Siege of Jerusalem (1099)

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Siege of Jerusalem
Part of the First Crusade
Counquest of Jeusalem (1099).jpg
Taking of Jerusalem by the Crusaders, 15th July 1099, Émile Signol, oil on canvas (1847)
DateJune 7 – July 15, 1099
Result Decisive Crusader victory[1]
Crusaders Fatimid Caliphate
Commanders and leaders
Godfrey of Bouillon
Raymond IV of Toulouse
Robert II of Normandy
Robert II of Flanders
Eustace III of Boulogne
Tancred of Hauteville
Gaston IV of Béarn
Guglielmo Embriaco
Iftikhar ad-Dawla Surrendered
1,200-1,300 knights
11,000-12,000 infantry
Sizeable garrison[5]
400 elite cavalrymen[4][6]
Casualties and losses

Modern estimates:
Unknown, garrison killed and 10,000+ inhabitants massacred[8]

Arab sources:


The Siege of Jerusalem took place from June 7 to July 15, 1099, during the First Crusade. The climax of the First Crusade, the successful siege saw the Crusaders take Jerusalem from the Fatimid Caliphate and laid the foundations for the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The siege is notable for the mass slaughter of Muslims and Jews perpetrated by the Christian crusaders, which contemporaneous sources suggest was savage and widespread.[10][11]


After the successful siege of Antioch in June 1098, the Crusaders remained in the area for the rest of the year. The papal legate Adhemar of Le Puy had died, and Bohemond of Taranto had claimed Antioch for himself. Baldwin of Boulogne remained in Edessa, captured earlier in 1098. There was dissent among the princes over what to do next; Raymond of Toulouse, frustrated, left Antioch to capture the fortress at Ma'arrat al-Numan in the Siege of Maarat. By the end of the year, the minor knights and infantry were threatening to march to Jerusalem without them. Eventually, on January 13, 1099 Raymond began the march south, down the coast of the Mediterranean, followed by Robert of Normandy and Bohemond's nephew Tancred, who agreed to become his vassals.

13th-century miniature depicting the siege

On their way, the Crusaders besieged Arqa but failed to capture it and abandoned the siege on May 13. Fatimids had attempted to make peace, on the condition that the Crusaders do not continue towards Jerusalem, but this was ignored; Iftikhar ad-Daula, the Fatimid governor of Jerusalem, was aware of the Crusaders' intentions. Therefore, he expelled all of Jerusalem's Christian inhabitants.[12] The further march towards Jerusalem met no resistance.


On 7 June, the crusaders reached Jerusalem, which had been recaptured from the Seljuqs by the Fatimids only the year before. Many Crusaders wept upon seeing the city they had journeyed so long to reach.[13] As with Antioch, the Crusaders put the city to a siege, in which the crusaders themselves probably suffered more than the citizens of the city, due to the lack of food and water around Jerusalem. The city was well-prepared for the siege, and the Fatimid governor Iftikhar ad-Daula had expelled most of the Christians. Of the estimated 5,000 knights who took part in the Princes' Crusade, only about 1,500 remained, along with another 12,000 healthy foot-soldiers (out of perhaps as many as 30,000). Early in the siege, some low-class knights claimed to have been visited by Adhemar, the papal legate for the crusade, who recently died of typhus after the Siege of Antioch. They claimed that this would be similar to the Battle of Jericho, and that he instructed them to march around the city walls barefoot. They did so for a few days, singing holy chants. After this Peter the Hermit held religious sermons in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, in the Garden of Gethsemane, and on the Mount of Olives, sending the crusading knights lost into religious zeal. It was at this time that they were ready for a siege. Godfrey, Robert of Flanders, and Robert of Normandy (who had now also left Raymond to join Godfrey) besieged the north walls as far south as the Tower of David, while Raymond set up his camp on the western side, from the Tower of David to Mount Zion. A direct assault on the walls on June 13 was a failure. Without water or food, both men and animals were quickly dying of thirst and starvation and the crusaders knew time was not on their side. Coincidentally, soon after the first assault, two Genoese galleys[14] sailed into the port at Jaffa. The Crusaders also began to gather wood from Samaria in order to build siege engines. They were still short on food and water, and by the end of June there was news that a Fatimid army was marching north from Egypt.

