The Crusades


The crusades were military expeditions launched against the
Muslims by the Christians in an attempt to regain the Holy
Land. They took place between 1095 A.D. and 1270 A.D. It
was one of the most violent periods in the history of
The starting point of the crusades was on November 18, 1095
A.D. when Pope Urban II opened the Council of Clermont. On
November 27, outside the French city of Clermont- Ferrand,
the Pope made an important speech . He called upon everyone
to help the Christians in the east to restore peace. The
crowd's response was very positive. Garments were cut into
crosses which were attached to people's shoulders in an
imitation of Christ (Matthew 10:38).(1) The original object
of the First Crusade was to help Christian churches in the
east. The new goal became to free the Holy Land from Muslim
control, especially Jerusalem. 

Pope Urban II stayed in France until September 1096 to
provide leadership and guidance for the members of the
First Crusade. He urged churchmen to preach the cross in
France. Urban wanted the crusading army to be mostly made
up of knights and other military personnel. Since the news
of his speech at Clermont spread through the west, people
from all social classes and occupations joined the Crusade.
As a result of Urban losing control of personnel, violence
was launched against the Jews of northern France. This
violence was mostly instigated by bands of the urban and
rural poor led by men like Peter the Hermit and Walter
These groups lacked supplies and discipline. They attempted
to reach Constantinople but most of them never got that
far. The leaders in lands which they passed through were
frightened and killed many of the crusading bands. Some did
get to Constantinople and traveled across the Bosphorus in
August 1096. There they split into two groups. One tried to
overtake Nicaea and was unsuccessful. The other was
ambushed and slaughtered near Civetot in October. The
remaining crusaders retreated to Constantinople and joined
the second wave of the Crusade. The crusaders were eager
to start the journey to Jerusalem but they needed to
capture the Anatolian Turkish capital of Nicaea first
because it blocked the road that would be their main supply
route. It was held by Seljuk Turks. In May 1097, the
crusaders attacked Nicaea.
The Turks realized that they were defeated and agreed to
give the city to the Byzantines in exchange for the lives
of their men. The Byzantines agreed to this and on June 18,
Nicaea was under Byzantine control. The leaders of the
crusade disagreed and wanted to slaughter the Turks because
they were enemies of Christ.(2) On June 30, 1097, the
crusaders were ambushed at the city of Dorylaeum by Seljuk
Turks led by Kilij Arslam the Seljuk Sultan. The fight
continued until July 1. The crusaders won a big victory and
nearly wiped out the Turkish force. This victory opened up
the way to Anatolia. The crusaders attacked Anitoch in
northern Syria on October 21, 1097. "This was the main
obstacle on the road to Jerusalem."(3) In a long and
gruesome battle, the city finally fell on June 2, 1098. The
crusaders were quickly attacked by a new Turkish army from
Al Mawsil. They arrived too late to revive Anitoch's
Turkish defenders and they were forced to retreat on June
28. The starting date for the march to Jerusalem was set
for November 1, 1098 but was delayed by an epidemic as well
as fighting to the south of Anitoch. On January 13, 1099
the commander-in-chief, Count Raymond IV of Toulouse, led
the crusaders' march to Jerusalem. They avoided attacks on
cities to conserve forces. In May 1099 they reached the
northern border of Palestine. On June 7 they camped on the
summit of a hill where they could see Jerusalem. Many
soldiers had tears of joy on that day. The hill was named
Montjoie. Jerusalem was well fortified and only vulnerable
from the north and the southwest. On June 13 they tried to
storm Jerusalem but were driven back because of
insufficient supplies. Extreme heat and a water shortage
lowered morale. A priest called Peter Desiderius told them
that if they fasted and held a procession around the walls
of Jerusalem with sufficient piety, the city would be
theirs within nine days. The crusaders did this and, when
they completed building three mini castles, they assaulted
Jerusalem on July 13. "There was a frenzy of killing as
everyone was hacked down."(4) The governor and his staff
were the only Muslims to escape alive. The Jewish library
containing 8 Torah rolls and 330 manuscripts survived.
