Last modified on October 4, 2021, at 19:55

The Crusades


Jesus Christ
The Gospel

Old Testament
New Testament
Ten Commandments

Christian Theology
Trinity: Father,
Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit
Nicene Creed
Defense of Christianity

History and Traditions
Messianic Judaism
Roman Catholic Church
Orthodox Church
Protestant Reformation
Counter Reformation
Great Awakening
Social Gospel
Liberal Christians
Evangelical Christians

Important Figures
Saint Paul
Saint Athanasius
Saint Augustine
Thomas Aquinas
Martin Luther
John Calvin
Jonathan Edwards
John Wesley

Part of the series on
The Middle Ages
Historical Periods

Early Middle Ages (6th-10th century)
High Middle Ages (11th-13th century)
Late Middle Ages (14th-15th century)

Medieval History

Holy Roman Empire
Investiture Conflict
Black Death
The Crusades

Medieval Society

Medieval religion
Medieval politics


A returning Crusader

The Crusades (1095-1291) were a series of European Catholic campaigns into the Middle East, fought during the Middle Ages. They were the military responses made by Catholics, from western Europe to the Pope's pleas to re-capture the Holy Land from Islamic influence. The First Crusade created new Latin states in the Holy Land. Subsequent crusades were less successful except when they attacked Byzantium. Other medieval movements against heretics and infidels were also called crusades. The crusades ended with the Islamic recapture of all the Holy Land in 1291, when the last city controlled by crusaders, Acre, fell.

The crusades comprise a major chapter of Medieval History. Extending over three centuries, they attracted every social class in western Europe. Kings and commoners, barons and bishops, knights and commoners—even teenagers—all participated in these expeditions to the eastern end of the Mediterranean. The motives of the crusaders were numerous: some sought riches; many sought adventure; most were moved by faith alone. Historians stress the central role of religious fervor, while mentioning as well the socio-economic factors crucial in enticing larger contingents. For example, crusaders often were fulfilling their feudal obligations. There were strong links between the papal reforms, the social necessity of violence and the exploitation of this inherent revivalistic imagination of the age of the Papacy.[1]

The crusades failed to achieve the permanent control of the Holy Land. However, their influence was wide and deep. Much of the crusading fervor carried over to the successful fights against the Moors (Muslims) in Spain and the pagan Slavs in eastern Europe. Politically the crusades weakened the decrepit Byzantine Empire, but temporarily kept the Muslims away from it. The First Crusade strengthened the moral leadership of the papacy in Europe, but the failures of the later crusades weakened both the crusading ideal and respect for the papacy Contact with the East widened the scope of the Europeans, ended their isolation, and exposed them to an rich civilization. The economic effects of the crusades were modest, but they did reopen of the eastern Mediterranean to Western commerce, which itself had an effect on the rise of great cities such as Venice and the emergence of a money economy in the West.

The crusaders derived their name from the Latin word for "cross"—crux. A crusader went to the Holy Land with a cross of cloth sewn over his breast; when he returned, he had a similar cross for his back. Originally called to repel the Islamic forces that controlled Jerusalem, the crusades evolved into a form of political decree called by the Papacy for political, social or economic reasons. The campaigns of Teutonic knights against pagan strongholds in Eastern Europe are also sometimes called crusades. Lastly, military actions within Christendom against heretical and schismatic groups are sometimes called a crusade. Thus a crusade in most general terms was a directive of war issued by the Pope to all Rome-friendly nations against forces, whether Muslim, pagan or Eastern Orthodox, which were hostile to the Papacy.

The crusades in the Holy Land ultimately failed to establish permanent Christian kingdoms. The fourth crusade resulted in a very damaged relationship between Greek and Latin Christendom. Islamic expansion into remained a threat for centuries, with crusading orders establishing strongholds to protect Mediterranean islands.

On the other hand, the crusades in southern Spain were militarily successful, eventually leading to the end of Islamic power in the region in 1492. The Teutonic knights expanded Christian domains in Eastern Europe, and the Albigensian Crusade, achieved its goal of destroying heretics in France.[2]

Need for a crusade

The Holy Land had been part of the Roman Empire, and thus the Byzantine Empire, until the Islamic conquests of the seventh and eighth centuries that forced the Byzantines out and saw the area gradually turn Islamic. Calm returned and Christians had generally been permitted to visit the sacred places in the Holy Land until 1071, when the Seljuk Turks assailed the Byzantines, defeating them at the Battle of Manzikert, and conquered Jerusalem from the Egyptian Fatimids the same year. They were not friendly to Christian pilgrims, in contrast to how the Fatimids had been, and soon pilgrims came under threat of robbery or even death as they were no longer welcome. The Byzantine Emperor Alexius I asked for aid from the west both to the Popes and the Christian monarchs. Nothing meaningful happened. Alexius may have been hoping for money from the Pope for the hiring of mercenaries.

Papal call

Pope Urban II called upon the knights of Christendom to fight for the defense of the Christian East and the protection of pilgrims in a speech made at the Council of Clermont on November 27, 1095. Urban demanded that all internal feuds within Christendom end, threatening excommunication for anyone who continued to bicker internally, and promising an indulgence (less time in purgatory) to anyone who died in the crusade.

