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Medieval illustration of a battle during the Second Crusade
14th-century miniature from William of Tyre's Histoire d'Outremer of a battle during the Second Crusade, National Library of France, Department of Manuscripts, French 22495 fol. 154V

The Crusades were military expeditions undertaken by the Christians of Europe in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries to recover the Holy Land from Muslim rule. The conflicts to which the term has been applied has been extended to include campaigns undertaken under the Pope's sanction against pagans or heretics and any ‘holy war’ instigated and blessed by the Catholic Church for alleged religious ends. At the time of the early crusades the word did not exist, and it only much later became the leading descriptive term in English.

Pope Urban II preached for the First Crusade in 1095, at the Council of Clermont. He encouraged military support for Emperor Alexios I who needed reinforcements for the Byzantine Empire’s conflict with westward migrating Turks conquering and settling in Anatolia. Urban aimed to guarantee pilgrim access to the eastern Mediterranean holy sites under Muslim control. The crusade established four crusader states in the eastern Mediterranean: the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the County of Tripoli. The enthusiastic response to Urban's preaching across all social strata in western Europe established a precedent for further crusades. Volunteers became crusaders by taking a public vow and receiving plenary indulgences from the Church. Some were hoping for a mass ascension into heaven at Jerusalem or God's forgiveness for their sins. Others participated to satisfy feudal obligations, obtain glory and honour, or to seek economic and political gain.

Conventionally an arbitrary system is used to number nine distinct campaigns as Crusades. The Second Crusade achieved little beyond the capture of Lisbon. The Third Crusade failed to recapture Jerusalem. The Fourth diverted to sack Constantinople. The Fifth was defeated in Egypt. The Sixth regained Jerusalem by negotiation. The Seventh also ended in defeat in Egypt and the Eighth failed in Tunis. The Ninth is sometimes considered part of the Eighth and is of minor importance, only notable for the presence of Prince Edward, the future king of England. The last of the Eastern Crusader cities fell in 1291 and there were no more crusades to recover the Holy Land. Territorial gains lasted longer in northern and western Europe. Crusades brought all the north-east Baltic and the neighbouring Slavic tribes, known as Wends, under Catholic control in the late 12th century. The French monarchy used the Albigensian Crusade to extend the kingdom to the Mediterranean Sea. The rise of the Ottoman Empire in the late 14th century prompted a Catholic response which led to further defeats at Nicopolis and Varna. In the 15th century the pivotal events in Christian–Islamic relations were marked by two events. The Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans, and a conclusive victory for the Spanish over the Moors in the conquest of Granada. The idea of crusading continued, not least in the form of the Knights Hospitaller, until the end of the 18th century.

Modern historians hold widely varying views of the crusaders. To some, their conduct was incongruous with the stated aims and the implied moral authority of the papacy. Muslims were killed in large numbers on many occasions, as were Christians of other denominations. The crusades had a profound impact on western civilisation. The republics of Genoa and Venice flourished, establishing communes in the Crusader States and expanding trade with eastern markets. Venice gained a maritime Empire. The collective identity of the Latin Church was consolidated under papal leadership by the ideological developments of Crusading and these reinforced the connection between western Christendom, feudalism and militarism. Accounts of crusading heroism, chivalry and piety influenced Medieval romance, philosophy and literature.


The term crusade used in modern historiography at first referred to military expeditions undertaken by the Christians of Europe in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries to recover the Holy Land from Muslim rule. The conflicts to which the term has been applied has been extended to include campaigns undertaken under Pope's sanction against pagans or heretics and any holy war instigated and blessed by the Catholic Church for alleged religious ends.[1] The usage of crusade can create a misleading impression of coherence, particularly regarding the early crusades. At the time of the First Crusade the terms used for the campaign were iter, "journey", and peregrinatio, "pilgrimage".[2] The terminology of crusading remained largely indistinguishable from that of Christian pilgrimage during the 12th century. It was not until the end of the century that a more specific language of crusading was adopted in the form of crucesignatus—one signed by the cross—for a crusader. This later led to the French croisade—the way of the cross.[3] Pope Innocent III used the term negotium crucis or "affair of the cross". Sinibaldo Fieschi, the future Pope Innocent IV, used the terms crux transmarina—"the cross overseas"—for crusades in the Outremer (crusader states) against Muslims and crux cismarina—"the cross this side of the sea"—for crusades in Europe against other enemies of the church.[4] The modern English "crusade" dates to the early 1700s.[5][A] 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.[6]

The Arabic word for struggle or contest, particularly one for the propagation of Islam—jihād—was used for a religious war of Muslims against unbelievers, often taught as a duty by the Quran and traditions.[7] "Franks" and "Latins" were used by the peoples of the Near East during the crusades for western Europeans, distinguishing them from the Byzantine Christians who were known as "Greeks".[8][9] "Saracen" was used for an Arab Muslim, derived from a Greek and Roman name for the nomadic peoples of the Syro-Arabian desert.[10] The first English use of "Muslim" is dated to the 17th century.[11] Crusader sources used the term "Syrians" to describe Arabic speaking Christians who were members of the Greek Orthodox Church, and "Jacobites" for those who were members of the Syrian Orthodox Church[12]


Map showing the political situation on the eve of the First Crusade in 1097. Map by William Robert Shepherd in 1911

Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century after the conversion of Emperor Constantine.[13] Stability in the West ended with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire at the end of the 5th century. In the East the Eastern Roman Empire, now known as Byzantium, continued until in 1453. Its capital Constantinople was the largest city of the Christian world in the Middle Ages.[14]

Following the foundation of the Islamic religion by Muhammad in the 7th century, Muslim Arabs conquered territory ranging from the Indus River in the East, across North Africa and Southern France to the Iberian Peninsula in the West. This expansion was eventually halted by political and religious fragmentation in the Islamic world.[15] Al-Andalus became an independent state in Spain during the eighth century.[16] Shia Islam emerged, declaring that only descendants of Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, Ali, and daughter, Fatimah could lawfully be caliph. A wider split developed with the mainstream Sunni denomination of Islam on theology, ritual and law. In 969 North Africa, swathes of the Near East including Jerusalem, Damascus and parts of the Mediterranean coastline broke away under the Shi'ite Fatamid dynasty, named after Fatimah.[17]

The Arabs did not require total submission to Islam from Jews or Christians. Considered People of the Book or dhimmis they could continue in their faith on payment of a poll tax.[18] Toleration meant that in the Near East a majority of indigenous Christians—Greeks, Armenians, Syrians and Copts—remained under a minority Muslim elite made up of Arabs, Persians and recently arrived Turks. It was a border zone, distant from the major Islamic centres in Mesopotamia and Egypt.[19] In this period jihad was dormant and there was no appetite for devotional warfare to subjugate non-Muslims. Byzantium's relationship with Islam was no more quarrelsome than its relationship with the Slavs or the Western Christians. The "Mad Caliph", Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, did destroy the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—the 4th century church built on the site of Jesus's crucifixion and empty tomb in Jerusalem—and persecute Christians for a decade before turning on his Muslim subjects. But by the end of the 11th century contemporary reports are mixed. Some note that the Christians were allowed to keep their churches in good order and pilgrimages were allowed. Others talk of attacks on pilgrims.[20]

The initial phase of Turkic migration into the Middle East saw the intersection of the ruling Abbasid Caliphate and Turkic history from the 9th century. One driver of Middle Eastern state formation was the use of slave soldiers. Prisoners from the borderlands of Khurasan and Transoxania were transported to central Islamic lands, converted to Islam and given military training. Known as ghulam or mamluks the theory was, that as slaves they would be more loyal to their masters. In practice it took the Turks only a few decades to make the journey from guard, to commander, governor, dynastic founder and eventually king maker. Examples include the Tulunids in Egypt and Syria (868–905) and the Ikhshidids who followed in Egypt (935–969).[21] The second wave of Turkish migration saw the arrival of the Seljuk Turks in the 10th century. These were a previously minor ruling clan from Transoxania who had recently converted to Islam and migrated into Iran to seek their fortunes.[22] In the two decades following their arrival they conquered Iran, Iraq and the Near East.[23] The Seljuks and their followers were from the Sunni tradition which quickly brought them into conflict in Palestine and Syria with the Fatimids.[16]

Battles between Byzantine and Seljuk troops for the control of Anatolia in the 1070s.

