The Crusaders. Knight. 12th century
The Crusades were a series of intermittent Papal sanctioned military campaigns beginning in the late 11th-century. They commenced with a call to arms by Pope Urban II who was responding to a request for military support for the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine Emperor, Alexios I, needed military reinforcements for the conflict with the westward migrating Turks in Anatolia. Historians debate Urban and the Crusader’s primary motivations. One of Urban's stated aims was to guarantee pilgrims access to the holy sites in the Holy Land that were under Muslim control while his wider strategy may have been to establish himself as head of the united Church and bringing together the Eastern and Western branches of Christendom that had been divided since their split in 1054. What is known though is the unprecedented response to Urban’s preaching and the basis it established for later crusades. Hundreds of thousands of people from many different classes across Western Europe became crusaders by taking a public vow and receiving plenary indulgences from the church. Some were peasants hoping for Apotheosis at Jerusalem. Urban preached that anyone who participated would be forgiven by God of all their sins. In addition some historians argue that participation satisfied feudal obligations and provided opportunities for economic and political gain.