Uta Ranke-Heinmann the Prophetess of the Descent from the Cross
As far as it lies in our power we should make Jesus climb down from the cross and go on living. In this way we can erase the image of a terrible God that matches the intellectual void of Christian Theology. This image of a God who wills the death of his own Son for the sake of a holy cause and who would if necessary also the death of other human beings, for other holy causes, grows pale and gives way to another image of deity: the image of gentle deity, a deity of the living and not of killing (Ranke-Heinmann 1992 274).
Protestants and Catholics may disagree about many things but they are bound together in an inexorable blood brotherhood when it comes to the meaning of blood for redemption. They value the execution very highly and refuse to do without it. The human race cannot be redeemend without blood (Ranke-Heinmann 1992 274).
According to Christian tradition even the mother of the victim said yes to his execution: Archbishop Antoninus of Florence (d1459) "Had no one been prepared to carry out the crucifixion through which the world was redeemed, Mary would have been ready to nail her son to the cross herself. We may not assume she was inferior in perfection and obedience to Abraham, who offered his only son as a sacrifice. " Pope Pius X said Mary didn't stand "lost in pain at this painful sight but joyfully by the cross of her son". John Paul II says that Mary "lovingly consented in a maternal spirit ... to the sacrifice of the victim she had borne" (Ranke-Heinmann 1992 272).
"Over twenty years ago when ... ordained a priest, I didn't yet know how closely the clerics' image of God ... resembles the bloodthirsty-yet-bountiful god of the Aztecs Tonatiuh much more than it does the 'Father' of Jesus Christ" - An ex-priest "The heavenly Father does not hold back (as did the god of Abraham), he sacrifices his only son, his dearest and thereby himself for us ... Can anyone deny that the very concept of the sacrifice of reconciliation, at least in the popular mind, often gave rise to downright pagan misunderstandings,: as if God was so cruel , indeed so sadistic, that his rage could be molllified only through the blood of his own son?" - Hans Kung (Ranke-Heinmann 1992 280, 286).
"But the ultimate source of the doctrine of sacrificail death is not only particularly bloody, but also particularly archaic: It derives from the most ancient form of sacrifice, the kind so-long avoided, human sacrifice ... Pitiless righteousness now reckoned up the debts for which payment was demanded, and the Christs of the sacrificial death doctrine paid them with his innocent blood" - Ernst Bloch (Ranke-Heinmann 1992 291).
When Cardinal Ratzinger disclaims: "The principle of sacrifice is not destruction but love ... How should God find joy of his Son" and blames it on the Jews or human sin "The fact that the perfectly just man, when he appeared became crucified ... tells us bluntly what a human being is", Uta makes this reply "Two thousand years of Christian theology ... has froxen the crucifixion and pertified it into dogmatic edifice.It has built substrauctures under and superstructures over this death. It treats the crucifixion as a death without which there is no redemption ... Indeed it is not so certain that Christians are not losing their sense of compassion because of the doctrine of the cross. ... It is not so certain that with its inhuman theology of the cross, Christianity, instead of making humans more humane, hasn't just promoted man's inhumanity to man (Ranke-Heinmann 1992 295).
The Blood of the Redeemer and the Greater Blood of the Jews
Jesus' accursed death by 'hanging on a tree' has become an archetypal death symbolizing guilt, attonement, pain and foirgiveness but it should be seen in proportion to the history of his times. Jesus' plight in many ways was only secondary to that of many Pharisees and their entire families: Once when Alexander Jannaeus was officiating as high priest at the feast of Tabernacles the crowd pelted him with citrons which they had brought with them for the celebraton; this riot was quelled by the slaughter of six thousand Jews and resulted in a barrier across the Temple court. Afterwards there was a more serious rebellion. The Seleucid king Demetrius Eucaerus wall called by the opposition to rescue them, but his initial success caused a wave of Jewish revulsion, leading to Alexander re-establishing his position. He celebrated his success with a great banquet at which eight hundred of the Jewish rebels - evidently as the sequel proves members of the Pharisee party - were crucified and their wives and children slaughtered before their eyes while they yet hung living on their crosses.
After his death, Alexander's widow Salome seized power. She had long disapproved of her husband's policy of brutal terrorism, and this fact had been known to the Pharisees. She relied on the support and guidance of the Pharisees allowing the return of exiles and imprisoned. Her reign is recalled in the Talmud as a time of universal properity when 'the rain fell on the night before the Sabbath, so that the grains of wheat were as large kidneys and the grains of barley as olive stones and the beans as gold dinars". But when she was encouraged to put some of those implicated in the crucifixion of the 800 to death, Aristobalus one of those Idumaeans whom John Hyrcannus had converted to Judaism at the point of the sword only two generations before, and others threatened to take service under Aretas of Nabatea, gaining most of the fortresses.
Josephus estimated that 1.1 million people died in the seige of Jerusalem alone. Only 97,000 captives were taken. 11,000 died of starvation awaiting a decision. Combatants, the aged or infirm were dispatched. Many were sent to the mines or to the theatres to be killed by the sword or wild animals.
Galilee, as the home of the Jewish resistance movement, became from end to end a scene of fire and blood. The Romans night and day devastated the plains, pillaged the property and killed all capable of bearing arms reducing the population to servitude. Later in the war in another slaughter "One could see the whole lake red with blood and covered with corpses, for not a man escaped. During the following days the district reeked with a dreadfulstench and presented a spectacle equally horrible. The beaches were strewn with wrecks and swollen carcasses." (Schonfield 194).
John 11:50 "Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not."