In the 8th century, the Christians began campaigning to retake the Iberian peninsula in what has become known as the Reconquista.[24] The recovery of territory by the Byzantine Empire reached its furthest extent in 1025, through the military successes of Emperor Basil II.[25] The Byzantine Empire and Islamic world were now historic centres of wealth, culture and military power. As such, they viewed the West as a backwater that presented little organised threat.[26]

Before the middle of the 11th century Gregorian Reform rival Roman noble families and the Holy Roman Emperor competed for control—appointing relatives and protégés to the papacy that amounted to little more than a localised bishopric. [27] In the mid 11th century a reform movement coalesced around Pope Leo IX, intent on abolishing simony, clerical marriage and implementing a college of cardinals for the election of future popes.[28] An assertive, reformist papacy was established, eager to increase its power and influence. The doctrine of papal primacy, however, was in conflict with eastern Christians whose traditional view was that the pope was only one of the five patriarchs of the church alongside the Patriarchates of Antioch, Constantinople, Alexandria and Jerusalem.[29] Differencies in custom, creed and practice spurred Leo IX to send a legation to the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1054 which ended in mutual excommunication and East–West Schism, although both churches remained in communion[30]

At the end of 11th century the Empire's resources were strained by the arrival of enemies on all frontiers. In Italy they were confronted by the Normans; to the north, the Pechenegs, the Serbs and the Cumans, as well as the Seljuks to the east. Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes attempted to confront the Seljuks to suppress sporadic raiding; this led to the 1071 defeat of the Byzantine army at the Battle of Manzikert. Once considered a pivotal event by historians, Manzikert is now regarded as only one step in the conquest of Anatolia by the Great Seljuk Empire.[31] To maintain order, the Emperors were forced to recruit mercenary armies, sometimes from the very forces that posed the threat.[32]

Causes and precursors

Historical analysis has demonstrated that the First Crusade had its roots in developments earlier in the 11th century but for contemporary Western chroniclers it seems to have been a surprising and unexpected event. At the end of the century clerics and laymen increasingly recognised Jerusalem as worthy of penitential pilgrimage. The Seljuk hold on the city was weak and returning pilgrims reported Christian repression as well as trouble visiting shrines. Byzantine desire for western military aid converged with increasing willingness of the western nobility to accept papal military governance.[33][34]

In this period warfare was widespread in Western Europe. Acts of violence were commonly used in the settlement of disputes. The papacy attempted manage this moral danger by regulating certain types of conflict.[35] Historians, such as Carl Erdmann, once thought the Peace and Truce of God movements restricting warfare between Christians from the 10th century had an impact. The influence is apparent in Pope Urban's speeches. But later scholars, such as Marcus Bull, assert that the movement's effectiveness was limited and it had already died out by the time of the Crusades.[36] The Christian population had a desire for a more effective church evident in increased piety.[37] This prompted investment and growth in monasteries across England, France and Germany. Pilgrimage to the Holy Land began in the 4th century but expanded after safer routes through Hungary developed from 1000. It was an increasingly articulate piety within the knighthood and the developing devotional and penitential practises of the aristocracy that created a fertile ground for crusading appeals. Pope Gregory VII extended the system of recruitment via oaths developed by Pope Alexander II for military resourcing into a network across Europe. The system supported the development of a doctrine of holy war against heresy developed from the thinking of 4th-century theologian Augustine of Hippo. Augustine's theory was that a Just War could be rationalised if it was proclaimed by a legitimate authority such as a king or bishop, it was defensive or for the recovery of lands and that a reasonble but not excessive degree of violence was employed.[38]

Erdmann identified ecclesiastical acknowledgement of an elite warrior culture back to Constantine in church and state policy. The wars, debate and theory of the Investiture Contest formed a crucial underpinning of the crusades. Historians debate whether wars fought against the Moors in Spain and the Normans' Papal sanctioned invasion of Sicily, as well as the those against those identified as heretics and schismatics can be considered 'Pre-crusades'.[39][40] In 1074 Pope Gregory VII planned a display of military power reinforcing the principle of papal sovereignty. His vision of a holy war in support of Byzantium was the first real crusade prototype but there was insufficient support.[41] The difference between a 'just war' and a holy war was the latter was seen to be with God's support, death in such a conflict was seen as martyrdom, fighting was a penitential activity ond involvemt brought absolution from sins. This revolutionary means of recruitment was an essential precursor to the crusades. As Andrew Jotischky put it, "The path to [the Council of Clermont] lay open."[42]

The motivations of the crusaders may never be well understood.[43] One motivating factor may have been spiritual – a desire to gain penance through warfare.[44] Historian Georges Duby's explanation was the crusades offered a means for economic advancement and social status for younger, landless sons of the aristocracy. This study has been challenged by other academics because it did not account for the wider non-feudal kinship groups in Germany and Southern France at the time of the First Crusade.[45] The anonymous Gesta Francorum talks about the straightforward economic attraction of gaining "great booty".[46] This was true to an extent, but the rewards sought often did not always include the seizing of new lands as fewer crusaders settled than returned.[47] A third explanation could be "a thirst for adventure and a general liking for warfare", but the great deprivations the crusaders experienced and the costs they incurred to join the crusades makes this seem less than likely.[48] An additional sociological explanation was that they had no choice. Many crusaders were embedded in extended patronage systems, and if their feudal lords joined the crusade, they were obligated to do so as well.[49]

From 1092 the status quo in the region disintegrated following the death of the vizier and effective ruler of the Seljuk Empire, Nizam al-Mulk. This was closely followed by the deaths of the Seljuk Sultan Malik-Shah and the Fatimid khalif, Al-Mustansir Billah. Islamic historian Carole Hillenbrand has described this as analogous to the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 with the phrase “familiar political entities gave way to disorientation and disunity”.[50] The confusion and division meant the Islamic world disregarded the world beyond; this made it vulnerable to, and surprised by, the First Crusade.[51]

In the eastern Mediterranean

First Crusade and aftermath

Miniature of Peter the Hermit leading the People's Crusade (Egerton 1500, Avignon, 14th century)

In 1095 Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos sent an embassy to Pope Urban II at the Council of Piacenza. He requested a body of knights to serve in the Byzantine army in the fight with the Turks, in particular the Seljuks and their followers.[52] Later that year at the Council of Clermont, Urban raised the issue of military support again and preached for a crusade.[53] Almost immediately, the French priest Peter the Hermit led thousands of mostly poor Christians out of Europe in what became known as the People's Crusade.[54] In transit through Germany these crusaders indulged in wide-ranging anti-Jewish activities culminating in the massacres of Jewish communities in the Rhineland massacres. The end of the Peoples' Crusade was abrupt. Shortly after leaving Byzantine controlled territory the crusaders were annihilated in a Turkish ambush at the battle of Civetot.[55]

King Philip I of France and Holy Roman Emperor Henry IVdeclined to participate in the crusade due to conflict with Pope Urban II. But members of the high aristocracy led independent military contingents in loose, fluid arrangements based on bonds of lordship, family, ethnicity and language. Foremost amongst these was the elder statesman, Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse. He was rivalled by two Normans from southern Italy—the martial Bohemond of Taranto and his nephew Tancred—and by Godfrey of Bouillon and his brother Baldwin who led forces from Lotharingia, and Germany. These five princes were pivotal to the campaign, which was also joined by a northern French army led by: Robert Curthose, Count Stephen II of Blois, and Count Robert II of Flanders.[56] The armies may have numbered as many as 100,000 including non-combatants. They travelled east by land to Byzantium where they were cautiously welcomed by the Emperor.[57] Alexios persuaded many of the princes to pledge allegiance to him; he also convinced them their first objective should be Nicaea, the capital of the Sultanate of Rum. This was captured by a crusader siege and a Byzantine naval assault while Sultan Kilij Arslan was away resolving a territorial dispute. The seige was a high point in Latin and Greek co-operation and the start of crusader attempts to take advantage of disunity in the Muslim world.[58]

An advanced party led by Bohemond and Robert was ambushed at Dorylaeum giving the crusaders an initial experience of Turkish tactics utilising lightly armoured mounted archers. The Normans resisted for hours before the arrival of the main army forced a Turkish withdrawal.[59] The three-month march to Antioch was arduous best with starvation, thirst and disease. Baldwin's decided to take 100 knights and their followers to carve out his own territory in Edessa, the first crusader state.[60] The crusaders besieged Antioch for eight months. Finally, Bohemond persuaded a guard in the city to open a gate. The crusaders entered, massacring the Muslim inhabitants as well as many Christians amongst the Greek Orthodox, Syrian and Armenian communities.[61]