This time Europe listened. Those who were there erupted in spontaneous cries of "Deus le vult!" ("God wills it!") - which would become the watchword of what we now know as the Crusades.

Nothing like this had ever been done, and the Pope himself had no military power and had to count on those who were in positions of power to supply it. While the monarchs of Europe did not get directly involved, it was a series of prominent nobles who answered the call, among the most famous being: the Norman Bohemund of Taranto, former claimant to the Duchy of Apulia, his nephew Tancred, Count Raymond of Toulouse, Duke Godfrey de Bouillon of Lorraine, Duke Hugh of Vermandois (brother of the King of France), Duke Robert of Normandy, and Count Robert of Flanders. The spiritual leader who accompanied them was French Bishop Adhemar du Puy, who was appointed Papal legate.

All that was known at the start was that the forces to participate would meet together in Constantinople, where Alexius had no idea what was being unleashed.


The Crusades are traditionally taught in university courses as a stand-alone event that had no precedent. There is some problem with this thought process.

  • The first Crusade began in 1095:
    • 460 years after the first Christian city was overrun by Muslim armies. (The Battle of Fahl and the 634 Siege of Damascus)
    • 457 years after Jerusalem was conquered by Muslim armies.
    • 453 years after Egypt was taken by Muslims armies.
    • 443 years after Muslims first plundered Italy.
    • 427 years after Muslims armies first laid siege to the Christian capital of Constantinople.
    • 380 years after Spain was conquered by Muslim armies.
    • 363 years after France was first attacked by Muslim armies.
    • 249 years after the capital of the Christian world, Rome itself, was sacked by a Muslim army, and only after centuries of church burnings, killings, enslavement and forced conversions from Christianity to Muslim.

By the time the Crusades finally began, Muslim armies had conquered two-thirds of the Christian world.[3]

The First Crusade

The First Crusade, properly speaking, was lead by Feudal lords, mostly of Frankish origin. Many of the knights left home never expecting to return, knowing virtually nothing about the Holy Land, and trusting in God for victory. The army consisted of almost 20,000 men, including a mass of squires and other servants necessary to support a mounted knight. Arriving at Constantinople the force, which eventually reached almost 50,000 total men, was not what the Byzantine Emperor Alexius had expected. He had hoped for a few thousand well trained mercenaries to help him retake his lands from the Turks, and had little in common with the goal of 'freeing the Holy Land'. An uneasy tension ensued from 1096 to 1097 as the forces gathered, but through a combination of firmness and diplomacy, Alexius avoided serious complications. In return for his assurance of assistance, he obtained oaths of allegiance from the Crusader leaders, and their promise that they would help recapture Nicaea from the Turks and return to him any other former possessions which they conquered. Alexius then transported them across the Bosporus - being careful not to allow any large number of Crusader forces inside the walls of his capital at any given time. He also provided them with food and with an escort of Byzantine troops to guide them towards their objectives (and incidentally to prevent Crusader plundering).[4]

After a hard march to the Holy Land, the army captured invested Nicaea in 1097. By a combination of skillful fighting and skillful diplomacy, Alexius arrange for the surrender of the city to him after a successful Crusader-Byzantine assault on the outer walls. The Crusaders were upset at Alexius' refusal to give them permission to sack the city.

The Crusaders continued to the southeast in parallel columns, without any one commander in charge. After fighting the inconclusive Battle of Dorylaeum, the army split in half. Tancred and Baldwin, brother of Godfrey of Lorraine and future King of Jerusalem, went east took the Armenian fortress-city of Edessa - an action that destroyed the support of many local Armenian Christians for the Crusade, and weakened its internal bonds, as Baldwin and Tancred's men clashed over possession of the city, with Baldwin emerging triumphant. The main body of the army continued onward and besieged Antioch. The city was surrounded for 8 months from October 21, 1097 to June 3, 1098. Two relieving armies were driven off in the Battles of Harenc in December and February. Due to poor arrangements for supplies, the Crusading army was actually close to starvation, but was saved by the fortuitous arrival of English and Pisan flotillas which seized two nearby ports and brought provisions. Bickering among the Crusader leaders, especially Bohemund and Raymond was rampant. The initiative of Bohemund led to the capture of Antioch just 2 days before a relieving army of 75,000 strong under the atabeg of Mosul, Kerboga would arrived, delayed itself after a fruitless three-week long attempt to dislodge Baldwin from Edessa.

Now it was the Crusaders turn to be trapped inside the city as Kerboga sieged Antioch from June 5, to June 28, 1098. The Crusaders were cut off from supplies and again near starvation. A Byzantine army was coming to take the city as agreed, but hearing that the Crusaders were doomed, turned back to Constantinople. It was then the 'Holy Lance' was discovered; the weapon said to have pierced Jesus' side. While few historians or theologians believe this miraculous discovery was valid, it energized the Crusader army at just the time they needed it. The Battle of the Orontes was fought on June 28 where 15,000 Crusaders left Antioch to battle and drove off the entire Moslem army and broke the siege, helped in part by the decision of several of the local emirs serving under Kerbogha to abandon him during the battle, fearing that he coveted their territory.

