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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 Combat deuxieme croisade.jpg
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 a series of religious wars in Europe and western Asia initiated, supported and sometimes directed by the Catholic Church between the 11th and the 17th centuries. The crusades differed from other religious conflicts in that participants considered them a penitential exercise that brought absolution. Historians contest the definition of the term "crusade" with some restricting it to armed pilgrimages to Jerusalem; others including all Catholic military campaigns with a promise of spiritual benefits; all Catholic holy wars; or those with characteristic religious fervour. The most well known are those fought against the Muslims of the eastern Mediterranean for the Holy Land between 1096 and 1271. Crusades were also fought from the 12th century against the Iberian Moors, the Ottoman Empire and in several other regions. The reasons for thesse included fighting pagans, the suppression of heresy and conflict between Catholic groups.


In 1095 Pope Urban II proclaimed the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont. He encouraged military support for the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I against the Seljuk Turks and an armed pilgrimage to Jerusalem. There was an enthusiastic response in western European across all social strata. Historians debate the combination of motivations of the volunteers who took a public vow to join the crusadethe prospect of mass ascension into Heaven at Jerusalem, satisfying feudal obligations, opportunities for renown, economic and political advantage are all considered. Four Crusader states were established in the Near East: the County of Edessa; the Principality of Antioch; the Kingdom of Jerusalem; and the County of Tripoli. A crusader presence remained in the region in some form until Acre, the last mainland outpost, fell in 1291, after which there were no further crusades to recover the Holy Land.

The Reconquista, the struggle between the Christians and Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula, was proclaimed a crusade in 1123 and ended with the fall of Emirate of Granada in 1492. The Northern Crusades that brought the pagan tribes of north-eastern Europe under Christian control were considered crusades from 1147. In 1199 Pope Innocent III began the practice of proclaiming political crusades against disobedient Christian rulers. In Languedoc from 1208, crusading was used against heretics; this continued in Savoy and Bohemia in the 15th century and against Protestants in the 16th century. Crusading was used in response to the rise of the Ottoman Empire in the mid-14th century, only ending with the War of the Holy League in 1699.


In modern historiography, the term "crusade" first referred to a military expeditions undertaken by European Christians in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries to the Holy Land. The conflicts to which the term is applied has been extended to include other campaigns initiated, supported and sometimes directed by the Roman Catholic Church against pagans, heretics or for alleged religious ends. [1] These differed from other Christian religious wars in that they were considered a penitential exercise, and so earned participants forgiveness for all confessed sins. [2] The term's usage can create a misleading impression of coherence, particularly regarding the early crusades, and the definition is a matter of historiographical debate among contemporary historians. [3] [4] [5]

At the time of the First Crusade, iter, "journey", and peregrinatio, "pilgrimage" were used for the campaign. Crusader terminology remained largely indistinguishable from that of Christian pilgrimage during the 12th century. Only at the end of the century was a specific language of crusading adopted in the form of crucesignatus"one signed by the cross"for a crusader. This led to the French croisadethe way of the cross. [3] By the mid 13th century the cross became the major descriptor of the crusades with crux transmarina"the cross overseas"used for crusades in the eastern Mediterranean, and crux cismarina"the cross this side of the sea"for those in Europe. [6] [7] The modern English "crusade" dates to the early 1700s. [8]

The Arabic word for struggle or contest, particularly one for the propagation of Islamjihādwas used for a religious war of Muslims against unbelievers, often taught as a duty by the Quran and traditions. [9] "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". [10] [11] "Saracen" was used for an Arab Muslim, derived from a Greek and Roman name for the nomadic peoples of the Syro-Arabian desert. [12] 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. [13] The Crusader states of Syria and Palestine were known as the "Outremer" from the French outre-mer, or "the land beyond the sea". [14]



The period of Islamic Arab territorial expansion had ended centuries before the first crusade at the end of the 11th century. The Holy LandSyria and Palestinewas remote from the focus of Islamic power, enabling relative peace and prosperity. Apart from conflict in the Iberian peninsula Muslim-European contact was minimal. [15] Christianity had been adopted throughout the Roman Empire in Late Antiquity and Constantinople was founded by the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, in 324. Constantinople developed into the largest city of the Christian world, while the Western Roman Empire collapsed at the end of the 5th century. The city and the Eastern Roman Empire are more generally known as Byzantium, the name of the older Greek city it replaced. [16] The Byzantine Empire and the Islamic world were historic centres of wealth, culture and military power. As such, they viewed the west as a backwater that presented little organised threat. [17] The Byzantine Empereror Basil II had extended territorial recovery to its furthest extent in 1025. The Empire's frontiers stretched east to Iran, it controlled Bulgaria, much of southern Italy and suppressed piracy in the Mediterranean Sea. The Empire's relationship with Islam was no more quarrelsome than its relationship with the Slavs or the Western Christians. The Empire's resources were strained by rivals on all frontiers: Normans in Italy; to the north Pechenegs, Serbs and Cumans; and Seljuk Turks in the east. These challengers forced the emperors to recruit mercenary armies, sometimes from the very enemies that posed the threat. [18]

Following the foundation of the Islamic religion by Muhammad in the 7th century, Muslim Arabs had made conquests from the Indus in the east, across North Africa and Southern France to the Iberian Peninsula in the West, before being halted by political and religious fragmentation. Syria, Egypt, and North Africa had been taken from the Byzantine Empire. The emergance of Shia Islam the belief system that only descendants of Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, Ali, and daughter, Fatimah, could lawfully be caliph had led to a split with Sunni Islam on theology, ritual and law. Muslim Iberia had been an independent state in modern Spain and Portugal from the 8th century. The Shi'ite Fatimid dynasty had ruled North Africa, swathes of Western Asia including Jerusalem, Damascus and parts of the Mediterranean coastline since 969. [19] . Total submission to Islam from Jews or Christians was not required. As People of the Book or dhimmi they could continue in their faith on payment of a poll tax. In the Near East a minority Muslim elite ruled over indigenous ChristiansGreeks, Armenians, Syrians and Copts. [20]

