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  • The Crusade Indulgence. Spiritual Rewards and the Theology of Crusades, c. 1095–1216 by Ane L. Bysted
  • Valentin L. Portnykh
The Crusade Indulgence. Spiritual Rewards and the Theology of Crusades, c. 1095–1216. By Ane L. Bysted. (Boston: Brill. 2015. Pp. 330. $163.00. ISBN 978-9-004-28043-4.)

This book by Ane Bysted is the first book devoted to the history of the crusade indulgences up to 1216. The chronological choice, as explained by the author (p. 8), is due to the history of crusade indulgences: 1216 is the end of the pontificate of Innocent III (r. 1198–1216), who established the formula of crusade indulgence that persisted up to the sixteenth century. Before Innocent, the formula changed constantly. Geographically, the study is not limited to the crusades to the Holy Land, but also involves other locations such as the Reconquista.

Starting with a survey of spiritual rewards of the period prior to the crusades, the book analyzes crusade indulgences and their historical background. Writing about theoretical development of indulgences in general, Bysted demonstrates that as the crusades began, there was still no precise limit between guilt and punishment, between eternal and temporal punishment, and between the parts of earthly individuals and God in temporal punishment (pp. 93–96). Peter Abelard formulated these distinctions, which were accepted by the majority of subsequent theologians [End Page 912] (p. 107). Nor was it determined which absolutions were the prerogatives of the Church (p. 95). Then in the twelfth century, it was specified that the Church can absolve an individual from temporal punishment composed of earthly penance and punishment in purgatory (pp. 23, 154–55).

A part of chapter 4 presents a range of interesting reflections on terminology used in papal letters regarding indulgences. The research is based on a statistical study of different formulas in papal correspondence that can be found in the Patrologia Latina Database. It demonstrated that, at the start, there was no certainty about the authority that could give the right to provide crusaders with indulgences; the formulas used for crusade indulgences were not specific and were used for other occasions as well (p. 195); and the formulas of the twelfth century differed and were standardized during Innocent III’s pontificate as “the power of the keys” (pp. 198, 200). Another striking feature is that formulas concerning the remission of sin (usually remissio peccatorum) are much more frequent in papal letters than remission of penances (p. 198). However, it is possible that the formula for remission of sins was a combination of remission of both guilt and penance (p. 133). Still, it should be noted that one interesting and not very clear expression did not merit a discussion in the book: a promise of so-called “increase of eternal salvation as a retribution to the just” (in retributione iustorum salutis eterne pollicemur augmentum) present in papal bulls from Innocent III onward and discussed in Jean Flori’s Prêcher la croisade (Paris, 2012).

Chapters 5 and 6 describe the ideological background of the crusade indulgence: which elements of crusade propaganda conveyed the idea that crusaders merited a plenary indulgence and how the slogan of indulgences was presented to the public. All in all, this part of the book treats already well-known ideas about the spiritual status of crusades and crusaders, but there are some curious ideas that did not merit a special study before. Bysted rightly states that the slogan of defense of Eastern Christianity was gradually replaced during the pontificate of Innocent III by other slogans more concentrated on Christ rather than Christianity as a whole (pp. 208, 234). She also is correct in noting that papal bulls never promised a martyr status for crusaders (p. 244).

In the end of the book there is a very useful supplement with source quotations from papal documents promising spiritual rewards for crusaders (in Latin).

Valentin L. Portnykh
Novosibirsk State University, Russia


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