It all started over a thousand years ago when a French king conquered the holy city of Jerusalem. This crusade, one of the most massive and sweeping in history was actually orchestrated by a secret brotherhood: the Priory of Sion and their military arm, the Knights Templar. – Dan Brown, The Da vinci Code


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the medieval religious military campaigns. For other uses, see Crusades (disambiguation).
“Crusaders” redirects here. For other uses, see Crusaders (disambiguation).

A battle of the Second Crusade (illustration of William of Tyre‘s Histoire d’Outremer, 1337)

Map of the Levant (the Holy Land) in 1135. The Frankish Crusader states are indicated with a red cross ☩: Kingdom of Jerusalem, County of Tripoli, Principality of Antioch, County of Edessa. The Principality of Armenian Cilicia was a crusader state under Armenian (Rubenid) rule. The remnant of the Byzantine Empire is visible in the west; the (nascent) Seljuq Empire and Fatimid Egypt are shown in green.

The Crusades were a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church in the medieval period, especially the campaigns in the Eastern Mediterranean with the aim of capturing Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Islamic rule, to recapture Christian territory and defend Christian pilgrims, in western historiography known as “the Crusades for (the recovery of) the Holy Land”.[1] The term “crusades” is also applied to other campaigns sanctioned by the Church, fought to combat paganism and heresy or to resolve conflict among rival Roman Catholic groups, or to gain political or territorial advantage. The term crusades itself is early modern, modelled on Middle Latin cruciatae, and has in more recent times been extended to include religiously motivated Christian military campaigns in the Late Middle Ages.

The First Crusade arose after a call to arms in a 1095 sermon by Pope Urban II. Urban urged military support for the Byzantine Empire and its Emperor, Alexios I, who needed reinforcements for his conflict with westward migrating Turks in Anatolia. One of Urban’s stated aims was to guarantee pilgrims access to the holy sites in the Holy Land that were under Muslim control, but scholars disagree whether this was the primary motivation for Urban or the majority of those who heeded his call. Urban’s wider strategy may have been to unite the Eastern and Western branches of Christendom, which had been divided since their split in the East–West Schism of 1054, and establish himself as head of the unified Church. Similarly, some of the hundreds of thousands of people who became crusaders by taking a public vow and receiving plenary indulgences from the church were peasants hoping for Apotheosis at Jerusalem, or forgiveness from God for all their sins. Others, historians argue, participated to satisfy feudal obligations, gain glory and honour, or find opportunities for economic and political gain. Regardless of the motivation, the response to Urban’s preaching by people of many different classes across Western Europe established the precedent for later crusades.

Different perspectives of the actions carried out, at least nominally, under Papal authority during the crusades have polarised historians. To some their behaviour was incongruous with the stated aims and implied moral authority of the papacy and the crusades, in one case to the extent that the Pope excommunicated crusaders.[2] Crusaders often pillaged as they travelled, while their leaders retained control of much captured territory rather than returning it to the Byzantines. The People’s Crusade included the Rhineland massacres: the murder of thousands of Jews. Constantinople was sacked during the Fourth Crusade, rendering the reunification of Christendom impossible.

The crusades had a profound impact on Western civilisation: they reopened the Mediterranean to commerce and travel (enabling Genoa and Venice to flourish); consolidated the collective identity of the Latin Church under papal leadership; and were a wellspring for accounts of heroism, chivalry and piety. These tales consequently galvanised medieval romance, philosophy and literature. The crusades also reinforced the connection between Western Christendom, feudalism, and militarism.


Further information: Historiography of the Crusades

The term crusade is derived from a Middle Latin cruxata, cruciata. The adjective cruciatus had been used in the sense of “marked with a cross” from the 12th century; cruciatus (also cruxatus, croxatus, crucesignatus) was used of crusaders by the mid 13th century, from their practice of attaching a cloth cross symbol to their clothing. Use of cruxata (cruciata) for “crusade, military expedition against enemies of the church” is in use by the 1280s.[3] The French form croisade and Spanish cruzada are recorded by the 16th century.

The French form of the word first appears in its historiographical sense in the 17th century[4] and it was adopted into English and German in the 18th century.[5]

The Crusades in the Holy Land are traditionally counted as nine distinct campaigns, numbered from the First Crusade of 1095–99 to the Ninth Crusade of 1271/2. This convention is used by Charles Mills in his History of the Crusades for the Recovery and Possession of the Holy Land (1820), and is often retained for convenience, even though it is somewhat arbitrary: The Fifth and Sixth Crusades led by Frederick II may be considered a single campaign, as can the Eight Crusade and Ninth Crusade led by Louis IX.[6]

Usage of the term “crusade” may differ depending on the author. Constable (2001) describes four different perspectives among scholars:

