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The Crusades (1095–1291) were the military responses made by Christians from western Europe to the Pope's pleas to free the Holy Land from Islam. The First Crusade was a success, creating new Latin states in the Holy Land. Subsequent crusades were less successful except when they attacked the Byzantine Empire. Other medieval movements against heretics and infidels were also called crusades, and they had permanent success. The Crusades ended with the Islamic recapture of all the Holy Land in 1291, with the fall of Acre, the last city controlled by crusaders.

The Crusades comprise a major chapter of medieval history. Extending over three centuries, they attracted every social class in western Europe. Kings, barons, bishops, knights and commoners—even teenagers—all participated in these expeditions to the eastern end of the Mediterranean. The motives of the crusaders were numerous: some sought riches; many sought adventure; most were moved by faith alone. Historians stress the central role of religious fervor, while mentioning as well the socio-economic factors crucial in enticing larger contingents. For example, crusaders often were fulfilling their feudal obligations. There were strong links between the papal reforms, the social necessity of violence and the exploitation of this inherent revivalistic imagination of the age of the Papacy.[1]

The Crusades failed to achieve the permanent control of the Holy Land. However, their influence was wide and deep. Much of the crusading fervor carried over to the successful fights against the Moors (Muslims) in Spain and the pagan Slavs in eastern Europe. Politically the crusades weakened the decrepit Byzantine Empire, but temporarily kept the Muslims away from it. The First Crusade strengthened the moral leadership of the papacy in Europe, but the failures of the later crusades weakened both the crusading ideal and respect for the papacy. Contact with the East widened the scope of the Europeans, ended their isolation, and exposed them to an rich civilization. The economic effects of the Crusades were modest, but they did reopen the eastern Mediterranean to Western commerce, which itself had an effect on the rise of great cities such as Venice and the emergence of a money economy in the West.

The crusaders derived their name from the Latin word for "cross"—crux. A crusader went to the Holy Land with a cross of cloth sewn over his breast; when he returned, he had a similar cross for his back. Originally called to repel the Islamic forces that controlled Jerusalem, the crusades evolved into a form of political decree called by the Papacy for political, social or economic reasons; In other words, a directive of war issued by the Papacy to all Rome-friendly nations against forces who were hostile to the Papacy.


The Byzantine Empire controlled Jerusalem until the city fell in 614 to Kosrau II, ruler of the Persian Empire. The Byzantine Emperor Heraclius aimed to reconquer Jerusalem for religious reasons since Jerusalem was the center of Christianity and the home of the True Cross. This set a precedent in Christian reasoning that Jerusalem and in turn Palestine rightfully belonged to Christianity, being the center of Christian tradition and religion.

The Muslim Arabs gained control of Palestine in the seventh century. Their successful invasion and occupation of the land had not interfered with Christians rights to pilgrimage or neither did it tamper with local Christian communities or monasteries. It did however mark the beginning of Byzantine decline in the region. Palestine was traditionally an important link-up region to other, more important and wealthier nations; Egypt to the South, the Babylonians, Persians and Arabs to the east, and Macedonia and Rome to the North and West. The loss of Byzantine control in this region meant a ripple effect which caused the loss of Christian control over much of western Arabia and the emergence of the Muslims as a powerful entity at the expense of Orthodox Christianity.

In 1009 the Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah ordered the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, although the Byzantines were allowed to rebuild it in 1039. Although pilgrimages were largely unhindered, some Christian clergy had been killed and certain pilgrims had been heckled or murdered. It soon became clear however of the economic importance of Jerusalem as a holy site and therefore the persecution of pilgrims ceased. [2]

First Crusade

The recently emergent Seljuks had won a great victory over the Byzantines at the Battle of Manzikert, 1071. This victory paved the way for Seljuk domination of Anatolia, making the pilgrims journey to Jerusalem all the more difficult. This concern for the pilgrims, as well as a heartfelt plea from Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus for aid led to Pope Urban II[3] to call for a holy war against the Muslims in the name of Christianity at the Council of Clermont, 1095. Although not originally intended to establish what would later be known as the Crusader States in the Levant, the movement gained wide support from aristocrat and peasant alike and thousands of Europeans prepared for the long hard march to fight the Seljuks and the other Muslim forces.

Europe in 1097; click to enlarge

Pope Urban

Pope Urban II defined and launched the crusades at the Council of Clermont in 1095. He was a reformer worried about the evils which had hindered the spiritual success of the church and its clergy and the need for a revival of religiosity. He was moved by the urgent appeal for help from Byzantine Emperor Alexius I. Urban's solution was announced on the last day of the council when the pope suddenly proclaimed the Crusade against the infidel Muslims. He called for Christian princes across Europe to launch a holy war in the Holy Land. He contrasted the sanctity of Jerusalem and the holy places with the plunder and desecration by the infidel Turks. He exited outrage by vividly describing attacks upon the Christian pilgrims. He also noted the military threat to the fellow Christians of Byzantium. He charged Christians to take up the holy cause, promising to all those who went remission of sins and to all who died in the expedition immediate entry into heaven.[4]

