Penitential Warfare or Holy Wars
The Christian Crusades were fought mainly against Muslims, although campaigns were also waged against pagan Slavs, pagan Balts, Jews, Russian and Greek Orthodox Christians, Mongols, Cathars, Hussites, Waldensians, Old Prussians, and political enemies of the popes. The Muslim presence in the Holy Land began with their initial conquest in the 7th century AD. Christianity and Islam were thrown into complete opposition, a polarity that has lasted to this very day.
The Christian Crusades were a series of religiously sanctioned military campaigns waged by of Latin Christian Europe, by the Franks of France and the Holy Roman Empire. The specific crusades to acquire Christian control of the Holy Land were fought over a period of nearly 200 years, between 1095 and 1291. Other campaigns in Spain and Eastern Europe continued into the 15th century.
Foreign Invasion of the Holy Land: After the Roman Empire invasion of the Holy Land and the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Romans named the Holy Lands, Palaestina [meaning palace of, or kingdom of a god] as a reference to the Hebrew nation. The Jerusalem Temple Mount was considered the temple of this Hebrew God. With the evangelizing of Greek inspired Christianity the Holy Land became a center for the new religion of a new messiah leader. Following Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 313 A.D which ended Christian persecution, Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem became safe for those who had the means of travel.
The Muslim Invasion of the Holy Land: The founding of Islam by Mohammed (570-632) changed the ethos of the Middle East. The concept of holy war, or jihad, to expand religious aims was embraced by the followers of Islam. The Muslims captured Jerusalem in 638, and the Christian Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria were placed under the control of the Caliphates. Although, Islam proved a tolerant religion in victory, in keeping with the teachings of Mohammed, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was allowed to remain Christian and Christians were allowed to practice their religion with the payment of a special tax, called the jizya.
The Muslim armies’ successes put increasing pressure on the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine Empire. The Moslem invasion captured the eastern part of the Byzantine empire but were held off twice at Constantinople, decisively in 717 by Emperor Leo III. By the next century, Islam under the Umayyad Dynasty extended all the way from India through Morocco into Spain. It was only their defeat by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in 732 that stopped the Western European advance of Mohammedan forces. But the Reconquista of Spain, or the re-unification of Spain under Christian rule, was not completed until the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, when Granada was captured from the Moors on January 2, 1492.
In the beginning of the eleventh century AD, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was completed in 335 AD alleged to be on the site of Jesus crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. In 1009 a Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah ordered the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
In 1039 his successor, after requiring large sums be paid for the right, permitted the Byzantine Empire to rebuild it. A new wave of Muslim aggression by the Seljuk Turks led to Christian persecution in the Holy Land and the invasion of the Byzantine Empire. The defeat of the Byzantines at the decisive Battle of Manzikert in 1071 gave the Seljuk Turks possession of Asia Minor. Nicaea and then Antioch fell to the Turks.
Constantinople was vulnerable, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land abruptly ended. This led Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus to appeal to Pope Urban II for help. The Emperor sent his emissaries to the Pope’s Council of Piacenza in March of 1095, with a request for knights to defend the East.
The Animus of the Crusades: Developments in Western Europe earlier in the Middle Ages, as well as the deteriorating situation of the Byzantine Empire in the east caused a new wave of Turkish Muslim attacks. The breakdown of the Carolingian Empire in the late 9th century, combined with the relative stabilization of local European borders after the Christianization of the Vikings, Slavs, and Magyars, had produced a large class of armed warriors whose energies were misplaced fighting one another and terrorizing the local populace in their pursuit of power. The Euopean Christian Church attempted to divert this violence with the Peace and Truce of God movements, which were occasionally successful, however trained warriors sought an outlet for their skills; and opportunities for territorial expansion were becoming less attractive for large segments of the nobility.
One exception was the Reconquista in Spain and Portugal, which at times occupied Iberian knights and some mercenaries from elsewhere in Europe in the fight against the Islamic Moors. While the Reconquista was the most prominent example of European reactions against Muslim conquests, the Norman adventurer Robert Guiscard had conquered Calabria in 1057 and was holding what had traditionally been Byzantine territory against the Muslims of Sicily. The maritime states of Pisa, Genoa and Catalonia were all actively fighting Islamic strongholds in Majorca and Sardinia, freeing the coasts of Italy and Catalonia from Muslim raids.
Much earlier in 638 AD, the Christian territories of Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Holy Land had been conquered by Muslim armies. This long history of losing territories to a religious enemy created a powerful motive to respond to Byzantine Emperor Alexius I’s call for holy war to defend Christendom, and to recapture the lost lands starting with Jerusalem.
The Rally for the First Crusade: In 1063, Pope Alexander II had given his blessing to Iberian Christians in their wars against the Muslims, granting both a papal standard (the vexillum sancti Petri) and an indulgence to those who were killed in battle. In 1071, at the Battle of Manzikert, the Byzantine Empire was defeated, which led to the loss of territory in the region of western Anatolia, around Constantinople and all of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) except the coastlands.
The Byzantine Emperor, Alexius I in desperation made an appeal to his enemy, the Pope, for aid. Previous Papal attempts at reconciliation after the East-West Schism between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church had failed, but when the Byzantine emperor Alexius I appealed for a positive response from the Pope for mercenaries to help him resist Muslim advances into territory of the Byzantine Empire he eventually got it.
