Crusades

2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Pre 1900 Military; Religious disputes

Siege of Antioch, from a medieval miniature painting, during the First Crusade.">The Siege of Antioch, from a medieval miniature painting, during the First Crusade.
The Siege of Antioch, from a medieval miniature painting, during the First Crusade.


The Crusades were a series of military campaigns of a religious character waged by much of Christian Europe against external and internal opponents. Crusades were fought mainly against Muslims, though campaigns were also directed against pagan Slavs, Jews, Russian and Greek Orthodox Christians, Mongols, Cathars, Hussites, Waldensians, and political enemies of the popes. Crusaders took vows and were granted an indulgence for past sins.

The Crusades originally had the goal of recapturing Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslim rule and were launched in response to a call from the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine Empire for help against the expansion of the Muslim Seljuk Turks into Anatolia. 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. Rivalries among both Christian and Muslim powers led also to alliances between religious factions against their opponents, such as the Christian alliance with the Sultanate of Rum during the Fifth Crusade.

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.

Historical context

It is necessary to look for the origin of a crusading ideal in the struggle between Christians and Muslims in Spain and consider how the idea of a holy war emerged from this background.
Norman F. Cantor

Middle Eastern situation

The Muslim presence in the Holy Land began with the initial Arab conquest of Palestine in the 7th century. The Muslim armies' successes put increasing pressure on the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine Empire.

Another factor that contributed to the change in Western attitudes towards the East came in the year 1009, when the 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. 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.

Western European situation

The origins of the Crusades lie in developments in Western Europe earlier in the Middle Ages, as well as the deteriorating situation of the Byzantine Empire in the east caused by 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. The Church tried to stem this violence with the Peace and Truce of God movements, which was somewhat successful, but trained warriors always 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, who had successfully overrun most of the Iberian Peninsula over the preceding two centuries.

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. Pleas from the Byzantine Emperors, now threatened by the Seljuks, thus fell on ready ears. These occurred in 1074, from Emperor Michael VII to Pope Gregory VII and in 1095, from Emperor Alexios I Komnenos to Pope Urban II. One source identifies Michael VII in Chinese records as a ruler of Byzantium (Fulin) who sent an envoy to Song Dynasty China in 1081. A Chinese scholar suggests that this and further Byzantine envoys in 1091 were pleas for China to aid in the fight against the Turks.

Map of the Iberian Peninsula at the time of the Almoravid arrival in the 11th century- Christian Kingdoms included Aragón, Castile, Leon, Navarre, and Portugal
Map of the Iberian Peninsula at the time of the Almoravid arrival in the 11th century- Christian Kingdoms included Aragón, Castile, Leon, Navarre, and Portugal

The Crusades were, in part, an outlet for an intense religious piety which rose up in the late 11th century among the lay public. A crusader would, after pronouncing a solemn vow, receive a cross from the hands of the pope or his legates, and was thenceforth considered a "soldier of the Church". This was partly because of the Investiture Controversy, which had started around 1075 and was still on-going during the First Crusade. As both sides of the Investiture Controversy tried to marshal public opinion in their favour, people became personally engaged in a dramatic religious controversy. The result was an awakening of intense Christian piety and public interest in religious affairs. This was further strengthened by religious propaganda, advocating Just War in order to retake the Holy Land—which included Jerusalem (where the death, resurrection and ascension into heaven of Jesus took place according to Christian theology) and Antioch (the first Christian city)—from the Muslims. Further, the remission of sin was a driving factor. This provided any God-fearing man who had committed sins with an irresistible way out of eternal damnation in Hell. It was a hotly debated issue throughout the Crusades as what exactly "remission of sin" meant. Most believed that by retaking Jerusalem they would go straight to heaven after death. However, much controversy surrounds exactly what was promised by the popes of the time. One theory was that one had to die fighting for Jerusalem for the remission to apply, which would hew 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.

All of these factors were manifested in the overwhelming popular support for the First Crusade and the religious vitality of the 12th century.

After the First Crusade

On a popular level, the first crusades unleashed a wave of impassioned, personally felt pious 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 the attacks on Jews, local Bishops and Christians made attempts to protect Jews from the mobs that were passing through. Jews were often offered sanctuary in churches and other Christian buildings.

