.  [O'Callaghan, Joseph F.
(2011-01-01). Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain (The Middle Ages
Series) (Kindle Locations 741-747). University of Pennsylvania Press. Kindle


While the religious motive may have been paramount in Pope Urban’s thinking,
O’Callaghan suggests otherwise:

He writes, “The second invasion of Spain by the Almoravids in 1089 brought
home to Urban II, as Guibert de Nogent noted, the threat not only to
Christian Spain but also to southern France. In order to counteract Islam
the pope encouraged Archbishop Bernard of Toledo to restore the other
metropolitan sees still under Muslim rule (namely, Tarragona, Braga, Mérida,
and Seville) and to bring about the (namely, Tarragona , Braga , Mérida, and
Seville) and to bring about the conversion of the “infidels.” The latter
admonition— almost an afterthought— is the first indication of papal
interest in a mission to Spanish Islam. 25 In practical terms the
restoration of the archbishopric of Tarragona in the northeast, though
deserted, seemed most feasible.  With that intention, Urban II in 1089
exhorted the Catalan bishops and nobles, in remission of their sins, to
rebuild Tarragona: We encourage those who will set out for Jerusalem or
other places in a spirit of penitence or devotion to expend all the labor of
that journey on the restoration of the church of Tarragona, so that that
city . . . may be celebrated as a barrier and a bulwark against the Saracens
for the Christian people, to whom, out of the mercy of God, we offer that
indulgence which they would gain if they had fulfilled the journey [to

[O'Callaghan, Joseph F. (2011-01-01). Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval
Spain (The Middle Ages Series) (Kindle Locations 717-728). University of
Pennsylvania Press. Kindle Edition.]


In another place O’Callaghan tells us French knights were promised land in
Spain if they would drive the Muslims from it – not land the Spanish were
engaged in fighting for but other land, land the Muslims held and was not
being immediately contested by the Spanish.  I read a couple of books 10 or
15 years ago on the Crusades and recall the comment that one of the Popes
encouraged the Franks to go off and free Jerusalem in order to get them out
of Europe where they kept stirring things up.  O’Callaghan doesn’t give us
quite that picture of them during Urban’s time.



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