The Crusades was a series of eight wars waged between Christians and Muslims in a battle to take over holy sites in Jerusalem which were sacred to both. The contests took place between 1096 and 1291. The wars were violent but brought the European Christians to a place of prominence in the Middle East.
By 1100 A. D., Europe was far behind the two important civilizations in the east: the Islamic and the Byzantine. In 1095, Alexius I of the Byzantine Empire asked the Pope of the Catholic Church in the west to send soldiers to assist him against the Turks who were invading the Byzantine Empire. The Pope's request to the Council of Clermont in France was regarded positively. Both soldiers and ordinary citizens wanted to help. They all wore the Christian cross on their clothing or uniforms. Several orders of religious knights were established, including the Knights Templar and the Hospitallers. They prepared to defend the Holy Land and protect travelers.
Four armies of crusaders from different European countries set out in August 1096. This was the First Crusade. They traveled to Constantinople where the emperor demanded they pledged loyalty to him. Most refused. However, the Byzantine forces joined the Crusaders and besieged the city of Jerusalem. It surrendered in May 1099. The Crusaders killed hundreds of men, women and children.
Many Crusaders left for home, but those who stayed set up four states in the conquered territory. The Muslims began to gain strength against the Crusaders in 1130. After the fall of one of the states, Christians in the west organized a Second Crusade in 1147. The army was led by Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany. They failed in their attempt to capture Damascus in Syria. The Turks took over Damascus.
The Crusaders also failed to conquer Egypt, but the Turkish forces seized Cairo in 1169. Because of that defeat, a Third Crusade was led by King Richard I of England and Philip II of France. Richard captured Jaffa and went onto Jerusalem. In September 1192, he signed a treaty with Saladin, the Turkish leader, to set up a Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Fourth Crusade had as its goal the overthrow of the government at Constantinople. This was accomplished in April 1204.
The Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Crusades occurred between 1208 and 1271. Their goal was to seek and destroy any enemies of Christianity. None accomplished the main aim of taking control of the Holy Land. In 1212, a group of children, the elderly, women, young people and the poor marched together from the Rhineland to Italy. Some have called this the Children's Crusade. The group never reached the Holy Land.
Louis IX had a mission of rescuing the last Crusader state in Syria in 1270. Louis died on his quest. Edward I of England went forth on the 'Ninth Crusade' which was the last important trip to the Holy Land. The Church organized more campaigns to try to gain back lands from the Muslims after 1291. However, the power of the Pope lessened by 1500 and no more enthusiasm for the task remained.
The era of the Crusades resulted in a movement east for Christianity and western civilization. The Pope's power increased. The Crusades brought great wealth to the Catholic Church. Transportation and trade increased throughout Europe because, like any war, the need for supplies and transportation was great. Shipbuilding increased. The desire to travel grew. People wanted to learn more about the lands east of them. The Muslims had bitter memories of the Crusades. They believed that the Christians were violent and immoral because they had killed so many non-Christians. The bitterness lasted for many years.
To link to this The Crusades page, copy the following code to your site: