Second Crusade: St. Bernard of Clairvaux

saint-bernard-of-clairvaux

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

St. Bernard was born in 1090, to parents Tescelin de Fontaine, Lord of Fontaine-les-Dijon and Alethe de Montbard of high French nobility in the Burgundy region.

Aged nine, Bernard attended Chatillon-sur-Seine school.  In 1109 at the age of nineteen his mother died.

The young Bernard, felt he had been called by God in 1112, aged just twenty-two, to enter the order of Cistercian Monks of Citeaux.  Bernard’s testimony was so compelling, some thirty friends and brothers felt compelled to follow him into monastic life in 1113.

The Abbey of Citeaux, founded by St. Robert of Molesmes was dedicated to the restoring of Benedictine Rule in its most primitive form.  A life devoted to prayer and poverty.

After three years as a monk, St. Bernard and twelve monks were sent to Vallee d’Absinthe in the Diocese of Langres; where he founded the Abbey of Clairvaux.  In 1116, he was named Abbot of Clairvaux.  In just a few years, disciples and monks were flocking to St. Bernard, wishing to follow the renowned Abbot; St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

In 1128, St. Bernard was called upon by Pope Honorius II to attend the Council of Troyes, to assist in the settling of conflicts within the French church.  He offended Cardinals by his suggestions, who denounced him, as nothing more than a meddling monk, yet his words struck a chord with Cardinal Harmeric and the Papal Court, which led to a strong bond between St. Bernard and the Pope.

St. Bernard this man of God was becoming a renowned churchman in Christendom, as he assisted in correcting abuses within the faith.  Defending church rights against the monarchy who sought to control its resources, and choose their own bishops.

In 1143, St. Bernard must have been a proud man, to see one of his pupils and fellow Cistercian Monk; Bernard of Pisa elected by his peers as Pope, taking the name; “Pope Eugenius III.”

Within a few years, news came from the Holy Land that shocked the Christian world.  The crusader state of Edessa had fallen to Turkish forces, with Antioch and Jerusalem highly likely to fall into Islam control once again.

St.Bernard will be remembered for calling for the founding of the Knights Templar, and he was responsible for the monastic rules of life they would follow.

St. Bernard was put in charge of rallying support for a new crusade, asking knights to arm themselves and wear the cross, showing they be God’s warriors.  He even cut off pieces of his own habit, and fashioned crosses for many warriors.  It is said that King Louis, Queen Eleanor of France and the Holy Roman Emperor; Frederick Barbarossa accepted these cloth crosses.

The Second Crusade was a failure, and he attributed the defeat, believing the crusaders no longer believed in securing the Holy Land.  He believed it be the sinfulness of the crusaders that led to its failure.

On the 21st August 1153, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, aged 63 died at Clairvaux in France.

His Legacy:

At his death, some 343 Cistercian monasteries had been established by him and fellow monks of his order.

In 1174 was canonized by Pope Alexander III.

In 1830, was named doctor of the church by Pope Pius VIII.

Image: Wikipedia

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The Second Crusade

Second Crusade 1

The Second Crusade

The Second Crusade (1147-1149) came about when Muslim forces started gaining ground in the 1130’s.

On the 24th December 1144, Edessa the Crusader state fell to the Seljuk General; Zengi the Governor of Mosul and Aleppo.  News of the loss, reached the ears of Pope Eugenius III in the autumn of 1145, such news would have been a devastating shock, fearing Jerusalem, the Holy City was at risk.

In 1145, a second crusade was called for by the French Monk; St.Bernard of Clairvaux, with King Louis VII of France and King Conrad III of Germany, leaders of the crusade.

King Conrad III of Germany and his army, left for the Holy Land in May of 1146, followed by the French army under the leadership of King Louis VII accompanied by his wife “Eleanor of Aquitaine” in the June.

Another crusader army set forth by sea comprising mainly of English and small nation knights.  On route they responded to a plea for help from the Portuguese Christian King; Alfonsa, to dislodge Moors from Lisbon.  The combined action of Crusader and Portuguese played a crucial part in establishing Portugal’s Independence.

Upon arrival at Constantinople, Emperor Manuel persuaded King Conrad to move on, and not to wait for the French army coming up behind.  At Nicaea, Conrad split his forces in two; non-combatants took the coast road, whilst the army took the shorter and possibly more dangerous route across Anatolia.  As they neared Dorylaeum, these German knights, weary and thirsty, were ambushed and suffered defeat at the hands of Seljuk Turks in October 1148.  Barely ten per cent escaped, and made it back to Nicaea.  The remnants of the German army joined forces with the French, under the leadership of King Louis VII, taking the coast road to Attalia.  Upon arrival, food was in short supply and the countryside was in the hands of the Turks.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the Byzantium fleet was unable to take his whole army.

The King of France showed his true colours, by moving his own household and as much cavalry he could load onto the ships and headed to Antioch.  As for the rest of the army; his foot soldiers and pilgrims, supposedly under his protection, they were left to the mercy of the Turkish archers, as they made their way by road to Antioch.  Many lost their lives…

King Louis VII of France arrived in Antioch, and was feasted by Prince Raymond of Antioch, showering them with high quality accommodation and gifts.  This small warrior force, would strike fear at the heart of the Turks.

Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux, he who almost single handedly called for a second crusade, with the backing of the Pope, desired Jerusalem be re-taken.  Many monarchs and knights were under his spell, like King Louis VII of France.

King Louis VII announced that his fleet would be sailing on to Jerusalem, and his highly spirited wife Eleanor of Aquitaine announced she would be staying in Antioch.  Louis had suspected Eleanor and her uncle, Raymond of Poiters, the current ruler of Antioch, and their host, were having an affair.  His response was to kidnap his wife, dragging her by force to his ship and sail off to Acre, to join up with King Conrad III.

On the 25th May 1148, the combined Christian crusader armies laid siege to Damascus.  On the first day, Damascenes came out of the city to do battle with these crusaders, but were driven back into the city.  The crusaders moved to the east side of the city, and were faced with no water and a much stronger wall, this error would cost them dearly.

It wasn’t long before they realised their chance of taking Damascus had evaporated…  At dawn on the next day, the crusaders retreated, through a hail of Damascene arrows… and the Second Crusade had ended in disaster.

(Image) The Second Crusade: Wikipedia