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This article is about the medieval religious military campaigns. For other uses, see Crusades (disambiguation).
Multicolored map of the 12th-century Near East
Map of the Eastern Mediterranean in 1135, showing crusader-held and neighbouring territories

The Crusades were military campaigns sanctioned by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. In 1095 Byzantine Emperor Alexios I, in Constantinople, sent an ambassador to Pope Urban II in Italy pleading for military help against the growing Turkish threat. The Pope responded promptly by calling Catholic soldiers to join the First Crusade. The immediate goal was to guarantee pilgrims access to the holy sites in the Holy Land under Muslim control. His long-range goal was to reunite the Eastern and Western branches of Christendom after their split in 1054 with the pope as head of the united Church. A complex 200-year struggle ensued.

Hundreds of thousands of Roman Catholics from many different classes and nations of Western Europe became crusaders by taking a public vow and receiving plenary indulgences from the church.[1][2][3] Some crusaders were peasants hoping for Apotheosis at Jerusalem.[4] Pope Urban II claimed that anyone who participated was forgiven of their sins. In addition to demonstrating devotion to God, as stated by the Catholic Church, participation satisfied feudal obligations and provided opportunities for economic and political gain. Crusaders often pillaged the countries through which they traveled, and contrary to their promises the leaders retained much of this territory rather than returning it to the Byzantines.[2][5]

The People's Crusade prompted the murder of thousands of Jews, known as the Rhineland massacres. Constantinople was sacked during the Fourth Crusade rendering the reunification of Christendom impossible. Due to the weakening that resulted from the siege, the remnants of the Byzantine Empire finally fell to the Ottomans in 1453. The Catholic Church mounted no coherent response when their last stronghold in the region, Acre, fell in 1291.[6]

Opinions concerning the conduct of crusaders have varied from laudatory to highly critical. The impact of the crusades was profound; they reopened the Mediterranean to commerce and travel, enabling Genoa and Venice to flourish. Crusader armies would trade with the local populations while travelling, and Orthodox Byzantine emperors often organized markets for crusaders moving through their territory. The Crusades consolidated the collective identity of the Latin Church under papal leadership, were a source of heroism, chivalry, and piety. This consequently spawned medieval romance, philosophy, and literature. However, the crusades reinforced the connection between Western Catholicism, feudalism, and militarism, which was counter to the Peace and Truce of God that Urban had promoted.[7]


Manuscript illumination of people being hanged, burned and shot with arrows
Madrid Skylitzes illuminated manuscript depicting Byzantine Greeks punishing ninth-century Cretan Saracens

Crusade is a modern term derived from the French croisade and Spanish cruzada; by 1750, forms of the word "crusade" had established themselves in English, French, and German.[8] The Oxford English Dictionary records its first use in English in 1757 by William Shenstone.[9] When a crusader swore a vow (votus) to reach Jerusalem, they received a cloth cross (crux) to be sewn on their clothing. This "taking of the cross" became associated with the entire journey, and crusaders saw themselves as undertaking an iter (journey) or peregrinatio (armed pilgrimage). The inspiration for this "messianism of the poor" was an expected mass apotheosis at Jerusalem.[4]

The numbering of the Crusades is debated, with some historians counting seven major Crusades and a number of minor ones from 1096 to 1291.[2] Others consider the Fifth Crusade of Frederick II as two crusades, making the crusade launched by Louis IX in 1270 the Eighth Crusade. Sometimes the Eighth Crusade is considered two, the second of which is the Ninth Crusade.

In the pluralistic view of the Crusades developed during the 20th century, "Crusade" encompasses all papal-sanctioned military campaigns in the Middle East or in Europe.[10] A key distinction between the Crusades and other holy wars was that the authorization for the Crusades came directly from the pope, who claimed to be working on behalf of Christ.[11] This takes into account the view of the Roman Catholic Church and medieval contemporaries, such as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, which gives equal precedence to military campaigns undertaken for political reasons and to combat paganism and heresy. This broad definition includes the persecution of heretics in Southern France, the political conflict between Christians in Sicily, the Christian re-conquest of Iberia, and the conquest of pagans in the Baltic.[6] A narrower view is that the Crusades were a defensive war in the Middle East against Muslims to free the Holy Land from Muslim rule.[12]

Popes periodically declared political crusades as a means of conflict resolution amongst Roman Catholics; the first of these was declared by Pope Innocent III against Markward of Anweiler in 1202.[13] Others include a crusade against the Stedingers, several (declared by a number of popes) against Emperor Frederick II and his sons,[14] and two crusades against opponents of King Henry III of England who received the same privileges as participants in the Fifth Crusade.[15]

A common term for Muslim was Saracen; before the 16th century, the words "Muslim" and "Islam" were rarely used by Europeans.[16] In Greek and Latin, "Saracen" originated in the early first millennium to refer to non-Arab peoples inhabiting the desert areas around the Roman province of Arabia.[17][18] The term evolved to include Arab tribes, and by the 12th century it was an ethnic and religious marker synonymous with "Muslim" in Medieval Latin literature.[19][20] Frank and Latin were used during the Crusades for people belonging to any of the Western nations of Europe, distinguishing them from Greeks.[21][22]


