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The Battle of Ager Sanguinis, 1337 miniature

The Crusades were a series of wars taking place in Asia Minor and the Levant between 1095 and 1291, in which Western European nations engaged using the propaganda of religious expeditionary wars. The first crusade was called by Pope Urban II of the Roman Catholic Church, with the stated goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem. The background to the Crusades was the centuries of Arab–Byzantine Wars and the Seljuq-Byzantine Wars and the recent decisive defeat of the Byzantine army by Seljuk Turks at Manzikert in 1071. The Norman conqueror Robert Guiscard's conquest of Byzantine territories added to the problems of the Byzantine Empire. In an attempt to curtail both dangers, its Emperor Alexios I sought to align Christian nations against a common enemy, requested western aid, and Pope Urban II in turn enlisted western leaders in the cause of taking back the Holy Land.

The crusaders comprised military units of Roman Catholics from all over western Europe, and were not under unified command. The main series of Crusades, primarily against Muslims in the Levant, occurred between 1095 and 1291. Historians have given many of the earlier crusades numbers. After some early successes, the later crusades failed and the crusaders were defeated and forced to return home. Several hundred thousand soldiers became Crusaders by taking vows; the Pope granted them plenary indulgence. Their emblem was the cross — the term "crusade" is derived from the French term for taking up the cross. Many were from France and called themselves "Franks," which became the common term used by Muslims.

Europeans had historically called the occupants of the Holy Land Saracens, and used this in a negative sense throughout the Crusades and often into European history books into the 20th century.

The term "crusade" is also used to describe religiously motivated campaigns conducted between 1100 and 1600 in territories outside the Levant usually against pagans, heretics, and peoples under the ban of excommunication for a mixture of religious, economic, and political reasons. Rivalries among both Christian and Muslim powers led also to alliances between religious factions against their opponents, such as the Christian alliance with the Islamic Sultanate of Rûm during the Fifth Crusade.

The Crusades had major political, economic, and social impact on western Europe. It resulted in a substantial weakening of the Christian Byzantine Empire, which fell several centuries later to the Muslim Turks. The Reconquista, a long period of wars in Spain and Portugal ( Iberia), where Christian forces reconquered the peninsula from Muslims, is closely tied to the Crusades.


Middle Eastern situation

In 636 CE, Muslim forces led by the Arab Rashidun Caliphs defeated the Eastern Roman/Byzantines at the Battle of Yarmouk, conquering Palestine. Jerusalem fell to Caliph Omar's forces in February 638. The Umayyad Dynasty was inaugurated by Muawiyah I, sole caliph from 661, who made his capital in Damascus. In 750 the Umayyads were overthrown by the Abbasid Dynasty of Baghdad and from 878 Palestine was ruled by semi-autonomous governors in Egypt until the Fatimids conquered it in 969. The Fatimids, whose empire stretched to Morocco and centered on Egypt, were tolerant for the times and had many trade and political relationships with the Christian states of Europe. In 1072 the Fatimids lost control of Palestine to the rapidly expanding Great Seljuq Empire. They regained control of it in 1098, but their control was shaky, with the countryside subject to raids by Bedouin nomads and Turkish mercenaries.

One factor that may have contributed to Western interest in Palestine came during the reign of the Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah who ordered the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In 1039 his successor permitted the Byzantine Empire to rebuild it. Pilgrimages had been allowed by Christians to the holy sites in Palestine from soon after their conquest by the Muslims. However, under the Seljuqs pilgrimage routes were disrupted and the unsettled conditions in Palestine were not conducive to either pilgrims or merchants. The Muslims realized that much of the wealth of Jerusalem came from the pilgrims; for this reason and others, the persecution of pilgrims eventually stopped. However, the damage was already done, and the violence of the conquering Seljuk Turks became part of the concern that spread support for the Crusades across the Christian world.

Western European situation

The western European idea of the Crusades came in response to the deterioration of the Byzantine Empire caused by a new wave of Turkish Muslim attacks. The Byzantine emperors in the east, now threatened by the Seljuks, sent emissaries to the papacy asking for aid in their struggles with the Seljuk Turks. In 1074, Emperor Michael VII sent a request for aid to Pope Gregory VII, but although Gregory appears to have considered leading an expedition to aid Michael, nothing reached the planning stage. In 1095 Emperor Alexios I Komnenos asked Pope Urban II for help against the Turks.

The Crusades were, in part, an outlet for an intense religious piety which rose up in the late 11th century among the lay public. This was an outgrowth of the Investiture Controversy, which had started around 1075 and was still on-going during the First Crusade. The papacy began to assert its independence of secular rulers and marshalled arguments for the proper use of armed force by Christians. As both sides of the Investiture Controversy tried to marshal public opinion in their favour, people became personally engaged in a dramatic religious controversy. The result was an awakening of intense Christian piety and public interest in religious affairs, and was further strengthened by religious propaganda, which advocated " Just War" in order to retake Palestine from the Muslims. Taking part in such a justified war was seen as a form of penance, which could remit sins.

It was a hotly debated issue throughout the Crusades as what exactly "remission of sin" meant. Most believed that by retaking Jerusalem they would go straight to heaven after death. However, much controversy surrounds exactly what was promised by the popes of the time. One theory was that one had to die fighting for Jerusalem for the remission to apply, which would hew more closely to what Pope Urban II said in his speeches. This meant that if the crusaders were successful, and retook Jerusalem, the survivors would not be given remission.


