Growth of the Pilgrimage

    The enthusiasm for pilgrimage could be checked neither by the voice of saint nor by common sense. From the depths of the German forests, from the banks of the Seine and the bleak shores of Britain, as well as from the cities of southern Europe, poured the incessant streams of humanity, to bathe in the waters of the Jordan where their Lord was baptized, or perchance to die at the tomb which witnessed his resurrection.

    As early as the fourth century itineraries were published to guide the feet of the pious across the countries of Europe and Asia Minor; hospitals were also established along the road, the support of which by those who stayed at home was regarded as specially meritorious in the sight of Heaven.

    In 611 Chosroes the Persian and Zoroastrian captured Jerusalem, slaughtered ninety thousand Christian residents and pilgrims, and, more lamentable in the estimate of that age, carried off the wood of the true cross. But Heraclius, the Greek emperor, after a ten years' war triumphed over the Persian power. Neither conquered lands nor the spoils of princely tents compared in stirring enthusiasm with the recapture of this relic. With great pomp the emperor left a part of the cross to glorify his capital, Constantinople. On September 14, 629, Heraclius entered Jerusalem, bearing, like Simon the Cyrenian, the remainder of the sacred beams upon his back. With bare feet and in ragged garments he traversed the city and reerected the symbol of the world's faith upon the assumed site of Calvary. This event is still commemorated throughout the Roman Catholic world by the annual festival of the " exaltation of the holy cross."

    Marvellous stories, the innocent exaggerations of weak minds or the designed invention of less conscionable shrewdness, fed the credulity of the people. Bishop Arculf told of having seen the three tabernacles still standing upon the Mount of Transfiguration. Bernard of Brittany as an eye-witness described the angel who came from heaven each Easter morn to light the lamp above the Holy Sepulchre.

    At the opening of the ninth century the friendship of Haroun-al-Raschid, King of Persia, for Charlemagne extended the privileges of pilgrims. The keys of the sepulchre of Jesus were sent by him as a royal gift to the Emperor of the West. Charle magne's capitularies contain references to " alms sent to Jerusalem to repair the churches of God," and to provide lodging, with fire and water, to pilgrims en route.

    The cruel persecution by Mad Hakem, the caliph of Egypt , made scarcely an eddy in the current of humanity moving eastward. Counts and dukes vied with prelates in the multitude of their companions. In 1054 the Bishop of Cambray started with a band of three thousand fellow-pilgrims. In 1064 the Archbishop of Mayence followed with ten thousand, nearly half of whom perished by the way.

    In the latter part of the eleventh century, as has been related, the strong hand of the Turk first effectually checked the pilgrims. The horrors of the atrocities perpetrated by this new Mohammedan power afflicted Europe less than the cessation of the popular movement. The evil was twofold, secular and spiritual.

    Pilgrimage was often a lucrative business as well as a pious performance. In the intervals of his visits to the sacred places the European sojourner plied his calling as a tradesman ; the Franks held a market before the Church of St. Mary ; the Venetians, Genoese, and Pisans had stores in Jerusalem and the coast cities of Phenicia. The courtiers of Europe dressed in the rich stuffs sent from Asia, and drank the wine of Gaza. A great traffic was done in relics. The pilgrim returned having in his wallet the credited bones of martyrs, bits of stone from sacred sites, splinters from furniture and shreds of garments made holy by association with the saints. These were sold to the wealthy and to churches, and their value augmented from year to year by reason of the fables which grew about them.

    In more generous minds the passion for pilgrimage was fed by the desire for increased knowledge. Travel was the only compensation for the lack of books. One became measurably learned by visiting, while going to and returning from Palestine, such cities as Constantinople or Alexandria, to say nothing of the enlightening intercourse with one's fellow- Europeans while passing through their lands.

    Mere love of change and adventure also led many to take the staff. If in our advanced civilization men cannot entirely divest themselves of the nomadic habit, but tramp and tourist are everywhere, we need not be surprised at the numbers of those who indulged this passion in days when home life was exceedingly monotonous and its entertainment as meagre.