A force to recapture the city was raised by the Atabeg of MosulKerbogha. Stephen of Blois deserted, telling the Byzantines the cause was lost. As a result they provided no relief force and Alexius retreated to Constantinople. The Greeks were not forgiven for this perceived betrayal and Stephen was branded a coward.[62] Suffering from desertion and starvation the crusaders attempted to negotiate surrender but were rejected. Bohemond recognised that the only remaining option was a counterattack. Despite superior numbers, Kerbogha's army was surprised by the Crusaders commitment and dedication and abandoned the siege.[63]

The crusaders then delayed for months debating who would have the captured territory. This ended when news arrived that the Fatimid Egyptians had taken Jerusalem from the Seljuk Turks. It was now imperative to attack before the Egyptians could consolidate their position. Bohemond remained in Antioch, retaining the city, despite his pledge to return it to Byzantine control, while Raymond led the remaining crusader army rapidly south along the coast to Jerusalem.[64]

The first attack on the city failed. The siege became a stalemate, until the arrival of craftsmen and supplies transported by the Genoese to Jaffa tilted the balance. Crusaders constructed two large siege engines; the one commanded by Godfrey breached the walls. For two days the crusaders massacred the inhabitants and pillaged the city. Historians now believe the accounts of the numbers killed were exaggerated, but this narrative of massacre did much to cement the crusaders' reputation for barbarism.[65] Godfrey further secured the Frankish position by defeating an Egyptian relief force at Ascalon.[66] Now, most of the crusaders considered their pilgrimage complete and returned to Europe. Godfrey took leadership and the title Defender of the Holy Sepulchre. The support of his troops from Lorraine prevented any idea that Jerusalem would become an ecclesiastical domain and the claims of Raymond.[67] Godfrey was left with a mere 300 knights and 2,000 infantry to defend Palestine. Tancred was the other prince who remained. His ambition was to gain a princedom of his own.[68] When Godfrey died in 1100 the Lorrainers foiled the attempt of Jerusalem's Patriarch, Daimbert to seize power and enabled Godfrey's brother, Baldwin, to take the crown.[69]

The crusade seems to have been barely noticed in the Islamic world as there is limited written evidence before 1130. This may be due to a reluctance to relate Muslim failure, but it is more likely to be the result of cultural misunderstanding. Al-Afdal Shahanshah, the new vizier of Egypt, and the Muslim world did not recognise the crusaders as religiously motivated warriors intent on conquest and settlement. It was assumed they were he latest in a long line of Byzantine mercenaries.[70] The Crusaders had a crucial opportunity to consolidate without any pan-Islamic counter-attack. The Muslim world was divided; the Sunnis of Syria and Iraq opposed the Shi'ite Fatimids of Egypt and the Turks had rival rulers in Damascus and Aleppo.[71] In Baghdad the Seljuk sultan, Barkiyaruq, vied with an Abbasid caliph, Al-Mustazhir, in a Mesopotamian struggle. [72]

Loss of Edessa and the Second Crusade

The present-day Temple Mount in Jerusalem, known to the crusaders as "the Temple of Solomon". This was the founding headquarters of the Knights Templar and the order derived its name from the location.

The Crusader states were almost constantly at war in the early 12th century. This led to high mortality rates among the nobility as well as a policy of encouraging settlers from the West and Christians from across the Jordan.[73] Bohemond seized Christian cities in Cilicia, refused to return Antioch and in 1108 organised a Crusade against the Byzantine Empire. The Crusade ended in failure after Alexius starved Bohemond of supplies by cutting his supply lines. The resulting Treaty of Devol, although never implemented, forced Bohemond to acknowledge Alexius as his feudal lord.[74] Relations between Edessa and Antioch were variable: they fought together in the defeat at Battle of Harran, but the Antiocheans claimed suzerainty and attempted to block the return of Count Baldwin—later king of Jerusalem—from his captivity after the battle.[75] This conflict demonstrates the Crusader involvement in Near East politics with Muslims and Christians fighting on both sides. The expansion of Norman Antioch came to an end in 1119 with a major defeat by the Turks at the battle of the Field of Blood.[76]

Smaller groups of crusaders continued to travel to the eastern Mediterranean to fight the Muslims and aid the crusader states. The third decade of the 12th century saw campaigns by French nobleman Fulk V of Anjou and the Venetians who captured Tyre. The period also saw the foundation of the Knights Templar, a military order of warrior monks which became international and widely influential. The Templars, along with the other military orders, are estimated to have provided half of the crusader states total military strength.[77]

For the first time, the rise of Imad ad-Din Zengi saw the Crusaders threatened by a Muslim ruler attempting to restore jihad to Near Eastern politics. After his father was executed for treason in the Seljuk succession crisis little is known of his early years. He became Atabeg of Mosul in 1127 and used this to expand his control to Aleppo and then Damascus. In 1144 he conquered Edessa. After a delay of nearly two years preaching began for what subsequently became known as the Second Crusade. Initially, support was sluggish, partly because Pope Eugenius III delegated the preaching. The French Benedictine abbot, Bernard of Clairvaux spread the message that the loss was the result of sinfulness, and redemption was the reward for crusading. Simultaneously, the anti-Semitic crusade preaching of a Cistercian monk called Rudolf initiated further massacres of Jews in the Rhineland.[78] This formed part of a general increase in crusading activity, including in the Iberian peninsular and northern Europe.[79]

Zengi was murdered in uncertain circumstances. His elder son Saif ad-Din succeeded him as atabeg of Mosul while a younger son Nur ad-Din succeeded him in Aleppo.[80] For the first time ruling monarchs were campaigning—King Louis VII of France and Conrad III—but the crusade was not a success. Edessa had been destroyed, making its recovery impossible, and the crusade's objectives were unclear. Hostility developed between the French and the Byzantines. The French blamed the Byzantines for defeats suffered against the Seljuks in Anatolia, while the Byzantines laid claims on future territorial gains in northern Syria. As a result, in a decision that historians now criticise, the crusaders attacked the Seljuks of Damascus. This broke a long period of cooperation and coexistence between Jerusalem and Damascus. Bad luck, poor tactics and a feeble five-day siege of Damascus led to internal arguments; the barons of Jerusalem withdrew support and the crusaders retreated before the arrival of a relief army led by Zengi's sons.[81] William of Tyre relected, and modern historians have concurred, that morale fell, hostility to the Byzantines grew and distrust developed between the newly arrived crusaders and those that had made the region their home after the earlier crusades.[82]

Rise of Saladin and the Third Crusade

After the conquest of Ascalon in 1153 opened a strategic road south from Palestine, Jerusalem demonstrated an increasing interest in expanding into Egyptian territory. In 1160 King Baldwin III planned an invasion that was only prevented by Egypt paying a tribute of 160,000 gold dinars.[83] In 1163 Shawar—who had been deposed as vizier in an outbreak of systemic and murderous political intrigue—arrived in Damascus to meet with Nur ad-Din. His aim was to gain the political and military support necessary to regain his position. Nur ad-Din prevaricated before responding when it became clear that, otherwise, the crusaders might gain a strategic foothold on the Nile. Some historians consider this decision a visionary attempt to surround the crusaders.[84] Nur ad-Din sent his Kurdish general, Shirkuh, who stormed Egypt and restored Shawar. However, Shawar asserted his independence and allied with Baldwin's brother and successor King Amalric. When Amalric broke the alliance in a ferocious attack, Shawar again requested military support from Syria. Shirkuh was sent by Nur ad-Din for a second time, accompanied by his nephew, Yusuf ibn Ayyub, who became known by his honorific 'Salah al-Din' ('the goodness of faith'), which has been westernised as Saladin. Amalric retreated. Saladin captured Shawar on his way to peace negotiations and he was quickly executed. Shirkuh was appointed vizier. When he died two months later, Saladin successfully intrigued to be appointed vizier.[85] Nur ad-Din died in 1174, the first Muslim to unite Aleppo and Damascus in the crusading era. Assuming control after the death of his overlord Nur al-Din, Saladin had the strategic choice of establishing Egypt as an autonomous power or attempting to become the pre-eminent Muslim in the eastern Mediterranean; he chose the latter.[86]

Miniature showing King Philip II of France arriving in the eastern Mediterranean (Royal MS 16 G VI, middle of the 14th century)