Map of the Iberian Peninsula at the time of the Almoravid arrival in the 11th century– Christian Kingdoms included Aragón, Castile, Leon, Navarre, and Portugal

When the First Crusade was preached in 1095, the Christian princes of northern Iberia had been fighting their way out of the mountains of Galicia and Asturias, the Basque Country and Navarre, with increasing success, for about a hundred years. The fall of Moorish Toledo to the Kingdom of León in 1085 was a major victory, but the turning points of the Reconquista still lay in the future. The disunity of Muslim emirs was an essential factor. Other areas were also undergoing Christian expansion against the Muslims. In Sicily, the Norman adventurer Robert Guiscard had conquered northern Sicily by 1072. The maritime state of Pisa funded its new cathedral from two raids on the Muslims - Palermo in 1063 and Mahdia in 1087. Not all these precursor conflicts were against the Muslims, as the Germans were expanding at the expense of the Slavs in Northern Europe. All of these expeditions, along with a few others, are considered precursors to the Crusades, and are often given the name of "proto-crusades".

Just war doctrine

The papacy of Pope Gregory VII had struggled with reservations about the doctrinal validity of a holy war and the shedding of blood for the Lord and had, with difficulty, resolved the question in favour of justified violence. More importantly to the Pope, the Christians who made pilgrimages to the Holy Land were being persecuted. Saint Augustine of Hippo, Gregory's intellectual model, had justified the use of force in the service of Christ in The City of God, and a Christian " Just War" might enhance the wider standing of an aggressively ambitious leader of Europe, as Gregory saw himself.

The northerners would be cemented to Rome, and their troublesome knights could see the only kind of action that suited them. Previous attempts by the church to stem such violence, such as the concept of the "Peace of God", were not as successful as hoped. To the south of Rome, Normans were showing how such energies might be unleashed against both Arabs (in Sicily) and Byzantines (on the mainland). A Latin hegemony in the Levant would provide leverage in resolving the Papacy's claims of supremacy over the Patriarch of Constantinople, which had resulted in the Great Schism of 1054, a rift that might yet be resolved through the force of Frankish arms.

Byzantine weakness

The Seljuq dynasty at its greatest extent, in 1092.

The Eastern Empire and its church were officially divided from the Western church and society in 1054, with the East-West Schism, but cultural differences had long divided the two before the official break in 1054. In the Byzantine Empire, the Eastern emperor's weakness was revealed by the defeat at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, which opened Asia Minor to the control of the Turks. The Empire was on the verge of collapse, with its treasury bankrupt, its armies poorly deployed, and its aged emperor ineffective. Although an appeal was made in 1074 to the papacy, no aid was forthcoming from Pope Gregory VII. The Eastern Empire also faced difficulties in the Danube river area, as the Petchenegs had allied with the Seljuks and threatened the Empire until 1091 when they were defeated by Emperor Alexius. Alexius still needed to rebuild his armies, and sought to increase his military forces by hiring mercenaries. The Byzantine envoys to Piacenza in March 1095 likely were more concerned to secure mercenaries for Alexius' armies and may have exaggerated the dangers facing the Eastern Empire in order to secure the needed troops.

Pope Urban II

15th century illumination of Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont, where he preached an impassioned sermon to take back the Holy Land.

The immediate cause of the First Crusade was the Byzantine emperor Alexios I's appeal to Pope Urban II for mercenaries to help him resist Muslim advances into territory of the Byzantine Empire. Although attempts at reconciliation after the East–West Schism between the Catholic Church in western Europe and the Eastern Orthodox Church had failed, Alexius I hoped for a positive response from Urban II.

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 caused 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 absolution of sins and to all who died in the expedition immediate entry into heaven.

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. When he finished, his listeners chanted "Deus vult" (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. 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. 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.

Preaching and preparation before the First Crusade

Urban's sermon at Clermont was the start of an eight-month preaching tour that the pope undertook throughout France, urging the holy war and exhorting people to help defend the Byzantine church against the Muslims. He also sent other preachers throughout Western Europe to spread the word of the Crusade. Urban fixed a date of August 1096 for the crusaders to depart for Palestine. Urban's example inspired the preaching of Peter the Hermit, who eventually led a " People's Crusade" of perhaps as many as 20,000 people, mostly lower class, towards the Holy Land just after Easter 1096. When they reached the Byzantine Empire, Alexius urged them to wait for the western nobles, but the "army" insisted on proceeding and was ambushed outside Nicaea by the Turks, with only about 3000 people escaping the ambush.

On a popular level, the preaching of the First Crusade unleashed a wave of impassioned, personally felt pious Christian fury that was expressed in the massacres of Jews that accompanied and preceded the movement of the crusaders through Europe, as well as the violent treatment of " schismatic" Orthodox Christians of the east.

Besides the People's Crusade, Urban's appeal gathered a large number of noblemen and other soldiers together. Among the leaders of the First Crusade were Godfrey of Bouillon, Robert Curthose - son of William the Conqueror and eldest brother of the then King of England, William II of England, Hugh of Vermandois - brother of King Philip I of France, and Stephen, Count of Blois - brother-in-law of Robert Curthose. The French king was excommunicated and thus unable to go. The German Emperor, Henry IV, was still embroiled in the Investiture Crisis and would not have supported papal initiatives. The various leaders left at different times, with Hugh of Vermandois departing first and the bulk of the army dividing into four parts which travelled separately to Constantinople. In all, the western forces may have totaled as much as 100,000 persons counting both combatants and non-combatants.