    But the chief incentive to pilgrimage was doubtless the supposed merit of treading the very footprints of our Lord. Not only was forgiveness of sins secured by kneeling on the site of Calvary, but to die en route was to fall in the open gateway of heaven, one's travel- soiled shirt becoming a shroud which would honor the hands of angels convoying the redeemed soul to the blissful abodes. Great criminals thus penanced their crimes. Frotmonde, the murderer, his brow marked with ashes and his clothes cut after the fashion of a winding-sheet, tramped the streets of Jerusalem, the desert of Arabia, and homeward along the North African coast, only to be commanded by Pope Benedict III. to repeat his penance on even a larger scale, after which he was received as a saint. Foulques of Anjou, who had brought his brother to death in a dungeon, found that three such journeys were necessary to wear away the guilt-mark from his conscience. Robert of Normandy, the father of William the Conqueror, as penance for crime walked barefoot the entire distance, accompanied by many knights and barons. When Cencius assaulted Pope Hildebrand, the pontiff uttered these words : " Thy injuries against myself I freely pardon. Thy sins against God, against His mother, His apostles, and His whole church, must be expiated. Go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem."

    We are thus prepared to appreciate the incentive to the crusades which men of all classes found in the speech of Pope Urban at Clermont, in inaugurating the movement : " Take ye, then, the road to Jerusalem for the remission of sins, and depart assured of the imperishable glory which awaits you in the kingdom of heaven."

Origin of the Pilgrim

    There is no decisive evidence as to the exact date when the custom of pilgrimages to the Holy Land first obtained in the Christian Church. To the early Christians Jerusalem may well have seemed the city of the wrath rather than of the love of God. To them it was rather the scene of the death than of the resurrection of Christ, and its sacred associations were perhaps obliterated in horror at its profanation with heathen worship under the Roman name of Aelia Capitolina.


­    But when Christianity found a champion in Constantine the Great, Jerusalem began to raise its head among the cities of the world. The piety of this Emperor or his mother, Helena, built churches on the traditional scenes of Our Lord's birth and burial ; traditional only, since the almost coeval legend of the Invention of the Cross shows clearly that all exact knowledge had been . lost. Constantine himself is credited with the intention of a visit to the Holy Land, and from this time we can trace the history of the sacred pilgrimages from century to century. That emperor was yet alive when a pilgrim from Bordeaux made the journey by land to Jerusalem, and left a record which still survives. In the Holy City he saw the pool of Solomon, the pinnacle whence Satan tempted Christ to throw Himself, and the little hill of Golgotha, which was the scene of the Crucifixion. At other places, too, he notes with care whatever events in Scripture history had made them famous. Clearly men were already seeking to identify the chief scenes of the sacred narrative, although in their credulity they were ready to accept whatever absurdities invention might offer ; such, for instance, as the sycamore tree into which Zacchaeus had climbed.

­    By the end of the fourth century the practice pilgrimages had so much increased as to give rise to the custom of collecting alms for the relief of the poor at Jerusalem. It was well, contended St. Jerome, that men should reverence holy shrines and relics. That saint himself, when forced to leave Rome, made his home in the Holy Land, and there his noble patroness, Paula, came to see him, and visit in his company Elijah's tower at Sarepta, the house of Cornelius at Caesarea, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Hebron. Paula herself wrote afterwards to her friend Marcella : " We do not doubt that there are holy men elsewhere than here, but it is here that the foremost of the whole world are gathered together. Here are Gauls and Britons, Persians and Armenians, Indians and ^Ethiopians, all dwelling in love and harmony." In Jerome's time Jerusalem already possessed so many sacred places that the stranger could not visit them in a single day. A hundred and fifty years later, after the city had been adorned by the splendid buildings of Justinian, they cannot have been less in number.

