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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

HIST 610 Test Essay - The Fourth Crusade

In an effort to keep a steady supply of blog posts (at least for now), I will be posting several essays from my HIST classes' tests. As mentioned earlier, I am working on getting a MA in Systematic Theology from NDGS. It is a challenge, to be sure, but I am proud to announce that I have, as of now, a 3.8 GPA at the school, the highest GPA I have ever had. I'm pretty excited.

So yes. Below is the first of the test questions I will post. It is from my final for my HIST 610 class (Church History I). I don't remember the exact question, but I think you can figure out what it asked.

The Fourth Crusade was one of the most embarrassing moments in Church history. The crusading army, rather than attacking the Muslims in the Holy Land, instead attacked two Christian cities: Zara and Constantinople. Who is at fault? It disaster was more the fault of men’s pride and greed than the Church, as the events of the crusade show.

The Fourth Crusade was called by Innocent III at the end of the 12th century. The failure of the Third Crusade left the Holy Land in the hands of the Muslims, and the pope hoped for the success of the First Crusade. He called together men to fight the Muslims, and a war council met, deciding to attack the Holy Land by sea, rather than by land. The easiest place to get ships was Venice, and so the crusaders enlisted the help of the Venetian Doge (Duke) Enrico Dondalo. The crusaders ordered a huge amount of ships, and Dondalo promised the product. When the time came to launch the expedition, the Venetians had the ships, but the crusaders didn’t have the money, nor the manpower to sail the ships. Venice had spent most of its wealth in making these ships for the crusade, and the city needed some recompense. Dondalo made a deal. If the crusaders would attack the city of Zara, which was once under Venetian control, then he would forgive them the money owed for the ships. The leaders of the crusade agreed (with a few notable exceptions, such as Simon de Montfort) and headed for the city. The pope, upon hearing of this, immediately condemned such action, pronouncing excommunication on those who would attack a Christian city while on crusade (it didn’t help that Zara was owned by the King of Hungry who was also crusading at that time, though not with the Venetian crusaders. Attacking the land of a crusader carried with it an automatic excommunication). But the crusaders attacked anyway, taking the city, relieving their debts. The normal men were excited to head out to take the Holy Land

Then a visitor came to the camp. He was Alexius Angelus, prince of Byzantium, and he wanted the crusaders’ help in retaking Constantinople from his uncle, Alexius III, who had taken the throne from his father, Isaac II. He promised great wealth and men for the crusade, assuring the crusaders that the people of the city would welcome him, that the coup would be easy, and that he himself would provide for their every need. This sounded great, so the crusaders followed Alexius to Constantinople. Pope Innocent was, again, furious and again excommunicated anyone involved in attacking Constantinople. The crusaders, for the most part, ignored the pope and headed towards Byzantium.

When they arrived, they were met not with cheers from the city’s inhabitants but with garbage (apparently Alexius didn’t have the fan base he claimed he had). The crusaders took the city, an easy feat considering that Uncle Alexius III had fled with the empire’s treasury. Alexius Angelus promised the crusaders wealth; instead, he gave them almost half of what he promised. The result was the destruction of holy items and relics in a frantic attempt to pay back the crusaders. Then, due to popular unrest, Alexius Angelus (now called Alexius IV) is killed by his sergeant, who takes the name Alexius V. The empire is now in the hands of an enemy of the crusaders’ ally (the now deceased Alexius IV), and the crusaders decide to attack the city. They do so, sacking Constantinople in 1204. Easterners remember the year and hate the West because of it.

But was the Church to blame? It seems not, since the pope and his bishops tried in vain to prevent the atrocities. When the crusaders returned they found themselves excommunicated. Would the Church have carried out such a punishment if she had supported the sack? Of course not. If anything, the Church should receive blame for poor management, since the Fourth Crusade got so out of control.

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