The true message of Christ's death was to end death. Jesus was the Messiah of Israel. Had more people listened to the message of the Prince of Peace the 'field of blood' would not have become an ocean. You could say this was the Pangs of the Messiah ... but the Kingdom?
At the beginning of the Jewish Revolt in AD 66, the hilltop fortress of Masada was held by a Roman garrison. This garrison was expelled by the Zealots, who maintained control of the fortress until 73, when it was finally conquered by the Romans. During the final siege, 960 Zealot resistors, men and women alike, committed mass suicide rather than live as slaves. Each slew his brother or sister in arms. The Jewish historian Josephus had at first organized the struggle against the Romans and had been a commandant. When the fortress of Jotapata was conquered by the Romans, he and forty companions saved themselves by taking refuge in a cistern. There Josephus argued that they should surrender to the Romans, whereupon his comrades wanted to kill him as a traitor. Then the decision was reached to commit mass suicide. Josephus delivered a speech to his men on the sinfulness of suicide and proposed they draw lots to decide the order in which each one had to kill his comrade. In the end the only two left were Josephus and another man. Since neither of them wanted to kill the other, Josephus convinced his companion to surrender to the Romans. Then Josephus prophesied to the Roman general Vespasian that he and his son would become emperors. When Vespassian did after Nero died in 68 he gave Josephus his freedom and awarded him all sorts of honours. We are as indebted to Josephus' uncanny tenacity for survival as we are to Jesus' uncanny instinct for his own death as sacrificial atonement.
"The idea that one should sacrifice to God the dearest thing of all, namely human life, is as alive among Christians as it was among the pagans. Instead of sacrificing one's firstborn ... in Christianity the idea of martyrdom takes over: the sacrifice of one's own life ... bloody martyrdom remains the supreme perfection" (Ranke-Heinmann 1992 292).
Living in Christ's example and eagerly anticipating the imminent Kingdom of God to be at hand, many of the early Christians strode eagerly to the death of the martyr in emulation of Jesus. Just as John was beheaded before him, so Stephen was stoned and Paul purportedly also. Saint James was dismembered slowly digit by digit. The evangelical eagerness of the Christians, came into conflict, first with the Jews and then with the Roman authorities, who saw the cult as a semi-cannabalistic flesh and blood consuming superstition which was disrupting the public peace. Many Christians bravely or foolishly went willingly to their deaths with such conviction that others who witnessed their unflinching resolution themselves became drawn into the vortex of Christian martyrdom.
Nero, looking for a scapegoat for a fire which swept Rome found the Christians an ideal choice. Tacitus records "Therefore to scotch the rumour [tat the fire had taken place by his own order] Nero substituted as culprits and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians (Ranke-Heinmann 1992 105). Suetonius list this as one of Nero's positive achievements: "First then , those of the sect were arrested who confessed; next on their disclosures, vast numbers were convicted, not so much on the account of arson, but for hatred of the human race. And ridicule accompanied their end: they were covered with wild beasts' skins and torn to death by dogs; or they were fastened on crosses, and , when the daylight had failed, were burned to serve as torches by night. Nero had offered his gardens for the spectacle ..." Neros excesses aroused even Tacitus's compassion: "Even for criminals who deserve extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; forit was not , as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man's cruelty, that they were being destroyed." (Pagels 1979 94).
The Christian group bore all the marks of conspiracy. They were followers of a man executed for magic and treason. They were atheists who denounced as demons the gods, even the genius of the emperor himself. Finally rumour indicated their secrecy concealed atrocities; their anemies said they ritually ate human flesh and drank human blood. Although Trajan advised Pliny against accepting false accusations and endorsed freeing anyone who denied association, the lack of a real crime of substance in such charges led to abuse by anyone who bore someone a grudge.
Even when they tried to persuade the accused to come to their senses for their own accord, sometimes ordering a stay of execution for a month, the accused often preferred a gruesome death to having to atone later to Jesus for denying him, even as Peter himself had done. "You wish no time for reconsideration?" "In so just a matter, there is no need for reconsideration." Justin Martyr comments "no one can terrify or subdue us who believe in Jesus Christ ... though beheaded and crucified, and thrown to the wild beasts, in chains, in fire, in all kinds of torture, we do not give up our confession; but the more such things happen, the more do others, in larger numbers, become believers." Tertullian, who claimed the sight of Christians dressed to look like Attis being torn apart in the arena, or burned alive as Hercules, despited initially enjoying these ludicrous cruelties ofthe noonday exhibition,ultimately inspired his own conversion, a literal one "You must take up your cross and bear it after your master,... the sole key to unlock paradise is your life's blood."
The hatred of heresy came hand in hand with the love of martyrdom. Some did recognise that perhaps this was against the will of God, since Jesus had died so they night not have to, particularly gnostic 'heretics' who were not so uniformly literal minded, but were instead diverse. Some supported it some opposed it on the grounds that it was no instant fix to replace realization. It is the irony of history that out of the orthodox churches collective solidarity inthe face of the holocaust of martyrdom came also the eclipse of the gnostic 'inner path' (Pagels 1979 94-113).
The story of one of the confessors in Lyons, the slave woman Blandina, illustrates what it was like to be a Christian in a cost-cutting Roman holiday spectacle (Pagels 1979 101-2): "All of us were in terror; and Blandina's earthly mistress, who was herself among the martyrs in the conflict, was in agony lest because of her bodily weakness she would not be able to make a bold confessor of her faith. Yet Blandina was filled with such power that even those who were taking turns to torture her in every way from dawn to dusk were weary and exhausted. They themselves admitted that they were beaten, that there was nothing further they could do to her, and they were surprised that she was still breathing, for her entire body was broken and torn."
