The Surprising Purpose of the First Crusade

By Troy Southgate. While the First Crusade is overwhelmingly portrayed as a decidedly Catholic (i.e., Western) affair, the aims and objectives of its chief participants from the West must never obscure those of the great Byzantine Empire to the East. This essay examines four main areas in which a diverse set of motives can be shown to have been at work during the tumultuous events, which left their mark on the world during the final years of the 11th century and affected the way we live today. The author seeks to interpret the rationale that led the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I, Pope Urban II, and vast numbers of crusaders to engage in a historical episode of staggering proportions.


During the reign of Pope Gregory VII, the tense relationship between Catholicism and its estranged counterparts in Constantinople had rarely been so bad. With the advent of Urban II, however, the mutual tension between these opposing strands of Christianity was alleviated somewhat by the pope’s decision to reverse the excommunication imposed on Alexius I some years earlier. Consequently, Alexius himself “welcomed this new gesture of friendship from the papacy and responded at once by calling a synod in Constantinople, attended by the patriarchs of Constantinople and Antioch and some 20 prelates.” [Read the entire article as PDF…]

Taken from
The Barnes Review, July/August 2005: The Surprising Purposes of the First Crusade