Final assault[edit]

The prime need of the crusaders was for ladders and siege towers to scale the walls of Jerusalem. The Egyptian Fatimid garrison had cleared the surrounding area of trees. The Crusaders sent foraging parties into Samaria to obtain wood and other materials. They found 400 pieces of prepared timber, enough to build two 50 foot siege towers, a battering-ram, and several catapults. A fleet of Genoese ships commanded by Guglielmo Embriaco, had arrived at Jaffa in support of the land-based crusaders. These vessels were dismantled by the Genoese, providing wood and ropes suitable for siege equipment, notably additional siege towers.[15]

On the night of July 14, the Crusaders launched a two-pronged assault on the walls. One tower was to the south,[16] the other to the northwest.[dubious ] The Muslims knew that if one siege tower breached the walls, Jerusalem would fall. The Muslims pelted the first siege tower with flaming arrows and pots of oil until it went up in flames. Now, only one siege tower was left, to the northwest[dubious ] under the command of the revered Duke Godfrey. Godfrey's tower took two hours to reach the weak spot of the walls near the northeast corner gate. According to the Gesta two Flemish knights from Tournai named Lethalde and Engelbert were the first to cross into the city, followed by Godfrey, his brother Eustace, Tancred, and their men. Raymond was held back three days by a deep ditch that prevented him from rolling his siege tower closer to the city, [17][dubious ] but as the other crusaders had already entered, the Muslims guarding the gate retreated.[17][citation needed]


Atrocities committed against the inhabitants of cities taken by storm after a siege were normal in ancient[18][citation needed] and medieval warfare by both Christians and Muslims. The Crusaders had already done so at Antioch, and Fatimids had done so themselves at Taormina, at Rometta, and at Tyre. However, the massacre of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may have exceeded even these standards.[19][20][21] Historian Michael Hull has suggested this was a matter of deliberate policy rather than simple bloodlust, to remove the "contamination of pagan superstition" (quoting Fulcher of Chartres) and to reform Jerusalem as a strictly Christian city.[22]


Many Muslims sought shelter in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock, and the Temple Mount area generally. According to the Gesta Francorum, speaking only of the Temple Mount area, "...[our men] were killing and slaying even to the Temple of Solomon, where the slaughter was so great that our men waded in blood up to their ankles..." According to Raymond of Aguilers, also writing solely of the Temple Mount area, " in the Temple and porch of Solomon men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins." Writing about the Temple Mount area alone, Fulcher of Chartres, who was not an eyewitness to the Jerusalem siege because he had stayed with Baldwin in Edessa at the time, says: "In this temple 10,000 were killed. Indeed, if you had been there you would have seen our feet coloured to our ankles with the blood of the slain. But what more shall I relate? None of them were left alive; neither women nor children were spared."[23]

The eyewitness Gesta Francorum states that some people were spared. Its anonymous author wrote, "When the pagans had been overcome, our men seized great numbers, both men and women, either killing them or keeping them captive, as they wished."[24] Later the same source writes, "[Our leaders] also ordered all the Saracen dead to be cast outside because of the great stench, since the whole city was filled with their corpses; and so the living Saracens dragged the dead before the exits of the gates and arranged them in heaps, as if they were houses. No one ever saw or heard of such slaughter of pagan people, for funeral pyres were formed from them like pyramids, and no one knows their number except God alone. But Raymond caused the Emir and the others who were with him to be conducted to Ascalon, whole and unhurt."[25]

