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FTER the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in the year 70 of the Christian era, Palestine continued for upwards of two centuries in the condition of a miser
able Roman province, inhabited by a mixed population of Pagans, Jews, and Christians. In Jerusalem, temples of Venus and Jupiter were erected on the most sacred spots of Christian history; and heathenism triumphed in the pos
session of the Holy City of two religions. On the establishment of Christianity in the Roman empire by Constantine in the year 321, this state of things was changed. Palestine and Jerusalem became objects of interest to all Christians, and crowds of pilgrims went to visit the localities celebrated by the Evangelists. Splendid churches were erected on the ruins of the Pagan temples, and every spot ascertained by historical evidence, or pointed out by vague tradition, as the scene of any of the memorable events in the life of Christ and his apostles, was marked by a chapel or a house of prayer. Jerusalem and the Holy Land became the resort of numerous bodies of clergy, who, residing in the churches and monasteries which the piety of the wealthy had founded for them, made it their occupation to point out to pilgrims the various localities which they had come to see, and to exhibit holy relics connected with the Saviour's life and sufferings, into the authenticity of which the eager and craving superstition of the pilgrims did not permit them to inquire.
In the end of the fourth century the gigantic Roman empire, already near its final dissolution, was broken up into two-thé.
Western Empire, the capital of which was Rome; and the Eastern, the capital of which was Constantinople. It was to the latter of these that Syria and Palestine were attached. Before the end of the fifth century the Western Empire had been completely destroyed by the irruption of the German races, and the beginnings of a new European civilisation were rising from its ruins. Meanwhile the Eastern, called also the Greek or Byzantine Empire, remained entire. Its dissolution, however, was near at hand. About the year 630 the Arabs, burning with the spirit of conquest infused into them by the religion of Mohammed, poured into its provinces, as the Huns and Vandals had formerly poured into the provinces of its sister empire of the west. Egypt, Syria, and Palestine were detached from the Byzantine empire, and annexed as dependencies to the great Arabic empire of the caliphs. Thus the religion of Mohammed became dominant in the Holy Land of the Christians, and the temples and chapels of Jerusalem were converted into mosques. PILGRIMAGES TO THE HOLY LANDCRUELTIES OF THE
TURKS-PETER THE HERMIT. Scarcely were the foundations of a new civilisation laid in the west of Éurope—scarcely had the German races been absorbed into the bosom of the old Roman population-when, under the influence of the Latin church, then rearing itself above the universal wreck, the spirit of religious pilgrimages began to revive.
Annually, numbers of pilgrims from Italy or the remote west wended their way through Asia Minor, and southwards along the shores of the Levant; or, as was very common, conjoining the spirit of piety with that of commerce, they were carried in trading-vessels along either shore of the Mediterranean, extending a voyage undertaken originally for trading purposes, so as to embrace also the great object of a visit to the Holy Land. The treatment of these pilgrims, as well as of the Christian residents, the relics of the old population of Palestine, by the Mohammedan masters of the soil, varied according to the general aspect of the times, and the disposition of the reigning caliph. In return for a certain tribute, the earlier caliphs permitted the Christians of Jerusalem to have a patriarch and an ecclesiastical establishment according to their own forms. Of all the caliphs, the celebrated Haroun al Raschid was the most tolerant, and under him the Christians enjoyed perfect peace.
Under the Fatimite caliphs of Egypt, who conquered Syria about the year 980, a different policy was pursued, and the Christian inhabitants of Palestine, as well as the pilgrims to the Holy Shrine, were treated with the utmost cruelty. The pilgrims were robbed, beaten, and sometimes slain on their journey; the Christian residents oppressed by heavy impositions, and their feelings outraged by insults against their religion, and by the
violation of their domestic ties. Rumours of these cruelties of the Fatimite caliphs toward their Christian subjects and the Latin pilgrims reached the west of Europe, and excited a strong feeling of indignation in the breasts of the pious.
The sufferings of the Christians of Palestine under the Fatimite caliphs were insignificant compared with those which they endured after the invasion and conquest of Palestine by the Turkish hordes in 1065. But recently converted to Moslemism, and therefore more rude and fanatical than the other Mohammedans, these Turks wreaked their vengeance on all alike-Christians, Jews, and even the native Mohammedans. “No description," says the Abbé Vertot, in his History of the Knights of Malta, can give a conception of all the cruelties which they committed. Numbers of the Christians were butchered; the hospital of St John, founded for the relief of pilgrims about seventeen years before by some pious Italian merchants, who had obtained a piece of ground for the purpose, was plundered; and these barbarians would have destroyed the Holy Sepulchre, had not their avarice restrained them. The fear of losing the revenues raised upon the pilgrims of the west preserved the tomb of our Saviour. But, to gratify at once their ararice and their hatred to all who bore the name of Christians, they loaded them with heavier tributes; so that the pilgrims, after having spent all their money in the course of so long a voyage, or having been stripped by robbers, and worn out with hunger and miseries of all sorts, at last
, for want of money to discharge such excessive tributes, perished at the gates of Jerusalem, without being able to obtain the consolation of seeing, before they died, the Holy Sepulchrethe only object of their vows, and the end of so tedious a pilgrimage."