As Nur al-Din's territories became fragmented after his death, Saladin legitimised his ascent by positioning himself as a defender of Sunni Islam subservient to both the Caliph of Baghdad and to Nur al-Din's 11-year-old son and successor, As-Salih Ismail al-Malik.[87] While claiming to be the young prince's regent until the boy died seven years later, he seized Damascus and much of Syria but failed to take Aleppo.[88] His overconfidence and tactical errors led to an initial defeat by the Latin Christians at the Battle of Montgisard.[89] Despite this setback, Saladin established a domain stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates through a decade of politics, coercion and low-level military action.[90] After a life-threatening illness early in 1186, he determined to make good on his propaganda as the champion of Islam, embarking on heightened campaigning against the Latin Christians.[91] King Guy responded by raising the largest army that Jerusalem had ever put into the field. Saladin lured the force into inhospitable terrain without water supplies, surrounded the Latins with a superior force, and routed them at the Battle of Hattin. Guy was amongst the Christian nobles taken prisoner, but he was later released. Saladin offered the Christians the option of remaining in peace under Islamic rule or taking advantage of 40 days' grace to leave. As a result of his victory, much of Palestine quickly fell to Saladin, including—after a short five-day siege—Jerusalem.[92] According to Benedict of Peterborough, Pope Urban III died of deep sadness on 19 October 1187 after hearing of the defeat.[93]

Urban III's successor as pope, Gregory VIII, issued a papal bull titled Audita tremendi that proposed what became known as the Third Crusade to recapture Jerusalem. In August 1189, the freed King Guy attempted to recover Acre from Saladin by surrounding the strategic city, only for his own forces to be besieged in turn.[94][95] Both armies could be supplied by sea, so a long stalemate commenced. The crusaders became so deprived at times they are thought to have resorted to cannibalism.[96] Travelling overland to join the crusade, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I drowned in the Saleph River; few of his men reached their destination.[97] Richard the Lionheart, King of England, travelled by sea; his sister and his fiancée travelled separately. In response to their capture by the Cypriot ruler, Isaac Komnenos, Richard conquered the island in 1191.[98] Philip II of France was the first king to arrive at the siege of Acre; Richard arrived on 8 June 1191.[94] The arrival of the French and Angevin forces turned the tide in the conflict, and the Muslim garrison of Acre finally surrendered on 12 July. Philip considered his vow fulfilled and returned to France to deal with domestic matters, leaving most of his forces behind. Philip considered his vow fulfilled and returned to France. Richard travelled south along the Mediterranean coast and recaptured the port city of Jaffa. He twice advanced to within a day's march of Jerusalem, but judged that he lacked the resources to successfully capture and defend the city. This marked the end of Richard's crusading career and was a calamitous blow to Frankish morale.[99] A three-year truce was negotiated that allowed Catholics unfettered access to Jerusalem.[100] Politics in England forced Richard's departure, never to return; Saladin died in March 1193.[94]

Fourth Crusade and the sack of Constantinople

Conquest of the Orthodox city of Constantinople by the crusaders in 1204 (BNF Arsenal MS 5090, 15th century)

Pope Innocent III announced a new Crusade on his election in 1198.[101] Crusaders arrived in insufficient numbers to pay the Venetians for the fleet for which they had contracted. Enrico Dandolo, the Doge of Venice, diverted the crusaders to seize the Christian city of Zara for supplies and to compensate for the failure to fulfil the treaty. Innocent III's role was ambivalent. He only condemned the attack when the siege started. He withdrew his legate to disassociate from the attack but seems to have accepted it as inevitable. Historians question whether for him, the papal desire to salvage the crusade may have outweighed the moral consideration of shedding Christian blood.[102]

Innocent did excommunicate the Venetians who continued to plot to further their aggressive territorial objectives. They were joined by King Philip of Swabia, who intended to use the Crusade to restore his exiled nephew, Alexios IV Angelos, to the throne of Byzantium. The latter would require the overthrow of Alexios III Angelos, the uncle of Alexios IV.[103] It was agreed the crusade would attack Constantinople supporting Venice's objectives. The plan was that when these were achieved, Alexios IV would provide the crusade passage to the Holy Land or Egypt.[104]

Alexios III fled. The crusaders initially took Constantinople easily, but not the wider Byzantine Empire. But Alexios IV Angelos was unable or unwilling to fulfil his commitments and the original purpose of the campaign was defeated by his murder in a violent anti-Latin Byzantine revolt. In response the crusaders sacked the city, which involved three days of pillaging churches and killing many Greek Orthodox Christians. The continuation of the crusade was now impossible because many crusaders now lacked the desire for further campaigning and the crusade no longer had the necessary Byzantine logistical support. The result was that the Fourth Crusade never came within 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of its objective of Jerusalem.[105] Instead it increased Latin territory in the East including Constantinople, demonstrated that poor organisation could wreck an expedition and set a precedent that crusades could legitimately attack not only Muslims but other enemies of the Papacy.[106]

Conflict with Egypt including the Fifth and Sixth Crusades

The 13th century saw a new military threat to the Christian and Islamic worlds. The Mongols swept west from Mongolia through southern Russia, Poland and Hungary while also defeating the Seljuks and threatening the crusader states. Although the Mongols were predominately pagans, some were Nestorian Christians. This gave the Papacy hope they might become allies.[107] Separately, Europe saw popular outbursts of ecstatic piety in support of the crusades, such as that resulting in the Children's Crusade in 1212. Large groups of young adults and children spontaneously gathered, believing their innocence would enable success where their elders had failed. Few, if any at all, journeyed to the eastern Mediterranean. Although little reliable evidence survives for these events, they provide an indication of how hearts and minds could be engaged for the cause.[108][109]

Saladin's brother Al-Adil disinherited Saladin's sons from the Ayyubid succession. He lacked the Islamic moral authority of his brother required to unite the Muslim world.[citation needed] The result was that he left the remainder of the kingdom of Jerusalem in peace between 1194 and 1217 prompting a revival of the kingdom. Innocent III's Fourth Lateran Council in 1213 called for another Crusade. In the papal bull Quia maior he did much to codify existing practices in preaching, recruitment and financing the crusades. The plenary indulgence was defined as forgiveness of the sins confessed to a priest for those who fought in, or even provided funding for crusades. The lack of immediate threat and the wait for the expiration of a number of treaties meant that crusading did not resume until 1217, after Innocent's death.[110]

In what is categorised as the Fifth Crusade a force—primarily raised from Hungary, Germany, Flanders—led by King Andrew II of Hungary and Leopold VI, Duke of Austria achieved little. Leopold and John of Brienne, the King of Jerusalem, besieged and captured Damietta, but an army advancing into Egypt was compelled to surrender.[111] Damietta was returned, and an eight-year truce agreed.[112]

Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (left) meets al-Kamil (right), illumination from Giovanni Villani's Nuova Cronica (Vatican Library ms. Chigiano L VIII 296, 14th century).

Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II was excommunicated for breaking a treaty obligation with the pope and failing to join the crusade. But after his marriage to Isabella II of Jerusalem, John of Brienne's daughter and heir, he had a claim to the kingdom of Jerusalem prompting him to journey to Acre in 1228. Frederick was culturally the Christian monarch most empathetic to the Muslim world, having grown up in Sicily, with a Muslim bodyguard and even a harem. His great diplomatic skills meant the Sixth Crusade was largely a negotiation supported by force.[113] A peace treaty was agreed upon giving Latin Christians most of Jerusalem and a strip of territory that linked the city to 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. The treaty, and suspicions about Frederick's ambitions in the region, made him unpopular, and he was forced to return to his domains when they were attacked by Pope Gregory IX.[114]

Attention given to the conflict between the Holy Roman Empire and the papacy often meant that the responsibility for the prioritisation of campaigns in the Crusader states fell to secular, rather than papal, leadership. What is sometimes known as the Barons' Crusade was first led by Count Theobald I of Navarre and when he returned to his lands, by the king of England's brother, the newly arrived Richard of Cornwall. Sultan al-Kamil had died and his family were battling for the succession in Egypt and Syria. This allowed the crusaders to follow Frederick's tactics of combining forceful diplomacy with playing rival factions off against each other.[115] The sparsely populated Jerusalem was in Christian hands and the territorial reach was that of the Kingdom before the disaster at Hattin in 1187. This brief renaissance for Frankish Jerusalem was illusory. The Jerusalem nobility rejected the succession of the Emperor's son to the kingdom's throne. As a result, the kingdom could no longer rely on the resources of the Holy Roman Empire and was left dependent on Ayyubid division, the crusading orders and other western aid for survival.[116]