Europe on the Eve of the Crusades


    The once luxuriant civilization of Rome had been swept away by the Northern invaders as completely as a freshet despoils the fields when it not only destroys standing vegetation, but carries with the debris the soil itself. The most primitive arts, those associated with agriculture, were forgotten, and the rudiments of modern industries were not thought of. Much of the once cultivated land had, as has elsewhere been noted, reverted to native forest and marsh, and in places was still being purchased by strangers on titles secured by occupancy and first improvement, as now in the new territories of America. But even nature's pity for man was outraged; the bounty she gave from half-tilled acres was despoiled by men themselves, as hungry children snatch the morsels of charity from one another's hands. What was hoarded for personal possession became the spoil of petty robbers, and what was left by the neighborhood marauder was destroyed in the incessant baronial strife. To these devouring forces must be added the desolating wars between the papal and imperial powers, the conquest and reconquest of Spain by Moors and Christians, and the despoiling of Saxon England by the Normans. Throughout Europe, fields, cottages, castles, oftentimes churches, were stripped by the vandalism which had seemingly become a racial disposition. To this ordinary impoverished condition was added the especial misery, about 1195, of several years' failure of crops. Famine stalked through France and middle Europe; villages were depopulated. Cruel as they were, men grew weary of raiding one another's possessions when there was nothing to bring back but wounds. Even hatred palled when unsupported by envy and cupidity.

­    The crusades gave promise of opening a new world to greed. The stories that were told of Eastern riches grew, as repeated from tongue to tongue, until fable seemed poor in comparison with what was believed to be fact. All the wealth of antiquity was presumed to be still stored in treasure-vaults, which the magic key of the cross would unlock. The impoverished baron might exchange his half-ruined castle for some splendid estate beyond the iEgean, and the vulgar crowd, if they did not find Jerusalem paved with gold like the heavenly city, would assuredly tread the veins of rich mines or rest among the flowers of an earthly paradise. The Mohammedan's expectation of a sensual heaven after death was matched by the Christian's anticipation of what awaited him while still in life.

­    They who were uninfluenced by this prospect may have seized the more warrantable hope of opening profitable traffic with the Orient. The maritime cities of Italy had for a long time harvested great gains in the eastern Mediterranean, in spite of the Moslem interruptions of commerce. Would not a tide of wealth pour westward if only the swords of the Christians could hew down its barriers ?

    The church piously, but none the less shrewdly, stimulated the sense of economy or greed by securing exemption from taxation to all who should enlist, and putting a corresponding burden of excise upon those who remained at home, whose estates were assessed to pay the expenses of the absent. The householder who found it difficult to save his possessions while keeping personal guard over them was assured that m all his family and effects would be under the watchful protection of the church, with anathemas already forged against any who should molest them. If one were without means he might borrow to the limit of his zeal, with exemption from interest. It was understood that the Jews were still under necessity of paying back the thirty pieces of silver with which they had bought the Christians' Lord, the interest on which, compounded through the centuries, was now equal in amount to all there might be in the vaults of this accursed race.

    When we remember the wars of modern times which have originated in the cupidity of men, we are not surprised that the same disposition, inflamed by the sense of dire need at home and the vision of untold treasures outre mer % with heavenly rewards beyond the sky, should have led to the same result in an age that knew almost nothing of the arts of peace.

The Feudal System and the Crusade

In accounting for the crusades we must consider the governmental condition of Europe at the time. Under no other system than that of feudalism would it have been possible to unify and mobilize the masses for the great adventure. Had Europe then been dominated by several great rulers, each with a nation at his control, as the case has been in subsequent times, even the popes would have been unable to combine the various forces in any enterprise that was not purely spiritual. Just to the extent in which the separate nationalities have developed their autonomy has the secular influence of the Roman see been lessened. Kings and emperors, whenever they have felt themselves strong enough to do so, have resented the leadership of Rome in matters having temporal bearings.

¬Nor would the mutual jealousies of the rulers themselves have allowed them to unite in any movement for the common glory, since the most urgent calls have never been sufficient to unite them even for the common defense, as is shown by the supineness of Catholic Europe when, in the fifteenth century, the Turks crossed the Marmora and assailed Constantinople.