Then Urban raised secular motives, talking of the feudal love of tournaments and warfare. He urged the barons to give up their fratricidal and unrighteous wars in the West for the holy war in the East. He also suggested material rewards, regarding feudal fiefdoms, land ownership, wealth, power, and prestige, all at the expense of the Arabs and Turks. He said they could be defeated very easily by the Christian forces. Pope Urban's speech ranks as one of the most influential speeches ever made: it launched the holy wars which occupied the minds and forces of western Europe for two hundred years.[5] When he finished, his listeners shouted "Deus volt" (God wills it). This became the battle cry of the crusaders. Urban put the bishop of Le Puy in charge of encouraging prelates and priests to join the cause.[6] Word spread rapidly that war against unbelief would be fused with the practice of pilgrimage to holy sites, and the pilgrims' reward would be great on earth, as in heaven. Immediately thousands pledged themselves to go on the first crusade.


The First Crusade was a success. In July, 1099, after a harrowing campaign across Europe, Anatolia, and down the Palestinian coast, those who were still alive and able to fight, besieged Jerusalem, capturing it in Christ's name.

The main army, mostly French and Norman knights under baronial leadership--Godfrey of Bouillon (1060-1100)[7], Baldwin of Flanders, Raymond of Toulouse, Robert of Normandy, Bohemond of Taranto--assembled at Constantinople and marched south through Anatolia. They captured Antioch (June 3, 1098) and finally Jerusalem (July 15, 1099) in savage battles. They created four crusader states along the Syrian and Palestinian coast.

The story of the first crusade from the crusaders' perspective recounts the struggles of the first wave of crusaders to reach the hinterlands of Byzantium, of Islamic Syria, and then of Jerusalem; of the terrible slaughters of Jewish populations committed by a second wave as it marched through the Rhineland [8]; of finding food and facing starvation; of the "miracles" associated with the alleged finding of the Holy Lance in Antioch; of the competition between European princes for leadership; and of the eventual taking of Jerusalem itself. It was an achievement to coordinate crusaders with sharply different languages, styles of leadership, and modes of fighting. That such a band even made it to Jerusalem is remarkable, and was possible, first, because of divisions within the realm of Islam, and second, because Muslims in the various provinces misinterpreted the presence of the crusading army. They seem to have regarded the Christian forces as renegades, escapees from the poverty and oppression of the "territory of war." This interpretation led to a low estimate of the threat posed to Muslim security by an army that, despite weaknesses, was motivated by a profound religious fervor.[9]


According to the interpretation of Sir Steven Runciman, the First Crusade was like a barbarian invasion of the civilized and sophisticated Byzantine empire and ultimately brought about the ruin of Byzantine civilization. The crusade was unwittingly triggered by the Byzantine emperor, Alexius I Comnenus, when he had sent ambassadors to the pope in 1095 to ask for mercenary soldiers to enroll in his armies. The emotive appeal made in response by Pope Urban II, however, had the effect of sending thousands of Frankish knights to Constantinople under their own leaders, quite a different outcome from what Alexius had expected. There had been long-distance intellectual disputes between Byzantium and the West in the past, but since contact between the two societies was sporadic, there was little open hostility. Now that the westerners arrived in the center of the empire in large numbers, those differences became a serious matter. Especially important, Runciman argues, was tension between the Byzantine patriarch and the pope, and the more tolerant attitude of the Byzantines towards Muslim powers. Although Runciman lays some of the blame at the door of the Byzantine emperors who reigned after 1143, the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in April 1204 was the culmination of the mounting dislike and suspicion that all western Christendom now felt towards the Byzantines. Ever since Runciman announced his interpretation in 1951, it has been under challenge by scholars. They say he was too uncritical in accepting the main Byzantine source, the narrative by Anna Comnena (the daughter of Emperor Alexius I), which presents Alexius I’s actions as motivated solely by superhuman charity and places the blame entirely on the crusaders, particularly on the Norman, Bohemond of Taranto. Runciman also takes at face value Anna Comnena's descriptions of some of the crusaders as uncouth louts and this is largely the basis for belief that the two peoples were mutually estranged from the start. Scholars argue that the classicising literary genre in which Comnena wrote dictated that foreign peoples be presented as ‘barbarians’ and that this did not necessarily mean that the entire populations of the two halves of Christendom were in a constantly increasing state of mutual antipathy.

Among recent scholars, Paul Magdalino’s and Ralph-Johannes Lilie’s close studies of Byzantine policies towards the crusader states of Syria show not steadily mounting tension, but periods of animosity interspersed with co-operation and alliance.[10] Jonathan Shepard re-examines the whole question of Byzantine involvement with the genesis of the First Crusade in two influential articles. Adopting a more critical stance towards Anna Comnena, Shepard argues that there was far more to the episode than an innocent Byzantine emperor taken aback by the turn of events and that Alexius was cleverly exploiting the situation for his own ends. While Runciman denounces Bohemond, the Norman leader, as a "villain" whose greed soured relations with the Byzantines, Shepard argues that this picture depends on an uncritical reading of Anna Comnena, who glorified her own family and vilified Bohemond mercilessly. In reality in 1096-7, Alexius viewed Bohemond as a potential tool, ally and recruit, a kind of imperial agent to oversee the re-conquest of Asia Minor.[11]

Harris (2003) rejects the "clash of civilizations" model. He argues that trouble arose because the West misunderstood Byzantine foreign policy. That policy was narrowly focused on three goals which the West did not accept: acceptance of the theory that the Roman inheritance had shifted from Rome to Constantinople (called translatio imperii), that the suzerainty of Byzantine emperors ought to be recognized by the West, and commitment to the security of the Oikumene (that is, the civilized, Christian world centered around Constantinople). Although the Byzantines employed many high-ranking Latins in their government, Harris finds repeated instances of Byzantine hostility toward Latins, based on deep-rooted and long-standing antipathy that was rooted in a conviction of Byzantine cultural and religious superiority, and perhaps heightened by a growing fear of Byzantium's military inferiority and political weakness.[12]

Second Crusade (1147-1149)

When news of the capture of Edessa by the Muslims reached Europe, St. Bernard of Clairvaux persuaded Emperor Conrad III of Germany (r. 1138-1152) and King Louis VII of France (r. 1137-1180) to retake them in the Second Crusade. The two sovereigns consciously avoided one another and neither accomplished much, so the crusade was a complete failure.

Third Crusade (1187-1192)

The Muslims had long fought among themselves, but they were finally united by Saladin, who created a single powerful state. He easily overwhelmed the disunited crusaders and in 1187 1187 and all of the crusader holdings except a few coastal cities. The Byzantines, fearful of the crusaders, made an alliance with Saladin.

To reverse this disaster Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa (r. 1152-1190) of Germany, King Philip Augustus (r. 1180-1223) of France, and King Richard I of England (r. 1189-1199) established a crusade; the pope's role was minor. Frederick died en route and few of his men reached the Holy Land. The other two armies arrived but were beset by political quarrels. Philip Augustus feigned illness and returned to France, there scheming to win back the duchy of Normandy from Richard's control.

Richard thus became the sole leader of the Third Crusade. His exploits gave rise to legends and through them Richard acquired a greatly exaggerated posthumous prestige. More showman than statesman, a brave knight but a bad king, his stature was measured by Winston Churchill" "His life was one magnificent parade which, when ended, left only an empty plain." Richard did regain Acre and Jaffa for the Christians, but that was all. The agreement he finally reached with Saladin gave pilgrims free access to Jerusalem and little else. The city itself and the adjoining kingdom, except for some coastal cities, were still subject to the same law--that of the Qur'an, not the Holy Bible. [13]

Fourth Crusade (1202-1204)

Initiated by Pope Innocent III, the Fourth Crusade was largely composed of Frenchmen and Venetians, and by a series of mishaps was directed at the Byzantines, not the Muslims. Venice, which supported crusading, promised to transport 30,000 French crusaders to the Holy Land and to provide them with military equipment and supplies. The plan was to use Egypt as a military base for an attack on Palestine. But only 12,000 Frenchmen arrived at Venice, so they were too few to pay for the contracted amount. The Venetians, who had prepared for 30,000, proposed that the Frenchmen make up the deficit by assisting them in attacking the seaport of Zara. Ruled by the Christian king of Hungary, Zara was the greatest Adriatic rival of Venice. Pope Innocent failed to stop the new plan, but he did excommunicate all participants. The coalition of French and Venetians in November 1202 captured, and pillaged Zara in a brief, brutal campaign.

The Venetians now proposed the coalition attack Constantinople and restore the dethroned Byzantine emperor, Isaac II Angelos. They argued the emperor would guarantee the manpower which the French had failed to furnish, as well as fresh money, and supplies for the Egyptian expedition. The pope again tried and failed to stop the scheme. The coalition captured and pillaged Constantinople in April 1204; it was the first time the city had ever fallen. Since the deposed emperor had died, the crusaders established a new Latin Empire of the East (1204-61) with the Count of Flanders for its ruler. This short-lived state comprised most of the land in Thrace and Greece, where the French barons were rewarded with feudal fiefs. Venice gained the harbor in Constantinople plus a commercial monopoly throughout the empire and the Aegean islands, as well as control of Crete and other islands. The Fourth Crusade was a complete victory for the Venetians but for nobody else; it never reached the Holy Land, Europeans were disgusted, and Islam strengthened. Thee new empire fell to the Byzantines in 1261.[14]

Latin kingdoms

The First Crusade created four small independent countries along the coast of Syria: the County of Edessa (lasting until 1144)[15], the Principality of Antioch (lasting until 1268), the County of Tripoli (lasting until 1289), and the most important, the Kingdom of Jerusalem (lasting until the fall of Acre in 1291). Intense rivalry weakened the coalition.[16]

The Kingdom of Jerusalem

Godfrey of Bouillon, elected Lord of Jerusalem, 22 July, 1099, died in 1100 after defeating the Egyptian army. His brother Baldwin I (1100-1118) became king and built the state. However he exerted only nominal control over Edessa, Antioch and Tripoli; the princes there owed feudal loyalty and service to their sovereign lord in Jerusalem, but in practice they rendered them only when military necessity required. Indeed they just as often befriended the Byzantines and Arabs as their local interests demanded, even though their policy weakened the position of the kingdom. The king's authority was further limited by the power of the church; the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem was always a powerful figure.[17]

