THE Crusades form one of the maddest episodes in history. Christianity hurled itself at Mohammedanism in expedition after expedition for nearly three centuries, until failure brought lassitude, and superstition itself was undermined by its own labors. Europe was drained of men and money, and threatened with social bankruptcy, if not with annihilation. Millions perished in battle, hunger, or disease; and every atrocity the imagination can conceive disgraced the warriors of the Cross. But there is a law of compensation in nature; good often comes of evil; and the Crusades broke up the night of the Dark Ages. The Christians were brought face to face with a civilisation superior to their own; their eyes were dazzled by the light of Arabian learning; and the mental ferment which succeeded in Europe led to the cultivation of science and literature, the foundation of universities, the study of the immortal classics of Greece and Rome, the growth of philosophy and scepticism, the Renaissance in Italy, and the Reformation in Germany. And these movements, in turn, led to the French Revolution, which sounded the death-knell of Feudalism, and to the Freethought of Voltaire, which pierced the heart of Superstition..
Religious fanaticism gave birth to the Crusades. Modern apologists of Christianity have assigned other causes, and some have argued that a political necessity impelled the rulers of Europe to make war on the hosts of Asia. But these are the excuses of a later age and a more timid faith. Long before the emperors of Constantinople solicited the aid of the papacy against the invading Saracens, the idea of arming Christendom against "the infidels" had occurred to the mind of Pope Sylvester II, who at the end of the tenth century "entreated the church universal to succor the church of Jerusalem, and to redeem a sepulchre which the prophet Isaiah had said should be a glorious one, and which the sons of the destroyer Satan were making inglorious." Hallam
remarks that the Christian cry, "It is the will of God," proves the motive with which the Crusades were undertaken.
"These words afford at once the most obvious and the most certain explanation of the leading principle of the Crusades. Later writers, incapable of sympathising with the blind fervor of zeal, or anxious to find a pretext for its effect more congenial to the spirit of our times, have sought political reasons for that which resulted only from predominant affection. No suggestion of these will, I believe, be found in contemporary historians."
From the fourth century, when Queen Helena "discovered" the true cross, which was exhibited for money and chipped for sale by the priests, Jerusalem had been an object of pilgrimage, although according to the universal testimony of orthodox witnesses the holy city was a sink of iniquity. The very dust of Palestine was adored. It was treasured as a charm against demons, and St. Augustine mentions a young man who had some of the dust of Jerusalem suspended in a bag over his bed. During the Middle Ages the soil of Palestine was transported in large quantities to Europe and at Pisa the cemetery called Campo Santo was said to contain five fathoms of holy land brought from Jerusalem in A.D. 1218.
Pilgrimages were made at first for a very natural reason. The faithful desired to behold the places which had been hallowed by their Savior's presence, and to bend in worship over his tomb. But in the course of time other motives operated. Adventurous spirits, tired of the dulness of home, set out as pilgrims in order to see strange lands and profit by some new turn of fortune. Even ladies who were sick of cloistered life, and "chaunting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon," made pilgrimages to Rome and Palestine. Their modesty was seldom proof against the sights of their journey, or their chastity against its temptations. The lady pilgrims from England were notorious for their gallantries. A foreign bishop, in the ninth century, urgently besought the Archbishop of Canterbury to prohibit English women of every rank and degree from pilgrimising; and Muratori cites an old observation that "There are few cities in Lombardy, in France, or
in Gaul, in which there is not an English adulteress or harlot, to the scandal and disgrace of the whole Church."
Towards the end of the tenth century the millennium was believed to be at hand. The delusion was artfully cultivated by the Church for its own profit. People sold their property, and their very persons into slavery to the priests.
"They underwent the austerities of the cloister, and the pains and labors which the monks imposed. God's vicegerents on earth were propitiated by costly gifts, and so strong was the fanaticism, that private property was suffered to decay, and noble edifices were destroyed, from the conviction of their approaching inutility. From every quarter of the Latin world the poor affrighted Christians, deserting their homes and ordinary occupations, crowded to the holy land. The belief was general that on the place of his former suffering Christ would judge the world: his zealous but ignorant votaries thought that these voluntary sacrifices and penances would be acceptable with heaven. Years rolled on years; the thunderbolts of vengeance remained in the skies; nature held her appointed course. The world discovered that its interpretations of prophecy had been rash and presumptuous."