Pope Gregory VII had struggled with the doctrinal validity of a holy war and the shedding of blood for the Lord but had resolved the question in favour of justified violence. More importantly to the Pope, the Christians who made pilgrimages to the Holy Land were being persecuted. Saint Augustine of Hippo, Gregory’s intellectual model, had justified the use of force in the service of Jesus in Jerusalem [The City of God]; and a Christian “just war” might enhance the wider standing of an aggressively ambitious leader of Europe, as Gregory saw himself.
The Church attempted to place some measure of control on warlike behavior by the institution of the Peace of God, which protected defenseless women, children and the elderly; the Truce of God, which banned warfare on Sundays and holydays, as well as Advent and Lent; and the development of a Code of Chivalry for the proper conduct of knights. The knights’ Code called for the knight to defend and obey the Church and Commandments and to be the champion of right and good against injustice and evil. The Church raised the reception of Christian knighthood to an honor through a Christian ceremony.
The northerners would be cemented to Rome and their knights could partake in combative action that suited them. To the south of Rome, Normans demonstrated how these combative skills might be unleashed against both Arabs (in Sicily) and Byzantine territory (on the mainland). A Latin hegemony in the Levant would provide leverage in resolving the Papacy’s claims of supremacy over the Patriarch of Constantinople, which had resulted in the Great Schism of 1054, a rift that might be resolved through the force of Frankish arms.
Penitential Warfare or Holy Wars: Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085), following St. Augustine, developed the concept of “penitential warfare,” whereby warfare was justified when performed in the service and defense of the Catholic Church and the Christian faith. He offered absolution to those who died fighting for the Cross in the reconquest (reconquista) of Spain. Since Gregory was occupied with the Investiture Controversy and could not call on the German emperor, a crusade never took shape under his papacy.
It was Pope Urban II who formally invoked penitential warfare or warfare in the service and defense of the Church for the remission of sins, when he called for the First Crusade on November 27, 1095. The Pope justified a war under the banner of Christianity. While St. Basil and the early Church Fathers would never have accepted war, St. Augustine held that war was justified at the command of God. European warfare during the age of feudalism primarily involved Christians, noblemen and knights fighting each other over land, possessions, romance, or right of succession!
For Pope Urban II, a crusade would serve to reunite Christendom, bolster the Papacy, and perhaps bring the East under his control. The disaffected Germans and the Normans were not to be counted on, but the heart and backbone of a crusade could be found in Urban’s homeland among the northern French.
The pleas from the Byzantine Emperors, now threatened by the Seljuks, thus fell on ready ears. Pope Urban II saw the request by Alexius I Comnenus as an opportunity to heal the Schism of East and West, when Alexius promised he would take measures toward recognizing Rome once Constantinople was safe from the Turks. The Crusades had the goal of capturing Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslim rule and were launched against the expansion of the Muslim Seljuk Turks into Anatolia.
Thus, the First Crusade was proclaimed in 1095. The Christian princes of northern Iberia had been fighting their way out of the mountains of Galicia and Asturias, the Basque Country and Navarre, with increasing success, for about a hundred years. The fall of Moorish Toledo to the Kingdom of León in 1085 was a major victory, but the turning points of the Reconquista still lay in the future. The disunity of Muslim emirs was an essential factor.
The Papal Order For the Christian Crusades: Pope Urban II called for the capture of the Holy Land to claim the Land of Jesus and stop the Muslim invasion; to heal the rift between Roman and Orthodox Christianity following the Schism of 1054; and to marshal the energy of the constantly warring feudal lords and knights into the one cause of “penitential warfare.”
Pope Urban II, launched 200 years of the Crusades at the Council of Clermont, France on November 27, 1095 with this impassioned plea. In a public speech in an open field, he urged the knights and noblemen to win back the Holy Land, to face their sins, and called upon those present to save their souls and become “Soldiers of Christ.” Those who undertook the venture were to wear an emblem in the shape of a red cross on their body. And so derived the word “Crusader,” from the Latin word cruciare – to mark with a cross. By the time his speech ended, the captivated audience began shouting “Deus le volt! – God wills it!” The expression became the battle-cry of the crusades.
The Crusaders took vows: Like pilgrims, each crusader swore a vow (a votus), to be fulfilled on successfully reaching Jerusalem and they were granted a cloth cross (crux) to be sewn into their clothes. This “taking of the cross”, the crux, eventually became associated with the entire journey; the word “crusade” (coming into English from the Medieval French croisade and Spanish cruzada) developed from this. They were granted penance for past sins, often called an indulgence.
The original crusaders were known by various terms, including fideles Sancti Petri (the faithful of Saint Peter) or milites Christi (knights of Christ). They saw themselves as undertaking an iter, a journey, or a peregrinatio, a pilgrimage, though pilgrims were usually forbidden from carrying arms.
Remission of Sin: Since the Holy Land included Jerusalem and Antioch (the first Christian city), the remission of sin was a driving factor and provided any God-fearing man who had committed sins with an irresistible way out of eternal damnation in Hell. Most believed that by retaking Jerusalem they would go straight to heaven after death. However, debate of what was promised by the popes of the time continued.
One theory was that one had to die fighting for Jerusalem for the remission to apply, which would fit more closely to what Pope Urban II said in his speeches. This meant that if the crusaders were successful and retook Jerusalem, the survivors would not be given remission. Another theory was that if one reached Jerusalem, one would be relieved of the sins one had committed before the Crusade. Therefore one could still be sentenced to Hell for sins committed afterwards.