Due to internal bickering, many of the Crusaders did not continue on to Jerusalem. The force that arrived in June 1099 was only about 12,000 strong, far fewer than the army of defenders. They sieged the city from June 9 to July 18. Realizing they didn't have enough men to keep out supplies and starve the defenders, they boldly attacked. Overrunning the city, many of the inhabitants were massacred, including other Christians. A relieving force of 50,000 strong arrived in August to fight the Crusaders, but were routed at the Battle of Ascalon. The military aspects of the First Crusade had ended.

Four feudal kingdoms were established, which would remain for nearly 100 years. Several Military Orders, consisting of paladins, were also set up within the next few years, focusing mainly around the protection of the welfare of pilgrims and the defense of Christendom within the framework of an organization that was both spiritual and martial in nature. The best known of these orders were the Knights of the Temple, or Templars, and the Knights of the Hospital of St. John, or Hospitallers. The Hospitallers still exist today in the form of the Order of Malta and St. John's Ambulance.

The Second Crusade

The Second Crusade occurred in 1145 when Edessa was retaken by Islamic forces. It was ultimately a failure, owing in part to the French king's insistence on betraying and attacking his only Muslim ally, Damascus. In 1187 the Muslims captured Jerusalem under their leader Saladin, which brought about a new call for a Crusade.

The Third Crusade

The Third Crusade (1189–92) is famous for the battles between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, highlighted by the deep respect the two enemies had for each other, and the sense of chivalric honor of King Richard. The crusade also involved the king of France (who returned home after an argument with Richard at Acre) and the Holy Roman Emperor (who drowned en route). The crusade had the limited success of obtaining a truce between Richard and Saladin that promised to allow Christian pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

The Fourth Crusade

The Fourth Crusade, begun by Innocent III in 1202, intended to retake the Holy Land but was soon subverted by Venetians who used the forces to sack the Christian city of Zara. Innocent excommunicated the Venetians and crusaders. Eventually the crusaders arrived in Constantinople, but due to strife which arose between them and the Byzantines, rather than proceed to the Holy Land the crusaders instead sacked Constantinople and other parts of Asia Minor effectively establishing the Latin Empire of Constantinople in Greece and Asia Minor . Both Zara and Constantinople were Christian cities, and the ultimate effect was a severely damaged relationship between Greek and Latin Christendom.

This was effectively the last crusade sponsored by the papacy; later crusades were sponsored by individuals.

Minor Crusades

In addition to the four main crusades there were several minor ones.

The People's (Peasants') Crusade (1095-96)

As soon as the Pope issued his appeal in 1095 preachers like Peter the Hermit and Walter the Penniless fanned out across Western Europe, reaching pious common people in rural areas, including many peasants. They aroused such an enthusiasm among the peasants that neither the secular lords nor the local clergy could stop the people from marching east, filled with hopes for freedom from serfdom and the zest for adventure. Thousands of peasants set off with few supplies or weapons and no money, and no idea of the enormous distance to be traveled. They believed that God would provide the guidance for direction and the sustenance for life. More prosperous farmers and burghers were also involved. Five uncoordinated bands trekked across the Balkan region toward Constantinople. The Byzantine Christians welcomed them reluctantly and even contemptuously, for the pilgrims robbed them and raided their farms and villages. The Byzantine army fought them in pitched battles; most peasants never reached Constantinople. The thousands who did arrive were militarily useless and unwelcome. The Emperor Alexius temporarily fed and housed them outside the city, then hurried them across the Bosporus into Asia Minor. There the peasants were all killed by the Turkish forces.[5]

Attacking Jews

A smaller group of peasants led by Gottschalk took out their fervor on a more local target, the Jewish communities of Lotharingia. Their actions were condemned by the Church and the local populace.[6][7] A much larger threat against Jews took the form of a larger mob led by Count Emico of Leiningen, who was more organized and more brutal. Already a man with a sullied reputation, he ignored the pleas of the Bishops in town after town to desist. Apart from being hidden by the local populace when they heard Emico was coming, there was little the Jews could do. Previously in Europe, local difficulties against Jewish communities would rise from time to time in various places, but would be isolated to that local area. This started a phase not previously seen, a systematic effort to weed out and attack Jewish communities.

The Children's Crusade (1212)

Even more pathetic than the peasant crusade of 1095-96 was a movement in France and Germany which attracted large numbers of peasant teenagers and young people (few were under age 15). They were convinced they could succeed where older and more sinful crusaders had failed: the miraculous power of their faith would triumph where the force of arms had not. Many parish priests and parents encouraged such religious fervor and urged them on. The Pope and bishops opposed the attempt but failed to stop it entirely. A band of several thousand youth and young men led by a German named Nicholas set out for Italy. About a third survived the march over the Alps and got as far as Genoa; another group came to Marseilles. The luckier ones eventually managed to get safely home, but many others were sold as lifetime slaves on the auction blocks of Marseilles slave dealers.[8]

The Fifth Crusade (1217-1221)

Instigated by Pope Innocent III in 1215, this crusade was led in 1217 by John Brienne, king of Jerusalem, with the object of conquering Egypt. In 1219 the crusaders captured Damietta. The sultan of Egypt offered to exchange Jerusalem for Damietta but this was rejected. After an unsuccessful assault on Cairo in 1221, the defeated crusaders surrendered Damietta in return for the freedom to retreat.[9]

The Sixth Crusade (1228-1229)

The sixth or " Diplomatic Crusade" was led by Emperor Frederick II of the Holy Roman Empire. He began in 1228, but fought no battles. Instead, by negotiation he obtained Jerusalem and a strip of territory from Acre to Jerusalem for the Christians. In 1225 he married Yolanda, the young heiress to the kingdom of Jerusalem; upon her death in 1228, Frederick crowned himself king of Jerusalem.