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

Waves of Turkic migration into the Middle East had created an intersection of Arab and Turkic history from the 9th century. 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, it was supposed that as slaves they would be more loyal to their masters. In practice it only took these Turks a few decades to progress from being guards, to commanders, governors, dynastic founders and eventually king makers. Examples include the Tulunids in Egypt and Syria (868–905) and the Ikhshidids who followed in Egypt (935–969). [21] Further waves of Turkish migration changed the political situation in Western Asia again, particularly 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. In the two decades following their arrival they conquered Iran, Iraq and the Near East. The Seljuks and their followers were from the Sunni Islamic tradition which quickly brought them into conflict in Palestine and Syria with the Shi'ite Fatimids. [22] The habitually nomadic, Turkish speaking and occasionally shamanistic Seljuks were alien to their sedentary, Arabic speaking subjects. This, combined with the fluid governance of territory based on political preferment and competition between independent princes rather than geography, weakened power structures. [23] Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes had attempted confrontation with 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 expansion of the Great Seljuk Empire into Anatolia. [24]

In the West the papacy had declined in power and influence to little more than a localised bishopric; but after the Gregorian Reform movement it was increasingly assertive, and eager to increase its power and influence. The doctrine of papal supremacy caused conflict with eastern Christians whose view was that the pope was only one of the five patriarchs of the Church, alongside the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople and Jerusalem. Differencies in custom, creed and practice spurred Pope Leo IX to send a legation to the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1054, which had ended in mutual excommunication and an East–West Schism. [25]


The use of violence for communal purposes was not alien to early Christians. The evolution of a Christian theology of war was inevitable when Roman citizenship became linked to Christianity and citizens were required to fight against the Empire's enemies. This was supported by the development of a doctrine of holy war dating from the works of the 4th-century theologian Augustine. Augustine maintained that an aggressive war was sinful, but acknowledged a "just war" could be rationalised if it was proclaimed by a legitimate authority such as a king or bishop, was defensive or for the recovery of lands, and a without an excessive degree of violence. [26] [27]

Violent acts were commonly used for dispute resolution in Western Europe, and the papacy attempted to mitigate it. [28] Historians, such as Carl Erdmann, thought the Peace and Truce of God movements restricted conflict between Christians from the 10th century; the influence is apparent in Pope Urban II's speeches. But later historians, such as Marcus Bull, assert that the effectiveness was limited and it had died out by the time of the crusades. [29]

Pope Alexander II developed a system of recruitment via oaths for military resourcing that Gregory VII extended across Europe. [30] Christian conflict with Muslims on the southern peripheries of Christendom was sponsored by the Church in the 11th century, including the siege of Barbastro and fighting in Sicily [31] In 1074 Gregory VII planned a display of military power to reinforce the principle of papal sovereignty. His vision of a holy war supporting Byzantium against the Seljuks was the first crusade prototype, but lacked support. [32] Theologian Anselm of Lucca took the decisive step towards an authentic crusader ideology, stating that fighting for legitimate purposes could result in the remission of sins. [33]

The first crusade was advocated by Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095, promising absolution for the participants' sins. [34] An equivalence was created between crusades for the Holy Land and the Reconquista by Calixtus II in 1123. During the period of the Second Crusade Eugenius III was persuaded by the Cistercian abbot, Bernard of Clairvaux, that the German's conquest of the pagan Slavs was also comparable. [35] The 1146 papal bull Divina dispensatione declared pagan conversion was a goal worthy of crusade. [36] Papal protection, penance and salvation for those killed was extended to participants in the suppression of heretical sects in 1179 during the Third Council of the Lateran. [37]

Elected pope in 1198, Innocent III reshaped the ideology and practice of crusading. He emphasised crusader oaths and penitence, and clarified that the absolution of sins was a gift from God, rather than a reward for the crusaders' sufferings. Taxation to fund crusading was introduced and donation encouraged. [38] [39] In 1199 he was the first pope to deploy the conceptual and legal apparatus developed for crusading to enforce papal rights. With his 1213 bull Quia maior he appealled to all Christians, not just the nobility, offering the possibility of vow redemption without crusading. This set a precedent for trading in spiritual rewards, a practice that scandalised devout Christians and later became one of the causes of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation. [40] [41] From the 1220s crusader privileges were regularly granted to those who fought against heretics, schismatics or religiously ignorant Christians. [42] When Frederick II's army threatened Rome, Gregory IX used crusading terminology. Rome was seen as the Patrimony of Saint Peter, and canon law regarded crusades as defensive wars to protect theoretical Christian territory. [43]

Innocent IV rationalised crusading ideology on the basis of the Christians' right to ownership. He acknowledged Muslims' land ownership, but emphasised that this was subject to Christ's authority. [44] In the 16th century the rivalry between Catholic monarchs prevented anti-Protestant crusades but individual military actions were rewarded with crusader privileges, including Irish Catholic rebellions against Englist Protestant rule and the Spanish Armada's attack on Queen Elizabeth I and England. [45]

Causes and precursors

The First Crusade was an unexpected event for contemporary chroniclers, but historical analysis demonstrates it had its roots in developments earlier in the 11th century. Clerics and laity increasingly recognised Jerusalem as worthy of penitential pilgrimage. The Seljuk hold on the city was weak and returning pilgrims reported difficulties and the oppression of Christians. Byzantine desire for military aid converged with increasing willingness of the western nobility to accept papal military direction. [46] [47]

