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Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The impact of the Crusades on Europe

I: The Legal and Political Theory of the Crusade,   pp. 3-38 PDF (14.2 MB)

Page 7

crusades, to "restore lost Jerusalem". In Robert of Rheims' account Urban
called on the Franks to "repel aggression". In the Latin liturgy for the
recovery of the Holy Sepulcher, as reported by John of Würzburg, the
Secreta refers to "the city of Jerusalem, plucked out of the hand of the
pagans".'2 It is necessary to labor this point in order to understand that
from the beginning the notion that the Holy Land belonged of right to Christians
underlay the legal concept of holy war. Palestine, which had been Arab for
centuries, was conceived of as being as much Christian as were Spain and
Sicily. The political fact that Spain, even more than Sicily, had a strong
Latinate population on which to build effective reconquest had no reflection
in political theory. That cultural (and ethnographic) realities meant nothing
is admirably illustrated in a Genoese account of the capture of Caesarea
during the First Crusade. According to this, two Arabs came out of the besieged
city and argued with the legate and the patriarch, asking why the Christians
want to kill people who are made in the form of the Christian God, and take
the Arabs' land, when this is contrary to the Christian religion (or "law"
— lex). The patriarch answered that the city belonged to St. Peter,
not to the Arabs who lived in it and whose ancestors ejected St. Peter; furthermore,
whoever strives against the law of God ought to be killed; to kill him is
not contrary to the law of God, who said "Vengeance is mine." Therefore,
if the Arabs will give up the land of St. Peter, they may safely depart with
their goods, but if they refuse, "the Lord will strike you with his sword
and you will be justly slain."3 This "right" of killing in the crusade was
important, and in due course would be elaborated scholastically. 
 It brings us back directly to the problem of the just war, at this date
only a compendious phrase to cover a group of associated concepts: 
"defensive" war, war "for God" or against the "enemies of God", a "good"
war as distinct from ordinary bad wars, war as penance, and war as a form
of Christian ascetic life and a means of salvation particularly suited to
anyone capable of fighting. The Latin for the crusade is, after all, "bellum
sacrum". At this early stage the idea of the crusade as directing bad instincts
to good ends was important. Fulcher's classic account describes the public
crimes which the bishops and other authorities had failed to repress, such
as the capturing and 
 12. Guibert of Nogent, Gesta del per Francos, II, 4 (RHC, 0cc., Iv, 137-140);
Robert of Rheims, Historia, I, 1 (RHC, 0cc., III, 728); John of WUrzburg,
Descriptio Terrae Sanctae, cap. 13 (PL, 155, col. 1089). Emphasis added.
 13. Caffaro di Caschifellone, Cafari Genuensis de liberatione civitatum
orientis, xv (RHC, 0cc., V, 62—63); Romans 12:19; Deut. 32:35. The
legate Adhémar was already dead, and no patriarch had yet been elected.

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