Crusades – A Definition
The Crusades were a series of military missions, usually organized and promoted by the Pope and/or Roman Catholic Church. The crusades took place through the 11th and 13th centuries A.D. The original intent of the crusades was to recapture “Christian” lands that had been invaded by Muslims.
The Crusaders used the Christian cross as their symbol. They believed that the symbol of the cross made them invincible against the armies of the Muslims. The word "Crusade" came from the Latin word for “cloth cross.” Eventually, the word "crusade" was used to describe the entire journey from Europe to the Holy Land.
Crusades - Overview of Main Crusades
First Crusade: The first crusade was launched by Pope Urban II after the Council of Clermont in 1095 A.D. The Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople sent a letter to Pope Urban II, asking for his assistance against the progressing Muslim invaders. Urban gave a call to Christians throughout Europe to recapture the Holy Land, and especially Jerusalem, from the Muslims. The crusaders of the First Crusade departed in 1096 and eventually recaptured Jerusalem in 1099. On the way to Jerusalem, the crusaders established “kingdoms” for themselves in various cites in the middle east.
Second Crusade: Shortly after the First Crusade, the Muslims counter-attacked and captured the city of Edessa in 1144 A.D. St. Bernard of Clairvaux traveled throughout Europe, encouraging people to “take up the cross” and push the Muslims back from what they had retaken. Lacking a clear and persuasive goal, and marked by incompetence in leadership, the Second Crusade was an utter failure.
Third Crusade: The Third Crusade was launched in 1189 A.D. In 1187 A.D., the Muslim armies, led by Saladin, had re-conquered Jerusalem. Although at first a huge army was amassed, the Third Crusade was ultimately unsuccessful. The Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick I Barbarossa of Germany, drowned, under uncertain circumstances, on the way to the Holy Land. Richard the Lionheart of England was able to recapture several coastal cities, but did not attempt to retake Jerusalem due to a lack of resources. Lionheart did negotiate a peace treaty with Saladin, allowing for Christian pilgrims to enter Jerusalem without danger.
Fourth Crusade: The Fourth Crusade began in 1202 A.D. Lacking clear direction and strong leadership, the fourth crusade eventually resulted in a battle between Catholic and Orthodox Christians and the conquering of Constantinople by the Christian armies. The conflict destroyed any unity that remained between Catholic and Orthodox Christians.
Fifth Crusade: The Fifth Crusade took place in 1217 A.D., and was led by Andrew II of Hungary and Leopold VI of Austria. The Fifth Crusade was successful in capturing the city of Damietta, but could not hold it for long, especially after a crushing defeat at the Battle of Al-Mansura. Leopold and Andrew were actually offered control of Jerusalem and other Christian sites in the Holy Land in exchange for the return of Damietta to Muslim control. However, in his misplaced arrogance, Cardinal Pelagius refused the offer, turning a victory into an utter defeat.
Sixth Crusade: The Sixth Crusade was launched in 1228 A.D., and was led by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. The Sixth Crusade ended with a peace treaty that gave Christians authority over several important Christian sites, including Jerusalem.
Seventh and Eighth Crusades: The Seventh and Eight Crusades were led by King Louis IX of France. Both were complete disasters. In the Seventh Crusade, Louis recaptured Damietta, but later had his army routed. In 1270 A.D., Louis died before he was able to reach the goal of the Eighth Crusade.
The Ninth Crusade: The Ninth Crusade was Led by King Edward I of England in 1271 A.D. It was an attempt to defeat the Mamluk sultan of Baibers. The crusade failed, and Edward returned home to England upon learning of the death of his father, Henry III.
Crusades - Why were the Crusades launched?
The Crusade were responses to Muslim invasions on what was once land occupied primarily by Christians. From approximately 200 A.D. to approximately 900 A.D. the land of Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, etc. was inhabited primarily by Christians. Between 900 and 1075 A.D., Muslims invaded these lands and brutally oppressed, enslaved, deported, and even murdered the Christians living in those lands. In response, the Roman Catholic Church and "Christian" kings/emperors from Europe ordered the crusades to reclaim the land the Muslims had taken. As the crusades progressed, they became far more focused on establishing kingdoms than on reclaiming lands that had once belonged to Christians.
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