The crusades were never referred to as such by their
participants. The original crusaders were known by various terms, including
fideles Sancti Petri (the faithful of St. Peter) or milites Christi (knights of Christ). They saw themselves as undertaking a peregrinatio, a pilgrimage,
though pilgrims were usually forbidden from carrying arms. Like pilgrims,
each crusader swore an vow (a votus), to be fulfilled on successfully
reaching Jerusalem, and they were granted a cloth cross (crux) to be sewn
into their clothes. This "taking of the cross", the crux, eventually
became associated with the entire journey; the word "crusade"
(coming into English from the French croisade, the Italian crociata, or
the Portuguese cruzado) developed from this. Since the 17th century the
term "crusade" has carried a connotation in the west of being
a "righteous campaign," usually to "root out evil,"
or to fight for a just cause. In the Arab world, the equivalent term is
jihad, while "crusade" is a term which connotes a hostile and
foreign invasion by "infidels," those disrespectful or defiling
of the Muslim culture.
The major crusades
A traditional numbering scheme for the crusades gives us nine during the
11th to 13th centuries, as well as three others that are mostly contemporaneous
and unnumbered. This is somewhat misleading, as there were frequent "minor"
crusades throughout this period, not only in Palestine but also in Spain
and central Europe, against not only Muslims, but also Christian heretics
and personal enemies of the Papacy or other powerful monarchs. Such "crusades"
continued into the 16th century, until the Renaissance and Reformation
when the political and religious climate of Europe was significantly different
than that of the Middle Ages. The following is a listing of the "major"
Full article: First Crusade
After Byzantine emperor Alexius I called for help with defending his empire
against the Seljuk Turks, in 1095 Pope Urban II called upon all Christians
to join a war against the Turks, a war which would count as full penance.
Crusader armies marched up towards Jerusalem, sacking several cities on
their way. In 1099, they took Jerusalem, massacring the Jewish and Muslim
population. As a result of the First Crusade, several small Crusader states
were created, notably the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
Full article: Second Crusade
After a period of relative peace, in which Christians and Muslims co-existed
in the Holy Land, Bernard of Clairvaux called for a new crusade when the
town of Edessa was conquered by the Turks. French and German armies marched
to Asia Minor in 1147, but failed to accomplish any major successes, and
indeed endangered the survival of the Crusader states with a foolish attack
on Damascus. In 1149, both leaders had returned to their countries without
Full article: Third Crusade
In 1187, Saladin recaptured Jerusalem. Pope Gregory VIII preached a crusade,
which was led by several of Europe's most important leaders: Richard I
of England, Philip II of France and Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor. Frederick
drowned in Cilicia in 1190, leaving an unstable alliance between the English
and the French. Philip left in 1191 after the Crusaders had recaptured
Acre from the Muslims, while Richard left the following year after establishing
a truce with Saladin.
Full article: Fourth Crusade
The Fourth Crusade was initiated by Pope Innocent III in 1202, with the
intention of invading the Holy Land through Egypt. The Venetians gained
control of this crusade and diverted it to Constantinople where they attempted
to place a Byzantine exile on the throne. After a series of misunderstandings
and outbreaks of violence the city was sacked in 1204. The popular spirit
of the movement was now dead, and the succeeding crusades are to be explained
rather as arising from the Papacy's struggle to divert the military energies
of the European nations toward Syria.
The Middle Ages
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