Category Archives: Islam

Carolingian Renaissance blitzkrieg recalcitrant Islam; Papacy puissance in scrimmage with Byzantine sovereignty: History of Christianity (Part 4 of 5)

How doth the city sit solitary,
that was full of people!
how is she become as a widow!
she that was great among the nations,
and princess among the provinces,
how has she become tributary!

She weepeth sore in the night,
and her tears are on her cheeks:
among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her:
all her friends have dealt treacherously with her,
they have become her enemies.

Book of Lamentations 1: 1-2 (King James Version)

Christianity was totally unprepared to face the sudden rise of a new faith, Islam. After converting the indigenous Arabic polytheists, within few years of Islam’s birth, the whole of Arabian Peninsula was into its fold. The established Caliphate quickly started tremendous military expansion. Within few years of passing away of Muhammad (570-632), the Caliphate had reached as far as Tripoli in the West and Kabul in the East. Then in the 7th century, under the Ummayad dynasty, the Islamic Empire engulfed even the North of Africa. Abbassid dynasty in the 8th Century further extended the Islamic territories. Baghdad, the capital of the Caliphate, became a place of art and learning.

The serious challenge of Islam to the Christian West was valiantly faced by the Carolingian Empire. A zealous Christian, Charlemagne (742-814) waged many wars against the pagans. His rising power and strong Christian beliefs led the papacy to crown him as the emperor in 800 A.D. Such an act, in defiance of the Augustus in Constantinople, was an act of great significance. This led to the formal end of Byzantine throne’s authority over all Catholic population.

The Western and Eastern Christendom were drifting apart rapidly in the 9th Century. But this did not put a halt in the revival of Arts and learning in the Byzantine world. The western world was witnessing the ‘Carolingian Renaissance’. The continuing fight between the sees of Rome and Constantinople reached its peak in the 9th Century with both sides convoking ecumenical synods and deposing rival members. The formal division of the ancient Catholic Church into Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches was in the year 1054 A.D. This ‘Great Schism’ broke the communion between the sees of Constantinople and Rome. Later the Latin Church in the 11th Century reformed many of its questionable practices.

The rising force of the Seljuk Turks became a gigantic problem to the Byzantine Empire. With no hope remaining of being able to survive their onslaught, the Emperor Constantine IX Monomachus was forced to seek help from the Latin Church. But such asking of assistance from Western Church by the Byzantine Empire was not kindly taken by the Eastern Church which further fuelled a renewed struggle between the Churches.

At the Council of Clermont, in 1095 A.D., Pope Urban II called for the First Crusade. It was mainly for protecting the Eastern Christians from the invading Turks. The crusader armies recovered Nicaea and other places but also massacred numerous people. Subsequently the Second Crusade was undertaken in 1145 A.D., but this time the Seljuq Turks routed them. Saladin led the Muslim opposition to the European Crusaders. His army defeated the Crusaders at the decisive Battle of Hattin in 1187, and thereafter wrested control of Palestine from the Crusaders. The fall of Jerusalem led the Pope to call for the Third Crusade.  The Holy Roman Emperor and the Kings of France and England jointly organised the forces. But they were unsuccessful in taking back the Holy Land and could only negotiate a treaty with Saladin.

Gradually during the 12th Century, the Eastern Christians started resisting the growing presence and influence of the Western Christians in their land. This situation aggravated continuously finally culminating in the Fourth Crusade. This Crusade was called by Pope Innocent III in 1198. And it involved primarily with the Byzantine Empire. In early 13th Century, the Crusader Army attacked and sacked the City of Constantinople.  Subsequent Crusades were not serious military campaigns and thus came the end of the age of Crusades. The Western Christian’s hope of ruling the Holy Land thus remained unfulfilled