The Crusades to the Holy Land

“Undertake this journey for the remission of your sins, with the assurance of the imperishable glory of the Kingdom of Heaven!” 1

Pope Urban II, in one of history’s most powerful speeches, initiated 200 years of the Crusades at the Council of Clermont, France on November 27, 1095 with this impassioned plea. In a rare public session in an open field, he urged the knights and noblemen to win back the Holy Land, to face their sins, and called upon those present to receive remission of sins and save their souls by becoming “Soldiers of Christ.” 2   Those who took the vow for the pilgrimage were to wear the sign of the cross (croix in French): and so evolved the word croisade or “Crusade.” By the time his speech ended, the captivated audience began shouting “Deus le volt! – God wills it!” 3   The expression became the battle-cry of the crusades.

This brief paper reviews the background that led to the crusades; recounts the actual crusades themselves; and concludes with a reflection on the aftermath of the crusades and the relevance to our world today.

The Background of the Crusades
Why did Pope Urban II call for the recapture of the Holy Land? Three reasons are primarily given for the beginning of the Crusades: (1) to free Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; (2) to defend the suffering Christians of the East, hopefully healing the rift between Roman and Orthodox Christianity; and (3) to marshal the energy of the constantly warring feudal lords and knights into the one cause of “penitential warfare.” 4

Free Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Jerusalem and the Holy Land serve as the home of Israel and the Christian faith. Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem about 4 BC. His legal father Joseph was of the Israelite House of David (Luke 2:4) and his mother Mary was of Levitical descent through her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:5). Jesus the Christ lived during the time of the Herodians, who served as vassal Kings for the Romans. The Holy Family fled to Egypt to avoid the Massacre of the Innocents (Matthew 2:13-15), but returned to Nazareth of Galilee after the death of Herod. He visited the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem at age twelve with his parents during Passover (Luke 2:41-52). His adulthood lasted during the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius and the Procurator Pontius Pilate. John recorded that Jesus of Nazareth went to Jerusalem during his ministry to attend three Passovers and also the Feast of the Dedication (John 10:23). Christ taught love and peace (John 15:12). Before his Passion and Crucifixion, Christ lamented over the fate of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44) and prophesied its destruction (Mark 13:2). 5

The Levant, the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, served as the cradle of Christianity. The Acts of the Apostles describes the infancy period of the early Christian Church, a time when Christianity spread like wildfire. Titus, the son of the Roman Emperor Vespasian, destroyed the Jerusalem Temple and the city in 70 AD in response to a Jewish revolt. All that remains of the Jerusalem Temple is the Western wall of the Temple courtyard, known as the Wailing Wall, which is a place of mourning and prayer for the Hebrew people to this day. The Roman Emperor Hadrian, after the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt of 132-135 AD, dispersed the Jewish people and renamed Judea, the birthplace of Christ, Palestine.

Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313 that ended Christian persecution. It was not until Constantine and his mother Helena restored Jerusalem in the fourth century that Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem became safe for those who had the means to travel. After Hadrian’s pagan temple was dismantled, Helena discovered the True Cross. Constantine then ordered the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre over the site of Christ’s crucifixion, burial and Resurrection, which was completed in 335 AD. 6

Muhammad (570-632 AD), the founder of Islam, was born in Mecca to the Quraysh tribe. He took flight to Medina in 622 AD, known as the Hejira, and built a mosque there to worship God. He then took to the sword and conquered Mecca in 630 AD and cleansed the Kaaba with the Black Stone of all idols and rededicated it to the one true God. Mecca is the home of Islam to this very day, and all Muslims are to pray in the direction of Mecca. The founding of Islam by Muhammad changed the complexion of the Middle East. The four Rightly Guided Caliphs were the immediate successors to Muhammad and rapidly expanded Islamic territory. The concept of holy war, or jihad, to further religious aims was embraced by the followers of Islam. The Muslims under the Caliph Umar captured Jerusalem in 638 AD, and the Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria were placed under the control of the Caliphates. Islam was supposed to be a tolerant religion in victory to Religions of the Book in keeping with the teachings of Muhammad. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem remained Christian, and Christians were allowed to practice their religion with the payment of a special tax called the jizya. 7

Islam under the Umayyad Dynasty expanded through Morocco into the Iberian Peninsula. The year 711 saw the Berber general Ibn Tariq and the Muslims conquer the Christian Visigoths and capture nearly all of Spain except the northern rim, where they were held off by Pelayo at Covadonga in Asturias in 722. It was only their defeat by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours near Poitiers in 732 that stopped the Western European advance of Muslim forces. Spain was named Al-Andalus by Muslim leaders, where Muslims, Jews, and Christians for a while lived side by side in a spirit of religious toleration. The Reconquista of Spain, or the unification of Spain under Christian rule, was not completed until the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, when Granada was captured from the Moors on January 2, 1492. 8

The three holiest pilgrimage sites for Christians in the medieval world were Jerusalem, Rome, and Santiago de Compostela, the tomb of the Apostle St. James, the Patron Saint of Spain. The Aghlabid Saracens of North Africa plundered the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul Outside the Walls at Rome in 846. Spain was troubled in 997 when the Moor Almanzor of Córdoba sacked the city and cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the northwest tip of Spain, but spared the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish). He took the cathedral bells of the church as a memento of his victory and placed them in the great mosque of Córdoba, where they stayed until the reconquest of Córdoba by Fernando III of León and Castile in 1236, when they were returned to Santiago.9   Europe was shocked when Hakim, the Fatimid Caliph of Egypt, after ravaging Churches and monasteries throughout Egypt, destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 1009. 10   This only heightened the fear of apocalypse in European medieval thought at the turn of the first millennium – the concern over the “thousand years” noted in Chapter 20 in the Book of Revelation. 11

Defend The Christian East
One of the most tragic events in Christianity was the Schism of 1054 that split the Catholic Church in Rome and the Byzantine Orthodox Church in Constantinople. 12   The language of Rome was Latin, but that of Constantinople Greek. The difference in perception of Church authority between the East and West produced the conflict over the addition of the word filioque (“and the Son”) to the Nicene Creed by the Roman Catholic Church. The Eastern Orthodox Churches claim that the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed “is the common possession of the whole church and that any change must be done by an ecumenical Council.” The Schism became symbolic for the distrust and strain between East and West that developed through the centuries. 13

A new wave of Muslim aggression by the Seljuk Turks led to Christian persecution in the Holy Land and the invasion of the Byzantine Empire. Matthew of Edessa reported the slaughter of Armenian Christians and the defeat of the Byzantines at the decisive Battle of Manzikert in 1071, which gave the Seljuk Turks possession of Asia Minor. 14   The capture of Nicaea in 1081 and Antioch in 1085, and the persecution of Christians in the East heightened during Seljuk Turkish rule. A number of Eastern Christian Churches were destroyed. Under Sharia law, Christian Churches were not allowed to be repaired or new Churches to be built, and Eastern Christians were restricted in the practice of their faith.

The Muslim chronicler al-Azimi of Aleppo, Syria reported that in the years 1093-1094 “the people of the Syrian ports prevented Frankish and Byzantine pilgrims from crossing to Jerusalem. Those of them who survived spread the news about that to their country. So they prepared themselves for military invasion.” The Syrian writer al-Azimi obviously believed that the Muslim attacks on the pilgrims triggered the crusades. 15

Constantinople was vulnerable and pilgrimages to Jerusalem virtually ended. This led Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus to appeal to Pope Urban II for help. The Emperor sent his emissaries to the Pope’s Council of Piacenza in the March of 1095, with a request for knights to protect the East. Pope Urban II saw the request by the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus as an opportunity to improve relations between East and West by defending suffering Christians and the Churches of the East. 16

Penitential Warfare
The Ten Commandments direct Thou shalt not kill (Exodus 20:13). Jesus Christ was an advocate of peace (John 14:27). St. Martin of Tours in the fourth century declared “I am a soldier of Christ; I must not fight.” How could the Pope justify a war when Christianity was a religion of peace?

St. Augustine held that war was just at the bidding of God or a legitimate authority, for a right cause (such as defense of one’s property or recovering lost territory), and with the proper intention. 17   War traditionally had been a function of the king and state. The breakdown of civil authority during the age of feudalism primarily involved Christians, noblemen, and knights fighting each other over land, possessions, romance, or right of succession! The founding of the French Benedictine monastery of Cluny in 910 led to the spiritual renewal of the Church and Western culture. Three monks from Cluny – Gregory VII, Urban II, and Paschal II – would serve as reform Popes who addressed the issues of lay investiture, simony, and clerical marriage. They also encouraged the concept of pilgrimage (Psalm 119:54) as a means of repentance and salvation. 18

The Church in France attempted to place some measure of control on warlike behavior at the Councils of Le Puy (975) and Charroux (990) by the institution of the Peace of God, which protected the poor, clergy, defenseless women, children, and church property. This expanded to the Truce of God, first declared at the Council of Toulouges (1027), which banned warfare on Sundays and Holy days, as well as Advent and Lent. Both the Peace and Truce of God were further established at the Council of Narbonne in 1054. The movement then spread to Normandy, England, Southern Italy, and Germany. A Code of Chivalry was developed for the proper conduct of knights. The Knights’ Code called for the knight to defend and obey the Church and Commandments and to be the champion of right and good against injustice and evil. The Church raised the reception of knighthood to an honor through a Christian ceremony. 19

Pilgrimage was one form of penance in the medieval world to obtain remission of one’s sins, in addition to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. 20   The idea of visiting holy places for forgiveness of sins involved both danger and hardship of travel as well as a form of self-exile from one’s home. The penitent seeking forgiveness was a form of evangelization to non-believers in a far-off land. The theory of combining pilgrimage with warfare in the defense of Christianity led to the genesis of the concept of crusade. 21   The goal of Jerusalem was what made the crusade a pilgrimage! 22

Pope Alexander II (1061-1073) offered relief of penance through the Apostles Peter and Paul in 1064 to French knights who fought for the Cross in Muslim-held Barbastro in Zaragoza, Spain. The reform Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) believed in spiritual authority over temporal rule and further developed the relationship with knighthood in defense of the Church during the Investiture Controversy. But it was Pope Urban II (1088-1099) who formally invoked penitential warfare – warfare in the service and defense of the Church for the “remission of your sins” – remissionem peccatorum vestrorum, when he called for the First Crusade on November 27, 1095. 23

While touring France to support the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Pope Urban II wrote a Letter to the people of Flanders in December of 1095, in which he stated “At the council of Auvergne, we enjoined upon them this undertaking, as a preparation for the remission of all their sins.” 24

In a September 1096 Letter to the people of Bologna on his return home to Italy, Urban further clarified both the motivation for the pilgrimage as well as the conditions for the forgiveness of sins (John 20:21-23): “We have heard that some of you have conceived the desire to go to Jerusalem, and you should know this is pleasing to us, and you should also know that if any among you travel, not for the desire of the goods of this world, but only those who go for the good of their souls and the liberty of the churches, they will be relieved of the penance for all of their sins, for which they have made a full and perfect confession by the mercy of Almighty God and the prayers of the Catholic Church, as much by our own authority as that of all the archbishops and bishops in Gaul, because they have exposed themselves and their property to danger out of their love for God and their neighbor.” 25

The Medieval World during the crusades

The Actual Crusades
There were eight major Crusades that departed Europe for the Holy Land, with several other campaigns interspersed between 1096 and 1291. This paper will primarily focus on the successful First Crusade, review the Third and Fourth Crusades, and present a capsule of the remaining five.

The First and Third Crusades were the best described of the expeditions to the Holy Land. Primary sources for the First Crusade include the letters of Pope Urban II; the Gesta Francorum – the Deeds of the Franks, which was written by an anonymous crusader who accompanied the Normans Bohemond and Tancred; the chronicles of Raymond of Aguilers, who accompanied Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy and Raymond of Toulouse; Αλεξιάς – the Alexiad, by Anna Comnena, daughter of Alexius, the Byzantine Emperor; and Fulcher of Chartres, who accompanied Stephen of Blois and then Baldwin of Boulogne on the First Crusade. Robert the Monk of Rheims attended the Council of Clermont and refined the Gesta Francorum in a Christian context – in the light of Divine Revelation and as a fulfillment of the Council; his treatise was perhaps the most popular in the medieval era. The writings of Baldric of Bourgueil and Guibert of Nogent also provided theological refinement to the First Crusade.26

William of Tyre (1130-1185), Chancellor of Jerusalem and Archbishop of Tyre, wrote Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum – A History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea, which has served as the primary source for the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Crusader States. 27

There are both Christian and Muslim sources for the Third Crusade. Richard de Templo, a crusader and canon of the Augustinian priory of Holy Trinity in London, recorded the expedition of King Richard I of England in his Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi – the Itinerary of the Pilgrimage and Deeds of King Richard, as well as the crusader Ambroise, a Norman poet who wrote L’Estoire de la Guerre Sainte – The History of the Holy War. Imad al-Din and Baha al-Din of the Court of Saladin provided the Muslim viewpoint. Other primary sources for the Third Crusade include Roger of Howden and Gerald of Wales. 28

The First Crusade (1096-1099)
Just as Pope Urban II had finished his speech at Clermont, Adhemar de Monteil, Bishop of Le Puy, volunteered for the expedition. The Pope nominated him to be the Papal Legate and head of the Crusade, to ensure that the Church would lead the effort. The choice was an excellent one, as Adhemar of Puy proved to be fair-minded, calm, and diplomatic in his attempt to coordinate the major armies that crossed Europe in different routes and assembled in Constantinople by early May of 1097.

While figures vary, it is estimated that roughly 60,000 Europeans were inspired to take up the cross and begin the expedition to Constantinople in the First Crusade.

Those who took the vow for the Crusade were primarily motivated by their love of Christ. Religious fervor was the principal source of inspiration throughout the Crusade. 29

Pope Urban II extended the protection of the Church to the Crusaders who took the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, that their wives and property were to be held safe until their return.

Raymond of St. Gilles, Count of Toulouse, was the first who “took up the cross.” He made a vow to God, and pledged his service to the Pope and his loyalty to Bishop Adhemar of Puy; the Bishop traveled with Raymond for the entire Crusade. The army left France in October of 1096 and crossed the Alps into Dalmatia and the Balkan states, through Thessalonica, reaching Constantinople in April of 1097.

Godfrey of Bouillon, Duke of Lower Lorraine, his brothers Baldwin and Eustace of Boulogne, and their cousin Baldwin of LeBourg took the northern route through Germany and followed the Danube River through Hungary to arrive in Constantinople just before Christmas 1096.

Bohemond of Taranto, his nephew Tancred, and the Normans of Southern Italy sailed across the Adriatic Sea from Bari, Italy to Durazzo in the Balkan Sates, and reached Constantinople by land in April of 1097.

Stephen, Count of Blois, husband of Adela of Normandy and father of the Anglo-Norman King Stephen of England (1135-1154), his cousins Robert, Duke of Normandy, and Robert II, Count of Flanders, took the same route across the Adriatic Sea and were the last to arrive in early May of 1097. 30

Map of Constantinople to the Holy Land
Map of Constantinople to the Holy Land

Emperor Alexius deftly handled the Crusaders and dispatched them across the Bosporus Strait into Asia. The Crusaders laid seige to Nicaea on May 6, 1097, a major stronghold of the Seljuk Turks. During the seige, Alexius sent a flotilla of ships from the west, which induced the Turks to negotiate with the Emperor, who took back Nicaea in June of 1097. The capture of Nicaea was the high point of Greco-Frankish cooperation.

Following a victory at Dorylaeum which routed the Turks, the Crusaders faced the arduous task of crossing the mountainous terrain of Anatolia (modern Turkey) in Asia Minor. The goal to reach Antioch took months to accomplish, and was marked by the Crusaders taking two different routes. Baldwin of Boulogne, Godfrey’s younger brother, went through Armenian Cilicia, and, setting out on his own conquest, captured the County of Edessa by the Euphrates River. Edessa in Osroene, Northern Syria and Mesopotamia, had changed political hands many times, but it was one of the earliest centers of Christianity, preserving the history of the conversion of King Abgar, the Mandylion, an image on a cloth of the face of Jesus, and the evangelization by St. Jude Thaddeus. Edessa had also become an important school of theology for Syriac Christianity, as home to such writers as St. Ephrem of Syria. Baldwin was soon invited by the people to rule. The first Crusader state, the County of Edessa, was established on March 10, 1098. 31

The main Crusading force finally reached Antioch, Syria on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea in October of 1097. The first Patriarch of Antioch was St. Peter himself, and following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the city became important to early Christianity. Followers of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26). Matthew probably wrote his Gospel there, and Paul set out on three missionary journeys from Antioch. St. Ignatius of Antioch established the order of Bishop, Priest, and Deacon for the early Church, the pattern which still exists today. The Eastern Catholic Maronite Church of Lebanon, the Melkite Byzantine Church of Syria, and the Syrian Oriental Orthodox Church originated in Antioch. 32

Antioch’s defenses were formidable. The crusaders suffered a severe winter, and it would take nine months before the walls could be stormed. Rivalries began, as Bohemond of Taranto wanted Antioch for himself, while Raymond of Toulouse argued that it should be handed back to the Byzantines, as agreed upon in Constantinople.

Following a bribe by Bohemond of one of the Turks, the Crusaders scaled the walls and invaded Antioch on June 3, 1098. The town became a bloodbath with the massacre of the Turks. Just as they had taken over Antioch, they were besieged within the city by Kerbogha and an invading Turkish army from Mosul. Trapped within the walls, disease and discouragement set in. Emperor Alexius had been crossing Asia Minor to aid the Crusaders, but was dissuaded on June 20 at Philomelium by Stephen of Blois, who had fled Antioch when he thought the Crusaders were doomed. Alexius turned back, leaving the Crusaders alone to face the enemy. This proved destructive to the Byzantine-Crusader alliance. 33

It was then that the Holy Lance, the lance that pierced the side of Christ (John 19:34), was discovered in the Church of St. Peter. Taken as divine intervention, the finding rallied Crusader morale. Spirits uplifted, the knights charged out of the city on June 28, with Raymond of Aguilers carrying the Holy Lance. Mounted on their horses, and, pressing next to each other, the Crusaders routed the Turks. The cavalry charge was a formidable weapon for the Crusaders throughout their campaigns in the Holy Land. 34

Bishop Adhemar of Puy restored John as the Greek Patriarch of Antioch, in keeping with the goal of Urban and Alexius to restore unity between the Roman and Byzantine Churches. However, Adhemar died from an illness on August 1, 1098 and his leadership was sorely missed. When the Fatimids of Egypt heard of the collapse of the Turks, the vizier al-Afdal captured Jerusalem on August 26, 1098. Bohemond remained in Antioch, having achieved his goal of taking Antioch for himself, but this produced delay of the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and proved devastating to Roman and Byzantine relations. The second Crusader state, the Principality of Antioch, was established on November 5, 1098.

Raymond of Toulouse was left the leader of the Crusaders and finally set out for Jerusalem January 13, 1099. Raymond walked barefoot, appropriate for a leader of a pilgrimage. He traveled safely on the coast to Tripoli, Lebanon, where the Emir of Tripoli purchased immunity and gave them supplies. While there, he discovered the Maronites, an Eastern Catholic community in the mountains of Lebanon that had resisted Turkish rule, and who confirmed loyalty to the Pope in 1181. Raymond and the Crusaders passed through Beirut, Sidon and Tyre, Lebanon without difficulty. They sent off Tancred and Baldwin of LeBourg who liberated Bethlehem on June 5, 1099, to the joy of the entirely Christian population. 35

The Crusaders, known to the Muslims as the Franj or Franks, reached Jerusalem on Tuesday, June 7, 1099, and began their siege. Before their arrival, the Fatimid governor evacuated the Christians from the city, but allowed the Jews to stay. Raymond of Toulouse set up post on Mount Zion. Robert of Normandy took up station on the northern wall opposite the Gate of Flowers (Herod’s Gate), with Robert of Flanders on his right at the Damascus Gate. Godfrey of Bouillon, Duke of Lorraine, was joined by his brother, Eustace of Boulogne, and Tancred, and together they covered the northwest to the Jaffa Gate. Morale sank, as an initial attack by the Crusaders failed, and water became scarce. A Genoese fleet arrived with materials to help them scale the walls of the heavily fortified city. But then the priest Peter Desiderius had a vision of the deceased Bishop Adhemar, who urged the Crusaders to fast and then walk barefoot around the city to atone for their sins. 36

The Crusaders eagerly complied with the penitential rite and then began the attack on July 14. It was Godfrey of Bouillon who first breached the northern wall on July 15, 1099, and the Crusaders flooded into the city of Jerusalem. Many inhabitants fled the city or purchased their freedom. The Fatimid governor and about 500 who had withdrawn into the Tower of David paid ransom to Raymond of Toulouse for their lives and were allowed to escape. Maddened after three years of frustration and suffering, the Crusaders massacred both Muslim and Jew within the city. 37

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Church of the Resurrection, in the northwest quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem at the end of Via Dolorosa, was once again in Christian hands. The Crusaders completed their pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre and thanked God in a solemn ceremony. On July 22, 1099, Godfrey of Bouillon was chosen as the ruler of Jerusalem. Having respect for the Crown of thorns of Christ our Savior, he took the title of Defender of the Holy Sepulchre. One of his first actions was to establish canons in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. 38

The First Crusade was an astonishing success. Only the vow to fulfill God’s will on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem could have sustained the crusaders, who were consistently outnumbered and faced near-starvation during the bitter winter at Antioch.39   Most of the crusaders, having fulfilled their vow, returned home. Fulcher of Chartres reported that Jerusalem was left with only “300 knights and as many footmen” to defend Jerusalem and the surrounding area. 40

The First Crusade did leave one with a certain irony. The two that began the effort never heard the news – Pope Urban II died on July 29, 1099, before word reached Rome, and Bishop Adhemar had died in Antioch.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, present-day Jerusalem.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, present-day Jerusalem.

The Crusader States
The Crusaders discovered a relic of the True Cross in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Veneration of the True Cross was a prerequisite prior to the Crusaders entering battle. Godfrey consolidated the territory around Jerusalem. Hearing of an advancing Egyptian force to recover Jerusalem, the Crusaders launched a surprise attack and routed the Egyptians near Ascalon in August 1099. Godfrey died after only a year on July 18, 1100. Emissaries were sent to his brother Baldwin, the ruler of the County of Edessa, who gave Edessa to his cousin Baldwin of Le Bourg and headed for Jerusalem. Baldwin was crowned King of Jerusalem in Bethlehem on Christmas Day, 1100, and the Kingdom of Jerusalem was established.

The Latin Crusader States lived a fragile existence, for most of the Crusaders, having fulfilled their vows, went home to Europe. But they were able to survive because of Muslim disunity. Several crusaders, among them Stephen of Blois who had retreated at Antioch, arrived in 1101 to complete their pilgrimage vow in reaching Jerusalem and assist Baldwin in consolidating the region. Stephen was killed at the Second Battle of Ramla in May 1102, achieving an honorable death. King Baldwin secured a lifeline to Europe with the capture of several Mediterranean ports, including the natural harbor of Acre in 1104, which would become the center of trade for the Kingdom. He also captured Beirut and Sidon, Lebanon in 1110 and incorporated the cities into the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

King Baldwin I was concerned about the dearth of inhabitants in Jerusalem, for there were not enough people to carry on the daily activities and function of the city. He learned that there were many Christians living in servitude beyond the Jordan in Arabia. He invited them to live in the Holy City and promised them freedom and improved living conditions. They readily accepted his offer and the city benefited from their arrival. 41

Raymond of Toulouse headed North and governed Latakia with a representative of the Emperor. The only one to stay loyal to Emperor Alexius, he was invited to Constantinople and turned Latakia over to the Byzantines. Upon his return, he set his sights on Tripoli, and built a fortress called Mount Pilgrim near the city. He built a Church in 1103 by Mount Pilgrim and donated it to the Benedictines of St. Mary Latin. In 1104 he captured ancient Byblos, named Jubail in Arabic, where the first Crusader castle of Gibelet was built. 42   Raymond died in 1105 before Tripoli was conquered, but his son Bertrand of Toulouse, with the aid of King Baldwin, took over Tripoli on July 12, 1109. The fourth Crusader State, the County of Tripoli, was established. 43

The Kingdom of Jerusalem and its related states Edessa, Antioch, and Tripoli collectively became known as Outremer, outre-mer being the French for overseas.

King Baldwin I died in 1118, and his cousin Baldwin of LeBourg was elected as King Baldwin II. He brought his wife Morphia of Melitene, Armenia and their daughters with him to Jerusalem, and appointed his cousin Joscelin of Courtenay as the new Count of Edessa. During his reign he helped found the Templar Knights and granted them space in the Temple of Solomon. A major victory was the capture of Tyre in Lebanon during the summer of 1124. Prior to his death in 1131, Baldwin II designated his oldest daughter Melisende (1105-1161), her husband Fulk, and 2 year-old grandson Baldwin as his heirs. Melisende as Queen regnant and her husband Fulk V of Anjou were anointed and crowned, the first coronation in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on September 14, 1131. They had two sons, Baldwin and Amaury. 44   Upon King Fulk’s death from a hunting accident in 1143, Queen Melisende was crowned as co-ruler with her thirteen year-old son King Baldwin III (1143-1163). Baldwin III became sole ruler over Easter season in 1152, with his mother continuing in an advisory capacity. His most notable achievement was the capture of Ascalon from the Egyptian Fatimids in 1153, finally giving the Kingdom of Jerusalem full control of the coast of Palestine. He also improved relations with the Byzantine Empire. 45

The Franks were quick to realize that the only chance for long-term survival of the four Crusader states was mutual cooperation and the presence of a stable military force. An important event was the foundation of the military orders, instituted to defend Outremer and protect the renewed flow of pilgrims into the Holy Land. The military orders were composed of monks who served as knights or performed religious, clerical, and civic functions, as well as the lay who assisted the knights. The Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem were merchants from Amalfi, Italy, who built the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in 1070. Monks under Brother Gerard provided staffing and cared for ill and injured pilgrims, crusaders, and the populace. They were recognized in 1113 by Pope Paschal II. In time they added a military function under Raymond of Le Puy. The Knights Hospitaller wore a white cross and protected pilgrims who entered Jerusalem. The Knights Templar were French knights and likely the first to perform military service; instituted in 1119 under Hugh of Payens, they wore a red cross and were responsible for the defense of Jerusalem. The Order of St. Lazarus was primarily a charitable organization and staffed a hospital for victims of leprosy. A group of German crusaders joined with members of the German Hospital in 1190 to begin the Teutonic Knights, known as the Brothers of the Hospital of the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem. They maintained their headquarters in the City of Acre until 1291. 46   The Knights of St. Thomas of Acre were named after the English martyr St. Thomas Becket and were founded by King Richard I of England in 1190 during the Third Crusade. The Knights of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem and the Teutonic Order of the Hospital of the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem have survived to the present day! 47

The Latin Kings also initiated an extensive building program to ensure survival, which included both the fortification of cities and the construction of Crusader castles. King Baldwin I built the castle at Montreal in Jordan in 1115, an important site along the caravan trade route from Egypt to the Levant. Important to defense, subsequent Latin leaders continued to produce Crusader castles throughout their territories. King Fulk built Castle Arnold by Beit Nuba to protect pilgrims, and built a ring of castles near Ascalon to defend Jerusalem from the Egyptian Fatimids. These included Ibelin (given to Balian), Blanchegarde, and in 1136 Beth Gibelin (“House of Gabriel”), which he donated to the Hospitallers. 48   Beaufort Castle by the Litani River in southern Lebanon was constructed in 1139 and Kerak in Jordan in 1142. King Baldwin III built a castle in Gaza for the Knights Templar in 1150. Many were eventually staffed by the military orders, such as Belvoir, Beth Gibelin, Krak des Chevaliers, and Margat by the Hospitallers, Chastel Blanc, Gaza, Safad, and Tortosa (near Margat) by the Templars, and Montfort Castle by the Teutonic Knights. 49

The Latin Crusader States in 1140, known as Outremer; note the triangles which designate eight major Crusader castles. Cyprus did not become a Crusader State until the Third Crusade in 1192
The Latin Crusader States in 1140, known as Outremer; note the triangles which designate eight major Crusader castles. Cyprus did not become a Crusader State until the Third Crusade in 1192.

Crusader Society
Fulcher of Chartres wrote in his third book prior to his death in 1127, “Consider, I pray, and reflect how in our time God has transferred the West into the East. For we who were Occidentals now have been made Orientals. He who was a Roman or a Frank is now a Galilaean, or an inhabitant of Palestine…Some have taken wives not merely of their own people, but Syrians, or Armenians, or even Saracens who have received the grace of baptism…There are here too grandchildren and great-grandchildren. One cultivates vines, the other the fields. The one and the other use mutually the speech and idioms of the different languages…Those who were strangers are now natives; and he who was a sojourner now has become a resident…Therefore why should one who has found the East so favorable return to the West?…Therefore God wishes to enrich us all and draw us to Himself as his most dear friends. And because He wishes it, we also freely desire the same; and what is pleasing to Him we do with a loving and submissive heart, that with Him we may reign happily throughout eternity.” 50

In time, there developed a fusion of cultures in the Crusader states, where Armenian, Byzantine, Eastern Christian, European, and Islamic influences were evident in the arts, commercial trade, intellectual exchange, and daily life. 51   Queen Melisende being of European and Armenian heritage was the living personification of this cultural synthesis. William of Tyre made the point that “a state of tranquility” occurred during her reign. 52   She busied herself as a patroness of the arts, such as renovating the convent of St. Anne Church in Jerusalem when her youngest sister Yvette lived there, and building the Church and convent of St. Lazarus at Bethany where Yvette eventually served as abbess. She was naturally supportive of the construction of the Armenian Cathedral of St. James in the southwest quarter during the 1140s. Both the Armenian Cathedral and the Holy Sepulchre were restored about the same time. 53   She supported the Syrian Orthodox in the recovery of their Jacobite churches and villages that had been lost in the Frankish conquest. There is registered in her name an endowment to the Orthodox monastery of St. Sabas in Jerusalem. 54   The Psalter of Melisende, a gift from her husband King Fulk, survives as a treasure of Crusader art reflecting this integration of cultures.

The building and renovation of Churches throughout the Holy Land served as a priority for the Latin States. More than 400 churches were either built, restored, or in use during the Latin Crusader period. 55   It was during the reign of Queen Melisende that the restoration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre took place. Fifty years after the capture of Jerusalem, the Crusaders dedicated the church in Romanesque architecture on 15 July 1149. The Church one visits today is the one built by the Crusaders!

Fulk and Melisende’s second son King Amaury (1163-1174) of Jerusalem was also artistically inclined and joined the Byzantine Emperor Manuel Comnenus and Bishop Ralph of Bethlehem in sponsoring a complete redecoration of the Church of the Nativity. Other Churches renovated during his reign included the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist at Sebastiya, the Church of St. Anne at Sephoris, and the Church of the Resurrection at Nablus. He also recognized the artistic ability of William of Tyre and, in addition to appointing him tutor to his son Baldwin, urged him to write his famous Historia. He appointed him Chancellor of Jerusalem in 1174. 56

The Archangel Michael from the Psalter of Melisende, circa 1135, reprinted by permission of the British Library, Ms. Egerton 1139, Folio 205r, London
The Archangel Michael from the Psalter of Melisende, circa 1135, reprinted by permission of the British Library, Ms. Egerton 1139, Folio 205r, London.