But Jerusalem became dearer than ever to the Christian heart, and in the following century pilgrimages were carried to their greatest height.
Jerusalem had long been in possession of the Mohammedans. It was captured by Omar in A.D. 637. The great caliph entered without bloodshed, and conversed amicably as he rode along with the patriarch of the city, on its antiquities. He granted the Christians the use of their churches and the free practice of their religion. His laconic decree is worth preserving: "In the name of the most merciful God. From Omar Ebu Al Khattab, to the inhabitants of Aelia. They shall be protected and secured both in their lives and fortunes, and their churches shall neither be pulled down, nor made use of by any but themselves." The dignity and humanity of Omar, and the graceful chivalry of Saladin, who
captured Jerusalem from the Christians in a later age, form a vivid contrast to the rudeness and ferocity of the soldiers of Christ.
In the course of time the Mohammedans "usurped" three-fourths of the city, but the Christians were safe in their own quarter, and a tribute of two pieces of gold was the price of their protection. The sepulchre of Christ and the church of the Resurrection were left in the hands of his votaries. The Greeks, the Latins, the Nestorians and Jacobites, the Copts and Abyssinians, the Armenians and Georgians, maintained their respective chapels and clergy. The worship of God in so many various tongues would have been an edifying spectacle, but "the zeal of the Christian sects was embittered by hatred and revenge; and in the kingdom of a suffering Messiah, who had pardoned his enemies, they aspired to command and persecute their spiritual brethren." The same spirit continues to the present age. The Greek and Latin Christians are equally allowed to worship in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, but it is found necessary to allot each sect a separate half of the edifice, and a guard of Turkish soldiers stands between them to maintain the peace.
Towards the end of the tenth century the Christian pilgrims were ill-used by the Turks, who robbed them on their journey, gave them emetics of scammony water to make them vomit swallowed treasure, and sometimes ripped open their bodies. These acts were not, however, instigated or sanctioned by the government. But the church of the Resurrection was, in A.D. 1009, demolished by the fanatical Hakem, who persecuted the "infidels," and "made some martyrs and many proselytes." The sacrilege astonished and afflicted the nations of Europe, "but instead of arming in the defence of the Holy Land, they contented themselves with burning or banishing the Jews." Nearly a century later, the Turks indulged in more wanton acts of oppression. The pilgrims were despoiled, the clergy were insulted, and the church of the Resurrection, which had been rebuilt, was often desecrated by the followers of Mohammed. "The pathetic tale," says Gibbon, "excited the millions of the West to march under the standard of the cross to the relief of the Holy Land ... a nerve was touched of
exquisite feeling; and the sensation vibrated to the heart of Europe."
The principal agent of this excitement was Peter the Hermit, a native of Amiens in France. He had been a soldier, in his youth, but losing his desire to become a hero, he married a noble lady of the house of Roussy. She was, however, old, poor and ugly; and Peter "withdrew from her bed to a convent, and at length to a hermitage." He there fasted and prayed until he saw the Savior in a vision and a letter fell from heaven. To expiate some early sins he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where the Patriarch gave him a lamentable account of the sufferings of his co-religionists. "As a penance for my sins," exclaimed Peter, "I will travel over Europe; I will describe to princes and people the degraded state of the church, and urge them to repair it."
Peter kept his word. He repaired to Pope Urban II, who "received him as a prophet, applauded his glorious design, promised to support it in a general council, and encouraged him to proclaim the deliverance of the Holy Land." Peter's appearance, like that of Saint Paul, was contemptible. All agree that "he had an ignoble and vulgar exterior." "His small and mean person," says Mills, "was macerated by austerities," and his face was thin and careworn. But his eye was keen and lively, and he was a splendid mob-orator. He preached the crusade through Italy and France to multitudes of people. Hrode, with bare head and naked feet, on a donkey or a mule, which the public regarded as sacred, the very hairs of its tail being treasured as relics.