The Mongols displaced a central Turkish Asian people, the Khwarazmian, providing Al-Kamil's son As-Salah with useful allies.[117] The Khwarazmians savagely captured Jerusalem, pursuing the Christian refugees. Only 300 reached safety at Ramla. A combined Egyptian Khwarazmian army then defeated a Frankish-Damascene army at the battle of La Forbie. This was the last occasion the Crusader State nobility had the resources to put an army in the field. The Patriarch of Jerusalem put the total losses at 16,000; only 36 out of 348 Templars, 26 out of 351 Hospitallers and 3 out of 400 Teutonic knights escaped alive.[118] When Innocent IV wrote to the Mongols to question what right they had to attack peaceful Christians in Russia, Poland and Hungary they replied by demanding his total submission to their authority[119]

Crusades of Saint Louis

Thirteenth century politics in the eastern Mediterranean were complex, with numerous powerful and interested parties. The French were led by the very devout Louis IX, king of France, and his ambitiously expansionist brother Charles. Communication with the Mongols was hindered by the enormous distances involved. Louis sent an embassy to the Mongols in Iran in 1249 seeking a Franco-Mongol alliance.[120] When the reply found him in Palestine in 1251 it was again only a demand for tribute. Louis organised a new crusade, called the Seventh Crusade, to attack Egypt, arriving in 1249.[121] He was defeated at Mansura and captured as he retreated to Damietta. Another ten-year truce was agreed. Louis and his nobles were ransomed while the other prisoners were given a choice between conversion to Islam or beheading.[122] He remained in Syria until 1254 to consolidate the crusader states.[123] A brutal power struggle developed in Egypt between various Mamluk leaders and the remaining weak Ayyubid rulers. The Mamluks were slave soldiers that had been used by Muslim rulers for centuries. Most of them were Turks from the Eurasian Steppe or Christians from Anatolia; kidnapped as boys, converted to Islam and given military training.[124][125] The threat presented by an invasion by the Mongols led to Qutuz seizing the sultanate in 1259 and uniting with another faction led by Baibars to defeat the Mongols at Ain Jalut. The Mamluks then quickly gained control of Damascus and Aleppo before Qutuz was assassinated, most probably by Baibers.[126]

Between 1265 and 1271, Sultan Baibars drove the Franks to a few small coastal outposts.[127] Baibars had three key objectives: to prevent an alliance between the Latins and the Mongols, to cause dissension among the Mongols (particularly between the Golden Horde and the Persian Ilkhanate), and to maintain access to a supply of slave recruits from the Russian steppes. He supported King Manfred of Sicily's failed resistance to the attack of Charles and the papacy. Dissension in the crusader states led to conflicts such as the War of Saint Sabas. Venice drove the Genoese from Acre to Tyre where they continued to trade with Baibars' Egypt. Indeed, Baibars negotiated free passage for the Genoese with Michael VIII Palaiologos, Emperor of Nicaea, the newly restored ruler of Constantinople.[128] In 1270 Charles turned his brother King Louis IX's crusade, known as the Eighth, to his own advantage by persuading him to attack his rebel Arab vassals in Tunis. The crusader army was devastated by disease, and Louis himself died at Tunis on 25 August. The fleet returned to France. Prince Edward, the future king of England, and a small retinue arrived too late for the conflict but continued to the Holy Land in what is known as the Ninth Crusade. Edward survived an assassination attempt, negotiated a ten-year truce, and then returned to manage his affairs in England. This ended the last significant crusading effort in the eastern Mediterranean.[129]

Decline and fall of the Crusader States

Miniature of the Siege of Acre (1291) (Estoire d'Oultre-Mer, BNF fr. 2825, fol 361v, ca. 1300)

The causes of the decline in crusading and the failure of the crusader states are multi-faceted. Historians have attempted to explain this in terms of Muslim reunification and jihadi enthusiasm but Thomas Asbridge, amongst others, considers this too simplistic. Muslim unity was sporadic and the desire for jihad ephemeral. The nature of crusades was unsuited to the conquest and defence of the Holy Land. Crusaders were on a personal pilgrimage and usually returned when it was completed. Although the philosophy of crusading changed over time, the crusades continued to be conducted by short-lived armies led by independently minded potentates, rather than with centralised leadership. What the crusader states needed were large standing armies. Religious fervour enabled significant feats of military endeavour but proved difficult to direct and control. Succession disputes and dynastic rivalries in Europe, failed harvests and heretical outbreaks, all contributed to reducing Latin Europe's concerns for Jerusalem. Ultimately, even though the fighting was also at the edge of the Islamic world, the huge distances made the mounting of crusades and the maintenance of communications insurmountably difficult. It enabled the Islamic world, under the charismatic leadership of Zengi, Nur al-Din, Saladin, the ruthless Baibars and others, to use the logistical advantages of proximity to victorious effect.[130]

The mainland Crusader states were finally extinguished with the fall of Tripoli in 1289 and Acre in 1291. It is reported that many Latin Christians, evacuated to Cyprus by boat, were killed or enslaved. Despite this, Ottoman census records of Byzantine churches show that most parishes in the former Crusader states survived at least until 16th-century and remained Christian.[131][132]

In Europe

The success of the First Crusade led to further and multifaceted crusading in the Middle Ages. The Western Europeans developed a different, overtly spiritual, perception of the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula. Other conflicts began to be seen as crusades with crusading privileges and legal frameworks applied. These conflicts outside the Holy Land included the territorial wars in the Baltic, the popes' wars against their political enemies in Italy and, after the Fourth Crusade, the defence of the Latin Empire of Constantinople.[133]


La Rendición de Granada – 1882 painting of the Surrender of Granada in 1491 by Francisco Pradilla Ortiz

At the time of the First Crusade, Spain had the largest population of Latin Christians living under Muslim rule. The period of Islamic conquest was over by c. 900, and in 1031 the collapse of the Caliphate of Córdoba created the political conditions that would make the Reconquista possible. The Christian powers in Spain had no common identity or shared history based on tribe or ethnicity. As a result, the Kingdom of León, the Kingdom of Navarre and Catalonia united and divided several times in the 11th and 12th centuries. Although small, all had developed a military aristocracy and technique.[134] By the time of the Second Crusade three kingdoms had become powerful enough to embark on the conquest of Islamic territory—Castile and León, Aragon and Catalonia and Portugal. A consensus has emerged among modern historians against the view of a generation of Spanish scholars who believed that a Spanish religious and national victory over Islam was inevitable.[135] In 1123 Pope Calixtus II issued a bull creating an equivalence between the Reconquista and crusading in the east against Muslims. It was during the period of the Second Crusade that the Reconquista was placed within the context of crusading and Pope Eugenius III named the Iberian peninsular as an objective. The Genoese provided logistic support, a mixed band of crusaders captured Lisbon, which was one of the few Christian victories of the Second Crusade, and Bernard of Clairvaux preached for the campaign in the same terms as he did against the Wends.[136]

In 1212, the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa was won by the Spanish with the support of 70,000 foreign combatants responding to a crusade preached by Innocent III. Many of the foreigners deserted because of the tolerance the Spanish demonstrated for the defeated Muslims. For the Spanish, the Reconquista was a war of domination rather than a war of extinction.[137] This contrasted with the treatment of the Christians formerly living under Muslim rule, the Mozarabs. The Roman Rite was relentlessly imposed, and the native Christians were absorbed into the mainstream Roman church by the Cistercians, Cluniac clerical appointments and the military orders.[132] The Reconquista continued to attract crusaders and crusader privileges.[138] Al-Andalus, Islamic Spain, was completely suppressed in 1492 when the Emirate of Granada surrendered. At this point the remaining Muslim and Jewish inhabitants were expelled from the peninsula.[139][140]

Campaigns against heretics and schismatics

Miniatures showing Pope Innocent III excommunicating, and the crusaders massacring, Cathars(BL Royal 16 G VI, fol. 374v, 14th century)

At the Third Council of the Lateran in 1179, Pope Innocent III set a precedent relevant to those crusades that were and are considered as political. In this he encouraged those who suppressed sects considered heretical by the offering of indulgences. One early 13th-century example was the twenty years of campaigning—primarily by French nobility— to suppress a heretical sect called the Cathars in southern France. This is now known as the Albigensian Crusade and is named after the city of Albi, one of the main centres of Catharism. The thirty-year delay in instigating the crusade illustrates a lack of priority given to the campaign in comparison with the more immediate response in crusading rhetoric regarding the papal territorial conflicts in Italy.[141]