The Second Crusade (1146-1148)
The capture of Edessa by Zengi and the Muslim Turks in 1144 led Pope Eugenius III (1145-1153) to call for a Second Crusade in his encyclical Quantum praedecessores on December 1, 1945, which was reissued in March of 1146. He offered the same absolution and remission of sins as Urban II to those who went to confession and took up the Cross to the Holy Land, as well as the protection of the Church for wives and property. 57   St. Bernard, the Abbot of Clairvaux, addressed an assembly at Vézelay, France over Easter of 1146 to initiate support for a crusade, and continued to inspire Western Europe to protect the Latin states of the East. On the way to the Holy Land, a fleet of ships from England led by Hervey de Glanvill, Constable of Suffolk, was forced to land in Portugal because of bad weather. They aided King Afonso Henriques I of Portugal in the capture of Lisbon from the Moors on 24 October 1147. 58

King Louis VII of France and King Conrad III of Germany led their respective armies into the Holy Land, but the expedition was marked by discord. Relations with the Byzantine Emperor Manuel remained uneasy throughout the Crusade. The unruly German army was massacred by the Turks at Dorylaeum in Asia Minor, although Conrad and a small contingent survived. 59   After traveling different routes, the two Kings finally joined King Baldwin III of Jerusalem and his mother in an assembly at Acre on June 24, 1148. In view of their reduced force, they decided to attack Damascus. Louis and Conrad set out for Damascus on July 24, 1148, but their lack of coordination forced them to retreat within four days! The Second Crusade was a total failure for the West in the Holy Land, but strengthened the resolve of the Muslims. 60

Saladin and the Fall of Jerusalem
The greatest warrior of the Muslims was Saladin. Noted for his chivalrous behavior, he was respected by both Muslims and Christians alike. Saladin also proved to be a skilled diplomat. The Muslim world was completely divided into the Shiite and Sunni religious sects, as well as the warring secular nations of the Syrians, Egyptians, and Turks. Saladin was the one who brought all of them into one unified Islamic force in the twelfth century. 61

Saladin began his career as a young Kurdish warrior in the army of his uncle Shirkuh, who commanded the Syrian army and captured Egypt. Shirkuh became vizier of Egypt, the secular head of government under the Shiite Caliph. Shirkuh died shortly thereafter in 1169, leaving his 31 year-old nephew Saladin as vizier of Egypt.

Saladin was a Sunni Muslim in the predominantly Shiite land of Egypt. When the Shiite Caliph of Egypt died, Saladin extended the spiritual authority of the Sunni Caliph of Baghdad over Egypt, but at the same time allowed the Shiites to practice their own form of Islamic faith. The religious world of Islam was united. When Nur al-Din the regent of Syria died, Saladin and the Saracens (Muslim warriors) captured Damascus in a bloodless coup. Saladin, the new Sultan of Egypt and Syria, had united the Arab world. His rise to power signaled the beginning of the Ayyubid Dynasty. 62

While the Muslim world had become unified, the Crusader states had broken into factions over power and the hereditary right of succession. King Amaury (Amalric) of Jerusalem had three children, Sibylla, Baldwin, and Isabella. Upon the death of his father, Baldwin IV succeeded as King (1174-1185), but he suffered from leprosy (first observed by his tutor William of Tyre). Beset by illness, he designated his 5 year-old nephew Baldwin co-ruler and heir in November 1183, with Count Raymond III of Tripoli his regent. 63   Baldwin IV finally succumbed to leprosy in March 1185. The boy King Baldwin V died at age 8 in 1186. Queen Sibylla and her husband Guy of Lusignan seized the crown.

Saladin set his sights on the Crusader states. He first attacked Tiberias in the county of Tripoli in 1187. Guy of Lusignan and the Frankish army foolishly rode out into the desert to the Horns of Hattin, and, deprived of water, were no match for Saladin, who defeated the Franks and captured the True Cross on July 4, 1187. Saladin ordered the execution of the Templars and Hospitallers. Guy of Lusignan and the Templar Master were held captive. 64   Saladin captured Acre on July 10. Unopposed, all the Crusader cities except Tyre fell to Saladin’s army as he swept through the Kingdom of Jerusalem. At first intent on unconditional surrender, Saladin attacked Jerusalem on September 20, 1187. But after ten days of heavy resistance by Balian of Ibelin, Saladin agreed to a financial settlement and captured the city October 2, 1187. The inhabitants of Jerusalem were spared from major bloodshed and injury! 65

The Third Crusade, 1189-1192; note Hattin and Beit Nuba.
The Third Crusade, 1189-1192; note Hattin and Beit Nuba.

The Third Crusade (1189-1192)
The ending of 88 years of formal Christian rule in Jerusalem sent shock waves throughout Europe. Pope Gregory VIII quickly called for the Third Crusade in his letter Audita tremendi to liberate Jerusalem. He was greeted with enthusiasm by King Frederick Barbarossa of Germany, King Philip II of France, and King Richard I of England, crowned on September 3, 1189 after his father King Henry II died. Before the Third Crusade was over, he would be known as Richard the Lionheart, Le Coeur de Lion. 66

King Richard I (1189-1199) set out from Tours to join King Philip in the Crusade. He placed able representatives in England, Normandy, Anjou, and Aquitaine to rule during his absence. Several disagreements between Richard and Philip on the way to the Holy Land affected their cooperation and the Third Crusade.

On August 28, 1189 Guy of Lusignan, who had been released by Saladin in 1188 in response to Queen Sibylla’s pleas, began the Siege of Acre. The port city of Acre was once known as Ptolemais in Biblical times, and served as a stop on the final return of St. Paul to Jerusalem (Acts 21:7). The Crusaders were encamped on the coast, between the fortified City of Acre and Saladin about six miles east on land. King Frederick of Germany crossed the Dardanelles into Asia but drowned in a river in June of 1190 near Tarsus on the way to Antioch, and his German army largely dispersed; only a small German contingent arrived in Acre in October of 1190 led by his son Frederick of Swabia. However, Frederick died of illness 3 months later; his cousin Duke Leopold V of Austria on his arrival in the spring assumed leadership of the German troops. King Philip sailed directly to the city of Acre and arrived on April 20, 1191, which improved the morale of the Crusaders. 67

King Richard captured Cyprus in May of 1191 on his voyage to the Holy Land. A storm had separated the fleet, and a few of his ships ran aground on Cyprus. The sailors were arrested and imprisoned by the local lord. His sister Joanna and his fiancé Berengaria of Navarre had arrived ahead of the King but anchored offshore. Upon his arrival, the King freed his men and secured the city. Richard and Berengaria celebrated their marriage on May 12, 1191 in the chapel of St. George on Limassol in Cyprus, and Berengaria was crowned Queen of England by Bishop John of Evreux. 68   The island was sold to Guy of Lusignan in 1192, whose brother and successor Aimery of Lusignan established the Kingdom of Cyprus. The island stayed in crusader hands for nearly 300 years until 1489, when the widow of the last Lusignan King James II turned it over to the Venetians. Cyprus proved to be of great strategic importance, for it served as a staging post and supply station for the Crusaders through the years. 69

Richard arrived in Acre on June 8, 1191. His great energy inspired the troops and Acre surrendered after nearly two years on July 12, 1191. The terms were that Saladin was to return the True Cross, release Christian prisoners, and provide ransom for Muslim hostages within 30 days. While no one was as brave or daring as Richard, his temper often marred his leadership. Richard, Philip, and Leopold placed three banners over Acre to represent their victory, but Richard tore down the German banner. King Philip returned to France and Leopold of Austria left as well. This proved detrimental to the cause. Richard I became the overall commander of the Crusades with Hugh of Burgundy leading the French. When the terms of surrender were not processed within 30 days, it was believed that Saladin delayed the settlement in order to stop Richard from heading to Jerusalem. After obtaining council with Hugh of Burgundy and the leaders, Richard on August 20 had 2700 Muslim prisoners-of-war executed by the Franks. 70

Richard hugged the coast and headed to Jaffa. On September 7, 1191, Saladin attacked Richard at Arsuf with 80,000 men, three times the size of Richard’s army, but Richard led a cavalry charge and routed Saladin’s troops.

Their spirits heightened by victory, Richard marched on to the seaport of Jaffa. They restored Jaffa in order to ensure a supply line from the coast. They headed inland and finally reached Beit Nuba, only twelve miles from Jerusalem, on January 3, 1192. But winter had descended upon them, and the military orders advised that, even if Jerusalem were captured, the knights would be unable to hold onto the city once Richard returned to England. Richard turned around and rebuilt Ascalon. A second march towards Jerusalem in June 1192 ended with Richard again turning back at Beit Nuba. The lack of unity among the Crusading armies and a poor supply line made it militarily unwise to proceed. The one time that Richard gazed upon Jerusalem from a distance, he screened his view with a shield, saddened that he would be unable to return the city to Christian hands. 71

Saladin launched a surprise attack at Jaffa. Richard arrived by sea from Acre on August 1, 1192 and, even though heavily outnumbered, defeated Saladin. After 15 months in Outremer, Richard won every battle in capturing much of the Mediterranean coast from Saladin, but never attacked Jerusalem.