But in the eleventh century there was no strong national government in Europe ; kingship and imperialism existed rather in name than in such power as we are accustomed to associate with the words. At the opening of the tenth century France was parcelled out into twenty- nine petty states, each controlled by its feudal lord. Hugh Capet (987-996) succeeded in temporarily combining under his sceptre these fragments of Charlemagne's estate; but his successors were unable to perpetuate the common dominion. In the year 1000 there were fifty-five great Frankish lords who were independent of the nominal sovereign. Indeed, some of these nobles exercised authority more weighty than that of the throne. Louis VI. (1108) first succeeded in making his lordly vassals respect his kingship, but his domain was small. " fie de France, properly so called, and a part of Orliannais, pretty nearly the five departments of the Seine, French Vexin, half the count ship of Sens, and the countship of Bourges — such was the whole of it. But this limited state was as liable to agitation, and often as troublous and toilsome to govern, as the very greatest of modern states. It was full of petty lords, almost sovereign in their own estates, and sufficiently strong to struggle against their kingly suzerain, who had, besides, all around his domains several neighbors more powerful than himself in the extent and population of their states " (Guizot).

In Spain much of the land was still held by the Moors. That which had been wrested from them was divided among the Christian heroes who conquered it, and who, though Feudal System rules were not formally recognized, held it with an aristocratic pretension commensurate with the leagues they shadowed with their swords.

¬In Germany, though imperialism had been established firmly by Otho the Great, the throne was forced to continual compromise with the ambition of its chief vassals, like the dukes of Saxony, Bavaria, Swabia, and Franconia. A papal appeal to such magnates was sufficient at any time to paralyze, or at least to neutralize, the imperial authority.

¬The Norman holdings in the south of Italy, the independence of the cities of Lombardy in the north, the claims of the German emperor and of the popes to landed control, were typical of the divisions of that unhappy peninsula.

¬Later than the age we are studying, Frederick Barbarossa (1152-90) enjoined that "in every oath of fealty to an inferior lord the vassal's duty to the emperor should be expressly reserved." But it was not so elsewhere. When Henry II. (1154-89) and Richard I. (1189-99) claimed lands in France, their French vassals never hesitated to adhere to these Knglish lords, nor " do they appear to have incurred any blame on that account. St. Louis (1226-70) declared in his laws that if 'justice be refused by the king to one of his vassals, the vassal may summon his own tenants, under penalty of forfeiting their fiefs, to assist him in obtaining redress by arms ' " (Hallam).

The extent to which the French barons were independent of the throne will be evident from a glance at their privileges. They possessed unchallenged :

(1) The right of coining money. In Hugh Capet's time there were one hundred and fifty independent mints in the realm.

¬(2) The right of waging private war. Every castle was a fortress, always equipped as in a state of siege.

¬(3) Immunity from taxation. Except that the king was provided with entertainment on his journeys, the crown had no revenue beyond that coming from the personal estates of its occupant.

¬(4) Freedom from all legislative control. Law-making ceased with the capitularies of Carloman in 882. The first renewal of the attempt at general legislation was not until the time of Louis VIII. in 1223. Even St. Louis declared in his establishments that the king could make no laws for the territories of the barons without their consent.

¬(5) Exclusive right of original judicature.

¬But if such was the independence of the feud-holder in his relations to the sovereign, those beneath him were in absolute dependence upon their lord. This is seen in the following obligations of feudal tenants to their superior :

¬(1) Reliefs: sums of money due from every one coming of age and taking a fief by inheritance ; fines upon alienation or change of tenant ownership.

¬(2) Escheats : reversion to the lord of all property upon a tenant's dying without natural heirs, or upon any delinquency of service.

¬(3) Aids : contributions levied in special emergency, as the lord's expedition to the Holy Land, the marriage of his sister, eldest son, or daughter, his paying a " relief " to his overlord, making his son a knight, or redeeming his own person from captivity.