  • Traditionalists restrict their definition of crusades to the Christian campaigns in the Holy Land, “either to assist the Christians there or to liberate Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulcher”, during 1095–1291.[7]
  • Pluralists use the term crusade of any campaign explicitly sanctioned by the reigning Pope.[8] This reflects the view of the Roman Catholic Church (including medieval contemporaries such as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux) that every military campaign given Papal sanction is equally valid as a crusade, regardless of its cause, justification, or geographic location. This broad definition subsumes attacks on paganism and heresy, such as the Albigensian Crusade, the Northern Crusades and the Hussite Wars, and wars for political or territorial advantage, such as the Aragonese Crusade in Sicily, a crusade declared by Pope Innocent III against Markward of Anweiler in 1202,[9] one against the Stedingers, several (declared by several popes) against Emperor Frederick II and his sons,[10] two crusades against opponents of King Henry III of England,[11]and the Christian re-conquest of Iberia.[12]
  • Generalists see crusades as any and all holy wars connected with the Latin Church and fought in defence of their faith.
  • Popularists[A] limit the crusades to only those that were characterised by popular groundswells of religious fervour – that is, only the First Crusade and perhaps the People’s Crusade.[13]

Medieval Muslim historiographers such as Ali ibn al-Athir refer to the Crusades as the “Frankish Wars” (ḥurūb al-faranǧa حروب الفرنجة). The term used in modern Arabic, ḥamalāt ṣalībiyya حملات صليبية, lit. “campaigns of the cross“, is a loan translation of the term crusade as used in Western historiography.[14]

Crusades in the Holy Land[edit]


Expansion of the Islamic Caliphate, 622–750.

  Expansion under Muhammad, 622–632
  Expansion during the Rashidun Caliphate, 632–661
  Expansion during the Umayyad Caliphate, 661–750

In the seventh and eighth centuries, Islam was introduced in the Arabian Peninsula by the Islamic prophet Muhammad and a newly unified polity. This led to a rapid expansion of Arab power, the influence of which stretched from the northwest Indian subcontinent, across Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, southern Italy, and the Iberian Peninsula, to the Pyrenees.[15][16][17] Tolerance, trade, and political relationships between the Arabs and the Christian states of Europe waxed and waned. For example, the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre but his successor allowed the Byzantine Empire to rebuild it.[18] Pilgrimages by Catholics to sacred sites were permitted, resident Christians were given certain legal rights and protections under Dhimmi status, and interfaith marriages were not uncommon.[19] Cultures and creeds coexisted and competed, but the frontier conditions became increasingly inhospitable to Catholic pilgrims and merchants.[20]

The Reconquista (recapture of the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims) began during the 8th century, reaching its turning point in 1085 when Alfonso VI of León and Castile retook Toledo from Muslim rule.[21] The Byzantine Empire also regained territory at the end of the 10th century, with Basil II spending most of his half-century reign in conquest. In Northern Europe, the Germans used crusading as a method to expand Christianity and their territories at the expense of the non-Christian Slavs,[22] and Sicily was conquered by Norman adventurer Roger De Hauteville in 1091.[23]

Europe in this period was immersed in power struggles on many different fronts. In 1054, centuries of attempts by the Latin Church to assert supremacy over the Patriarchs of the Eastern Empire led to a permanent division in the Christian church called the East–West Schism.[24] Following the Gregorian Reform an assertive, reformist papacy attempted to increase its power and influence. Beginning around 1075 and continuing during the First Crusade, the Investiture Controversy was a power struggle between Church and state in medieval Europe over whether the Catholic Church or the Holy Roman Empire held the right to appoint church officials and other clerics.[25][26] Antipope Clement III was an alternative pope for most of this period, and Pope Urban spent much of his early pontificate in exile from Rome. In this the papacy began to assert its independence from secular rulers, marshalling 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.[27] Participation in such a war was seen as a form of penance that could counterbalance sin.[28]

The status quo was disrupted by the western migrating Turks. In 1071 they defeated the Byzantine army at the Battle of Manzikert and the rapidly expanding Great Seljuk Empire gained nearly all of Anatolia while the empire descended into frequent civil wars.[29] One year later the Turks wrested control of Palestine from the Fatimids.[30] The disruption of pilgrimages by the Seljuk Turks prompted support for the crusades in Western Europe.[31]

First Crusade (1096–1099) and aftermath[edit]

Map of the Middle East, from the Mediterranean east of the Caspian Sea

The Great Seljuk Empire at its greatest extent (1092)

In 1095 at the Council of Piacenza, Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos requested military aid from Pope Urban II to fight the Turks, probably in the form of mercenary reinforcements. It is also likely he exaggerated the danger facing the Eastern Empire while making his appeal.[32] At the Council of Clermont later that year, Urban raised the issue again and preached for a crusade. Historian Paul Everett Pierson asserts that Urban also hoped that aiding the Eastern Church would lead to its reunion with the Western under his leadership.[33]

