Richard Allington, Eastern New Mexico University – Spiritual Crusading


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Supporting The Crusades didn’t just happen on the front lines.

Richard Allington, assistant professor of history at Eastern New Mexico University, explores how ordinary people helped in their own ways.

Richard Allington was born just north of London in the United Kingdom. He completed his B.A. in history from Christendom College in 2011 and his PhD in medieval history from Saint Louis University in 2018. He is currently Assistant Professor of History at Eastern New Mexico University where he teaches classes on Ancient Greece and Rome, the Crusades, and the Renaissance. He has published articles on the ways the crusades influenced medieval religious practice and culture in volumes published by Brepols and Brill.

Spiritual Crusading


The crusades impacted Medieval European culture through a practice which I call spiritual crusading. Beginning in 1187, various popes attempted to expand the crusading movement by encouraging Christians to carry out specific liturgical rites that would provide spiritual support for the crusades.

These devotions provided a way for all Christians to participate in the crusading movement. Even if they were not warriors, they could help liberate Jerusalem through their prayers. The papacy and the Church hierarchy understood that concern for the crusades and the Holy Land was widespread among Christians and that encouraging the clergy and laity to pray for the crusades offered a powerful incentive for Christians to more actively participate in the liturgical life of the Church. This practice therefore became a powerful and effective vehicle for Church reform in medieval society.

I first examine medieval liturgical manuscripts from different communities to understand the local implementation of this program. Medieval Christians did not just passively adopt the devotions prescribed by the papacy, but adapted them to suit their own immediate concerns, extending the crusading mindset to local pious intentions and political rivalries. Spiritual crusading therefore both changed liturgical practices through papal prescription, and simultaneously provided local communities with the agency to shape the liturgies of the Church to address their particular concerns.

The other aspect of my research explores how spiritual crusading transformed medieval devotional observance. By serving as a vehicle to encourage widespread piety, this spiritual campaign codified a broader program of Christian renewal, infusing emerging spiritual movements such as the Franciscans and flagellants with the rhetoric of the crusades. My scholarship therefore reveals how the practice of spiritual crusading expanded the crusading movement to incorporate all Christians and also reshaped medieval devotional practice through the dissemination of the crusading mindset to new areas of this society.


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