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

The last crusading order of knights to hold territory were the Knights Hospitaller. After the final fall of Acre, 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.

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. 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 Palestine 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.

First Crusade 1095-1099

For the first decade, the Crusaders pursed a policy of terror against Muslims and Jews that included mass executions, the throwing of severed heads over besieged cities walls, exhibition and mutilation of naked cadavers, and even cannibalism, as was recorded after the Siege of Maarat.
For the first decade, the Crusaders pursed a policy of terror against Muslims and Jews that included mass executions, the throwing of severed heads over besieged cities walls, exhibition and mutilation of naked cadavers, and even cannibalism, as was recorded after the Siege of Maarat.

In March 1095 at the Council of Piacenza, ambassadors sent by Byzantine Emperor Alexius I called for help with defending his empire against the Seljuk Turks. Later that year, at the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban II called upon all Christians to join a war against the Turks, promising those who died in the endeavor would receive immediate remission of their sins. Sigurd I of Norway was the first European king who went on a crusade and crusader armies managed to defeat two substantial Turkish forces at Dorylaeum and at Antioch.

The Siege of Antioch took place shortly before the siege on Jerusalem during the first Crusade. Antioch fell to the Franks in May 1098 but not before a lengthy siege. The ruler of Antioch was not sure how the Christians living within his city would react and he forced them to live outside the city during the siege, though he promised to protect their wives and children from harm, while Jews and Muslims fought together. The siege only came to end when the city was betrayed and the Franks entered through the water-gate of the town causing the leader to flee. Once inside the city, as was standard military practice at the time, the Franks then massacred the civilians, destroyed mosques and pillaged the city. The crusaders finally marched to the walls of Jerusalem with only a fraction of their original forces.

Siege of Jerusalem

Godefroy de Bouillon, a French knight, leader of the First Crusade and founder of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
Godefroy de Bouillon, a French knight, leader of the First Crusade and founder of the Kingdom 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. Again, they proceeded to massacre the remaining Jewish and Muslim civilians and pillaged or destroyed mosques and the city itself. The "isolation, alienation and fear" felt by the Franks so far from home helps to 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.

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.

Crusade of 1101

Following this crusade there was a second, less successful wave of crusaders. This is known as the Crusade of 1101 and may be considered an adjunct of the First Crusade.

Second Crusade 1147–1149

The status of Europe in 1142
The status of Europe in 1142

After a period of relative peace in which Christians and Muslims co-existed in the Holy Land, Muslims conquered the town of Edessa. A new crusade was called for by various preachers, most notably by Bernard of Clairvaux. French and South German armies, under the Kings Louis VII and Conrad III respectively, marched to Jerusalem in 1147 but failed to win any major victories, 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. On the other side of the Mediterranean, however, the Second Crusade met with great 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. 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, recaptured Jerusalem, following the Battle of Hattin. After taking Jerusalem back from the Christians the Muslims spared civilians and for the most part left churches and shrines untouched to be able to collect ransom money from the Franks. 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 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 reaching port, Richard the Lionheart promised to leave noncombatants unharmed if the city of Acre surrendered. The brutality of an outnumbered army in a hostile land could be seen again when the city surrendered and Richard proceeded to massacre everyone, despite his earlier promise. From the Frankish point of view, an oath made to a non-Christian was no oath at all. 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.

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. Because the 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. Because they subsequently lacked provisions and time on their vessel lease, the leaders decided to go to Constantinople, where they attempted to place a Byzantine exile on the throne. After a series of misunderstandings and outbreaks of violence, the Crusaders sacked the city in 1204, ending in the establishment of the Eastern Latin Empire throughout 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.

Albigensian Crusade

The Albigensian Crusade was launched in 1209 to eliminate the heretical Cathars of Occitania (the south of modern-day France). It was a decade-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

Christian states in the Levant.
Christian states in the Levant.

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. 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, but under the urgent insistence of the papal legate, Pelagius, they then launched a foolhardy attack on Cairo in July of 1221. The crusaders were turned back after their dwindling supplies led to a forced retreat. A nighttime attack by the ruler of Egypt, the powerful 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.