Almost immediately thereafter Peter the Hermit began preaching to thousands of mostly poor Christians, whom he led out of Europe in what became known as the People’s Crusade.[34] Peter had with him a letter he claimed had fallen from heaven instructing Christians to seize Jerusalem in anticipation of the apocalypse.[35] In addition to the motivations of the landed classes, academic Norman Cohn has identified a “messianism of the poor” inspired by an expected mass apotheosis at Jerusalem.[36] In Germany the Crusaders massacred Jewish communities. The Rhineland massacres were the first major outbreak of European Antisemitism.[37] In Speyer, Worms, Mainz and Cologne the range of anti-Jewish activity was broad, extending from limited, spontaneous violence to full-scale military attacks.[38] Despite Alexios’ advice to await the nobles, the People’s Crusade advanced to Nicaea and fell to a Turkish ambush at the Battle of Civetot, from which only about 3,000 crusaders escaped.[39]

Route of the First Crusade through Asia

Both Philip I, king of France and Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor were in conflict with Urban and did not participate; the noble armies embarked in August and September 1096 divided into four separate parts.[40] The armies travelled eastward by land to Byzantium where they received a welcome from the Emperor.[41][42][43] The combined force including non-combatants may have contained as many as 100,000 people.[44] The army, mostly French and Norman knights under baronial leadership, pledged to restore lost territories to the empire and marched south through Anatolia.[45][46][47] The crusaders besieged Antioch, massacring the inhabitants and pillaging the city. They were immediately besieged by a large army led by Kerbogha. Bohemond of Taranto successfully rallied the crusader army and defeated Kerbogha.[48] Bohemond then kept control of the city, despite his pledge that he would provide aid to Alexios.[49] The remaining crusader army marched south along the coast reaching Jerusalem with only a fraction of their original forces.[50] The Jewish and Muslim inhabitants fought together to defend Jerusalem, but the crusaders entered the city on 15 July 1099. They proceeded to massacre the inhabitants and pillage the city.[51] In his Historia Francorum qui ceperunt Iherusalem, Raymond D’Aguilers exalted actions a modern viewpoint would consider atrocities.[52]

As a result of the First Crusade, four primary crusader states were created: the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, and the County of Tripoli.[53] On a popular level, the First Crusade unleashed a wave of impassioned, pious Catholic fury—expressed in the massacres of Jews that accompanied the crusades[54]and the violent treatment of the “schismatic” Orthodox Christians of the east.[55] A second, less successful crusade known as the Crusade of 1101 followed in which Turks led by Kilij Arslan defeated the crusaders in three separate battles.[56]

The 12th century[edit]

Miniature of the Siege of Tyre of 1124 (BNF Fr 2630, ca. 1229)

Detail of a miniature of King Philip II of France arriving in the Holy Land (mid 14th century)

Under the papacies of Calixtus II, Honorius II, Eugenius III and Innocent II smaller scale crusading continued around the Crusader States in the early 12th century. There were campaigns by Fulk V of Anjou between 1120 and 1129, the Venetians in 1122–24, Conrad III of Germany in 1124 and the Knights Templar were established.[57] The period saw the innovation of granting indulgences to those who opposed papal enemies that marked the beginning of politically motivated crusades.[58] The loss of Aleppo in 1128 and Edessa (Urfa) in 1144 to Imad ad-Din Zengi, governor of Mosul led to preaching for what subsequently became known as the Second Crusade.[59][60][61]King Louis VII and Conrad III led armies from France and Germany to Jerusalem and also Damascus without winning any major victories.[62] Bernard of Clairvaux, who had encouraged the Second Crusade in his preaching, was upset with the violence and slaughter directed towards the Jewish population of the Rhineland.[63]

In the Iberian Peninsula crusaders continued to make gains with the king of Portugal, Afonso I, retaking Lisbon and Raymond Berenguer IV of Barcelona conquering the city of Tortosa[64][65] In Northern Europe the Saxons and Danes fought against Wends in the Wendish Crusade,[66] although no official papal bulls were issued authorising new crusades.[67] The Wends were finally defeated in 1162.[68]

In 1187 Saladin united the enemies of the Crusader States, was victorious at the Battle of Hattin and retook Jerusalem.[69][70] According to Benedict of Peterborough, Pope Urban III died of deep sadness on 19 October 1187 on hearing of the defeat.[71] His successor, Pope Gregory VIII, issued a papal bull named Audita tremendi that proposed a further crusade later numbered the third to recapture Jerusalem. Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor died en route to Jerusalem, drowning in the Saleph River, and few of his men reached the Holy Land.[72]

Richard I of England conquered the island of Cyprus from the Byzantines in 1191 in response to his sister being taken prisoner by the island’s ruler, Isaac Komnenos.[73] Richard then quarrelled with Philip II of France and Philip returned to France, leaving most of his forces behind. He then recaptured Acre after a long siege, travelled south along the Mediterranean coast, defeated the Muslims near Arsuf and recaptured the port city of Jaffa. Within sight of Jerusalem supply shortages forced them to retreat without taking the city.[74] A treaty was negotiated that allowed unarmed Catholics to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem and permitted merchants to trade.[75] Richard left, never to return, but Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor initiated the German Crusade to fulfil the promises made by his father, Frederick. Led by Conrad of Wittelsbach, Archbishop of Mainz the army captured the cities of Sidon and Beirut but after Henry died, most of the crusaders returned to Germany.[76]