"When he painted the sufferings of the natives and pilgrims of Palestine, every heart was melted to compassion; every breast glowed with indignation when he challenged the warriors of the age to defend their brethren and rescue their Savior; his ignorance of art and language was compensated by sighs, and tears, and ejaculations; and Peter supplied the deficiency of reason by loud and frequent appeals to Christ and his mother, to the saints and angels of paradise, with whom he had personally conversed."
Urban the Second summoned a council at Placentia in March, A.D. 1095. It was attended by two hundred bishops, four thousand of the clergy, and thirty thousand laymen; and as no cathedral was large enough to hold the multitude, the session of seven days was held in a plain adjacent to the city. Audience was given to the ambassadors of the Greek emperor, Alexius Commenus, who sought assistance against the common enemies of Christendom. The assembly burst into tears, and declared their readiness to march. But the prudent Urban adjourned the final decision to a second synod. The Council of Clermont was held in November of the same year. Besides the court and council of Roman cardinals, thirteen archbishops, two hundred and twenty-five bishops, a host of clergy and knights, and a countless multitude of common people, attended from all parts of Europe. The deliberations were held in an open square. Seven days were devoted to various canons, and the eighth to the great object of the assembly. Finally the Pope ascended a lofty pulpit and delivered a long harangue, which may be found in the pages of Mills. When he solemnly commanded a Crusade against the"infidels who were in possession of Christ's sepulchre, and promised a remission of sins to those who joined it, and paradise to those who fell in battle, his excited auditors shouted in various idioms, Deus vult! Deus lo vult! Dieux le volt!" God wills it, God wills it!" Yes, exclaimed the Pope,
"It is indeed the will of God; and let this memorable word, the inspiration surely of the Holy Spirit, be for ever adopted as your cry of battle, to animate the devotion and courage of the champions of Christ. His cross is the symbol of your salvation; wear it, a red, a bloody cross, as an external mark, on your breasts or shoulders, as a pledge of your sacred and irrevocable engagement."
In conclusion the Pope quoted the text, "He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me."
Christ's saying, "I come not to bring peace, but a sword," was to be verified, and the cross was to be the symbol of bloodshed. Imitating their Savior, who carried the cross on his shoulder, the Crusaders fixed the mark on their right shoulders, or on the upper
part of their backs, and sometimes on the top of the arm. Its general color was red. The most frenzied crusaders cut the holy sign on the flesh itself, and the stigmata was deemed an evidence of peculiar sanctity. "Women and children," says Michaud, "imprinted crosses on their delicate and weak limbs, to show the will of God." The Abbé Guibert mentions a monk who made a large incision on his forehead in the form of a cross, and preserved it with a concoction of juices. He took care to report that the incision was the work of an angel, and it procured for him, during the voyage and the war, all the help he could desire. This astute and enterprising monk gained a prize by the deception, for he afterwards became archbishop of Caesarea.
Religious fanaticism was the chief motive of this Crusade, but it was mixed with others. Chivalry had induced a love of fighting and adventure, and brave knights dreamed of carving out kingdoms from the empire of the infidels. The east was thought to abound in riches; the "wealth of Ormus and of Ind" gleamed on the imagination; and sensuality was allured by the fabulous flavor of oriental wines and the magical beauty of Grecian women. Avarice, ambition, and lust, co-operated with faith.
The Crusaders were also granted a plenary indulgence by the Pope; and "at the voice of their pastor, the robber, the incendiary, the homicide, arose by thousands to redeem their souls by repeating on the infidels the same deeds which they had exercised against their Christian brethren." They also enjoyed temporal privileges.
"During the time that a crusader bore the cross, he was free from suit for his debts, and the interest on them was entirely abolished; he was exempted, in some instances at least, from taxes, and placed under the protection of the Church, so that he could not be pleaded in any civil court, except on criminal charges, or disputes relating to land."
Many of the clergy took the cross, although the Pope declined to lead. Not a few of them, says Michaud, had their thoughts fixed on the rich bishoprics of Asia, and were led on by the hope of
"some day occupying the most celebrated sees of the Eastern church."
The most strenuous efforts were made to inflame the credulous multitude.
