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The Crusades
A Brief Overview
The Crusades
As Western European economies grew
(Europe was beginning to emerge from the
“Dark Ages”), merchants, travelers,
diplomats, and missionaries brought
European society into more intensive
contact with more distant peoples and with
Eurasian commercial networks.
By the end of the post-Classical period
(c. 1500), Europeans had direct, though
limited, contact with India and China.
The Crusades
Nothing revealed European expansiveness,
and the religious passions propelling it, more
than the Crusades, a series of “holy wars” that
captured the imagination of Western
Christendom for more than two hundred
years, beginning in 1095.
The Crusades
The growth and expansion of Islam into
areas the Christian world considered “sacred”
because they were associated with the life of
Jesus (even though these areas had been
under Muslim control for centuries) caused
the Catholic Church to propose the Islamic
idea of jihad.
By translating the Islamic idea of a “holy
warrior” into Christian terms, the medieval
Church created the crusader, the “knight for
The Crusades
“Christ leading the Crusaders” (14th century)
The Crusades
By 1000 CE (or so) all the barbarians/pagans
in Europe were checked and mostly
The only threat to (Christian) Europe’s east
(and south) was from Islam.
The Crusades
Even though the power of Islam in Spain was
declining, the Christian struggle with Islam
there would continue until the end of the
fifteenth century (the climax of the
Reconquesta came in 1492 when the last
Muslim capital of Spain, Granada, fell to the
Catholic armies of Ferdinand and Isabella).
The Crusades
In European thinking
and practice, the
Crusades were wars
undertaken at God’s
command and
authorized by the pope
as the Vicar of Christ on
Pope Urban II, who
called for the Crusades
in 1095.
The Crusades
Participants were
required to swear a
vow and in return
were given an
indulgence, which
removed the
penalties for any
confessed sins.
The Council of
The Crusades
This struggle with Islam gave European men a
sense of unity and religious fervor.
Christianity bound European warriors together
in a great moral and spiritual adventure but it
also promoted the predatory appetites of the
military class (knights) as they could kill the
pagans with clear consciences.
The Crusades
The Muslims, in the eyes of the Europeans,
were infidels who had by conquest installed
themselves in Christianity’s most sacred
shrines. The Pope called them “the wicked
The Crusades
Crusaders were also offered various
material benefits as an incentive, such as
immunity from lawsuits and freedom from
the repayment of debt.
The idea of automatic entrance into
Heaven while attacking Islam also had
great appeal (and if killed, you became a
hero and Christian martyr).
The Crusades
Even though Jerusalem had fallen to the
conquering Arabs in 637, their initial tolerance
had allowed Christians to make pilgrimages to
the holy shrines of their faith.
But that began to change after the Turks
soundly defeated the Byzantines (Greeks) in
The Crusades
So the attraction of winning spoils from the
wealthy Arab lands added to the
inducement, as did the thirst for excitement
among the West’s feudal warriors.
The Crusades
Three great armies (one from France,
Germany, and Italy), with tens of thousands
of crusaders assembled in Constantinople in
1097, much to the distress of the Byzantine
The Crusades
Within Europe, the amazing support for the
Crusades reflected an understanding of
them “as providing security against mortal
enemies threatening the spiritual health of
all Christendom and Christians.”
Crusading drew upon both Christian piety
and the warrior values of the elite, with
little sense of contradiction between the
The Crusades
The European armies were not an organized
military force but a series of separate militias,
each following a different commander and
often speaking different languages.
The Crusades
One militia, not commissioned by the pope,
consisted of commoners led by Peter the
Hermit of Amiens called the “People’s (or
Peasants) Crusade.”
The Crusades
An estimated 100,000 ordinary people (not
knights) took part in the “People’s
On its way to the Holy Land, the band
made a deliberate detour to attack and
murder Jews living peacefully in Germany,
because they were now also perceived as
The Crusades
This was the first
organized violence
against Jewish
communities in
Some historians refer
to this as “the first
The Crusades
Supplies were always problematic and
about 25% of Peter’s followers died en
Most of the rest of the participants in the
“People’s Crusade” were slaughtered once
they entered Seljuk (Turkish)-controlled
Asia Minor.
The Crusades
After seizing Antioch
(1098) and killing every
Turk in the city, the
crusaders went on to
take Jerusalem in 1099.
The initial conquest of
the Holy Land was
facilitated by Muslim
The Crusades
The seizure of Jerusalem in 1099 was
accompanied by the slaughter of thousands
of Muslims, Jews, and Orthodox Christians as
the Crusaders made their way through
streets “littered with corpses and ankle deep
in blood to the Sepulcher of Christ.”
The Crusades
The “Christian”
Europeans then
slaughtered all
including innocent
women and
The Crusades
Crusaders believed that Angels and Saints
intervened on their behalf as they fought.
The Crusades
The victorious Europeans established
feudal “Crusader States” where fiefs were
granted to vassals.
Most Europeans returned home, but those
that stayed learned to coexist and trade
with the indigenous Muslims.
A new militaristic Christian group, the
Knights Templar, emerged (named after
the part of Jerusalem near the Temple
where they lived).