During the 16-century Reformation and Counter-Reformation, historians saw the Crusades through the lens of their own religious beliefs. Protestants saw them as a manifestation of the evils of the papacy, and Catholics viewed them as forces for good.[23] Enlightenment historians tended to view the Middle Ages in general, and the Crusades in particular, as the efforts of barbarian cultures driven by fanaticism.[24] By the early Romantic period in the 19th century, that harsh view of the Crusades and their era had softened;[25] scholarship later in the century emphasised specialisation and detail.[26]

Eighteenth-century Enlightenment scholars and modern Western historians have expressed moral outrage at the conduct of the crusaders. Steven Runciman wrote during the 1950s, "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".[27] The 20th century produced three important histories of the Crusades: by Runciman, Rene Grousset and a multi-author work edited by K. M. Stetton.[28] During that century, two definitions of the Crusades developed; one includes all papal-led efforts in the Middle East and Europe,[10] but historian Thomas Madden wrote: "The crusade, first and foremost, was a war against Muslims for the defense of the Christian faith .... They began as a result of a Muslim conquest of Christian territories." Madden wrote that the goal of Pope Urban was that "[t]he Christians of the East must be free from the brutal and humiliating conditions of Muslim rule."[12]

After the 1291 fall of Acre, European support for the Crusades continued despite criticism by contemporaries (such as Roger Bacon, who believed them ineffective: "Those who survive, together with their children, are more and more embittered against the Christian faith").[29] According to historian Norman Davies, the Crusades contradicted the Peace and Truce of God supported by Urban and reinforced the connection between Western Christendom, feudalism, and militarism. The formation of military religious orders scandalised Orthodox Christian Byzantine Greeks, and crusaders pillaged countries they crossed on their journey east. Violating their oath to restore land to the Byzantines, they often kept the land for themselves.[2][30][31] The early People's Crusade instigated a pogrom in the Rhineland and the massacre of thousands of Jews in central Europe; during the late 19th century, this crusade was used by Jewish historians to support Zionism.[32] The Fourth Crusade resulted in the sacking of Constantinople, effectively ending any chance of reconciling the East–West Schism and leading to the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Ottomans. Enlightenment historians criticized the Crusades' misdirection—that of the Fourth in particular, which attacked a Christian power (the eastern Roman Empire) instead of Islam. David Nicolle called the Fourth Crusade controversial in its "betrayal" of Byzantium,[33] and in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Edward Gibbon wrote that the crusaders' efforts would have been more effective improving their own countries.[2]


Map of the Middle East, from the Mediterranean east of the Caspian Sea
The Great Seljuk Empire at its greatest extent (1092)

After Muslim forces defeated the Byzantines at the Battle of Yarmouk in 636, control of Palestine passed through the Umayyad and Abbasid Dynasties and the Fatimids.[34][35][36] Tolerance, trade, and political relationships between the Arabs and the Christian states of Europe ebbed and flowed until 1072, when the Fatimids lost control of Palestine to the rapidly-expanding Great Seljuk Empire.[37] Although the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah ordered the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, his successor allowed the Byzantine Empire to rebuild it.[38] The Muslim rulers allowed pilgrimages by Catholics to sacred sites. Resident Christians, as people of the Book, were considered Dhimmi and intermarriage was not uncommon.[39] Cultures and creeds coexisted and competed, but the frontier conditions were inhospitable to Catholic pilgrims and merchants.[40] The disruption of pilgrimages by the conquering Seljuk Turks prompted support for the Crusades in Western Europe.[41]

Painting of a ruler on a throne placing his foot on a man lying on the floor
Fifteenth-century illustrated French translation of Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum Illustrium, showing Seljuk emperor Alp Arslan ritually humiliating Romanos IV in 1071 after Manzikert; Alp Arslan allowed Romanos to return to Constantinople, where he was killed by the Byzantines.

The Byzantine Empire expanded at the end of the 10th century, with Basil II spending most of his half-century reign in conquest. Although he left a growing treasury, he neglected domestic affairs and ignored the cost of incorporating his conquests into the Byzantine ecumene. None of Basil’s successors were militarily or politically talented, and the task of governing the Empire increasingly devolved to the civil service. Their efforts to spend the Byzantine economy back into prosperity triggered inflation. To balance an increasingly-unstable budget, Basil’s standing army was dismissed and his thematic troops replaced by tagmata. After the 1071 defeat of the Byzantine army at the Battle of Manzikert, the Seljuk Turks held nearly all of Anatolia and the empire descended into frequent civil wars.[42]

The reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims began during the 8th century, reaching its turning point with the 1085 recapture of Toledo.[43] Although at the 1095 Council of Clermont[44] Urban II compared the Iberian wars to his First Crusade, it was not until Pope Callixtus II's 1123 encyclical that they attained crusade status.[45] After the encyclical, the papacy declared Iberian crusades in 1147, 1193, 1197, 1210, 1212, 1221, and 1229. Crusader privileges were also given to those aiding the major military orders (the Templars and Hospitallers) and the Iberian orders which eventually merged with the two main orders: the Order of Calatrava and the Order of Santiago. From 1212 to 1265, the Iberian Christian kingdoms drove the Muslims to the Emirate of Granada in the far south of the peninsula. In 1492 the emirate was conquered, and Muslims and Jews were expelled from the peninsula.[46]