Another eyewitness source, Raymond of Aguilers, reports that some Muslims survived. After recounting the slaughter on the Temple Mount he reports of some who "took refuge in the Tower of David, and, petitioning Count Raymond for protection, surrendered the Tower into his hands." [26] These Muslims left with the Fatimid governor for Ascalon.[27] A version of this tradition is also known to the later Muslim historian Ibn al-Athir (10, 193–95), who recounts that after the city was taken and pillaged: "A band of Muslims barricaded themselves into the Oratory of David (Mihrab Dawud) and fought on for several days. They were granted their lives in return for surrendering. The Franks honored their word and the group left by night for Ascalon."[28] One Cairo Geniza letter also refers to some Jewish residents who left with the Fatimid governor.[29]

Tancred claimed the Temple quarter for himself and offered protection to some of the Muslims there, but he was unable to prevent their deaths at the hands of his fellow Crusaders. Additionally, the Crusaders claimed the Muslim holy sites of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque as important Christian sites, and renamed them Templum Domini and Templum Salomonis, respectively. In 1141, the Templum Domini would be consecrated, and the Templum Solomonis would become the headquarters for the Knights Templar.[30]

Albert of Aachen, who personally was not present but wrote using independent interviews conducted with survivors back in Europe, wrote that even beyond the first round of slaughter that accompanied the fall of Jerusalem, there was another round, "On the third day after the victory judgement was pronounced by the leaders and everyone seized weapons and surged forth for a wretched massacre of all the crowd of gentiles which was still left...whom they had previously spared for the sake of money and human pity".[31] The number killed is not specified, nor is this massacre related in any other contemporary sources.

Although the Crusaders killed many of the Muslim and Jewish residents, eyewitness accounts (Gesta Francorum, Raymond of Aguilers, and the Cairo Geniza documents) demonstrate that some Muslim and Jewish residents were allowed to live, as long as they left Jerusalem.[32]


Jews had fought side-by-side with Muslim soldiers to defend the city, and as the Crusaders breached the outer walls, the Jews of the city retreated to their synagogue to "prepare for death".[33] According to the Muslim chronicle of Ibn al-Qalanisi, "The Jews assembled in their synagogue, and the Franks burned it over their heads."[34] A contemporary Jewish communication confirms the destruction of the synagogue, though it does not corroborate that any Jews were inside it when it was burned.[35] This letter was discovered among the Cairo Geniza collection in 1975 by historian Shelomo Dov Goitein.[36] Historians believe that it was written just two weeks after the siege, making it "the earliest account on the conquest in any language."[36] Additional documentation from the Cairo Geniza indicates that some prominent Jews held for ransom by the Crusaders were freed when the Ascalon Karaite Jewish community paid the requested sums of money.

Eastern Christians[edit]

Contrary to what is sometimes alleged, no eyewitness source refers to Crusaders killing Eastern Christians in Jerusalem, and early Eastern Christian sources (Matthew of Edessa, Anna Comnena, Michael the Syrian, etc.) make no such allegation about the Crusaders in Jerusalem. According to the Syriac Chronicle, all the Christians had already been expelled from Jerusalem before the Crusaders arrived.[37] Presumably this would have been done by the Fatimid governor to prevent their possible collusion with the Crusaders.[38]

The Gesta Francorum claims that on Wednesday, August 9, two and a half weeks after the siege, Peter the Hermit encouraged all the "Greek and Latin priests and clerics" to make a thanksgiving procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.[39] This indicates that some Eastern Christian clergy remained in or near Jerusalem during the siege. In November 1100, when Fulcher of Chartres personally accompanied Baldwin on a visit to Jerusalem, they were greeted by both Greek and Syrian clerics and laity (Book II, 3), indicating an Eastern Christian presence in the city a year later.


The Discovery of the True Cross (Gustave Doré)

Following the battle, Godfrey of Bouillon was made Advocatus Sancti Sepulchri ("advocate" or "defender of the Holy Sepulchre") on July 22, refusing to be named king in the city where Christ had died, saying that he refused to wear a crown of gold in the city where Christ wore a crown of thorns.[40] Raymond had refused any title at all, and Godfrey convinced him to give up the Tower of David as well. Raymond then went on a pilgrimage, and in his absence Arnulf of Chocques, whom Raymond had opposed due to his own support for Peter Bartholomew, was elected the first Latin Patriarch on August 1 (the claims of the Greek Patriarch were ignored). On August 5, Arnulf, after consulting the surviving inhabitants of the city, discovered the relic of the True Cross.