 After the First Crusade, four Levant states were
established: Jerusalem, Tripoli, Anitoch, and Edessa. The
success of this crusade was largely due to the isolation
and weakness of the Muslim powers.(5) The Muslim
reunification started in the Middle East under Imad ad-Din
Zangi, the ruler of Al Mawsil and Halab. The Muslims got
their first great victory versus the crusaders when they
captured Edessa in 1144 and destroyed the crusader state in
that region. This led to the Second Crusade, which was
proclaimed late in 1145. Many people joined the crusade,
including the King Louis VII of France and the holy Roman
emperor, Conrad III. Conrad's army left Nuremberg, Germany
for Jerusalem in May 1147. A few weeks later the French
army set out for Metz. The Germans tried to cross central
Anatolia in October, but the Seljuks defeated them near
Dorylaeum. The survivors fled to Nicaea. The other German
contingent, led by Otto of Freising, was defeated by Turks
at Ladoicea. The remaining crusaders fled to the coast of
Pamphylia and were slaughtered in February 1148. Few
survivors finished the trip to Syria by ship. The French
army had reached Constantinople on October 4, 1147. The
French then journeyed through Byzantine territory in west
Asia Minor. The Turks destroyed most of them, but the
French king, the German Emperor, and some knights survived
and traveled by ship to Outremer from Antalya on the
southern coast of Asia Minor. Zengi had died before the
crusaders arrived so his sons took control, Saif al-Din in
Mosul and Nur al-Din in Aleppo. Joescelin II, the Frankish
count of Edessa, took advantage of Zengi's death and tried
to regain his capital, but Nur al-Din massacred the Edessan
population and retook it. On June 24, 1148 the High Court
of Jerusalem met at Palmarea near Acre. The decision was
made to attack Damascus, since Edessa was no longer the war
objective. On July 24, they camped along the west side of
Damascus. The Palestinian barons convinced the two kings
that the orchards on the west were making the siege more
difficult, so they moved to the southeast. They couldn't
stay very long in the southeast because it was a hot
waterless plain. On that same day they withdrew their army.
 The Second Crusade had failed miserably. There was only
one success from the whole crusade: a group of Dutch and
English crusaders had captured the cities of Libson and
Tortosa.(6) The Muslims had time to regroup after the
Second Crusade, and in 1169, Nur al-Din's forces took
Egypt. Saladin took control of the Muslims when Nur al-Din
died on May 15, 1174 in Damascus. In 1180 he joined forces
with the Anatolian Seljuk sultan, Kilij Arslan II. Saladin
stopped the unification of Aleppo and Mosul in 1182,
brought Aleppo under his control in 1183, and made a four
year truce with the Franks in 1185 after invading Palestine
in 1183. Reynald of Châtillon, leader of the Franks, broke
the truce when he heard of a rich caravan of unarmed
merchants traveling on the east bank of Jordan. In
retaliation, Saladin invaded Palestine in 1187. The Franks
got their forces together to withstand Saladin at Zippori.
 On July 4 Saladin defeated the Latin army at Hattin in
Galilee. Jerusalem surrendered on October 2. On October 29,
1187, Pope Gregory VIII, who succeeded Pope Urban II after
he died from shock of the defeat at Hattin, declared the
Third Crusade. Three major European monarches joined: the
holy Roman Emperor, Frederick I; the French King, Philip
II; and the English King, Richard I. It was the largest
force of crusaders since 1095. Frederick died in Anitoch
along with many others as a result of an epidemic. Most of
his army returned to Germany. Philip and Richard reached
Palestine but couldn't regain Jerusalem. Many cities along
the Mediterranean coast were freed from Saladin's control.
On July 12, 1191 Acre surrendered to the Christians.
Richard left the Holy Land on October 9, 1192. The Latin
Kingdom had been restored. In 1198 Pope Innocent III
proclaimed a Fourth Crusade. In April 1202 the crusaders
asked the Venetians for transport because they
overestimated the number of people who would sail. The
Venetians agreed to postpone the payment due to them if the
crusaders helped them recapture Zara which had been taken
from them by Hungary. The leaders of the crusade had no
other choice. Some protested, saying that an attack on a
Christian city is a sin. On November 24, Zara was captured.
The entire army was excommunicated but the Pope lifted it
when he heard of the situation. On June 24, 1203, the fleet
anchored at Chalcedon, and on July 17, Constantinople was
attacked from sea and land. Emperor Alexius III fled in
fear. Isaac II Angelus and his son Alexius IV became
co-emperors. In a revolt in January 1204, both were
murdered. Alexius V Ducas Murzuphlus became emperor. On
April 12, 1204, they stormed the city and took control of
the walls. On April 14 Constantinople was captured. The
Crusaders and Venetians murdered and looted for three days.
