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Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The impact of the Crusades on Europe
(1989)

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


Page 13

Ch. I THE LEGAL AND POLITICAL THEORY OF THE CRUSADE 13 
for fighting against the Moors in Spain or against Albigensians in Languedoc,
as only temporary. Subsequently it was enough that the indulgences should
be announced "according to the statute of the [Fourth Lateran] general council".26
 These problems of public war and private forgiveness are really quite simple,
even in terms contemporary with the crusade. They were reduced to a few clear
phrases by Thomas Aquinas, who had to deal with the objection that "he therefore
who takes the cross according to the form of the papal letter, suffers no
pain for his sins, and thus soars immediately aloft, having achieved the
full remission of sins." Thomas had reservations: "Although indulgences are
very valuable for the remission of pains, yet other works of satisfaction
are more meritorious with regard to the essential reward, which is infinitely
better than the discharging of temporal pains."27 Crusading presupposes death
in the course of a good work, in Aquinas's thought here as much as in the
preaching of Urban. The good confession, the contrite heart, the "good work"
of a just war, these were the reasons to hope for the forgiveness of sin,
and the indulgence was a pious reward for those who feared the penalties
of sin rather than sin itself. The indulgence is here seen to depend wholly
on the identification of the war as just. For this, Aquinas required proper
authority, the just cause, and the right intention. It does not surprise
us that these conditions were believed without difficulty to be satisfied
in the crusade; it was precisely these points that were supposed to characterize
the crusade. 
 The evidence is insufficient, but it seems that the teaching was widely
yet only superficially understood. The Chanson de Roland, even though there
is a large clerical element in its composition, was certainly not written
by a theologian, and it is essentially a work for a lay and courtly, but
war-minded, public. In the Chanson, the warriors do not actually make a good
confession before battle, but they are absolved by Turpin on their knees,
and are given fighting itself as a penance.28 It is true that this passage
promises that they will be holy martyrs if they die, but the absolution and
penance, however lightly or uncertainly conceived, make it clear that "martyr"
here has only a popular sense. True martyrdom was not claimed. Long before,
an eighth-century pilgrim to the Holy Land from Wessex had spoken of being
"martyred" for smuggling. This may have been a joke; but it was no joke in
the cru 
26. Gregory IX, in Tomassetti, op. cit., III, 492—493 (no. 48: 1236).
27. Quaestiones quodlibetales, ii, viii, 2; Summa theologica, III, Supp.,
25:2. 
 28. La Chanson de Roland, ed. Joseph Bédier (Paris, 1937; often reprinted),
lines 1132— 1141. 


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