At this point, the two mighty warriors of the Crusades decided to negotiate. Richard needed to return home and Saladin was weary of war. On September 2, 1192, they signed the Peace Treaty of Jaffa. The Crusader States would retain control of the coastal strip from Tyre to Jaffa, as well as Antioch and Tripoli. Jerusalem would stay in Muslim hands, but Christian pilgrims would be allowed free access to the holy sites of the city. King Richard sailed from Acre on October 9, 1192. The Kingdom became known as the Kingdom of Acre rather than Jerusalem, for Acre emerged as the center for the Crusader States. 72

The Bosporus Strait and the Strait of Dardanelles divide Europe and Asia.
The Bosporus Strait and the Strait of Dardanelles divide Europe and Asia.

The Fourth Crusade (1202-1204)
One of the primary reasons for Pope Urban II calling for the Crusades was to reconcile Roman and Byzantine Christianity. Any hope for Christian unity was completely dashed by the horrendous Fourth Crusade. 73

Pope Innocent III commissioned the Fourth Crusade, as Jerusalem was still in Muslim hands. Count Thibaut of Champagne, the nephew of Richard the Lionheart, was the first to pledge, and was joined by Louis of Blois, and Count Baldwin of Flanders. Geoffrey of Villehardouin, the Marshal of Champagne, served as chronicler. However, Thibaut died, and Marquis Boniface de Montferrat was given command of the Crusade; the papal legate was Cardinal Peter Capuano, who traveled only as far as Venice. Crusaders planned to leave Venice by sea and first attack Egypt and divide the Muslim world before heading to Jerusalem.

They made a contract with the Doge of Venice, under whom the city had become a wealthy and independent political port as the point of entry for trade from the East. However, only a third of the planned force arrived in Venice, and the crusades could only meet part of their obligation to Doge Dondolo. A new agreement was struck: the Doge would forgive the balance if the crusaders would seize the Venetian town of Zara in Dalmatia, which had been lost to the Hungarians. Pope Innocent III forbade the crusaders to attack fellow Christians in Zara, but the Doge insisted on fulfillment of the agreement. When the news of the sack of Zara on November 24, 1202 reached Rome, Pope Innocent III excommunicated the Doge of Venice and the entire expedition. 74

In Zara, the Crusaders were approached by envoys of Alexius Angelus, who claimed his father the Byzantine Emperor Isaac II had been wrongfully deposed by Alexius III. The Franks accepted his promise that if they restored his father to the throne, he would finance their crusade to Egypt and Jerusalem.

The Crusaders sailed from Dalmatia, rounded Greece to the Aegean Sea, and passed through the Dardanelles and the Sea of Marmara to arrive off Constantinople on June 24, 1203. To appease matters, the father Isaac II and the son Alexius Angelus IV were installed as co-emperors. However, tensions grew when Alexius could only pay half of his pledge. In a direct challenge to the Crusaders, Alexius and his father were unseated in a palace coup, and Alexius IV was murdered. When it became evident that the new Emperor would not release the promised funds, the Christian Franks and Venetians attacked the Christian Byzantines and sacked Constantinople on April 12, 1204. For three days, the Franks massacred the citizens while the Venetians looted priceless treasures. Count Baldwin of Flanders took the throne on May 16, 1204, and commenced the Latin Empire of Constantinople. Byzantine leadership moved to Nicaea, but by 1261 had recovered Constantinople. 75

Runciman has called the 1204 sack of Constantinople “the greatest crime against humanity.” Idealism had given way to rampant greed, plunder, and barbarity. Once the guardian of Europe, the highly cultured Byzantine Empire never fully recovered. The Crusaders never made it to Jerusalem. Roman and Byzantine Christianity remain divided to our present day. While each Eastern Church has its own unique history, many of the Eastern Churches remained with the Byzantine or Greek Orthodox Church of Constantinople. 76

The Fifth Crusade (1217-1221)
Dismayed that Jerusalem still remained in Muslim hands, Pope Innocent III called for a Fifth Crusade in his encyclical Quia maior in the spring of 1213, and called for the Fourth Lateran Council in November 1215 to reform the Church and generate enthusiasm for the Crusade. But he died on July 16, 1216, and was succeeded by Pope Honorius III. In the meantime, the Kingdom of Acre existed without effective leadership, but survived because of a Muslim power struggle that followed the death of Saladin. The summer of 1217 to the spring of 1218 saw the gathering of forces in Acre. It was decided to attack Damietta in Egypt and then proceed to Jerusalem. John of Brienne, the Latin King of Acre, James of Vitry, Bishop of Acre, the chronicler Oliver of Paderborn with the Frisian and German army, and Duke Leopold VI of Austria arrived in Damietta on May 27, 1218. They achieved an initial success that summer by seizing control of the Nile River at Damietta. 77   A prolonged siege of Damietta began, but the arrival of Pelagius, the papal legate, led to leadership conflict. An interlude occurred in August 1219 when St. Francis of Assisi called directly on al-Kamil, the Sultan of Egypt, to restore peace. Damietta finally fell in November 1219. However, many Crusaders were conquered by disease in the Nile Delta, and the Franks became trapped on the way to Cairo. A truce that returned Damietta to the Muslims in August of 1221 freed Crusaders that lived. 78

The Sixth Crusade (1228-1229)
King Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, had vowed to crusade upon his succession to the throne in 1215, but his responsibilities over such a large empire delayed his trip to the Holy Land, much to the detriment of the Fifth Crusade. When he failed to keep his pledge to Honorius III, the new Pope Gregory IX excommunicated Frederick because of his many delays and initial failure to keep his vow. Frederick finally arrived in Acre September 7, 1228. Appreciated by Muslim writers such as Ibn Wasil and Ibn al-Furat for his culture and sensitivity towards the Arabic people, he chose diplomacy over warfare and negotiated the Treaty of Jaffa, a ten-year agreement in 1229 with al-Kamil, the Sultan of Egypt, for the return of Jerusalem with access to Bethlehem and Nazareth. The Holy City fell when the treaty expired in 1239, but negotiations by Thibaut IV of Champagne and Richard of Cornwall preserved Christian presence in Jerusalem until 1244. 79

The Seventh Crusade (1249-1250)
The Mongolian invasion, initially led by Genghis Khan, conquered the Orient, Russia, and Central Asia all the way to Baghdad. They established the Mongol Ilkhanate of Persia, which extended to the Euphrates River. The Khwarismian Turks of Persia fled the Mongols, conquered Jerusalem, and won a devastating victory over the Franks at La Forbie north of Gaza in 1244. 80   Pope Innocent IV called upon the saintly Louis IX, King of France, for the Seventh Crusade. The King, Queen Margaret, his two brothers, Robert of Artois and Charles of Anjou, and the chronicler John of Joinville sailed from their base in Cyprus and took Damietta, Egypt in June of 1249. His third brother, Alphonse of Poitiers, arrived in October with reinforcements from France, and they set out for Cairo. Unfortunately, they made the same mistakes as the Fifth Crusade and were captured on the way to Cairo at Mansurah in 1250. The King had to pay a grand ransom for his army’s freedom. Louis IX then sailed to Acre and stayed until 1254 to strengthen the defenses and organize effective government for the Kingdom before returning home to France. 81

The Eighth Crusade (1270-1272) and the Fall of Acre (1291)
The Muslim Mamluks (slave soldiers) of Egypt ended the Mongol scourge at Ain-Jalut on September 3, 1260. The Mamluks then captured the Christian towns of Caesarea and Jaffa; the fall of Antioch and the ruthless slaughter of thousands of inhabitants in 1268 led to the Eighth Crusade.

After an agreement with his nephew Prince Edward of England, King Louis IX of France began the Eighth Crusade in July of 1270, but died of infectious disease in Tunis on August 25, 1270. Prince Edward then proceeded to Acre with Visconti of Liege in May, 1271. Visconti of Liege soon left Acre, chosen to become Pope Gregory X. The chivalrous Prince, offended by the infighting and corruption in Outremer, and without the military help of Louis IX, decided on diplomatic efforts and arranged a ten-year truce with the Mamluks in the spring of 1272, which also allowed pilgrimage access to Nazareth. Edward stayed until his wife Eleanor of Castile delivered their daughter and then left Acre on September 22. Upon the death of his father Henry III on November 16, 1272, he became King Edward I of England (1272-1307). It was the last of the Crusades to the Holy Land. 82

Unchecked, the Mamluks of Egypt easily conquered the rest of Outremer. The fall of the city of Acre to the Mamluk Sultan al-Ashraf Khalil on May 18, 1291effectively ended 192 years of Crusader territory in the Holy Land. 83

An Arab caravan crossing the desert.
An Arab caravan crossing the desert.