Crusader states in 1140

The kingdom comprised a mixture of Arabs, Turks, Syrians, Jews, Armenians, and Greeks, all ruled by the crusaders from Europe, who ware called "the Franks." Each group followed their own traditional religious beliefs and customs.[18] The crusaders themselves comprised several nationalities and languages. The new legal system, called the "Assizes of Jerusalem," imposed feudalism.[19]

The success of the kingdom depended on holding off Muslim attacks and building an economic base. The base came in a dozen important commercial centers along the Mediterranean shore, most notably Beirut, Acre, Tyre, Sidon, and Jaffa. Here the Italian merchants from Genoa, Pisa, and Venice obtained extraterritorial rights and had their own courts. They levied taxes and operated courts of law that covered both their own people and the entire residential population of the city. Each city paid a nominal fee to the king of Jerusalem or the local princes. In practice the cities were self-governing and outside the control of the king. The Italians kept on friendly terms with the Muslims--that was good for business. Abandoning the "crusading spirit" they believed in "live and let live" and opposed further warfare with the Muslims.

Rural areas in the kingdom were operated as feudal societies, with the Franks (the crusaders) as lords and the traditional population paying them rents. They had almost no contact with Muslims.[20]

Muslim Arab opposition was initially fragmented. After 1128, however, the Arab states were gradually unified; their greatest leader was Saladin (1138-1193), who took control of Egypt in 1169. He launched a holy war in 1187, defeated the crusaders at Hattin, captured Jerusalem, and besieged the remaining crusaders in Tyre, Tripoli, and Antioch, and in a few castles elsewhere. In 1189 the Third Crusade was launched in an attempt to recover Jerusalem. However, it succeeded only in retaking the coastal towns and an adjacent strip of territory. Thus, from 1191 the capital of the rump Latin Kingdom was at Acre. The kingdom thereafter was torn by conflicts between the barons and their rulers; among the Venetian, Genoese, and Pisan colonists; and between the military orders of the Hospitalers and the Templars. The knights of these orders provided the only reliable armed force. The Egyptian Mamelukes captured Acre in 1291 and the kingdom vanished.

Minor Crusades

In addition to the four main crusades there were several minor ones.

The People's Crusade (1095-96)

As soon as the pope issued his appeal in 1095 preachers like Peter the Hermit and Walter the Penniless fanned out across Western Europe, reaching pious common people in rural areas. They aroused such an enthusiasm among the peasants that neither the secular lords nor the local clergy could stop the people from marching east, filled with hopes for freedom from serfdom and the zest for adventure. Thousands of peasants set off with few supplies or weapons and no money, and no idea of the enormous distance to be traveled. They believed that God would provide the guidance for direction and the sustenance for life. More prosperous farmers and burghers were also involved. Five uncoordinated bands trekked across the Balkan region toward Constantinople. The Byzantine Christians welcomed them reluctantly and even contemptuously, for the pilgrims robbed them and raided their farms and villages. The Byzantine army fought them in pitched battles; most peasants never reached Constantinople. The thousands who did arrive were militarily useless and unwelcome. The Emperor Alexius temporarily fed and housed them outside the city, then hurried them across the Bosporus into Asia Minor. There the peasants were all killed by the Turkish forces.[21]

The Children's Crusade (1212)

Even more pathetic that the peasant crusade of 1095-96 was a movement in France and Germany which attracted large numbers of peasant teenagers and young people (few were under age 15). They were convinced they could succeed where older and more sinful crusaders had failed: the miraculous power of their faith would triumph where the force of arms had not. Many parish priests and parents encouraged such religious fervor and urged them on. The pope and bishops opposed the attempt but failed to stop it entirely. A band of several thousand youth and young men led by a German named Nicholas set out for Italy. About a third survived the march over the Alps and got as far as Genoa; another group came to Marseilles. The luckier ones eventually managed to get safely home, but many others were sold as lifetime slaves on the auction blocks of Marseilles slave dealers.[22]

The Fifth Crusade (1217-1221)

Instigated by Pope Innocent III in 1215, this crusade was led in 1217 by John Brienne, king of Jerusalem, with the object of conquering Egypt. In 1219 the crusaders captured Damietta. The sultan of Egypt offered to exchange Jerusalem for Damietta but this was rejected. After an unsuccessful assault on Cairo in 1221, the defeated crusaders surrendered Damietta in return for the freedom to retreat.[23]

The Sixth Crusade (1228-1229)

The sixth or " Diplomatic Crusade" was led by Emperor Frederick II of the Holy Roman Empire. He began in 1228, but fought no battles. Instead, by negotiation he obtained Jerusalem and a strip of territory from Acre to Jerusalem for the Christians. In 1225 he married Yolanda, the young heiress to the kingdom of Jerusalem; upon her death in 1228, Frederick crowned himself king of Jerusalem.