"Every means was used to excite an epidemical frenzy; the remission of penances, the dispensation from those practices of self-denial which superstition imposed or suspended at pleasure, the abolition of all sins, and the assurance of eternal felicity. None doubted that such as perished in the war received immediately the reward of martyrdom. False miracles and fanatical prophecies, which were never so frequent, wrought up the enthusiasm to a still higher pitch."
Persons of every age, rank, and degree, took the cross. When men wanted faith, women left them in disgust and followed the holy banner, carrying infants in their arms. Sometimes a rustic shod his oxen like horses, and placed his whole family in a cart. Whenever a castle was sighted the poor creatures inquired if it was Jerusalem. Monks threw off their gowns and enrolled themselves as warriors. "Women appeared in arms in the midst of warriors," says Michaud, "prostitution not being forgotten among the austerities of penance." "The moral fabric of Europe," says Mills, "was convulsed; the relations and charities of life were broken; society appeared to be dissolved."
Walter the penniless, a gentleman of Burgundy, whose poverty was more remarkable than his military abilities, led the first body, which consisted of twenty thousand foot, and only eight horsemen. They swept through Hungary and entered Bulgaria, where they were regarded as so many savage invaders, and refused supplies. Walter's mob turned their arms against the unfriendly Christians, but they were miserably beaten. Hundreds of them fled into a church, trusting that the Bulgarians would not spill blood in the house of God. The sanctity of the place was so far respected, but the edifice was set on fire, and many perished in the flames, while others were killed in leaping from the roof.
Walter escaped with a few associates, and found refuge at Constantinople.
Peter the Hermit led the second host of forty thousand men, women and children, of all nations and languages. Arriving at Malleville they avenged their precursors by assaulting the town, slaying seven thousand of the inhabitants, and abandoning themselves to "every species of grossness and libertinism." According to Mills "virgin modesty was no protection," and "conjugal virtue no safeguard" against these sanctified soldiers of the cross. King Carloman marched an army against them, and they fled. Many were drowned in the Save, on the other side of which the survivors were attacked by a large body of Turcomans. The French suffered heavily, but the Germans and Lorrainers avenged them; and Peter offered as a bloody sacrifice to God the few prisoners who remained after the battle.
Bulgaria was a desert before Peter's horde. The duke had gone to the fortified town of Nyssa, and the inhabitants had retreated into the forests. A band of Germans set fire to some houses near Nyssa, and the people rushed upon the rear of the Crusaders, avenging their wrongs with massacre and plunder. In turn the city was assaulted, but the Crusaders were repulsed with a loss of ten thousand. Peter lost heart and burst into tears, but some robuster lieutenants collected his scattered followers; and destitute of arms and money, and unable to procure provisions, they marched in a famishing state to Philipopolis, where Peter's eloquence obtained them assistance. Thence they marched to Constantinople, but the emperor prudently refused them admission, and ordered them to remain in Greece. He supplied them with provisions, and as soon as they recovered strength they "repaid his generosity by deeds of flagitiousness on his people. Palaces and churches were plundered to afford them means of intoxication and excess." Alexius shipped them across the Bosphorus, where they recommenced their excesses. Michaud says that they "committed crimes which made nature shudder." Peter lost all control over them, and returned to Constantinople. The French were distinguished for ferocity. They killed children at the breast, scattered their limbs in the air, and
carried their ravages to the very walls of Nice. They took the castle of Xerigord, and slaughtered the Turkish garrison. But the Sultan attacked them with fifteen thousand men. Their leader, Reginald, with some companions, embraced Islamism. The rest persuaded Walter the Penniless to lead them, and soon met with the reward of their crimes. The Turks exterminated them, and made a pyramid of their bones.
The third crusading wave was commanded by Godeschal, a German monk. His sermons
"had swept fifteen or twenty thousand peasants from the villages of Germany. Their rear was again pressed by a herd of two hundred thousand, the most stupid and savage refuse of the people, who mingled with their devotion a brutal license of rapine, prostitution and drunkenness."