On the day set for the gladiatorial games, Blandina, along with three of her companions, Maturus, Sanctum, and Attalus, were led into the amphitheater: "Blandina was hung on a post and exposed as bait for the wild animals that were let loose on her. She seemed to hang there in the form of a cross, and by her fervent prayer she aroused intense enthusiasm in those who were undergoing their ordeal ... But none of the animals had touched her, and so she was taken down from the post and brought back to the jail to be preserved for another ordeal ... tiny, weak, and insignificant as she was, she would give inspiration to her brothers ... Finally, on the last day of the gladiatorial games, they brought back Blandina again, this time with a boy of fifteen named Ponticus - Every day they had been brought in to watch the torture of the others, while attempts were made to force them to swear by the pagan idols. And because they persevered and condemned their persecutors, the crowd grew angry with them, so that... they subjected them to every atrocity and led them through every torture in turn." (Pagels 1979 101-2) After having run through the gauntlet of whips, having been mauled by animals, and forced into an iron seat placed over a fire to scorch his flesh, Ponticus died. Blandina, having survived the same tortures, "was at last tossed into a net and exposed to a bull. After being tossed a good deal by the animal, she no longer perceived what was happening... Thus she too was offered in sacrifice, while the pagans themselves admitted that no woman had ever suffered so much in their experience." (Pagels 1979 101-2)
Ignatius is a classic example of what Ranke-Heinmann (1992 207) calls 'a reckless self-destroyer, a neurotic seeker of martyrdom, and a religious masochist ... [who] has stood sponsor to the morbid addiction to martyrdom of many Catholic saints'. He speaks for himself: "I long for the beasts that are prepared for me, and I pray that they may be found prompt for me ... let them come on me fire, and cross, and struggles with wild beasts, cutting and tearing asunder, rackings of bones, mangling of limbs, crushing my whole body, cruel tortures of the devil, may I but attain Jesus Christ!"
An Immortal Shrine to Perpetua: I offer a 'widely popular true story of the time' described by Elaine Pagels (1988 33-6) as a shrine to the way in which the Kingdom of the Father has led to precipitate and tortured death on the part of Christian believers. Whatever their courage and conviction, the prophesied Kingdom has been too long in coming to justify such needless loss of young life. The fallacy that the Kingdom was about to arrive was shared by groups such as the Montanists. Perpetua's sacrifice of herself is even more poignant in a young girl. Because her name is Perpetua she remains forever a living symbol in her precipitate martyrdom of that physical immortality which is vested in the passage of the generations through the fecundity of the female line.
The story tells of a mistress and her personal slave who were convicted as Christians after they refused to revere the emperor's image. Together they were thrown to wild animals and slaughtered in the public amphitheater in Carthage in a spectacle celebrating the emperor's birthday. The aristocratic protagonist, Vibia Perpetua, fluent in both Greek and Latin, wrote about her experiences from the time of her arrest until the evening of her execution. Perpetua, twenty-two years old, recently married, and nursing her infant son, was arrested along with her friends Saturus and Saturninus and her personal slave Felicitas and the slave Revocatus. Perpetua and her companions were scourged and thrown into a stifling and crowded African jail. After her arrest, Perpetua's father, .. out of love for me," she wrote, "was trying to persuade me to change my decision." Refusing his pleas to give up the name Christian, Perpetua rejected her familial name instead, although she says she grieved to see her father, mother, and brothers "suffering out of compassion for me." At first, she wrote, "I was tortured with worry for my baby there," but after she gained permission for him to stay with her in prison, "at once I recovered my health, relieved as I was of my worry and anxiety for the child."
Then my brother said to me, "Dear sister, you already have such a great reputation that you could ask for a vision indicating whether you will be condemned or freed." Since I knew that I could speak with the Lord, whose great favors I had already experienced, I confidently promised to do so. I said I would tell my brother about it the next day. Then I made my request and this is what I saw. There was a bronze ladder of extraordinary height reaching up to heaven, but it was so narrow that only one person could ascend at a time. Every conceivable kind ofiron weapon was attached to the sides of the ladder: swords, lances, hooks, and daggers. If anyone climbed up carelessly or without looking upwards, he/she would be mangled as the flesh adhered to the weapons. Crouching directly beneath the ladder was a monstrous dragon who threatened those climbing up and tried to frighten them from ascent. Saturus went up first. Because of his concern for us he had given himself up voluntarily after we had been arrested. He had been our source of strength but was not with us at the time of the arrest. When he reached the top of the ladder he turned to me and said "Perpetua, I'm waiting for you, but be careful not to be bitten by the dragon " I told him that in the name of Jesus Christ the dragon could not harm me. At this the dragon slowly lowered its head as though afraid of me. Using its head as the first step, I began my ascent. At the summit I saw an immense garden, in the center of which sat a tall, grey-haired man dressed like a shepherd, milking sheep. Standing around him were several thousand white-robed people. As he raised his head he noticed me and said, 'Welcome, my child." Then he beckoned me to approach and gave me a small morsel of the cheese he was making. I accepted it with cupped hands and ate it. When all those surrounding us said "Amen:' I awoke, still tasting the sweet cheese. I immediately told my brother about the vision, and we both realized that we were to experience the sufferings of martyrdom. From then on we gave up having any hope in this world (Young 47).