The Albigensian Crusade taught the papacy that it was in fact far easier to attack those who tolerated heresy rather than to identify and eradicate the heresy itself. Pressure was exerted on the Commune of Milan because of allegations that the city tolerated Catharism. In Languedoc, feudal lords who failed in its suppression had their lands confiscated and titles forfeited. The historian Norman Housley notes the strong political undertones and connection between heterodoxy and anti-papalism. The pope and the Inquisition would claim that anyone not with them was against them and label opponents as Cathars without requiring evidence. Indulgences were offered to anti-heretical groups such as the Militia of Jesus Christ and the Society of the Blessed Virgin in Milan.[142]

Political campaigns

Historians such as Joseph Strayer consider all crusades as political and aimed at the conquest of territory. This is despite numerous papal sponsored holy wars from the 11th century to the 14th century having a rhetorical connection to a spiritual mission. It was not until the end of the 12th century that Innocent IIII became the first pope who deployed the conceptual and legal apparatus developed for crusading to enforce papal rights. The cause was over who would be guardian of the underage Emperor Frederick II. It did set a precedent for political crusades but ultimately achieved nothing.[143]

Gregory IX avoided crusading terminology in the 1230s during his conflict with Frederick II and his Italian supporters, until Frederick threatened to take Rome in 1240.  Rome was seen as the Patrimony of St Peter and canon law regarded crusades as defensive wars to protect what was theoretically Christian territory. This was not universally accepted in Christian Europe and there was widespread resistance to clerical taxation to fund these campaigns. Crusading was also unsuitable for these Italian campaigns against the Hohenstaufen. Crusades required clear limitations and firm objectives, but this was a war of attrition.[144] The conflict continued after Frederick II's death when the focus moved to Sicily. Pope Urban IV offered full full crusading indulgences in return for its conquest to Charles of Anjou. In the same year he also offered these to others to campaign in Sardinia and against the Byzantines.[145]

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 against Constantinople but, in what became known as the Sicilian Vespers, an uprising fomented by the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII proclaimed Peter III of Aragon as king of Sicily depriving Charles of the resources of the island. In response, Martin excommunicated Peter and called for an Aragonese Crusade, which was unsuccessful.[146]

Pagans in the North

Map of the branches of the Teutonic Order in Europe around 1300. Shaded area is sovereign territory, Grand Master HQ in Venice is highlighted)

In 1147, the papacy began to describe the wars waged by Scandinavian and German Christians against the pagans in the Baltic coastal region as crusades. Bernard of Clairvaux persuaded Pope Eugenius III that the conflict with the Wends was a holy war analogous to the Reconquista, even though the Germans were more motivated by wars of territorial conquest than events in the east. This Wendish Crusade saw Saxons, Danes, and Poles begin to forcibly convert the neighbouring tribes of Polabian Slavs or "Wends".[147] This, and further campaigns against Estonian and Finnish pagans were understood in religious terms by contemporaries as a struggle against paganism. The theoretical justification, however, was weak without the argument that the crusaders were fighting to reclaim Christian territory.[147]

Military orders played a controversial role in the Baltic, most notably the Teutonic Knights who were founded in Palestine after the Siege of Acre in the 1190s and modelled on the Templars. A precedent for the knights had already been set by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword and the Order of Dobrzyń who were founded to defend Riga and German commercial interests. The Teutonic Knights' strong links to German imperium diverted efforts from the Holy Land to Prussia and Livonia. The order conducted harsh and brutal suppression of the local populations, including Orthodox Christians. In this way Latin control was extended 300 miles (480 kilometres) to the east in the 13th century.[148] Historian Robert Bartlett defines the conquest and organisation of power in the Baltic as part of a general movement for 'the expansion of Latin Christendom'. It was made possible by the crusading ideology placing the full machinery of the Church behind superior military technology. It enabled the recruitment of troops via preaching, the offer of spiritual rewards for combatants and the administrative machinery to establish government in the conquered territories.[149]

Late medieval and early modern crusades

The Battle of Nicopolis in a miniature by Jean Colombe titled Les Passages d'Outremer, BnF Fr 5594, c. 1475

Crusades were launched during the 14th and 15th centuries to counter further Ottoman expansion in the Balkans. The Ottomans had conquered most of the Balkans and reduced Byzantine influence to the area immediately surrounding Constantinople after their victory at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. Pope Boniface IX proclaimed a new Crusade of Nicopolis to recover the city from the Ottomans, that ended in 1396 with a comprehensive defeat in the Battle of Nicopolis and left Bulgaria in Muslim hands for 500 years.[150] As the Ottomans pressed westward, Sultan Murad II destroyed the last papal-funded crusade at Varna on the Black Sea in 1444. Four years later, he crushed the last Hungarian expedition.[151] After the fall of Constantinople the crusading response was largely symbolic even when there was a genuine plan, such as Duke Phillip of Burgundy's promotion of a crusade that never materialised at the Feast of the Pheasant in 1454.[152]

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 end of crusading in terms of at least nominal efforts by Catholic Europe against Muslim incursions, came in the 16th century, when the Franco-Imperial wars assumed continental proportions. King Francis I of France sought allies from all quarters, including from German Protestant princes and Muslims. Amongst these, he entered into one of the capitulations of the Ottoman Empire with Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent while making common cause with Hayreddin Barbarossa, an Ottoman admiral, and the Sultan's North African vassals.[153]

Crusader states

Map of the eastern Mediterranean 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) Seljuk Empire and Fatimid Egypt are shown in green.

Demography in the Outremer

After the First Crusade's capture of Jerusalem and victory at Ascalon most crusaders considered their personal pilgrimage complete and returned to Europe. Godfrey of Bouillon found himself left with only 300 knights and 2,000 infantry to defend the territory won in the eastern Mediterranean.[68] At this point the Franks held Jerusalem and two great Syrian cities—Antioch and Edessa—but not the surrounding country. Jerusalem remained economically underdeveloped despite the advantages of being the centre of administration of church and state and benefiting from streams of pilgrims.[154] Modern research based on historical geography techniques indicate that Muslims and indigenous Christian populations were less integrated than previously thought. Palestinian Christians lived around Jerusalem and in an arc stretching from Jericho and the Jordan to Hebron in the south. Central areas appear to have had a Muslim majority population from the 6th century, when the Samarian communities were destroyed. These communities were thought to be of near equivalent size.[132]

The Frankish population of the Kingdom of Jerusalem became concentrated in three major cities. By the 13th century the population of Tyre probably exceeded 60,000, then came Acre and the capital itself was the smallest of the three with a population somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000.[155] At the zenith of the crusader states, the total Latin population of the region reached around 250,000 with the kingdom of Jerusalem amounting to about 120,000 and the total combined numbers in Tripoli, Antioch and Edessa being broadly similar.[156] By way of context, Josiah Russell estimates the population of Islamic territory in the region as 12.5 million in 1000—Anatolia 8 million, Syria 2 million, Egypt 1.5 million and North Africa 1 million — with the European areas that provided crusaders having a population of 23.7 million. He estimates that by 1200 that these figures had risen to 13.7 million in Islamic territory—Anatolia 7 million, Syria 2.7 million, Egypt 2.5 million and North Africa 1.5 million— while the Crusader's home countries population was 35.6 million.[157]


The new territories were based on shared language, family or feudal ties and the settlers' regions of origin. The Principality of Antioch, founded in 1098 and ruled by Bohemond, became Norman in character and custom. The Kingdom of Jerusalem, founded in 1099, followed the traditions of northern France. The County of Tripoli, founded in 1104 (although the city of Tripoli itself remained in Muslim control until 1109) by Raymond de Saint-Gilles became Provençal. The County of Edessa, founded in 1098, differed in that although it was ruled by men from northern France, relatives of the counts of Boulogne and lords of Courtenay, its largely Armenian and Jacobite native nobility was preserved.[158][159] These states were the first examples of "Europe overseas". They are generally known by historians as Outremer, from the French outre-mer ("overseas" in English).[160][161]