The Seventh Crusade (1248-1250)

Led by King Louis IX of France (reigned. 1226-1270) and directed against the Arabs of Egypt, this crusade was a complete failure. The crusaders were decisively defeated en route to Cairo and King Louis was captured; the Arabs demanded and received a huge ransom for the release of the hapless king.[10]

The Eighth Crusade (1270)

Ignoring his advisers, King Louis IX again attacked the Arabs in Tunis in North Africa. He picked the hottest season of the year for campaigning and his army was devastated by disease. The king himself died, ending the last major attempt to free the Holy Land.[11]

Other Medieval Crusades

At the time people used "crusade" to describe other religious wars waged against heretics, such as Hussites and Albigensian, as well as Moors in Spain and pagans in the Baltic region.

The Albigensian Crusade (13th century)

Pope Innocent III in 1209 called for a war against the Albigensians, a religious sect which had sprung up in southern France, centered near the cities of Albi and Toulouse in Provence.[12] A bloody series of campaigns ended with Provence in ruins (1229) and the heretics defeated. In 1233 Pope Gregory IX placed the Dominicans in charge of investigating the remnants of Albigensianism with the legal power to name and condemn any surviving heretics. This marked the start of the Inquisition.

Teutonic Knights (1229-1525)

A German religious and military order originally founded during the siege of Acre in the Third Crusade and modeled after the Knights Templars and Hospitalers, the Teutonic Knights moved to eastern Europe early in the 13th century.[13] There, under their grand master, Hermann von Salza, they became powerful and prominent. In 1229, responding to an appeal from the Duke of Poland, they began a crusade against the pagan Slavs of Prussia. They became sovereigns over lands they conquered over the next century. In a series of campaigns, the Teutonic Knights gained control over the whole Baltic coast, founding numerous towns and fortresses and establishing Christianity.[14]

Crusades in Spain (711-1492)

Muslims crossed from Africa into Spain early in the eighth century and in 711 at the battle of Río Barbate, they defeated the Visigoths and pressed forward to capture Toledo. By 718, the Moors (the name given North African Muslims by the Spaniards) had completed their conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, except for small Christian remnants in the Pyrenees. They remained on for the next 674 years until driven out by Spanish and Portuguese Christians.

The period of the Spanish Crusades began in the eleventh century when a religious revival was initiated by Cluniac monks in the small kingdoms in the north of Spain, which had recovered some of their lost territory. The revival expressed itself in a growing hatred for the infidel. Slowly yet steadily, at first sparked mainly by Burgundians and Normans from France, the Christians began to force the Moors out of northern and central Spain. Known as the Wars of the Reconquest, these centuries-long conflicts intensified the Catholic sentiments of the people, developing an intense, even fanatical unity of religion and patriotism which was long characteristic of the Spaniards.

By the middle of the 15th century, the last bastion of Moorish power on the peninsula was the kingdom of Granada in southwestern Spain. When the marriage of Isabella, Queen of Castile, to Ferdinand, Prince of Aragon, in 1469 united Spain, they vigorously began their last campaign against the Moors. In January 1492 the Spanish entered the city of Granada and Moorish power ended in Europe. The expulsion of the Moors from Spain may be considered the last of the many medieval crusades.[15]

Long-term Impact

Thus, though Jerusalem was held for nearly a century and other strongholds in the Near East would remain in Christian possession much longer, the crusades in the Holy Land ultimately failed to establish permanent Christian kingdoms. Islamic expansion into Europe, while temporarily stalled, would renew and remain a threat for centuries with the disintegration of the Byzantine Empire and culminate with the campaigns of Suleiman the Magnificent in the sixteenth century.

While the crusades achieved only temporary military success, they had a powerful impact on western Europe. The crusaders returned with a vastly widened knowledge of the world they lived in, and a willingness to explore that became a permanent part of the west European mindset. In religion, culture, and commerce, post-Crusades Europe was visibly affected by its prolonged encounter with another continent and another way of life.

Commerce and economy

The merchants of Venice and other Italian cities gained the most profit. They amassed considerable income in payment for the services they rendered the crusaders and were enriched by the commercial rights they obtained throughout the Near East. Genoa, Pisa, and Venice gained special monopolies throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Their merchants used these privileges to introduce into the Western world such oriental luxuries as silks, spices, and pearls, whose transportation and sale made the cities rich. The demand for these products encouraged explorers to seek out new and more direct routes to the East—most famously in the discovery and exploration of the Americas by Columbus and others starting in 1492. The crusades helped create a moneyed aristocracy and encouraged the growth of capitalism in the Italian cities. Silks and spices not only raised the standard of living of the rich, they stimulated the entire urban economy, although cities remained small.