A traditional numbering scheme for the crusades totals nine during the 11th to 13th centuries. This division is arbitrary and excludes many important expeditions, among them those of the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. The Knights Hospitaller continued to crusade in the Mediterranean Sea around Malta until their defeat by Napoleon in 1798. There were frequent "minor" Crusades throughout this period, not only in the area the crusaders called Outremer but also in the Iberian Peninsula and central Europe, against Muslims and also Christian heretics and personal enemies of the Papacy or other powerful monarchs.

First Crusade 1095–1099

Route of the First Crusade through Asia

The official crusader armies set off from France and Italy on the papally ordained date of 15 August 1096. The armies journeyed eastward by land toward Constantinople, where they received a wary welcome from the Byzantine Emperor. Pledging to restore lost territories to the empire, the main army, mostly French and Norman knights under baronial leadership— Godfrey of Bouillon (1060–1100), Baldwin of Flanders, Raymond of Toulouse, Robert of Normandy, Bohemond of Taranto, marched south through Anatolia.


The Crusader armies fought the Turks, at first at the lengthy Siege of Antioch that began in October 1097 and lasted until June 1098. Once inside the city, as was standard military practice when an enemy had refused to surrender, the Crusaders massacred the Muslim inhabitants and pillaged the city. However, a large Muslim relief army under Kerbogha immediately besieged the victorious Crusaders within Antioch. Bohemund of Taranto led a successful break-out and defeat of Kerbogha's army on 28 June. While Bohemond and his men retained control of Antioch, in spite of his pledge to the Byzantine emperor, most of the surviving crusader army marched south, moving from town to town along the coast, finally reaching the walls of Jerusalem on 7 June 1099 with only a fraction of their original forces.

Siege of Jerusalem

After the successful siege of Jerusalem in 1099, Godfrey of Bouillon, leader of the First Crusade, became the first ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The Jews and Muslims fought together to defend Jerusalem against the invading Franks. They were unsuccessful though and on 15 July 1099 the crusaders entered the city. They proceeded to massacre the remaining Jewish and Muslim civilians and pillaged or destroyed mosques and the city itself. One historian has written that the "isolation, alienation and fear" felt by the Franks so far from home helps to explain the atrocities they committed, including the cannibalism which was recorded after the Siege of Ma'arra in 1098. As a result of the First Crusade, several small Crusader states were created, notably the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In the Kingdom of Jerusalem at most 120,000 Franks (predominantly French-speaking Western Christians) ruled over 350,000 Muslims, Jews, and native Eastern Christians who had remained since the Arab occupation began in 638 AD.

The Crusaders also tried to gain control of the city of Tyre, but were defeated by the Muslims. The people of Tyre asked Zahir al-Din Atabek, the leader of Damascus, for help defending their city from the Franks with the promise to surrender Tyre to him. When the Franks were defeated the people of Tyre did not surrender the city but Zahir al-Din simply said, "What I have done I have done only for the sake of God and the Muslims, not out of desire for wealth and kingdom."

After gaining control of Jerusalem the Crusaders created four Crusader states: the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch and the County of Tripoli. Initially, Muslims did very little about the Crusader states due to internal conflicts. Eventually, the Muslims began to reunite under the leadership of Imad ad-Din Zengi. He began by re-taking Edessa in 1144. It was the first city to fall to the Crusaders, and became the first to be recaptured by the Muslims. This led the Pope to call for a second Crusade.

Crusaders' perspectives

The crusader states after the First Crusade

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; 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.

Scholarly debates

According to the interpretation of historian Steven Runciman (1951), 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 centre 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.

Baldwin I of Jerusalem

Ever since Runciman published 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. Critics say Runciman 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.

A medieval image of Peter the Hermit, leading knights, soldiers and women toward Jerusalem during the First Crusade

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. 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.

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.

Crusade of 1101

Following this crusade there was a second, less successful wave of crusaders, in which Turks led by Kilij Arslan defeated the Crusaders in three separate battles in a well-managed response to the First Crusade. This is known as the Crusade of 1101 and may be considered an adjunct of the First Crusade.

Norwegian Crusade 1107–1110

Sigurd I of Norway was the first European king who went on a crusade and his crusader armies defeated Muslims in Al-Andalus, the Balearic Islands, and in The Holy Land where they joined the king of Jerusalem in the Siege of Sidon.

Second Crusade 1147–1149

Europe and the Christian States in the East in 1142

After a period of relative peace in which Christians and Muslims co-existed in the Holy Land, Muslims conquered the town of Edessa. A new crusade was called for by various preachers, most notably by Bernard of Clairvaux. French and South German armies, under the Kings Louis VII and Conrad III respectively, marched to Jerusalem in 1147 but failed to win any major victories, launching a failed pre-emptive siege of Damascus, an independent city that would soon fall into the hands of Nur ad-Din Zangi, the main enemy of the Crusaders. On the other side of the Mediterranean, however, the Second Crusade met with great success as a group of Northern European Crusaders stopped in Portugal, allied with the Portuguese King, Afonso I of Portugal, and retook Lisbon from the Muslims in 1147. A detachment from this group of crusaders helped Count Raymond Berenguer IV of Barcelona conquer the city of Tortosa the following year. In the Holy Land by 1150, both the kings of France and Germany had returned to their countries without any result. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who in his preachings had encouraged the Second Crusade, was upset with the amount of misdirected violence and slaughter of the Jewish population of the Rhineland. North Germans and Danes attacked the Wends during the 1147 Wendish Crusade, which was unsuccessful as well.

Third Crusade 1187–1192

A statue of king Richard I of England (Richard the Lionheart), outside the Palace of Westminster in London.

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

Saladin's victories shocked Europe. On hearing news of the Siege of Jerusalem (1187), Pope Urban III died of a heart attack on 19 October 1187. On 29 October Pope Gregory VIII issued a bull Audita tremendi, proposing the Third Crusade. To reverse this disaster Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa (r. 1152-1190) of Germany, King Philip II Augustus of France, (r. 1180-1223), and King Richard the Lion-Hearted (r. 1189-1199) of England 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. King Philip feigned illness and returned to France, there scheming to win back the duchy of Normandy from Richard's control. Richard captured the island of Cyprus from the Byzantines in 1191. Cyprus served as a Crusader base for centuries to come, and remained in European hands until 1571. After a long siege, Richard the Lionheart recaptured the city of Acre and placed the entire Muslim garrison under captivity (they were executed after a series of failed negotiations). The Crusader army headed south along the Mediterranean coast. They defeated the Muslims near Arsuf, recaptured the port city of Jaffa, and were in sight of Jerusalem. However, Richard did not believe he would be able to hold Jerusalem once it was captured, as the majority of Crusaders would then return to Europe, and the crusade ended without the taking of Jerusalem. Richard left the following year after negotiating a treaty with Saladin. The treaty allowed trade for merchants and unarmed Christian pilgrims to make pilgrimages to the Holy Land (Jerusalem), while it remained under Muslim control.

Richard I regained Acre and Jaffa for the Christians. The agreement he finally reached with Saladin gave pilgrims free access to Jerusalem. The city itself and the adjoining kingdom, except for some coastal cities, were still subject to Islamic law.

The Latin Empire and the Partition of the Byzantine Empire after the Fourth Crusade. (c. 1204)

Fourth Crusade 1202–1204

The Fourth Crusade was initiated in 1202 by Pope Innocent III, with the intention of invading the Holy Land through Egypt. Because the Crusaders lacked the funds to pay for the fleet and provisions that they had contracted from the Venetians, Doge Enrico Dandolo enlisted the crusaders to restore the Christian city of Zara ( Zadar) to obedience. At this point, they lost the support of the pope who considered them excommunicated. Because they subsequently lacked provisions and time on their vessel lease, the leaders decided to go to Constantinople, where they attempted to place a Byzantine exile on the throne. After a series of misunderstandings and outbreaks of violence, the Crusaders sacked the city in 1204, and established the so-called Latin Empire and a series of other Crusader states throughout the territories of the Greek Byzantine Empire. While deploring the means, the pope finally supported this apparent forced reunion between the Eastern and Western churches. This is often seen as the final breaking point of the Great Schism between the Eastern Orthodox Church and (Western) Roman Catholic Church.

Albigensian Crusade

Pope Innocent III excommunicating the Albigensians (left), Massacre against the Albigensians by the crusaders (right)

The Albigensian Crusade was launched in 1209 to eliminate the heretical Cathars of Occitania (the south of modern-day France). It was a decades-long struggle that had as much to do with the concerns of northern France to extend its control southwards as it did with heresy. In the end, both the Cathars and the independence of southern France were exterminated.

Children's Crusade of 1212

Less formal and less historically certain was a movement in France and Germany in 1212 which attracted large numbers of peasant teenagers and young people, with few under age 15, who 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. The sources are scattered and unclear and historians are still not sure if there really was such a crusade, and if there was, exactly what happened to many of the thousands of children. Nevertheless, the memory of the event is part of European culture, and has often been used to tell a morality tale of purity of children versus the exploitation by adults, or perhaps to warn of the madness of mass hysteria.

Fifth Crusade 1217–1221

By processions, prayers, and preaching, the Church attempted to set another crusade afoot, and the Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215) formulated a plan for the recovery of the Holy Land. In the first phase, a crusading force from Austria and Hungary joined the forces of the king of Jerusalem and the prince of Antioch to take back Jerusalem. In the second phase, crusader forces achieved a remarkable feat in the capture of Damietta in Egypt in 1219, but under the urgent insistence of the papal legate, Pelagius, they then launched a foolhardy attack on Cairo in July 1221. The crusaders were turned back after their dwindling supplies led to a forced retreat. A night-time attack by the ruler of Egypt, the powerful Ayyubid Sultan Al-Kamil, resulted in a great number of crusader losses and eventually in the surrender of the army. Al-Kamil agreed to an eight-year peace agreement with Europe.

Al-Kamil had put a bounty of a Byzantine gold piece for every Christian head brought to him during the war. During 1219, St. Francis of Assisi crossed the battle lines at Damietta in order to speak with Al-Kamil. He and his companion Illuminatus were captured and beaten and brought before the Sultan. St. Bonaventure, in his Major Life of St. Francis, says that the Sultan was impressed by Francis and spent some time with him. Francis was given safe passage and although he was offered many gifts, all he accepted was a horn for calling the faithful to prayer. This act eventually led to the establishment of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.

Sixth Crusade 1228–1229

Dirham struck by Christians between 1216-1241 with Arabic inscriptions.
Emperor Frederick II (left) meets al-Kamil (right), from a manuscript of the Nuova Cronica by Giovanni Villani

Emperor Frederick II had repeatedly vowed a crusade but failed to live up to his words, for which he was excommunicated by Pope Gregory IX in 1228. He nonetheless set sail from Brindisi, landed in Saint-Jean d'Acre. There were no battles as Frederick made a peace treaty with Al-Kamil, the ruler of Egypt. This treaty allowed Christians to rule over most of Jerusalem and a strip of territory from Acre to Jerusalem, while the Muslims were given control of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Thus he achieved unexpected success. 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 peace lasted for about ten years. Many of the Muslims though were not happy with Al-Kamil for giving up control of Jerusalem. In 1244, following the siege of Jerusalem, the Muslims regained control of the city.

