Crusades 1095-1453

From 1095 through 1492 there were numerous crusades waged against non-Christian populations.  The first of these began as a pogrom or purge against the Jewish population of the Rhine river cities of Mainz, Cologne and other cities.   There is a general periodization to the history of the Crusdades as they involved the Middle East, but it is also important to realize that crusading as a zealous Christian expansionist campaign extended to nearly all regions of Europe during these four and a half centuries.

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 motivation for a European invasion of the Middle East to occupy Syria and Palestine and the City of Jeruslaem requires an examination of the material and ideological causes of warfare.  War is an expensive option and in the late 11th century, the success of Seljuk expansion and rule in the Syrian interior and coastal areas, and their domination over the key trade cities of Damascus and their pressure on Constantinople and Cairo placed pressure on European markets.  When the Seljuks took over Jerusalem in the late 11th century they allowed the Christian monasteries and churches to remain.  There is little evidence that the Seljuk Muslims persecuted or desecrated Christian institutions.  Therefore the choice of Pope Urban II in 1095 to proclaim a Crusade or Holy War to be sanctioned by the combined forces and financial support of the Church and the various royal states must be explained on grounds other than the rush to save Christian practice in Jerusalem or the Holy Land.  

When Pope Urban II convened a Council of the Church at Clermont, France in 1095 to proclaim a Crusade, he was quickly joined by populist preachers, including Peter the Hermit who preached support among the commoners for the Crusade against the Muslim held city of Jerusalem.  These calls for popular support quickly accelerated and resulted in the pogroms and purges against the Jewish populations in cities along the Rhine River, including Cologne and Mainz.  A first hand account of these purges against the Jewish population comes from a Jewish witness, Soloman Bar Sampson. Sampson revealed how many of these attacks were really used to extort money from the Jewish population.   Most of the participants in the First Crusade were from the north of France, including Pope Urban II.  A great many other Europeans resisted joining this First Crusade, notably the Germans and most Italian seaport cities.  Only Genoa offered support for the campaign, which is itself odd, because its location on the West coast of Italy made preparations by sea that much more difficult.  The Venetians resisted because the Crusades threatened their monopoly trading position as middle merchants between Constantinople and the Levantine cities of the Middle East.

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 

Despite the limits of disunity, the invasion of the First Crusade with the aid of Genoese carpenters developed Jerusalem had been taken in 1099 siege towers and catapults than enabled the European crusaders to effectively besiege and occupy Antioch, and in 1104 the capture of Acre.  by Godfrey of Bouillon and was succeeded after his death the following year by his brother Baldwin who assumed the title of King of Jerusalem. The crusaders divided their conquered lands into four separate states. The Western European invasion caused great friction with the Byzantines in Constantinople.  An interesting account of this fractious relation is found in the Byzantine princess Anna Comena’s  description of their stayover in Constantinople while enroute to the Holy Land.

Outremer of the 12th Century

Because the European crusaders were few in number their settlement was confined to the cities.  The second phase of occupation following the First Crusade is known as the the Outremer (Overseas) of the 12th century.  This was the Europeans attempt to extend and their territory in the area between Antioch and Jerusalem.  They erected enormous castles as at Crac des Chevaliers in modern day northern Lebanon.  They met with great and persistent resistance, including the rise of the Assassins, a Muslim order of Counter-Crusaders

Second Crusade 1146 – 1148

The periodization of the Crusades into separate campaigns tends to avoid the broader strategic goals of the Crusaders and the counter resistance and warfare waged by successive Muslim states.  European colonization depended on settlers but in reality the type of colonists was limited to soldiers from military orders, clergy and merchant traders and some artisans.  Most of the settlers were integrated into the Italian shipping empires that waged across the Mediterranean and were less interested in traditional settler colonization (Blockmans and Hoppenbrouwers, 186).  The rise of Zengi, a Turkish ruler from Mosul and Aleppo in Northern Iraq posed a new threat to the Crusaders.  A Second Crusade of reinforcements was dispatched in the late 12th century, but met stiff resistance.  King Raymond II was murdered by Assasisns in 1152.  Nur al-Din of Aleppo succeeded in uniting Muslim Syria in opposition to the Crusaders.  An indication of the weakness and vulnerability of the Crusaders is the decade long captivity of Raymond III from 1164 to 1174.  An ill fated expedition in 1148 to take Damascus failed.  This was followed by the defeat and extermination of a large force of Christian knights at the Battle of the Hattin in 1187 at which the famous Muslim general Saladin captured the relic of the True Cross that the  Crusaders had taken into battle.  This defeat allowed for the siege and recapture of Jerusalem by Muslim forces.  