Ethnic segregation

The "Law of Conquest" supported the seizure of land and property by impecunious crusaders from the indigenous population, enabling poor men to become rich and part of the nobility. However some historians, like Andrew Jotischky, question the model once proposed, where the primary motivation was understood in sociological and economic rather than spiritual terms.[162] The Franks did not distinguish on grounds of religion; the basic division in society was between Frank and non-Frank, and not between Christian and Muslim. The new Frankish rulers did not expel the native population but adopted strict segregation and at no point attempted to integrate it by way of religious conversion. In this way the crusaders created a colonial nobility that perpetuated itself through an incessant flow of religious pilgrims and settlers keen to take economic advantage.[158]

The key differentiator in status and economic position in the crusader states was between urban and rural dwellers. There was no Frankish peasantry; this was a role fulfilled by the native peoples. The Franks imposed their own feudal culture on agricultural production which made little difference to the conditions of the rural population. However, the Muslim poll tax on non-Muslims was reversed. This enabled the feudal Lords to raise punitive levels of revenue from indigenous peoples, whether Muslim, Jewish or Christian. Very few Muslims lived in urban areas except those in servitude, although indigenous Christians could gain legal status and acquire wealth through commerce and industry in towns.[163]


Crusader coins of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Left: Denier in European style with Holy Sepulchre (1162–75). Centre: Kufic gold bezant (1140–80). Right: gold bezant with Christian symbol (1250s). Gold coins were first copied dinars and bore Kufic script, but after 1250 Christian symbols were added following papal complaints (British Museum)

Largely based in the ports of Acre and Tyre, Italian, Provençal and Spanish communes had distinct cultural characteristics and exerted significant political power. Separate from the Frankish nobles or burgesses, the communes were autonomous political entities closely linked to their countries of origin. This gave the inhabitants the ability to monopolise foreign trade and almost all banking and shipping in the crusader states. Every opportunity to extend trade privileges was taken. One example saw the Venetians receiving one-third of Tyre, its territories and exemption from all taxes, after Venice participated in the successful 1124 siege of the city. Despite all efforts, the two ports were unable to replace Alexandria and Constantinople as the primary centres of commerce in the region.[164] Instead, the communes competed with the king of Jerusalem and each other to maintain economic advantage. Power derived from the support of the communards' native cities rather than their number, which never reached more than hundreds. Thus, by the middle of the 13th century, the rulers of the communes were barely required to recognise the authority of the crusaders and divided Acre into several fortified miniature republics.[165]


Records preserved by John of Ibelin indicate that the military force of the kingdom of Jerusalem was based on a feudal host of about 647 to 675 knights in 1170. Each feudatory would also provide his own armed retainers. This force would be augmented by mercenary serjants and John records 5,025 of these. In times of emergency, the king could also call upon a general muster of the population. Historian Joshua Prawer estimates that the military orders could match the fighting strength of the king's army. This means the total military strength of the kingdom can be estimated at 1,200 knights and 10,000 serjants. This indicates further territorial gains were possible, but these were likely to be nothing more than ephemeral because of a lack of the required numbers to maintain military domination. This demographic lack of numbers was also a problem defensively. Putting an army into the field required draining every crusader castle and city of all able-bodied fighting men. In the case of a defeat such as the battle of Hattin, there remained no one to resist the invaders. Muslim armies were incohesive and seldom campaigned beyond a period between sowing and harvest. As a result, the crusaders adopted delaying tactics when faced with a superior invading Muslim force. They would avoid direct confrontation, instead retreating to strongholds and waiting for the Muslim army to disperse. It took generations before the Muslims recognised that the destruction of the walled cities and castles would end crusader rule. This strategic change forced the crusaders away from the tactic of gaining and holding territory, including Jerusalem. Instead the aim was to attack and destroy Egypt. By removing this constant regional challenge, the Crusaders hoped to gain the necessary time to improve the kingdom's demographic weakness.[166]

Latin rule in Greece

Map of the Latin and Byzantine Empires in 1205. Green marks the dated acquisitions of Venice, Pink the Greek successor states of the Byzantine Empire while shades of Purple indicate the Latin Empire and its vassal states.

The conquest of Christian Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade created a significant increase in the Frankish crusader presence in the eastern Mediterranean. Those crusaders that remained established control over the city, Thrace, Greece, the extreme north west of Anatolia as well as the Ionian and Aegean Islands. A council of six Venetians and six Franks selected Count Baldwin of Flanders as a new Latin Emperor.[149] This established a Latin Empire in the east and partitioned the Byzantine territory. Venice gained a maritime domain including one-eighth of Constantinople, Istria, Dalmatia, Albania, Negroponte, the Kingdom of the Morea, the Aegean islands of the Duchy of the Archipelago, the islands of Crete and the Kingdom of Candia.

The Venetians endured a long standing conflict with the Ottoman Empire until the final possessions were lost in the Seventh Ottoman–Venetian War in the 18th century. This period of Greek history is known as the Frankokratia or Latinokratia ("Frankish or Latin rule") and designates a period when Catholic western European nobles, primarily from France and Italy, ruled over the Orthodox Byzantine Greeks on former Byzantine territory.[167]

Military orders

13th-century miniature of Baldwin II of Jerusalem granting the captured Al Aqsa Mosque to Hugues de Payens

The crusaders' propensity to follow the customs of their Western European homelands meant that there were very few innovations developed from the culture in the crusader states. Three notable exceptions to this are the military orders, warfare and fortifications.[168] The Knights Hospitaller, formally the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, were founded in Jerusalem before the First Crusade but added a martial element to their ongoing medical functions to become a much larger military order.[169] In this way the knighthood entered the previously monastic and ecclesiastical sphere.[170]

Military orders like the Knights Hospitaller and Knights Templar provided Latin Christendom's first professional armies in support of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the other crusader states. The Templars, formally the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, and their Temple of Solomon were founded around 1119 by a small band of knights who dedicated themselves to protecting pilgrims en route to Jerusalem.[171] The Hospitallers and the Templars became supranational organisations as papal support led to rich donations of land and revenue across Europe. This, in turn, led to a steady flow of new recruits and the wealth to maintain multiple fortifications in the crusader states. In time, they developed into autonomous powers in the region.[172] After the fall of Acre the Hospitallers first relocated to Cyprus, then conquered and ruled Rhodes (1309–1522) and Malta (1530–1798), and continue in existence to the present-day. King Philip IV of France probably had financial and political reasons to oppose the Knights Templar, which led to him exerting pressure on Pope Clement V. The pope responded in 1312, with a series of papal bulls including Vox in excelso and Ad providam that dissolved the order on the alleged and probably false grounds of sodomy, magic and heresy.[173]

Art and architecture

12th-century Knights Hospitaller castle of Krak des Chevaliers in Syria, one of the first castles to use concentric fortification, i.e. concentric rings of defence that could all operate at the same time. It has two curtain walls and sits on a promontory.

According to Joshua Prawer no major European poet, theologian, scholar or historian settled in the crusader states. Some went on pilgrimage, and this is reflected in new imagery and ideas in the important area of western poetry. Although they did not migrate East themselves, their output often encouraged others to journey on pilgrimage to the east.[174]

Historians consider military architecture—demonstrating a synthesis of the European, Byzantine and Muslim traditions—the most original and impressive artistic achievement of the crusades. Castles were a tangible symbol of the dominance of a Latin Christian minority over a largely hostile majority population. They also acted as centres of administration.[175] Modern historiography rejects the 19th-century consensus that Westerners learnt the basis of military architecture from the Near East, as Europe had already experienced rapid growth in defensive technology before the First Crusade. Direct contact with Arab fortifications originally constructed by the Byzantines did influence developments in the east. But the lack of documentary evidence means that it remains difficult to differentiate between the importance of this design culture and the constraints of situation, which led to the inclusion of oriental design features such as large water reservoirs and the exclusion of occidental features like moats.[176]

Typically, early church design was in the French Romanesque style. This can be seen in the 12th-century rebuilding of the Holy Sepulchre. It retained some of the Byzantine details, but new arches and chapels were built to northern French, Aquitanian and Provençal patterns. There is little trace of any surviving indigenous influence in sculpture, although in the Holy Sepulchre the column capitals of the south facade follow classical Syrian patterns.[177]

In contrast to architecture and sculpture, it is in the area of visual culture that the assimilated nature of the society was demonstrated. Throughout the 12th and 13th centuries the influence of indigenous artists was demonstrated in the decoration of shrines, painting and the production of manuscripts. In addition, Frankish practitioners borrowed methods from the Byzantines and indigenous artists and iconographical practice. Monumental and panel painting, mosaics and illuminations in manuscripts adopted an indigenous style leading to a cultural synthesis illustrated by the Church of the Nativity. Wall mosaics were unknown in the west but in widespread use in the crusader states. Whether this was by indigenous craftsmen or learnt by Frankish ones is unknown, but a distinctive original artistic style evolved.[178]