Sixth Crusade 1228–1229

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. He nonetheless set sail from Brindisi, landed in Palestine, and through diplomacy he achieved unexpected success: Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem were delivered to the crusaders for a period of ten years.

Louis IX attacks Damietta
Louis IX attacks Damietta

In 1229 after failing to conquer Egypt, Frederick II of the Holy Roman Empire, made a peace treaty with Al-Kamil, the ruler of Egypt. 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. The peace brought about by this treaty lasted for about 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. Although this provoked no widespread outrage in Europe as the 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. In the midst of this crusade was the first Shepherds' Crusade in 1251.

Eighth Crusade 1270

The eighth Crusade was organized by Louis IX in 1270, 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. For his efforts, Louis was later canonised. The Eighth Crusade is sometimes counted as the Seventh, if the Fifth and Sixth Crusades are counted as a single crusade. The Ninth Crusade is sometimes also counted as part of the Eighth.

Ninth Crusade 1271–1272

Artistic illustration of Baibars in battle
Artistic illustration of Baibars in battle

The future Edward I of England undertook another expedition against Baibars in 1271, after having accompanied Louis on the Eighth Crusade. Louis died in Tunisia. 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 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.

The very last Frankish foothold was the island of Ruad, three kilometers from the Syrian shore, which was occupied for several years by the Knights Templar but was ultimately lost to the Mamluks in the Siege of Ruad on September 26th, 1302.

Northern Crusades (Baltic and Germany)

The Teutonic Knights in Pskov in 1240 as depicted in Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky (1938).
The Teutonic Knights in Pskov in 1240 as depicted in Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky (1938).

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.

Contemporaneous with the Second Crusade, Saxons and Danes fought against Polabian Slavs in the 1147 Wendish Crusade. In the 13th century, the Teutonic Knights led Germans, Poles, and Pomeranians against the Old Prussians during the Prussian Crusade.

Between 1232 and 1234, there was a crusade against the Stedingers. This crusade was special, because the Stedingers were not heathens or heretics, but fellow Roman Catholics. They were free Frisian farmers who resented attempts of the count of Oldenburg and the archbishop Bremen-Hamburg to make an end to their freedoms. The archbishop excommunicated them, and Pope Gregory IX declared a crusade in 1232. The Stedingers were defeated in 1234.

The Teutonic Order's attempts to conquer Orthodox Russia (particularly the Republics of Pskov and Novgorod), an enterprise endorsed by Pope Gregory IX, can also be considered as a part of the Northern Crusades. One of the major blows for the idea of the conquest of Russia was the Battle of the Ice in 1242. With or without the Pope's blessing, Sweden also undertook several crusades against Orthodox Novgorod.

Other crusades

Crusade against the Tatars

In 1259 Mongols led by Burundai and Nogai Khan ravaged the principality of Halych-Volynia, Lithuania and Poland. After that Pope Alexander IV tried without success to create a crusade against the Blue Horde.

In the 14th century, Khan Tokhtamysh combined the Blue and White Hordes forming the Golden Horde. It seemed that the power of the Golden Horde had begun to rise, but in 1389, Tokhtamysh made the disastrous decision of waging war on his former master, the great Tamerlane. Tamerlane's hordes rampaged through southern Russia, crippling the Golden Horde's economy and practically wiping out its defenses in those lands.

After losing the war, Tokhtamysh was then dethroned by the party of Khan Temur Kutlugh and Emir Edigu, supported by Tamerlane. When Tokhtamysh asked Vytautas the Great for assistance in retaking the Horde, the latter readily gathered a huge army which included Lithuanians, Ruthenians, Russians, Mongols, Moldavians, Poles, Romanians and Teutonic Knights.

In 1398, the huge army moved from Moldavia and conquered the southern steppe all the way to the Dnieper River and northern Crimea. Inspired by their great successes, Vytautas declared a 'Crusade against the Tatars' with Papal backing. Thus, in 1399, the army of Vytautas once again moved on the Horde. His army met the Horde's at the Vorskla River, slightly inside Lithuanian territory.

