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IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 104: Crusade Killing: Regulated or Indiscriminate?, I

Monday 3 July 2023, 11.15-12.45

Sponsor:Centrum för medeltidsstudier, Stockholms universitet
Organiser:Kurt Villads Jensen, Historiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet
Moderator/Chair:Paula Pinto-Costa, Faculdade de Letras, Universidade do Porto
Paper 104-aThe Concept of Cruelty in the Sources of the First Crusade
(Language: English)
Sini Kangas, School of Social Sciences & Humanities, University of Tampere
Index terms: Crusades, Military History, Theology
Paper 104-bSalvation through Slaughter
(Language: English)
John France, Department of History, Swansea University
Index terms: Crusades, Historiography - Modern Scholarship, Military History, Theology
Paper 104-cSanctified Violence? Parisian Exegesis, Treatises, and Sermons on Killing
(Language: English)
Jessalynn Bird, Independent Scholar, Chicago
Index terms: Crusades, Sermons and Preaching, Theology

In the period c.1100- 1300, many understood and presented the crusades as a kind of war that could only be justified if initiated and fought according to the criteria of just war, which insisted that war be used as a last recourse and only for the purposes of defence, and, when unavoidable, that violence be moderated, escalation avoided, and that it only be waged against other combatants (not against, e.g., women and children). In the same period, others argued that crusading could be justified by strong emotions, zeal for God, and in order to take revenge on those who had affronted or blasphemed against Christ. They all deserved to be killed, and crusading was in principle aimed at the total annihilation of the enemy. How did these two attitudes to crusading coexist in practise?

Paper -a: Western sources of the First Crusade refer to unacceptable violence in terms of crudelitas, cruelty. Acts of cruelty most often include indiscriminate killing, torture and enslavement of Christians by Muslims, but also acts of violence by the crusaders against other Christians and, in rare case, even the violent treatment of the Muslim adversary.
The authors judge the nature of the violence by the primary intention behind the act, not as much by the act itself. While punishment of the enemies of God and Christendom could be rightfully brutal, bloodshed motivated by hatred, avarice, vainglory or greed was clearly sinful whatever its purpose.

Paper -b: It is often forgotten that the First Crusade was the First. This is because we tend to speak of the 'Crusading Movement', and this can only too easily result in this unique event being seen in the light of later developments. It is often seen as a uniquely crude and violent expedition which bred more violence and produced what has been called a Huntingdon 'Clash of Civilizations'. This is a false perspective and this paper investigates the degree of falsity and the reasons it has come about.

Paper -c: The moralists of Peter the Chanter's and following generations wrestled with the concept of legitimate and even sacral bloodshed in multiple contexts (judicial, confessional, exegetical, and homiletic). They were aware that multiple groups later labelled as heretical condemned killing in any form and therefore offered their own theories of when killing was justified or even sacralized. Many moralists came from knightly families, and they were also aware of similar discussions in other major monotheistic religions such as Islam and Judaism, and therefore strove to define a spectrum of Christian attitudes towards killing. This paper will focus on the scriptural authorities masters alluded to in biblical commentaries and summae and how those authorities were interpreted both in the classroom but also in treatises intended for public debate, in justificatory histories and in sermons intended to recruit and retain warriors for causes pitched as 'just' or even 'holy'.