The desire of Christians for a more effective Church was evident in increased piety. Pilgrimage to the Holy Land expanded after safer routes through Hungary developed from 1000. There was an increasingly articulate piety within the knighthood and the developing devotional and penitential practises of the aristocracy created a fertile ground for crusading appeals. [30] Crusaders' motivations may never be understood. One factor may have been spiritual – a desire for penance through warfare. The historian Georges Duby's explanation was that crusades offered economic advancement and social status for younger, landless sons of the aristocracy. This has been challenged by other academics because it does not account for the wider kinship groups in Germany and Southern France. The anonymous Gesta Francorum talks about the economic attraction of gaining "great booty". This was true to an extent, but the rewards often did not include the seizing of land, as fewer crusaders settled than returned. Another explanation was adventure and an enjoyment of warfare, but the deprivations the crusaders experienced and the costs they incurred weigh against this. One sociological explanation was that crusaders had no choice as they were embedded in extended patronage systems and obliged to follow their feudal lords. [48]

From 1092 the status quo in the Middle East 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. The 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". [49] The confusion and division meant the Islamic world disregarded the world beyond; this made it vulnerable to, and surprised by, the First Crusade. [50]

In the eastern Mediterranean

First Crusade and aftermath

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

In 1095 Alexios I Komnenos requested military support from the Council of Piacenza for the Byzantine army in the fight with the Seljuk Turks. Later that year at the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban supported this and exhorted war. [51] Thousands of predominantly poor Christians led by the French priest Peter the Hermit formed the first response known as the People's Crusade. Transitting through Germany they indulged in wide-ranging anti-Jewish activities and massacres. On leaving Byzantine-controlled territory in Anatolia they were annihilated in a Turkish ambush at the Civetot. [52] They were followed by independent military contingents in loose, fluid arrangements based on bonds of lordship, family, ethnicity and language led by members of the high nobility. Foremost were five princes: Count Raymond of Toulouse, two Normans from southern Italy Bohemond of Taranto and his nephew Tancred Godfrey of Bouillon and his brother Baldwin who led a force from Lotharingia, and Germany. They were joined by a northern French army led by Robert Curthose, Count Stephen of Blois, and Count Robert of Flanders.

The army may have numbered 100,000 including non-combatant. They travelled east by land and were cautiously welcomed to Byzantium by Alexios late in 1096. [53] He made them promise to return all recovered Byzantine territory and that their first objective should be Nicaea. While the Seljuk Sultan of Rûm Kilij Arslan was away resolving a dispute a Frankish siege and Byzantine naval assault captured the city in June 1097. The crusade suffered starvation, thirst and disease during an arduous march across Anatolia, gained experience of Turkish tacticslightly armoured mounted archersat Dorylaeum and developed links with local Armenians. Baldwin left with a small force to establish the county of Edessa, the first Crusader state, early in 1098. [54]

In June 1098 the crusaders gained entry to Antioch after an eight-month siege, massacring most inhabitants, including local Christians. Kerbogha, the Atabeg of Mosul, led a relief force to the city, but Bohemond repulsed him. There was a delay of months while the crusaders decided would keep the city. This ended on the news that the Fatimid Egyptians had taken Jerusalem from the Seljuks. Despite his promise Bohemond retained Antioch and remained while Raymond led the army along the coast to Jerusalem. [55] Support transported by the Genoese to Jaffa tilted the balance of the siege of Jerusalem and the crusaders massacred the inhabitants and pillaged the city. Historians believe accounts of the numbers killed were exaggerated, but the narrative of massacre reinforced the crusaders' reputation for barbarism. [56] Godfrey secured the Frankish position, defeating an Egyptian force at Ascalon. [57]

Many crusaders considered their pilgrimage complete and returned to Europe. Only 300 knights and 2,000 infantry remained to defend Palestine. The support of troops from Lorraine enabled Godfrey, over the claims of Raymond, to take the position titled Defender of the Holy Sepulchre. A year later the Lorrainers foiled the attempt of Dagobert of Pisa, the papal legate, to make Jerusalem a theocracy on Godfrey's death. Baldwin was chosen as the first Latin king. [58] Bohemond returned to Europe to fight the Byzantines from Italy, but his 1108 expedition ended in failure. Raymond's successors completed capture the city of Tripoli after his death with the support of the Genoese. [59] 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 Jerusalemfrom his captivity after the battle. [60] The Franks engaged in Near East politics with Muslims and Christians often fighting on both sides. The expansion of Antioch came to an end in 1119 with a major defeat by the Turks at the battle of Ager Sanguinis, the field of blood. [61]

Limited written evidence before 1160 indicates the crusade was barely noticed in the Islamic world. This is probably the result of cultural misunderstanding. The Muslims did not recognise the crusaders as religiously motivated warriors intent on conquest and settlement. They assumed this was the latest in a long line of attacks by Byzantine mercenaries. The Islamic world was divided, with rival rulers in Cairo, Damascus, Aleppo and Baghdad. This gave the crusaders a consolidation opportunity before a pan-Islamic counter-attack. [62]

Loss of Edessa and the Second Crusade

The rise of Imad al-Din Zengi threatened the Franks. He became Atabeg of Mosul in 1127, expanded his control to Aleppo and in 1144 he conquered Edessa. Two years later Pope Eugenius III called for a second crusade. Bernard of Clairvaux spread the message that the loss was the result of sinfulness. Simultaneously, the anti-Semitic crusade preaching of the Cistercian monk, Rudolf, initiated more massacres of Jews in the Rhineland. [63] This was part of a general increase in crusading activity, including in the Iberian peninsular and northern Europe. [64]

Zengi was murdered in uncertain circumstances. His elder son Sayf ad-Din succeeded him as atabeg of Mosul while a younger son Nur ad-Din succeeded in Aleppo. [65] Kings Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany were the first ruling monarchs to campaign but the crusade was not a success. Edessa's destruction made its recovery impossible, and the objectives were unclear. The French held the Byzantines responsible for their defeats by the Seljuks in Anatolia, while the Byzantines reinterated claims on future territorial gains in northern Syria. The crusaders decided to attack Damascus, breaking a long period of cooperation between Jerusalem and the city's Seljuk rulers. Bad luck, poor tactics and a feeble five-day siege of the city led to argument; the barons of Jerusalem withdrew support and the crusaders retreated before Zengi's sons' army. The chronicler William of Tyre related, 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. [63]