The spiritual zeal engendered by Pope Urban II helped to inspire the remarkable outcome of the First Crusade. The goal to recapture Jerusalem, to defend the Christian East, and to unite Europe in a common cause was a noble effort. Pilgrimages to the restored Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem resumed and have lasted to the present day. The early Crusades did unite Western Europe in a common purpose, provided an influx of Eastern thought into Western culture, and opened new avenues of trade between Europe and the Levant.

Ambroise, the Norman troubadour who was present at the Siege of Acre, evaluated the Third Crusade in spiritual terms: for all those Crusaders who “suffered and died for the love of God, they will be at the right hand of God in the Heavenly Jerusalem.” 84

But the Crusades also proved to be an example of a high-minded ideal betrayed by human nature. The unsanctioned Peasants’ Crusade of 1096 led to massacre of Jews in Mainz and other German towns, but also provoked its self-destruction. Subsequent crusades, in the hands of warring noblemen, knights, and clerics who struggled for power, land, and riches, proved disastrous, particularly with the Fourth Crusade.

One interesting observation is that, while the record of events for the first three Crusades was relatively consistent throughout the literature, many conflicting reports exist for the Fourth and following Crusades. Did historians lose interest or had the Crusades become an embarrassment by the miserable turn of events?

The crusading effort brought only temporary success, as the Crusader states lasted from 1099 to 1291. And Jerusalem itself was in Christian hands for only 88 years.

Muslim expansion continued with the aggressive Turkish Ottoman Empire, which conquered Constantinople in 1453 and extended throughout the Balkans. The Turks were stopped from further European advance at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 and the Siege of Vienna in 1683. The first wave of immigration of Middle East Christians to America began when Maronite Catholics of Lebanon fled from persecution by Muslim Druze following the Syrian Civil War of 1860. The major outcome of World War I was the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire, which exposed the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Turks. Sheikh Faisal ibn Hussein of Mecca and Lawrence of Arabia led a pan-Arab revolt for independence during the War. Jerusalem itself was controlled by the Ottomans for four hundred years, from 1516 until 1917. British General Edmund Allenby liberated the city on December 11, 1917 near the end of World War I. Often called the Last Crusade, the expedition coincided with the Balfour Declaration on a homeland for Israel and the Jewish liberation song Hava Nagila. 85

The polarity between Christianity and Islam has lasted to this very day. The Crusades have become quite relevant to current events and may well be prophetic for the future. Today a fragile peace grips Jerusalem, with the presence of the world’s three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) who worship and trust in God. Both Israel and the Palestinians are locked in a bitter and endless struggle in their efforts to establish their respective homelands. Middle East Christians in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Libya have suffered terribly at the hands of Muslim extremists such as the terrorist Islamic State.

The History of the Crusades provided us with some wonderful examples of individual heroism. Two figures that received lasting respect by both Christian and Muslim historians alike were Saladin and St. Francis of Assisi. In fact, both were immortalized in a favorable light by Dante 86 in the Divine Comedy. Saladin recaptured Jerusalem through negotiations with Balian of Ibelin. St. Francis of Assisi risked his life in the Fifth Crusade by calling directly upon the Sultan of Egypt in an effort to bring peace. The piety of King Louis IX of France was recognized by his canonization in 1297. One cannot help but admire the fortitude and military prowess exhibited by the Crusaders, such as Godfrey of Bouillon and Richard the Lionheart.

Recent efforts have been made to bridge the gap created by the Crusades. The Second Vatican Council did much to open a dialogue with the Byzantine Orthodox East, and during that time the mutual excommunications of 1054 were lifted. 87 The Papacy of John Paul II has been one of rapprochement. His 1995 encyclical, That All May Be One, 88   called for Christian Unity. In the Jubilee year of 2000 he prayed the traditional Nicene Creed (without filioque) with Orthodox leaders. His visit to Egypt in March 2000 did much to encourage interfaith harmony. And shortly afterwards, in Jerusalem, he asked God forgiveness for the sins of the Catholic Church. 89   Concerned for peace and interfaith harmony, the Pope opposed the pre-emptive Iraq War in 2003. 90

The Crusades leave one wondering is there really such an entity as a just war? The Ten Commandments direct us not to kill. And Jesus himself instructed us:

“Do not resist one who is evil.
If anyone strikes you on the right cheek,
turn to him the other also.
Gospel of Matthew 5:39

“Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its sheath,
For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
Gospel of Matthew 26:52

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you:
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
Gospel of John 14:27

May the Crusades be an important lesson to all of us who cherish peace!


1 Robert the Monk of Rheims, “The Speech of Pope Urban II at Clermont,” in The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants, ed. August C. Krey (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1921), 32.

2 “Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres,” Book I, The First Crusade, Second Edition, ed. Edward Peters (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998), 63-101.

3 Anonymous, Gesta Francorum et aliorum Hierosolymitanorum (Latin), ed. Heinrich Hagenmeyer (Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1890), 151.

4 Pope Urban II, “Letters and Speech at Clermont,” in The Crusades: Idea and Reality, 1095-1274, eds. Louise and Jonathan Riley-Smith (London: Edward Arnold Publishers, 1981), 1-53, 63-67.

5 Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible. St. Benedict Press, Charlotte, North Carolina, 2009.

6 Eric H. Cline. Jerusalem Besieged – From Ancient Canaan to Modern Israel (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004), 11-35, 164-200, 235, 338, 2004.

7 Philip K. Hitti. History of the Arabs, Tenth Edition (London: MacMillan Education, 1970), 112-138, 220-221.

8 Chris Lowney. A Vanished World: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Medieval Spain (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 79-84, 138, 193.

9 Armand Citarella. “The Relations of Amalfi with the Arab world before the Crusades,” Speculum 42 (April, 1967): 299-312; Joseph F. O’Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1975), 343-345.

10 William of Tyre. A History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea: A Translation of Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum, in 2 Volumes; trans: Susan Atwater Babcock and A. C. Krey (New York: Columbia University Press, 1943), Volume 1, Book I, Chapters 4-6, 65-70.

11 James Todesca. Medieval History: Crusade and Coexistence. Class Lectures, Armstrong State University, Savannah, Georgia, 2013.

12 Thomas Bokenkotter. Concise History of the Catholic Church (New York: Image Books, Doubleday, 2004), 110-141.

13 Bishop Timothy Kallistos Ware. The Orthodox Church, Third Edition. (London: Penguin, 2015), 26-27, 41-67, 307-309.

14 Matthew of Edessa, “The Seljuk Conquests,” in The Crusades: A Reader, eds. SJ Allen and Emilie Ant (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010), 31-34.

15 Carole Hillenbrand. The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press, 2000), 50-51.

16 Jonathan Riley-Smith. The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986), 13-15.

17 St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei – The City of God, “It is in no way contrary to the commandment Thou shalt not kill to wage war at God’s bidding, or for the representatives of the State’s authority to put criminals to death, according to law or the rule of rational justice” (Book I, Chapter 21); “For it is the injustice of the opposing side that lays on the wise men the duty of waging wars” (Book XIX, 7). (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1950-1954), Vol I, 53; Vol 3, 207.

18 Alan Schreck. Historical Foundations, Class Lectures, Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio, 2003. Compact History of the Catholic Church (Cincinnati, Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2009), 37-52.

19 HEJ Cowdrey. “The Peace and Truce of God in the Eleventh Century.” Past and Present 46 (1970): 42-67.

20 Diana Webb. Pilgrims and Pilgrimages in the Medieval West. (London: I. B. Taurus, 2001), 11-20.

21 Carl Erdmann. The Origin of the Idea of Crusade, Germany, 1935; trans: MW Baldwin and W Goffart. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977), 57-94, 136-140.

22 Jonathan Riley-Smith. The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading, 22.

23 Dana Carleton Munro. “The Speech of Pope Urban II at Clermont, 1095.” American Historical Review 11:2 (January 1906): 231-242.