Although the Lithuanian army was well equipped with cannon, it could not resist a rear attack from Edigu's reserve units. Vytautas hardly escaped alive. Many princes of his kin—possibly as many as 20—were killed (for example, Stefan Musat, Prince of Moldavia and two of his brothers, while a fourth was badly injured), and the victorious Tatars besieged Kiev. "And the Christian blood flowed like water, up to the Kievan walls," as one chronicler put it. Meanwhile, Temur Kutlugh died from the wounds received in the battle, and Tokhtamysh was killed by one of his own men.

Crusades in the Balkans

To counter the expanding Ottoman Empire, several crusades were launched in the 15th century. The most notable are:

  • the Crusade of Nicopolis (1396) organized by Sigismund of Luxemburg king of Hungary culminated in the Battle of Nicopolis
  • the Crusade of Varna (1444) led by the Polish-Hungarian king Władysław Warneńczyk ended in the Battle of Varna
  • and the Crusade of 1456 organized to lift the Siege of Belgrade led by John Hunyadi and Giovanni da Capistrano

Aragonese Crusade

The Aragonese Crusade, or Crusade of Aragón, was declared by Pope Martin IV against the King of Aragón, Peter III the Great, in 1284 and 1285.

Alexandrian Crusade

The Alexandrian Crusade of October 1365 was a minor seaborne crusade against Muslim Alexandria led by Peter I of Cyprus. His motivation was at least as commercial as religious. It had limited success.

Hussite Crusade

The Hussite Crusade(s), also known as the " Hussite Wars," or the "Bohemian Wars," involved the military actions against and amongst the followers of Jan Hus in Bohemia in the period 1420 to circa 1434. The Hussite Wars were arguably the first European war in which hand-held gunpowder weapons such as muskets made a decisive contribution. The Taborite faction of the Hussite warriors were basically infantry, and their many defeats of larger armies with heavily armoured knights helped affect the infantry revolution. In the end, it was an inconclusive war.

Swedish Crusades

The Swedish conquest of Finland in the Middle Ages has traditionally been divided into three "crusades": the First Swedish Crusade around 1155 AD, the Second Swedish Crusade about 1249 AD and the Third Swedish Crusade in 1293 AD.

The First Swedish Crusade is purely legendary, and according to most historians today, never took place as described in the legend and did not result in any ties between Finland and Sweden. For the most part, it was made up in the late 13th century to date the Swedish rule in Finland further back in time. No historical record has also survived describing the second one, but it probably did take place and ended up in the concrete conquest of southwestern Finland. The third one was against Novgorod, and is properly documented by both parties of the conflict.

According to archaeological finds, Finland was largely Christian already before the said crusades. Thus the "crusades" can rather be seen as ordinary expeditions of conquest whose main target was territorial gain. The expeditions were dubbed as actual crusades only in the 19th century by the national-romanticist Swedish and Finnish historians.

Dissent Against the Concept of Crusades

Elements of the Crusades were criticized by some from the time of their inception in 1095. For example, Roger Bacon felt the Crusades were not effective because, "those who survive, together with their children, are more and more embittered against the Christian faith." In spite of some criticism, the movement was still widely supported in Europe long after the fall of Acre in 1291. J. Hoeberichts argues that St. Francis of Assisi stood in complete and unique opposition to the theological justification and the violent methods of Christendom in his book Francis and Islam. Historians agree that Francis crossed enemy lines to meet the Sultan of Egypt. Hoeberichts cast doubt on the intentions most Christian historians assign to Francis. From the fall of Acre forward, the Crusades to recover Jerusalem and the Christian East were largely lost. Later, 18th century Enlightenment thinkers judged the Crusaders harshly. Likewise, some modern historians in the West expressed moral outrage. As recently as the 1950s, Sir Steven Runciman wrote a resounding condemnation:

"High ideals were besmirched by cruelty and greed...the Holy War was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God".

Historical perspective

Western and Eastern historiography present variously different views on the crusades, in large part because "crusade" invokes dramatically opposed sets of associations—"crusade" as a valiant struggle for a supreme cause, and "crusade" as a byword for barbarism and aggression. This contrasting view is not recent since Christians have in the past struggled with the tension of military activity and teachings of Christ to "love one's enemies" and to "turn the other cheek". For these reasons, the crusades have been controversial even among contemporaries.