An aggressive, reformist papacy clashed with the Eastern Empire and Western secular monarchs, leading to the 1054 East–West Schism[47] and the Investiture Controversy (which began around 1075 and continued during the First Crusade). The papacy began to assert its independence from secular rulers, marshaling arguments for the proper use of armed force by Catholics. The result was intense piety, an interest in religious affairs, and religious propaganda advocating a just war to reclaim Palestine from the Muslims. The majority view was that non-Christians could not be forced to accept Christian baptism or be physically assaulted for having a different faith, although a minority believed that vengeance and forcible conversion were justified for the denial of Christian faith and government.[48] Participation in such a war was seen as a form of penance which could counterbalance sin.[49] In Europe, the Germans were expanding at the expense of the Slavs[50] and Sicily was conquered by Norman adventurer Robert Guiscard in 1072.[51]

Painting of a large group of men in a room with many statues
Illumination from the Livre des Passages d'Outre-mer (c. 1490) of Urban II at the Council of Clermont (from the Bibliothèque Nationale)

Emperor Alexios I Komnenos requested military aid (probably mercenaries to reinforce his tagmata) from Pope Urban II at the 1095 Council of Piacenza to fight the Seljuks, exaggerating the danger facing the Eastern Empire to secure his required troops.[52] On 27 November 1095 at the Council of Clermont, attended by nearly 300 French clerics, Urban raised the issues of the problems in the Εast and the struggle of the Eastern Roman Empire against the Muslims. Five major sources of information exist on the council: the anonymous Gesta Francorum (The Deeds of the Franks, dated about 1100–1101; Fulcher of Chartres, who attended the council; Robert the Monk, who may have been present, and Baldric, archbishop of Dol and Guibert de Nogent (who were not). The accounts, written retrospectively, differ greatly.[53] In his 1106–7 Historia Iherosolimitana, Robert the Monk wrote that Urban asked western Christians to aid the Byzantine Empire because "Deus vult" ("God wills it") and promised absolution to participants; according to other sources, the pope promised an indulgence. In the accounts, Urban emphasizes reconquering the Holy Land more than aiding the emperor and lists gruesome offences allegedly committed by Muslims. The crusade was preached across France; Urban wrote to those "waiting in Flanders" that the Turks, in addition to ravaging the "churches of God in the eastern regions", seized "the Holy City of Christ, embellished by his passion and resurrection—and blasphemy to say it—have sold her and her churches into abominable slavery". Although the pope did not explicitly call for the reconquest of Jerusalem, he called for military "liberation" of the Eastern Churches and appointed Adhemar of Le Puy to lead the crusade (which began on 15 August, commemorating the Assumption of Mary).[54]


First Crusade (1096–1099) and immediate aftermath

Route of the First Crusade through Asia

Pope Urban II in Rome in 1095 received an ambassador from Byzantine Emperor Alexios I in Constantinople seeking urgent help against the Turkish threat. The pope acted promptly and called a crusade with the goals of securing access to the Holy Sites. Historian Paul Everett Pierson says he also "hoped that if the crusaders aided the Eastern Church by defeating the Turks, the Church would be reunited under his leadership.[55] Inspired by Pope Urban II's preaching, Peter the Hermit led as many as 20,000 people, mostly peasants, to the Holy Land shortly after Easter 1096.[56] When they arrived in Germany in spring 1096, units of crusaders commenced the Rhineland massacres in the cities of Speyer, Worms, Mainz and Cologne, despite the efforts by Catholic bishops to protect the Jews. Major leaders included Emicho and Peter the Hermit. The range of anti-Jewish activity was broad, extending from limited, spontaneous violence to full-scale military attacks on the Jewish communities of Mainz and Cologne.[57] This was the first major outbreak of anti-Jewish violence in Europe and was cited by 19th-century Zionists as showing the need for a Jewish state.[58] When the group finally reached the Byzantine Empire, Emperor Alexios urged them to wait for the western nobles, but they insisted upon proceeding and fell to a Turkish ambush outside Nicaea, from which only about 3,000 people escaped.[59]

The official crusader armies departed from France and Italy in August and September 1096. The bulk of the army divided into four parts, which travelled separately to Constantinople.[60][61] With non-combatants included, the western forces may have contained as many as 100,000 people.[62] The armies journeyed eastward by land toward Constantinople, where they received a wary welcome from the Byzantine Emperor.[63] The main army, mostly comprising French and Norman knights under baronial leadership, pledged to restore lost territories to the empire and marched south through Anatolia.[64][65][66] The leaders of the First Crusade included Godfrey of Bouillon, Robert Curthose, Hugh of Vermandois, Baldwin of Bouillon, Tancred de Hauteville, Raymond of Toulouse, Bohemond of Taranto, Robert II, Count of Flanders, and Stephen, Count of Blois. The king of France and Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor, were in conflict with the Pope and did not participate.[67]

The crusader armies initially fought the Turks at the lengthy Siege of Antioch, which began in October 1097 and lasted until June 1098. When they entered Antioch, the crusaders massacred the Muslim inhabitants and pillaged the city. However, a large Muslim army led by Kerbogha immediately besieged the victorious crusaders, who were now inside Antioch. Bohemond of Taranto successfully rallied the crusader army and defeated Kerbogha on 28 June.[68] Bohemond and his men retained control of the city, despite his pledge to Alexios.[69] Most of the remaining crusader army marched south, moving from town to town along the coast, finally reaching Jerusalem on 7 June 1099 with only a fraction of their original forces.[70]