The Crusades became an outlet for fanatic religious fervor. A crusader would, after pronouncing a solemn vow, receive a cross from the hands of the pope or his legates and was thus considered a “soldier of the Christian Church”. The result was an awakening of intense Christian piety which rose up in the late 11th century among the lay public and public interest in religious affairs. The frenzy was further strengthened by religious propaganda, that advocated a Just War in order to retake the Holy Land from the Muslims. All of these factors were manifested in the overwhelming popular support for the First Crusade and the religious vitality of the 12th century.
First Crusade 1095-1099: The First Crusade (1096-1099): After Pope Urban II had finished his speech at Claremont, Adhemar de Monteil, Bishop of Puy, volunteered for the expedition. The Pope nominated him to be the Papal Legate and head of the Crusade, to ensure that the Church would lead the effort. The choice was an excellent one, as Adhemar of Puy proved to be fair-minded, calm, and diplomatic in his attempt to coordinate the major armies that crossed Europe in different routes and assembled in Constantinople by May of 1097.
Raymond of St. Gilles, Count of Toulouse, was the first who “took up the cross.” He made a vow to and pledged his service to the Pope and his loyalty to Bishop Adhemar of Puy; the Bishop travelled with Raymond for the entire Crusade. They left France in October of 1096 and crossed the Alps into Dalmatia and the Balkan states, through Thessalonica, reaching Constantinople in April of 1097.
Godfrey of Bouillon, Duke of Lower Lorraine, and his younger brother Baldwin of Boulogne, took the northern route through Germany, and followed the Danube River through Hungary, arriving in Constantinople just before Christmas 1096.
The Crusader States: Godfrey died after only a year, and his brother Baldwin, the ruler of the County of Edessa, was crowned King of Jerusalem on December 25, 1100, and the Kingdom of Jerusalem was established. Raymond of Toulouse headed North and established the County of Tripoli, the fourth Crusader state.The four Crusader states of Edessa, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Tripoli collectively became known as Outremer, outre-mer being the French word for “overseas”.
Hugh of Vermandois, brother of King Philip I of France, left from Paris, traveled through Italy to the port of Bari, and sailed to Dyrrhacium in the Balkan States, and then by land reached Constantinople. Later, Robert, Duke of Normandy, his cousin Stephen, Count of Blois, and his cousin Robert II, Count of Flanders travelled the same route and reached Constantinople in early May of 1097.
Bohemond of Taranto, his nephew Tancred, and the Normans of Southern Italy sailed to Dyrrhacium and then traveled by land, reaching Constantinople in April 1096. With the exception of Bohemond of Taranto, religious fervor was the strongest motive for joining the Crusade, although the greed for earthly riches and petty rivalries of the leaders would create troubles for the Crusaders far beyond Adhemar’s control.
Emperor Alexius deftly handled the Crusaders, and dispatched them across the Bosporus Straits into Asia. The Crusaders laid seige to Nicaea, a major stronghold of the Seljuk Turks. The seige induced them to negotiate with Alexius, who took back Nicaea in June of 1097. Alexius did not allow the Crusaders to enter Nicaea, a decision which affected his future relationship with them.
Following a victory at Dorylaeum which routed the Turks, the Crusaders faced the arduous task of crossing the mountainous terrain of Anatolia (modern Turkey) in Asia Minor. The goal to reach Antioch took months to accomplish, and was marked by the Crusaders taking two different routes. Baldwin of Boulogne, Godfrey’s younger brother, went through Armenia, and, setting out on his own conquest, ended up capturing Edessa. After marrying an Armenian princess, he was invited by the people to rule. The first Crusader state, the County of Edessa, had been established.
The main Crusading force finally reached Antioch, on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea in October of 1097. The first Patriarch of Antioch was St. Peter himself, and following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, became important to early Christianity. The followers of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26). Matthew wrote his Gospel there, Paul set out on his three missionary journeys from Antioch, and St. Ignatius of Antioch established the order of Bishop, Presbyter, and Deacon. The Eastern Catholic Maronite rite originated in Antioch.
The Crusader armies fought further battles against the Turks, facing grave deprivation of both food and water in their summer crossing of Anatolia. The lengthy Siege of Antioch began in October 1097 and endured until June of 1098. The ruler of Antioch was not sure how the Christians living within his city would react, so he forced them to live outside the citadel. The siege only ended when one of the gates to the city was betrayed by an Armenian dissident. A large Muslim relief army under Kerbogha immediately besieged the victorious Crusaders within Antioch.
Bohemund of Taranto led a successful break-out and defeat of Kerbogha’s army on the 28th of June. The starving crusader army marched south, moving from town to town along the coast, finally reaching the walls of Jerusalem on 7 June 1099 with only a fraction of their original forces.
Antioch’s defenses were formidable, and it took nine months before its walls could be stormed. Rivalries began, as Bohemond of Taranto wanted Antioch for himself, while Raymond of Toulouse argued that it should be handed back to the Byzantines, as agreed upon in Constantinople. Following a bribe by Bohemond of one of the Turks, the Crusaders scaled the walls and invaded Antioch in June of 1098.
The town became a bloodbath as every Turk was massacred. Shortly after they had taken over Antioch, they were besieged within the city by an invading Turkish army from Mosul. Trapped within the walls, disease and discouragement set in.
