English: Capture of Jerusalem during the First...

English: Capture of Jerusalem during the First Crusade, 1099, from a medieval manuscript Deutsch: Mittelalterliches Gemälde der Belagerung Jerusalems durch die Kreuzfahrer 1099 Suomi: Jerusalemin valtaus 1099. Keskiaikaisen käsikirjoituksen kuvitusta. Polski: Zdobycie Jerozolimy podczas I krucjaty (1099 r.) – rysunek ze średniowiecznego rękopisu Italiano: Conquista di Gerusalemme durante la Prima Crociata, nel 1099, da un manoscritto medievale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




Another great movement in the Middle Ages, under the inspiration and at the command of the church, was the crusades, beginning at the end of the eleventh century and continuing for nearly three hundred years. From the fourth century onward even unto the present time pilgrimages have been made by multitudes every year to the Holy Land. The number of pilgrims vastly increased about the year 1000 A.D. when the end of the world and the coming of Christ were almost universally expected; and even after those events failed to take place, the pilgrimages continued. At first, they were favored by the Moslem rulers of Palestine, but, later, the pilgrims suffered oppression, robbery, and sometimes death. At the same time the weakening eastern empire was menaced by the Mohammedans, and the Emperor Alexis besought Pope Urban II to bring the warriors of Europe to its relief.


English: Medieval miniature painting of the Si...

English: Medieval miniature painting of the Siege of Antioch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The spirit arose throughout Europe to free the Holy Land from Mohammedan control, and out of this impulse came the crusades. The principal crusades were seven in number, besides many other expeditions of lesser importance to which the name was given. The First Crusade was proclaimed by Pope Urban II in 1095, at the Council of Clermont, where a multitude of knights assumed the cross as a badge, and enlisted for the war against the Saracens. Before the regular expedition was fully organized, a monk called Peter the Hermit called together and undisciplined multitude, said to number 40,000, and led them toward the East, expecting miraculous aid. His unorganized, unprovided mob went to failure, many of its members to slavery and death. But the first real crusade was undertaken by the best warriors from every land of Europe, led by Godfrey of Bouillon and other chiefs. After many reverses, chiefly from the lack of discipline and dissensions among the leaders, they finally succeeded in taking the city of Jerusalem and nearly all Palestine, in 1099. They established a kingdom on feudal principles, and as Godfrey refused the name of king, he was made “Baron and Defender of the Holy Sepulchre.”


English: gustave_dore_crusades_death_of_baldwin_I

English: gustave_dore_crusades_death_of_baldwin_I (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


On Godfrey’s death his brother Baldwin took the title of king. The kingdom of Jerusalem lasted until 1187, though constantly in a precarious condition, because it was surrounded by the Saracen empire on all sides except the sea, and was far distant from its natural allies in Europe. The Second Crusade was called forth by the news that the Saracens were conquering the outlying provinces of the kingdom of Jerusalem and menacing the city itself. Under the preaching of the saintly Bernard of Clairvaux, Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany led a great army to succor the holy places. They met with many defeats, but finally reached the city. They could not regain the lost territory, but did postpone for a generation the final fall of the kingdom. In 1187 Jerusalem was retaken by the Saracens under Saladin, and the kingdom of Jerusalem came to an end, although the empty title “King of Jerusalem” was continued long afterward. The fall of the city aroused Europe to the Third Crusade (1188-1192) which was led by three prominent sovereigns, Frederick Barbarossa of Germany, Philip Augustus of France, and Richard I “the Lion-hearted” of


Godefroy de Bouillon, a French knight, leader ...

Godefroy de Bouillon, a French knight, leader of the First Crusade and founder of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




But Frederick, the best general and statesman, was drowned, and the two remaining kings quarreled, Philip Augustus went home, and all the courage of Richard did not avail to bring his army to Jerusalem. But he obtained a treaty with Saladin, by the Holy Sepulchre unmolested. The Fourth Crusade(1201-1204) was than failure, for it wrought in the end great harm to the Christian Church. The Crusaders were turned aside from their aim of winning the Holy Land, made war on Constantinople, captured and plundered it, and set up their own ruler over the Greek Empire, which lasted fifty years, and left that empire helpless as a bulwark against the growing power of the seljuk Turks. They were a warlike, uncivilized race, who succeeded the Saracens as the dominant Mohammedan power soon after the close of the crusading period. In the Fifth Crusade (1228) the Emperor Frederick II, although excommunicated by the pope, led an army to Palestine, and obtained a treaty whereby Jerusalem. Jaffa, Bethlehem and Nazareth were ceded to the Christians; and (as no Roman ecclesiastic would crown him, being under the pope’s ban) Frederick crowned himself king of Jerusalem” was held by all the German emperors, and afterward by the emperors of Austria until 1835.


