To what extent did the ideals of crusading in the fourteenth century differ from the previous centuries?

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To what extent did the ideals of crusading in the fourteenth century differ from the previous centuries?

        During the course of the fourteenth century I would suggest that many of the original ideals linked with crusading had been lost when compared with the campaign of the First Crusade in the late eleventh century. However, although many of the ideals associated with crusading had changed by the fourteenth century, there were still a number of ideals that remained consistent. In order to be able to establish the extent to which ideals did change, it is necessary to investigate the aspects of the crusading movement that not only changed but also those that remained. The morality of the Crusades had been brought into question and there was strong criticism over the validity of such brutality in the name of God. The deterioration of enthusiasm and of the recruitment process was significant, the success of future expeditions suffering as a consequence. The personal interests of those who took part and of those who were in charge of the Crusades were unavoidably different to what they had been in previous centuries and as a result the Crusading movement had to adapt to fit the changing attitudes. At first, the crusaders appeared to be guided by spiritual motives, believing that if people fought God’s enemies on earth and completed a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, their actions would receive a spiritual reward of remarkable magnitude.  Unfortunately, the movement became less spiritually motivated, more materially and politically inclined, with the focus of Western Europe being drawn to other internal troubles and less fixed upon the Holy War.

        The morality of the Crusades had come into question over the course of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The concept of using warfare and violence to forcefully convert and suppress the infidel was one that aroused much criticism over Europe. It was popular belief that “Christ does not wish the Muslims to be slain, but rather that they should be converted to the faith through preaching. Men no longer take the cross from worthy motives, but merely to impress their ladies.” The brutality shown by the Crusaders against the enemy, their obsession with booty gambling, drinking and their lust for power, took the place of any organisation or chivalry that they might have shown. “The besiegers wasted the time in gambling, orgies, and debauchery.” Materialistic ambitions replaced those of spirituality and redemption, two ideals that had been the foundations of earlier crusades.  Throughout the West there was celebration as the riches of Byzantium began to fill the churches of Europe.  Those with little conscience could always justify the daylight robbery of so many holy relics by the comforting tradition of furta sacra (‘sacred thefts’).  However, there were some individuals with little tolerance for the crusader’s horrific actions.  Gradually the enormity of what had happened began to sink in and Pope Innocent began to receive more detailed reports on the brutality, barbarism and blasphemy of the sack of Constantinople.  His letters to the crusade leaders now bitterly denounced the bloodthirsty outrage.  

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The inefficiency shown by the men was encouraged by the individualism, distrust, dissent and greed revealed amongst them. This idea of the loss of chivalry, a key trait of the earlier Crusades, and it being replaced by greed and selfish motivation is illustrated through Geoffrey Chaucer’s portrayal of the Knight in his Canterbury Tales. The values and discipline shown by previous crusaders were being broken down and men were primarily attracted to the crusades not for want of spiritual redemption, but to fulfil their worldly ambitions. A good illustration of how the original crusading ideals had declined is the fact ...

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