Crusader states[edit]

Main article: Crusader states
Multi-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—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 Westernised 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).[77]

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.[78][B]


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 subsidised knights in their armies. The total cost to King Louis IX of France of the 1284–85 crusades was estimated at six times the king’s annual income. Rulers demanded subsidies from their subjects,[79] 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.[80]

Military orders[edit]

The military orders, especially the Knights Hospitallers and the Knights Templars, played a major role in providing support for the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and the other Crusader states, providing decisive forces of highly trained and motivated soldiers at critical moments.[81] The Hospitallers and the Templars became international organisations with depots beyond the Levant, spreading across Europe. The Teutonic Knights and the Livonian Brothers of the Sword focused on the Baltic. The Order of Santiago, Order of Calatrava, Order of Alcántara, and Order of Montesa concentrated on the Iberian Peninsula and its Reconquista.

The Knights Hospitallers (Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem) had been founded in Jerusalem before the First Crusade but greatly enlarged its mission once the Crusades began.[82] After the fall of Acre they relocated to Cyprus, conquering and ruling Rhodes (1309–1522) and Malta (1530–1798). 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 Knights Templar, ostensibly for sodomy, magic and heresy, but probably for financial and political reasons.[83] Regional remains of the order was merged with the Knights Hospitallers and other military orders.

Other than that, original medieval military orders persists until this day, in modern organisations with modified charters.

The 13th century[edit]

Fourth Crusade & aftermath[edit]

Innocent III also began preaching what became the Fourth Crusade in 1200, primarily in France, but also in England and Germany.[84] The Fourth Crusade never came to within 1,000 miles of its objective of Jerusalem, instead conquering Byzantium twice before being routed by the Bulgars at Adrianople. After gathering in Venice the crusade was used by Doge Enrico Dandolo and Philip of Swabia to further their secular ambitions. Dandolo’s aim was expand Venice’s power in the Eastern Mediterranean and Philip intended to restore his exiled nephew, Alexios IV Angelos, to the throne of Byzantium.[85] The crusaders were unable to pay the Venetians for a fleet when too few knights arrived in Venice, so they agreed to divert to Constantinople and share what could be looted as payment. As collateral the crusaders seized the Christian city of Zara; Innocent was appalled, and excommunicated them.[2] After the initial success in taking Byzantium, the original purpose of the campaign was defeated by the assassination of Alexios IV Angelos. In response the crusaders sacked the city, pillaged churches, and killed many citizens. The victors then divided the empire into Latin fiefs and Venetian colonies, resulting in two Roman Empires in the East: a Latin “Empire of the Straits” and an Empire of Nicea. In the long run, the sole beneficiary was Venice.[86]

Further Eastern Crusades[edit]

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

Crusading resumed against Saladin’s Ayyubid successors in Egypt and Syria in 1217, following Innocent III’s Fourth Council of the Lateran. Led by Andrew II and Leopold VI, Duke of Austria, forces drawn mainly from Hungary, Germany, Flanders, and Frisia achieved little. Leopold and John of Brienne besieged and captured Damietta but an invasion further into Egypt was compelled to surrender.[87][88]Damietta was returned and an eight-year truce agreed.[89] Emperor Frederick II, who had been excommunicated for breaking his vow to crusade, finally arrived at Acre in 1228.[90][91] A peace treaty was agreed giving Latin Christians most of Jerusalem and a strip of territory from Acre, while the Muslims controlled their sacred areas. In return, an alliance was made with Al-Kamil, Sultan of Egypt, against all of his enemies of whatever religion.[92] After the truce expired, further campaigns were led by Theobald I of Navarre, Peter of Dreux and Hugh IV, Duke of Burgundy. Defeated at Gaza, Theobald agreed treaties with Damascus and Egypt that returned territory to the crusader states. He returned to Europe in 1240 but Richard of Cornwall arrived in Acre a few weeks later and completed the enforcement.[93]

In 1244 a band of Khwarezmian mercenaries travelling to Egypt captured Jerusalem en-route and defeated a combined Christian and Syrian army at the La Forbie.[94] In response Louis IX of France organised a crusade to attack Egypt, arriving in 1249.[95] This was not a success. Louis was defeated at Mansura and captured as he retreated back to Damietta.[96] Another truce was agreed for a ten-year period and Louis was ransomed. Louis remained in Syria until 1254 to consolidate the Crusader states.[97] From 1265 to 1271, Baibars drove the Franks to a few small coastal outposts.[98]

Conquest of the Eastern Orthodox city of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204

The Children’s Crusade was said to have been a Catholic movement in France and Germany in 1212 that tried to reach the Holy Land. The traditional narrative is probably conflated from some factual and mythical notions of the period including visions by a French or German boy, an intention to peacefully convert Muslims in the Holy Land to Christianity, a band of several thousand youths set out for Italy, and children being sold into slavery.[99] A study published in 1977 casts doubt on the existence of these events, and many historians came to believe that they were not (or not primarily) children but multiple bands of “wandering poor” in Germany and France, some of whom tried to reach the Holy Land and others who never intended to do so.[100][101][102][103] The Shepherds’ Crusade of 1251, was preached in northern France. After a meeting with Blanche of Castile, it became disorganised and was disbanded by the government.[104]