The Seventh Crusade (1248-1250)

Led by King Louis IX of France (reigned. 1226-1270) and directed against the Arabs of Egypt, this crusade was a complete failure. The crusaders were decisively defeated en-route to Cairo and King Louis was captured; the Arabs demanded and received a huge ransom for the release of the hapless king.[24]

The Eighth Crusade (1270)

Ignoring his advisers, King Louis IX again attacked the Arabs in Tunis in North Africa. He picked the hottest season of the year for campaigning and his army was devastated by disease. The king himself died, ending the last major attempt to free the Holy Land.[25]

Other Medieval Crusades

At the time people used "crusade" to describe other religious wars waged against heretics, such as Hussites and Albigensian, as well as Moors in Spain and pagans in the Baltic region.

The Albigensian Crusade (13th century)

Pope Innocent III in 1209 called for a war against the Albigensians, a religious sect which had sprung up in southern France, centered near the cities of Albi and Toulouse in Provence.[26] A bloody series of campaigns ended with Provence in ruins (1229) and the heretics defeated. In 1233 Pope Gregory IX placed the Dominicans in charge of investigating the remnants of Albigensianism with the legal power to name and condemn any surviving heretics. This marked the start of the Inquisition.

Teutonic Knights (1229-1525)

A German religious and military order originally founded during the siege of Acre in the Third Crusade and modeled after the Knights Templars and Hospitalers, the Teutonic Knights moved to eastern Europe early in the 13th century.[27] There, under their grand master, Hermann von Salza, they became powerful and prominent. In 1229, responding to an appeal from the Duke of Poland, they began a crusade against the pagan Slavs of Prussia. They became sovereigns over lands they conquered over the next century. In a series of campaigns, the Teutonic Knights gained control over the whole Baltic coast, founding numerous towns and fortresses and establishing Christianity.[28]

Crusades in Spain (711-1492)

Muslim crossed from Africa into Spain early in the eighth century and in 711 at the battle of Río Barbate, they defeated the Visigoths and pressed forward to capture Toledo. By 718, the Moors (the name given North African Muslims by the Spaniards) had completed their conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, except for small Christian remnants in the Pyrenees. They remained on for the next 674 years until driven out by Spanish and Portuguese Christians.

The period of the Spanish Crusades began in the eleventh century when a religious revival was initiated by Cluniac monks in the small kingdoms in the north of Spain, which had recovered some of their lost territory. The revival expressed itself in a growing hatred for the infidel. Slowly yet steadily, at first sparked mainly by Burgundians and Normans from France, the Christians began to force the Moors out of northern and central Spain. Known as the Wars of the Reconquest, these centuries-long conflicts intensified the Catholic sentiments of the people, developing an intense, even fanatical unity of religion and patriotism which was long characteristic of the Spaniards.

By the middle of the 15th century, the last bastion of Moorish power on the peninsula was the kingdom of Granada in southwestern Spain. When the marriage of Isabella, Queen of Castile, to Ferdinand, Prince of Aragon, in 1469 united Spain, they vigorously began their last campaign against the Moors. In January 1492 the Spanish entered the city of Granada and Moorish power ended in Europe. The expulsion of the Moors from Spain may be considered the last of the many medieval crusades.[29]


While the crusades achieved only temporary military success, they had a powerful impact on western Europe. The crusaders returned with a vastly widened knowledge of the world they lived in, and a willingness to explore that became a permanent part of the west European mindset. In religion, culture, and commerce, post-Crusades Europe was visibly affected by its prolonged encounter with another continent and another way of life.

Commerce and economy

The merchants of Venice and other Italian cities gained the most profit. They amassed considerable income in payment for the services they rendered the crusaders and were enriched by the commercial rights they obtained throughout the Near East. Genoa, Pisa, and Venice gained special monopolies throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Their merchants used these privileges to introduce into the Western world such oriental luxuries as silks, spices, and pearls, whose transportation and sale made the cities rich. The demand for these products encouraged explorers to seek out new and more direct routes to the East--most famously in the discovery and exploration of the Americas by Columbus and others starting in 1492. The crusades helped create a moneyed aristocracy and encouraged the growth of capitalism in the Italian cities. Silks and spices not only raised the standard of living of the rich, they stimulated the entire urban economy, although cities remained small.

The returning crusaders came back to Europe with new tastes in dress and diet, such as peaches and spinach. They gave up the custom of wearing a load of heavy armor at nearly all times and appeared in the flowing robes of silk or cotton which were the traditional habit of the Muslims.

Weakens feudalism

In rural areas, where the vast majority of Europeans lives, the crusades tended to weaken feudalism and strengthen central governments. Thousands of feudal aristocrats died young and many baronial families lost heavily or even went bankrupt because they borrowed money for the adventure and could not repay. Since credit markets were undeveloped and inefficient, the crusaders paid high premiums to borrow; many accepted donations from friends and family. For a local baron to bring along 10 knights on a crusade cost some 3000 lives a year. There was some plunder along the way, but plunder was hard to liquefy to pay off loans back home. Instead of acquiring new rich new lands and fabulous wealth in the East, many noble families sold, pawned or mortgaged lands, castles, benefices, and jewels; most saw their finances damaged. Money lenders in Italian cities grew rich. The feudal barons were the basis of localism; power now tended to become more centralized and national. Of course when the kings crusaded, it cost them dearly and weakened their throne. Richard I of England sold off the income he was owed from Scotland, and tried to sell London itself but could not find a buyer. By contributing to the rise of the cities, the development of a money economy, and the strengthening of national monarchies, hastened, to some extent, feudalism's collapse.[30]


The crusades at first helped, then hurt the church and the papacy. In the early stages, the popes took the leadership of Europe in a great holy cause against the infidel world. Germany, France and England in particular responded to the popes. However the popes lost that leadership to secular princes by the time of the Third Crusade; during the Fourth Crusade the crusaders rejected Innocent III's demands.

