By Theodore Shoebat
One of the most prominent historians on the Crusades in the world, Thomas Madden, made a very strong statement in regards to Obama’s deplorable condemnation against the Crusades:
I don’t think the president knows very much about the Crusades … He seems to be casting them as an example of a distortion of Christianity and trying to compare that to what he sees as a distortion of Islam in the actions of ISIS… The initial goal of the Crusades was to give back lands to Christians that been conquered, due to Muslim conquests.
Now, to shed further light on the Crusades, I would like to present to you a chapter from my upcoming book on Christian militancy, which will be the most exhaustive study ever done on the subject of Christian warfare. This chapter is dedicated to the valorous Battle of Nicaea in which the Christian warriors fought against the Turks to retake the city from Islamic tyranny and bring it back to the fold of Christendom.
The Muslim Turks took the city of Nicaea to force it into the empire of Islam. Fulcher of Chartres, a crusader who fought to take back Nicaea into Christian hands, wrote of the devastation caused by the Muslims which he saw:
Oh, how many severed heads and bones of the dead lying on the plains did we then find beyond Nicomedia near that sea! In the preceding year, the Turks destroyed those who were ignorant of and new to the use of the arrow. Moved to compassion by this, we shed many tears there. (Fulcher of Chartres, chron. 1.9.5, in Edward Peters, The First Crusade, ch. iii, p. 42)
The Crusaders saw this type of destruction made by the Turks throughout their travels in the East. They saw heaps of rubble of what was once villages, and orchids and crops scorched and completely destroyed. They saw the city of Iconium utterly ruined and all of its provisionment gutted and seized. (Belloc, The Crusades, ch. iv, p. 64-65)
Before they entered Nicaea, Bohemond cried out to the men with such fervency and emotion that his voice choked up as the tears ran down his Frankish cheeks. His words contain that spirit of Christian militancy, seeing the Faith in light of the Old Testament, with the labors and combats of the prophets of Israel, never ignoring them, neither separating their valiancy with the obligations of the Christian to partake in combat against the wicked, without ceasing nor slumbering:
O soldiers of the Lord and tireless pilgrims to the Holy Sepulchre, who was it that led you to these foreign lands if not He who led the sons of Israel from Egypt dry-shod across the Red Sea? Who else influenced you to leave behind your possessions and the home where you were born? You have given up your relatives and neighbors, your wives and your children — more than that, you have renounced all fleshly pleasures. Now you are born again through confession and penitence, and you show daily through your hard labours. Happy are you who weary yourselves with such work, who will see Paradise before you see your homes again! What an order of soldiers, three and four times blessed! Until now you have stood out as an incitement of God’s anger; but now you are the reconciliation of his grace and the rampart of his faith. So with all this in mind, undefeated soldiers as you are, now that we start for the first time to fight for God, let us not glory in our arms or our strength but in God who is more powerful than all, because the battle is the Lord’s and he is the governor among the nations. (Quoted by Robert the Monk, History of the First Crusade, 2.16)
It was in Nicaea where the Church held the Council to repulse the wiles of Arianism and to affirm the Holy Trinity, and now it was this very city which the Muslims invaded to try to establish the deceptions of Arius. Heresy and Orthodoxy clashed, this time not with words but with arms, it was now here where the crusaders came to proclaim Christ and repulse the enemies of God.
On July 1st, 1097, the Crusades advanced to Nicaea with their banners bearing the Cross and blowing their disquieting horns. They positioned their massive catapults and siege machines, and shooting through the air were the arrows of the Turks, ripping through the hot air dipped in poison.
Charging toward the walls, staring death into her cold eyes, the Latin Christians, alongside two thousand Greek warriors led by general Tatikios, brought up their siege towers, and hailing down upon the city were boulders and stones, stakes and torches. Terror gripped the souls of the inhabitants as the cries of war rang through every ear in the midst of that horrifying moment.
The Turks, under Sulaiman, gathered together in readiness for battle and numbered three hundred and sixty thousand warriors, greatly outnumbering the crusaders. In one moment, the saints clashed with the servants of Satan; swords and spears were thrusted and countless arrows covered the sky. The Turks gained ground with their exceptional skill in archery, while many crusaders found death, having never been tried by such strategy, forcing the Christians to flee in angst and leave their campsite to be plundered by the enemy.