The Holy Lance: the Roman army lance that pierced the side of Jesus, was discovered in the Church of St. Peter. Taken as Divine intervention, the Crusaders were rallied. Led by Bishop of Adhemar of Puy carrying the Holy Lance, the Crusaders proved invincible. The knights charged, mounted on their horses and pressing next to each other, routed the Turks. The cavalry charge was a formidable weapon for the Crusaders throughout their campaigns in the Holy Land.
Bishop Adhemar of Puy died from an illness in August of 1098, and his leadership was sorely missed. The Crusaders began squabbling for the next few months, until finally Bohemond of Taranto ended up with Antioch. The second Crusader state, the Principality of Antioch, was established.
Raymond of Toulouse was left the undisputed leader of the Crusaders, and set out for Jerusalem in January of 1099. He traveled through Tripoli, Lebanon, and discovered the Maronites, a Christian group in the mountains that had resisted Turkish rule, and who confirmed loyalty to the Pope in 1181. The Crusaders, known to the Muslims as the Franj or Franks, reached Jerusalem on June 7, 1099, and began their siege.
A Genoese fleet arrived with materials to help them scale the walls of the heavily fortified city. Morale sank, as an initial attack failed, and water became scarce. But then a priest had a vision of the deceased Bishop Adhemar, who urged the Crusaders to fast and then walk barefoot around the city to atone for their sins.
The Crusaders eagerly complied, and encouraged, they attacked the city, and two days later, on July 15, 1099, entered the city of Jerusalem. Maddened after three years of suffering and frustration, once inside the city, as was standard military practice at the time, the Crusaders massacred every Moslem and Jew within the city of inhabitants, destroyed mosques, synagogues and pillaged the city. Local Christians assassinated Yaghisiyan, former ruler of the city.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in the northwest quarter of the old city at the end of Via Dolorosa, was once again in Christian hands. The Crusaders thanked God in a solemn ceremony. Godfrey of Bouillon was chosen as the ruler, taking the title of Defender of the Holy Sepulchre. Jerusalem became the third and principal Crusader state.
Pilgrimages were allowed to the Holy Lands before and after the Sepulchre was rebuilt, but for a time pilgrims were captured and some of the clergy were killed. The Muslim conquerors eventually realized that the wealth of Jerusalem came from the pilgrims; with this realization the persecution of pilgrims stopped. However, the damage was already done, and the violence of the Seljuk Turks became part of the concern that spread the passion for the Crusades.
Summary of the Siege of Jerusalem: The Jews and Muslims fought together to defend Jerusalem against the invading Franks. They were unsuccessful though and on 15 July 1099 the crusaders entered the city.
The Crusaders proceeded to massacre the remaining Jewish and Muslim civilians and pillaged or destroyed mosques and the city itself. One historian has written that the “isolation, alienation and fear” felt by the Franks so far from home does not explain the atrocities they committed, including the cannibalism which was recorded after the Siege of Maarat in 1098.
As a result of the First Crusade, several small Crusader states were created, notably the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In the Kingdom of Jerusalem at most 120,000 Franks (predominantly French-speaking Western Christians) ruled over 350,000 Muslims, Jews, and native Eastern Christians who had remained since the Arab occupation began in 638 AD.
The First Crusade, the only successful one, was over, but left a certain irony. The two that began the effort never heard the news – Pope Urban II died just two weeks later, before word reached Rome, and Bishop Adhemar had died in Antioch. Many of the Crusaders, having fulfilled their vow, returned home.
Following abortive popular crusades in early 1096, the official crusader armies set off from France and Italy on the papally-ordained date of 15 August 1096. The armies journeyed eastward by land toward Constantinople, where they received a wary welcome from the Byzantine Emperor.
Pledging to restore lost territories to the empire, the Crusaders were supplied and transported to Anatolia where they laid siege to Seljuk-occupied Nicaea. The city fell on 19 June 1097.
The Crusaders also tried to gain control of the city of Tyre, but were defeated by the Muslims. The people of Tyre asked Zahir al-Din Atabek, the leader of Damascus, for help defending their city from the Franks with the promise to surrender Tyre to him. When the Franks were defeated the people of Tyre did not surrender the city, but Zahir al-Din simply said “What I have done I have done only for the sake of God and the Muslims, nor out of desire for wealth and kingdom.”
After gaining control of Jerusalem the Crusaders created four Crusader states: the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch and the County of Tripoli. Initially, Muslims did very little about the Crusader states due to internal conflicts. Eventually, the Muslims began to reunite under the leadership of Imad al-Din Zangi. He began by re-taking Edessa in 1144. It was the first city to fall to the Crusaders, and became the first to be recaptured by the Muslims. This led the Pope to call for a second Crusade.
Massacres of Jews after the First Crusade: The first crusades unleashed a wave of impassioned, Christian fury that was expressed in the massacres of Jews that accompanied the movement of the Crusader mobs through Europe, as well as the violent treatment of “schismatic” Orthodox Christians of the east. During many of these attacks on Jews, local pagans made attempts to protect Jews from the mobs that were passing through.
Crusade of 1101: Following this crusade there was a second, less successful wave of crusaders, in which Turks led by Kilij Arslan defeated the Crusaders in three separate battles in a well-managed response to the First Crusade. This is known as the Crusade of 1101 and may be considered an adjunct of the First Crusade.
Norwegian Crusade 1107-1110: Sigurd I of Norway was the first European king who went on a crusade and his crusader armies defeated Muslims in Spain, the Baleares, and in the Holy Land where they joined the king of Jerusalem in the Siege of Sidon.