The Crusades were a major contributing factor in the separation of the Eastern and Western Churches. The Crusaders deposed the native Patriarchs and appointed Latin Patriarchs in their place. These appointments were ratified by the Pope.

In the kingdom of Jerusalem, the commercial interests fostered an unexpected friendship with the Muslims, leading to an acceptance of oriental customs, and toleration of the rival religion. No such tolerance was visible in Western Europe.


Impact on the West

In terms of cultural influence, 20th century historians have revised the traditionally positive picture of the Crusades, finding little evidence of significant impact. 19th century historians saw in the Crusades a major stimulus for the renewed interest in learning, art, literature, and architecture that took place across Western Europe, and some historians had even argued the Crusades were mainly responsible for the Renaissance.

It has been argued that the crusades stimulated broader vision and better understanding of the wider world for the countries who embarked on them. Men who had never been 30 miles beyond their village or manor saw firsthand new places, peoples and customs. One impact the Crusades did have on literary art was the immortalisation of the Crusading heroes in oft-recited poems. The Estoire de la guerre sainte is in Old French couplets, lauding the exploits of Richard I in the Third Crusade. A free poetical spirit characterizes Le Chanson d'Antioche that describes the First Crusade. The ages-old tales of Arthur and Charlemagne were given a fresh crusading complexion during the Middle Ages.

Impact on the East

A significant long-term cultural impact on the Muslim world is the resultant resentment, fear and distrust of Christian Europe, evidence of which as survived into the 21st century.[31] When The US president George W. Bush described in 2001 the newly-defined War on terror as a "Crusade", the Islamic world in particular was alarmed at what was widely considered to be ill-judged language.[32] In 2006, Osama bin Laden, speaking from hiding, described Western policy towards the Muslim world as a "Zionist-Crusader war against Islam" [33]

The Byzantine Empire

The crusades postponed the Turkish conquest of the Byzantine Empire until 1453, but the determination of Westerners to conquer and colonize the lands of Byzantium led to its downfall. Rather than curing its ills, they made its death inevitable. The plunder of Constantinople in 1204 and the Venetian monopoly of its trade were a fatal blow to the political and economic life of the empire. Even after its restoration in 1261, Constantinople never regained its former strength.

Representation over history

Legend and literature in the West

Legend and literature surrounded the Crusades with an aura of romance and grandeur, of chivalry and courage.[34] The myth is only remotely related to reality. The countless tales of the gallant knights of the Cross glitter in hyperbole. Many stories are true about the crusaders' feats of valor. However the crusaders occupied the Holy Land only temporarily. In their major mission, the crusaders lost in the very long run.

The historical memory of the crusades has been sharply divided. The Catholic tradition in Europe looked upon them favorably, but the Protestant historians were more negative. Martin Luther once suggested that the Turks were God's instrument for punishing Christians. In recent decades a sense of western guilt is apparent, as in the 1995 BBC television series, presented by Terry Jones, which portrayed the crusades as a long, misguided war of intolerance, ignorance and barbarism against a peaceful and sophisticated Muslim world.[35]

Knobler (2006) examines the use of the crusades as a national symbol from the 19th century to the 1910s in France, Spain, the Ottoman Empire, Ethiopia, Britain, Russia, and Bulgaria. Though the Enlightenment and its secular ideological successors held the crusades as an example of medieval barbarity. Enlightenment thinkers like historian-philosophers Voltaire and David Hume denounced the crusades, as did the great historian of Byzantium Edward Gibbon, who wrote:

"The principle of the crusades was a savage fanaticism; and the most important effects were analogous to the cause…. The belief of the Catholics was corrupted by new legends…. The active spirit of the Latins preyed on the vitals of their reason and religion…. The lives and labours of millions, which were buried in the East, would have been more profitably employed in the improvement of their native country."[36]

In the 19th century, however, romantic writers like novelist Sir Walter Scott created heroic images of the crusaders. The romantics and conservative adherents of the European ancien régimes appropriated crusading imagery for their own 19th century political goals, downplaying religion to fit within a modern, secular context and presenting crusades as a counterpoint to liberal ideas of nationalism.

