Billions of people around the world closely follow a religion. Many individuals have such a deep sense of connection with their religion that they will go to great lengths to follow their beliefs. In a way, this was the case during the Medieval Period. During this time the Roman Church dominated the religious sphere and even held some authority over the European kingdoms. The Church was a uniting symbol for the Medieval people. For many the Church was their only source of hope because the environment of Europe was discouraging: the majority of peasants lived and died within a five mile area. It is for these reasons that the Crusades were such sizeable events. When the papacy requested help the people saw it as an opportunity to become closer to God, advance their status within the church, and venture outside of their usual scenery. The Crusades are significant because they provided new learning experiences, caused expansion in papal status, and prompted the decline of Feudalism.
The various objects acquired on the Crusades provided several new learning experiences for medieval people. The crusaders were able to acquire prominent ancient texts from the Muslim libraries. These texts included discoveries in medicine and science as well as pioneering thoughts in philosophy. The Scholastic movement made great use of these texts and applied them to the curriculum of the time. While in contact with the Muslim culture, crusaders learned how to use new navigational instruments. These tools created more efficient travel by land and by sea, allowing for faster trade and planting roots for future expansion. The Crusades contributed to the change in learning and travel of the time.
The papacy experienced a great expansion of prestige, power, and wealth through the Crusades. The massive responses to the popes’ calls for help is one example of the gained prestige. The popes had the power to randomly call for something to happen and the people, out of respect for the popes, followed their call. The papacy also grew in power from increased land holdings. The Crusades conquered large amounts of land and returned it to the organizer of the Crusade, the pope. The popes used this increase in land to stretch their power over the European kings. One final area of growth for the papacy is wealth. A large number of prominent churches and cities were sacked during the Crusades, and the loot was returned to the office of the pope. Extension of the fields of prestige, power, and wealth caused the papacy to reach a new standing, but it brought along many challengers.
The most noticeable consequence of the Crusades is their role in the decline of Feudalism. The reason being that feudalism was the way of life during Medieval times, and the Crusades prompted a shift in the status quo. Feudalism was weakened due to the decreasing power of the nobility. Many nobles died while on Crusades and as a result kings were able to control their land. This consolidation gave kings leverage by weakening the power of the nobility. Kings took advantage of this turn by enforcing their power to tax. Revived trade also weakened the Feudal system. During the Crusades the crusaders needed trade in order to sustain their armies as they marched towards and attacked the Muslims. Interest in trade continued after the Crusades, opening up a multitude of new opportunities for work. Europe began to urbanize as these trade opportunities brought populations together. By leaving the manor behind, Europe ushered in a new era.
Religion was a motive for mankind during the Medieval Period, just as it is today. This motive drove many to participate in the Crusades that disrupted the systems of Europe by providing new learning experiences, increasing the papacy status, and abandoning the Feudal system.