Third Crusade

The Third Crusade is marked by a siege warfare by Saladin over the remaining Crusader cities at  Acre from 1187 to 1191 when it was finally retaken by King Richard I of England (the Lionheart) Richard I of England  Richard I withdrew his siege on Jerusalem and had to abandon Palestine altogether when news of internal political crisis back in England reached him.  On his return he was captured and held by rival Kings in Germany for a ransom.

The Fourth Crusade and other later Crusades

The so-called Fourth Crusade was led in 1248 by Louis IX of France who attempted to conquer and hold the lower Nile delta.  Most of his force succumbed or was devastated by scurvy, hunger or dysentery and he was captured with most of his men by Egyptian forces.  His ransom cost France the equivalent of an entire’s year budget for the Crown of France.  He remained in Palestine for another four years with little to gain. An attempt at another Crusade into Tunisia in 1270 ended with the King Louis IX dying of sickness.  By 1291 Acre, the last Latin city was evacuated and abandoned by the Europeans and the era of Crusading in the Middle East came to an end.

The Northern Crusades. 

A good introduction to the Northern Crusades waged in Eastern Europe and Russia is Eric Christiansen, The Northern Crusades (Penguin, 1997).  Christiansen documents and analyzes the pattern of Christianization and forced martial conversion through crusading that began in 1147 in the regions of the Baltic and then in Russia in the 13th and 14th centuries.  These are lesser studied but important conflicts for historians.  Much of the literature is in German and other East European languages.  In fact, from the 12th to 16th century a series of crusading military campaigns against pagan regions of upper Eastern Europe and Russia and the steppes were waged.  These were interrupted by the Mongol invasions but resumed in 15th century and continued into the 16th century.  The motives for crusading were tied to material concerns over ties to the Hanseatic League, the fisheries of the region and German colonization of the East, for which the promulgation of a Christian ideology was convenient to the development of cities, churches and maritime commerce and shipping.  A popular representation of the Northern Crusades is the Soviet nationalist propagandist film, Alexander Nevsky, based around the historical figure.  That the sweep of the Northern Crusades anticipated and involved widespread interests is apparent in the direct participation English knights and royalty.  One of the Teutonic Order knights who fought in these crusades was Henry Bolingbroke, later to become King Henry IV of England.   Ultimately, the transformations of cities like Novgorod into Christianized towns went through several phases so that by the early modern periods, Christians, Muslims and Jews could be counted among its residents.

Crusades in Spain against the Muslims                                                        
The great literary account of Christian military campaigns against Muslims in Spain is the Cantar de Mio Cid (The Song of My Cid or Lord).  El Cid (Rodrigo de Bivar) was a Christian Spanish nobleman from Burgos in Northern Spain who in the late 11th century worked as a mercenary for both Christian Spanish and Muslim Spanish rulers.  His conquest of Valencia which he held as a vassalage until his death in 1099 is an example of Christian military expansion against Muslim territory in Spain, a trend that would accelerate through the late 15th century when the last Muslims were expelled from Granada in 1492.  

Crusades against Albigensians, and other Heresies
By the early 13th century internal Crusades were waged against dissident anticlerical movements led by the so-called Albigensians.  The Albigensian crusade, 1209-1229 was an internal purge against followers of populist religious movements that had substantial following in Southern Europe, particularly in France and northern Spain.  The Albigensian Crusade was carried out in phases to gian control of Toulouse and the and surrounding areas, and later crusades or purgers against  the revival of southern adherents and a later military purge against the Capetians in 1226-1229. 

The Myth of the Children’s Crusade of 1292
The so-called Children’s Crusade was not a planned or sanctioned movement. It arose from populist discontent with the elite nature of crusade recruiting and dismay at news of defeat and setbacks by the prior crusades.  Various local pilgrimage movements were organized by various groups including one called the Children’s Crusade and another labeled the Shepherds’ Crusade.  See, J. Shinners, tr. Medieval Popular Religion:  A Reader  (Peterborough:  Broadview Press, 1997), pp. 398-99.   

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.

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