Suddenly, the knights Hugh the Great and Duke Godfrey smashed into the Turkish ranks from behind. Despite this, the crusaders still found themselves surrounded, huddled together like terrified sheep encompassed by wolves. Many a Christian soldier was cut down on that day, yet they still continued to fight, their hearts ever strengthened and fortified by their union. They kept striving relentlessly, and they saw to their surprise the Turks turn their backs and flee.
The knights shouted their war cries and pursued them, many of them not stopping their chase until nightfall. They praised God for their victory, attributing the retreat of the Turks solely to Him. (Fulcher of Chartres, chron. 1.11.2-8; 1.12.2-5, in Edward Peters, The First Crusade, ch. iii, pp. 45-48; John France, “Impelled by the Love of God”, in Thomas F. Madden’s The Crusades, part 2, p. 41)
Notwithstanding this, the battle over Nicaea continued. In one fight, the Count of St. Gilles and even the main chaplain of the soldiers, the Bishop of Puy, with mighty armies and the sign of the Cross, executed a fierce incursion on the Turks, forcing many of them to retreat. (See Edward Peters, The First Crusade, ch. iv, p. 147, The Siege of Nicaea, The Gesta Version)
As time went on, and fighting proceeded, Sulaiman made a promise that he would surrender the city. But as the crusaders were believing this, Sulaiman was regaining strength and collecting more troops. It was a hudna (false peace). The Muslims sent messengers out of the city to call forward reinforcements, and so did they come, with sixty thousand Turks fresh for the intensity of the fray. Down came the Turks from the mountains, but as they charged forward their courage sharply turned into sorrow, as they saw how organized the columns of the Christians were.
The rays of the sun made a cutting reflection upon the soar eyes of the Turks as they went against the armor of the saints. The Count of Gilles counterattacked and took many lives of an innumerable multitude of the enemy. Spears flew, and neither was it possible for one to turn without seeing a lance cut through the desert heat. They turned back to the mountain, and as they sprinted from the columns of the rustic crusaders, they turned only to see the presence of their Christian enemies raising their slaughter weapons and taking many of their lives. The Muslims within Nicaea looked up only to see the raining heads of their Muslim warriors shot by the catapults. (Anselme of Ribemont to Manasses II, in Edward Peters, The First Crusade, ch. v, p. 223; Robert the Monk, History of the First Crusade, 3.3-4)
Swords clashed and many martyrs were made, and as the siege went on a body of ships were seen sailing toward the coast. They belonged to the Byzantine emperor Alexius and were arriving for the aid of the crusaders and for a victory over the Muslims. The Turks, upon seeing these ships, were frightened to tears and lament, while the Christian knights gave glory to God for such assistance.
After such gruesome and ruthless fighting, the Cross ended as the victor. The followers of Allah requested a surrender, Alexius without hesitation gave them leave, and Nicaea was now in Christian hands after seven weeks and three days of grueling warfare. Much of the poor who accompanied the knights perished on account of hunger, declaring before their deaths: “Avenge, Lord, our blood which has been shed for Thee, who are blessed and praiseworthy forever and ever. Amen.” (See Edward Peters, The First Crusade, ch. iv, p. 147, The Siege of Nicaea, The Gesta Version)
Christians entered the city holding up crosses and crying out in Greek and Latin: “Glory to Thee, O God.” (Anselme of Ribemont to Manasses II, in Edward Peters, The First Crusade, ch. v, p. 223; Robert the Monk, History of the First Crusade, 3.5-6)
So pertinent is Orthodoxy to the Christian faith, that at times blood must be spilt for its preservation from the tyrannical hands of heretics. The order of the Church, the peace of Christian society, the preservation of civilization, and the souls of mankind–all of these things are threatened by heresy, and yet all of them are seen for cheap today.
The modern Christian sees men falling into error, and it simply perceives this travesty as merely a choice deserving our respect in the name of “religious liberty.” Christians complain of all of the heresy and apostasy today, without recognizing or admitting that it is there very tolerance of falsehood that is the root of these problems.
It was in this city of Nicaea where hundreds of bishops gathered together just to wrest orthodoxy away from the hands of the heterodox — the Arians — who wished not only to deceive but to kill the believers; for it is the goal of the heretic to rob, to murder, to destroy. It is the predecessors of Abel versus the predecessors of Cain, and still today does this war continue, and if error is not crushed, then surely will the blood of saints spilt on the wailing earth under the feet of the heretic with sword in hand, be the only result of our carelessness toward this great and eternal struggle.