Rise of Saladin and the Third Crusade

Jerusalem demonstrated an increasing interest in expanding into Egyptian territory after the capture of Ascalon in 1153 opened a strategic road south. A year later Nur ad-Din became the first Muslim to unite Aleppo and Damascus in the crusading era. [66] In 1163 King Amalric initiated a failed invasion of Egypt which prompted Nur ad-Din move against the Franks gaining a strategic foothold on the Nile. His Kurdish general, Shirkuh, stormed Egypt and only an Egyptian–Jerusalemite alliance forced his return to Syria. Amalric broke the alliance in a series of ferocious attacks and the Egyptians requested military support. Shirkuh was deployed for a second time, accompanied by his nephew, Yusuf ibn Ayyub, who became known by his Arabic honorific Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn ("the goodness of faith"), which has been westernised as Saladin. Amalric retreated and the Fatimid caliph appointed the Sunnite Shirkuh vizier. Saladin successfully intrigued to be become Shirkuh's successor on his death in 1171. Saladin imprisoned the last Fatimids and established a Sunnite regime in Egypt. [67]

Miniature showing King Philip II of France arriving in the eastern Mediterranean (Royal MS 16 G VI, middle of the 14th century) Philippe Auguste arrivant en Palestine.jpg
Miniature showing King Philip II of France arriving in the eastern Mediterranean (Royal MS 16 G VI, middle of the 14th century)

Nur al-Din died in 1174 and Saladin became regent for his 11-year-old son, As-Salih Ismail al-Malik. The prince died seven years later, but Saladin had already seized Damascus and much of Syria from his ward's relatives. [68] Overconfidence led to an initial defeat by the Franks at the Battle of Montgisard but Saladin established a domain stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates through a decade of politics, coercion and low-level military action. [69] In 1186 a life-threatening illness prompted him to make good on his propaganda as the champion of Islam heighten the campaign against the Franks. [70] King Guy responded by raising the largest army that Jerusalem had ever put into the field. This force was lured into inhospitable terrain without water and Saladin routed them at the Battle of Hattin. Christian nobles were taken prisoner, including Guy. Saladin offered the option of leaving within 40 days or remaining in peace under Islamic rule. Jerusalem and much of Palestine quickly fell to Saladin. [71]

Pope Gregory VIII issued a papal bull titled Audita tremendi that proposed what became known as the Third Crusade. In August 1189, the freed King Guy attempted to recover Acre by surrounding the strategic city and a long stalemate ensued. [72] Travelling overland Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I died crossing the Saleph River in Cilicia and only a few of his men reached their destination. King Richard I of England travelled by sea. Philip II of France was the first king to arrive at the siege. [73] Richard I conquered Cyprus in transit in response to his sister and his fiancée being take prisoner by the Cypriot ruler, Isaac Komnenos. [74] A year later Richard would facilitate the sale of the island to King Guy for 40,000 bezants as part of the settlement replacing Guy with Conrad of Montferrat as king of Jerusalem. [75]

The arrival of the French and Angevins turned the tide in the conflict, and the Muslim garrison of Acre surrendered. Philip considered his vow fulfilled and returned to France, leaving most of his forces behind. Richard travelled south along the Mediterranean coast and recaptured Jaffa. Twice he advanced to within a day's march of Jerusalem, but lacked the resources to capture and defend the city. This was the end of Richard's crusading career and damaged Frankish morale. A negotiated three-year truce allowed Frankish access to Jerusalem. [76] The Crusader states survived, confined to a narrow coastal strip. [77] Emperor Frederick I's successor, Henry VI, announced a new crusade without papal encouragement in 1195. Henry died before departing for the crusade, but the arrival of the German crusaders prompted Saladin's brother, Al-Adil I to sign a five-year truce in 1198. [78]

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) ConquestOfConstantinopleByTheCrusadersIn1204.jpg
Conquest of the Orthodox city of Constantinople by the crusaders in 1204 (BNF Arsenal MS 5090, 15th century)

In 1198 the recently elected Pope Innocent III announced a new crusade, organised by three Frenchmen Theobald of Champagne, Louis of Blois and Baldwin of Flanders with the Italian Boniface of Montferrat replacing Theobald, on the latter's premature death, as the new commander of the campaign. They contracted with Venice for 85,000 marks for the transportation of 30,000 crusaders. However, many choose other embarkation ports and only around 15,000 arrived at Venice. Unable to fully repay the Venetians they accepted two offers. The Doge of Venice Enrico Dandolo proposed that Venice would be repaid with the profits of future conquests beginning with the seizure of the Christian city of Zara. Secondly, the exiled Byzantine prince Alexios Angelos offered 10,000 troops, 200,000 marks and the reunion of the Greek Church with Rome if they toppled his uncle Emperor Alexios III. [79]

Innocent III excommunicated the crusaders for the assault on Zara, but quickly absolved the French. The crusade entered Constantinople, Alexios III fled and was replaced by his nephew. The Greeks resisted the imposition of Alexios IV and harried the crusaders, so he encouraged the crusade to support him until he could fulfil his commitments. This situation ended in a violent anti-Latin revolt and the assassination of Alexios IV. Without ships, supplies or food the crusaders had little option than to take by force what Alexios had promised. The sack involved three days of the pillaging churches and killing of many Greek Orthodox Christians. [80] While not unusual behaviour for the time contemporaries such as Innocent III and Ali ibn al-Athir saw it as an atrocity against centuries of classical and Christian civilisation. [81]

Latin Empire and Byzantine states in 1205. Green marks Venetian acquisitions; pink the Byzantine states; purple the Latin Empire and its vassals LatinEmpire2.png
Latin Empire and Byzantine states in 1205. Green marks Venetian acquisitions; pink the Byzantine states; purple the Latin Empire and its vassals