Seventh Crusade 1248–1254

The papal interests represented by the Templars brought on a conflict with Egypt in 1243, and in the following year a Khwarezmian force summoned by the latter stormed Jerusalem. The crusaders were drawn into battle at La Forbie in Gaza. The crusader army and its Bedouin mercenaries were completely defeated within forty-eight hours by Baibars' force of Khwarezmian tribesmen. This battle is considered by many historians to have been the death knell to the Kingdom of Outremer.

Louis IX of France organized a crusade against Egypt from 1248 to 1254, leaving from the newly constructed port of Aigues-Mortes in southern France. 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.

Eighth Crusade 1270

Ignoring his advisers, in 1270 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 take the Holy Land. The numbering of crusades is problematical. The Eighth Crusade is sometimes counted as the Seventh, if the Fifth and Sixth Crusades are counted as a single crusade. The Ninth Crusade is sometimes also counted as part of the Eighth.

Ninth Crusade 1271–1272

Christian states in the Levant

The future Edward I of England undertook another expedition against Baibars in 1271, after having accompanied Louis on the Eighth Crusade. Louis died in Tunisia. The Ninth Crusade was deemed a failure and ended the Crusades in the Middle East.

In their later years, faced with the threat of the Egyptian Mamluks, the Crusaders' hopes rested with a Franco-Mongol alliance. The Ilkhanate's Mongols were thought to be sympathetic to Christianity, and the Frankish princes were most effective in gathering their help, engineering their invasions of the Middle East on several occasions. Although the Mongols successfully attacked as far south as Damascus on these campaigns, the ability to effectively coordinate with Crusades from the west was repeatedly frustrated most notably at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260. The Mamluks, led by Baibars, eventually made good their pledge to cleanse the entire Middle East of the Franks. With the fall of Antioch (1268), Tripoli (1289), and Acre (1291), those Christians unable to leave the cities were massacred or enslaved and the last traces of Christian rule in the Levant disappeared.


The island of Ruad, three kilometers from the Syrian shore, was occupied for several years by the Knights Templar but was ultimately lost to the Mamluks in the Siege of Ruad on September 26, 1302. The Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, which was not itself a crusader state, and was not Latin Christian, but was closely associated with the crusader states and was ruled by the Latin Christian Lusignan dynasty for its last 34 years, survived until 1375. Other echoes of the crusader states survived for longer, but well away from the Holy Land itself. The Knights of St John carved out a new territory based on the Aegean island of Rhodes, which they ruled until 1522. Cyprus remained under the rule of the House of Lusignan until 1474/89 (the precise date depends on how Venice's highly unusual takeover is interpreted – see Caterina Cornaro) and subsequently that of Venice until 1570. By this time the Knights of St John had moved to Malta – even further from the Holy Land – which they ruled until 1798.

Northern Crusades

Crusades of the Teutonic Order

The knight of The Livonian Brothers of the Sword.

A German religious and military order originally founded (1190) during the siege of Acre in the Third Crusade and modeled after the Knights Templar and Hospitalers, the Teutonic Knights moved to eastern Europe early in the 13th century. There, under their grand master, Hermann von Salza, they became powerful and prominent. In 1198, the Teutonic Order started the Livonian Crusade. Despite numerous setbacks and rebellions, by 1290, Livonians, Latgalians, Selonians, Estonians (including Oeselians), Curonians and Semigallians had been all gradually subjugated. Denmark and Sweden also participated in fight against Estonians.

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. A later conflict between Teutonic Knights and Christian Poland resulted in the Battle of Grunwald.

The Teutonic Order's attempts to conquer Orthodox Russia (particularly the Republics of Pskov and Novgorod), an enterprise endorsed by Pope Gregory IX, can also be considered as a part of the Northern Crusades. One of the major blows for the idea of the conquest of Russia was the Battle of the Ice in 1242. With or without the Pope's blessing, Sweden also undertook several crusades against Orthodox Novgorod. A later conflict between Teutonic Knights and Christian Poland resulting in the Battle of Grunwald.

Swedish Crusades

Swedish crusaders in Finland

National-romanticist Swedish and Finnish historians in the nineteenth century gave the name "crusades" to military expeditions which resulted in the Swedish conquest of Finland. The First Swedish Crusade, considered mythical by some historians, may have taken place around 1155 AD.

There is no surviving historical record for the Second Swedish Crusade in about 1249 AD, but it is believed to have taken place, and resulted in the known conquest of southwestern Finland. The Third Swedish Crusade, against Novgorod, is documented by both parties to the conflict.

According to archaeological finds, Finland was largely Christian before these crusades; they can be seen as military expeditions for territorial gain, rather than religious reasons.


Wendish Crusade

Contemporaneous with the Second Crusade, Saxons and Danes fought against Polabian Slavs in the 1147 Wendish Crusade.

Stedinger Crusade

Between 1232 and 1234, there was a crusade against the Stedingers. This crusade was special, because the Stedingers were not heathens or heretics, but fellow Roman Catholics. They were free Frisian farmers who resented attempts of the count of Oldenburg and the archbishop Bremen-Hamburg to make an end to their freedoms. The archbishop excommunicated them, and Pope Gregory IX declared a crusade in 1232. The Stedingers were defeated in 1234.

Aragonese Crusade

The Aragonese Crusade, or Crusade of Aragón, was declared by Pope Martin IV against the King of Aragón, Peter III the Great, in 1284 and 1285.

Alexandrian Crusade

The Alexandrian Crusade of October 1365 was a minor seaborne crusade against Muslim Alexandria led by Peter I of Cyprus. His motivation was at least as commercial as religious.