Knobler (2006) explores three primary themes: memory of the crusades as it relates to debates over the generation and use of national symbols; the crusader as a romantic hero; and the Muslim recollection of the crusades as a shameful blot on the past of Christian nations. The crusades appealed to many Europeans because they reflected a morally unambiguous time, sparked romanticized images of warfare in a time of imperialist expansion, and provided heroic templates for modern "crusading" imperialist heroes.[37]

The Muslim world

Muslim historiography does not cover the crusades with the same intensity as the West. One modern reason could be that Turks were primarily responsible for the defeat of the crusaders, and Arab historians (who have written much of modern Islamic history) may have underplayed this, due to the Turks role in establishing the Ottoman Empire - a period that suppressed Arab nationalism for seven centuries into the era of World War I.[38]

The great Muslim hero was a Kurd, Saladin (1138-93). Having defeated the crusaders in 1187, and become sovereign and founder of the Ayyubid dynasty in Egypt and Syria, Salah al-Din (Saladin) has been for a century the object of an intense glorification in the Arab world. Farah Antun's play Sultan Saladin and the Kingdom of Jerusalem (1914) illustrates how the historical figure of Saladin came to be presented as a prophet of Arab nationalism. Antun (1874-1922) was a Syrian Christian who presents Saladin as the champion of a just jihad against the Crusaders and as a faithful upholder of the virtues of wisdom, determination, and frankness, calling on the peoples of all Arab countries to unite against Western imperialists. The refusal of Antun's Saladin to become embroiled in quarrels within Europe had obvious echoes in World War I and caused the play to be censored by the British authorities in Egypt. In Palestine, the glorification also took the form of pilgrimages to Nabi Musa and became an occasion to celebrate the memory of the great hero of Muslim history. A recent myth proclaims him the initiator of Palestinian pilgrimages. The figure of the past has become the modern hero of Arab nationalism, giving hope to a society prey to war and dispersion. At the same time, however, the pilgrimage ritual highlights the limits of the hero: constantly appealed to and put to the test, he has begun to show signs of fragility.[39]

Church Liturgy

Linder (2001) examines 15th-century Church liturgy designed to generate support for the war effort against the Turks and to legitimize its aims. Two types of Contra Turcos Masses were used: masses converted to this function through the addition of appropriate three core prayers and complete dedicated masses. The most popular example of the first type was the triple prayer set originally established by Clement V as a Holy Land crusade liturgy and subsequently mobilized against the Turks. The second type is represented by nine different mass formularies that were introduced after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Most surviving liturgies are of German or French provenance, indicating extensive use not only among the front-line populations but also in areas far removed from any threat. The liturgy displays an its intense crisis rhetoric. Its predominant stance of vulnerability and defensiveness entailed aggressive mobilization and the conceptualization of the Turk as the actual, specific manifestation of the generic infidel, the competing religious Other; and the remarkable continuity - in form and in content - that linked this liturgy with its parent liturgies (mainly those of the campaigns against the pagans and the Holy Land Crusades) further accentuated these traits. The communicative function and value of this liturgy is highlighted by the concentration of the direct, unmediated communicative elements in that part of the mass that was the most accessible to the laity.[40]