Saladin attacks Jaffa crusades

Saladin attacks Jaffa crusades (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


But through the quarrel between the pope and emperor the results of the crusade were lost; Jerusalem was retaken by the Mohammedans in 1244, and until 1917 remained under their control. The Sixth Crusade(1248-1254) was undertaken by Louis IX of France, known as St. Louis. He made his invasion by way of Egypt, and though at first successful, was defeated and taken prisoner by the Mohammedans. At an immense price he was ransomed, and went on to Palestine, remaining there until 1252 when the death of his mother, whom he had left as regent, compelled him to France. The Seventh Crusade (1270-1272) was also under the leadership of St. Louis, jointly with Prince Edward Plantagenet of England, afterward King Edward I. The route chosen was again by way of Africa; but Louis died at Tunis, his son made peace, and Edward returned to England to become king. So this, generally regarded as the last of the crusades, came to naught. There crusade failed to free the Holy Land from the dominion of the Mohammedans; and, looking back over the period, we can readily see the reasons for their failure. One fact will be noted in the story of every crusade: the kings and princes who led the movement were perpetually quarreling, each chieftain caring more for his own interests than for the common cause; all jealous of one another, and fearful of a success which might promote the influence or fame of a rival. Against their divided, suspicious, half-hearted effort was arrayed a fearless, united people, a race always bold in war, and under the absolute rule of one commander, whether caliph or sultan. But a deeper cause of failure was the unstatesmanlike views of these leaders. They possessed no large, far-sighted vision. Immediate results were all that they looked for. They did not realize that no found and maintain a kingdom in Palestine, a thousand miles from their own lands, required constant communication with western Europe, a strong base of supply, continual reinforcement. The conquest of the land was an intrusion, not a liberation.


A map showing the Near East (the Levant) in 1190.

A map showing the Near East (the Levant) in 1190. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The people of Palestine were practically enslaved by the Crusaders; as slaves were compelled to build castles, fortresses, and palaces for their hated masters. They welcomed the return of their former Moslem rulers, for heavy as their yoke had been, it was lighter than that of the Christian kings of Jerusalem. Yet, despite the failure to maintain a Christian kingdom in Palestine, certain good results came to Europe from the crusades. After the crusades the pilgrims were protected by the Turkish government, and persecution ceased. In fact, the land became more prosperous, and the cities of Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem increased in population and in wealth, through the tide of pilgrims sweeping over Palestine, under guarantees of safety from the Turkish rulers. After the crusades, Moslem aggression on Europe were checked. The experience of those centuries awakened Europe to the danger from Islam. The Spaniards were encouraged to make war upon the Moors, who held half of the peninsula. Under Ferdinand and Isabella, the Spaniards, in 1492, subjugated the Moorish kingdom, and expelled the Mohammedans from the land. On the eastern frontier of Europe, Poland and Austria stood on guard, and in 1683 turned back the tide of Turkish invasion in a great battle won near the city of Vienna. This victory marked the beginning of decline in the power of the Turkish Empire. Another result of the crusade was a better acquaintance of nations with each other. Not only the rulers and chieftains, but the inferior knights and even the soldiers of the different lands began to know each other to recognize interests in common. Among nations a mutual respect for each other arose, and alliances were formed. The crusades were a great contribution toward the development of modern


A political map of the en:Near East in 1135 CE...

A political map of the en:Near East in 1135 CE. Crusader states are marked with a red cross. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




The crusades furnished a great impuse to trade. The demand for supplies of every kind- arms, provisions, guides, ships-promoted manufactures and commerce. The Crusaders brought home a knowledge of the wealth in the Orient, its carpets, silks, jewels, and a trade in these arose between lord and serf; the cities advanced in power, and the castles began to decline in their control over them. In the after centuries, the cities became the centers of freedom and reform, breaking away from the arbitrary control of both princes and prelates.


Krak des Chevaliers, Syria. UNESCO World Herit...

Krak des Chevaliers, Syria. UNESCO World Heritage Site (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The ecclesiastical power was at first greatly increased through the crusades. The wars were waged at the call of the church, which thereby showed its domination over princes and nations. Moreover, the church bought lands, or loaned money on them as security to crusading knights, and greatly enlarged its holdings throughout Europe. And in the absence o temporal rulers, bishops and popes gained control. But in the final result, the vast wealth, the over weening ambition, and the unscrupulous use of power by churchmen, aroused discontent, and aided to pavé the way for the approaching revolt against the Roman Catholic Church in the Reformation.





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