Jews and Muslims fought together to defend Jerusalem against the invading Franks, but the crusaders entered the city on 15 July 1099. They proceeded to massacre the remaining Jewish and Muslim civilians and also pillaged or destroyed mosques or the city itself.[71] In his Historia Francorum qui ceperunt Iherusalem, Raymond D'Aguilers exalted actions which would be considered atrocities from a modern viewpoint.[72] As a result of the First Crusade, four primary crusader states were created: Edessa, Antioch, Tripoli, and Jerusalem.[73] On a popular level, the First Crusade unleashed a wave of impassioned, pious Catholic fury which was expressed in the massacres of Jews that accompanied the crusades[74] and the violent treatment of the "schismatic" Orthodox Christians of the east.[75]

Following the First Crusade was a second, less successful crusade known as the Crusade of 1101, in which Turks led by Kilij Arslan defeated the crusaders in three separate battles.[76]

12th century

In the early 12th-century, smaller scale crusading continued. Pope Calixtus II promoted the Venetian Crusade of 1122–1124;[77] Count Fulk V of Anjou visited in 1120 and 1129 and Conrad III of Germany in 1124, leading to recognition of the Knights Templar by Pope Honorius II. In 1135 Pope Innocent II's grant of crusading indulgences to those who opposed papal enemies is seen by some historians as the beginning of politically motivated crusades.[78] The crusader states were initially secure, but Imad ad-Din Zengi, who was appointed governor of Mosul in 1127, captured Aleppo in 1128 and Edessa (Urfa) in 1144.[79] These defeats led Pope Eugenius III to call for another crusade on 1 March 1145.[80] The new crusade was supported by various preachers, most notably by Bernard of Clairvaux.[81] Armies from France and Germany, under King Louis VII and Conrad III, respectively, marched to Jerusalem in 1147 and also besieged Damascus, but failed to win any major victories.[82] Meanwhile, a group of crusaders from northern Europe stopped in Portugal and allied with the king of Portugal, Afonso I, retaking Lisbon from the Muslims in 1147.[83] A detachment from this group of crusaders helped Count Raymond Berenguer IV of Barcelona conquer the city of Tortosa the following year.[84]

In the Holy Land, both the kings of France and Germany had returned to their countries by 1150 without any changes. Bernard of Clairvaux, who had encouraged the Second Crusade in his preachings, was upset with the violence and slaughter directed toward the Jewish population of the Rhineland.[85] In 1172, Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony, made a pilgrimage that is sometimes considered a crusade.[86] At the same time, Saxons and Danes fought against Wends in the Wendish Crusade. The Wends defeated the Danes; the Saxons did not make any considerable contributions to the crusade.[87] The crusades continued, although no official papal bulls were issued authorizing new crusades.[88] Henry restarted efforts to conquer the Wends in 1160, and they were defeated in 1162.[89]

Detail of a miniature of Philip II of France arriving in the Holy Land

Saladin created a united opposition forced and presented a new threat to the Latin states.[90] Following his victory at the Battle of Hattin, he easily overwhelmed the disunited crusaders in 1187 and retook Jerusalem on 29 September of that year. Terms were arranged and the city surrendered; Saladin entered the city on 2 October.[91] Pope Urban III died of a heart attack on 19 October 1187 upon hearing news of the siege.[92] On 29 October Pope Gregory VIII issued a papal bull, Audita tremendi, proposing the Third Crusade. Planning to recapture Jerusalem, Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor, Philip II of France, and Richard I of England organized their forces. Frederick died en route to Jerusalem; few of his men reached the Holy Land. The other two armies arrived successfully but were beset by political quarrels. Philip returned to France, leaving most of his forces behind. Richard captured the island of Cyprus from the Byzantines in 1191. He then recaptured the city of Acre after a long siege. The crusader army travelled south along the Mediterranean coast, defeated the Muslims near Arsuf, and recaptured the port city of Jaffa. They were near Jerusalem, but supply shortages forced them to end the crusade without taking Jerusalem.[93] Richard left the following year after negotiating a treaty with Saladin. The terms allowed unarmed Catholics to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem and permitted merchants to trade.[94] Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, initiated the German Crusade in 1197 to fulfil the promises made by his father, Frederick. Led by Conrad of Wittelsbach, Archbishop of Mainz, the army landed at Acre and captured the cities of Sidon and Beirut. However, most of the crusaders returned to Germany after Henry died.[95]

13th century

Painting of two crusaders looking in different directions, one holding a sword
Nineteenth-century depiction of two Livonian Knights

When Pope Celestine III called for a crusade against Northern Europen pagans in 1193, Bishop Berthold of Hanover led a large army to defeat and his death in 1198. In response to the defeat, Pope Innocent III issued a papal bull declaring a crusade against the mostly-pagan Livonians.[96] Albrecht von Buxthoeven, who was consecrated as bishop in 1199, arrived the following year with a large force and established Riga as the seat of his bishopric in 1201. In 1202 he formed the Livonian Knights to help convert the pagans to Catholicism and, more importantly, to protect German commerce. The Livonians were conquered and converted between 1202 and 1209.[97] In 1217 Pope Honorius III declared a crusade against the Prussians,[98] and Konrad of Masovia gave Chelmno to the Teutonic Knights in 1226 as a base for the crusade.[99] In 1236 the Livonian Knights were defeated by the Lithuanians at Saule, and in 1237 Pope Gregory IX merged the remainder of the military order into the Teutonic Knights as the Livonian Order.[100]