Division and failure[edit]

The Crusader states were not unified and various powers competed for influence. In 1256 Genoa and Venice went to war over territory in Acre and Tyre.[105] Venice conquered the disputed territory but was unable to expel the Genoese. Two factions embarked on a 14-month siege: on one side was Genoa, Philip of Monfort, John of Arsuf and the Knights Hospitaller; the other was Venice, the Count of Jaffa and the Knights Templar.[106] After the Genoese were expelled in 1261, Pope Urban IV brokered a peace to support the defence against the Mongols.[107] Conflict resumed in 1264 with the Genoese now supported by Michael VIII Palaiologos, Emperor of Nicaea the Egyptian sultan Baibars.[108]Both sides used Muslim soldiers, particularly Turcopoles. The war significantly weakened the kingdom with most fortified buildings in Acre destroyed. According to contemporary reports 20,000 men died in the conflict. Genoa finally regained its quarter in Acre in 1288.[109]

The French, led by Louis IX’s brother Charles of Anjou, similarly sought to expand their influence. In 1266, he seized Sicily, parts of the eastern Adriatic, Corfu, Butrinto, Avlona, and Suboto. He attempted to gain Byzantium politically through the Treaty of Viterbo. The heirs of Baldwin II of Constantinople and William II Villehardouin married Charles’ children. If there were no offspring Charles would receive the empire and principality. 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. When he purchased the rights to Jerusalem from Maria of Antioch, the surviving grandchild of Queen Isabella, he created a claim to rival that of Isabella’s great grandson, Hugh III of Cyprus. Charles’ planned crusade to restore the Latin Empire alarmed Michael VIII Palailogos. He delayed Charles by beginning negotiations with Pope Gregory X for union of the Greek and the Latin churches with Charles and Philip of Courtenay compelled to form a truce with Byzantium. Michael also provided Genoa with funds to encourage revolt in Charles’ northern Italian territories.[110]

The city of Acre fell in 1291 and its Latin Christian population was killed or enslaved

In 1270, Charles turned his brother King Louis IX’s last crusade to his own advantage, persuading Louis to ignore his advisers and direct the Eighth Crusade against Charles’ rebel Arab vassals in Tunis. Louis’ army was devastated by disease in the hot-summer Mediterranean climate, and Louis himself died at Tunis on 25 August. This ended the last significant attempt to take the Holy Land.[111]

The 1281 election of a French pope, Martin IV, brought the full power of the papacy into line behind Charles. He prepared to launch a crusade with 400 ships carrying 27,000 mounted knights against Constantinople. But the fleet was destroyed in an uprising fomented by Michael VIII Palailogos and Peter III of Aragon. Peter was proclaimed king, and the House of Charles of Anjou was exiled from Sicily. Martin excommunicated Peter and called for a crusade against Aragon before Charles died in 1285, allowing Henry II of Cyprus to reclaim Jerusalem. Charles had spent his life trying to amass a Mediterranean empire, and he and Louis saw themselves as God’s instruments to uphold the papacy.[112]

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 tarnished its spiritual lustre with botched secular “crusades” against Sicily and Aragon. 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 mainland Crusader states of the outremer were extinguished with the fall of Tripoli in 1289 and Acre in 1291.[113] Most remaining Latin Christians left for destinations in the Frankokratia or were killed or enslaved.[114]


Knights pay homage to Saladin, seated in an enclosure

“Saladin and Guy de Lusignan after battle of Hattin in 1187” by Said Tahsine (1904–1985)

According to Jonathan Riley-Smith the kingdom of Jerusalem was the first experiment in European colonialism creating a ‘Europe Overseas’ or Outremer.[85] The raising, transportation and supply of large armies led to flourishing trade between Europe and the outremer. The Italian city states of Genoa and Venice flourished, creating profitable trading colonies in the eastern Mediterranean.[115]This trade was sustained through the middle Byzantine and Ottoman eras, and the communities were often assimilated and known as Levantines or Franco-Levantines.[C][117]

The Crusades consolidated the papal leadership of the Latin Church, reinforcing the link between Western Christendom, feudalism and militarism manifesting itself in the habituating of the clergy to violence.[85] This led to the legitimisation of seizing land and possessions from pagans on religious grounds and was debated through to the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries.[118] In addition the growth of the system of indulgences later was a catalyst for the Protestant Reformation in the early 16th century.[119] The crusades also had a role in the creation and institutionalisation of the military and Dominican orders as well as the Medieval Inquisition.[120]

This assertiveness and the behaviour of the crusaders appalled the Greeks and Muslims providing a lasting barrier between the Latin world and both the Islamic and Orthodox religions. This made the reunification of the Christian church impossible and created a perception of the Westerners of being both aggressors and losers.[85]

