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Crusade
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Crusade

This article is about the Crusades, a series of European Christian campaigns of conquest. See also the XM2001 Crusader artillery system, and Crusade, the television series spinoff from Babylon 5.


The Crusades were a series of several military campaigns sanctioned by the Papacy that took place during the 11th through 13th centuries. They began as Catholic endeavors to capture Jerusalem from the Muslims but developed into territorial wars. In a broader sense a "crusade" was any war fought for religious reasons, especially the Spanish Reconquista, the Northern Crusades against the remaining pagan nations of northern Europe such as the Polabians and Lithuanians, and crusades against heresy, such as the Albigensian Crusade or the crusade against Bohemia, 1418-1437.

Table of contents
1 Historical background
2 Popular Reputation
3 Effect on the Jewish community
4 Historical context
5 Influences on Europe
6 The term "crusade"
7 The major crusades
8 See also
9 References

Historical background

The background of the crusades against the Muslims in the Holy Land goes back to the initial Arab conquest of Palestine in the 7th century. This did not interfere much with pilgrimage to Christian holy sites or the security of monasteries and Christian communities in the Holy Land of Christendom, and western Europeans were not much concerned with the loss of far-away Jerusalem when, in the ensuing decades and centuries, they were themselves faced with invasions by Muslims and other hostile non-Christians such as the Vikings and Magyars.

However, a turning point in western attitudes came in the year 1009, when the Fatimid caliph of Cairo, al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, had the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem destroyed. His successor permitted the Byzantine Empire to rebuild it, and pilgrimage was again permitted, but many stories began to be circulated about the cruelty of the Muslims toward Christian pilgrims, which played an important role in the development of the crusades later in the century.

More immediately important to the formation of the crusading idea was the decisive victory of the Muslim Seljuk Turks over the Byzantine army at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. This marked the beginning of Byzantine pleas for troops and support from the West.

Popular Reputation

's Crusades]] In the popular imaginations of East and West, the complex phenomenon of the Crusades has resolved itself as a series of symbolic and instructive frozen vignettes. Popular history can be recognized as a form of pseudohistory in part by the use made of such imagery. Genuine history is as unclear as the motivation of strangers, and often has little immediate relevance to current events. Popular history is crystal clear and full of implied prophecies and other vividly direct relations to modern times.

Thus, in Western Europe, the Crusades have traditionally been regarded by laypeople as heroic adventures, though the mass enthusiasm of common people was largely expended in the First Crusade, from which so few of their class returned. Today, the "Saracen" adversary is crystallized in the lone figure of Saladdin; his adversary Richard I of England is, in the English-speaking world, the archetypical crusader king, while Frederick Barbarossa (illustration, below left) fills the same symbolic niche in German culture. Even in contemporary areas, the crusades and their leaders were romanticized in popular literature; the Chanson d'Antioche was a chanson de geste dealing with the First Crusade, and the Song of Roland, dealing with the era of the similarly romanticized Charlemagne, was directly influenced by the experience of the crusades, going so far as to replace Charlemagne's Basque opponents with Muslims. A popular theme for troubadors was the knight winning the love of his lady by going on crusade in the east.

In the 14th century, Godfrey of Bouillon was united with the Trojan War and the adventures of Alexander the Great against a backdrop for military and courtly heroics of the Nine Worthies who stood as popular secular culture heroes into the 16th century, when more critical literary tastes ran instead to Torquato Tasso and Rinaldo and Armida, Roger and Angelica. Later, the rise of a more authentic sense of history among literate people brought the Crusades into a new focus for the Romantic generation in the romances of Sir Walter Scott in the early 19th century. Crusading imagery could be found even in the Crimean War, in which the United Kingdom and France were allied with the Muslim Ottoman Empire, and in the First World War, especially Allenby's capture of Jerusalem in 1917.

In the Islamic world, however, the Crusades continue to be regarded as cruel and savage onslaughts by "the Franks" on cultured Islam, and so, for example, some of the rhetoric of Islamic fundamentalists uses the term "crusade" in this emotional context to refer to Western moves against them, and sees the crusaders' ultimate defeat as a triumph for modern Pan-Arabism. The 21st century so-called "War on Terror" was at one point referred to as a "crusade" until the Muslim understanding of the term was pointed out.

In Spain, the popular reputation of the Crusades is outshone by the particularly Spanish history of the Reconquista. El Cid is the central figure.

Like Muslims, Eastern Orthodox Christians also see the Crusades as attacks by the barbarian West, but centered on the sack of Constantinople in 1204. Many relics and artifacts taken from Constantinople are still in Roman Catholic hands, in the Vatican and elsewhere. Modern Turks universally agree that the Greek horses on the facade of St. Mark's in Venice should be returned to Istanbul. A picture of Turkish popular history of the Crusades can be assembled by compiling text of official Turkish brochures on Crusader fortifications in the Aegean coast and coastal islands. Countries of Central Europe, despite the fact that formally they also belonged to Western Christianity, were the most skeptical about the idea of Crusades. Many cities in Hungary were sacked by passing bands of Crusaders; one ruler of Poland refused to join a Crusade, allegedly because of the lack of beer in the Holy land. Later on Poland and Hungary were themselves subject to conquest from the Crusaders (see Teutonic Order), and therefore invented the idea that pagans have the right to live in peace and have property rights to their lands (see Pawel Wlodkowic).

