- Pope Gregory X and the Crusades by Philip B. Baldwin
Popes were the key to crusading because the concept of crusade was based on papal authority. In their function as vicarii Dei popes were the legitimate authority for initiating crusades as holy wars and the sole providers of plenary indulgences, which formed the central motivation for most crusaders. Urban II stood at the beginning of a long line of medieval popes who made it their business to promote this particularly muscular institution of medieval Catholicism, which served to impose papal authority throughout Christendom and rally the faithful in an unprecedented manifestation of pious violence for the defense and expansion of the Christian religion. The thirteenth century was the most intense century of crusading with numerous campaigns fought throughout Europe, often in parallel, against all kinds of enemies of the Church. For the popes this was a test of their skills of leadership and organization. Pope Innocent III, at the very beginning of the thirteenth century, set the pace by preaching the cross against Muslims in the Holy Land and in Spain, heretics in southwestern France, non-Christians in the Baltic, and his political enemies in southern Italy. He also reorganized propaganda and finance for crusading, making them more efficient and effective while placing the practice of crusading in a firm legal framework. Popes of the later thirteenth century built upon Innocent’s foundations, few more enthusiastically than Gregory X (1271–76). [End Page 628]
Philip Baldwin’s book on Gregory X’s crusade policies is a welcome addition to thirteenth-century crusade studies. Based on the meticulous investigation of Gregory’s correspondence conserved in the papal registers, Baldwin explores every nook and cranny of the pope’s involvement with the business of the Holy Land and other aspects of crusading during his short pontificate. It is a book that, in its intensity and attention to detail, tries the generalist’s patience but produces a wealth of insights for the specialist. Gregory’s crusading plans were centered on his attempts to prepare for a passagium generale by calling upon the whole of Christendom at the Second Council of Lyons to join the campaign. But this was not enough for Gregory, who, before becoming pope, had dedicated a good deal of his life in curial service to promoting campaigns in aid of the Holy Land. Baldwin chronicles Gregory’s efforts to prepare the battleground for the Holy Land by sending advance relief forces, which were meant to prevent a repeat of the military defeats that had befallen King Louis IX’s crusades. He also describes the diplomatic negotiations necessary to settle the disputes over the imperial crown and gain the support of as many leading heads of Europe as possible for the big push to the East. Finally, Baldwin attempts to imagine what Gregory X’s crusade to the Holy Land would have looked like, had the pope not died prematurely and had his immediate successors managed to hold on to the papal throne for any length of time.
Despite its narrow thematic scope, Baldwin’s study makes an important contribution to crusade studies. Next to Innocent III, Gregory X is the only thirteenth-century pope whose crusading policies have been studied in depth and from a vantage point of modern crusade studies. Baldwin proves without doubt the importance of papal leadership and forceful curial organization to the success of the crusades, even if in this instance the failure of the crusade came about despite Gregory X’s intense efforts.