A council of six Venetians and six Franks partitioned the territorial gains establishing a Latin Empire. Baldwin became Emperor of seven-eights of Constantinople, Thrace, northwest Anatolia and Aegean islands. Venice gained a maritime domain including the remaining portion of the city. Boniface received Thessalonika and his conquest of Attica and Boeotia formed the Duchy of Athens. His vassals, William of Champlitte and Geoffrey of Villehardouin, conquered Morea, establishing the Principality of Achaea. Both Baldwin and Boniface died fighting the Bulgarians leading the papal legate to release the crusaders from their obligations, [82] [83] but maybe a fifth of the crusaders reached Palestina via other routes, including a large Flemish fleet. Joining King Aimery on campaign they forced al-Adil into a six-year truce. [84]

The Latin states established were no more than a fragile patchwork of petty realms threatened by Byzantine successor statesthe Despotate of Epirus, the Empire of Nicaea and the Empire of Trebizond. Thessaloniki fell to Epirus in 1224, and Constantinople to Nicaea in 1261. Achaea and Athens survived under the French after the Treaty of Viterbo. [85] [86] 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 western European Catholics ruled Orthodox Byzantine Greeks. [87]

Conflict with Egypt including the Fifth and Sixth Crusades

There were popular outbursts of ecstatic piety in 13th-century Europe such as the Children's Crusade of 1212. Large groups of young adults and children gathered spontaneously in the belief that their innocence would lead to success where others had failed. Few, if any at all, journeyed to the eastern Mediterranean. [40] Crusading did not resume until 1217. There was no immediate threat and a number of treaties had to expire first. Little was achieved by a force primarily raised from Hungary, Germany, Flanders led by King Andrew II of Hungary and Leopold VI, Duke of Austria. The crusaders attacked Egypt to break the Muslim hold of Jerusalem. Egypt was isolated from the other Islamic power centres, it would be easier to defend and was self-sufficient in food. Damietta was captured but then returned and an eight-year truce agreed after the Franks advancing into Egypt surrendered. [88]

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). Friedrich II. mit Sultan al-Kamil.jpg
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 had frequently postponed fulfilling his crusading committments before he acquired the kingdom of Jerusalem through marriage in 1225. In 1227 he embarked on crusade, but was forced to abandon it due to illness. This prompted his excommunication by Pope Gregory IX. Despite this Frederick launched a campaign of forceful negotiation that won the Franks most of Jerusalem, a strip of territory linking the city to Acre and an alliance with Al-Kamil, Sultan of Egypt. When the Pope attacked Frederick's Italian possessions he returned to defend them. [89] The kingdom could no longer rely on Frederick's resources and was left dependent on Ayyubid division, the military orders and western aid for survival. [90] The popes' conflict with Frederick left the responsibility for crusading to secular, rather than papal, leadership. The Barons' Crusade was led by King Theobald I of Navarre and when he returned home, by the king of England's brother, Richard of Cornwall. The Franks followed Frederick's tactics of forceful diplomacy and playing rival factions off against each other when Sultan Al-Kamil died and his family fell into disputes over the succession in Egypt and Syria. [91]

The Mongols provided a new military threat to the Christian and Islamic worlds, sweeping west through southern Russia, Poland and Hungary; defeating the Seljuks and threatening the Crusader states. Although predominantly pagan, some Mongols were Nestorian Christians. This gave the papacy hope they might become allies. But when Pope Innocent IV wrote to the Mongols to question their attacks on Christians they replied demanding his total submission. [92] The Mongols displaced a central Asian Turkish people, the Khwarazmian, providing Al-Kamil's son As-Salah with useful allies. The Khwarazmians savagely captured Jerusalem. An Egyptian–Khwarazmian army then annihilated a Frankish–Damascene army at La Forbie. This was the last time the Franks had the resources to raise a field army. As-Salah conquered almost all mainland territories, confining the Crusaders to a few coastal towns. [93] [94]

Saint Louis, decline and fall

Miniature of the Siege of Acre (1291) (Estoire d'Oultre-Mer, BNF fr. 2825, fol 361v, ca. 1300) Akra1291.jpg
Miniature of the Siege of Acre (1291) (Estoire d'Oultre-Mer, BNF fr. 2825, fol 361v, ca. 1300)

The devout French king Louis IX and his brother Charles I of Anjou dominated 13th-century politics in the eastern Mediterranean. In 1249 Louis's crusade attacked Egypt and was defeated at Mansura. The crusaders were captured as they retreated. Louis and his nobles were ransomed, other prisoners were given a choice of conversion to Islam or beheading. A ten-year truce was established and Louis remained in Syria until 1254 consolidating the Frankish position. In Egypt a power struggle developed between the Mamluks and the Ayyubid rulers. The Mongol threat led to one of the Mamluk leaders, Qutuz, seizing the sultanate in 1259 and uniting with another Mamluk faction led by Baibars. The Mamluks defeated the Mongols at Ain Jalut before gaining control of Damascus and Aleppo. Qutuz was assassinated and Baibars assumed control. [95] [96]

Division in the Crusader states led to conflicts like the War of Saint Sabas. Venice drove the Genoese from Acre to Tyre where they continued Egyptian trading. [97] In 1270 Charles turned Louis's new crusade to his advantage by persuading him to attack Tunis. Their army was devastated by disease, and Louis died at Tunis. Prince Edward, the future king of England, and a small retinue arrived too late for the conflict but continued to the Holy Land. 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. [98] The mainland Crusader states were finally extinguished with the fall of Tripoli in 1289 and Acre in 1291. [99]

The causes of the decline in crusading and the failure of the Crusader states are multi-faceted. The nature of crusades was unsuited to the defence of the Holy Land. Crusaders were on a personal pilgrimage and usually returned when it was completed. Although the ideology of crusading changed over time, crusades continued to be conducted without centralised leadership by short-lived armies led by independently minded potentates, but the Crusader states needed large standing armies. Religious fervour was difficult to direct and control even if it enabled significant feats of military endeavour. Political and religious conflict in Europe combined with failed harvests reduced Europe's interest in Jerusalem. Ultimately, 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. [100]