24 Pope Urban II, “Letter to the People of Flanders,” in Elizabeth Hallam, ed., Chronicles of the Crusades: Eye-witness accounts of the Wars between Christianity and Islam (New York: Welcome Rain, 2000), 63.

25 Pope Urban II, “Letter to the People of Bologna,” in Edward Peters, The First Crusade, 44.

26 Elizabeth Hallam, ed., Chronicles of the Crusades: Eye-witness accounts of the Wars between Christianity and Islam, 59-66.
27 Sir Steven Runciman. History of the Crusades, in 3 volumes. Volume I: The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem; Volume II: The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East, 1100-1187; Volume III: The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1951-1954), Volume I, 35-64, 84-110, 142-194, 327-335.
28 Helen J. Nicholson. The Chronicle of the Third Crusade: A Translation of the Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Publishing, 2001), 1-17.
29 Thomas Asbridge. The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land (London: Simon & Schuster UK, 2010), 28, 42, 47, 89-124, 692, 722-725.
30 Guibert of Nogent, “Speech of Pope Urban II at Clermont,” and “Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres,” Book I, in Peters, The First Crusade, 37, 57-62.
31 Thomas F. Madden. New Concise History of the Crusades (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005), 1-35; Eusebius of Caesarea. Ecclesiastical History, A New Translation by Roy Deferrari, Catholic University of America Press, 1953, 2005, Book I, Chapter 13.
32 Ronald Roberson. The Eastern Christian Churches, Seventh Edition (Rome: Pontifical Oriental Institute, 2008), 39-54, 133-183.
33 John France, “The First Crusade – Impelled by the Love of God,” in Crusades: The Illustrated History, ed. Thomas F. Madden (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005), 34-57.
34 Raymond of Aguilers, “The Holy Lance and Defeat of Kerbogha,” in Peters, The First Crusade, 215-221, 224-228.
35 Runciman, History of the Crusades, Volume I: The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, 240-277.
36 Raymond of Aguilers, “The Fall of Jerusalem,” in The Crusades: A Reader, eds., SJ Allen and Emilie Ant, 73-78.
37 Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres, Book I, “The Fall of Jerusalem,” the Cairo Geniza Letters, Ibn al-Athir, and Ibn al-Qalanisi, in Peters, The First Crusade, 84-93, 256-275.
38 William of Tyre. A History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea, Volume 1, Book VIII, Chapter 3, 343-344; VIII, 18-24, 368-378; IX, 1, 379-382; IX, 9, 391-392.
39 Jonathan Riley-Smith, The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading, 153-155.
40 “Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres,” Book II, in Allen and Ant, 87.

41 William of Tyre. A History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea, Volume 1, Book X, Chapter 9, 427; X, 20, 443-444; XI, 27, 507-508.
42 Thomas SR Boase. Castles and Churches of the Crusading Kingdom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967), 42-45.
43 Malcolm Barber. The Crusader States (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012), 86-92.
44 William of Tyre. A History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea, Volume 1, Book XII, Chapters 1-7, 517-527; Volume 2, XIII, 14, 21; XIII, 28, 46; XIV, 2, 50-51.
45 Jaroslav Folda, “Art in the Latin East,” in The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades, ed. Jonathan Riley-Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 141-159.
46 James W. Brodman, “Rule and Identity: the Case of the Military Orders,” Catholic Historical Review 88 (July 2001): 383-400.
47 Alan J. Forey, “The Military Order of St. Thomas of Acre,” English Historical Review 92 (July 1977): 481-503.
48 William of Tyre. A History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea, Volume 1, Book XI, Chapter 26, 506; Volume 2, XIV, 8, 58; XIV, 22, 81-82; XVII, 12, 202-203.
49 Denys Pringle, “Architecture in the Latin East,” in The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades ed. Jonathan Riley-Smith, 160-183.
50 “Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres,” Book III, in Peters, The First Crusade, 281-282.
51 Thomas Asbridge. The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land, 173-189.
52 William of Tyre. A History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea, Volume 2, Book XV, Chapters 26, 132; XV, 27, 134-135, XVI, 1, 136-137; XVI, 3, 139-140.
53 Jaroslav Folda. The Art of the Crusaders in the Holy Land, 1098-1187 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 172-178, 245-249.
54 Regesta Regni Hierosolymitani, ed. Reinhold Röhricht (New York: Burt Franklin, 1893-1904), Charter 409, Volume I, 106-107.
55 Denys Pringle. Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem: A Corpus of 4 Volumes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), Volume I, 1.
56 Jaroslav Folda. The Art of the Crusaders in the Holy Land, 1098-1187, 414-415.

57 Pope Eugenius III. “Quantum Predecessores,” in Louise Riley-Smith, The Crusades: Idea and Reality, 1095-1274, 57-59.
58 O’Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain, 229-232.
59 William of Tyre. A History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea, Volume 2, Book XVI, Chapters 18-29, 163-183; XVII, 1-8, 184-196.
60 Madden, New Concise History of the Crusades, 50-62.

61 Amin Maalouf, The Crusades Through Arab Eyes (London: Al-Saqi Books, 1984), 176-217.
62 WB Bartlett. God Wills It: An Illustrated History of the Crusades (Phoenix Mill, United Kingdom: Sutton Publishing Limited, 2000), 148-190, 193-198.
63 William of Tyre. A History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea, Volume 2, Book XXI, Chapters 1-9, 397-411; XXII, 29, 501-502.
64 Helen J. Nicholson. The Chronicle of the Third Crusade: A Translation of the Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi, Book I, 29-35.
65 Runciman, History of the Crusades, Volume II: The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East, 1100-1187, 436-473.
66 “The Third Crusade,” in Hallam, 176-195.
67 Asbridge, The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land, 398-444.
68 Nicholson, The Chronicle of the Third Crusade, A Translation: the Itinerary of the Pilgrimage and Deeds of King Richard, Book II, 180-189.
69 Jonathan Phillips, “The Latin East,” in The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades ed. Jonathan Riley-Smith, 127-129.
70 Helen Nicholson, The Chronicle of the Third Crusade, Book III, 218 – Book IV, 231.
71 John Gillingham. Richard I (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 205.
72 Madden, New Concise History of the Crusades, 68-95.

73 Runciman, History of the Crusades Volume III: The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades, 107-131.
74 “The Fourth Crusade,” in Hallam, 199-225.
75 Madden, New Concise History of the Crusades, 97-120.
76 Runciman, Volume III, 130-131.

77 “The Fifth Crusade,” in Hallam, 247-256.
78 James M. Powell. “The Fifth Crusade to 1291,” in Crusades, the Illustrated History, ed. Thomas F Madden, 144-171.
79 Hillenbrand, The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives, 336-340.
80 Asbridge, The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land, 575-608.
81 John of Joinville, “King Louis IX on the Seventh Crusade,” in Hallam, 264-274.
82 Madden, New Concise History of the Crusades, 166-186.
83 Asbridge, 638-681.

84 John Gillingham. Richard I, 4.
85 Scott Anderson. Lawrence in Arabia. (New York: Random House Anchor Books, 2014), 388-406.
86 Dante Alighieri. The Divine Comedy, original publication, Ravenna, Italy, 1320. Saladin resides in Limbo with the virtuous who did not know Christ, such as the great writers Virgil, Plato, and Aristotle. Limbo lies on the outer rim of Inferno, illuminated by the light of human reason. See Inferno, Canto IV, line 129. St. Francis of Assisi lives in the fourth sphere of heaven, along with the great leaders of the Church, such as St. Dominic. Canto XI of Paradiso is primarily about St. Francis. He is also afforded a direct vision of God in the Mystic Rose – see Paradiso, Canto XXXII, line 35. Translation by John Ciardi, Modern Library, Random House, New York, 1996.
87 Second Vatican Council. Decree on Ecumenism – Unitatis Redintegratio. Vatican City, 14 November 1964.
88 Pope John Paul II. That All May Be One, the encyclical Ut Unum Sint, Vatican City, May 25, 1995.
89 Douglas K. Clark, “Pope John Paul II visits the East,” Southern Cross Newspaper, Savannah, Georgia, March 30, 2000.
90 Pope John Paul II. “Address to the Diplomatic Corps,” January 13, 2003,

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



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