Norwich Crusade

The Norwich Crusade of 1383, also called Despenser's crusade, was a military expedition led by Henry le Despenser, Bishop of Norwich, that aimed to assist the city of Ghent in their struggle against the supporters of Antipope Clement VII. It is regarded in hindsight as an extension of the Hundred Years War, rather than a purely religious enterprise.

Mahdian Crusade

The Mahdian Crusade of Summer 1390 was a French-Genoese enterprise against Muslim pirates in North Africa and their main base at Mahdia led by Louis II, Duke of Bourbon.

The Siege of Belgrade in 1456

Crusades in the Balkans

To counter the expanding Ottoman Empire, several crusades were launched in the 15th century. The most notable are:

  • the Crusade of Nicopolis (1396) organized by Sigismund of Luxemburg, king of Hungary, culminated in the Battle of Nicopolis
  • the Crusade of Varna (1444) led by the Polish-Hungarian king, Władysław Warneńczyk, ended in the Battle of Varna
  • and the Crusade of 1456 organized to lift the Siege of Belgrade led by John Hunyadi and Giovanni da Capistrano

Crusade against the Tatars

In 1259, Mongols led by Burundai and Nogai Khan ravaged the principality of Halych-Volynia, Lithuania and Poland. After that Pope Alexander IV tried without success to create a crusade against the Blue Horde (see Mongol invasion of Poland).

In the 14th century, Khan Tokhtamysh combined the Blue and White Hordes forming the Golden Horde. It seemed that the power of the Golden Horde had begun to rise, but in 1389, Tokhtamysh made the disastrous decision of waging war on his former master, the great Tamerlane. Tamerlane's hordes rampaged through southern Russia, crippling the Golden Horde's economy and practically wiping out its defenses in those lands.

After losing the war, Tokhtamysh was then dethroned by the party of Khan Temur Kutlugh and Emir Edigu, supported by Tamerlane. When Tokhtamysh asked Vytautas the Great for assistance in retaking the Horde, the latter readily gathered a huge army which included Lithuanians, Ruthenians, Russians, Mongols, Moldavians, Poles, Romanians and Teutonic Knights.

In 1398, the huge army moved from Moldavia and conquered the southern steppe all the way to the Dnieper River and northern Crimea. Inspired by their great successes, Vytautas declared a 'Crusade against the Tatars' with Papal backing. Thus, in 1399, the army of Vytautas once again moved on the Horde. His army met the Horde's at the Vorskla River, slightly inside Lithuanian territory.

Although the Lithuanian army was well equipped with cannon, it could not resist a rear attack from Edigu's reserve units. Vytautas hardly escaped alive. Many princes of his kin—possibly as many as 20—were killed (for example, Stefan Musat, Prince of Moldavia and two of his brothers, while a fourth was badly injured), and the victorious Tatars besieged Kiev. "And the Christian blood flowed like water, up to the Kievan walls," as one chronicler put it. Meanwhile, Temur Kutlugh died from the wounds received in the battle, and Tokhtamysh was killed by one of his own men.

Hussite Crusade

The battle between the Hussite warriors and the Crusaders, Jena Codex, 15th century

The Hussite Crusade(s), also known as the " Hussite Wars," or the "Bohemian Wars," involved the military actions against and amongst the followers of Jan Hus in Bohemia in the period 1420 to circa 1434. The Hussite Wars were arguably the first European war in which hand-held gunpowder weapons such as muskets made a decisive contribution. The Taborite faction of the Hussite warriors were basically infantry, and their many defeats of larger armies with heavily armoured knights helped affect the infantry revolution. In the end, it was an inconclusive war.

Role of women

Most writings stress the crusades as a masculine movement symbolic of honour and male courage. But women were also involved behind the scenes, and as direct victims.

Women at home were intricately connected with the crusade movement by aiding the recruitment of crusading men, taking on extra duties in their absence, and supporting them financially and with prayer. Their encouragement and familial ties created kinship connections which made the prospect of taking the cross more appealing for those risking their lives. Arguably the most significant role that women played in the West during the crusades was their preservation of the home. The best known example is of Adela of Blois, wife of Stephen of Blois whose correspondence with her husband while he was on Crusade and she was at home managing his fief has survived in part. It appears she was rather more keen on his crusading than he was. Men could journey to The Holy Land without having to worry about their home because regents, often wives or mothers, were in charge of their estates and families. The Church recognised that concern about their families and estates might discourage crusaders, however, so they instituted special papal protections for them as part of the crusading privilege.

Even though most women showed their support for the crusades at home, some women took the cross themselves to go on the crusade. Aristocratic women who joined the movement often found that they had new positions of authority they did not have in the West. Eleanor of Aquitaine, the wealthy queen of France and the wife of king Louis VII, took the cross from St. Bernard of Clairvaux on Easter Sunday 1145 to join her husband. Another woman who had ultimate political power in the East was Melisende of Jerusalem, who under law gained hereditary rights to the crown upon her husband's death. Like Eleanor, Melisende never led troops into battle, but she did participate in acts of political diplomacy. Less successful was her granddaughter Sibylla of Jerusalem, whose choice of husband had been a crucial political issue since her childhood. Her second marriage to Guy of Lusignan made him the king-consort on the death of Baldwin IV, with disastrous results. While most women were there to help and care for the crusading men by bringing them water or raising their spirits by offering emotional support, there were women who had specific tasks which defined their feminine characteristics like the washerwoman.