Second Crusade 1147–1149: A new crusade was called for by various preachers, most notably by Bernard of Clairvaux. French and South German armies. The capture of Edessa by the Turks in 1144 led Pope Eugenius III to call for a Second Crusade. Bernard of Clairvaux played an active role in inspiring Western Europe to protect the Latin states of the East. King Louis VII of France and King Conrad III of Germany led their armies into the Holy Land and met in Acre. Launching a failed pre-emptive siege of Damascus, an independent city that would soon fall into the hands of Nur ad-Din, the main enemy of the Crusaders.
They failed because of their lack of cooperation. Soundly defeated and then massacred by the Turks, they never reached Edessa. Under the Kings Louis VII and Conrad III respectively, they marched to Jerusalem in 1147 but failed to win any major victories.
On the other side of the Mediterranean, the Second Crusade met with success as a group of Northern European Crusaders stopped in Portugal, allied with the Portuguese King, Afonso I of Portugal, and retook Lisbon from the Muslims in 1147. A detachment from this group of crusaders helped Count Raymond Berenguer IV of Barcelona conquer the city of Tortosa the following year.
In the Holy Land by 1150, both the kings of France and Germany had returned to their countries without any result. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who in his preachings had encouraged the Second Crusade, was upset with the amount of misdirected violence and slaughter of the Jewish population of the Rhineland. North Germans and Danes attacked the Wends during the 1147 Wendish Crusade, which was unsuccessful as well.
Third Crusade 1187–1192: In 1187, Saladin, Sultan of Egypt, conquered Jerusalem after nearly a century under Christian rule, following the Battle of Hattin. After the Christians surrendered the city, Saladin spared the civilians and for the most part left churches and shrines untouched to be able to collect ransom money from the Franks.
Several thousand apparently were not redeemed and probably were sold into slavery. Saladin is remembered respectfully in both European and Islamic sources as a man who “always stuck to his promise and was loyal.” The reports of Saladin’s victories shocked Europe.
Pope Gregory VIII called for a crusade, which was led by several of Europe’s most important leaders: Philip II of France, Richard I of England (aka Richard the Lionheart), and Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor. Frederick drowned in Cilicia in 1190, leaving an unstable alliance between the English and the French.
Before his arrival in the Holy Land, Richard I, captured the island of Cyprus from the Byzantines in 1191. Cyprus would serve as a Crusader base for centuries to come, and would remain in Western European hands until the Ottoman Empire conquered the island from Venice in 1571. After a long siege, Richard the Lionheart recaptured the city of Acre and took the entire Muslim soldier garrison under captivity, which was executed after a series of failed negotiations. Philip left, in 1191, after the Crusaders had recaptured Acre from the Muslims.
The Crusader army headed south along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. They defeated the Muslims near Arsuf, recaptured the port city of Jaffa, and were in sight of Jerusalem. However, Richard did not believe he would be able to hold Jerusalem once it was captured, as the majority of Crusaders would then return to Europe, and the crusade ended without the taking of Jerusalem. Richard left the following year after negotiating a treaty with Saladin. The treaty allowed unarmed Christian pilgrims to make pilgrimages to the Holy Land (Jerusalem), while it remained under Muslim control.
On Richard’s way home, his ship was wrecked and he ended up in Austria, where his enemy, Duke Leopold, captured him. The Duke delivered Richard to the Emperor Henry VI, who held the King for ransom. By 1197, Henry felt ready for a crusade, but he died in the same year of malaria. Richard I died during fighting in Europe and never returned to the Holy Land. The Third Crusade is sometimes referred to as the Kings’ Crusade.
Summary of the Third Crusade (1190-1192): The ending of 88 years of formal Christian rule in Jerusalem sent shock waves throughout Europe. Pope Gregory VIII quickly called for the Third Crusade to liberate Jerusalem. He was greeted with enthusiasm by King Frederick Barbarossa of Germany, King Philip II of France, and Richard, the son of King Henry II. Before Richard left England, his father died, leaving him King Richard I of England. Before the Third Crusade was over, he would be known as Richard the Lionhearted.
King Richard, eager to join his friend Philip in the Crusades, placed the throne in the hands of his brother John. Several disagreements between Philip and Richard on the way to the Holy Land soured the relationship, however, and their broken friendship affected their cooperation and the outcome of the Third Crusade.
King Frederick drowned in a river near Tarsus on the way to Antioch, and his German army dispersed. King Philip sailed directly to the city of Acre to assist Guy of Lusagne in his attempt to recapture the city. Guy had been graciously released by Saladin from imprisonment. In spite of their efforts, Acre remained in Muslim hands.
After capturing Cyprus, King Richard arrived in Acre on June 8, 1191. With his energy, and, without Saladin to lead the Muslims, Acre surrendered on July 11, 1191. While there was no one as brave as Richard, his hot-temper marred his leadership. Too impatient in a negotiation with the chivalrous Saladin, he had 2700 Muslim prisoners-of-war slaughtered by the Franks. War became inevitable.
It was at this juncture that King Philip returned to France with the excuse of illness and troubles at home. This proved disastrous to the cause.
Saladin attacked Richard at Arsuf with 80,000 men, three times the size of Richard’s army, but Richard led a cavalry charge and routed Saladin’s troops. Their spirits heightened by victory, Richard marched on to Jaffa. Richard then engaged Saladin at Jaffa. Even though heavily outnumbered, he bravely stood his ground and again defeated Saladin. After 15 months in Outremer, Richard captured the Mediterranean coast of Palaestina from Saladin, but never attacked Jerusalem.
