In The Name Of Christ

The greatest facepalm of the Crusades - and more stories of crusaders turning on other Christians.


Life & Faith: Crusades

“Three days was the accepted period of a sack in the Middle Ages. They sacked it for a little bit more than that … it greatly damaged the city of Constantinople. And that ultimately was the end of the Crusade. It had never raised a sword against the Muslim, but it had actually conquered and destroyed the greatest Christian city in the world.”

When it comes to the sins of the Christian church, the Crusades are one of the first things that come to mind. The scholars point out that a lot of what we think we know about the Crusades is off the mark – but sometimes, the reality was even worse than people think.

In this episode of Life & Faith, we’re looking at a lesser-known aspect of the Crusades. It turns out that not all Crusades were against Muslims – nor did they all take place in the Middle East.

For example, the sack of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) occurred in 1204. The taking of this great Christian city, and the slaughter of Christians that was the result, was far from the original objective of the Fourth Crusade. The death of Christians was – in modern military parlance – collateral damage.

“Now once the city fell there’s no doubt that the crusaders did not play by their own rules,” says Professor Thomas Madden from Saint Louis University, author of The Concise History of the Crusades.

“They all swore on relics before the attack that if the city fell they would not touch the churches, they would not touch any of the monasteries or the monks or the women in the monasteries. And in fact once the city fell, it was chaos.”

The Albigensian Crusade also too place in the 13th century – in southern France, not the Middle East. It was a brutal campaign against other Christians who were deemed “heretics” because of their unorthodox and “dangerous” beliefs.

The Pope resorted to a military solution to address this rival spiritual movement: kill everyone.

“The Albigensian Crusade is in many ways an anomaly in medieval Europe,” says Professor Christine Ames, a historian of medieval Europe from The University of South Carolina.

“It is shocking to people at the time, the war is exceptionally brutal, exceptionally bloody.”

Justine Toh is your guide on this tour of how the church has been even worse than you ever imagined – and why it’s important to remember and acknowledge such history.

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