In Europe


The disintegration of the Caliphate of Córdoba created the opportunity for the Reconquista beginning in 1031. The Christian realms had no common identity or shared history based on tribe or ethnicity. As a result, León, Navarre and Catalonia united and divided several times between the 11th and 12th centuries. Although small, all developed an aristocratic military technique. [101] By the time of the Second Crusade three kingdoms were powerful enough to conquer Islamic territory Castile, Aragon and Portugal. [102] In 1212, the Spanish were victorious at Las Navas de Tolosa with the support of 70,000 foreign combatants who responded to the preaching of Innocent III. Many 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. [103] 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 mainstream Catholicism. [104] 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. [105]

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) Albigensian Crusade 01.jpg
Miniatures showing Pope Innocent III excommunicating, and the crusaders massacring, Cathars(BL Royal 16 G VI, fol. 374v, 14th century)

There were modest efforts to suppress a dualistic Christian sect called the Cathars in southern France around 1180. [37] After a thirty-year delay Innocent III proclaimed the Albigensian Crusade named after the city of Albi, one of the centres of Catharism. [106] This proved that it was more effective waging a war against the heretics' supporters than the heretics themselves. Tolerant feudal lords had their lands confiscated and titles forfeited. In 1212 pressure was exerted on the Milan for tolerating Catharism. [107] Two Hungarian invasions of Bosnia, the home of a legendary Cathar "anti-pope", were proclaimed crusades in 1234 and 1241. A crusade forced the Stedinger peasants to pay tithes in 1234. [108] The historian Norman Housley notes the connection between heterodoxy and anti-papalism in Italy. Indulgences were offered to anti-heretical groups such as the Militia of Jesus Christ and the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary. [109] Anti-Christian crusading declined in the 15th century, the exceptions were the six failed crusades against the religiously radical Hussites in Bohemia and attacks on the Waldensians in Savoy. [45]

Political campaigns

Innocent III raised a crusade against Markward von Annweiler, over who had the regency of Sicily, which ended with Markward's death. The Albigensian Crusades established a precedent for anti-Christian crusades. The pope and the Inquisition claimed anyone not aligned with them was an opponent and heretic without evidence. [110] [111] When Frederick threatened to take Rome in 1240 Gregory IX used crusading terminology, but the Popes' wars against the Emperor and his sons were unsuitable for crusading. There were no clear objectives or limitations. On Frederick II's death the focus moved to Sicily. In 1263, Pope Urban IV offered full crusading indulgences to Charles of Anjou in return for its conquest. [43] The 1281 election of a French pope, Martin IV, brought the power of the papacy behind Charles. He prepared a crusade against Constantinople but an uprising, known as the Sicilian Vespers, instigated by the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos proclaimed Peter III of Aragon king of Sicily. Martin excommunicated Peter and an unsuccessful Aragonese Crusade followed. [112] The use of political crusades continued against Venice over Ferrara; Louis IV, King of Germany when he marched to Rome for his imperial coronation; and the free companies of mercenaries. [113]

Northern crusades

Map of the branches of the Teutonic Order in Europe around 1300. Shaded area is sovereign territory, Grand Master HQ in Venice is highlighted) Deutscher Orden in Europa 1300.png
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 Bernard of Clairvaux persuaded Pope Eugenius III that the Germans' and Danes' conflict with the pagan Wends was a holy war analogous to the Reconquista, urging crusaders to fight until all heathens were baptised or killed. The new crusaders' motivation was primarily economic: the acquisition of new arable lands and serfs, the control of Baltic trade routes or the abolishment of the Novgorodian merchants' monopoly in fur trade. [114] From the early 13th century the military orders provided garrisons in the Baltic and defended the German commercial centre, Riga. The Livonian Brothers of the Sword and the Order of Dobrzyń were established by local bishops. The Sword Brothers were notorious for cruelty to pagans and converts alike. The Teutonic Knights were founded during the 1190s in Palestine, but their strong links to German imperium diverted efforts from the Holy Land to the Baltic. Between 1229 and 1290, the Teutonic Knights absorbed both orders, subjugated most of the Baltic tribes and established a ruthless and exploitative monastic state. [115] [116] The Knights invited foreign nobility to join their regular Reisen, or raids, against the last unconquered Baltic people, the Lithuanians. These were fashionable events of chivalric entertainment among young aristocrats. Jogaila, Grand Prince of Lithuania, converted to Catholicism and married Queen Jadwiga of Poland resulting in a united Polish–Lithuanian army routing the Knights at Tannenberg in 1410. The Knights' state survived, from 1466 under Polish suzerainty, but Prussia was transformed into a secular duchy in 1525, Livonia in 1562. [117]

Late medieval and early modern period

The Seljuk Sultanate of Rum fragmented in the late 13th century. The Ottoman Turks, located in north-eastern Anatolia took advantage of a Byzantine civil war of 1341–1347 and also established a strong presence in Europe. They captured the Byzantine fortress at Gallipoli 1354 and defeating the Serbians at Kosovo in 1389 won control of the Balkans from the Danube to the Gulf of Corinth. This was further confirmed by victory over French crusaders and King Sigismund of Hungary at Nicopolis in 1396. Sultan Murad II destroyed a large Serbian and Hungarian force at Varna in 1444 and four years later defeated the Hungarians at Kosovo again. [118] [119]

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 the crusading response was largely symbolic. One example was Duke Phillip of Burgundy's 1454 promotion of a crusade, that never materialised, at the Feast of the Pheasant. [120] The 16th century saw growing rapprochement. The Habsburgs, French, Spanish and Venetians all signed treaties with the Ottomans. King Francis I of France sought allies from all quarters, including from German Protestant princes and Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. [121] Crusading became chiefly a financial exercise with precedence given to the commercial and political concerns. As the military threat presented by the Turks diminished anti-Ottoman crusading became obsolete with the Holy League in 1699. [122]



Map of the eastern Mediterranean in 1135. The Frankish crusader states are indicated with a red cross . The Principality of Armenian Cilicia was under Armenian rule. The remnant of the Byzantine Empire is visible in the west; the Seljuk Empire and Fatimid Egypt are shown in green. Map Crusader states 1135-en.svg
Map of the eastern Mediterranean in 1135. The Frankish crusader states are indicated with a red cross . The Principality of Armenian Cilicia was under Armenian rule. The remnant of the Byzantine Empire is visible in the west; the Seljuk Empire and Fatimid Egypt are shown in green.