Richard headed towards Jerusalem, but the French army without their King would not support Richard’s plan of attack. Richard turned back and captured Ascalon on the coast. A second march to Jerusalem in June 1192 ended with Richard again turning back, for the Knights Templar and Hospitallers advised that, even if Jerusalem were captured, the Knights would be unable to hold onto the city once Richard returned to England. The one time that Richard gazed upon Jerusalem from a distance, he screened his view with a shield, saddened that he would be unable to return the city to Christian hands.
At this point, the two mighty warriors of the Crusades decided to negotiate. Richard was eager to return home, and Saladin was weary of war. On September 2, 1192, they signed a peace treaty. The Crusader states would retain control of the coastal strip from Tyre to Jaffa, with their other holdings in Antioch and Tripoli. Jerusalem would stay in Muslim hands, but Christian pilgrims would be allowed free access to the Holy sites of the city. The City of Acre rather than Jerusalem became the center for the Crusader States. Both the Third Crusade, as well as any religious idealism, were over.
Fourth Crusade 1202–1204: The Fourth Crusade was initiated in 1202 by Pope Innocent III, with the intention of invading the Holy Land through Egypt. One of the primary reasons for Pope Urban II calling for the Crusades was to reconcile Roman and Byzantine Christianity. Any hope for Christian unity was completely dashed by the Fourth Crusade.
Pope Innocent III commissioned the Fourth Crusade, as Jerusalem was still in Muslim hands. Crusaders planned to leave Venice by sea and first attack Egypt and divide the Muslim world before heading to Jerusalem. Under the Doge of Venice, the city had become a wealthy and independent political port as the point of entry for trade from the East. Because Crusaders lacked the funds to pay for the fleet and provisions that they had contracted from the Venetians, Doge Enrico Dandolo enlisted the crusaders to restore the Christian city of Zara (Zadar) to obedience.
The crusaders, both Franks and Venetians, accepted the Doge’s offer for free passage to Egypt if they seized the Venetian town of Zara, which had been lost to the Hungarians. When the news of the sack of Zara reached Rome, Pope Innocent III excommunicated the Doge of Venice and the entire expedition. In Zara, the Crusaders were approached by Alexius, who claimed his father Isaac as the rightful heir to the Byzantine throne. The Franks accepted his promise that if they restored his father to the throne, he would finance their crusade to Egypt.
The leaders decided to go to Constantinople, where they attempted to place a Byzantine exile on the throne. The Crusaders arrived off Constantinople on June 24, 1203. To appease matters, Alexius and his father Isaac were hastily made co-emperors, However, tensions grew, and in a direct challenge to the Crusaders, Alexius and his father were unseated in a palace coup. When it became evident that the new Emperor would not release funds, the Christian Franks and Venetians attacked the Christian Byzantines and sacked Constantinople on April 12, 1204.
The Franks massacred the citizens while the Venetians looted priceless treasures. Count Baldwin of Flanders took the throne on May 16, 1204, commencing the Latin Empire of Constantinople and a series of other Crusader states throughout the territories of the Greek Byzantine Empire. This is often seen as the final breaking point of the Great Schism between the Eastern Orthodox Church and (Western) Roman Catholic Church..
The 1204 sack of Constantinople has been called “the greatest crime against humanity. Roman and Byzantine Christianity have remained severed to our present day. Crusades expressed extreme ferver and after Acre fell for the last time in 1291 and the Occitan Cathars were exterminated during the Albigensian Crusade; the crusading massacres were devalued by Papal justifications of political and territorial aggressions within Catholic Europe.
Albigensian Crusade: The Albigensian Crusade was launched in 1209 to eliminate the heretical Cathars of Occitania (the south of modern-day France). This was a decade-long struggle that had to do with the concerns of northern France to extend its control southwards as it did with heresy. In the end, both the Cathars and the independence of southern France were exterminated.
Children’s Crusade: The Children’s Crusade is a series of possibly fictitious or misinterpreted events of 1212. The story is that an outburst of the old popular enthusiasm led a gathering of children in France and Germany, which Pope Innocent III interpreted as a reproof from heaven to their unworthy elders. The leader of the French army, Stephen, led 30,000 children. The leader of the German army, Nicholas, led 7,000 children. None of the children actually reached the Holy Land: those who did not return home or settle along the route to Jerusalem either died from shipwreck or hunger, or were sold into slavery in Egypt or North Africa.
Fifth Crusade 1217–1221: By processions, prayers, and preaching, the Church attempted to set another crusade afoot, and the Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215) formulated a plan for the recovery of the Holy Land.
Pope Innocent III called for a fifth Crusade. But he died in 1216, just after convening the Fourth Lateran Council. In the first phase, a crusading force from Austria and Hungary joined the forces of the king of Jerusalem and the prince of Antioch to take back Jerusalem.
In the second phase, crusader forces achieved a remarkable feat in the capture of Damietta in Egypt in 1219. After an initial success in capturing Damietta, Egypt, many Crusaders were conquered by disease in the Nile Delta.
Al-Kamil had put a bounty of a Byzantine gold piece for every Christian head brought to him during the war. During 1219, St. Francis of Assisi crossed the battle lines at Damietta in order to speak with Al-Kamil. He and his companion Illuminatus were captured and beaten and brought before the Sultan.