According to Michaud, they gave themselves up to intemperance; they forgot Constantinople and Jerusalem "in tumultuous scenes of debauchery," and "pillage, violation, and murder were everywhere left as the traces of their passage." At Mersburgh they committed horrible outrages. On a trifling quarrel they impaled a young Hungarian in the market place. The Hungarians rose in arms, the plains of Belgrade were covered with the Crusaders' bones, and only a few of Godeschal's rabble escaped to tell the tale.
The fourth wave issued from England, France, Flanders and Lorraine. Mills calls them "another herd of wild and desperate savages." Their leaders were a goat and a goose, who were thought to be inspired by the Holy Ghost. The Turks being far off, they took to murdering the Jews, a crime which gratified at once their avarice and their fanaticism. Cologne was the first city they stained with blood. Thousands of Jews were massacred and pillaged in the towns on the banks of the Rhine and Moselle. Seven hundred were slaughtered at Mayence, despite the protests of the venerable metropolitan. The Bishops of Trèves and Worms protected the Jews on condition of their apostacy. Some noble spirits disdained the terms and slew themselves in the palace of
the Bishop of Worms. At Trèves many Jews barricaded their houses, burnt their wealth, and perished in the flames; while in other cases "Mothers plunged the dagger into the breasts of their own children, fathers and sons destroyed each other, and women threw themselves into the Moselle." The infernal multitude, as Mills calls them, "hurried on to the south in their usual career of carnage and rapine;" but at Memsburg their passage was opposed by an Hungarian army. It proved that "their cowardice was as abject as their boldness had been ferocious; and the Hungarians pursued them with such slaughter that the waters of the Danube were for some days red with their blood."
Three hundred thousand Crusaders thus perished before a single city had been wrested from the infidels. Many died of famine and disease, and most of the others fell fighting against their fellow Christians.
A more regular crusade was undertaken by the princes of feudal Europe in the following year. Nobles sold their estates, or exchanged them for arms and equipments, and it is worthy of notice that the chief purchasers were the clergy. Father Maimbourg declared that, while the secular princes ruined themselves for the cause of Christ, the princes of the Church took advantage of the general delirium to enrich themselves.
Under the leadership of Godfrey of Bouillon the Crusaders arrived at Constantinople. Marching through Pelagonia they burnt a castle full of heretics. The Provençal contingent advancing through Greece were worried by the peasantry, but they terrorised the hostile natives by maiming and disfiguring those they caught. The Emperor Alexius, fearing the Crusaders more than the Turks, needed all his subtlety to divert them from attacking him; but at length, in May, A.D. 1097, they mustered on the plains of Nice, seven hundred thousand strong.
Nice was saved by the subtle Greek emperor, and the Crusaders marched to Antioch. Having ravaged the country, they suffered from famine. Provisions rose to a fabulous price, the horses had to be eaten, and the siege reduced the cavalry from one hundred
thousand to two thousand. Being encumbered with hosts of women belonging to their families the Crusaders were exposed to the most frightful sufferings, especially in their march across "burning Phrygia."
"Historians say that women were seen giving premature birth to their offspring in the midst of burning and open fields: whilst others, in despair, with children they could no longer nourish, implored death with loud cries, and, in the excess of their agony, rolled naked on the earth in the sight of the whole army."
"Carrion was openly dressed," says Mills, "and human flesh was eaten in secret." He adds in a footnote that "Cannibalism was carried to a great extent by the lowest of the low." Von Sybel says that the camp-followers made a virtue of it.
"Peter the Hermit became their spiritual leader and saint; they moreover elected a military commander whom they called Tafur, the Turkish for King of the Beggars; and laid down certain rules; for instance, no one was to be tolerated among them who possessed any money; he must either quit their honorable community, or hand over his property to the King of the Beggars for the common fund. The princes and knights did not venture into their camp except in large bodies and well armed; and the Turks said of the Tafurs, that at they liked nothing so well to eat as the roasted flesh of their enemies."
Among the early French poems on the Crusades is one entitled The Leaguer of Antioch, of which Von Sybel gives an abbreviated translation:
"Now lithe and listen lordlings, while the Christians' hap I tell,That, as they lay in leaguer, from hunger them befell.In evil case the army stood, their stores of food were spent:Peter the holy Hermit, he sat before his tent:Then came to him the King Tafur, and with him fifty scoreOf men-at-arms, not one of them but hunger gnawed him sore.'Thou holy Hermit, counsel us, and help us at our need;Help, for God's grace, these starving men with wherewithal to feed.'