Afterwards the crusaders started their own empire in the
Byzantine ruins with a Catholic religion, French speech,
and Italian commercial policies. The Albigensian Crusade
was from 1202-1229. During the 12th Century Albigensians
made many converts in western Languedoc. Innocent III
preached a crusade against Raymond VI of Toulouse,
protector of the Albigensians. The crusade turned into a
fight for control of the Pyrenean kingdom of Catalonia and
southern France. There was a lot of blood shed. In the
Peace of Paris in 1229, the Capetian monarchy began shaping
Languedoc into a French kingdom. The church of Rome got a
firm hold on southern France. The Christians failed to
bring Albigenses under their control. The Children's
Crusade of 1212 began in Rhineland and Lower Lorraine. In
the spring large crowds of children gathered there. The
leader was a boy named Nicholas from Cologne. The goal of
this crusade was to capture the Holy Land. The French King
persuaded a large group of French children to return home.
The group led by Nicholas reached Genoa on August 25. They
expected God to allow them to walk across the sea but that
didn't happen. What happened after that is a mystery. The
story most believe says that two Marseilles merchants
provided seven ships for the children. Two wrecked off
Sardinia and the children on the other five ships were sold
into slavery in North Africa and Egypt. In 1213 Innocent
III opened a new crusade. He had no doubt about the Fifth
Crusade because the Book of Revelations said that Isalm
would last less than 666 years. It started in 622 A.D. so
they thought it would end by 1288 A.D. Innocent III died on
July 16, 1216 and Honorlus III became his successor. "He
was dedicated to the crusade but lacked the political
strength and energy of Innocent III."(7) In return for the
capture of Zara during the Fourth Crusade , the Venetians
agreed to transport the Hungarian army. The crusaders
arrived at Acre in May 1218. Egypt was now the target. If
they could get it, all of southern Palestine could be
easily attained. On May 29, 1218, the fleet anchored off
shore and the army was placed on the west bank of the Nile.
The crusaders overtook a tower protecting Damietta. Instead
of attacking Damietta, the crusaders waited for
reinforcements. Saladin's nephew, Sultan al-Kamil, attacked
the crusader camp but was defeated . In September al-Kamil
offered Jerusalem, Palestine, Galilee, and the return of
the true cross if the Christians evacuated Egypt. Cardinal
Pelagius, leader of the Christian army, rejected the offer.
He didn't want to come to terms with the Muslims. On
November 5, 1219, Damietta was captured. In August 1221 the
Crusaders attacked the Egyptians but were forced to
surrender Damitetta. Emperor Frederick II took up the
Sixth Crusade in 1215. Political problems in the west kept
him from joining. He wanted to boost his appearance by
regaining the Holy Land. Pope Gregory IX excommunicated him
in 1227 when his journey was delayed more because of an
illness. He finally left for the Holy Land in June 1228. In
February 1229, Sultan al-Kamil surrendered Jerusalem
because he was afraid of Frederick's expedition. A ten year
truce was agreed upon. No blood was shed during this
peaceful, political crusade. King Louis IX of France
organized the Seventh Crusade after the Muslims recaptured
Jerusalem in 1244. Louis spent four years planning and at
the end of August 1248, Louis and his army sailed to
Cyprus. The army spent the winter in Cyprus while waiting
for reinforcements. The fleet left at the end of May and
stopped off at Damietta on June 5, 1249. On June 6 the
citizens of Damietta evacuated in a panic. The crusaders
spent the summer in Damietta waiting for reinforcements. On
November 20, 1249, the army started to march to Cairo. In
the spring of 1250, they attacked Cairo. Louis surrendered
to the Egyptians in April 1250. Damietta was given up and a
ransom was paid. The Europeans' calls for more crusades
were stupid and didn't accomplish much.(8) Italian cities
had better commerce and there was a greater interest in
exploring the orient thanks to the crusades. New trade
markets were established. The direct general taxation
system was developed during the crusades. As you can see,
the crusades were one of the most violent periods of time
in the history of mankind.


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