After the First Crusade's capture of Jerusalem and victory at Ascalon most crusaders considered their personal pilgrimage complete and returned to Europe. [57] 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. [104] Comparing archaeological research on Byzantine churches built before the Muslim conquest and Ottoman census records from the 16th century demonstrates that some Greek Orthodox communities had disappeared before the crusades but most continued after the fall of the Crusader states for centuries. Maronites were concentrated in Tripoli, the Jacobites in Antioch and Edessa. Armenians also lived in the north but communities existed in all major towns. Palestine's central areas had a Muslim majority population. The Muslims were mainly Sunnis, but Shi'ite communities existed in Galilee. The nonconformist Muslim Druzes were recorded living in the mountains of Tripoli. The Jewish population resided in coastal towns and some Galilean villages. [123] [124]

The Frankish population of the Kingdom of Jerusalem became concentrated in three major cities. By the 13th century the population of Acre probably exceeded 60,000, then came Tyre and the capital itself was the smallest of the three with a population somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000. [125] At its zenith, the Latin population of the region reached c250,000 with Jerusalem's population numbering c120,000 and the combined total in Tripoli, Antioch and Edessa being broadly comparable. [126] Frankish peasants' presence is evident in 235 villages, out of a total some 1200 rural settlements. [127]

In context, Josiah Russell roughly estimates the population of what he calls "Islamic territory" as 12.5 million in 1000Anatolia 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 territoryAnatolia 7 million, Syria 2.7 million, Egypt 2.5 million and North Africa 1.5 million while the Crusaders' home countries population was 35.6 million. Russell acknowledges that much of Anatolia was Christian or under the Byzantines and "Islamic" areas such as Mosul and Baghdad had significant Christian populations. [128]


The Outremer was frontier society with elite Frankish ruling of a native population related to the neighbouring communities, many of whom were hostile to the Franks. [129] It was politically and legally stratified with self-governing ethnic communities. Relations between communities were controlled by the Franks. [130] The basic division in society was between Frank and non-Frank, and not between Christian and Muslim. All Franks were considered free men while the native peoples lived like western serfs. Conversion to Latin Christianity was their only route to full citizenship. The Franks imposed officials in the military, legal and administrative systems using the law and lordships to control the natives. Few Franks could speak more than basic Arabic. Dragomans interpretersand ruʾasāʾ village headmenwere used as mediators. Civil disputes and minor criminality were administered by the courts of the native communities, but major offences and cases involving Franks were dealt by the Frankish cour des bourgeois. The lack of material evidence makes the discovery of levels of assimilation difficult. The archaeology is culturally exclusive and written evidence indicates deep religious division, although the Outremer's heterogeneity would have inevitably eroded formal apartheid. [131] The key differentiator in status and economic position was between urban and rural dwellers. Indigenous Christians could gain higher status and acquire wealth through commerce and industry in towns but few Muslims lived in urban areas except those in servitude. [132]

Frankish courts recognised the regions diversity. Queen Melisende was part Armenian and married Fulk from Anjou. Their son Amalric, first married a local Frank then a Byzantine Greek. William of Tyre was appalled at the use of Jewish, Syrian and Muslim physicians popular among the nobility. Greek and Arabic speaking Christians made Antioch a centre of cultural interchange. The local peoples showed the Frankish nobility traditional deference. Some Franks adopted the local dress, food, housing and military techniques. This does not mean the Outremer was a cultural melting pot. Inter-communal relations were shallow, identities maintained and other communities were considered alien. [133]


In addition to being economic centres themselves, the Crusader states provided an obstacle to Muslim trade by sea with the west and the land routes from Mesopotamia and Syria to the great urban economies of the Nile. Despite native hostility commerce continued, coastal cities remained maritime outlets for the Islamic hinterland, Eastern wares were exported to Europe in unprecedented volumes. The Byzamtine-Muslem mercantile growth in the 12th and 13th  centuries may have occurred anyway. Western Europe was booming with demographic growth, increasing wealth and a growing social class demanding city centred products and Eastern imports. But it is likely that the Crusades hastened the developments. European fleets were expanded, better ships built, navigation improved and fare paying pilgrims subsidised many voyages. Agricultural production, largely the domain of the native population, flourished before the fall of the First Kingdom in 1187, but was negligible aftewards. Franks, Muslems, Jews and native Christians traded local crafts in the souks of the cities. The Italian, Provencal and Catalan merchants monopolised shipping, imports, exports, transportation and banking. The Frankish noble and ecclesiastical institutional income was based on income from estates, market tolls and taxation. [134] The main centres of production were Antioch, Tripoli, Tyre and less importantly Beirut. Textiles, glass dyestuffs, olives, wine, sesame oil and sugar were all exported. Silk was paticularly prized. [135] The Frankish population estimated at roughly a quarter of a million people provided an import market for clothing and finished goods. [136]


The Franks adopted the more monetised native economic system with a hybrid coinage: predominantly northern Italian and southern French silver European coins, Frankish variant copper coins minted in Arabic and Byzantine styles, local silver and gold dirhams and dinars. After 1124, Egyptian dinars were copied creating Jerusalem's gold bezant. Following the collapse of the Outremer in 1187, trade rather than agriculture increasingly dominated the economy and western coins began dominating the coinage in circulation. Despite local lords in Tyre, Sidon and Beirut minting of silver pennies and coppers there is little evidence of systematic attempts to create a unified local currency. [137]