The permanent residents of the Crusader kingdoms, if born in Europe, had usually come unmarried. Very many married women from Apulia in Southern Italy, where living conditions were often harsh, encouraged young women to take ship for Palestine in the knowledge that many men there were looking for wives.

Fulcher of Chartres, a chaplain of Baldwin I of Jerusalem, wrote about 1120:

We who were Westerners find ourselves transformed into inhabitants of the East. The Italian or Frenchman of yesterday, transplanted here, has become a Galilean or a Palestinian. A man from Rheims or Chartres has turned into a Syrian or a citizen of Antioch. We have already forgotten our native land. ... Some men have already taken as wives Syrian or Armenian women, or even Saracens if they have been baptized. Through them we are involved in a whole network of family relations with the native people. We make use in turn of all the various languages of the country.

The most controversial role that women had in the crusades was taking an active part, which threatened their femininity. Accounts are contradictory. The accounts of women fighting come mostly from Muslim historians whose aim was to portray Christian women as barbaric and ungodly because of their acts of killing. The contrasting view from Christian accounts portray women fighting only in emergency situations for the preservation of the camps and their own lives. In these cases women are seen as more feminine while behaving like 'proper women'. Virtually all crusade writings came from men, and women would have been interpreted subjectively no matter what roles they played.


Elements of the Crusades were criticized by some from the time of their inception in 1095. For example, Roger Bacon felt the Crusades were not effective because, "those who survive, together with their children, are more and more embittered against the Christian faith." In spite of such criticism, the movement was widely supported in Europe long after the fall of Acre in 1291.

St. Francis of Assisi crossed enemy lines to meet the Sultan of Egypt. Hoeberichts cast doubt on the intentions most Christian historians assign to Francis.

From the fall of Acre forward, the Crusades to recover Jerusalem and the Christian East were largely lost. Later, 18th century Enlightenment thinkers judged the Crusaders harshly. Likewise, some modern historians in the West expressed moral outrage. In the 1950s, Sir Steven Runciman wrote a resounding condemnation:

"High ideals were besmirched by cruelty and greed ... the Holy War was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God".

Ibn Jubayr's described the Muslims living under the Christian crusaders' Kingdom of Jerusalem:

We left Tibnin by a road running past farms where Muslims live who do very well under the Franks-may Allah preserve us from such a temptation! The regulations imposed on them are the handing over of half of the grain crop at the time of harvest and the payment of a poll tax of one dinar and seven qirats, together with a light duty on their fruit trees. The Muslims own their own houses and rule themselves in their own way. This is the way the farms and big villages are organized in Frankish territory. Many Muslims are sorely tempted to settle here when they see the far from comfortable conditions in which their brethren live in the districts under Muslim rule. Unfortunately for the Muslims, they have always reason for complaint about the injustices of their chiefs in the lands governed by their coreligionists, whereas they can have nothing but praise for the conduct of the Franks, whose justice they can always rely on.

One aspect of the crusades that shocked some easterners was the formation in the west of military religious orders. This went against canon law.

Another criticism was raised that the crusaders had sworn to uphold the emperor's claims to the holy land, but upon taking Jerusalem the crusaders established "Latin" states there.

"After several confrontations and some stand offs Godfrey agreed to swear fealty and recognition of Alexius over all the lands that he conquered."

Further criticisms have been leveled; the misdirection of the crusading movement being one. This is especially evident in the Fourth Crusade which instead of attacking Islam attacked another Christian power - the (Eastern) Roman Empire, viewed as a change in direction, not just literally, but in the ethos behind the movement where material considerations became more pronounced.



Historians are largely agreed on the facts of the crusades and their long-term impact, but differ sharply regarding their moral interpretation and their wisdom.

Politics and culture

The Crusades had an enormous influence on the European Middle Ages. At times, much of the continent was united under a powerful Papacy, but by the 14th century, the development of centralized bureaucracies (the foundation of the modern nation state) was well on its way in France, England, Spain, Burgundy, and Portugal, and partly because of the dominance of the church at the beginning of the crusading era.

20th century depiction of a victorious Saladin

Although Europe had been exposed to Islamic culture for centuries through contacts in Iberian Peninsula and Sicily, much knowledge in areas such as science, medicine, and architecture was transferred from the East Roman (Greek) and Islamic to the western world during the crusade era.

The military experiences of the crusades also had a limited degree of influence on European castle design; for example, Caernarfon Castle, in Wales, begun in 1283, directly reflects the style of fortresses Edward I had observed while fighting in the Crusades.

Crusader society in the Kingdom of Jerusalem was also characterized by a culture of innovation, including in economic and social structures, governance and taxation, social mobility, and agricultural technology.

Catholic historians have long argued that the Crusades opened up European culture to the world, especially Asia, and gave Christian Europe a more cosmopolitan world view that led to its world-wide empires. The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1911 stated:

The Crusades brought about results of which the popes had never dreamed, and which were perhaps the most, important of all. They re-established traffic between the East and West, which, after having been suspended for several centuries, was then resumed with even greater energy; they were the means of bringing from the depths of their respective provinces and introducing into the most civilized Asiatic countries Western knights, to whom a new world was thus revealed, and who returned to their native land filled with novel ideas... If, indeed, the Christian civilization of Europe has become universal culture, in the highest sense, the glory redounds, in no small measure, to the Crusades."

Along with trade, new scientific discoveries and inventions made their way east or west. Arab and classical Greek advances (including the development of algebra, optics, and refinement of engineering) made their way west and sped the course of advancement in European universities that led to the Renaissance in later centuries.