By 1249 the Teutonic Knights completed their conquest of the Old Prussians, whom they ruled as lords of the German emperor. They then conquered and converted the Lithuanians, a process which lasted into the 1380s.[101] The order tried unsuccessfully to conquer Orthodox Russia, particularly the Republics of Pskov and Novgorod (with the support of Pope Gregory IX), as part of the Northern Crusades. In 1240 the Novgorod army defeated the Swedes in the Battle of the Neva,[102] and two years later they defeated the Livonian Order in the Battle on the Ice.[103]

Innocent III began preaching what became the Fourth Crusade in 1200 in France, England, and Germany, primarily in France.[104] It was a vehicle for the political ambitions of Doge Enrico Dandolo of Venice (a vassal state of Byzantium at the time) and German King Philip of Swabia, who was married to Irene of Byzantium. Dandolo saw an opportunity to expand Venice's possessions in the Near East and break loose from Byzantine vassalage; Philip saw the crusade as a chance to restore his exiled nephew, Alexios IV Angelos, to the throne of Byzantium.[105] Although the crusaders contracted with the Venetians for a fleet and provisions to transport them to the Holy Land, they were unable to pay when too few knights arrived in Venice. They agreed, therefore, to divert the crusade to Constantinople and share what could be looted as payment. As collateral, the crusaders seized the Christian city of Zara on 24 November 1202 and were excommunicated by the appalled Innocent.[106] They met limited resistance in their initial siege of Constantinople, sailing down the Dardanelles and breaching the sea walls. Alexios IV Angelos was strangled after a palace coup, robbing them of success, and they repeated the siege in April 1204. This time the city was sacked, churches pillaged, and many citizens killed; the crusaders divided the empire into Latin fiefs and Venetian colonies. In the latter, the defence of La Cava and Nicosia was emphasised.[107] In April 1205 the crusaders were defeated by the Bulgars and remaining Greeks at Adrianople, where Kaloyan of Bulgaria captured and imprisoned new Latin emperor Baldwin of Flanders.[108][109] While deploring its methods, the papacy initially supported the apparent forced reunion of the Eastern and Western churches.[110] The Fourth Crusade effectively left two Roman Empires in the East: a Latin "Empire of the Straits" which existed until 1261 and a Byzantine enclave ruled from Nicaea, which regained control in the absence of the Venetian fleet. Venice was the sole beneficiary in the long run.[111]

Two illuminations: the pope admonishing a group of people and mounted knights attacking unarmed people with swords
Pope Innocent III excommunicating the Albigensians (left), and an Albigensian massacre by crusaders

Although the Albigensian Crusade was launched in 1208 to eliminate the Cathars of Occitania (present-day southern France), the decades-long struggle had as much to do with the desire of northern France to extend its control southwards as it did with battling heresy. The Cathars were ultimately driven underground, and southern France lost its independence.[112] In 1221 Pope Honorius III called on King Andrew II to subjugate the heretics in Bosnia, and Hungarian forces responded to additional papal calls in 1234 and 1241; the latter campaign ended with the Mongol invasion of Hungary in 1241. The Bosnian church was theologically Catholic, but its schism with the Roman Catholic Church extended well past the end of the Middle Ages.[113] Innocent III declared that a new crusade would begin in 1217, and summoned the Fourth Council of the Lateran in 1215. Most of the crusaders came from Germany, Flanders, and Frisia, with a large army from Hungary led by Andrew II and additional forces led by Duke Leopold VI. Andrew and Leopold arrived in Acre in October 1217, but little was accomplished and Andrew returned to Hungary in January 1218. After the arrival of more crusaders, Leopold and king of Jerusalem John of Brienne laid siege to Damietta in Egypt;[114] they captured it in November 1219. Further efforts by the papal legate, Pelagius, to move further into Egypt were fruitless.[115] Blocked by Ayyubid Sultan Al-Kamil's forces, the crusaders were forced to surrender. Al-Kamil forced the return of Damietta, agreed to an eight-year truce, and the crusaders left Egypt.[116]

Manuscript illumination of five men outside a fortress
Frederick II (left) meets al-Kamil (right) in a manuscript illumination from Giovanni Villani's Nuova Cronica

After repeatedly breaking his vow to crusade, Emperor Frederick II was excommunicated.[117] He finally sailed from Brindisi, landing at Acre in September 1228 following a stop in Cyprus.[118] Frederick agreed to a peace treaty with Al-Kamil which allowed Latin Christians to rule most of Jerusalem and a strip of territory from Acre to Jerusalem, with the Muslims controlling their sacred areas in Jerusalem. In return Frederick pledged to protect Al-Kamil against all enemies, even if they were Christian.[119] Following this crusade was an effort by King Theobald I of Navarre in 1239 and 1240, originally summoned in 1234 by Gregory IX to assemble in July 1239 at the end of a truce. In addition to Theobald, Peter of Dreux, Hugh, Duke of Burgundy and other French nobles participated. They arrived in Acre in September 1239; after a November defeat, Theobald arranged a treaty with the Muslims which returned territory to the crusading states but caused disaffection among the crusaders. Theobald returned to Europe in September 1240; Richard of Cornwall, younger brother of King Henry III of England, took the cross and arrived in Acre the following month. After enforcing Theobald's treaty, Richard left the Holy Land for Europe in May 1241.[120]