St. Bonaventure, in his Major Life of St. Francis, says that the Sultan was impressed by Francis and spent some time with him. Francis was given safe passage and although he was offered many gifts, all he accepted was a horn for calling the faithful to prayer. This act eventually led to the establishment of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.
Pope Honorius III sent Cardinal Pelagius as his legate and under the urgent insistence of the papal legate, Pelagius, they then launched an attack on Cairo in July of 1221. The crusaders were turned back after their dwindling supplies led to a forced retreat.
A night-time attack by the ruler of Egypt, the powerful Ayubid Sultan Al-Kamil, resulted in a great number of crusader losses and eventually in the surrender of the army. Al-Kamil agreed to an eight-year peace agreement with Europe.The Franks were then trapped on the way to Cairo. A truce that returned Damietta to the Muslims freed Crusaders that lived.
Sixth Crusade 1228–1229: Pope Gregory IX called for the Sixth Crusade in 1227, and King Frederick II of the Holy Roman Empire responded. Emperor Frederick II had repeatedly vowed a crusade but failed to live up to his words, for which he was excommunicated by Pope Gregory IX in 1228.
Frederick finally departed in June of 1228. In 1229 after failing to conquer Egypt, Frederick II of the Holy Roman Empire, set sail from Brindisi and landed in the Holy Land. Choosing diplomacy over warfare he negotiated a peace treaty with Al-Kamil, the Sultan of Egypt for the return of Jerusalem. This treaty allowed Christians to rule over most of Jerusalem, while the Muslims were given control of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aksa mosque.
Through diplomacy Frederick II of the Holy Roman Empire achieved unexpected success; Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem were delivered to the crusaders for a period of ten years. Many of the Muslims though were not happy with Al-Kamil for giving up control of Jerusalem and in 1244, following a siege, the Muslims regained control of the city.
Seventh Crusade 1248–1254: The papal interests represented by the Templars brought on a conflict with Egypt in 1243, and in the following year a Khwarezmian force summoned by the latter stormed Jerusalem. The crusaders were drawn into battle at La Forbie in Gaza. The crusader army and its Bedouin mercenaries were completely defeated within forty-eight hours by Baibars’ force of Khwarezmian tribesmen.
This battle is considered by many historians to have been the death knell to the Kingdom of Outremer. The Mongolian invasion, initially led by Genghis Khan, conquered Asia all the way to Baghdad. The Khwarezmian Turks fled the Mongols and on the way to Egypt, conquered Jerusalem in 1244.
Although this provoked no widespread outrage in Europe as the fall of Jerusalem in 1187 had done, Pope Innocent IV called St. Louis IX , King of France, for the Seventh Crusade. Louis IX of France organized a crusade against Egypt from 1248 to 1254, leaving from the newly constructed port of Aigues-Mortes in southern France. It was a failure, and Louis spent much of the crusade living at the court of the crusader kingdom in Acre.
He took Damietta, Egypt in May of 1249, but was captured on the way to Cairo in 1250. He had to pay a grand ransom for his army’s freedom. In the midst of this crusade was the first Shepherds’ Crusade in 1251.
The Eighth Crusade (1270-1271) and The Fall of Acre (1291): The Muslim Mamluks of Egypt ended the Mongol scourge at Ain-Jalut (near Nazareth) on September 3, 1260. The Muslims then captured the Christian towns of Caesarea and Jaffa; the fall of Antioch in 1268 led to the Eighth Crusade.
King Louis IX led an Eighth Crusade in 1270 (during the Papal vacancy of 1268-1271), again sailing from Aigues-Mortes, initially to come to the aid of the remnants of the crusader states in Syria. However, the crusade was diverted to Tunis, where Louis spent only two months before dying from an infectious disease. For his efforts, Louis was later canonised.
The future Edward I of England undertook another expedition against Baibars in 1271, after having accompanied Louis on the Eighth Crusade. Prince Edward of England, son of King Henry III, arrived in Acre with Visconti of Liege in 1270. The chivalrous Prince, offended by the political infighting and corruption in Outremer and without the military help of Louis IX, decided on diplomatic efforts and brokered a ten-year truce with the Mamluks.
Visconti of Liege went home in 1271, chosen to become Pope Gregory X. Edward stayed until his wife Eleanor delivered and then voyaged home to England to become King Edward I. It was the last of the Crusades to the Holy Land with any success against the Muslims.
Ninth Crusade 1271–1272: The Ninth Crusade was deemed a failure and ended the Crusades in the Middle East. In their later years, faced with the threat of the Egyptian Mamluks, the Crusaders’ hopes rested with a Franco-Mongol alliance. The Ilkhanate’s Mongols were thought to be sympathetic to Christianity, and the Frankish princes were most effective in gathering their help, engineering their invasions of the Middle East on several occasions.
Although the Mongols successfully attacked as far south as Damascus on these campaigns, the ability to effectively coordinate with Crusades from the west was repeatedly frustrated most notably at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260.
The Mamluks, led by Baibars, eventually made good their pledge to cleanse the entire Middle East of the Franks. With the fall of Antioch (1268), Tripoli (1289), and Acre (1291), those Christians unable to leave the cities were massacred or enslaved and the last traces of Christian rule in the Levant disappeared.
Unchecked, the Mamluks of Egypt easily conquered the rest of Outremer. The fall of the city of Acre on May 18, 1291 ended 192 years of Crusader territory in the Holy Land.