Perpetua's father, anticipating that the Christians were about to be given a hearing, returned to the prison "worn with worry" to plead with Perpetua to offer sacrifice for the welfare of the emperors, kissing her hands as he spoke: "Daughter ... have pity on your father, if I deserve to be called your father, if I have loved you more than all your brothers; do notabandon me.... Think of your brothers; think of your mother and your aunt; think of your child, who will not be able to live once you are gone.... Give up your pride! You will destroy all of us. None of us will ever be able to speak freely again if anything happens to you." But Perpetua refused and, she said, "he left me in great sorrow." Then, she continued, one day while we were eating breakfast we were suddenly hurried off for a hearing. We arrived at the forum, and straightaway the story went about the neighborhood near the forum and a huge crowd gathered. We walked up to the prisoner's dock. All the others when questioned admitted their guilt. Then, when it came my turn, my father appeared with my son, dragged me from the step, and said: "Perform the sacrifice-have pity on your baby! "
Hilarianus the governor, who had received his judicial powers as the successor of the late proconsul Minucius Timinianus, said to me: "Have pity on your father's grey head; have pity on your infant son. Offer the sacrifice for the welfare of the emperors." "I will not," I retorted. "Are you a Christian?" said Hilarianus. And I said: "Yes, I am. When my father persisted in trying to dissuade me, Hilarianus ordered him to be thrown to the ground and beaten with a rod. I felt sorry for my father, just as if I myself had been beaten. I felt sorry for his pathetic old age. Then Hilarianus passed sentence on all of us: we were condemned to the beasts, and we returned to prison in high spirits.
On the day before her execution, Perpetua wrote down another vision: She dreamed that she was led to the amphitheater, where enormous crowds waited to see her fight with a ferocious Egyptian athlete. 'Then a certain man appeared, so tall that he towered above the amphitheater. He wore a loose purple robe with two parallel stripes across the chest; his sandals were richly decorated with gold and silver. He carried a rod like that of an athletic trainer, and a green branch on which were golden apples. He motioned for silence and said, "If this Egyptian wins, he will kill her with the sword; but if she wins, she will receive this branch" Then he withdrew.
"My clothes were stripped off, and suddenly I was a man." She fought and wrestled until she got him into a headlock and so won the fight. "But when I saw that we were wasting time, I put my two hands together, linked my fingers, and put his head between them. As he fell on his face I stepped on his head. Then the people began to shout and my assistants started singing victory songs. I walked up to the trainer and acccpted the branch. He kissed me and said, 'Peace be with you, my daughter" And I triumphantly headed towards the Sanavivarian Gate. Then I woke up realizing that I would be contending not with wild animals but with the devil himself, but I knew that I would win the victory."
Perpetua concludes her journal with the words "So much for what I did until the evening of the contest. About what happened at the contest itself, let whoever write about it who will." Perpetua's slave Felicitas was pregnant when she was arrested and was in her eighth month as the execution date approached: "Felicitas was very distressed that her martyrdom would be postponed because of her pregnancy; for it is against the law for pregnant women to be executed." She feared she would have to survive her Christian companions and alone endure a later execution along with criminals. Two days before the execution the Christians prayed for her in one torrent of common grief, and immediately after their prayer the labor pains came upon her. She suffered a good deal in her labor because of the natural difficulty of an eight-month delivery.
One of the Christian women took the infant daughter to raise as her own, leaving Felicitas free to join her companions. As Perpetua had hoped, a fellow Christian continued the story, telling two anecdotes about her imperious response to the harsh treatment to which the Christians were subjected in prison. Perpetua dared speak directly to the tribune in charge, protesting, "We are to fight on the emperor's birthday. Would it not be to your credit if we were brought forth on that day in a healthier condition?" The officer, visibly disturbed, ordered improvements in the prisoners' treatment and granted increased visiting privileges for their families and friends. When the day arrived, Perpetua and Felicitas, together with their Christian brothers Revocatus, Saturninus, and Saturus, were led out of the prison to the gates of the amphitheater. The officer in charge, following the common practice, ordered the men to dress in robes of priests of the god Saturn, and the women to dress in the costumes of priestesses of the goddess Ceres, as if they were offering their deaths in sacrifice to the gods. Perpetua adamantly refused, saying: "We came to this of our own free will, so that our liberty should not be violated. We agreed to pledge our lives in order to do no such thing [as sacrifice to the gods]. And you agreed with us to do this." Again her plea prevailed, and the officer yielded. But just as Perpetua and Felicitas were to enter the arena, they were forcibly stripped naked and placed in nets, so that even the crowd was horrified when they saw that one was a delicate young girl, and the other woman fresh from childbirth, with milk still dripping from her breasts. And so they were brought back again and dressed in loose tunics.
A mad heifer was set loose after them; Perpetua was gored and thrown to the ground. She got up and, seeing Felicitas crushed and fallen went over to her and lifted her up, and the two stood side by side. Then after undergoing further ordeals and seeing Saturus enbdure agonizing torture. Perpetua and Felicitas, along with the others were called to the centre of the arena to be slaughtered. A witness records that Perpetua "screamed as she was struck on the bone; then she took the trembling hand of the gladiator and guided it to her throat".
It is said in the Golden legend that Perpetua was devoured by a lion and Felicitas by a leopard.
Modern Martyrdom in the Christian Shadow of Death
Martyrdom becomes Murder : Christian Jihad and Genocide
Of course this violence, which in early Christian times was self-directed, as Christianity became a state religion of Rome, took on dark tones of violence to others as expressed in the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Witchhunts and religious wars. By comparison, the frank violence of Dionysus and his Maenads was trivial and cathartic.