Helen Nicholson argues that the increased contact between cultures the Crusades instigated improved the perception of Islamic culture.[121] Alongside contact in Sicily and Spain the crusades led to knowledge exchange with Christians learning new ideas from the Muslims in literature and hygiene. The Muslims also had classical Greek and Roman texts in their libraries, allowing Europe to rediscover pre-Christian philosophy.[122] In contrast the Muslim world took little from the Crusaders beyond military tactics and did not take any real interest in European culture until the 16th century. Indeed, the Crusades were of little interest to the Muslim world: there was no history of the crusades translated into Arabic until 1865 and no published work by a Muslim until 1899.[123]

Jonathan Riley-Smith considers that much of the popular understanding of the crusades derives from the novels of Walter Scott and the French histories by Joseph François Michaud. The crusades provided an enormous amount of source material, stories of heroism and interest that underpinned growth in medieval literature, romance and philosophy.[85]


Further information: Historiography of the Crusades

Illustration of the Council of Clermont (Jean Colombe, Les Passages d’Outremer, BnF Fr 5594, ca. 1475)

Five major sources of information exist on the Council of Clermont that led to the First Crusade: the anonymous Gesta Francorum (The Deeds of the Franks, dated about 1100–01); Fulcher of Chartres, who attended the council; Robert the Monk, who may have been present, and the absent Baldric, archbishop of Dol and Guibert de Nogent. These retrospective accounts differ greatly.[124] In his 1106–07 Historia Iherosolimitana, Robert the Monk wrote that Urban asked western Roman Catholic Christians to aid the Orthodox Byzantine Empire because “Deus vult” (“God wills it”) and promised absolution to participants; according to other sources, the pope promised an indulgence. In these accounts, Urban emphasises reconquering the Holy Land more than aiding the emperor and lists gruesome offences allegedly committed by Muslims. 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.[125] 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”.[126]

During the 16th-century Reformation and Counter-Reformation, Western 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.[127]Eighteenth-century Enlightenment historians tended to view the Middle Ages in general, and the crusades in particular, as the efforts of barbarian cultures driven by fanaticism.[128] These scholars expressed moral outrage at the conduct of the crusaders and criticised the crusades’ misdirection—that of the Fourth in particular, which attacked a Christian power (the Byzantine Empire) instead of Islam. The Fourth Crusade had 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. In The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Edward Gibbon wrote that the crusaders’ efforts could have been more profitably directed towards improving their own countries.[6] By the early Romantic period in the 19th century, that harsh view of the Crusades and their era had softened;[129] scholarship later in the century emphasised specialisation and detail.[130]

The 20th century produced three important histories of the crusades: by Steven Runciman, Rene Grousset and a multi-author work edited by K. M. Stetton.[131] Historians in this period often echoed Enlightenment-era criticism: 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”.[78] According to 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 the Orthodox Byzantines, 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.[132][133] David Nicolle called the Fourth Crusade controversial in its “betrayal” of Byzantium.[134] Similarly, Norman Housley viewed the persecution of Jews in the First Crusade—a pogrom in the Rhineland and the massacre of thousands of Jews in Central Europe—as part of the long history of anti-Semitism in Europe.[135]

With the increasing focus on gender studies in the early 21st century, studies have been published on the topic of “Women in the Crusades” specifically. An essay collection on the topic was published in 2001, under the title Gendering the Crusades.[136] In an essay on “Women Warriors”, Caspi-Reisfield comes the conclusion that “the most significant role played by women in the West was in maintaining the status quo“, in the sense of noble women acting as regents of feudal estates while their husbands were campaigining in the Holy Land.[137] The presence of individual noble women in crusades to the Holy Land has been noted, such as Eleanor of Aquitaine (who joined her husband, Louis VII).[138]The presence of non-noble women in the crusading armies, as in medieval warfare in general, was mostly in the role of logistic support (such as “washerwomen”),[137] while the occasional presence of women soldiers was recorded by Muslim historians.[139]

European campaigns[edit]

Northern Crusades[edit]

Painting of two crusaders looking in different directions, one holding a sword

Nineteenth-century depiction of two Livonian Knights

The success of the First Crusade inspired 12th-century popes such as Celestine III, Innocent III, Honorius III and Gregory IX to call for military campaigns with the aim of Christianization of the more remote regions of northern and northeastern Europe. These campaigns are known as the Northern Crusades.

The Wendish Crusade of 1147 can be considered a part of the Second Crusade. Led primarily by the Kingdom of Germany, it was directed against the Polabian Slavs (or “Wends“). During the preparation of the Second Crusade to the Holy Land, a papal bull was issued supporting a crusade against these Slavs. The Slavic leader Niklot preemptively invaded Wagria in June 1147, leading to the march of the crusaders later that summer. They achieved an ostensible forced baptism of Slavs at Dobin but were repulsed from Demmin.