During the summer of 1244 a Khwarezmian force summoned by al-Kamil's son, al-Salih Ayyub, stormed and took Jerusalem. The Franks allied with Ayyub's uncle Ismail and the emir of Homs, and their combined forces went into battle at La Forbie in Gaza. The crusader army and its allies were defeated within forty-eight hours by the Khwarezmian army.[121] King Louis IX of France organized a crusade after taking the cross in December 1244, preaching and recruiting from 1245 to 1248.[122] Louis' forces set sail from France in May 1249, landing in Egypt near Damietta on 5 June 1249. After the Nile floodwaters receded, the army marched into the interior in November and by February were near Mansura. They were defeated, and Louis was captured as he retreated towards Damietta.[123] He was ransomed for 800,000 bezants, and a ten-year truce was agreed. Louis went to Syria, remaining there until 1254 to solidify and fortify the kingdom of Jerusalem.[124]

In 1256 the Venetians were evicted from Tyre, prompting the War of Saint Sabas over territory in Acre claimed by Genoa and Venice.[125] Although the Venetians conquered the disputed territory (destroying Saint Sabas' fortifications), they could not expel the Genoese. During a 14-month blockade, Genoa allied with Philip of Monfort, John of Arsuf, and the Knights Hospitaller and Venice was supported by the Count of Jaffa and the Knights Templar.[126] By 1261 the Genoese were expelled but Pope Urban IV, concerned about the impact of the war on defence against the Mongols, organised a peace council.[127] The conflict resumed in 1264 when the Genoese received aid from Michael VIII Palaiologos, Emperor of Nicaea, and Venice unsuccessfully tried to conquer Tyre. Both sides used Muslim soldiers (primarily Turcopoles) against their Christian foes, and the Genoese forged an alliance with the Egyptian sultan Baibars.[128] The war significantly impaired the kingdom's ability to withstand external threats. Except for religious buildings, most fortified buildings in Acre were destroyed; at one point, the city looked as if it had been ravaged by a Muslim army. According to Rothelin, continuator of William of Tyre's History, 20,000 men died in the conflict (when the crusader states were chronically short of soldiers). The war ended in 1270, and in 1288 Genoa regained its quarter in Acre.[129]

Outdoor statue of a man holding a sword
Statue of Charles of Anjou in Hyères

In 1266 Louis IX' brother Charles seized Sicily, previously-controlled parts of the eastern Adriatic, Corfu, Butrinto, Avlona, and Suboto. The Treaty of Viterbo was agreed with the exiled Baldwin II of Constantinople and William II Villehardouin; the heirs of both Latin princes would marry Charles' children, and if there were no heirs Charles would receive the empire and principality. Charles turned his brother's crusade to his own advantage, persuading Louis to direct the Eighth Crusade against Charles' rebel vassals in Tunis. Louis’ death, illness among the crusaders and a fleet-devastating storm forced Charles to postpone his designs on Constantinople. Michael VIII Palailogos was alarmed by Charles’ planned crusade to restore the Latin Empire, which had fallen in 1261, and Charles' expansion in the Mediterranean. Michael delayed Charles by beginning negotiations with Pope Gregory X for union of the Greek and the Latin churches. At the Second Council of Lyon a union of the churches was declared, with Charles and Philip of Courtenay compelled to form a truce with Byzantium. This union would later prove unacceptable to the Greeks. Michael also provided Genoa with funds to encourage revolt in Charles’ northern Italian territories.[130] In 1268 Charles executed Conradin, great-grandson of Isabella I of Jerusalem and principal pretender to the throne of Jerusalem, when he seized Sicily from the Holy Roman Empire. Charles purchased the rights to Jerusalem from Maria of Antioch, the only surviving grandchild of Queen Isabella, creating a claim rivalling that of Hugh III of Cyprus (Isabella's great-grandson).

Charles spent his life trying to amass a Mediterranean empire, and he and Louis saw themselves as God's instruments to uphold the papacy.[131] Ignoring his advisers, in 1270 Louis IX again attacked the Arabs in Tunis. The weather was hot, and his army was devastated by disease. Louis died, ending the last major attempt to take the Holy Land.[132] From 1265 to 1271, mamluks led by Baibars drove the Franks to a few small coastal outposts.[133] The future Edward I of England vowed to crusade with Louis IX, but he was delayed and did not arrive in North Africa until November 1270. After Louis' death, Edward went to Sicily and then to Acre in May 1271. His forces were small, however, and he was displeased with the truce between Baibars and King Hugh of Jerusalem. Edward learned of his father's death and his succession to the throne in December 1272, but he did not return to England until 1274 (although he accomplished little in the Holy Land).[134] The 1281 election of a French pope, Martin IV, brought the full power of the papacy into line behind Charles. He campaigned unsuccessfully in Albania and Achaea before preparing to launch his crusade (with 400 ships, carrying 27,000 mounted knights) against Constantinople. Michael VIII Palailogos allied with Peter III of Aragon to foment an uprising, the Sicilian Vespers, during which the crusader fleet was abandoned and burnt. The Sicilians appealed to Peter, who was proclaimed king, and the Capetian House of Anjou was exiled from Sicily. Martin excommunicated Peter and called for a crusade against Aragon before Charles died in 1287, allowing Henry II of Cyprus to reclaim Jerusalem. One factor in the crusaders' decline was the disunity and conflict among Latin Christian interests in the eastern Mediterranean. Martin compromised the papacy by supporting Charles of Anjou, and botched secular "crusades" against Sicily and Aragon tarnished its spiritual lustre. The collapse of the papacy's moral authority and the rise of nationalism rang the death knell for crusading, ultimately leading to the Avignon Papacy and the Western Schism. The Crusade of Aragón was declared by Martin against Peter III in 1284 and 1285, with Peter supporting anti-Angevin forces in Sicily after the Sicilian Vespers and Martin supporting Charles of Anjou. Pope Boniface VIII proclaimed a crusade against Frederick III of Sicily (Peter's younger brother) in 1298, but was unable to prevent Frederick's coronation and recognition as king of Sicily.[135]