Days later, as they continued to journey through the East, the crusaders were met by a multitude of Armenians who, having gone through so much persecution as we have already seen, came with crosses in the their hands, kissing their feet and their garments because they had heard that the knights would defend them from the Turks and bring them to liberation. (Fulcher of Chartres, chron. 1.15.11)
Similar situations also occurred in other times. The crusaders once had taken the city of Roussa, which was ruled by Muslims and inhabited by Paulician heretics. Once the Muslims and heretics were subdued, the local Christian Armenians praised the accomplishments and happily accepted the crusaders as their new rulers. This same praise for the crusaders was expressed by the Armenians in the Fourth Crusade, in which they met with the French king Louis IX and commended him to God, and he in response did the same for them. (John of Joinville, 565-567; Robert the Monk, 3.27)
It was, after all, for these persecuted Christians that the Crusades began, and yet today many do not acknowledge the help which the crusaders gave to their suffering brethren. Many talk about the Armenian genocide, while at the same time they criticize the Crusades, without taking for the slightest moment the grueling fighting which these warriors undertook to preserve these eastern Christians. If the Armenians gave thanks to the crusaders for their assistance, then who are we, who live in modern comfort, to chastise these knights?
These Christians saw with their own eyes the bloodshed, the slaughtering and kidnapping of their own brethren; they saw things that we can only imagine through the descriptions of books. Surely we cannot correct these persecuted saints on something they themselves lived through, as we live in an era so far from theirs, and so corrupted by the pleasures of luxury.
The Christian fighters rode on swift horses toward Anatolia; the silence of the day brought comfort to the minds of the meditative warriors. Those who accompanied Bohemond turned and saw with startled eyes an army of three hundred thousand warriors, bearing the crescent as their banner, crying forth to the skies a savage shriek in a language unknown to the Christians of France, bringing forth to the eye an awe-inspiring sight.
Not only were these Muslims, but Publicani or Cathar heretics who, because of their equal hatred for the Cross, joined the Muslims in their aspiration to uproot the Holy Faith. The men looked upon a force and the thoughts of an unsettled soul rushed throughout their minds, and a number of them were not sure on whether to fight or to fly before the asiatic horde.
Bohemond commanded the mounted troops to pitch camp alongside a certain river. Before their tents were erected, one hundred and fifty Turkic warriors treading the earth upon horses swift of foot rode to the men, bent their bows and shot poisoned arrows. The Christians rushed to these barbarians without trembling and with arms faster then the hooves of the enemy’s horses slew every one of them.
They continued on and met the Turkish army, eye faced eye, and spirit faced spirit. So great were the numbers of the Turks that they could not flee from the fierce army of God. One moved his massive sword in one direction, and cut a Turk asunder, another did the same and his blade ripped through the human wall of Muslims. They tried to use their arrows, but the distance was so close to the Christians that the very thought remained useless.
The men struck hard their lances upon the Turks, and so numerous were there blows that these lofty weapons broke upon the bodies of their enemies. And how many was the sight of men without limbs, and bodies laying on the floor without heads; the beholders of such carnage looked with the temperament of a warrior, neither knowing if the dead man in their presence had family, or who his parents were, or for how much time their mother and father raised them up.
Another army of Turks saw from across the river the bloodshed taking place, and they rode with their horses across the river, not to partake in the intense display of valor and arms, but to rush inside the Christian camp. A mother cleaved her infant, and she saw with sheer terror the Turks ride on their terrifying beasts. Her grip grew tighter as maternal love heightened and the presence of pure evil lingered about.
They wrested ahold of the little one, hacked his body to pieces, took the mother and spilt her blood. They went about the village like the ancient pagans of antiquity, esteeming themselves as holy but exemplifying nothing but the actions of a heathen. They took each of the mothers, slew them; upon their infants they indulged in their cruelty, and neither were the others of the camp exempted from this violence.
The cries of the slaughtered arose to heaven; they pierced the sharpest winds, the highest shrieks of the Turks, the most manly war cries of the Christians. They pulled Bohemond’s ears and went through his soul like daggers stabbing the bark of the hoariest redwood tree. He turned as the swords of heretics and saints clashed, gave orders to the Count of Normandy to lead the fray, and sprinted with all his might toward the camp.
