Crusades and Colonization in the Baltic

  • Sven Ekdahl
Part of the Palgrave Advances book series (PAD)


The term ‘crusade’ has traditionally been used primarily to refer to the martial enterprises that went out from Christian Europe during the high Middle Ages with the goal of reconquering Muslim Palestine (1096–1291). Yet then and later there were other enterprises that have been likewise designated as crusades. They included the Christianizing and subjection of heathen Slav, Finnish-Ugric and Baltic tribes south of the Baltic Sea, in Finland and in Livonia — the modern states of Estonia and Latvia — enterprises that the pope legitimized and accomplished by peaceful means or by force. Parallel to these enterprises, or as result, occurred the colonization and incorporation of these territories into Latin Europe. In all cases the most important carriers of the expansion were the Roman Catholic Church, the European aristocracy up to kings and emperors and the merchants of the expanding cities. Except in Livonia, farmers came in as settlers. This was a complex, important and often cruel chapter of European history, which Pope John Paul II once appropriately described as a hard road of suffering, of both light and darkness: ‘Fu un cammino duro e sofferto, con le sue luci e le sue ombre’.3


Thirteenth Century Baltic Coast Soviet Rule Grand Duchy Polish Historian 
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