When the process of crusading began to be examined intensively in the historiography of the 19th c., a fundamental problem was encountered: what was the relationship between crusading and the Christian missions, and between the coercion used in the missions and peaceful missions? While raising these questions in a pluralistic historiography of crusading, attention is paid to the location (geographical factor), time (chronological factor) and motives (ideological factor). The ideological factor of the crusading movement is the most interesting and the most problematic for researchers. The volume under review here was published on the basis of reports made during the scientific conference "The Missions of the Sword" held in Paderborn in February of 2013. The conference was organized by the Institut zur interdisziplinären Erforschung des Mittelalters der Universität Paderborn and the Museum in der Kaiserpfalz des Landschaftsverbandes Westfalen-Lippe.
The collection consists of the concise introduction by Hermann Kamp and eight scientific studies; each article is supplemented by a map with the geographical names mentioned in it. The works form a whole entitled the "Missions of the Sword" (Schwertmission) as they attempt to precisely analyze the main issue: why and how the contradiction between the theory of missions (peaceful preaching) as declared by the Church and the practice of the missions (coercive missions) arose. Kamp shows three attitudes towards coercion: as a factor helping to stabilize the state ("Mission als Form der Herrschaftsstabi¬lisierung"), as a means of justifying violence ("Die Rechtfertigung der Gewalt zu Mis¬sionszwecken") and as the action of religious piety, where coercion is understood to be the shedding of blood in God's name ("Blutvergießen im Namen Gottes"). Referring to the last case we encounter a certain religious experience where violence is understood as an offering to God (as described in the article by the Danish researcher Kurt Villads Jensen).
The first article by Matthias Becher deals with the submission of the Saxons and Christianization in the Time of Charlemagne. It is clear that the Saxons were political objects, not independent subjects who were making their own decisions about baptism. One such example, as Felix Biermann reveals in his article, was Piast Poland at the end of the 10th c. and in the 11th c. For this reason, the coercion used by Charlemagne towards the Saxons, and the coercion exercised by the first Piasts towards their subordinates differed in social and political aspects.
Taken from the same section, an article by Matthias Hardt on the Christianization of Sorbs, Elbian and Eastern Slavs in Ottonian-Salian times, transports us to the region of Polabian Slavs of the 10th-11th c. Hardt shows that the centres of dioceses and churches were most often established in the centre of Polabian Slavonic lands, conquered by the Saxons. It is therefore obvious that the similar process which took place in the Polabian Slavonic lands in Ottonian-Salian times was noticed in other neighbouring lands – in Bohemia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. There the "spotted" Christianization was noticed first, which, as Hardt concludes, had not been reduced to the level of the ruler's subordinates or the level of the subordinates of the nobility. It is important also that in the above mentioned lands, the first churches were also established in military-administrative centres – Biermann's article on the first state of Piast is a good illustration of that, too.
The above mentioned idea that the model of the conquest of Polabian Slavs was later used by the German Order in conquering Prussian tribes should be recognized. Jürgen Sarnowsky writes about that very subject. On the other hand, it has been noticed in historiography that German Order might have possibly "brought" that model of conquest from the Holy Land, where it was created. Before and after the collapse of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the 13th c., Christians had been trying to keep the most important military-administrative-trade centres, and where circumstances allowed, there was much effort to occupy other fortifications. These particular centres established in the lands of Polabian Slavs and Prussia primarily performed military-administrative functions. That is proved by the fact that in Prussian lands, the Teutonic order established Komturies but not Bailiwicks (Balleien), as was done in other European lands.
The second section of the collection consists of articles analyzing the justification for the coercion for the purposes of the missions. Here we encounter the theological and judicial justification for coercion, and the justification for crusading as the form of coercion. David Crispin in his article tries to determine the relationship between the crusades and missions in the Holy Land. It may be possible to agree with his conclusion that the peaceful missions in the Holy Land were secondary (the most important aim was to get back what belonged to the Christians, i.e. the Holy Land).
The article by Kamp on the Wendish Crusade should be also designated to the second section. He tries to establish the grounds behind the opinion that the first attempt to connect the idea of crusading to the Wendish conversion occurred during the Wendish Crusade. According to Kamp, Bernard of Clairveaux had in mind the struggle before conversion (with the aim of reaching conversion), rather than the fight for conversion: "Für Bernhard geht es um ein Kämpfen bis zur Bekehrung, nicht um ein Kämpfen, um zu bekehren" (p. 132). This idea is supported by Jensen in his article. While assessing the words of Bernard and their interpretation in modern historiography, the question arises as to what conversion he had in mind if there was an attempt to physically destroy pagans. It is important to emphasize that Bernard, while actively preaching in the Southern regions of France at the time that the Cathar heresy was being spread (in 1145, just a couple of years before the Wendish Crusade), did not raise any questions about the alternative of "death or baptism". The alternative is also not mentioned in another equally renowned article dedicated to the Templars De laude novae militiae, dated between 1128 and 1136 (we can witness a clear struggle against the Muslims, but not the above-mentioned alternative). The article Deconsideatione, written most probably just after the Wendish crusade, once again expresses the idea of peaceful evangelization. These facts confirm that to see only the physical destruction of pagans in Bernard's alternative would not be correct.
Katrin Bourrée, in her article on the conflict between the German Order and Poland-Lithuania in 1386, refers to the part of the Order's Ältere Hochmeisterchronik in which there was mention of the presumably not real baptism of the Great Duke of Lithuania and the Polish king Jagiełło (Jogaila) and the people making up his entourage (even including Duke Vytautas). There is no doubt that the image of Jagiełło created by the German Order was used to justify the war directed against the Polish-Lithuanian state, suggesting that Jagiełło, in the eyes of the Order, remained pagan. On the other hand, it is noticeable that the majority of monarch converts of Middle Europe were not able to avoid a certain negative image. This also happened with the Polish Duke Bolesław the Brave, the first king of Hungary Steven and many other rulers.
The third section is most vividly represented by Jensen's article that deals with the coercion and missions of Danish origin in the East Baltic area in the 12th-13th c. The author, basing his knowledge on the chronicles of Saxo Grammaticus and Henry of Livonia, is trying to find out how revenge, which gives birth to coercion, turned into saint zeal and saint revenge. Since crusading, according to the author, was imitation Christi, then it was not surprising that in the rhetoric of the Medieval Ages, crusaders were depicted as martyrs, struggling for God and the Christian religion and receiving the salvation of the soul in return (p. 155). Thus violence, robbing and war were perceived as being a sacrifice for God.
Thus, the presented collection of articles is important for further discussions on coercion and crusading, and for the analysis of the problem of coercion in Christian missions. On the other hand, the discussed articles show how multifaceted and complicated the problem of ideological foundation of coercive missions and crusading is.
This review was first published in Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung 64 (2015) H. 1.