The Turks, still engaging in their wanton madness and drunk off the blood of the saints, turned a quick eye, saw this lion of Christendom with numerous of his men, and fled. The Christians ceased to run, stopped and beheld the gore, the wailings of the wounded, the mournings of the living for the dead, before their sights. Tears rushed down the widened eyes of Bohemond, and he lamented to God, and implored Him to be a refuge for those alive and those deceased.
Bohemond returned and the battle still raged on. The tendons of the Christians burned with unendurable exertion, as the Turks unceasingly rushed on with energy and fresh spirits. Under that cruel summer heat, they fought; though fatigued they hammered their swords upon the breastplates of the enemy, and with each blow did their minds wonder as to whether or not they should fight and die, or flee and live.
Christian women, who came to accompany their husbands in the crusade, and fill that dismal void of loneliness, brought water from the nearby river to refresh their bodies and cool their ligaments. But not even this could settle their spirits, and some of them began to retreat. But lo, the Count of Normandy, with awe-inspiring valor, turned his horse around, lifted heavenward his standard, and cried out with inspiring fury, “God wills it! God wills it!”
The fleeing men turned around and beheld their commander with Bohemond. The cry of Christian war restored their spirits, brought high their hopes and brought low their worries of death, and with regained courage they made their decision to fight and die rather than flee. The Turks attacked with such great fury, with one pushing the other in front of him. No empty space was there, just men, one with scimitar, the other with cross-shaped sword.
As the intense slaughter went on, arrows descended and ripped through torsos and heads. No one stood idle, not one was free from action. The men collided, bodies were ripped open, limbs were severed, cries to Allah rang the ears, cries to God emanated throughout the air and ignited their hopes; the priests and the clergy with hands raise to heaven intently prayed for victory; women wailed for the fallen and dragged the dead to the camps.
Above their heads was a dark cloud of merciless arrows, and as these descended and cut life from the earth, there was seen from a distance two knights, Duke Godfrey and Hugh, and with them was forty thousand troops. When death was the plan of many a knight, and eternity the hope of them all, there came this force to the rescue; for many were they in that battle, whose times for perishing did not yet come.
Like descending eagles they rushed down upon the Turks to cries and wild shrills of the womenfolk who watched nearby. They drove into the thick of opposition burning with rage and anger. No man there could fully describe the sounds of clashing arms, of splintering lances; the dying gave a great cry, but the victorious — how joyful was their rejoicing, how exhilarating their praises which reached the topmost summits. The living pounded the earth as the dead watered the grass with blood and tears.
The enemy looked upwards, their chests heavy with the pains of the defeated, and saw to their despair more Christians rushing forth from a distant mountain. The Crusaders look up, their hearts relieved by the hope of victory, and cried the sounds of bliss as they saw the newly arrived force of Christians led by the Bishop of Le Puy and Count Raymond.
So terrified were the Turks that they thought their enemies were coming down from heaven. The earth was crimson with blood, and a river of this thick red substance of life flowed down the terrain by the swords of this military might of Christ.
The sun descended, and in the cool silence of a young evening, this militant hymn, with lyrics from the Song of Moses, was heard from the elated but sore knights,
Thou art glorious in Thy saints, O Lord, and wonderful in majesty; fearful in praises, doing wonders. Thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy, and in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee. The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them. But Thou, Lord, wast with us as a strong warrior, and Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed. Now we realise, God, that Thou art guiding us in Thy strength unto Thy holy habitation, Thy Holy Sepulchre. (Robert the Monk, History of the First Crusade, 3.8-14)
Several lines of this hymn are directly from the Song of Moses, sung by the same prophet after the Egyptians were crushed underneath the waves of the Red sea. For these men never looked with contempt upon the Pentateuch, nor did they ever reject or ignore the militant lessons, but embraced them. Nor did the clergy undermine them, as they do today, with empty words and say “we are now in the age of grace, these martial lessons do not apply to us,” but they instilled them into the hearts and the minds of their congregations in every parish in Europe. This is that militant Christian spirit which we have long forgotten, and it is the hope of this book to restore it.
This is just one of the many theological discourses that I have written on Christian militancy from the upcoming book, which will be the most extensive study every written on Christian warfare. But before the book comes out, get the new 2-disk DVD special on Christian militancy, which is just a taste of upcoming book.