Effect on the Jewish community

The crusaders' atrocities against Jews in the towns of Germany and Hungary, later also in France and England, and in the massacres of non-combatants in Palestine and Syria have passed into Jewish popular history as a dark legend. This left behind for centuries strong feelings of ill will on both sides. The social position of the Jews in western Europe was distinctly worsened by the Crusades, and legal restrictions became frequent during and after them. They prepared the way for the anti-Jewish legislation of Pope Innocent III, and formed the turning-point in the medieval history of the Jews.

Historical context

"It is necessary to look for the origin of a crusading ideal in the struggle between Christians and Moslems in Spain and consider how the idea of a holy war emerged from this background", Norman F. Cantor has written (Reference). When the First Crusade was preached 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 first major victory, but the turning points of the Reconquista still lay in the future. The disunity of the Muslim emirs was an essential factor, and the Christians, whose wives remained safely behind, were hard to beat: they knew nothing except fighting, they had no gardens and libraries to defend, and they worked their way forward through alien territory populated by infidels, where the Christian fighters felt they could afford to wreak havoc. All these factors were soon to be replayed in the fighting grounds of the East. Spanish historians have traditionally seen the Reconquista as the molding force in the Castilian character, with its sense that the highest good was to die fighting for the cause of the right deity, in a Christian jihad. An ascetic religious fanaticism enforced by a military aristocracy became the dominant social value.

The papacy of Pope Gregory VII had struggled with reservations about the doctrinal validity of a holy war and the shedding of blood for the Lord and had resolved the question in favor of justified violence. Actions against Arians and other heretics offered historic precedents in a society where the threshold of acceptable violence was high. Saint Augustine, Gregory's intellectual model, had justified the use of force in the service of Christ in 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 northerners would be cemented to Rome and their troublesome minor counts and younger sons could see the only kind of action that suited them. Previous attempts by the church to stem such violence, such as the concept of the "Peace of God," had failed. To the south of Rome, Normans were showing how such energies might be unleashed against both Arabs (in Sicily) and Byzantines (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 yet be resolved through the force of Frankish arms.

In the Byzantine homelands the Eastern Emperor's weakness was revealed by the disastrous defeat at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, which reduced the Empire's Asian territory to a region in western Anatolia and around Constantinople. A sure sign of Byzantine desperation was the appeal of Alexius I Comnenus to his enemy the Pope for aid. But Gregory was occupied with the Investiture Controversy and could not call on the German emperor and the crusade never took shape.

For Gregory's more moderate successor Pope Urban II, a crusade would serve to reunite Christendom, bolster the Papacy, 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 among the northern French.

On a popular level, the first crusades unleashed an unprecedented wave of impassioned, personally felt pious fury that was expressed in the masssacres of Jews that accompanied the movement of mobs through Europe, and the violent treatment of "schismatic" Orthodox Christians of the east. This first phase of the Crusading movement culminated and largely spent itself in the rampages of the sack of Constantinople in 1204.

The 13th century crusades never expressed such a popular fever, and after Acre fell for the last time in 1291, and after the extermination of the Occitan Cathars in the Albigensian Crusade, the crusading ideal became devalued by Papal justifications of political and territorial aggressions within Catholic Europe.

Influences on Europe

The Crusades had an enormous influence on the European middle ages. At times much of the continent was united under a powerful Papacy, but by the 14th century the old concept of Christendom was fragmented, and the development of centralized bureaucracies, the foundation of the modern nation state was well on its way, in France, England, Burgundy, Portugal, Castile and Aragon partly because of the dominance of the church at the beginning of the crusading era. Although Europe had been exposed to Islamic culture for centuries through contacts in Spain and Sicily, much Islamic thought, such as science, medicine, and architecture, was transferred to the west during the crusades; for example, European castles became massive stone structures, as they were in the east, rather than smaller wooden buildings as they had typically been in the past. The crusades also aided the beginning of the Renaissance in Italy, as various Italian city-states from the very beginning had important and profitable trading colonies in the crusader states, both in the Holy Land and later in captured Byzantine territory.

The term "crusade"

The crusades were never referred to as such by their participants. The original crusaders were known by various terms, including fideles Sancti Petri (the faithful of St. Peter) or milites Christi (knights of Christ). They saw themselves as undertaking a peregrinatio, a pilgrimage, though pilgrims were usually forbidden from carrying arms. Like pilgrims, each crusader swore an 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 French croisade, the Italian crociata, or the Portuguese cruzado) developed from this. Since the 17th century the term "crusade" has carried a connotation in the west of being a "righteous campaign," usually to "root out evil," or to fight for a just cause. In the Arab world, the equivalent term is jihad, while "crusade" is a term which connotes a hostile and foreign invasion by "infidels," those disrespectful or defiling of the Muslim culture.

