The crusades were military expeditions launched against the Muslims by the Christians in an attempt to regain the Holy Land. They took place between 1095 A.D. and 1270 A.D. It was one of the most violent periods in the history of mankind. The starting point of the crusades was on November 18, 1095 A.D. when Pope Urban II opened the Council of Clermont.
On November 27, outside the French city of Clermont-Ferrand, the Pope made an important speech . He called upon everyone to help the Christians in the east to restore peace. The crowd’s response was very positive. Garments were cut into crosses which were attached to people’s shoulders in an imitation of Christ (Matthew 10:38).(1) The original object of the First Crusade was to help Christian churches in the east. The new goal became to free the Holy Land from Muslim control, especially Jerusalem.
Pope Urban II stayed in France until September 1096 to provide leadership and guidance for the members of the First Crusade. He urged churchmen to preach the cross in France. Urban wanted the crusading army to be mostly made up of knights and other military personnel. Since the news of his speech at Clermont spread through the west, people from all social classes and occupations joined the Crusade. As a result of Urban losing control of personnel, violence was launched against the Jews of northern France.
This violence was mostly instigated by bands of the urban and rural poor led by men like Peter the Hermit and Walter Sans-Avoir. These groups lacked supplies and discipline. They attempted to reach Constantinople but most of them never got that far. The leaders in lands which they passed through were frightened and killed many of the crusading bands. Some did get to Constantinople and traveled across the Bosphorus in August 1096.
There they split into two groups. One tried to overtake Nicaea and was unsuccessful. The other was ambushed and slaughtered near Civetot in October. The remaining crusaders retreated to Constantinople and joined the second wave of the Crusade. The crusaders were eager to start the journey to Jerusalem but they needed to capture the Anatolian Turkish capital of Nicaea first because it blocked the road that would be their main supply route.
It was held by Seljuk Turks. In May 1097, the crusaders attacked Nicaea. The Turks realized that they were defeated and agreed to give the city to the Byzantines in exchange for the lives of their men. The Byzantines agreed to this and on June 18, Nicaea was under Byzantine control. The leaders of the crusade disagreed and wanted to slaughter the Turks because they were enemies of Christ.(2) On June 30, 1097, the crusaders were ambushed at the city of Dorylaeum by Seljuk Turks led by Kilij Arslam the Seljuk Sultan.
The fight continued until July 1. The crusaders won a big victory and nearly wiped out the Turkish force. This victory opened up the way to Anatolia. The crusaders attacked Anitoch in northern Syria on October 21, 1097. “This was the main obstacle on the road to Jerusalem.”(3) In a long and gruesome battle, the city finally fell on June 2, 1098.
The crusaders were quickly attacked by a new Turkish army from Al Mawsil. They arrived too late to revive Anitoch’s Turkish defenders and they were forced to retreat on June 28. The starting date for the march to Jerusalem was set for November 1, 1098 but was delayed by an epidemic as well as fighting to the south of Anitoch. On January 13, 1099 the commander-in-chief, Count Raymond IV of Toulouse, led the crusaders’ march to Jerusalem. They avoided attacks on cities to conserve forces.
In May 1099 they reached the northern border of Palestine. On June 7 they camped on the summit of a hill where they could see Jerusalem. Many soldiers had tears of joy on that day. The hill was named Montjoie. Jerusalem was well fortified and only vulnerable from the north and the southwest.
On June 13 they tried to storm Jerusalem but were driven back because of insufficient supplies. Extreme heat and a water shortage lowered morale. A priest called Peter Desiderius told them that if they fasted and held a procession around the walls of Jerusalem with sufficient piety, the city would be theirs within nine days. The crusaders did this and, when they completed building three mini castles, they assaulted Jerusalem on July 13. “There was a frenzy of killing as everyone was hacked down.”(4) The governor and his staff were the only Muslims to escape alive.
The Jewish library containing 8 Torah rolls and 330 manuscripts survived. After the First Crusade, four Levant states were established: Jerusalem, Tripoli, Anitoch, and Edessa. The success of this crusade was largely due to the isolation and weakness of the Muslim powers.(5) The Muslim reunification started in the Middle East under Imad ad-Din Zangi, the ruler of Al Mawsil and Halab. The Muslims got their first great victory versus the crusaders when they captured Edessa in 1144 and destroyed the crusader state in that region. This led to the Second Crusade, which was proclaimed late in 1145.
Many people joined the crusade, including the King Louis VII of France and the holy Roman emperor, Conrad III. Conrad’s army left Nuremberg, Germany for Jerusalem in May 1147. A few weeks later the French army set out for Metz. The Germans tried to cross central Anatolia in October, but the Seljuks defeated them near Dorylaeum. The survivors fled to Nicaea.
The other German contingent, led by Otto of Freising, was defeated by Turks at Ladoicea. The remaining crusaders fled to the coast of Pamphylia and were slaughtered in February 1148. Few survivors finished the trip to Syria by ship. The French army had reached Constantinople on October 4, 1147. The French then journeyed through Byzantine territory in west Asia Minor.
The Turks destroyed most of them, but the French king, the German Emperor, and some knights survived and traveled by ship to Outremer from Antalya on the southern coast of Asia Minor. Zengi had died before the crusaders arrived so his sons took control, Saif al-Din in Mosul and Nur al-Din in Aleppo. Joescelin II, the Frankish count of Edessa, took advantage of Zengi’s death and tried to regain his capital, but Nur al-Din massacred the Edessan population and retook it. On June 24, 1148 the High Court of Jerusalem met at Palmarea near Acre. The decision was made to attack Damascus, since Edessa was no longer the war objective.
On July 24, they camped along the west side of Damascus. The Palestinian barons convinced the two kings that the orchards on the west were making the siege more difficult, so they moved to the southeast. They couldn’t stay very long in the southeast because it was a hot waterless plain. On that same day they withdrew their army. The Second Crusade had failed miserably.
There was only one success from the whole crusade: a group of Dutch and English crusaders had captured the cities of Libson and Tortosa.(6) T …