The invasions of German crusaders prevented formation of the large Lithuanian state incorporating all Baltic nations and tribes. Lithuania was destined to become a small country and forced to expand to the East looking for resources to combat the crusaders. The Northern Crusades caused great loss of life among the pagan Polabian Slavs, and they consequently offered little opposition to German colonization (known as Ostsiedlung) of the Elbe-Oder region and were gradually assimilated by the Germans, with the exception of Sorbs.

Knights Templar playing chess, Libro de los juegos, 1283

The First Crusade ignited a long tradition of organized violence against Jews in European culture.

The Albigensian Crusade was initiated by the Catholic Church to eliminate the Cathar heresy in Languedoc. The violence led to France's acquisition of lands with closer cultural and linguistic ties to Catalonia. The Albigensian Crusade also had a role in the creation and institutionalization of both the Dominican Order and the Medieval Inquisition.


The need to raise, transport and supply large armies led to a flourishing of trade throughout Europe. Roads largely unused since the days of Rome saw significant increases in traffic as local merchants began to expand their horizons. This was not only because the Crusades prepared Europe for travel, but also because many wanted to travel after being reacquainted with the products of the Middle East. This also aided in the beginning of the Renaissance in Italy, as various Italian city-states from the very beginning had important and profitable trading colonies in the crusader states, both in the Holy Land and later in captured Byzantine territory.

Increased trade brought many things to Europeans that were once unknown or extremely rare and costly. These goods included a variety of spices, ivory, jade, diamonds, improved glass-manufacturing techniques, early forms of gunpowder, oranges, apples, and other Asian crops, and many other products.

From a larger perspective, and certainly from that of noted naval/maritime historian Archibald Ross Lewis, the Crusades must be viewed as part of a massive macrohistorical event during which Western Europe, primarily by its ability in naval warfare, amphibious siege, and maritime trade, was able to advance in all spheres of civilization. Recovering from the Dark Ages of AD 700–1000, throughout the 11th century Western Europe began to push the boundaries of its civilization. Prior to the First Crusade the Italian city-state of Venice, along with the Byzantine Empire, had cleared the Adriatic Sea of Islamic pirates, and loosened the Islamic hold on the Mediterranean Sea (Byzantine-Muslim War of 1030–1035). The Normans, with the assistance of the Italian city-states of Genoa and Pisa, had retaken Sicily from the Muslims from 1061–1091. These conflicts prior to the First Crusade had both retaken Western European territory and weakened the Islamic hold on the Mediterranean, allowing for the rise of Western European Mediterranean trading and naval powers such as the Sicilian Normans and the Italian city-states of Venice, Genoa, and Pisa.

Model of a Crusader market in David's Citadel museum, Jerusalem

During the Middle Ages, the key trading region of Western Europe was the Black Sea-Mediterranean Sea-Red Sea. It was the aforementioned pre-First Crusade actions, along with the Crusades themselves, which allowed Western Europe to contest the trade of the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea, for a period which began in the 11th century and would only be ended by the Turkish Ottoman Empire beginning in the mid-to-late 15th century. This Western European contestation of vital sea lanes allowed the economy of Western Europe to advance to previously unknown degrees, most obviously as regards the Maritime Republics of Venice, Genoa, and Pisa. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the Renaissance began in Italy, as the Maritime Republics, through their control of the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Seas, were able to return to Italy the ancient knowledge of the Greeks and Romans, as well as the products of distant East Asia.

Combined with the Mongol Empire, Western Europe traded extensively with East Asia, the security of the Mongol Empire allowing the products of Asia to be brought to such Western European controlled ports as Acre, Antioch, Kaffa (on the Black Sea) and even, for a time, Constantinople itself. The Fifth Crusade of 1217–1221 and the Seventh Crusade of 1248–1254 were largely attempts to secure Western European control of the Red Sea trade region, as both Crusades were directed against Egypt, the power base of the Ayyubid, and then Mameluke, Sultanates. It was only in the 14th century, as the stability of trade with Asia collapsed with the Mongol Empire, the Mamelukes destroyed the Middle Eastern Crusader States, and the rising Ottoman Empire impeded further Western European trade with Asia, that Western Europeans sought alternate trade routes to Asia, ultimately leading to Columbus's voyage of 1492.


In the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia, in the remote highland region of Khevsureti, a tribe called the Khevsurs are thought to possibly be direct descendants of a party of crusaders who got separated from a larger army and have remained in isolation with some of the crusader culture intact. Into the 20th century, relics of armor, weaponry and chain mail were still being used and passed down in such communities. Russian serviceman and ethnographer Arnold Zisserman who spent 25 years (1842–1867) in the Caucasus, believed the exotic group of Georgian highlanders were descendants of the last Crusaders based on their customs, language, art and other evidence. American traveler Richard Halliburton saw and recorded the customs of the tribe in 1935.

Etymology and usage

The crusades were never referred to as such by their participants. The original crusaders were known by various terms, including fideles Sancti Petri (the faithful of Saint Peter) or milites Christi (knights of Christ). They saw themselves as undertaking an iter, a journey, or a peregrinatio, a pilgrimage, though pilgrims were usually forbidden from carrying arms.

Like pilgrims, each crusader swore a vow (a votus), to be fulfilled on successfully reaching Jerusalem, and they were granted a cloth cross (crux) to be sewn into their clothes. This "taking of the cross", the crux, eventually became associated with the entire journey; the word "crusade" (coming into English from the Medieval French croisade and Spanish cruzada) developed from this.

Crusades in popular culture

Kingdom of Heaven (2005) - film directed by Ridley Scott—a fictionalized account of Balian of Ibelin, a nobleman in the 13th‑century Kingdom of Jerusalem

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