As late as 1518, plans were laid by Pope Leo X and the monarchs of Europe to set aside their internal quarrels and once more embark on a holy crusade to wrest the Middle East from the Ottoman Turks. Finding accord and even enthusiasm for the enterprise, all was on course for a multi-year military campaign to push east from North Africa through Egypt and south through the Balkans to squeeze the Turks in a pincer movement and finally oust the Muslims from the Holy Land. The great plan, however, died when Europe was once again plunged into internal strife with the death of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, who had been a leader for the crusade.
Even this event in conjunction with the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation, the rise of ever-stronger Ottoman leaders, and the political conflicts throughout Europe did not completely erase the idea of crusading. Today, the military orders of the Teutonic Knights and the Knights Hospitallers continue to care for the poor and the sick, albeit without raising armies to fight.
For over 400 years, crusaders (“those signed by the cross”), out of Christian zeal, a declared love for their fellow man, and, in many cases, a simple desire for fortune, glory, and heavenly reward, marched to the Holy Land to battle both a real and perceived threat to their way of life and their religious beliefs. The story of the many crusades are filled with an unremitting passion to keep or return the home of Christianity to Christians. It is also filled with death, destruction, disorder, greed, avarice, and self-interest on all sides. Much of what occurred during the Crusades has come down to us today in the form of continued suspicion among religious ideologies—not only between Christians and Muslims, but also internally among Christian sects and, to some degree, among Muslim sects. There is certainly much to learn about our own history from a better understanding of the Crusades and what led so many to crusade.