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Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Ground Up: Saint Demitrios and the Crusades

When I finally decided that may focus was going to be Medieval European Archaeology, I started diving into the subject. Of course as a you can see by the last editions, the Middle Ages have been my focus.

When I traveled today to the Greek Festival, I had every intention of sharing my experiences for the day. However, when I started to roam the church and study the paintings and depictions of Saint Demetrios, it sparked my interest, especially considering I wasn't looking for a connection between a Greek Saint and the crusades.

Saint Demetrios (Demetrius of Thessaloniki-(Greek: Άγιος Δημήτριος της Θεσσαλονίκης) was a revered Orthodox military saint and Christian martyr during the time of the crusades in the Middle Ages. Many scholars believe he was a member of the Roman Army and a patron of the crusades, along with Saint George.

His cult, created in Thessaloniki, was ever growing and open to external attacks from Slavs moving into the Balkans. It was his interventions during the crusades that led him to the title of a military martyr.

Myth has always surrounded Saint Demetrios as no relics were ever left behind after his death.

What were claimed to be his remains subsequently appeared in Thessaloniki, but even the local archbishop (John of Thessaloniki, 7th century) was publicly dismissive of their authenticity. These are now also kept in Hagios Demetrios. According to legend, these relics were ascertained to be genuine after they started emitting a perfumed scent of myrrh.

Brief Overview of the Crusades

The crusades were an attempt by the papacy to demonstrate their influence over European society. It was a war between the godly followers and the infidels. Due to developments in the Islamic and Byzantine world, this gave rise to the new European civilization to expand their borders. As a new dynasty emerged, the demand for knights was answered leading to the first crusades which were precipitated by various religious aspects and conflicts, and tempted warriors to fight for their religion and engage in their favorite pastime-fighting.

After the division of the Catholic Church of the west and the Eastern Orthodox Church of the Byzantine Empire, the state of the empire was weakened. The head of the Eastern Orthodox Church Michael Cerularius refused to accept the pope as the sole head of the church, therefore forming a great schism between the two branches of Christianity. The Byzantine Empire was constantly open to external threats from the Turks, Normans, and the Pechenegs. So when a new dynasty was formed by Alexius I Comnenus, the leader turned to the west for assistance in a holy war, and his requests were positively answered leading to the crusades.

Christians were on holy pilgrimage to rid the world of infidels and unbelievers, those being the Muslims. So when the pope saw an opportunity to provide papal leadership for a great cause, they rallied the warriors in an attempt to liberate Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The pope promised knights remission of sins allowing for the knights, who died in battle against the pagans, to be absolved from sin through the power of God which the pope had been invested.

The knights of the crusade were initially tempted by religious fervor, adventure, and the opportunity to engage in fighting, which was of course their favorite pastime. Others believed they would gain more land and holdings, a title, and even salvation. Merchants believed the crusades would allow for greater trade opportunities in the Muslim Lands. It was simply a war to rid Europe of young nobles who insisted upon fighting each other, thereby turning the tables and giving them a new target.

The crusades were a massacre that brought about evil side effects that effected the society of Europe for centuries. The hopes of reviving more trade during the crusades would have had the same results without the murders of thousands of people. Not much as changed even today as Christians and Muslims lay in dispute over the Holy Land.

More Related Articles

The Effect of The Crusades on the Jews

The Jews found themselves in a very difficult position between the two religions at war. The treatment of the Jews by the Crusaders in both Europe and the Middle East was an atrocious episode in the chronicle of the Crusades. Jews were always distrusted and scorned but this turned into widespread persecution and slaughter. Read more about the Effect of the Crusades on the Jews By oeillade

Saladin and The Third Crusade

The main objective of the third crusade was to retake Jerusalem from Muslim control. The reason for this was that a military mastermind named Saladin had united almost all of the Middle Eastern countries under one banner. Saladin was from Tirket, modern day Iraq. When he was young his uncle taught him the ways of a military commander. Read more about Saladin and the Third Crusade ByElliot912


Medieval Crusades
The Crusades


Judy Sheldon-Walker said...

Of course you are right about the origin of Christmas, but it does not take away from the beauty of the birth or the loving gift from God. I celebrate it not knowing what better day to celebrate, and am saddened by the fact that some would simply sweep Christ under a rug.

It sounds as if you are having fun discovering and investigating. Love the pictures. My friend Jeanne thinks she found a fossil in her back yard. I have photos if you would be interested in seeing them.

The Ancient Digger said...

That would be wonderful Judy. You should make a post about the find.

Doug Pologe said...

This is all quite fascinating, but aren't we straying from the subject of archaeology?

Ratty said...

I guess this shows that people that fight wars with religion as an excuse never learn. They did it then, and they still do it.

The Ancient Digger said...

Doug, the crusades were a huge part of archaeology, as well as the Saint Demitrios.

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