The Northern Crusades proper are the campaigns in the Baltic, against the pagan populations of the (Finnic) Livonians and the (Baltic) Prussians and Lithuanians.[140][141] Pope Celestine III called for such a crusade 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,[140] who were conquered and converted between 1202 and 1209.[142] In the early 13th century Pope Honorius III declared a crusade against the Prussians.[141]Albert of Riga established Riga as the seat of the Bishopric of Riga and formed the Livonian Brothers of the Sword to convert the pagans to Catholicism and protect German commerce.[142]

Konrad of Masovia gave Chelmno to the Teutonic Knights in 1226 as a base for crusade.[143] The Livonian Knights were defeated by the Lithuanians so Pope Gregory IX merged the remainder of the order into the Teutonic Order as the Livonian Order.[144] By the middle of the century the Teutonic Knights completed their conquest of the Prussians and went on to conquer and convert the Lithuanians in the subsequent decades.[145]

The order also came into conflict with the Orthodox Russian Pskov Republic and Novgorod Republic. In 1240 the Novgorod army defeated the Swedes in the Battle of the Neva, and two years later they defeated the Livonian Order in the Battle on the Ice.[146]

Albigensian Crusade[edit]

Main article: Albigensian Crusade
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

The Albigensian Crusade (1209–1229) was a campaign against heretics that Innocent III[147] launched to eradicate Catharism, which had gained a substantial following in southern France. The Cathars were driven underground, and the County of Toulouse passed under the direct control of Capetian France with the Treaty of Paris of 1229.[148] Also in 1229, the University of Toulouse was established after the Parisian model, intended as a means to dissolve the heretic movement. Various monastic orders, like the congregation of the order of frères prêcheurs, were started. They found a home in Les Jacobins. In parallel, a long period of inquisition began inside the walls of Toulouse.

Bosnian Crusade[edit]

Main article: Bosnian Crusade

The Bosnian Crusade (1235–1241) was a campaign against the Bosnian church. Traditionally depicted as a campaign against Catharism (Bogomilism), it has been argued that the religious reason for this war may have been a pretext motivated by a Hungarian desire for territorial expansion. The Hungarians reported to Innocent III that Bosnia had become a refuge for Cathars. To avert Hungarian aggression, ban Kulin held a public assembly on 8 April 1203 and affirmed his loyalty to Rome in the presence of an envoy of the People, while the faithful abjured their mistakes and committed to following the Roman Catholic doctrine.[149] Yet, in practice this was ignored. On the death of Kulin in 1216 a mission was sent to convert Bosnia to Rome but failed.[150] But on 15 May 1225, Honorius III called the Hungarians to undertake the Bosnian Crusade. That expedition, like the previous ones, turned into a defeat, and the Hungarians had to retreat when the Mongol invaded their territories. In 1234, the Catholic Bishop of Bosnia was removed by Pope Gregory IX for allowing supposedly heretical practices.[150] In addition, Gregory called on the Hungarian king to crusade against the heretics in Bosnia.[151] However, Bosnian nobles were able to expel the Hungarians once again.[152]


Main article: Reconquista

In the Iberian peninsula Crusader privileges were given to those aiding the Templars, Hospitallers and the Iberian orders that merged with the Order of Calatrava and the Order of Santiago. The papacy declared frequent Iberian crusades and from 1212 to 1265, and the Christian kingdoms drove the Muslims back to the Emirate of Granada, which held out until 1492 when the Muslims and Jews were expelled from the peninsula.[153]


Late crusades and Ottoman Wars[edit]

The Battle of Nicopolis in a miniature by Jean Colombe (Les Passages d’Outremer, BnF Fr 5594, ca. 1475)

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; his motivation was as much commercial as religious.[154] Louis II led the 1390 Barbary Crusade against Muslim pirates in North Africa; after a ten-week siege, the crusaders signed a ten-year truce.[155]

Several 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). Sigismund advised the crusaders to focus on defence when they reached the Danube, but they besieged the city of Nicopolis. The Ottomans defeated them in the Battle of Nicopolis on 25 September, capturing 3,000 prisoners.[156] In 1309, as many as 30,000 peasants gathered from England, northeastern France and Germany proceeded as far as Avignon but disbanded there.[157]

There were many minor crusades, or attempted crusades, in the context of the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans in the late 14th to early 15th centuries. A failed crusade against Ottoman Tunisia was undertaken in 1390. After their victory at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, the Ottomans had conquered most of the Balkans, and had reduced the Byzantine Empire to the area immediately surrounding Constantinople, which they later proceeded to besiege. In 1393 the Bulgarian tsar Ivan Shishman had lost Nicopolis to the Ottomans. In 1394, Pope Boniface IX proclaimed a new crusade against the Turks, although the Western Schism had split the papacy. Philip the Bold Duke of Burgundy envisioned a crusade led by himself and the Dukes of Orléans and Lancaster. Burgundy’s interest in sponsoring the crusade was in increasing his and his house’s prestige and power and, historian Barbara Tuchman notes, “since he was the prince of self-magnification, the result was that opulent display became the dominant theme; plans, logistics, intelligence about the enemy came second, if at all.”[158] In 1394, Burgundy extracted 120,000 livres from Flanders, sufficient to begin preparations for a crusade, and in January 1395 sent word to King Sigismund of Hungary that an official request to the King of France would be accepted. The crusade set forth from Dijon on 30 April 1396. The enterprise culminated in the disastrous Battle of Nicopolis of 25 September 1396, in which most of the crusader army was destroyed or captured. Sigismund would later state to the Hospitaller Master, “We lost the day by the pride and vanity of these French. If they believed my advice, we had enough men to fight our enemies.” Chronicler Jean Froissart would declare. “Since the Battle of Roncesvalles when [all] twelve peers of France were slain, Christendom received not so great a damage.”[159] The Crusade of Varna was another attempt to move against the Ottomans, this time led by Hungary and Poland. It also resulted in disaster, in the Battle of Varna of 10 November 1444.