But Peter answered, 'Out, ye drones, a helpless pack that cry,While all unburied round about the slaughtered Paynim lie. A dainty dish is Paynim flesh, with salt and roasting due.''Now by my fay,' quoth King Tafur, 'the Hermit sayeth true.'Then fared he forth the Hermit's tent, and sent his menye out,More than ten thousand, where in heaps the Paynim lay about.They hewed the corpses limb from limb, and disembowelled clean, And there was sodden meat and roast, to blunt their hunger keen: Right savory fare it seemed there; they smacked their lips and spake,-- Farewell to fasts: a daintier meal than this who asks to make?'Tis sweeter far than porker's flesh, or bacon seethed in grease.Let's make good cheer, and feast us here, till life and hunger cease.'"
Tancred deplores their brutish taste to the Turkish commander, but his reprobation is faint in comparison with the gusto of Tafur's cannibals.
Gibbon also says of the Crusaders that "in the dire necessity of famine, they sometimes roasted and devoured the flesh of their infant or adult captives." Bohemond slew some Turkish prisoners and roasted them publicly. Cannibalism was also resorted to at the siege of Marra. One chronicler dryly says there is nothing surprising in the matter, and wonders that they sometimes ate dogs in preference to Saracens.
Mutilation of the dead was indulged in as a sport. The heads of two thousand Turks, who fell in a sortie from Antioch, were cut off; some were exhibited as trophies, others were fixed on stakes round the camp, and others shot into the town. On another occasion they dragged infidel corpses from their sepulchres, and exposed fifteen hundred heads to the weeping Turks.
Fighting for Christ did not keep the Crusaders chaste. During the siege of Antioch they gave the rein to their passions, and "seldom
does the history of profane wars display such scenes of intemperance and prostitution." One archdeacon of royal birth was slain by the Turks as he reposed in an orchard, playing dice with a Syrian concubine. Michaud, who on the whole admires the Crusaders, is obliged to deplore that the temptations of a beautiful sky, and a neighborhood once devoted to the worship of Venus and Adonis, "spread license and corruption among the soldiers of Christ."
"If contemporary accounts are to be credited, all the vices of the infamous Babylon prevailed among the liberators of Sion. Strange and unheard-of spectacle! Beneath the tents of the Crusaders famine and voluptuousness formed a hideous union; impure love, an unbounded passion for play, with all the excesses of debauch, were mingled with the images of death."
Antioch at last fell by treachery. Traitors inside lowered ropes in the night, by means of which the Crusaders scaled the walls. They seized ten towers and slew the guards. A gate was then opened and the whole army entered the city with trumpets braying. Shouting "Deus il vult," they began to butcher the sleeping inhabitants.
"For some time the Greeks and Armenians were equally exposed with the Mussulmans; but when a pause was given to murder, and the Christians became distinguished from the infidels, a mark was put on the dwellings of the former, and their edifices were regarded as sacred. The dignity of age, the helplessness of youth, and the beauty of the weaker sex, were disregarded by the Latin savages. Houses were no sanctuaries; and the sight of a mosque added new virulence to cruelty."
The number massacred on this night was at least ten thousand. The Turkish commander escaped with a few friends and reached the mountains. An old wound opened in his head, the loss of blood produced giddiness, he fell from his horse, and was left behind. "His groans," says Mills, "caught the ear of a Syrian Christian in the forest, and he advanced to the poor old man. The appeal to humanity was made in vain; and the wretch struck off the head of his prostrate foe, and carried it in triumph to the Franks."
The passion for plunder had been stilled by the thirst for blood:
"When, however, every species of habitation, from the marble palace to the meanest hovel, had been converted into a scene of slaughter, when the narrow streets and the spacious squares were all alike disfigured with human gore, and crowded with mangled carcasses, then the assassins turned robbers, and became as mercenary as they had been merciless."
