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Medieval Sourcebook:
St. Bernard:
Apologia for the Second Crusade

[Adapted from Brundage] One of the few leaders of Western Europe who refused to be daunted by the failure of the Crusade was St. Bernard of Clairvaux, against whom was vented so much of the bitterness over the failure of the Crusade. Shortly after the outcome of the Crusade became known in the West, St. Bernard wrote a defiant apologia, defending the role he had played in preaching and organizing the recent expedition. Despite St. Bernard's courageous resignation, the results of the Crusade were indeed ominous. The Second Crusade had embittered large numbers of Western Europeans against the whole notion of Crusading, and thereby both the Papacy and the West as a whole suffered a setback. The Second Crusade, in fact, was destined to be the last Crusade in which the armies were accompanied by large groups of pilgrims and other noncombatants. Henceforth, the Crusades were to become more strictly military expeditions, whose objectives were limited, military ones.

Even more important, perhaps, was the deterioration of relationships between Byzantium and the Crusaders and between the princes of the West and the rulers of the Latin states in the East. Most important of all, in the final analysis, was the effect of the Second Crusade upon the Moslems. The failure of the Crusade to achieve any victories whatever in the East emboldened Moslem military leaders, destroyed the myth of Western prowess in arms, and was to be responsible, at least in part, for causing the Moslem states of the East to draw closer together, to unite for further attacks upon the Latin states .

The First Crusade had succeeded in achieving its objectives and it bad been possible to found Latin states in the East largely because the Moslems had been divided against one another and had thus been almost completely unable to cooperate effectively to stave off their Western foes. The end of the Second Crusade saw the Moslems preparing to unite, for the first time, against the Latin intruders in their midst, while the Latins, for their part, were divided sharply against one another.

The portents for the future of the Latin East were dark in 1148, but no one then could have foreseen the manner in which these portents were to be fulfilled.

I remember, most Holy Father Eugene, My promises [to complete the treatise De Consideratione] made to you long ago, and at long last I shall acquit myself. The delay, were I aware that it proceeded from carelessness or contempt, should cause me shame. It is not thus, however. As you know, we have fallen upon grave times, which seemed about to bring to an end not only my studies but my very life, for the Lord, provoked by our sins, gave the appearance of having judged the world prematurely, [1Cor: 4:5] with justice, indeed, but forgetful of his mercy." He spared neither his people nor his name. Do not the heathen say: "Where is their God?" Nor do I wonder, for the sons of the Church, those who bear the label, "Christian," have been laid low in the desert and have either been slain by the sword or consumed by famine....

We said "Peace, and there is no peace"; we promised good things, "and behold, trouble.",' It might seem, in fact, that we acted rashly in this affair [i.e. The Second Crusade] or had "used lightness.[2 Cor 1:17] But, "I did not run my course like a man in doubt of his goal," [1 Cor 9:26] for I acted on your orders, or rather on God's orders given through you. . . . The judgments of the Lord are true indeed. Who does not know that? This judgment, however, "is a great deep," [Ps. 32:7] so much so, that it seems to me not unwarranted to call him blessed who is not scandalized thereat. "

How, then, does human rashness dare reprove what it can scarcely understand? Let us put down some judgments from on high, which are "from everlasting, " for there may, perhaps, be consolation in them. . . . I speak of a matter which is unknown to no one, but of which no one now seems to be aware. Such is the human heart, indeed, that what we know when we need it not, is lost to us when it is required.

When Moses was going to lead the people out of the land of Egypt, he promised them a better land. Otherwise, would that people, who knew only earthly things, ever have followed him? He led them away-but he did not lead them into the land which he had promised them. The sad and unexpected outcome, however, cannot be laid to the rashness of the leader, for he did everything at the Lord's command, with "the Lord aiding them and attesting his word by the miracles that went with them." [Mark 16:20] But, you may say, they were a stiff-necked race '20 forever contending against the Lord and Moses his servant. Very well, they were rebellious and unbelieving; but what about these other people? [i.e. The Crusaders] Ask them. Why should it be my task to speak of what they have done? One thing I shall say: How could they make progress when they were always looking backward as they walked? Was there a time in the whole journey when they were not in their hearts returning to Egypt? But if the Jews were vanquished and "perished because their iniquity," is it any wonder that those who did likewise suffered a similar fate? Would anyone say that the fate of the former was contrary to God's promise? Neither, therefore, was the fate of the latter....

These few things have been said by way of apology, so that your conscience may have something from me, whereby you can hold yourself and me excused, if not in the eyes of those who judge causes from their results, then at least in your own eyes. The perfect and final apology for any man is the testimony of his own conscience. As for myself, I take it to be a small matter to be judged by those "who call evil good, and good evil, whose darkness is light, whose light darkness." [Is. 5:20]

If one or the other must be done, I would rather that men murmur against us than against God. It would be well for me if he deigns to use me for his shield. . . . I shall not refuse to be made ignominious, so long as God's glory is not attacked.


De Consideratione Libri Quinque, II, 1., in Patrologia Latina 182,: 741-45, translated by James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 115-121
Copyright note: Professor Brundage informed the Medieval Sourcebook that copyright was not renewed on this work. Moreover he gave permission for use of his translations.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Paul Halsall December 1997
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