Western sources speak of both heroism, faith and honour (emphasized in chivalric romance), but also of acts of brutality. Orthodox Christian and Islamic chroniclers tell stories of barbarian savagery and brutality, although it was not until 1899 that the first Islamic history of the Crusades was written. Prior to the growth of Arab nationalism in the 20th century, the Crusades were virtually unknown in the Islamic world.

Islamic perspective

General

In the minds of the Muslims the Crusades were Western invasions motivated by the West’s greed and hatred for Islam, while the Christian West thought they were reclaiming the Holy Land and stopping the spread of Islam. For the West these wars were known as the ‘crusades’ which comes from the Latin word for cross. The Muslims, on the other hand, referred to the wars as “Frankish Invasions” using the Arabic word al-ifranj, which is the term for "French", although it was applied to Westerners in general. One of the ironic things about the Crusades is that even though “God may have indeed wished it, there is certainly no evidence that the Christians of Jerusalem did, or that anything extraordinary was occurring to pilgrims there to prompt such a response at that moment in history.”

Results of the Crusades on the Islamic World

The Crusades have made a lasting impact on the Islamic world, especially in their perception of the West and of Christians. In fact even today Muslims still consider the Crusades to be a symbol of Western hostility toward Islam. The Muslims were horrified by the brutality of the Franks and how they so willingly massacred civilians and broke promises. It did not help that the Crusaders felt little to no remorse for what they did and when the Muslims compared that to Saladin’s reputation of being a man of honour they thought even less of the Franks. The fact that the Franks were motivated more by politics and greed than true religious reason has led Muslims to feel that when Europe began to colonize the East it was merely a continuation of the Crusades. This view caused the Muslims to set up intellectual barriers and become very isolationist in their policies causing them to be left behind in the world scene. Now extremists of both the Christian and Islamic faith believe that confrontation is inevitable and because of this view the Crusades remain in focus keeping them in an active albeit violent role in contemporary politics.

Eastern Orthodoxy

Like Muslims, Eastern Orthodox Christians also see the Crusades as attacks by "the barbarian West", but centered on the sack of Constantinople in 1204. Among vast quantities of gold, which was accumulated for more than 1300 years by the Roman Empire, many relics and artifacts taken from Constantinople are still to be found in the West, in the Vatican and elsewhere, like the Greek Horses on the façade of St. Mark's in Venice. Both the cultural and the economic capital gained after of the sack of Constantinople played a significant part in the rise of the Italian cities that gave birth to renaissance.

Popular reputation in Western Europe

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 Saladin; his adversary Richard the Lionheart is, in the English-speaking world, the archetypical crusader king, while Frederick Barbarossa and Louis IX fill the same symbolic niche in German and French 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 historic Basque opponents with Muslims. A popular theme for troubadours was the knight winning the love of his lady by going on crusade in the east.

The ever-living Frederick Barbarossa, in his mountain cave: a late 19th century German woodcut
The ever-living Frederick Barbarossa, in his mountain cave: a late 19th century German woodcut

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 World War I, especially Allenby's capture of Jerusalem in 1917.

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

Role of women

While traditional historiography conceptualizes the crusades as a masculine movement symbolic of honour and male courage, women were also involved.

Women at home were intricately connected whether aware of it or not in the recruitment of crusading men. Their encouragement and familial ties would present men friendly connections which made the prospect of taking the cross more appealing for those risking their lives. Arguably the most significant role that women played in the West during the crusades was their preservation of the home. The best known example is of Adela of Blois, wife of Stephen of Blois whose correspondence with her husband while he was on Crusade and she was at home managing his fief has survived in part. It appears she was rather more keen on his crusading than he was. Men could journey to The Holy Land without having to worry about their home because their wives were in charge of their estates and families.