The Crusades
The missions of the
Knights Templar included
protecting the pilgrimage
routes from Palestine to
Jerusalem, manning town
garrisons of the crusader
states, and transporting
money from Europe to
the Holy Land (which
made them very
The Crusades
Led or supported by an
assortment of kings,
popes, bishops, monks,
lords, and merchants,
the Crusades
demonstrated a growing
European capacity for
organization, finance,
transportation, and
recruitment, without any
centralized direction.
The Crusades
The fall of the city of
Edessa in 1144 to the
Turks launched the
ineffectual (and short
lived) Second Crusade
European leaders chose to
fight the Turks in
Damascus, but after five
days they gave up, ending
the Second Crusade.
The Crusades
For nearly a
century, Western
knights ruled the
“kingdom of
eventually losing it
to the great Muslim
general Saladin
during the Third
Crusade in 1187.
The Crusades
A lack of any clear
or coordinated plan
kept the English,
French, and German
groups from working
together, and all
were badly beaten
by the Turkish
armies under
The Crusades
Several later Crusades tried to win back
the Holy Land, but they were all failures.
The Crusades
The Third Crusade
(1189-1192) led to the
death of the German
emperor Barbarossahe drowned in the
River Saleph on his
way to Antioch—while
the kings of England
and France led troops
against the Muslims.
The Crusades
But the kings of England and France quarreled
and the Crusaders failed to recapture
Here King Richard I and Saladin are locked in
an imaginary battle.
The Crusades
The Europeans eventually surrendered, but
Saladin was so impressed with King Richard I
that he was able to produce a brief truce with
the Muslims to allow Christian pilgrims to visit
Jerusalem without fear of reprisal.
The Crusades
On his way home to England, King Richard I
(the Lionhearted) was captured and held for
ransom in Austria.
The Crusades
The fourth Crusade (1202-1204) was
manipulated by the merchants in Venice, who
turned it into an attack on their commercial
rivals in Constantinople, causing the city to
be sacked (1204 CE).
This further weakened the already weak
Byzantine Empire, leaving them more
vulnerable to Turkish (Muslim) conquest
(which finally happened in 1453).
The Crusades
The Bronze (actually copper) Horses of St.
Marks Cathedral in Venice, which were stolen
from Constantinople by the crusaders and
carried back to Venice.
The Crusades
An interesting, but little known crusade was
the Children’s Crusade.
In 1212, after the Fourth Crusade ended in
disaster, children from France and Germany
set off on their own crusade to the Holy
They were convinced that they would be
protected by God, and that because of this
protection, they would get to the Holy Lands
and take back Jerusalem for the Christians.
The Crusades
The Crusades
The Children's Crusade was never officially a
crusade since it was never blessed by the
It is believed that the Church hoped that the
actions of the children would shame kings
and emperors into getting a proper crusade
and going back to capture Jerusalem.
But it ended in complete disaster, as many
children died of exhaustion and exposure
before they even left Europe.
The Crusades
Those who boarded ships never returned.
Some believe the ships sank in the
Mediterranean and all aboard were
Others believe that pirates captured the
ships and sold the children into slavery.
No one really knows what happened to
the children.
The Crusades
Several more crusades set out in the
thirteenth century, but the idea of
recapturing the Holy Lands was essentially
The Crusades
The Crusades had little lasting impact, either
politically or religiously, on the Middle East.
European power wasn’t strong enough to
induce much conversion and the small
European foothold came back under Muslim
control by 1300.
The Crusades
Before the Crusades, the split between
Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims was far more
serious than the rift between Muslims and
The Mongol invasions of the 13th century
would be much more significant in Islamic
history than the temporary incursions of
European Christians.
The Crusades
But interaction with the Islamic world had
very significant long-term consequences for
Spain, Sicily, and the Baltic region were
brought permanently into the world of
Western Christendom.
Tens of thousands of Europeans came in
contact with the Islamic world, where they
picked up a taste for Asian luxury goods.
The Crusades
Trade expansion would lead to urban
growth, especially along the great trade
routes from Genoa or Venice and along
the Rhine River to Bruges (in today’s
Christian missionaries and travelers began
exploring further east, eventually opening
up Asian trade routes to European
discovery and increasing European
curiosity about other cultures.
The Crusades
The Crusades were also an episode in the
history of taste.
Europeans came in contact with cane sugar
(which they went crazy over) and they learned
the techniques for plantation sugar production
using slave labor (consequences later???).
Lemons and melons, black pepper, cinnamon,
ginger, cloves, cotton, muslin and damask
fabrics, glass mirrors, chess, paper, and even
the rosary made the journey from east to
The Crusades
The Crusades
Muslim scholarship, and the Greek learning it
was based on, flowed back into Europe,
largely through Spain, Italy, and Sicily.
European military technology took a giant
leap forward because of advanced techniques
in fortification and castle building learned
from both the Muslims and the Greeks.
And European governments increased in
scope and ambition because of the
experience of raising taxes to pay for the
The Crusades
But the rift between Eastern Orthodoxy
and Roman Catholicism deepened further
(especially after the sacking of
Constantinople) and remains to this day a
fundamental divide in the Christian world.
Christian anti-Semitism was evident as
Crusaders massacred Jews in several
European cities on their way to
The Crusades
European empire building, especially in the
Americas, continued the crusading notion
that “God wills it.”
And over the last two centuries, as the
worlds of Europe and Islam have
increasingly collided, both sides have found
many occasions where images of the
Crusades, however distorted, have been
politically or ideologically useful.