During the thirteenth century, the widespread conviction that the Christian lands in Syria and Palestine were of utmost importance to Christendom, and that their loss was a sure sign of God's displeasure with Christian society, pervaded nearly all levels of thought. Yet this same society faced other crises: religious dissent and unorthodox beliefs were proliferating in western Europe, and the powers exercised, or claimed, by the kings of Europe were growing rapidly.
The sources presented here illustrate the rising criticism of the changing Crusade idea. They reflect a sharpened awareness among Europeans of themselves as a community of Christians and the slow beginnings of the secular culture and political organization of Europe.
Edward Peters is Henry Charles Lea Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. His publications include The Magician, the Witch, and the Law, Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe, The First Crusade, and, with Alan C. Kors, Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: A Documentary History, all available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.