An intense scholarly debate that is ongoing between several experts even now is the discussion over what the crusades as a whole were and how to define the word crusade itself. Norman Housley described it best in his book Contesting the Crusades with the quote, "The answer is that no clear template or yardstick for a crusade exists against which we can measure the features of other expeditions to check if they 'qualify'" (pg. 1). A question that Housley proposes is whether the crusades were a holy war or an armed pilgrimage. In this essay, by the end, I intend to define what I believe a crusade is in terms that best encompass all of the facts available. I will base my argument around the different actions that took place by the crusaders and their motivations for such actions. As well as what led up to the different places they attacked and why those places specifically. I intend to back up my writing with researched facts, historical texts, and personal intuition.
Were the crusades a holy war, an armed pilgrimage, or something else entirely? The answer is that they walked a line between the three and it constantly shifted from crusade to crusade. To start at the beginning, the holy war part of the definition is founded mainly on the papacy's call for the crusades to spark it all. The crusades really began with the growing power and aggression of the Seljuk Turks and their taking of Jerusalem from the Byzantines. During their occupation they slaughtered numerous Christian pilgrims and destroyed Christian churches, which in turn led the Byzantine emperor to request aid from Europe, and more specifically pope Urban II. The pope answered by issuing a call to all men to destroy the "heathens" and reclaim that which had been lost for the Byzantines. Housley can even be directly quoted as stating that crusaders had a "role in Urban II's crusade plans" (pg.