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The Roman Catholic Church is a foundation of medieval European culture. However, certain people also had influential effects. These included Pope Urban II, Walter the Penniless, and Peter the Hermit. Everyone in Europe belonged to the Roman Catholic Church except Arabs, Jews, and the people of the Byzantine Empire. The position of Pope had great responsibility. The Pope had more power and wealth than any king or noble.
However, most of the power of the church came from the excommunication. Anyone who had committed an offense against the church was expelled from it. Also, Christians were forbidden contact with anyone excommunicated, even if they were family. One show of the vast power held by the church involved King Henry IV. Pope Gregory VII excommunicated him in 1076 C. E.
King Henry IV was forced to beg for absolution and was eventually forgiven by Pope Gregory VII because he was bound by his position to resolve him. However, if an excommunicated noble remained defiant, he was forbidden to receive the Sacraments as well as the normal procedures. This law kept the nobility in line. The church also had the power to extend sanctuary to anyone accused of an evil offense.
Sanctuary was a place of protection. If a man was being sought after for a crime, one option was for him to enter the church, confess his sins, and be resolved. His seekers had no power over him while he was residing there. The church also provided an education for most people.
The language of the teachings was Latin. Since the church was so large, the task of maintenance was great. Men and women who retreated from worldly distractions were called monks and nuns. Nuns held residence in nunneries; while, monks lived in monasteries. Monks followed the Rule of Benedict. This devoted them to certain work and prayer.
Their work was significant though because Romans and Barbarians of the time considered work to be for slaves and below the level of even commoners. Their main duties were teaching and farming. Since the Catholic religion was such a significant part of every day life, people commonly journeyed to shrines on pilgrimages. Their journey was hard and was often considered a means of penance for sins.
The peasants who could not afford a horse on which to journey had to travel by foot only assisted by a staff. The most common destination of pilgrimages was the Holy City, Jerusalem. In 1064, a group of 7, 000 pilgrims went to Jerusalem and they narrowly escaped death. In 1070, Seljuks took over Jerusalem. Seljuks were people of a Turkish tribe from Western Asia. Their conquest had an eminent effect.
It ruined the commerce of the Western world and they forced the pilgrims to pay taxes, insulted them, plundered their troupes, and persecuted them. In an attempt to rescue the Holy Land from the Infidels, the crusades were instituted. The first crusade was led by Pope Urban II and in an attempt to urge people to join his holy crusade he said that all participants sins would be pardoned, he would break the land up under them, and he said that the fighters would gain recognition for their deeds in heaven. Although the crusade was started by Pope Urban II, the monk, Peter the Hermit, played a vital role. He was responsible for finding most of the recruits.
The amount of crusaders per area was defined by their current political structure. In Italy, there were many Norman recruits, but few Spaniards because the Spaniards were busy with home town controversy. The Norman recruits specifically followed the leader, Robert Guiscard. There were also few recruits from Germany and England. In Germany there were few recruits because their emperor did not respect the cause and in England there were few recruits because they were busy with war.
Most of the recruits came from the land between Scheldt and the Pyrenees. Before the first crusade came to pass, Walter led a mini-crusade. They had no supplies because they planned to live off the land. In contrast to the first crusade the mini-crusade was unsuccessful. The actual first crusade was considered an anti-Semitic raid against the descendants who had crucified the Savior, Jesus.
The soldiers tortured and killed many Jews while on their conquest. After their long journey only few made it to Constantinople. Of all the crusades, the first was the only successful one. In the first, common people walked / rode to Constantinople and prepared for battle.
They were received by Emperor Alexius and he advised them to wait for the reinforcement of the nobles. They did not heed his advice and were massacred. Later though, the nobles arrived with recruited armies, food, and other necessities. They went to battle later and won. However after the first crusade, the two groups split apart and attempts made by either single group did not have the needed impact.
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