The Crusades

The Crusades were a series of religious wars fought between Christians and Muslims over control of the Holy Land (Jerusalem) and took place between 1095 – 1291.

The Holy Land was and is very important to the major religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity and because of this many wars have been fought over the years for control of the Holy Land.

The word ‘Crusade’ is related to the word ‘Cross’ and means ‘A Christian Holy War’.

Although there were many crusades to take control of the Holy Land, there were nine major crusades between 11th and 13th centuries, although smaller crusades would continue into the 16th century.

First Crusade: 1096 – 1099

In 1095 Alexius I, ruler of the Byzantine Empire called for help to defend his empire against Seljuk Turks. Pope Urban II supported him and preached that all Christians should join the war and defeat the Turks. This gave Pope Urban II the opportunity to gain control of Jerusalem and he promised the people access to sites in the Holy Land currently under Muslim control and also that if they fought, god would forgive them for their sins and should they die, they would go straight to heaven.

Christians believing Pope Urban II marched to Jerusalem, attacking many other cities on the way.
Over 30,000 Christians from Europe fought in the First Crusade made up of Knights, Peasants and Commoners and in 1099 they took control of Jerusalem, killing many Jewish and Muslim inhabitants.

Following this ‘crusader states’ were established:
The Kingdom of Jerusalem
County of Edessa
Principality of Antioch
County of Tripoli.

Following this there were some smaller crusades, however many years were peaceful.

Second Crusade: 1144 – 1155

In 1144 the town of Edessa was attacked and captured by Turks. This led to a French army led by King Louis VIII and a German army led by Conrad III marching to the Holy Land in 1147. They fought many battles on the way with little success and were finally to be defeated.

Third Crusade: 1189 – 1192

In 1187 Saladin (Sultan of Egypt) fought against the crusader forces at the Battle of Hattin. He was to kill or capture the majority of crusader forces and take control of the Holy Land. Following this, Pope Gregory VIII called for a new crusade led by Philip II of France, Richard I of England (following the death of Henry II) and Frederick I, Holy Emperor of Rome.

Frederick I was to die on the way to the Holy Land in June 1190 and many of the German Crusaders, grief stricken over his death were to return home.

Philip II and Richard I arrived in the Holy Land in 1191 but were lacking in men needed to recapture Jerusalem and Philip II was to leave in 1191, Richard I however was to stay and he signed a Treaty with Saladin on 2 September 1192 which allowed Christians safe travel through Jerusalem. Following this Treaty, Richard I left in October 1192.

Fourth Crusade: 1202 – 1204

Pope Innocent III summoned European rulers in 1202 to attack Jerusalem and depose the Muslims. Few rulers were to answer his summons; many knights were to take a crusaders-vow to fight. Pope Innocent III’s plan was to invade the Holy Land through Egypt. He forbade the Crusaders from committing any atrocities against Christian neighbours, however many went against this and attacked and pillaged the city of Zara.

While in Zara, Crusaders were bribed into changing their plans and travelling to Constantinople, where they attempted to place Alexius IV on the throne. What followed were outbreaks of violence and the city of Constantinople was pillaged in 1204.

Fifth Crusade: 1217 – 1221

Even after the disaster of the Fourth Crusade, Pope Innocent III called again for a Fifth Crusade to take back control of the Holy Land, unfortunately he died in 1216 before this could be accomplished. His successor Pope Honorius III was to continue the fight and he organised armies from Bavaria, Hungary and Austria. Further alliances were formed and the city of Damietta in Egypt was attacked. Although there was initial success, the crusaders were unable to take the city and following this, many crusaders were to die from disease.

The remaining army alliances were to march to Cairo, but this ended in disaster and the armies eventually surrendered.

Sixth Crusade: 1228 – 1229

This crusade was to involve much talking and little actual fighting.

Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II agreed a Peace Treaty with the Turks. It was a treaty of compromise and resulted in ten years without fighting.

Seventh Crusade: 1248 – 1254

This crusade was led by King Louis IX of France. At this time, France were considered to be one of the strongest states in Europe, however his crusade was to fail and he was ransomed and then left Egypt.

Eighth Crusade: 1270

Louis IX of France led this, his 2nd crusade in 1270. This crusade did not make it to Syria and Louis IX was to die during the journey.

Ninth Crusade: 1271 – 1272

Edward, son of Henry III of England had set sail but arrived too late to help Louis IX of France with his crusade of Tunis. He continued onto the Holy Land and arrived on 9 May 1271. Edward only had a small army and was reliant on alliances to increase his army. He did have some success in battle but finally agreed a truce a year later in 1272.

Edward was to survive an assassination attempt against him, killing the attempted assassin, and was to leave the city of Acre in September 1272.

Edward arrived home in England in 1274 and was crowned King of England on 19 August 1274 following the death of his father.

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