The returning crusaders came back to Europe with new tastes in dress and diet, such as peaches and spinach. They gave up the custom of wearing a load of heavy armor at nearly all times and appeared in the flowing robes of silk or cotton which were the traditional habit of the Muslims.

Weakens feudalism

In rural areas, where the vast majority of Europeans lives, the crusades tended to weaken feudalism and strengthen central governments. Thousands of feudal aristocrats died young and many baronial families lost heavily or even went bankrupt because they borrowed money for the adventure and could not repay. Since credit markets were undeveloped and inefficient, the crusaders paid high premiums to borrow; many accepted donations from friends and family. For a local baron to bring along 10 knights on a crusade cost some 3000 livres a year. There was some plunder along the way, but plunder was hard to liquefy to pay off loans back home. Instead of acquiring new rich new lands and fabulous wealth in the East, many noble families sold, pawned or mortgaged lands, castles, benefices, and jewels; most saw their finances damaged. Money lenders in Italian cities grew rich. The feudal barons were the basis of localism; power now tended to become more centralized and national. Of course when the kings crusaded, it cost them dearly and weakened their throne. Richard the Lionhearted of England sold off the income he was owed from Scotland, and tried to sell London itself but could not find a buyer. By contributing to the rise of the cities, the development of a money economy, and the strengthening of national monarchies, hastened, to some extent, feudalism's collapse.[16]


The crusades at first helped, then hurt the church and the papacy. In the early stages, the popes took the leadership of Europe in a great holy cause against the infidel world. Germany, France and England in particular responded to the popes. However the popes lost that leadership to secular princes by the time of the Third Crusade; during the Fourth Crusade the crusaders rejected Innocent III's demands.

The Crusades were a major contributing factor in the separation of the Eastern and Western Churches. The Crusaders deposed the native Patriarchs and appointed Latin Patriarchs in their place. These appointments were ratified by the Pope.

In the kingdom of Jerusalem, the commercial interests fostered an unexpected friendship with the Muslims, leading to an acceptance of oriental customs, and toleration of the rival religion. No such tolerance was visible in Western Europe.


Impact on the West

In terms of cultural influence, 20th century historians have revised the traditionally positive picture of the Crusades, finding little evidence of significant impact. 19th century historians saw in the Crusades a major stimulus for the renewed interest in learning, art, literature, and architecture that took place across Western Europe, and some historians had even argued the Crusades were mainly responsible for the Renaissance.

It has been argued that the crusades stimulated broader vision and better understanding of the wider world for the countries who embarked on them. Men who had never been 30 miles beyond their village or manor saw firsthand new places, peoples and customs. One impact the Crusades did have on literary art was the immortalisation of the Crusading heroes in oft-recited poems. The Estoire de la guerre sainte is in Old French couplets, lauding the exploits of Richard the Lion-Hearted in the Third Crusade. A free poetical spirit characterizes Le Chanson d'Antioche that describes the First Crusade. The ages-old tales of Arthur and Charlemagne were given a fresh crusading complexion during the Middle Ages.

Impact on the East

A significant long-term cultural impact on the Muslim world is the resultant resentment, fear and distrust of Christian Europe, evidence of which as survived into the 21st century.[17] When The US president George W. Bush described in 2001 the newly defined War on terror as a "Crusade", the Islamic world in particular was alarmed at what was widely considered to be ill-judged language.[18] In 2006, Osama Bin Laden, speaking from hiding, described Western policy towards the Muslim world as a "Zionist-Crusader war against Islam" [19]

The Byzantine Empire

The crusades postponed the Turkish conquest of the Byzantine Empire until 1453, but the determination of Westerners to conquer and colonize the lands of Byzantium led to its downfall. Rather than curing its ills, they made its death inevitable. The plunder of Constantinople in 1204 and the Venetian monopoly of its trade were a fatal blow to the political and economic life of the empire. Even after its restoration in 1261, Constantinople never regained its former strength.

Historiography and Memory

Legend and literature in the West

Legend and literature surrounded the Crusades with an aura of romance and grandeur, of chivalry and courage.[20] The myth is only remotely related to reality. The countless tales of the gallant knights of the Cross glitter in hyperbole. Many stories are true about the crusaders' feats of valor. However the crusaders occupied the Holy Land only temporarily. In their major mission, the crusaders lost in the very long run.