Even though most women showed their support for the crusades at home, some women took the cross themselves to go on the crusade. Aristocratic women who joined the movement often found that they had new positions of authority they did not have in the West. Eleanor of Aquitaine, the wealthy queen of France and the wife of king Louis VII, took the cross from St. Bernard of Clairvaux on Easter Sunday 1145 to join her husband. Another woman who had ultimate political power in the East was Melisende of Jerusalem, who under law gained hereditary rights to the crown upon her husband’s death. Like Eleanor, Melisende never led troops into battle, but she did participate in acts of political diplomacy. Less successful was her granddaughter Sibylla of Jerusalem, whose choice of husband had been a crucial political issue since her childhood. Her second marriage to Guy of Lusignan made him the king-consort on the death of Baldwin IV, with disastrous results. While most women were there to help and care for the crusading men by bringing them water or raising their spirits by offering emotional support, there were women who had specific tasks which defined their feminine characteristics like the washerwoman.

The permanent residents of the Crusader kingdoms, if born in Europe, had usually come unmarried. Very many married women from Apulia in Southern Italy, where living conditions were often harsh, encouraged young women to take ship for Palestine in the knowledge that many men there were looking for wives.

The most controversial role that women had in the crusades was of course the role which threatened their femininity, actual militancy. When analyzing the primary documentation of female militancy, one must be cautious. The accounts of women fighting come mostly from Muslim historians whose aim was to portray Christian women as barbaric and ungodly because of their acts of killing. The contrasting view from Christian accounts portray women fighting only in emergency situations for the preservation of the camps and their own lives. In these cases women are seen as more feminine while behaving like ‘proper women’. Virtually all crusade writings came from men, and women would have been interpreted subjectively no matter what roles they played.

Legacy

Europe and the West

Until recently, the crusades were remembered favourably in western Europe (countries which were, at the time of the Crusades, Roman Catholic countries), and in countries largely settled by Western Europeans, including the United States. Nonetheless, there have been many vocal critics of the Crusades in Western Europe since the Renaissance, and in recent years, critical views of the crusades have come to dominate most assessments.

Defenders of the Crusades now present their viewpoint as that of an embattled minority as against a standard view in which the Crusades are regarded as bloody and unjustified acts of aggression. More comprehensive treatments seek to take account of both the brutality of the Crusades and the sincere religious motivation behind them, of "religious devotion and godly savagery" .

A crucial recent development is the recognition, variously interpreted, of the parallel between crusades and the Islamic concept of jihad . Secular critics of the crusades see both jihad and crusade as providing a religious justification for war and intolerance. Supporters present the crusades as defensive responses to Islamic jihad and, in some cases, advocate a renewal of the crusades a view that may be linked, by both critics and supporters, to current US policy in the Middle East .

Politics and culture

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 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 Iberian Peninsula and Sicily, much knowledge in areas such as science, medicine, and architecture was transferred from the Islamic to the western world during the crusade era.

The military experiences of the crusades also had their effects in Europe; 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.

In addition, the Crusades are seen as having opened up European culture to the world, especially Asia:

The Crusades brought about results of which the popes had never dreamed, and which were perhaps the most, important of all. They re-established traffic between the East and West, which, after having been suspended for several centuries, was then resumed with even greater energy; they were the means of bringing from the depths of their respective provinces and introducing into the most civilized Asiatic countries Western knights, to whom a new world was thus revealed, and who returned to their native land filled with novel ideas... If, indeed, the Christian civilization of Europe has become universal culture, in the highest sense, the glory redounds, in no small measure, to the Crusades."

Along with trade, new scientific discoveries and inventions made their way east or west. Arab advances (including the development of algebra, optics, and refinement of engineering) made their way west and sped the course of advancement in European universities that led to the Renaissance in later centuries

The invasions of German crusaders prevented formation of the large Lithuanian state incorporating all Baltic nations and tribes. Lithuania was destined to become a small country and forced to expand to the East looking for resources to combat the crusaders.

Trade

The need to raise, transport and supply large armies led to a flourishing of trade throughout Europe. Roads largely unused since the days of Rome saw significant increases in traffic as local merchants began to expand their horizons. This was not only because the Crusades prepared Europe for travel, but also because many wanted to travel after being reacquainted with the products of the Middle East. This also aided in 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.