The Crusaders ate, drank, and indulged in the wildest debauchery. Unbounded license was given to every passion. In a few days they consumed all the provisions in the city, and they had so devastated the surrounding country that no fresh supplies could be obtained. The citadel, which in the first flush of victory they had left uncarried, was still held by the Turks, and now the victors were themselves besieged by Kerboga. The enemy was without and within. Their former distresses were nothing to the miseries they now suffered. The most nauseous vegetables were greedily eaten. They boiled the leaves of trees and stewed the leather of their accoutrements. Multitudes tried to escape by dropping from the walls at night, and earned the opprobrious epithet of rope dancers. Peter the Hermit was among the number, according to Gibbon; although Mills and Michaud place his attempted desertion in the first siege, when he fled with William the Carpenter, was brought back by Tancred, and only saved from execution by an act of royal clemency. Old Fuller says:
"When the siege grew hot his devotion grew cold; he found a difference betwixt a voluntary fast in his cell, and a necessary and indispensable famine in a camp; so that being well nigh hunger-pinched, this cunning companion, who was a trumpet to sound a march to others, secretly sounded a retreat to himself."
The Christians were in despair. They openly rebuked God for deserting them; even the chiefs joined in these blasphemies, and during several days, not only were the ceremonies of religion neglected, but no priest or layman uttered the name of Christ. At length the Virgin came to their assistance. Peter Bartholemy, a loose and cunning priest, was informed by St. Andrew that the Holy Lance which pierced the side of Christ was buried under the church of St. Peter. Workmen dug without discovering it, but
Peter Bartholemy deposited there in the night the head of a Saracen lance, which was duly discovered in the morning, and exhibited to the troops. The wonderful object excited their courage. They sallied from the town and in a single battle annihilated or dispersed the enemy. But when the peril was over, scepticism asserted itself. Poor Peter was obliged to pass through the ordeal of fire to prove the truth of the miracle, and died from the injuries he suffered.
The Crusaders still loitered at Antioch which they continued to disgrace by vice and disorder. Bitter strife broke out among the chiefs as to the division of the fruits of victory. It extended to their followers, whose bloody feuds paralysed every movement. The multitude of unburied corpses bred a plague which destroyed more than a hundred thousand. At last they moved towards Marra, which they captured. They slaughtered all the inhabitants who did not escape by suicide, and devoured their flesh; and it is even said that human flesh was publicly exposed for sale in the Christian camp. The streets ran with blood until ferocity was tired. Bohemond then reviewed his prisoners. "They who were vigorous or beautiful," says Mills, "were reserved for the slave market at Antioch, but the aged and infirm were immolated at the altar of cruelty."
By this time the crusading host was reduced to twenty thousand foot and fifteen hundred cavalry. Nearly a million soldiers of Christ, of all ages and conditions, and of both sexes, had perished in less than two years; to say nothing of those who fell victims to their cruelty and fanaticism. Yet the holy sepulchre was still in the hands of the infidels, the object of the Crusade was unaccomplished, and only a feeble remnant of the hosts that assembled at Nice were now ranged under the banner of the cross. But the bloody symbol had not lost its power, nor was their enthusiasm quenched; and the cry still broke from their lips, "On to the city of God!"
Lest we should be suspected of exaggerating the number of Crusaders who perished before Jerusalem was reached, we may
observe that Mills estimates it at eight hundred and eighty thousand. Hallam's calculation is nearly as high.
"So many crimes and so much misery have seldom been accumulated in so short a space as in the three years of the first expedition. We should be warranted by contemporary writers in stating the loss of the Christians alone during this period at nearly a million; but at the least computation it must have exceeded half that number."
Of the seven hundred thousand who assembled at Nice only about forty thousand remained, and of these only twenty thousand foot and fifteen hundred cavalry could be reckoned as soldiers.
On their march to the holy city Raymond wished to sack Tripoli, but the other generals preferred a ransom of fifteen thousand pieces of gold. At Ramula they obtained much spoil, as well as the canonised bones of their patron, St. George. The Crusaders were passionately fond of such articles. There is an amusing story of how the Venetian contingent, in A.D. 1098, quarrelled with the Pisan contingent over the bones of St. Nicholas. The two fleets, consisting of several hundred vessels, joined at Rhodes.