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 that led to the withdrawal of the crusaders. This withdrawal, following the last Western attempt to aid the Byzantine Empire, led to the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.

The Fall of Constantinople sealed the fate of the project to re-conquer the Holy Land. Louis Bréhier (1908) describes the event as “the most appalling calamity sustained by Christendom since the taking of Saint-Jean d’Acre” (i.e. the loss of Acre in 1291). The religious and political situation in Western Europe, however, prevented any concerted or meaningful campaign to retake Constantinople. John Hunyadi and Giovanni da Capistrano organised a 1456 crusade to lift the siege of Belgrade.[160] Æneas Sylvius and John of Capistrano preached the crusade, the princes of the Holy Roman Empire in the diets of Ratisbon and Frankfurt promised assistance, and a league was formed between Venice, Florence and Milan, but nothing eventually came of it. Instead, the agitation in Europe was “more apparent than genuinme” (Bréhier 1908). Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, gave an extravagant and allegorical entertainment in Lille on 17 February 1454, the so-called Banquet of the Oath of the Pheasant, to promote a great crusade, but nothing came of it. Æneas Sylvius, now as Pope Pius II, succeeded in assembling another crusade in Ancona in 1463, which he promised to lead himself, but as he travelled to Ancona he fell sick and died, and the crusaders dispersed. 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 undertaken were in the Dauphiné, resulting in little change.[161] The Republic of Venice was the only polity to continue to pose a significant threat to the Ottomans in the Mediterranean, but it pursued the “crusade” mostly for its commercial interests, leading to the protracted Ottoman–Venetian Wars, which continued, with interruptions, until 1718. The completion of the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula and the subsequent Moroccan–Portuguese conflicts, culminating in the Battle of Alcazar in 1580, were also seen as a continuation of the Crusades.[162]

The final end of the Crusades as an at least nominal effort of Catholic Europe against Muslim incursion comes in the 16th century, when the European wars of religion become the predominant concern of the European powers, and a new focus on political pragmatism or Politique permits military alliances between Catholic and Muslim powers, as in the Franco-Ottoman alliance and the Habsburg–Persian alliance, reflecting the inner-Catholic conflict between France and the House of Habsburg on one hand, and the inner-Muslim (Sunni–Shia) conflict between Turks and Persians on the other. The Franco-Ottoman alliance was formed in 1536 betweemn Francis I of France, who was at war with Spain and Germany, and Suleiman I, who sought support against Safavid Persia.[163] The alliance caused a scandal in the Catholic world, but it was of lasting effect, continuing for the next two and a half centuries, until the collapse of the French kingdom.[164]

Revolts and Reformation[edit]

Further information: Hussite Wars and European wars of religion

Hussite victory in the Battle of Domažlice (c. 1500, Jena Codex fol. 56r)

The Shepherds’ Crusade of 1320 was a series of attacks on clergy and Jews. This was more of a popular revolt against the French monarchy than a bona fide attempt at mounting a crusade, and it was suppressed by the authorities.[165]

The Hussite Wars, also known as the “Hussite Crusade”, involved military action against the Bohemian Reformation in the Kingdom of Bohemia and the followers of early Czech church reformer Jan Hus, who was burned at the stake in 1415. 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 compromise Compacts of Basel by the Church and the Hussites.[166]

From the Catholic perspective, the 16th-century conflicts connected with the Protestant Reformation were seen in the tradition of the medieval crusades against heresy. Thus, while the European wars of religion are not usually called “crusades” in modern historiography, even by Catholic authors,[167] the 1588 campaign of Philip II of Spain to invade England to overthrow Elizabeth and reinstate Catholicism[168] was treated as a crusade by Pope Sixtus V.[169]

See also[edit]


  1. Jump up^ Constable did not use this term; see Nicholson 2004, p. x
  2. Jump up^ The Partitio terrarum imperii Romaniae is a valuable record of early-13th-century Byzantine administrative divisions (episkepsis) and family estates.
  3. Jump up^ (Frankolevantini; French Levantins, Italian Levantini, Greek Φραγκολεβαντίνοι, and Turkish Levantenler or Tatlısu Frenk leri). The term “Levantine” was used pejoratively for inhabitants of mixed Arab and European descent and for Europeans who adopted local dress and customs.[116]