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The First Crusade: Papal Peak?

What do most of us know about the Crusades? Certainly, we know that all of them were directed at Islam only. They were obviously always under the guidance of the Pope. Is that all?

No way. Not all of them were even directed at Islam. Several crusades were actually directed at 'heretics' in Southern France. One famous crusade, the Fourth Crusade, was redirected to Constantinople, which was sacked and destroyed - even though it was ruled by fellow Christians. In fact, the Pope threatened to excommunicate the Crusaders when they turned towards Constantinople - but he no longer held power over them.

The Crusades!In such a context, we have a new question. The original crusades were intended to prop up the Christian Byzantine Empire, which suffered under numerous attacks by the Seljuk Turks, and were called for by the Popes. But perhaps these crusades were the cause of the Pope's loss of power. Back in the day, the Pope was the head of everything. He could force Kings and Emperors to make a pilgrimage all the way to Rome - just to bow to him. Armies could be summoned with just the twitch of a finger. Criminals could be brought to Rome with the blink of an eye. The Pope was more of a Roman Emperor than Julius Caesar or Constantine had ever been, exerting more control over Europe than anybody else ever would for millennium - likely, the Pope had more control over a whole continent than anybody else ever would have throughout all millennium of history.
And the first Crusade, the first of its kind, highlights this question - were the Crusades the beginning of the rise of Papal power? Or were they the end? Maybe they were the highest point of the Pope's power. This post will try to address this question.

First Crusade: (1096-1099)

Pope Urban II, at the Council of Clermont, called for western volunteers to help the ailing Byzantines, who were under attack by the Turks. Eventually, they decided to also try to reconquer Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

But an important question to ask is why? The Pope was the head of the Roman Catholic Church. The Byzantine Emperor got to choose the Patriarch of Constantinople, who was the head of the Eastern Orthodox Christians in the Byzantine Empire. The animosity between the two was both real and huge. In fact, the Greeks in the Byzantine Empire summed it up in eight simple words.
"Better the Turkish turban than the Papal tiara..."
Because we all know that all the crusades were massive failures, we should all try to understand why. Again, perhaps the Pope hoped to gain bargaining power over the Byzantine Emperor and bring him back into the fold. The difference between the Orthodox and Catholic Church wasn't very wide back then, and the main problem was that the Byzantine Emperor, who appointed the Patriarch of Constantinople, sought to give more power to the Patriarch over the Pope. The Pope wished for the Byzantine Emperor to be under his jurisdiction. Obviously, the two opinions clashed.

Peter Frankopan argues that western sources increase the role of the Pope. He says that the Byzantine Emperor was the root cause of the Crusade, not the Pope.

Although the First Crusade was not the exact Papal high, it certainly was one of the higher points of the Papacy. But the Popes began to lose their authority because of the Crusades...

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