Please join me today in welcoming Rosanne E. Lortz, author of Road from the West, as she discusses modern views of the Crusades.
MODERN PERCEPTIONS OF THE CRUSADES
The Crusades are a two hundred year period written indelibly on the history of humankind. While many other wars have faded in memory or been lost to the dusty pages of academia, the Crusades still capture the popular imagination. Everyone has heard of the Crusades, and everyone has an opinion on them.
One frequently held opinion of the Crusades is that they are a prime example of the evil that can be done in the name of religion. For two hundred years, European knights carried sword, fire, and pillage to the innocent shores of the Middle East simply to fulfill what the Church proclaimed was the “will of God.” They stormed castles, seized cities, and sold captives into slavery, defending their violence with the dictates of religion. Christopher Hitchens, one of the leaders of the new atheist movement, refers to “the blood stained spectre of the Crusaders” in his book God is not Great, and the enormities of the Crusades are often used in attacks against Christianity.
Another opinion—largely contradictory to the one above—is that the Crusades were actually provoked by the Muslims. As Rodney Stark states in his recent book God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, the Crusades were a defensive reaction to the Muslim jihad that began in the seventh century with the conquest of the (originally Christian) Middle East. The warlike Arabs continued their expansion with the capture of Southern Italy, Sicily, and Spain, and attempted the invasion of the Frankish empire. When Pope Urban called the First Crusade in A.D. 1095, the Muslims were again advancing against the borders of Christendom, having conquered all the Asian possessions of the Byzantine Empire and making threatening moves toward Constantinople. The Byzantine emperor’s appeals for aid combined with reports of Christian pilgrims being persecuted in the Holy Land convinced the Pope to call for the Crusade—a response to Muslim aggression.
In addition to these two conflicting perceptions of the Crusades, there are other pieces of this time period that our modern society continues to mull over. The story of the Templars, the most famous knights of the Crusading era, has given rise to many conspiracy theories. Medieval romances first introduced the idea that the Templars possessed a powerful relic called the Holy Grail. The Grail, usually considered to be the cup that Christ drank out of at the Last Supper, fell into the Templars’ hands sometime during the Western occupation of Jerusalem and gave them the gift of eternal life. Although this idea is not corroborated by any of the historical records, the legend of the Grail has continued all the way down to Indiana Jones and Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, and this hypothetical relic of the Crusades has become a familiar icon in popular culture.
Another way the Templars still affect our society is through their relationship to the Freemasons. This society, founded four hundred years after the Crusades ended, adopted many of the symbols and rituals used by the defunct Templar Order. The secrecy they employed caused all manner of speculation about the society’s aims—some feared that the Freemasons (and the Templars before them) were part of a cabal to usher in a One World Order. Andre Breivik, the Norwegian shooter who shocked the world several months ago, wrote in his manifesto about a secret meeting to reconstitute the Templar Order, all part of his agenda to seize political and military control of Western Europe. This belief in a Templar conspiracy is another reminder—albeit a grim one—of the ways that the Crusades still impact our modern world.
Although the time of the Crusades is long past, that era and its events continue to interest and inform popular culture today—everyone has heard of the Crusades, and everyone has an opinion on them. Not all of those opinions are equally well founded on history, however. In the research for my latest historical novel, I’ve enjoyed digging through and discarding all the opinion, myth, and make-believe that surround the Crusades and learning about the real characters that lived the events of legend. The truth, it turns out, is even stranger and more stimulating than the adamant opinions and concocted conspiracies that form our modern perceptions of the Crusades. The truth is the real adventure and the real story worth telling.
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Road from the West (Chronicles of Tancred, Book One)
A tale of Courage, Conquest, Intrigue, and Honor.
You know the Knights Templar, you know Richard the Lionheart—now learn the story that started it all in the adventures of the First Crusade.
Haunted by guilt from the past and nightmares of the future, a young Norman named Tancred takes the cross and vows to be the first to free Jerusalem from the infidels. As he journeys to the Holy Land, he braves vast deserts, mortal famine, and the ever-present ambushes of the enemy Turks—but the greatest danger of all is deciding which of the Crusader lords to trust. A mysterious seer prophesies that Tancred will find great love and great sorrow on his journey, but the latter seems intent on claiming him before he can find the first. Intrigues and passions grow as every battle brings the Crusaders one step closer to Jerusalem. Not all are destined to survive the road from the West.
I have ONE copy of Road to the West to give away to an INTERNATIONAL winner. To enter, complete the Rafflecopter form below. Extra entries are available and are listed in the form. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, November 1st at 11:59pm CST. (If you have any issues with the form, please leave me a comment and I will get back to you).