(4) Wardship of tenant during minority. This involved on the part of the lord the right to select a husband for a female dependent, which alliance could be declined only on payment of a fine equal to that which any one desiring the woman could be induced to offer for her.

If the feudal system pressed so harshly upon those who were themselves of high rank, it need not be said that the common people were utterly crushed by this accumulation of graded despotisms, whose whole weight rested ultimately on the lowest stratum. The mass of the lowly was divided into three orders :

(1) Freemen possessing small tracts of allodial land, so called because held by original occupancy and not yet merged in the larger holdings. There were many freemen in the fifth and sixth centuries, but in the tenth century nearly all the land of Europe had become feudal. The freemen, whose possessions were small, soon found it necessary to surrender land and liberty for the sake of protection by some neighboring lord.

¬(2) Villains or serfs, who were attached to the land and transferable with it on change of owners.

¬(3) Slaves. The degradation of the servile class was limitless, the master having the right of life and death, entire use of the property and wages of his people, and absolute disposal of them in marriage. Slavery was abolished in France by Louis the Gross (1 108-37) so f ar as respected the inhabitants of cities ; but it took nearly two centuries more to accomplish the abolition of servitude throughout the kingdom.

The cities were, indeed, rising to assert their communal, if not manhood, rights. The communes, as they were called, demanded and received privilege in certain places of electing any persons to membership as citizens who were guaranteed absolute ownership of property. But the communes were far from even suggesting anything like the modern democratic systems, and were opposed by clergy and nobility. " So that," says Guizot, " security could hardly be purchased, save at the price of liberty. Liberty was then so stormy and so fearful that people conceived, if not a disgust for it, at any rate a horror of it." Men had not evolved the morality which could make a commonwealth. Law was bound on men only by forcq. The wall of the castle, grand and impressive as wealth could build it, or only a rude addition to the natural rock, was the sole earthly object of reverence. To the strong man came the weak, saying, " Let me be yours ; protect me and I will fight for you."

It will be evident that under the feudal system patriotism, in the modern sense of attachment to one's national domain, can scarcely be said to have existed. While we may not believe recent French writers who assert that the love of their country as such was born with the Revolution a hundred years ago, it is certain that the mediaeval attachment was no wider than to one's immediate neighborhood. The crusading Count of Flanders, on viewing the desolate hills about Jerusalem, exclaimed, " I am astonished that Jesus Christ could have lived in such a desert. I prefer my big castle in my district of Arras/' The love of the peasant seems to have been only for his familiar hills and vineyards, and his loyalty was limited by the protecting hand of his lord.

Yet generous spirits could not remain forever so narrowly bounded in their interests. Men were ready to hear the call to a wider range of sympathies and actions. The summons for the crusades thus furnished the lacking sentiment of patriotism; but it was a patriotism that could not be bounded by the Rhine or the Danube, by the Channel or the Pyrenees. Europe was country ; Christendom was fatherland.

¬At the same time the compactness of each feud, the close interdependence of lord and vassal, furnished the condition for the organization of bands of fighting men, ready to move at once, and to continue the enterprise so long as the means of the superior should hold out. There was needed to start the crusading armies no council of parliament or alliance of nations, hazarded and delayed by the variant policies of different courts. If the baron was inclined to obey the call of his ghostly superior, the successor of St. Peter, his retainers were ready to march. And the most brawling of the barons was superstitious enough to think that the voice of the Pope might be the voice of God. If he did not, his retainers did, and disobedience to the papal will might cost him the obedience of those subject to him. Besides, many of the feudal lords were themselves in clerical orders, with their oath of fealty lying at the feet of the Holy Father.

Thus Europe, though divided into many factions, and, indeed, because the factions were so many, was in a condition to be readily united. We shall see in a subsequent chapter that it was in the interest of the holy see to apply the spring which should combine and set in motion these various communities as but parts of that gigantic piece of ecclesiastical and military mechanism invented by Hildebrand.