The word crusade derives from biblical injunction Matt 10:38: "He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me." The Crusaders continued an older tradition of the Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, often imposed as a penance. As early as 217 the Cappadocian bishop Alexander is recorded to have made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. For Christians, the very name of Jerusalem evoked visions of the end of time and of the heavenly city.
Jerusalem had been under Muslim rule since the 7th century, but pilgrimages were not cut off until the 11th century, with the rise of the Seljuk Turks. To help rescue the Holy Land fulfilled the ideal of the Christian knight. Papal encouragement, the hope of eternal merit, and the offer of Indulgences motivated thousands to enroll in the cause. Now, the crusaders assumed a dual role as pilgrims and warriors, regarded as a justifiable war, because it was fought to recapture the places sacred to Christians, a Christian jihad.
The Crusades were a response to appeals for help from the Byzantine Empire, threatened by the advance of the Turks. The year 1071 had seen both the capture of Jerusalem and the decisive defeat of the Byzantine army. The hopes of the Papacy for the reunification of East and West, the nobility's hunger for land at a time of crop failures, population pressure in the West, and an alternative to warfare at home were major impulses. Many participants were lured by the fabulous riches of the East. The major European powers saw them as a means of extending trade routes.
The First Crusade was launched by Pope Urban II on Nov. 27, 1095. He appealed for volunteers to set out for Jerusalem and promised remission of ecclesiastical penances as an incentive. The response was overwhelming. With the cry Deus vult! ("God wills it"), thousands took the cross. Bands of poorly armed pilgrims, inexperienced and poor, set out for Constantinople under Peter The Hermit and Walter the Penniless even before the army gathered. Some began by massacring Jews in the Rhine valley. Many perished on their way east, and the rest were destroyed by the Muslims when they crossed into Anatolia.
Christian greed was telling in the first crusade, when the men of Peter the Hermit's army had attacked the area around Nicea. Ten thousand French of utter cruelty had plundered the territory, dismembered some of the babies, others they put on spits and roasted them over a fire, those of advanced years, they subjected to every form of torture. When the Turkish Sultan heard what had happened, he placed men in ambush on the route to Nicea, and knowing the Frank's love of money sent two two energetic men to Peter's camp to announce the forces had captured Nicea and were dividing up the spoil. 'It threw them into total confusion. They immediately set off along the road to Nicea with no semblance of order, all forgetting their military skill and discipline. They thus all fell to the Turkish ambushes and were miserably wiped out. Such a large number of Franks became the victim of the Turkish swords that when the scattered remains of the slaughtered men were collected, they made not merely a hill or mound or peak, but a huge mountain, deep and wide, most remarkable, so great were the pile of bones' (Hallam 67-8).
The main army, mostly French and Norman knights assembled at Constantinople captured Antioch and finally Jerusalem (July 15, 1099) in savage battles. By the end of the campaign, four Crusader states had been formed along the Syrian and Palestinian coast: Continuing rivalry , however, undermined any chance of consolidating these acquisitions almost from the beginning.
The second Crusade had its immediate cause in the loss (1144) of Edessa to the Muslims of Mosul and Aleppo. King Louis VII of France and the German King Conrad III tried to lead separate armies through Anatolia. What remained of them joined in an unsuccessful siege of Damascus. The Christians failed to take Damascus in the second crusade because some men who had influence over the kings and pilgrim leaders were offered a vast sum of money to commit an act of treachery. They falsely advised the army to attack the city from the other side, where it was supposed to have far fewer defences, but when the army encamped there, they found they had little food or water. 'The pilgrim leaders held counsel and decided to return home. The kings and leaders were covered in confusion and fear and their business unaccomplished because of our sins were obliged to return home' (Hallam 146).
The second crusade had had women riding astride horses in "a manner more masculine than the Amazons". It was said also that Elanor of Aquitane and the other court ladies caused an unchaste atmosphere of adultery to develop, and to slow down the army with the weight of their lavish supplies. Elanor had had an affair with her uncle and even in one mythical account with Saladin. Elanor was romanitcally involved with her uncle, Raymond of Antioch, and wished to stay with him telling the king she was too closely related to him to stay married to him. The king, who loved the queen with an almost excessive passion was persuaded to force her to go with him to Jerusalem because guilt could hide under the the name ofkinship and because of the disgrace if he was deserted by his queen. Resentment rose in their hearts and did not recede. The king because of her unfaithfulness left early in secret from Antioch. He who had been received with such honour on his arrival left ignominiously (Hallam 146-7).
To encourage successive crusades, the Pope abrogated the right of women to object to their husbands leaving on crusade, causing many women to accompany their men. In the seige of Acre in the third crusade, many of the women attacked the Turks with huge knives, bringing back severed heads in triumph (Hallam 140-2). "Having to do with women is the birdlime of the devil. Therefore I do not agree with female participation in a major campaign to be carried out by men. However a territory stripped of its population cannot be restored without the presence of women, therefore including women in a crusade can be considered useful in order to resettle the conquered land with a new population" (Hallam 168).
The Third Crusade was a response to the conquest (1187) of almost all of Palestine, including Jerusalem, by Sultan Saladin, who had consolidated Muslim power in Mesopotamia, Syria, and Egypt. The Crusading effort disintegrated through attrition and lack of cooperation. Acre was recaptured, Jaffa was secured, and Cyprus occupied.
Richard the Lion-heart, beloved of Robin Hood, presided over the beheading of 2700 Islamic men, women and children of Acre at the beginning of the thrid crusade in 1191, illustrates the Christian will to religious slaughter. The occasion marks a breach of faith. Upon their surrender after a three-year seige, Saladin arranged for an exchange of prisoners and the return of the relic of the True Cross, lost in the Battle of Hattin, but regrettably fulfilled his part of the bargain first.
