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The Second Crusade - 1147 - 1149 The success of the Christians in the First Crusade
had been largely due to the disunion among their enemies. But the Moslems learned
in time the value of united action, and in 1144 A.D. succeeded in capturing Edessa,
one of the principal Christian outposts in the East. The fall of the city of Edessa,
followed by the loss of the entire county of Edessa, aroused western Europe to the
danger which threatened the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and led to another
crusading enterprise.
The Second Crusade and the Origin of the Religious Orders of Knighthood
In the interval between the Second and the Third Crusade, the two famed religious
military orders, known as the Hospitallers and the Templars, were formed. A little
later, during the Third Crusade, still another fraternity, known as the Teutonic
Knights was established. The objects of all the orders were the care of the sick and
wounded crusaders, the entertainment of Christian pilgrims, the guarding of the
holy places, and ceaseless battling for the Cross. These fraternities soon acquired a
military fame that was spread throughout the Christian world. They were joined by
many of the most illustrious knights of the West, and through the gifts of the pious
acquired great wealth, and became possessed of numerous estates and castles in
Europe as well as in Asia.
The Cause of the Second Crusade - The Fall and Massacre at Edessa
In the year 1146, the city of Edessa, the bulwark of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem
on the side towards Mesopotamia, was taken by the Turks, and the entire
population was slaughtered, or sold into slavery. This disaster threw the entire West
into a state of the greatest alarm, lest the little Christian state, established at such
cost of tears and suffering, should be completely overwhelmed, and all the holy
places should again fall into the hands of the infidels.
The Second Crusade - The Preaching of St. Bernard The apostle of the Second
Crusade was the great abbot of Clairvaux, St. Bernard. Scenes of the wildest
enthusiasm marked his preaching. The scenes that marked the opening of the First
Crusade were now repeated in all the countries of the West. St. Bernard, an
eloquent monk, was the second Peter the Hermit, who went everywhere, arousing
the warriors of the Cross to the defence of the birthplace of their religion. When the
churches were not large enough to hold the crowds which flocked to hear him, he
spoke from platforms erected in the fields.
The Second Crusade & King Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany
The contagion of the holy enthusiasm seized not only barons, knights, and the
common people, which classes alone participated in the First Crusade, but kings
and emperors were now infected with the sacred frenzy. St. Bernard's eloquence
induced two monarchs, Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany, to take the
blood-red cross of a crusader. Conrad III., emperor of Germany, was persuaded to
leave the affairs of his distracted empire in the hands of God, and consecrate himself
to the defence of the sepulchre of Christ. Louis VII., king of France, was led to
undertake the crusade through remorse for an act of great cruelty that he had
perpetrated upon some of his revolted subjects.
The Failure of the Second Crusade
The Second Crusade, though begun under the most favorable auspices, had an
unhappy ending. Of the great host that set out from Europe, only a few thousands
escaped annihilation in Asia Minor at the hands of the Turks. Louis and Conrad,
with the remnants of their armies, made a joint attack on Damascus, but had to
raise the siege after a few days. This closed the crusade. As a chronicler of the
expedition remarked, "having practically accomplished nothing, the inglorious ones
returned home." The strength of both the French and the German division of the
expedition was wasted in Asia Minor, and the crusade accomplished nothing.