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How did priests convince teenagers to fight in the Crusades?

Question:

How did priests convince teenagers to fight in the Crusades?

The Crusades:

The Crusades were a series of armed conflicts, taking place predominantly in the late 1000s to the late 1200s, though there were other, small scale attempts that occurred later. The primary goal of the Crusades was to recapture Jerusalem and the surrounding areas from Muslim control and return it to Christian control. Though the Crusades initally had some success, ultimately, they failed in their objective.

Answer and Explanation:

Priests didn't target teenagers specifically when appealing to soldiers to fight in a Crusade.

This was because teenagers as a distinct class was an idea that did not really exist in the Middle Ages, though certainly the idea of younger and older adults did, and differences in the age at which one was considered a legal adult allowed for some concept of adolescence. In many respects, though, a teenager would be considered an adult--or nearly an adult--and therefore, there wouldn't have been any particular efforts made to only recruit young adults, or to target them in particular over older adults.

Furthermore, the only crusade specifically organized around children and teenagers was the Children's Crusade of 1212, and that was not sanctioned by priests, nor any other ordained religious official. Indeed, it might not have been solely comprised of children at all. Consisting of two groups of people, one from Germany and one from France, the Children's Crusade was led by two charismatic boys, Simon and Nicholas. The exact fate of all the participants is unclear, but the Crusade unequivocally ended in disaster. The Crusaders never reached the Holy Land, and indeed, their mission was condemned by all the church officials from whom they sought approval.

Thus, while priests would not go out of their way to recruit teenagers specifically, they certainly attempted to drum up support for the Crusades among men in general, regardless of their age--as did the Pope, who called all the Crusades but the Children's Crusade. Even in that instance, it's possible that news of the failures of the previous Crusades motivated that attempt, and so the participants were responding to similar recruitment strategies sued by priests and other preachers.

Aside from pointing out the necessity of supposedly liberating the Holy Land, priests also motivated people by appealing to their religious beliefs--promising them an instant path to heaven rather than having to go through Purgatory first, less time in Purgatory, and/or the abolishing of the need to do penance, which amounted to the person receiving forgiveness by going on Crusade.

Others went on Crusade for more secular reasons--to amass land, wealth, or prestige, or to ensure the affection of a romantic partner or avenge the death of someone close to them killed in earlier Crusades. Some also went on Crusade because this was the sentence imposed on them by the church, because they had committed some offense against a religious figure.

Thus, the reasons for going were various, and not dependent upon the age of the individual.


Learn more about this topic:

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The Great Crusades: History and Timeline

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Chapter 8 / Lesson 9
31K

Despite the success of the First Crusade, the ventures that followed were disastrous. Examine the history and timeline of the failures of the Great Crusades, and the factors that contributed to complications in crusading abroad, and at home in Europe.


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