The historical memory of the crusades has been sharply divided. The Catholic tradition in Europe looked upon them favorably, but the Protestant historians were more negative. Martin Luther once suggested that the Turks were God's instrument for punishing Christians. In recent decades a sense of western guilt is apparent, as in the 1995 BBC television series, presented by Terry Jones, which portrayed the crusades as a long, misguided war of intolerance, ignorance and barbarism against a peaceful and sophisticated Muslim world.[21]

Knobler (2006) examines the use of the crusades as a national symbol from the 19th century to the 1910s in France, Spain, the Ottoman Empire, Ethiopia, Britain, Russia, and Bulgaria. Though the Enlightenment and its secular ideological successors held the crusades as an example of medieval barbarity. Enlightenment thinkers like historian-philosophers Voltaire and David Hume denounced the crusades, as did the great historian of Byzantium Edward Gibbon, who wrote:

"The principle of the crusades was a savage fanaticism; and the most important effects were analogous to the cause…. The belief of the Catholics was corrupted by new legends…. The active spirit of the Latins preyed on the vitals of their reason and religion…. The lives and labours of millions, which were buried in the East, would have been more profitably employed in the improvement of their native country."[22]

In the 19th century, however, romantic writers like novelist Sir Walter Scott created heroic images of the crusaders. The romantics and conservative adherents of the European ancien régimes appropriated crusading imagery for their own 19th century political goals, downplaying religion to fit within a modern, secular context and presenting crusades as a counterpoint to liberal ideas of nationalism.

Knobler (2006) explores three primary themes: memory of the crusades as it relates to debates over the generation and use of national symbols; the crusader as a romantic hero; and the Muslim recollection of the crusades as a shameful blot on the past of Christian nations. The crusades appealed to many Europeans because they reflected a morally unambiguous time, sparked romanticized images of warfare in a time of imperialist expansion, and provided heroic templates for modern "crusading" imperialist heroes.[23]

The Muslim world

Muslim historiography does not cover the crusades with the same intensity as the West. One modern reason could be that Turks were primarily responsible for the defeat of the crusaders, and Arab historians (who have written much of modern Islamic history) may have underplayed this, due to the Turks role in establishing the Ottoman Empire - a period that suppressed Arab nationalism for seven centuries into the era of World War I.[24]

The great Muslim hero was a Kurd, Saladin (1138–93). Having defeated the crusaders in 1187, and become sovereign and founder of the Ayyubid dynasty in Egypt and Syria, Salah al-Din (Saladin) has been for a century the object of an intense glorification in the Arab world. Farah Antun's play Sultan Saladin and the Kingdom of Jerusalem (1914) illustrates how the historical figure of Saladin came to be presented as a prophet of Arab nationalism. Antun (1874-1922) was a Syrian Christian who presents Saladin as the champion of a just jihad against the Crusaders and as a faithful upholder of the virtues of wisdom, determination, and frankness, calling on the peoples of all Arab countries to unite against Western imperialists. The refusal of Antun's Saladin to become embroiled in quarrels within Europe had obvious echoes in World War I and caused the play to be censored by the British authorities in Egypt. In Palestine, the glorification also took the form of pilgrimages to Nabi Musa and became an occasion to celebrate the memory of the great hero of Muslim history. A recent myth proclaims him the initiator of Palestinian pilgrimages. The figure of the past has become the modern hero of Arab nationalism, giving hope to a society prey to war and dispersion. At the same time, however, the pilgrimage ritual highlights the limits of the hero: constantly appealed to and put to the test, he has begun to show signs of fragility.[25]

Church Liturgy

Linder (2001) examines 15th century Church liturgy designed to generate support for the war effort against the Turks and to legitimize its aims. Two types of Contra Turcos Masses were used: masses converted to this function through the addition of appropriate three core prayers and complete dedicated masses. The most popular example of the first type was the triple prayer set originally established by Clement V as a Holy Land crusade liturgy and subsequently mobilized against the Turks. The second type is represented by nine different mass formularies that were introduced after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Most surviving liturgies are of German or French provenance, indicating extensive use not only among the front-line populations but also in areas far removed from any threat. The liturgy displays an its intense crisis rhetoric. Its predominant stance of vulnerability and defensiveness entailed aggressive mobilization and the conceptualization of the Turk as the actual, specific manifestation of the generic infidel, the competing religious Other; and the remarkable continuity - in form and in content - that linked this liturgy with its parent liturgies (mainly those of the campaigns against the pagans and the Holy Land Crusades) further accentuated these traits. The communicative function and value of this liturgy is highlighted by the concentration of the direct, unmediated communicative elements in that part of the mass that was the most accessible to the laity.[26]

See also

Basic further reading

  • Andrea, Alfred J. Encyclopedia of the Crusades. (2003).
  • Asbridge, Thomas. The First Crusade: A New History: The Roots of Conflict between Christianity and Islam (2005) excerpt and text search
  • France, John. Western Warfare in the Age of the Crusades, 1000-1300 (1999) online edition
  • Hillenbrand, Car. The Crusades, Islamic Perspectives. (2000). excerpt and text search
  • Holt, P.M. The Age of the Crusades: The Near East from the Eleventh Century to 1517. (1986).
  • Housley, Norman. The Later Crusades, 1274-1580: From Lyons to Alcazar (1992) online edition
  • Madden, Thomas F. The New Concise History of the Crusades. (2005).
  • Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The Crusades: A History (2005) excerpt and text search
  • Riley-Smith, Jonathan, ed. The Oxford History of the Crusades. (1995). online edition; excerpt and text search
  • Riley-Smith, Jonathan, ed. The Atlas of the Crusades (1991)
  • Tyerman, Christopher. God's War: A New History of the Crusades (2006)