"The little island of San Nicolo contained the body of the saint from whom it was named--a deposit of much value in the eyes of the Venetians ... Whether the purchasers were niggardly in the price which they offered, or whether the Caloyers, to whom the merchandise belonged, were exorbitant in their demands, is not now to be ascertained; but the Venetians, unable to complete a satisfactory bargain, resolved to possess by force that which they could not obtain by negotiation. The relics were torn from their shrine, and conveyed to one of the Venetian galleys; not, however, to be received in peace, for the partition of the spoil became an object of dispute between the allies. The Pisans urged that, being on the spot, they were entitled to at least half the booty; the Venetians denied their claim to any part of it. Angry words were quickly succeeded by direct hostilities; and the two Christian fleets, designed to rescue the Holy Sepulchre from
unbelievers, directed their arms, in the first instance, to purposes of mutual destruction for the possession of a dead man's bones."
The Venetians were victorious, taking twenty Pisan galleys, and five thousand prisoners. After a few months' piracy in the Levant, they returned home, and devoutly deposited the relics of St. Nicholas in a chapel on the isle of Lido.
Leaving Ramula, after a sojourn of three days, the Crusaders set out for Jerusalem. On sighting the holy city they shouted its name, and shed tears of joy. The garrison consisted of forty thousand Egyptian troops, commanded by Istakar, a favorite general of the caliph. Without much skill the city was invested and its walls battered unsuccessfully. The besiegers suffered greatly from hunger and more from thirst. "Misery," says Mills, "produced disorder and crime; and the clergy complained that in the short space of a month, the character of the Christian soldiers before Jerusalem had become as immoral as it had been in the long and painful siege of Antioch."
After a procession round Jerusalem, in the fashion of the ancient circuit of Jericho, led by barefooted priests carrying crosses and shouting "Deus id vult," while the multitude marched to the melody of hymns and psalms, a fresh assault was made on the city, which was at length successfully stormed on Good Friday. At the very hour when Christ was crucified they erected their banners on the walls of Jerusalem. Tasso's description of the scene is very beautiful, and would be delightful if we were ignorant of what followed. Instead of making the "holy hour" an occasion for mercy, the Crusaders acted like wild beasts, and turned the city of the sepulchre of Christ into a hell of rapine, murder and lust.
Fleury hints that there was something miraculous in the capture of Jerusalem, the obstacles being so great and the enterprise so ill-conducted. He surmises that God gave the victory as a reward to a few good knights, like Godfrey of Bouillon, who were truly religious. But he admits that "the Christians abused the victory by
putting all the Mussulmans to the sword, and filling Jerusalem with blood and carnage." Gibbon's censure is still more vigorous:
"A bloody sacrifice was offered by his mistaken votaries to the God of the Christians: resistance might provoke, but neither age nor sex could mollify their implacable rage. They indulged themselves three days in a promiscuous massacre; and the infection of the dead bodies produced an epidemical disease. After seventy thousand Moslems had been put to the sword, and the harmless Jews had been burnt in their synagogue, they could still reserve a multitude of captives, whom interest or lassitude persuaded them to spare."
As the conduct of the Crusaders in Jerusalem, on reaching the goal of their hopes, is a crucial test of their general character and of the influence of their creed, we shall cite other authorities on this subject.
Michaud gives a graphic account of the massacre:
"The Saracens were massacred in the streets and in the houses. Jerusalem had no refuge for the vanquished. Some fled from death by precipitating themselves from the ramparts; the others crowded for shelter into the palaces, the towers, and above all in their mosques, where they could not conceal themselves from the pursuit of the Christians. The Crusaders, masters of the mosque of Omar, where the Saracens defended themselves for some time, renewed there the deplorable scenes which disgraced the conquest of Titus. The infantry and cavalry rushed pell-mell among the fugitives. Amid the most horrid tumult, nothing was heard but the groans and cries of death; the victors trod over heaps of corpses in pursuing those who vainly attempted to escape. Raymond d'Argiles, who was an eye-witness, says that under the portico of the mosque the blood was knee-deep and reached the horses' bridles