By contrast with the treacherous Christians, Saladin was a man of honour."Once during the seige of the Battle of Hattin in 1187 when I was riding at the Sultan's side against the Franks, an army scout came to us with a sobbing woman beating her breast. She came from the Frankish garrison. Saladin asked his interpreter to question her. "Yesterday some Muslim theives entered my tent and stole my little girl. I cried all night. My commanders told me the King of the Muslims is merciful: we will ley you go to him and ask for you daughter back. Thus I have come and I place all my hopes in you. Saladin was touched and tears came to his eyes. He sent someone to the slave market to look for the girl. and less than an hour later a horseman arrived bearing the child on its shoulders. The girl's mother threw herself on the ground and smeared her face with sand All those present wept with emotion. She looked heavenward and began to mutter incomprehensible words. Thus was her daughter returned to her" (Hallam 157).
In the Fourth Crusade (1202-04) Pope Innocent III attempted to reorganize the Crusading efforts under papal auspices. But lack of funds to pay for the passage of the 10,000 Crusaders in Venice forced a diversion of the mostly French army. At the request of the Venetians, the Crusaders first attacked the Christian city of Zara, in Dalmatia. Then they sailed on to lay siege of Constantinople. The Byzantine capital fell in 1204; it was looted - particularly for its treasures of relics.
There followed the tragic episode of the Children's Crusade (1212), in which thousands of children perished from hunger and disease or were sold into slavery on their way to the Mediterranean. The last Christian bastion on the Syrian coast, Acre, was stormed by the Marmeluke sultan in 1291.
In religious terms, the Crusades hardened Muslim attitudes toward Christians leading to further jihad. At the same time, doubts were raised among Christians about God's will, the church's authority, and the role of the papacy. Religious fervor yielded to disinterest and skepticism. The Crusader states and the Latin Empire of Constantinople were short-lived. Only the military orders founded in the East (Hospitaliers, Templars etc.) had an appreciable influence on later European politics.
During the 13th century, Crusades were increasingly used by the papacy against foes in the West. A precedent had been set by the Crusade against the Slavic pagan Wends in Germany (1147) and the granting of Crusaders' indulgences for the fight against Muslims in Spain. These Crusades were followed by Crusades against the Albigenses (heretics in southern France; 1209-29) and the Baltic Prussians and Lithuanians. This use of Crusades as mere tools of power politics continued into the 14th and 15th centuries.
The Crusade against the Cathars and Albigenses
In the eleventh century, dissent spread from the Bogomils, a Balkan sect who believed, like the Manicheans, that the flesh and the material world was evil. Only the world of the spirit was without sin and the only hope of attaining it was to cominune face-to-face with God. The idea took firm hold around Albi, in southern France. Soon, its adherents the Cathars - the katharol, with an elite of perfecti or or pure ones - controlled much of the Languedoc. They believed in two eternal principles of good and evil, did not acknowledge the sacraments, the doctrines of hell or purgatory, or the resurrection of the body and developed their own church and ritual, rejecting the authority of the Church. They had lives of simplicity and penance in which salvation lay only in the Lord. The Pope became alarmed at the threat to his power and proclaimed a crusade against them. Thousands of Cathars were killed and many inore tortured into accepting the true faith. Laws were passed to suppress the Albigensian heresy, and the first Inquisition established to ensure that they were applied. It set about its task with zeal. By 1244, with the fall of the fortress of Montsegur in the Pyrenees, the Cathars had been crushed.
Early in the war of the Catholic Church against the heretics of Languedoc, both Cathars and Catholics were besieged by an army of the Church within the walls of Beziers. On the day of the feast of Mary Magdelene they killed their viscount in the church dedicated to her name and were in turn horrendously punished on the same day for repeating the Albigensian heresy that she was Christ's concubine. It was, said contemporaries marvelling, a double miraculous occasion (Haskins 135).
When the city fell, the commanding general was asked who to slaughter: heretics, his men assumed, must surely be separated from believers. Their leader's reply was simple: it presaged, in more brutal terms, what may become the attitude of the legal system. 'Kill them all,' he said, 'the Lord will know his own'; if there is any doubt about who has sinned, then all must be punished to ensure that the guilty do not escape (Jones 223,241). Our forces spared neither rank nor sex nor age. About twenty thousand people lost their lives at the point of the sword. The destruction of the enemy was on an enormous scale. The entire city was plundered and put to the torch. Thus did divine vengeance vent its wondrous rage (Hallam 232).
After discussion, our men entered the town of Carcassone with the cross in front. When the church had been restored they placed the Lord's cross on top of the tower ... for it was Christ who had captured the town and it was right that his banner should take precedence. ... The venerable abbot of Vaux-de-Cernay went to a great number of heretics who had gathered in one of the houses wishing to convert them to better things, but they all said with one voice "Why are you preaching to us? We don't want your faith We deny the chursh of Rome. You are wasting your time" Neither life nor death can turn us from the beliefs we hold." He then went to see the women gathered in another building but the female heretics were more obstinate and difficult in every way. Simon de Montfort first urged the heretics to convert, but having no success, he dragged them out of the castle. A huge fire was kindled and they were all thrown into it. It was not hard for our men to throw them in, for they were so obstinate in their wickedness that they threw themselves in. Only three women escaped whom a noble lady snatched fromthe flames and restored to the Holy Church. When the heretics were burned all the others who were in the castle renounced the heresy and were restored to the Holy Church (Hallam 234).
