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The Crusades Essay, Research Paper

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 mankind.

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 Sans-Avoir.

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


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 Ch?tillon,

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


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

Islam 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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