The mainland Crusader states of the outremer were extinguished with the fall of Tripoli in 1289 and Acre in 1291.[136] Most remaining Latin Christians left for destinations in the Frankokratia or were killed or enslaved.[137] Minor crusading efforts lingered into the 14th century; Peter I of Cyprus captured and sacked Alexandria in 1365 in what became known as the Alexandrian Crusade, although his motivation was as much commercial as religious.[138] Louis II led the 1390 Mahdian Crusade against Muslim pirates in North Africa; after a ten-week siege, the crusaders signed a ten-year truce.[139]

14th and 15th centuries

Painting of the beheading of four nude people
Execution of Christian prisoners after the Battle of Nicopolis (1396) in retaliation for the Rahovo massacre of Ottoman prisoners
Painting of battle between mounted knights
Battle between Hussites and crusaders; Jena Codex, 15th century

A number of crusades were launched during the 14th and 15th centuries to counter the expansion of the Ottoman Empire; the first (in 1396) was led by Sigismund of Luxemburg, king of Hungary. Many French nobles joined Sigismund's forces, including the crusade's military leader John the Fearless (son of the Duke of Burgundy). Although Sigismund advised the crusaders to focus on defence when they reached the Danube, they besieged the city of Nicopolis. The Ottomans defeated them in the Battle of Nicopolis on 25 September, capturing 3,000 prisoners.[140] The Hussite Crusades, also known as the Hussite Wars and the Bohemian Wars, involved military action against the followers of Jan Hus in Bohemia from 1420 to about 1431. Crusades were declared five times during that period: in 1420, 1421, 1422, 1427, and 1431. These expeditions forced the Hussite forces, who disagreed on many doctrinal points, to unite to drive out the invaders. The wars ended in 1436 with the ratification of the Compactata of Iglau by the Church.[141]

Polish-Hungarian King Władysław Warneńczyk invaded the recently-conquered Ottoman territory, reaching Belgrade in January 1444; a negotiated truce was repudiated by Sultan Murad II within days of its ratification. Further efforts by the crusaders ended in the Battle of Varna on 10 November, a decisive Ottoman victory which led to the withdrawal of the crusaders. This withdrawal, following the last Western attempt to aid the Byzantine Empire, led to the 1453 fall of Constantinople. John Hunyadi and Giovanni da Capistrano organized a 1456 crusade to lift the Ottomon siege of Belgrade.[142] In April 1487, Pope Innocent VIII called for a crusade against the Waldensians of Savoy, the Piedmont, and the Dauphiné in southern France and northern Italy. The only efforts actually undertaken, resulting in little change, were in the Dauphiné.[143]

Crusader states

Mulit-coloured map of present-day Greece and Turkey
The Latin and Byzantine Empires in 1205

The First Crusade established the first four crusader states in the Eastern Mediterranean: the County of Edessa (1098–1149), the Principality of Antioch (1098–1268), the Kingdom of Jerusalem (1099–1291), and the County of Tripoli (1104—although Tripoli was not conquered until 1109—to 1289). The Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia originated before the Crusades, but it received kingdom status from Pope Innocent III and later became fully Westernized by the House of Lusignan. According to historian Jonathan Riley-Smith, these states were the first examples of "Europe overseas". They are generally known as outremer, from the French outre-mer ("overseas" in English).[144]

The Fourth Crusade established a Latin Empire in the east and allowed the partition of Byzantine territory by its participants. The Latin emperor controlled one-fourth of the Byzantine territory, Venice three-eighths (including three-eighths of the city of Constantinople), and the remainder was divided among the other crusade leaders. This began the period of Greek history known as Frankokratia or Latinokratia ("Frankish [or Latin] rule"), when Catholic Western European nobles—primarily from France and Italy—established states on former Byzantine territory and ruled over the Orthodox Byzantine Greeks. The Partitio terrarum imperii Romaniae is a valuable record of early-13th-century Byzantine administrative divisions (episkepsis) and family estates.[27]


Front and back of a coin, with six-pointed stars
Christian dirham with Arabic inscriptions (1216–1241)

Crusades were expensive; as the number of wars increased, their costs escalated. Pope Urban II called upon the rich to help First Crusade lords such as Duke Robert of Normandy and Count Raymond of St. Gilles, who subsidized knights in their armies. The total cost to King Louis IX of France of the 1284–1285 crusades was estimated at 1,537,570 livres, six times the king's annual income. This may be conservative, since records indicate that Louis spent 1,000,000 livres in Palestine after his Egyptian campaign. Rulers demanded subsidies from their subjects,[145] and alms and bequests prompted by the conquest of Palestine were additional sources of income. The popes ordered that collection boxes be placed in churches and, beginning in the mid-twelfth century, granted indulgences in exchange for donations and bequests.[146]