Increased trade brought many things to Europeans that were once unknown or extremely rare and costly. These goods included a variety of spices, ivory, jade, diamonds, improved glass-manufacturing techniques, early forms of gun powder, oranges, apples, and other Asian crops, and many other products.

The achievement of preserving Christian Europe must not, however, ignore the eventual fall of the Christian Byzantine Empire, which was mostly caused by Fourth Crusade's extreme aggression against Eastern Orthodox Christianity, largely at the instigation of the infamous Enrico Dandolo, the Doge of Venice and financial backer of the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204). The Byzantine lands had been a stable Christian state since the 4th century, though had been in a crisis immediately before the Fourth Crusade. After the Crusaders took Constantinople in 1204, the Byzantines never again had as large or strong a state and finally fell in 1453.

Taking into account the fall of the Byzantines, the Crusades could be portrayed as the defense of Roman Catholicism against the violent expansion of Islam, rather than the defense of Christianity as a whole against Islamic expansion. On the other hand, the Fourth Crusade could be presented as an anomaly, though this does not explain the Northern Crusades which also targeted Orthodox Christians. It is also possible to find a compromise between these two points of view, specifically that the Crusades were Roman Catholic campaigns which primarily sought to fight Islam to preserve Catholicism, and secondarily sought to thereby protect the rest of Christianity; in this context, the Fourth Crusade's crusaders could have felt compelled to abandon the secondary aim in order to retain Dandolo's logistical support in achieving the primary aim. Even so, the Fourth Crusade was condemned by the Pope of the time ( Pope Innocent III) and is now generally remembered throughout Europe as a disgraceful failure.

From a larger perspective, and certainly from that of noted naval/maritime historian Archibald Lewis, the Crusades must be viewed as part of a massive macrohistorical event during which Western Europe, primarily by its ability in naval warfare, amphibious siege, and maritime trade, was able to advance in all spheres of civilization. Recovering from the Dark Ages of AD 700-1000, throughout the 11th century Western Europe began to push the boundaries of its civilization. Prior to the First Crusade the Italian city-state of Venice, along with the Byzantine Empire, had cleared the Adriatic Sea of Islamic pirates, and loosened the Islamic hold on the Mediterranean Sea (Byzantine-Muslim War of 1030-1035). The Normans, with the assistance of the Italian city-states of Genoa and Pisa, had retaken Sicily from the Muslims from 1061-1091. These conflicts prior to the First Crusade had both retaken Western European territory and weakened the Islamic hold on the Mediterranean, allowing for the rise of Western European Mediterranean trading and naval powers such as the Sicilian Normans and the Italian city-states of Venice, Genoa, and Pisa.

During the Middle Ages, the key trading region of the Earth was the Black Sea-Mediterranean Sea-Red Sea. It was the aforementioned pre-First Crusade actions, along with the Crusades themselves, which allowed Western Europe to control the trade of the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea, a control which began in the 1000s and would only be threatened by the Turkish Ottoman Empire beginning in the mid-to-late 1400s. This Western European control of vital sea lanes allowed the economy of Western Europe to advance to previously unknown degrees, most obviously as regards the Maritime Republics of Venice, Genoa, and Pisa. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the Renaissance began in Italy, as the Maritime Republics, through their control of the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Seas, were able to return to Italy the ancient knowledge of the Greeks and Romans, as well as the products of distant East Asia.

Combined with the Mongol Empire, Western Europe traded extensively with East Asia, the security of the Mongol Empire allowing the products of Asia to be brought to such Western European controlled ports as Acre, Antioch, Kaffa (on the Black Sea) and even, for a time, Constantinople itself. The Fifth Crusade of 1217-1221 and the Seventh Crusade of 1248-1254 were largely attempts to secure Western European control of the Red Sea trade region, as both Crusades were directed against Egypt, the power base of the Ayyubid, and then Mameluke, Sultanates. It was only in the 1300s, as the stability of trade with Asia collapsed with the Mongol Empire, the Mamelukes destroyed the Middle Eastern Crusader States, and the rising Ottoman Empire impeded further Western European trade with Asia, that Western Europeans sought alternate trade routes to Asia, ultimately leading to Columbus's voyage of 1492.