The major crusades

A traditional numbering scheme for the crusades gives us nine during the 11th to 13th centuries, as well as three others that are mostly contemporaneous and unnumbered. This is somewhat misleading, as there were frequent "minor" crusades throughout this period, not only in Palestine but also in Spain and central Europe, against not only Muslims, but also Christian heretics and personal enemies of the Papacy or other powerful monarchs. Such "crusades" continued into the 16th century, until the Renaissance and Reformation when the political and religious climate of Europe was significantly different than that of the Middle Ages. The following is a listing of the "major" crusades.

First Crusade

Full article: First Crusade

After Byzantine emperor Alexius I called for help with defending his empire against the Seljuk Turks, in 1095 Pope Urban II called upon all Christians to join a war against the Turks, a war which would count as full penance. Crusader armies marched up towards Jerusalem, sacking several cities on their way. In 1099, they took Jerusalem, massacring the Jewish and Muslim population. As a result of the First Crusade, several small Crusader states were created, notably the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Second Crusade

Full article: Second Crusade

After a period of relative peace, in which Christians and Muslims co-existed in the Holy Land, Bernard of Clairvaux called for a new crusade when the town of Edessa was conquered by the Turks. French and German armies marched to Asia Minor in 1147, but failed to accomplish any major successes, and indeed endangered the survival of the Crusader states with a foolish attack on Damascus. In 1149, both leaders had returned to their countries without any result.

Third Crusade

Full article: Third Crusade

In 1187, Saladin recaptured Jerusalem. Pope Gregory VIII preached a crusade, which was led by several of Europe's most important leaders: Richard I of England, Philip II of France and Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor. Frederick drowned in Cilicia in 1190, leaving an unstable alliance between the English and the French. Philip left in 1191 after the Crusaders had recaptured Acre from the Muslims, while Richard left the following year after establishing a truce with Saladin.

Fourth Crusade

Full article: Fourth Crusade

The Fourth Crusade was initiated by Pope Innocent III in 1202, with the intention of invading the Holy Land through Egypt. The Venetians gained control of this crusade and diverted it to Constantinople where they attempted to place a Byzantine exile on the throne. After a series of misunderstandings and outbreaks of violence the city was sacked in 1204. The popular spirit of the movement was now dead, and the succeeding crusades are to be explained rather as arising from the Papacy's struggle to divert the military energies of the European nations toward Syria.

Albigensian Crusade

Full article: Albigensian Crusade

The Albigensian Crusade was launched in 1209 to eliminate the heretical Cathars of southern France. It was a decades long struggle that had as much 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

Full article: Children's Crusade

The Children's Crusade is a possibly fictitious or misinterpreted crusade 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. None of the children actually reached the Holy Land, being sold as slaves or dying during the journey of hunger.

Fifth Crusade

Full article: Fifth Crusade

By processions, prayers, and preaching, the Church attempted to set another crusade on foot, and the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) formulated a plan for the recovery of the Holy Land. A crusading force from Hungary, Austria, and Bavaria achieved a remarkable feat in the capture of Damietta in Egypt in 1219, but under the urgent insistence of the papal legate, Pelagius, they proceeded to a foolhardy attack on Cairo, and an inundation of the Nile compelled them to choose between surrender and destruction.

Sixth Crusade

Full article: Sixth Crusade

In 1228, Emperor Frederick II set sail from Brindisi for Syria, though laden with the papal excommunication. Through diplomacy he achieved unexpected success, Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem being delivered to the Christians for a period of ten years. This was the first major crusade not initiated by the Papacy, a trend that was to continue for the rest of the century.

Seventh Crusade

Full article: Seventh Crusade

The papal interests represented by the Templars brought on a conflict with Egypt in 1243, and in the following year a Korasmian force summoned by the latter stormed Jerusalem. Although this provoked no widespread outrage in Europe as fall of Jerusalem in 1187 had done, 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.

Eighth Crusade

Full article: Eighth Crusade

The eighth Crusade was organized by Louis IX in 12700, 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.

Ninth Crusade

Full article: Ninth Crusade

The future Edward I of England undertook another expedition in 1271, after having accompanied Louis on the Eighth Crusade. He accomplished very little in Syria and retired the following year after a truce. With the fall of Antioch (1268), Tripoli (1289), and Acre (1291) the last traces of the Christian occupation of Syria disappeared.

Crusades in Baltic and Central Europe

Full article: Northern Crusades

The Crusades in the Baltic Sea area and in Central Europe were efforts by (mostly German) Christians to subjugate and convert the peoples of these areas to Christianity. These Crusades ranged from the 12th century, contemporaneous with the Second Crusade, to the 16th century.

See also

References