The news of the atrocities perpetrated by the Turks in Jerusalem produced a deep sensation over the whole of Christendom, as well among the Latin Christians as the Roman Catholić nations of the west of Europe were called — as among the Greek Christians—the name given to the population of what still remained of the old Byzantine empire. The latter, however, were more deeply and immediately interested ; for they had reason to dread, from their geographical situation, that if the Turks were not checked, Constantinople, the capital of their own empire, would soon share the same fate as Jerusalem. Accordingly, about the year 1073, the Greek emperor, Manuel VII.,
sent to supplicate the assistance of the Great Pope Gregory VII. against the Turks, accompanying his petition with many expressions of profound
respect for his holiness in particular, and the Latin church in general. Till now, there had prevailed a spirit of antagonism between the Latin and Greek churches; the Roman Catholics regarding the Greek Christians as heretics and schismatics, and the latter yielding spiritual obedience to their own patriarch, and refusing to acknowledge the pope of the west as the universal head of the church. Gregory VII., therefore, eagerly received the application of the Greek emperor for assistance against the Turks, seeing in the career thus opened up for himself and his successors the prospect of a final subjection of the Greek to the Latin church. He resolved, therefore, to give the enterprise his countenance; nay, to march himself at the head of an army raised to deliver the Holy Sepulchre from the hands of the infidels.
Gregory was prevented from ever carrying his designs into execution, and the idea of a crusade died gradually away. Meanwhile the Turks were extending their victories at the expense of the Greek empire. Before the accession of the celebrated Alexius Comnenus to the Byzantine throne in the year 1081, the whole of Asia Minor was in the possession of the Turks; and the Greek empire, shorn of its Asiatic provinces, was reduced so as to include only Greece, Macedonia, Thrace, and Illyria. Asia Minor was broken up into various Turkish kingdoms, the sultans of which soon began to quarrel among themselves—a circumstance which was fortunate for Alexius, as it arrested the progress of the Turks, and retained them on the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus. The disturbed state of Asia Minor, however, only increased the sufferings of the pilgrims who continued to flock from Europe to the Holy Land. Not one out of three returned to recount his hardships, or to thrill the hearts of his relatives and fellow-villagers at home with descriptions of Jerusalem and its environs—the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, the place of Crucifixion, and the Holy Sepulchre.
Among those who undertook the pilgrimage to Jerusalem when the dangers attending it were greatest, was a native of Amiens in France, named Peter; of whose life up to this period all that we know is, that he had served as a soldier in his youth; had afterwards married a lady of rank, but poor and old; and had finally abjured the world from religious motives, and become a monk and an ascetic, obtaining from those who knew him and his solitary manner of life the name of Peter the Hermit. To atone for some crime which haunted his conscience, or for the sins of his youth in general, Peter resolved on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Of the particulars of his journey thither we have no record; we only know that he arrived at Jerusalem in safety, and visited'all the scenes sacred in a Christian's eyes. His, however, was not a mind to be contented with the mere refined enjoyment of having seen what others had not seen—with the mere pleasure of having walked in the streets and suburbs of Jerusalem. No: as he walked along these streets and suburbs, gazing at this and that holy spot, insolent and contemptuous Turks looking on and mocking, his spirit burned and grew bitter within him, and his hand clenched itself convulsively, as if longing for a sword. At night his discourse with the Latin Christian in whose house he lodged was about Jerusalem-its ancient glory, its present degradation, the hopes of its future restoration; and on the same theme he descanted much with Simeon, the pious Greek patriarch of Jerusalem, in whom, although heretical in many points which Peter, as a Latin Christian, deemed important, he found in the main a congenial spirit. In reply to Peter's questions and propositions, the patriarch explained that nothing was to be expected from the Greek empire in behalf of the Holy Land; that the court of Constantinople was so dissolute and corrupt, that a holy enterprise, such as the rescue of Palestine from the Turks, would be the last it would be likely to think of or undertake; and that the only hope was, that the Latin princes might be persuaded to form a league for the grand purpose which had already been entertained by Gregory VII. “This proposal,” says Abbé Vertot, "startled the hermit; but, far from abating his zeal, though he foresaw all the difficulties attending it, he persuaded himself that they might be got over by the assistance and protection of the pope."
Write,” he said to the patriarch, “to the pope and to all the Latin Christians; and seal your letters with the signet of your office as patriarch of Jerusalem. As a penance for
sins, I will travel over Europe; I will describe everywhere the desolate condition of the Holy City, and exhort princes and people to wrest it from the profane hands of the infidels.” The letters were accordingly written, and the hermit set sail with them from Joppa. Arrived in Italy, he presented the patriarch's letters to the pope, detailing at the same time his own observations with respect to the wretched condition of Jerusalem, and urging his holiness to use his authority, as the head of Christendom, to commence an enterprise, the noblest, he said, ever suggested by the Spirit of God to man.
Urban II., who was then pope, was an able and humane man, and both by natural character and by education, as the pupil and protege of his predecessor Gregory VII., quite prepared to enter into a scheme so favourable to the dominance of the papal power as the Crusades. The state of Europe, however, and of Italy in particular, was such as to make it desirable that he should sound the sentiments of Christendom with regard to the enterprise before he actually appeared as its head. In other words, he resolved that the Crusades should be preached from the pulpits of the church before they were commanded by a papal bull. · Calling the Hermit, therefore, he applauded his zeal, expressed his sympathy with his views, and exhorted him to travel through Europe, and stir up the enthusiasm of the people in behalf of the great enterprise to which he had devoted himself. Thus encouraged, the Hermit departed, going from town to town, and from village to village; and, in the language of the chroniclers, "traversing the whole of Europe in less than a year's time." His strange and wild aspect, his glittering eye, his shrill and unearthly eloquence, the grandeur of his theme, his pathetic descriptions of the state of Jerusalem and the Christians there,