{10}     Crusades & schisms

ERA 4 << Medieval Church (2): Growth & Decline of Papacy (AD 1000–1500) >> SESSION 1

Reference: Gonzalez, volume 1, chapters 30-32

        10.1.1  Beginning of the Crusades

·         Overview: Crusades were aimed at defeating the Muslims, saving the Byzantine Empire, reuniting Eastern and Western churches, and reconquering of the Holy Land. All objectives were achieved, but not permanently.

·         Beginning: Pope Urban II proclaimed that God wanted the crusades [1095]. He offered plenary indulgence to participants. Earthly advantages included exemption from debt and freedom from taxation.

        10.1.2  First Crusade [1096–1099]

·         Success: The crusaders led by French nobles and the Byzantines joined to capture Nicea, Antioch, and finally Jerusalem [1099]. The knights Templars and Hospitallers were organized to help the pilgrims and to fight the Muslims. Almost 1 million people took part in the First Crusade.

        10.1.3  Second to Ninth Crusades [11471272]

·         With little success: The Third Crusade was led by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, and Richard the Lionhearted of England. They got Saladin to agree to give pilgrims access to Jerusalem. The other crusades had little success, except the Sixth. The Fourth Crusade actually caused much damage to the Byzantine empire. The fall of Acre—the last remaining crusader stronghold [1291]—marked the end of crusades.

        10.1.4  The Spanish Reconquest

·         Final success: The ancient Visigoth kingdom of Spain was destroyed by the Muslims in 8th-c. Only northwest Spain remained under the Christians. The reconquest from Muslim control began in 10th-c. By 1248, the only Moorish state in Spain was Granada which finally fell to Ferdinand and Isabella [1492].

        10.1.5  Consequences of the Crusade

·         Negative results: There was an increase in enmity between Christians and Muslims, also between the Latin Christians and Byzantine Christians. The weakening of the Byzantine Empire caused its eventual fall [1453].

·         Change in power: The crusades enhanced the power of the papacy as the popes were recognized as an international authority. But a rise of nationalism later eventually weakened the papacy. Feudalism was weakened because many nobles never returned, leading to the rise of monarchy. The growth of cities and trade were the result of the large movement of people. Trade led to the emergence of the middle class.

·         End to Muslim invasion of Europe: Many people harshly judged that nothing good came out of the crusades. However, it should be remembered that the crusades stopped any large-scale invasions of Muslims into Europe. Without them, most or even all of Europe might have been ruled by the Muslims today.

        10.2.1  Eastern church vs Western church

·         Political differences: Emperors were almost popes in the East; popes were almost emperors in the West.

·         Intellectual differences: The Greek East was more interested in solving theological problems along philosophical lines. The Latin West was more inclined to consider practical matters of polity.

·         Practical differences: In the East, marriage of all parish clergy below the bishop was permitted; in the West, all clergy were not allowed to marry. The East used Greek; the West used Latin causing misunderstandings.

        10.2.2  Schism of Photius

·         One word inserted: The Council of Toledo III [589] inserted one word filioque (“and the Son”) into the Nicene Creed, meaning that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son”.

·         Conflict: An ecclesiastical rebellion led to two patriarchs in Constantinople—Photius and Ignatius [858]. Pope Nicholas I supported Ignatius and excommunicated Photius [863]. Photius then declared that the entire West was heretical [864], because it had tampered with the Nicene Creed by including the word filioque.

        10.2.3  East-West Schism [1054]

·         Final break: Pope Leo IX sent Cardinal Humbert to Constantinople to deal with the disagreement. Humbert, zealous reformer, exchanged insults with Patriarch Cerularis. Then Cardinal Humbert excommunicated Cerularis as a heretic. Cerularis responded by anathematize the pope. The schism was accomplished.

        10.2.4  Consequences of the Schism

·         Stagnation of the East: Separation shut the Eastern church from many of the vitalizing influences that strengthened the Western church. Little change in ritual, polity, or theology has appeared in the Eastern church until the recent time. Consequently, it has had little influence on the world.

        10.3.1  After Innocent III

·         Continuing influence: After Innocent III, his successors remained in the light of his prestige. Between 1254 and 1273, Germany went through a period of disorder, and it was Pope Gregory X that restored order.

        10.3.2  Boniface VIII [1294–1303]

·         Claim of authority: His reign marked the high point of papal claims to temporal power. He claimed that temporal authority must be subject to the spiritual, and that there is no salvation outside the church.

·         Humiliation: King Philip IV of France reaffirmed all the ancient privileges of the French clergy, independent of the pope. The pope was kidnapped and publicly humiliated; he died shortly after.

        10.3.3  Babylonian Captivity [1309–1377]

·         Pope in Avignon: The pro-French party in Rome won and elected a French as pope [1305]. Popes began to reside in Avignon, a papal city at the border of France. The French control of the papacy continued until 1377.

·         Impact of this period: People in many countries saw the pope as a foreign power. The church was corrupted with simony, pluralism, absenteeism, and nepotism. All these contributed to a greater need for reforms.

        10.4.1  Great Western schism [1378–1417]

·         Two popes: The cardinals elected Urban VI, an Italian, as new pope. Later, the pro-French cardinals elected another pope, Clement VII. So there were two popes elected by the same cardinals.

·         Council of Pisa [1409–1410]: The council deposed both popes and elected a new pope, Alexander V.

·         Council of Constance [1414–1418]: This council deposed all 3 popes and elected Martin V as new pope.

·         Council of Basel/Ferrara-Florence [1431–1445]: Pope Eugene IV wanted to stop the conciliar movement which held the council as the supreme authority in the church. He was able to cause disagreement in the council, one group meeting at Basel, the other at Ferrara. Afterwards, the papacy reverted to papal despotism.

        10.4.2  Political events that weakened the papacy

·         Monarchy & nationalism: The strong monarchies became competitors against the papacy for the loyalty of their subjects. Nationalism undermined the papal claims to universal authority.

·         Hundred Years’ War [1337–1453]: During the war between France and England (in which Joan of Arc was fighting for the French), the pope resided in Avignon so the English came to see the papacy as their enemy.

·         Fall of Constantinople [1453]The Byzantine emperors appealed for help from the West. The pope was unsuccessful in convincing Christian nations to help, and Constantinople fell under the Turks.


[1] treasure our heritage

The crusades saved Christianity from Muslim conquests.

[2] appreciate God’s providence

The church did not fall from numerous schisms.

[3] avoid past errors

Schisms were caused by political power struggles.

[4] apply our knowledge

The council representing the whole church is above the pope.

[5] follow past saints

Catherine of Siena and Joan of Arc stood out above corrupt popes.