Manuscripts were produced and illustrated in workshops housing Italian, French, English and local craftsmen leading to a cross-fertilisation of ideas and techniques. An example of this is the Melisende Psalter, created by several hands in a workshop attached to the Holy Sepulchre. This style could have either reflected or influenced the taste of patrons of the arts. But what is seen is an increase in stylised Byzantine-influenced content. This even extended to the production of icons, unknown at the time to the Franks, sometimes in a Frankish style and even of western saints. This is seen as the origin of Italian panel painting.[179] While it is difficult to track illumination of manuscripts and castle design back to their sources textual sources are simpler. The translations made in Antioch are notable, but they are considered of secondary importance to the works emanating from Muslim Spain and from the hybrid culture of Sicily.[180]


The Kingdom of Jerusalem was the first experiment in European colonialism, setting up the Outremer as a "Europe Overseas". 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, planting profitable trading colonies in the eastern Mediterranean.[181] The crusades consolidated the papal leadership of the Latin Church, reinforcing the link between Western Christendom, feudalism, and militarism and increased the tolerance of the clergy for violence.[103] Muslim libraries contained classical Greek and Roman texts that allowed Europe to rediscover pre-Christian philosophy, science and medicine.[182] The growth of the system of indulgences became a catalyst for the Reformation in the early 16th century.[183] The crusades also had a role in the formation and institutionalisation of the military and the Dominican orders as well as of the Medieval Inquisition.[184]

The behaviour of the crusaders in the eastern Mediterranean area appalled the Greeks and Muslims, creating a lasting barrier between the Latin world and the Islamic and Orthodox religions. This became an obstacle to the reunification of the Christian church and fostered a perception of Westerners as defeated aggressors.[103] Many historians argue that the interaction between the western Christian and Islamic cultures played a significant, ultimately positive, part in the development of European civilisation and the Renaissance.[185] Relations between Europeans and the Islamic world, stretched across the entire length of the Mediterranean Sea, led to an improved perception of Islamic culture in the West. But this broad area of interaction also makes it difficult for historians to identify the specific sources of cultural cross-fertilisation.[180]

Historical parallelism and the tradition of drawing inspiration from the Middle Ages have become keystones of political Islam encouraging ideas of a modern jihad and long struggle while secular Arab nationalism highlights the role of western imperialism.[186] Muslim thinkers, politicians and historians have drawn parallels between the crusades and modern political developments such as the mandates given for the governance of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel by the United Nations.[187] Right-wing circles in the Western world have drawn opposing parallels, considering Christianity to be under an Islamic religious and demographic threat that is analogous to the situation at the time of the crusades. Crusader symbols and anti-Islamic rhetoric are presented as an appropriate response, even if only for propaganda purposes. These symbols and rhetoric are used to provide a religious justification and inspiration for a struggle against a religious enemy.[188]



Illustration of the Council of Clermont, Jean Colombe, Les Passages d'Outremer, BnF Fr 5594, c. 1475

Originally, medieval understanding of the crusades was narrowly focussed on a limited set of interrelated texts, most notably Gesta Francorum which possibly dates from as early as 1099. This created a papalist, northern French and Benedictine template for later works. These all demonstrated a degree of martial advocacy that attributed both success and failure to God's will.[189] This clerical view was soon challenged by vernacular adventure stories based on the work of Albert of Aachen. The historian William of Tyre expanded on Albert's writing in his Historia. Completed by 1200, William's work describes the warrior state the Outremer had become through the tensions between the providential and secular.[190] Medieval crusade historiography remained more interested in presenting moralistic lessons than information, extolling the crusades as a moral exemplar and a cultural norm.[191]


Attitudes toward the crusades during the Reformation were shaped by the radical fragmentation of religious orthodoxy, the perceived threat of the Ottomans and the French Wars of Religion. Protestant martyrist John Foxe in his History of the Turks (1566) blamed the sins of the Roman church for the failure of the crusades. He also condemned the use of crusades against those he considered had maintained the faith, such as the Albigensians and Waldensians. Lutheran scholar Matthew Dresser (1536–1607) extended this view. The crusaders were lauded for their faith but Urban II's motivation was seen as part of his conflict with German Emperor Henry IV. On this view, the crusade was flawed, and the idea of restoring the physical Holy Places was "detestable superstition".[192] French Catholic lawyer Étienne Pasquier (1529–1615) was one of the first to number the crusades; he suggested there were six. His work highlighted the failures of the crusades and the damage that religious conflict had inflicted on France and the church. It lists victims of papal aggression, sale of indulgences, church abuses, corruption, and conflicts at home.[193]


Age of Enlightenment philosopher historians such as David Hume, Voltaire and Edward Gibbon used crusading as a conceptual tool to critique religion, civilisation and cultural mores. For them the positives effects of crusading, such as the increasing liberty that municipalities were able to purchase from feudal lords, were only by-products. This view was then criticised in the 19th century by crusade enthusiasts as being unnecessarily hostile to, and ignorant of, the crusades.[194] Alternatively, Claude Fleury and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz proposed that the crusades were one stage in the improvement of European Civilisation; that paradigm was further developed by Rationalists.[195]

In France the idea that the crusades were an important part of national history and identity continued to evolve. In academic circles the phrase “Holy War” was the main descriptor, but the more neutral terms kreuzzug from German and the French croisade became established. The word "crusade" entered the English language in the 18th century as a hybrid from Spanish, French and Latin.[196] Gibbon followed Thomas Fuller in dismissing the concept that the crusades were a legitimate defence as they were disproportionate to the threat presented. Palestine was an objective, not because of reason but because of fanaticism and superstition.[197]

William Robertson expanded on Fleury in a new, empirical, objective approach placing crusading in a narrative of progress towards modernity. The cultural consequences of growth in trade, the rise of the Italian cities and progress are elaborated in his work. In this he influenced his student Walter Scott.[198] Jonathan Riley-Smith considers that much of the popular understanding of the crusades derives from the 19th century novels of Scott and the French histories by Joseph François Michaud.

Contemporary historiography

In a influential article published in 2001 Giles Constable attempted to define four categories of contemporary crusade study. Traditionalists such as Hans Eberhard Mayer were concerned with where the crusades were aimed and restricted themselves to those crusades aiming to recover Jerusalem. Pluralists such as Jonathan Riley-Smith concentrated on how the crusades were organised and included all campaigns with vows and privileges, not only in the Holy Land. Popularists including Paul Alphandery and Etienne Delaruelle focussed on those that were characterised by popular groundswells of religious fervour including the First, Children's and Shepherds' Crusades. The fourth, widest and final category, Generalists, such as Ernst-Dieter Hehl regard crusades as Latin holy wars.[199]

Some historians, such as Thomas F. Madden, argue that modern tensions are the result of a constructed view of the crusades created by colonial powers in the 19th century and transmitted into Arab nationalism. For him the crusades are a medieval phenomenon in which the crusaders were engaged in a defensive war war on behalf of their co-religionists.[200]

Muslim historiography

The Muslim world exhibited little interest in European culture until the 16th century and in the crusades until the middle of the 19th century. There was no history of the crusades translated into Arabic until 1865 and no published work by a Muslim until 1899.[201] In the late 19th century, Arabic-speaking Syrian Christians began translating French histories into Arabic, leading to the replacement of the term "wars of the Ifranj" – Franks – with al-hurub al Salabiyya – wars of the Cross. Namık Kemal published the first modern Saladin biography in 1872. The Jerusalem visit in 1898 of Kaiser Wilhelm prompted further interest, with Sayyid Ali al-Hariri producing the first Arabic history of the crusades.[186]

See also


  1. ^ Tyerman explains that "holy war" was the primary academic term from the early 16th century, until the German term Kreuzzug (war of the cross) and the French croisade became established. Regarding English usage, he writes: "Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary (1755) includes four variants: crusade, crusado, croisade and croisado (the word used by Francis Bacon). 'Crusade', perhaps first coined in 1706, certainly in vogue by 1753, when it was used in the English translation of Voltaire’s essay (published as History of the Crusades; the following year as part of The General History and State of Europe), was popularised through its use by Hume (1761) and Gibbon."[5]


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