Detailed Bibliography


  • Andrea, Alfred J. Encyclopedia of the Crusades. (2003).
  • Asbridge, Thomas. The First Crusade: A New History: The Roots of Conflict between Christianity and Islam (2005) excerpt and text search
  • France, John. Western Warfare in the Age of the Crusades, 1000-1300 (1999) online edition
  • Hillenbrand, Car. The Crusades, Islamic Perspectives. (2000). excerpt and text search
  • Holt, P.M. The Age of the Crusades: The Near East from the Eleventh Century to 1517. (1986).
  • Housley, Norman. The Later Crusades, 1274-1580: From Lyons to Alcazar (1992) online edition
  • Madden, Thomas F. The New Concise History of the Crusades. (2005).
  • Phillips, Jonathan, and Martin Hoch. The Second Crusade: Scope and Consequences (2002) excerpt and text search
  • Queller, Donald E., and Thomas F. Madden. The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople (2nd ed. 1999) excerpt and text search
  • Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The Crusades: A History (2005) excerpt and text search
  • Riley-Smith, Jonathan, ed. The Oxford History of the Crusades. (1995). online edition; excerpt and text search
  • Riley-Smith, Jonathan, ed. The Atlas of the Crusades (1991)
  • Runciman, Steven. A History of the Crusades, Volume I: The First Crusade and the Foundations of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.; Volume II: The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East 1100-1187. and Volume III: The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades (1951–53), the classic history; very hostile toward the crusaders
  • Setton, Kenneth ed., A History of the Crusades. (1969-1989), the standard scholarly history in six volumes, published by the University of Wisconsin Press complete text online.
Includes: The first hundred years (2nd ed. 1969); The later Crusades, 1189-1311 (1969); The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (1975); The art and architecture of the crusader states (1977); The impact of the Crusades on the Near East (1985); The impact of the Crusades on Europe (1989)
  • Tyerman, Christopher. God's War: A New History of the Crusades (2006)

Specialized studies

  • Abulafia, David. Frederick II: A Medieval Emperor (1988)
  • Boas, Adrian J. Jerusalem in the Time of the Crusades: Society, Landscape, and Art in the Holy City under Frankish Rule (2001) online edition
  • Bréhier, Louis. "Crusades," Catholic Encyclopedia (1908) vol 4. online
  • Bréhier, Louis. "Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (1099-1291)," Catholic Encyclopedia (1910) vol 8. online
  • Bull, Marcus, and Norman Housley, eds. The Experience of Crusading Volume 1, Western Approaches. (2003) (323pp)
    • Edbury, Peter, and Jonathan Phillips, eds. The Experience of Crusading Volume 2, Defining the Crusader Kingdom. (2003) 326pp; specialized articles by scholars
  • Butler, R. Urban. "Urban II," Catholic Encyclopedia (1911) online
  • Edgington, Susan B., and Sarah Lambert, eds. Gendering the Crusades. (2002) 232pp essays by scholars.
  • Folda, Jaroslav. Crusader Art in the Holy Land, From the Third Crusade to the Fall of Acre (2005) excerpt and text search
  • France, John. Victory in the East: A Military History of the First Crusade (1996)
  • James, Douglas. "Christians and the First Crusade." History Review (Dec 2005), Issue 53; online at EBSCO
  • Kagay, Donald J., and L. J. Andrew Villalon, eds. Crusaders, Condottieri, and Cannon: Medieval Warfare in Societies around the Mediterranean. (2003) online edition
  • Munro, Dana Carleton. The Kingdom of the Crusaders (1936) online edition
  • Peters, Edward. Christian Society and the Crusades, 1198-1229 (1971) online edition
  • Powell, James M. Anatomy of a Crusade, 1213-1221, (1986) online edition
  • Richard, Jean. Saint Louis: Crusader King of France (1992)
  • Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading. (1986).
  • Smail, R. C. "Crusaders' Castles of the Twelfth Century" Cambridge Historical Journal Vol. 10, No. 2. (1951), pp. 133–149. in JSTOR
  • Tyerman, Christopher. England and the Crusades, 1095-1588. (1988). 492 pp.

Islam and Byzantium

  • Florean, Dana. "East Meets West: Cultural Confrontation and Exchange after the First Crusade." Language & Intercultural Communication, 2007, Vol. 7 Issue 2, pp144–151 in EBSCO
  • Gabrieli, Francesco. Arab Historians of the Crusades (2009)
  • Harris, Jonathan. Byzantium and the Crusades. (2003). Pp. 276pp
  • Hillenbrand, Carole. The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives (2008) excerpt and text search
  • Lane-Poole, Stanley. Saladin and the Fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (1898) full text online
  • Maalouf, Amin. Crusades Through Arab Eyes (1989) excerpt and text search
  • Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam (2008) excerpt and text search


  • Constable, Giles. "The Historiography of the Crusades" in Angeliki E. Laiou, ed. The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World (2001); major overview of scholarship online
  • Laiou, Angeliki E. ed. The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World (2001) online edition
  • Madden, Thomas F. ed. The Crusades: The Essential Readings (2002) ISBN 0-631-23023-8 284pp, articles by scholars
  • Munro, Dana Carleton. "War and History,' American Historical Review 32:2 (January 1927): 219–31. On medieval histories of the crusades. online edition