In 1223 Pope Gregory IX charged the Dominican Inquisition to undertake the final extirpation of the Albigensians. Laymen were forbidden to possess a bible or any book of religious ritual in the vernacular. Every parish had a team of heretic hunters.
The Inquisition (Walker 436-448)
The Albigenses and Waldenses in the 12th century first led to the episcopal Inquisition, after a crusade was first led against them. Along with public disgust at the church's avarice, there was a growing suspicion - sparked by Gnostic philosophies from the east - that rejected the church's myths of the garden of Eden, the fall, original sin, heaven and hell, the virgin birth, the meaning of salvation, the flesh and blood eucharist.
The papal Inquisition was formally instituted by Pope Gregory IX in 1231. Following a law of Holy Roman Emperor Fredrick II, Gregory ordered convicted heretics to be seized by the secular authorities and burned. The power of the Inquisition was established and enlarged by a series of papal bulls. That of Pope Innocent IV, May 15, 1252, authorized seizure of their goods, imprisonment, torture, and, on conviction, death, all on minimal evidence. Papal edicts prescribed imprisonment and confiscation of property as punishment for heresy and threatened to excommunicate princes who failed to punish heretics. (Grollier)
Notoriously harsh in its procedures, the Inquisition was defended during the Middle Ages by appeal to biblical practices and to the church father Saint Augustine, who had interpreted Luke 14:23 "And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled." as endorsing the use of force against heretics. However the version of this parable in Thomas 64 says no such thing: "The master said to his servant, 'Go outside to the streets and bring back those whom you happen to meet, so that they may dine'." (Grollier)
Historian Henry Charles Lea, called the Inquisition "a standing mockery of justice - perhaps the most iniquitous that the arbitrary cruelty of man has ever devised.... Fanatic zeal, arbitrary cruelty, and insatiable cupidity rivalled each other in building up a system unspeakably atrocious. It was a system which might well seem the invention of demons."
St. Bernard deplored the church's greed: "Whom can you show me among the prelates who does not seek rather to empty the pockets of his flock than to subdue their vices?" I Bulgarian writers said the priests of Rome were given to drunkenness and robbery, and "there is none to forbid them." Priests were a privileged class, but their privileges were more and more resented. In the 12th century, monasteries made themselves into wineshops and gambling houses; nunneries became private whore-houses for the clergy; priests used a confessional to seduce female parishioners.
Frere Raymond Jean was executed for preaching against the church's abuses. He said bitterly, "The enemies of the faith are among ourselves. The Church which governs us is symbolled by the Great Whore of the Apocalypse, who persecutes the poor and the ministers of Christ." Nicholas de Clamanges, rector of the University of Paris, declared : "The priesthood has become a misery reduced to profaning its calling.... Who do you think can endure, among so many other abuses, your mercenary appointments, your multiple sale of benefices, your elevation of men without honesty or virtue to the most eminent positions?" "
In 1325 Pope John issued the bull Cum inter nonnullos, which "infallibly" declared it was heresy to say Jesus and his apostles owned no property. Inquisitors were ordered to prosecute those who believed Jesus was a poor man. The Spiritual Franciscans, who did so believe, were taught an immediate lesson when the pope had 114 of their number burned alive.
Along with public disgust at the church's avarice, there was a growing suspicion-sparked by Gnostic philosophies from the east - that the church's myths of the garden of Eden, the fall, original sin, heaven and hell, the virgin birth, the meaning of salvation, and so on, were literally untrue. Because people refused to believe the eucharistic bread and wine were literally flesh and blood, the papacy lost all of Bohemia.
Despite being prominent among the crusaders, the Knights Templar were systematically eliminated in the inquisition. They form a case study. With the loss of Acre the Order became vulnerable to attack on the grounds it had failed to protect the Holy Land. The Templars were wealthy in money and land, especially in France and their goods were a temptation. Jacques of Molay the last grand master of the Temple was burnt at the stake in Paris in 1314 after a long ordeal lasting seven years. He had been hastily condemmed as a relapsed heretic after retracting his confessions that the Templars had denied Christ and spat on the cross, during obscene reception ceremonies. Although these were the work of agents of the French King Philip IV the fair, they were technically carried out by the Papal inquisitor. The Pope Celment IV clearly doubted that an Order which had shed so much blood for the Church militant could be so riddled with heresy and corruption, but was presented with a fait accompli. Philip IV's devotion to the monarchial cult and morbid religiosity could have been exploited by counsellors with more material motives.
The Spanish inquisition was particularly severe and selected out ex-Jews and ex-Moslems who had previously been forced to convert to the Christian faith. Mass burnings on the Iberian peninsula were known as 'acts of faith'. They were held once a month on the average, usually on a Sunday or holiday so all could attend; to stay away was thought suspicious. Sometimes the spectators were invited to participate, as in the diversion genially known as "shaving the new Christians." This meant setting fire to the hair or beards of those waiting their turn at the stake.
Torture Confiscation and Death
The violence of the Inquisition was its ultimate weapon. Modern apologists say the Inquisition served some good purposes, like helping secular courts bring criminals to justice. Only a few decades ago, even Catholic manuals mendaciously claimed the Inquisition was a purely civil tribunal. Actually, the Inquisition was uninterested in secular crimes, except insofar as they could provide a basis for a charge of heresy or witchcraft.