Further reading

See the detailed guide at the Bibliography subpage


  1. Douglas James, "Christians and the First Crusade," History Review(Dec 2005), Issue 53
  2. Thomas F Madden. A Concise History of the Crusades (1999)
  3. Lived 1042-1099; Pope 1088-1099; see [1]
  4. Early crusading popes used gendered language that excluded women's military participation, but after the loss of Jerusalem, popes used neutral and even inclusive language, thus inviting women's participation. In any case women "camp followers" accompanied the armies, usually to handle cooking and cleaning chores. * Susan B. Edgington, and Sarah Lambert, eds. Gendering the Crusades. (2002)
  5. Dana Carleton Munro, "The Speech of Pope Urban II at Clermont, 1095," The American Historical Review, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Jan., 1906), pp. 231-242 in JSTOR
  6. Spanish Christians were exempt because they were busy expelling the Moors from Spain.
  7. See [2]
  8. Jeremy Cohen, Sanctifying the Name of God: Jewish Martyrs and Jewish Memories of the First Crusade. (2004) examines Hebrew accounts of how crusader bands in 1096 forced Jews in Mainz, Speyer, and other towns to convert and murdered or drive to suicide many who refused summary baptism, and how some Jewish leaders killed their followers and mothers killed their children.
  9. Thomas Asbridge, First Crusade: A New History (2004)
  10. R-J. Lilie, Byzantium and the Crusader States 1095-1204 (1993); Paul Magdalino, The Empire of Manuel I Komnenos 1143-1180 (1993), pp. 66-108.
  11. Jonathan Shepard, "Cross-purposes: Alexius Comnenus and the First Crusade," in The First Crusade Origins and Impact, ed. Jonathan Phillips (1997), pp. 107-29, and Shepard, "When Greek meets Greek: Alexius Comnenus and Bohemond in 1097-98", Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 12 (1988), 185-277.
  12. Jonathan, Harris, Byzantium and the Crusades. (2003)
  13. Charles M. Brand, "The Byzantines and Saladin, 1185-1192: Opponents of the Third Crusade," Speculum, Vol. 37, No. 2 (Apr., 1962), pp. 167-181 in JSTOR; P. M. Holt, "Saladin and His Admirers: A Biographical Reassessment," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 46, No. 2 (1983), pp. 235-239 in JSTOR; a popular account is James Reston, Jr., Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade (2005)
  14. The classic memoir is by the French leader Geoffroi de Villehardouin, Conquest of Constantinople; it is the first great history in French prose. Donald E. Queller, Thomas K. Compton, and Donald A. Campbell. "The Fourth Crusade: The Neglected Majority," Speculum, Vol. 49, No. 3 (Jul., 1974), pp. 441-465 in JSTOR
  15. The population was primarily Armenian and Christian. Muslims invaders took control by 1149. Sir Hamilton A. R. Gibb, "Zengi and the Fall of Edessa," in M. W. Baldwin, M. W. ed. The first hundred years (1969) pp. 448-462
  16. See M. W. Baldwin, ed. The first hundred years (1969), ch 12-19
  17. See M. W. Baldwin, ed. The first hundred years (1969), ch 12-19. The classic history is Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades, Volume I: The First Crusade and the Foundations of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.; Volume II: The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East 1100-1187. and Volume III: The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades (1951-53).
  18. N. P. Zacour and H. W. Hazard, eds., The Impact of the Crusades on the Near East, (1985) ch 3-8, online
  19. Charles Moeller, "Assizes of Jerusalem." in Catholic Encyclopedia (1907) vol 2. online
  20. Ronnie Ellenblum, Frankish Rural Settlement in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (2003) excerpt and text search
  21. Sir Steven Runciman, "The First Crusade: Constantinople to Antioch," in M. W. Baldwin, ed. The first hundred years (1969) pp. 281-85 online edition; Frederic Duncalf, "The Peasants' Crusade," The American Historical Review, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Apr., 1921), pp. 440-453 in JSTOR
  22. Dana C. Munro, "The Children's Crusade," The American Historical Review, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Apr., 1914), pp. 516-524 in JSTOR; and Norman P. Zacour, "The Children's Crusade," in R. L. Wolff, and H. W. Hazard, eds., The later Crusades, 1189-1311 (1969) pp. 325-342, esp. 330-37 online edition
  23. Thomas C. Van Cleve, "The Fifth Crusade," in R. L. Wolff, and H. W. Hazard, eds., The later Crusades, 1189-1311 (1969) pp. 377-428 online edition
  24. Joseph R. Strayer, "The Crusades of Louis IX," in R. L. Wolff and H. W. Hazard, eds., The later Crusades, 1189-1311 (1969) pp. 487-521 online edition; Peter Jackson, The Seventh Crusade, 1244-1254 (2007) excerpt and text search
  25. Joseph R. Strayer, "The Crusades of Louis IX," in R. L. Wolff and H. W. Hazard, eds., The later Crusades, 1189-1311 (1969) pp. 487-521 online edition
  26. Essentially, the Albigensians believed in a non-Christian dualist doctrine: there was a coexistence, they affirmed, between good and evil, represented by such opposites as God and the Evil One, light and darkness, soul and body, afterlife and earthly life.
  27. Charles Moeller, "Teutonic Order," Catholic Encyclopedia (1912) vol 14 online
  28. Edgar N. Johnson, "The German Crusade on the Baltic," in H. W. Hazard, ed. The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (1975) pp 545-85
  29. Charles Julian Bishko, "The Spanish and Portuguese Reconquest, 1095-1492" in H. W. Hazard, ed. The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (1975) pp 396-456
  30. Fred A. Cazel, Jr. "Financing the Crusades," in N. P. Zacour, and H.W. Hazard, eds. The impact of the Crusades on Europe (1989), pp 116-49 online
  31. Philip Khurl Pitti, "The Impact of the Crusades on Moslem Lands," in N. P. Zacour and H. W. Hazard, eds., The Impact of the Crusades on the Near East, (1985) pp. 33-58, online; Car Hillenbrand, The Crusades, Islamic Perspectives. (2000).
  32. BBC Online - The Crusades: A history of conflict
  33. BBC Online - The Crusades: A history of conflict
  34. See Dana Carleton Munro, "War and History,' American Historical Review 32:2 (January 1927): 219–31 online
  35. Donald E. Queller and Thomas F. Madden. The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople (2nd ed. 1999), p. 1, Most historians have a negative view of the reliability of the BBC series.
  36. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, (1776), ch 61 p. 1086
  37. Adam Knobler, "Holy Wars, Empires, and the Portability of the Past: the Modern Uses of Medieval Crusades." Comparative Studies in Society and History 2006 48(2): 293-325. Issn: 0010-4175 Fulltext: Cambridge Journals; see also Elizabeth Siberry, The New Crusaders: Images of the Crusades in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries (2000)
  38. Hillenbrand, The Crusades, Islamic Perspectives p. 5
  39. Emma Aubin-Boltanski, "Salah Al-din, un Heros a l'epreuve: Mythe et Pelerinage en Palestine," [Saladin, a Hero under Scrutiny: Myth and Pilgrimage in Palestine]. Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales [in French]] 2005 60(1): 91-107. Issn: 0395-2649
  40. Amnon Linder, "The War Liturgy Against the Turks in the Late Middle Ages." Historia: Journal of the Historical Society of Israel . 2001 (8): 73-105. Issn: 0334-4843; the text is in Hebrew.