Islamic world

Crusaders and Christians before Saladin
Crusaders and Christians before Saladin

The crusades had profound but localized effects upon the Islamic world, where the equivalents of "Franks" and "Crusaders" remained expressions of disdain. The Muslims tended to use the word "Frank" to describe all Western Europeans, regardless of nationality.

Muslims traditionally celebrate Saladin as a hero against the Crusaders. In the 21st century, some in the Arab world, such as the Arab independence movement and Pan-Islamism movement, continue to call Western involvement in the Middle East a "crusade". The Crusades were regarded by the Islamic world as cruel and savage onslaughts by European Christians.

The most devastating long term consequence of the crusades, according to historian Peter Mansfield, was the creation of an Islamic mentality that sought a retreat into isolation. He says "Assaulted from all quarters, the Muslim world turned in on itself. It became oversensitive [and] defensive… attitudes that grew steadily worse as world-wide evolution, a process from which the Muslim world felt excluded, continued.".

Jewish community

Though the Muslims in power at the time tried to protect the Jews in The Holy Land, the Crusaders' atrocities against them in the German and Hungarian towns, later also in those of France, England, and in the massacres of Jews in Palestine and Syria have become a significant part of the history of anti-Semitism, although no Crusade was ever declared against Jews. These attacks left behind for centuries strong feelings of ill will on both sides. The social position of the Jews in western Europe was distinctly worsened, and legal restrictions increased during and after the Crusades. They prepared the way for the anti-Jewish legislation of Pope Innocent III and formed the turning-point in medieval anti-Semitism. It must also be noted that Pope Innocent III reiterated papal injunctions against forcible conversions of Jews, and added: "No Christian shall do the Jews any personal injury...or deprive them of their possessions...or disturb them during the celebration of their festivals...or extort money from them by threatening to exhume their dead.".

The crusading period brought with it many narratives from Jewish sources. Among the better-known Jewish narratives are the chronicles of Solomon Bar Simson and Rabbi Eliezer bar Nathan, " The Narrative of the Old Persecutions," by Mainz Anonymous, and " Sefer Zekhirah," and " The Book of Remembrance," by Rabbi Ephraim of Bonn.

Caucasus

In the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia, in the remote highland region of Khevsureti, a tribe called the Khevsurs are thought to possibly be direct descendants of a party of crusaders who got separated from a larger army and have remained in isolation with some of the crusader culture intact. Into the 20th century, relics of armor, weaponry and chain mail were still being used and passed down in such communities. Russian serviceman and ethnographer Arnold Zisserman who spent 25 years (1842–67) in the Caucasus, believed the exotic group of Georgian highlanders were descendants of the last Crusaders based on their customs, language, art and other evidence. American traveler Richard Halliburton saw and recorded the customs of the tribe in 1935.

Etymology and use of 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 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. 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 French croisade, the Italian crociata, the Portuguese cruzada, or the German Kreuzzug) developed from this.

From the 17th century until the late 20th century, the term "crusade" carried a connotation in the West of being a righteous campaign, usually to "root out evil", or to fight for a just cause. In a non-historical common or theological use, "crusade" came to have a much broader emphatic or religious meaning—substantially removed from "armed struggle."

In a broader sense, "crusade" was used, in a rhetorical and metaphorical sense, to identify as righteous any war that was given a religious or moral justification.

A June 2, 1944 message to Allied troops before the Normandy landings, began with General Eisenhower stating, "Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months." His later bestselling memoir was entitled Crusade in Europe.

Ardent activists often referred to their causes as "crusades," as in the "Crusade against Adult Illiteracy," or a "Crusade against Littering." The term may also sarcastically or pejoratively characterize the zealotry of agenda promoters, for example with the moniker "Public Crusader" or the campaigns "Crusade against abortion," and the "Crusade for prayer in public schools."

In recent years, the use of "crusade" as a positive term has become less frequent in order to avoid giving offense to Muslims or others offended by the term, and as critical views of the Crusades have become dominant.

In line with the traditional usage George W. Bush in 2002 described his anti-terrorism campaign as a "crusade" but was compelled to repudiate the term when it was pointed out that the word, because of the historical events to which it referred, was regarded as highly offensive by Muslims and Jews.

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