With the arrival of the inquisitors in a locality, a period of grace was proclaimed for penitent heretics, after which denunciations were accepted from anyone, even criminals and other heretics. Two informants whose unknown to the victim were usually sufficient. The court then conducted an interrogation, and tried to obtain a confession, frequently through physical torture. This practice probably started in Italy under the impact of rediscovered Roman civil law and made use of such painful procedures as stretching of limbs on the rack, burning with live coals, squeezing of fingers and toes, or the strappado, a vertical rack. (Grollier)
Suspects and witnesses had to swear under oath that they would reveal everything. Unwillingness to take the oath was a sign of heresy. If a person confessed, the judges prescribed minor penances like flogging, fasts, prayers, pilgrimages, or fines. Denial of the charges without counterproof, obstinate refusal to confess, and persistence in the heresy resulted in life imprisonment or execution accompanied by total confiscation of property. Since the church was not permitted to shed blood, the sentenced heretic was surrendered to the secular authorities for execution, usually by burning at the stake. (Grollier)
After the arrest, the property of the accused was instantly confiscated. Nothing seems to have been returned. The popes publicly praised the rule of confiscation as a prime weapon against heresy. Affluent Italy made its inquisitors incredibly rich in the 14th century. "When I have you tortured, and by the severe means afforded by the law I bring you to confession, then I perform a work pleasing in God's sight; and it profiteth me." Sometimes confiscation took place even before confession. Accused persons were expected to pay the expenses of their own imprisonment, even of their own torture. In England, accused witches were sometimes acquitted; yet they were kept in prison until they paid the expenses of their unlawful imprisonment. The Inquisition's prisoners had to pay for their own food in prison. Without money they starved.
Lea commented: "There is something so appallingly grotesque in tearing honest, industrious folk from their homes by the thousand, in thrusting them into dungeons to rot and starve, and then evading the cost of feeding them by presenting them to the faithful as objects of charity" (Walker 436)
The entire financial network of European society was strained by its religious masters. "No creditor or purchaser could be sure of the orthodoxy of him with whom he was dealing.... The practice of proceeding against the memory of the dead after an interval virtually unlimited, rendered it impossible for any man to feel secure in the possession of property, whether it had descended in his family for generations, or had been acquired within an ordinary lifetime." Families of the accused were left destitute, and no one dared help them for fear of falling under suspicion. The Inquisition established the law of property seizure for suicides, which remained the rule in most European countries and the British Isles until 1870.
The witch's or heretic's trial was a mockery. The accused had no lawyer; Pope Boniface directed that trials must be conducted "simply, without the noise and form of lawyers."
Officially, the rule was that torture could be applied only once. But, by a semantic quibble, it could be "continued" any number of times, even over a period of years, each pause being considered a suspension," not an end. There are records of some victims tortured over fifty times. Those who died under torture either "committed suicide" or were slain by the devil. Having confessed under torture, the accused was compelled to repeat the confession outside the torture chamber, knowing he would be returned thereto if he didn't obey; nevertheless, this was recorded as a confession given "freely and spontaneously, without the pressure of force or fear," and court documents often claimed the accused had confessed without torture. Sometimes confessions were described as "voluntary" if they were obtained after the first degree of torture-binding and racking. Some victims were listed as "confessed without torture" after exposure to only one instrument, a spiked iron press that crushed the legs.
Bernard Delicieux, was excommunicated, arrested, tortured, and burned alive for expressing the opinion that St. Peter and St. Paul, if tried by the Inquisition's methods, would certainly be convicted of heresy. Inquisitors were placed entirely above the law by Pope Innocent IV in his bull of 1252. Every ruler and citizen must assist them on pain of excommunication.
Torture was officially sanctioned in 1257 and remained a legal recourse of the church for five and a half centuries until it was abolished by Pope Plus VII in 1816. The victims in those five and a half centuries were literally countless. Official burnings were only a beginning. There were also the disrupted, starving families; unrecorded suicides; unofficial lynchings; hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, who died unnoticed in the papal crusades against heretical groups.
Inquisitors were empowered to absolve each other, their officers, torturers, and executioners, of blood guilt for their victims' deaths. They also forced the condemned witches to recite: "I free all men, especially the ministers and magistrates, of the guilt of my blood; I take it wholly upon myself, my blood be upon my own head." (Walker 440)
One inquisitorial judge, Dietrich Flade, experienced a revulsion for his lifework and dared to say openly that the confessions wrung from his victims were false, due only to their agony. His archbishop had Flade arrested and put on the rack himself until he admitted having sold his soul to Satan; then he was burned.
Another inquisitor-saint was Peter Martyr (Piero da Verona), whose case has never been adequately explained. He was so zealous in Lombardy as to embarrass even the church. In 1252 he was assassinated, and within a year he was canonized. His killers were captured but not prosecuted. One of them later became an inquisitor himself. Another entered the Dominican order, died in old age, and was canonized as St. Acerinus.
Lea says, "All the safeguards which human experience had shown to be necessary in judicial proceedings of the most trivial character were deliberately cast aside in these cases, where life and reputation and property through three generations were involved. Every doubtful point was decided 'in favor of the faith'. . . . Had the proceedings been public, there might have been some check upon this hideous system, but the Inquisition shrouded itself in the awful mystery of secrecy until after sentence had been awarded and it was ready to impress the multitude with the fearful solemnities of the auto da fe." (Walker 440)
The Inquisition's long survival can be attributed to the early inclusion of offenses other than heresy: sorcery, alchemy, blasphemy, sexual aberration, and infanticide. After Pope Innocent's reign, it was heresy not to believe in witchcraft. No one was allowed to speak against the extermination of witches. The number of witches and sorcerers burned after the late 15th century appears to have been far greater than that of heretics. (Grollier)