On August 12, Godfrey led an army, with the True Cross carried in the vanguard, against the Fatimid army at the Battle of Ascalon. The Crusaders were successful, but following the victory, the majority of them considered their crusading vows to have been fulfilled, and all but a few hundred knights returned home. Nevertheless, their victory paved the way for the establishment of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The siege quickly became legendary and in the 12th century it was the subject of the Chanson de Jérusalem, a major chanson de geste in the Crusade cycle.


  1. ^ Valentin, François (1867). Geschichte der Kreuzzüge. Regensburg.
  2. ^ Skaarup, Harold A. (2003). Siegecraft - No Fortress Impregnable. Lincoln.
  3. ^ Mikaberidze, Alexander (2011). Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World. Santa Barbara.
  4. ^ a b Watson, Bruce (1993). Sieges: a comparative study. Westport.
  5. ^ Asbridge 2004, p. 300
  6. ^ Haag, Michael (2008). Templars: History and Myth: From Solomon's Temple to the Freemasons. London.
  7. ^ France 1994, p. 3
  8. ^
  9. ^ The "massacre" at the sack of Jerusalem has become a commonplace motive in popular depictions, but the historical event is difficult to reconstruct with any certainty. Arab sources give figures of between 30,000 and 70,000 casualties (in an anonymous Syrian chronicle, and in Ibn al-Athir, respectively). These figures are rejected as unrealistic by Thorau (2007), who argues it is very unlikely that the city at the time had a total population of this order; medieval chroniclers tend to substantially exaggerate both troop strength and casualty figures; they cannot be taken at face value naively, and it is less than straightforward to arrive at realistic estimates based on them. Peter Thorau, Die Kreuzzüge, C.H.Beck, München 2007, ISBN 3406508383. Dittmar, Heinrich (1850). Die Geschichte der Welt vor und nach Christus, Vol. 3. Heidelberg.[page needed] Valentin, François (1867). Geschichte der Kreuzzüge. Regensburg.[page needed] Mackintosh, Sir James (1830). The history of England, Volume 1. Philadelphia.[page needed]
  10. ^ Krey, August. C. (1921). The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants. Princeton Univ. pp. 257–62. Retrieved 14 June 2019. But these were small matters compared to what happened at the Temple of Solomon, a place where religious services are ordinarily chanted. What happened there? If I tell the truth, it will exceed your powers of belief. So let it suffice to say this much, at least, that in the Temple and porch of Solomon, men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins. [quoting eyewitness Raymond d'Aguiliers]
  11. ^ Krey, August. C. (1921). The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants. Princeton Univ. pp. 256–57. Retrieved 14 June 2019. One of our knights, named Lethold, clambered up the wall of the city, and no sooner had he ascended than the defenders fled from the walls and through the city. Our men followed, killing and slaying even to the Temple of Solomon, where the slaughter was so great that our men waded in blood up to their ankles....
  12. ^ Thomas F. Madden, The New Concise History of the Crusades at 33 (Rowman & Littlefield Pub., Inc., 2005). The Syriac Chronicle to 1234 is one source claiming that Christians were expelled from Jerusalem before the Crusaders' arrival (Tritton & Gibb 1933, p. 273). Presumably, this was done to prevent their collusion with the crusaders.
  13. ^ Tyerman 2006, pp. 153–157.
  14. ^ Jean Richards "The Crusades 1071–1291" p 65
  15. ^ Riley-Smith, Jonathan (1987). The Crusades. p. 34. ISBN 0-300-04700-2.