Primary sources

  • Housley, Norman, ed. Documents on the Later Crusades, 1274-1580 (1996)
  • Krey, August C. The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eye-Witnesses and Participants (1958).
  • Shaw, M. R. B. ed.Chronicles of the Crusades (1963) online edition
  • Villehardouin, Geoffrey, and Jean de Joinville. Chronicles of the Crusades ed. by Sir Frank Marzials (2007) excerpt and text search
Villehardouin's Conquest of Constantinople is a standard reference work on the Fourth Crusade; it is the first work in medieval French prose. Joinville's life of St. Louis is a classic description of the life and times of King Louis IX; it is written in Old French and is perhaps the best biography written in the Middle Ages.


  1. Douglas James, "Christians and the First Crusade," History Review, (Dec 2005), Issue 53
  2. See Brian Tierney and Sidney Painter, Western Europe in the Middle Ages 300–1475. 6th ed. (McGraw-Hill 1998)
  4. Encyclopedia of Military History, Dupuy & Dupuy, 1979, Pg. 312-313
  5. Sir Steven Runciman, "The First Crusade: Constantinople to Antioch," in M. W. Baldwin, ed. The first hundred years (1969) pp. 281-85 online edition; Frederic Duncalf, "The Peasants' Crusade," The American Historical Review, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Apr., 1921), pp. 440-453 in JSTOR
  6. The Age of Faith, Will Durant, 1950, Pg. 589
  7. Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The Crusades: a History. (2005)
  8. Dana C. Munro, "The Children's Crusade," The American Historical Review, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Apr., 1914), pp. 516-524 in JSTOR; and Norman P. Zacour, "The Children's Crusade," in R. L. Wolff, and H. W. Hazard, eds., The later Crusades, 1189-1311 (1969) pp. 325-342, esp. 330-37 online edition
  9. Thomas C. Van Cleve, "The Fifth Crusade," in R. L. Wolff, and H. W. Hazard, eds., The later Crusades, 1189-1311 (1969) pp. 377-428 online edition
  10. Joseph R. Strayer, "The Crusades of Louis IX," in R. L. Wolff and H. W. Hazard, eds., The later Crusades, 1189-1311 (1969) pp. 487-521 online edition; Peter Jackson, The Seventh Crusade, 1244-1254 (2007) excerpt and text search
  11. Joseph R. Strayer, "The Crusades of Louis IX," in R. L. Wolff and H. W. Hazard, eds., The later Crusades, 1189-1311 (1969) pp. 487-521 online edition
  12. Essentially, the Albigensians believed in a non-Christian dualist doctrine: there was a coexistence, they affirmed, between good and evil, represented by such opposites as God and the Evil One, light and darkness, soul and body, afterlife and earthly life.
  13. Charles Moeller, "Teutonic Order," Catholic Encyclopedia (1912) vol 14 online
  14. Edgar N. Johnson, "The German Crusade on the Baltic," in H. W. Hazard, ed. The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (1975) pp 545-85
  15. Charles Julian Bishko, "The Spanish and Portuguese Reconquest, 1095-1492" in H. W. Hazard, ed. The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (1975) pp 396-456
  16. Fred A. Cazel, Jr. "Financing the Crusades," in N. P. Zacour, and H.W. Hazard, eds. The impact of the Crusades on Europe (1989), pp 116-49 online
  17. Philip Khurl Pitti, "The Impact of the Crusades on Moslem Lands," in N. P. Zacour and H. W. Hazard, eds., The Impact of the Crusades on the Near East, (1985) pp. 33-58, online; Car Hillenbrand, The Crusades, Islamic Perspectives. (2000).
  18. BBC Online - The Crusades: A history of conflict
  19. BBC Online - The Crusades: A history of conflict
  20. See Dana Carleton Munro, "War and History,' American Historical Review 32:2 (January 1927): 219–31 online
  21. Donald E. Queller and Thomas F. Madden. The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople (2nd ed. 1999), p. 1, Most historians have a negative view of the reliability of the BBC series.
  22. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, (1776), ch 61 p. 1086
  23. Adam Knobler, "Holy Wars, Empires, and the Portability of the Past: the Modern Uses of Medieval Crusades." Comparative Studies in Society and History 2006 48(2): 293-325. Issn: 0010-4175 Fulltext: Cambridge Journals; see also Elizabeth Siberry, The New Crusaders: Images of the Crusades in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries (2000)
  24. Hillenbrand, The Crusades, Islamic Perspectives p. 5
  25. Emma Aubin-Boltanski, "Salah Al-din, un Heros a l'epreuve: Mythe et Pelerinage en Palestine," [Saladin, a Hero under Scrutiny: Myth and Pilgrimage in Palestine]. Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales in French 2005 60(1): 91-107. Issn: 0395-2649
  26. Amnon Linder, "The War Liturgy Against the Turks in the Late Middle Ages." Historia: Journal of the Historical Society of Israel . 2001 (8): 73-105. Issn: 0334-4843; the text is in Hebrew.