The Military Orders: The last crusading order of knights to hold territory were the Knights of St. John or Hospitallers. The Knights Hospitaller who were Merchants from Amalfi, Italy built the hospital of St. John in Jerusalem in 1070. The Monks provided staffing for the hospital and they would eventually evolve into the Knights Hospitaller, who wore a white cross and protected the pilgrims who entered Jerusalem.
The Knights Templar were instituted in 1119 by the French knights, and were housed in the Temple of Solomon. They wore a red cross, and were responsible for protecting pilgrims going to and from the Holy Land.
A group of German crusaders joined with members of the German Hospital in 1190 to begin the Teutonic Knights, formally known as the Brothers of the Hospital of St. Mary in Jerusalem. They maintained their headquarters in the City of Acre until 1291.
The Crusader states lived a fragile existence, for, once the lands were conquered, most of the Crusaders, having fulfilled their vows, went home to Europe. But they were able to survive because of Muslim disunity. They were quick to realize that the only chance for long-term survival of the four Crusader states was mutual cooperation, and the presence of a stable military force.
An important event was the foundation of the three military orders, instituted to defend Outremer and protect the renewed flow of pilgrims into the Holy Land. The military orders were composed of monks who served both as knights or performed clerical and civic functions, as well as the lay who assisted the knights.
List of Crusades: A traditional numbering scheme for the crusades totals nine during the 11th to 13th centuries. This division is arbitrary and excludes many important expeditions, among them those of the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. In reality, the crusades continued until the end of the 17th century, the crusade of Lepanto occurring in 1571, that of Hungary in 1664, and the crusade to Candia in 1669. After the final fall of Acre,on May 18, 1291 this ended 192 years of Crusader territory in the Holy Land. They took control of the island of Rhodes and in the sixteenth century, were driven to Malta, before being finally unseated by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798.
The Crusades had far-reaching political, economic, and social impacts, some of which have lasted into contemporary times. Because of internal conflicts among Christian kingdoms and political powers, some of the crusade expeditions were diverted from their original aim, such as the Fourth Crusade, which resulted in the sack of Christian Constantinople and the partition of the Byzantine Empire between Venice and the Crusaders. The Sixth Crusade was the first crusade to set sail without the official blessing of the Pope. The Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Crusades resulted in Mamluk and Hafsid victories, as the Ninth Crusade marked the end of the Crusades in the Middle East.
The Knights Hospitaller continued to crusade in the Mediterranean Sea around Malta until their defeat by Napoleon in 1798. There were frequent “minor” Crusades throughout this period, not only in the Holy Land but also in the Iberian Peninsula and central Europe, against Muslims and also Christian heretics and personal enemies of the Papacy or other powerful monarchs.
Rivalries among both Christian and Muslim powers led to alliances between religious factions against their opponents, such as the Christian alliance with the Sultanate of Rum during the Fifth Crusade. The term is also used to describe contemporaneous and subsequent campaigns conducted through to the 16th century in territories outside the Levant usually against pagans, heretics, and peoples under the ban of excommunication for a mixture of religious, economic, and political reasons.
There are both Christian and Muslim sources for the Third Crusade. Richard, a canon of the Augustinian priory of Holy Trinity in London, recorded the expedition of King Richard I of England, whereas Imad al-Isfahani of the Imperial Court of Saladin provided the Muslim viewpoint. Pope Gregory VIII called for the Third Crusade in his encyclical Audita tremendi. Other primary sources for the Third Crusade include Roger of Howden, Peter of Blois and Gerald of Wales.
The greatest warrior of the Muslims was Saladin: Noted for his chivalrous behavior, he was respected by Muslim, Jew and Christian alike. Saladin, or Salah ed-Din, also proved to be a skilled diplomat.
The Muslim world was completely divided into the Shiite and Sunni religious sects, as well as the warring secular nations of the Turks, Syrians, and Egyptians. Saladin was the one who brought all of them into one unified Islamic force in the twelfth century.
Saladin began his career as a young Kurdish warrior in the army of his uncle Shirkuh, who commanded the Syrian army and captured Egypt. Shirkuh became vizir of Egypt, the secular head of government under the Shiite Caliph. Shirkuh died shortly thereafter in 1169, leaving his 31 year-old nephew Saladin as vizir of Egypt.
When the Shiite Caliph of Egypt died, in the predominantly Shiite land of Egypt; Saladin extended the spiritual authority of the Sunni Caliph of Baghdad over Egypt. However, at the same time allowed the Shiites to practice their own form of Islamic faith. The religious world of Islam was united. When the secular regent of Syria died, Saladin and the Saracens (Muslim warriors) captured Damascus in a bloodless coup.
While Saladin, the new Sultan of Syria and Egypt, was uniting the Moslem world, the Crusader states were in a power struggle after the death of the peaceful King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, who died at age 24 of leprosy in 1185. Saladin set his sights on the Crusader states. He first attacked Tiberias in the county of Tripoli in 1187. The new King and the Frankish army foolishly rode out into the desert to the Horns of Hattin, and, deprived of water, were no match for Saladin, who defeated the Franks on July 4, 1187. He captured Acre on July 10, 1187.
Unopposed, all the Crusader cities except Tyre fell to Saladin’s army as he swept through the Holy Land. Saladin attacked Jerusalem on September 21, 1187, and captured the city October 2, 1187. Unlike the Crusaders of 1099, Saladin spared the inhabitants of Jerusalem from bloodshed or injury!
The Byzantine Orthodox of Jerusalem actually preferred rule by Saladin compared to the heavy taxations of the Latin patriarch.