  16. ^ Smith, Kiona N. (24 July 2019). "Archaeologists confirm near-legendary tale of the crusaders' siege of Jerusalem". Ars Technika.
  17. ^ a b Peters, Edward (1998). The First Crusade : The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other Source Materials. Pennsylvania, USA.: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 250. ISBN 9780812216561.
  18. ^ Hirschler, Konrad (2014). "The Jerusalem Conquest of 492/1099 in the Medieval Arabic Historiography of the Crusades: From Regional Plurality to Islamic Narrative". Crusades13: 74 – via University of Sydney Library.
  19. ^ Bradbury, Jim (1992). The Medieval Siege (New ed.). Woodbridge: The Boydell. p. 296. ISBN 0851153577.
  20. ^ Montefiore, Simon Sebag (2012). Jerusalem : the Biography (1st Vintage Books ed.). New York: Vintage Books. p. 222. ISBN 978-0307280503.
  21. ^ Goldstein, Joshua S. (2012). Winning the War on War : the Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide. New York: Plume. ISBN 978-0452298590. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
  22. ^ Hull, Michael D. (June 1999). "First Crusade: Siege of Jerusalem". Military History. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  23. ^ Fulk (or Fulcher) of Chartres, "Gesta Francorum Jerusalem Expugnantium [The Deeds of the Franks Who Attacked Jerusalem]", republished (1912). Krey, August C.; Duncan, Frederick (eds.). Parallel Source Problems in Medieval History. New York: Harper & Brothers. pp. 109–115. Retrieved 14 June 2019.
  24. ^ Medieval Sourcebook: Gesta Francorum
  25. ^ Medieval Sourcebook: Gesta Francorum
  26. ^ Medieval Sourcebook: Raymond of Aguilers
  27. ^ Crusaders, Greeks, and Muslims by Sanderson Beck
  28. ^ Gabrieli, Francesco (1984) [1969]. "From Godefry to Saladin". Arab Historians of the Crusades. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 11. ISBN 0-520-05224-2.
  29. ^ Peters, Edward (1998). The First Crusade (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 265. ISBN 0-8122-1656-3.
  30. ^ Giebfried, John (2013). "The Crusader Rebranding of Jerusalem's Temple Mount". Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies. 44: 77–94. doi:10.1353/cjm.2013.0036.
  31. ^ of Aachen, Albert (2013). History of the Journey to Jerusalem. Translated by Edgington, Susan. Surrey, UK: Ashgate Publishing Limited. p. 229. ISBN 9781409466529.
  32. ^ See also Thomas F. Madden, New Concise History at 34
  33. ^ Saint Louis University Professor Thomas F. Madden, author of A Concise History of the Crusades in CROSS PURPOSES: The Crusades (Hoover Institute television show, 2007).
  34. ^ Gibb, H. A. R. The Damascus Chronicle of the Crusades: Extracted and Translated from the Chronicle of Ibn Al-Qalanisi. Dover Publications, 2003 (ISBN 0486425193), p. 48
  35. ^ Kedar, Benjamin Z. "The Jerusalem Massacre of July 1099 in the Western Historiography of the Crusades." The Crusades. Vol. 3 (2004) (ISBN 075464099X), pp. 15-76, p. 64. Edward Peters, ed. The First Crusade. 2nd ed. University of Pennsylvania, 1998, p. 264–272.
  36. ^ a b Kedar: pg. 63
  37. ^ Tritton, A. S.; Gibb, H. A. R. (1933). "The First and Second Crusades from an Anonymous Syriac Chronicle". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 65 (2): 273–305. doi:10.1017/S0035869X00074839.
  38. ^ Thomas F. Madden. A Concise History of the Crusades, 1999, p. 35
  39. ^ Gesta Francorum. Bk. 10.39, ed. R. Hill. London, 1962, p. 94.
  40. ^ Hamilton, Bernard (1980). The Latin Church in the Crusader States. Variorum Publications. p. 12.


Coordinates: 31°47′00″N 35°13′00″E / 31.7833°N 35.2167°E / 31.7833; 35.2167