A holy war in red and white

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The Crusades played a major role in Denmark in the period 1095-1204. Danes took part in the bellicose pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Crusade ideology became an important part of royal strategy and played a role in domestic power struggles and wars in the entire Baltic region. The king built castles that served as military installations, as well as staging points for crusades in the Baltic.

During the 11th century, war came to be seen as a form of penance – if one went off to battle for all the right reasons. Absolution could be granted by fighting God’s war against the Church’s internal and external enemies. According to the Church Fathers and the theology of the day, this thinking was clearly formulated in the New Testament, and it gained ground in Denmark starting in the mid 11th century.

The Roman connection
In its battle against the emperor, the Catholic Church tried to gain allies among the heads of principalities who could become fideles sancti Petri – the faithful of St Peter – and serve as defenders of the true faith. They made up a political network of allies who deepened their ties by intermarriage. The Danish royal family was a part of this network that supplied many of the first crusaders. Danes and other Scandinavians took part in Crusades to the Holy Land during the entire period. By the end of the Crusades, it…

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