One way to understand the Crusader campaigns is to follow the course of the Normans in their conquests and control of Britain, Ireland, Central and Southern Italy and their sharing of power in the Crusader States from the late 11th and through the 12th centuries. For more on the Normans go to my separate courseblog Norman Culture and Empire: 1050-1200 CE . We have some excellent sources including the following:
1. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles help us to read of the 1066 Norman invasion of England and the battle and aftermath of Hastings.
2. The Bayeux Tapestry and translation guide
3. The Norman occupation and rule in Southern Italy began in 1061 and later extended to Sicily. Go to the Museum with No Frontiers project on Chrisitan, Jewish and Muslim arts and architecture in this period.
4. On the Norman involvement in mobilizing for the Crusades to the Holy Lands after 1096, including Tancred (1075-1112) go to the Fordham Internet Sourcebook project. Tancred is described in the Autobiography of Ibn Munqidh, (unfortunately available only in print). A biography written in Latin by Norman sources is The Gesta Tancredi . It was written by Ralph Caen, a Norman who joined the First Crusade. This has been translated in a 2005 edition.
5. On the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in the mid 12th century, see the New History of Ireland series, Cambridge University Press.
Jerusalem: To understand the importance of Jerusalem as a center of three religious faiths, see this interactive tour of the Haram al-Sharif, the large plaza built on the old Jewish temple's foundation and encompassing the two important Muslim shrines and mosque complexes, the Dome of the Rock and the Mosque al-Aqsa. There is also a 360 panorama tour you can take in Jerusalem Through Time.
Internal Crusades: Spain and the Rhineland
It is important to realize that the first mobilization of religious ideology into Crusading arose in Spain in the wars against the Muslim prinicpalities. There we find a transitional and key figure, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar of Burgos, known as El-Cid or (al-Sayyid , The Lord in Arabic.) The epic of his conquests is recorded in the Catalonian epic poem, El Cantar de mio Cid. Even though El Cid managed to conquer Valencia and wrest it from Muslim control, the city fell back into Muslim hands soon after his death in 1099.
Normans in Sicily and Italy
Pope Urban II's call for a Crusade also intersected with the occupation of Southern Italy and Sicily by the Normans. As a French Pope he was dependent on Norman and French support for stay in office and to deflect the threat of anti-popes that could be created at the whim of the emperors.
The First Crusade is also compromised from the start by the interdiction of the so-called People's Crusade led by the evangelical monk Peter the Hermit. Peter the Hermit's appeals to commoners and people of the lower orders was met by a response of tens of thousands of followers who marched disastrously through Central Europe en route to Constantinople. En route they were attacked by Hungarians and others who limited their progress, so that a much smaller group actually arrived in Constantinople. When they marched forth into Anatolia led by
Pilgrimage and the Crusades
A byproduct of the Crusades was the dissemination of relics and pilgrimage routes to destinations housing sacred relics. One of the prinicipal pilgrimage sites in France was the Basilica of the Vézelay. Here are some sites that guide you through it.
1. Paradoxplace guide
2. Sacred Destinations guide
Another Sacred Destinations site for our readings about the Traveling Relics of Laon Cathedral.