Military orders

Central to the debate on crusade ethics are the military orders, particularly the Hospitallers and the Templars. To modern sensibilities, it is strange that the church reconciled monasticism and warfare. The Hospitallers and the Templars became international organisations, with depots across Western Europe and the East. The Teutonic Knights focused on the Baltic, and the Spanish military orders of Santiago, Calatrava, Alcantara, and Montesa concentrated on the Iberian Peninsula. The Knights of the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem were founded in 1099 in the aftermath of the First Crusade.[citation needed] The order included military, medical and pastoral brothers. After the fall of Acre they escaped to Cyprus, conquering and ruling Rhodes (1309–1522) and Malta (1530–1801). Although the Poor Knights of Christ and its Temple of Solomon were founded in 1118 to protect pilgrims en route to Jerusalem, they became wealthy and powerful through banking and real estate. In 1322 the King of France suppressed the order, ostensibly for sodomy, magic and heresy but probably for financial and political reasons.[147]

Roles of women, children, and class

Drawing of a large group of children being led down a street
Illustration of the Children's Crusade by Gustave Doré, 1892

Women were intimately connected to the Crusades; they aided in recruitment, took over the crusaders' responsibilities in their absence, and provided financial and moral support.[148][149] Historians contend that the most significant role played by women in the West was in maintaining the status quo.[150] Landholders left for the Holy Land, leaving control of their estates to regents who were often wives or mothers. Since the Church recognized that risk to families and estates might discourage crusaders, special papal protection was a crusading privilege.[151] A number of aristocratic women participated in crusades, such as Eleanor of Aquitaine (who joined her husband, Louis VII).[152] Non-aristocratic women also served in positions such as washerwomen.[150] More controversial was women taking an active role (counter to their femininity); accounts of fighting women were primarily by Muslim historians, who portrayed Christian women who killed as barbarous and ungodly.[153]

The Children's Crusade was said to have been a Catholic movement in France and Germany in 1212 which attracted large numbers of peasant teenagers and young people, some under age 15. Allegedly convinced that they could succeed where older, more sinful crusaders had failed, they were encouraged by parish priests and parents despite opposition from bishops and the pope. A band of several thousand youths, led by a German named Nicholas, set out for Italy. About a third survived the march over the Alps and reached Genoa; another group went to Marseilles. Although some returned home, many were sold into slavery in Marseilles.[154]

Three crusading efforts were made by peasants during the mid-1250s and the early 1300s. The first, the Shepherds' Crusade of 1251, was preached in northern France. After a meeting with Blanche of Castile, it became disorganized and was disbanded by the government.[155] The second, in 1309, occurred in England, northeastern France, and Germany; as many as 30,000 peasants arrived at Avignon before it was disbanded.[156] The third, in 1320, became a series of attacks on clergy and Jews and was forcibly suppressed.[157]


Knights pay homage to Saladin, seated in an enclosure
Twentieth-century depiction of a victorious Saladin

Western Europeans in the East adopted native customs, saw themselves as citizens of their new home and intermarried.[158] This led to a people and culture descended from remaining European inhabitants of the crusader states, particularly French Levantines in Lebanon, Palestine, and Turkey. Traders from the maritime republics of the Mediterranean (Venice, Genoa and Ragusa) continued to live in Constantinople, Smyrna and other parts of Anatolia and the eastern Mediterranean coast durring the middle Byzantine and Ottoman eras. These people, known as Levantines or Franco-Levantines (Frankolevantini; French Levantins, Italian Levantini, Greek Φραγκολεβαντίνοι, and Turkish Levantenler or Tatlısu Frenkleri), are Roman Catholic. They are now concentrated in the Istanbul districts of Galata, Beyoğlu and Nişantaşı, the İzmir districts of Karşıyaka, Bornova and Buca, and in Mersin (where they were influential in creating and reviving an operatic tradition.[citation needed] After the British occupied parts of Ottoman Syria in the aftermath of World War I, the term "Levantine" was used pejoratively for inhabitants of mixed Arab and European descent and for Europeans (usually French, Italian or Greek) who adopted local dress and customs.[citation needed]

The Crusades influenced the attitude of the Western Church towards warfare, with the frequent calling of crusades habituating the clergy to violence. They also sparked a debate about the legitimacy of seizing land and possessions from pagans on purely religious grounds which would resurface during the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries.[159] The needs of crusading stimulated secular governmental developments, not all of which were positive; resources used in crusading could have been used by developing states for local and regional needs.[160]

Its power and prestige raised by the Crusades, the papal curia had greater control of the western Church and extended the system of papal taxation through the ecclesiastical structure of the West. The system of indulgences grew significantly in late medieval Europe, sparking the Protestant Reformation in the early 1500s.[161]

Although the Albigensian Crusade intended to eliminate Catharism in Languedoc, France acquired lands with closer cultural and linguistic ties to Catalonia. The crusade also had a role in the creation and institutionalization of the Dominican Order and the Medieval Inquisition.[162] The persecution of Jews in the First Crusade is part of the long history of anti-Semitism in Europe.[163] The need to raise, transport and supply large armies led to flourishing trade between Europe and the outremer. Genoa and Venice flourished, with profitable trading colonies in crusader states in the Holy Land and (later) in captured Byzantine territory.[164]

See also


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