Map of the feudatories of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187 Principado de Galileen.jpg
Map of the feudatories of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187

During the period of near constant warfare in the early decades of the 12th century, the king of Jerusalem's foremost role was leader of the feudal host. They very rarely awarded land or lordships, and those awarded that became vacant, due to the high mortality rate in the conflict, reverted to the crown. Instead their followers' loyalty was rewarded with city incomes. As a result the royal domain of the first five rulers including much of Judea, Samaria, the coast from Jaffa to Ascalon, the ports of Acre and Tyre as well as various scattered castles and other territorieswas larger that the combined holdings of the nobility. This meant that the rulers of Jerusalem had greater internal power than comparative western monarch's but did not have the necessary administrative machinary to govern a large realm. [138]

The situation evolved in the second quarter of the century with the establishment of baronial dynasties. Magnatessuch as Raynald of Châtillon, lord of Oultrejordain, and Raymond III, Count of Tripoli, Prince of Galilee often acted as autonomous rulers. Royal powers were abrogated and effectively governance was undertaken locally within the feudatories. What central control remained was exercised at the Haute Cour High Court in English. Only the 13th century Jurists of Jerusalem used this term, Curia Regis was more common in Europe. These were meetings between the king and his tenants in chief. Over time the duty of the vassal to give council developed into a privilege and ultimately the legitimacy of the monarch depended on the agreement of the court. [139] The barons have been poorly regarded by both comteporary and modern commentaters: James of Vitry was disgusted by their superficial rhetoric; historian Jonathan Riley-Smith wrote of their pedantry and the use of spurious legal justification for political action. [140]

In practice, the High Court consisted of the great barons and the king’s direct vassals. In law a quorum was the king and three tenants in chief. The 1162 Assise sur la ligece theoretically expanded of membership to all 600+ fief-holders making them all peers. All those who paid homage directly to the king were now members of the Haute Cour of Jerusalem. They were joined by the heads of the military orders before the end of the 12th century and the Italian communes in the 13th century. [141] Before the defeat at Hattin in 1187 the laws developed by the court were documented as Assises in Letters of the Holy Sepulchre. [142] The entire body of written law was lost in the subsequent fall of Jerusalem. From this point the legal system was largely based on the custom and memory of the lost legislation. The renowned jurist Philip of Novara lamented We know [the laws] rather poorly, for they are known by hearsay and usage...and we think an assize is something we have seen as an the kingdom of Jerusalem [the barons] made much better use of the laws and acted on them more surely before the land was lost. Thus a myth was created of an idyllic early 12th century legal system. The barons used this to reinterpret the Assise sur la ligece which Almalric I intended to strengthen the crown to instead constrain the monarch, particularly with regards to the right of the monarch to remove feudal fiefs without trial. The concomitant loss of the vast majority of rural fiefs led to the barons becoming an urban mercantile class where knowledge of the law was an useful, valuable, well-regarded skill and a career path to higher status. [143]

The leaders of the Third Crusade disregarded the monarchy of Jerusalem; disposing of conquests as if there was no local power to consider and rapidly giving the throne to Conrad of Montferrat in 1190 and then Henry II, Count of Champagne in 1192. [144] Emperor Frederick II married Queen Isabella in 1225 and immediately claimed the throne of Jerusalem from her father, the King Regent John of Brienne. In 1228 Isabella II died after giving birth to a son, Conrad, who through his mother was now legally king of Jerusalem and Frederick's heir. [89] From 1229 when Frederick II left the Holy Land to defend his Italian and German lands, monarchs were absentConrad from 1225 until 1254, his son Conradin until his execution by Charles of Anjou in 1268. Government in Jerusalem had developed in the opposite direction to monarchies in the west. St Louis, Emperor Frederick and Kind Edward I were powerful, with centralised bureaucracies. Jerusalem had a royalty with title but without power. [145] Magnates such as the Ibelins attempted to seize the regency, fighting for control with an Italian armyled by Frederick's viceroy Richard Filangieri in the War of the Lombards. Tyre, the Hospitallers, the Teutonic Knights and Pisa supported Filangieri. In opposition were the Ibelins, Acre, the Templars and Genoa. The rebels established a surragate commune, or parliament, for twelve years in Acre. [146] They prevailed in 1242 with the capture of Tyre and a succession of Ibelin and Cypriot regents followed. [147] Historian Joshua Prawer considered that centralised government collapsed noting the nobility, military orders and Italian communes took the lead. Three Cypriot Lusignan kings succeeded without the financial or military resources to recover the lost territory. The title of king was even sold to Charles of Anjou but even though he gained power for a short while, he never visited the kingdom. The king of Cyprus fought at Acre until all hope was lost and he returned to his island realm. [148] Cyprus survived the fall of the mainland Crusader states and King Peter launched the last crusade against Egypt that temporarily captured Alexandria in 1365. [149]


Partly a result of anti-Orthodox policy the early crusaders filled ecclesiastical positions left vacant by the Orthodox church with Franks including that of patriarchate of Jerusalem when Simeon II died. The Greek Orthodox Church was considered part of the universal Church enabling the replacement of Orthodox bishops by Latin clerics in coastal towns. The first Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Arnulf of Chocques, ejected the Greek Orthodox monks from the Holy Sepulchre but relented when the miracle of Easter Fire failed in their absence. The appointment of Latin bishops had little effect on the Arabic-speaking Orthodox Christians because the previous bishops were also foreign, from the Byzantine Empire. The Latin bishops used Greeks as coadjutor bishops to administer Syrians and Greeks left without higher clergy. In many villages Latin and Orthodox Christions shared the churches. In exceptional political circumstances, Greeks replaced Latin patriarchs in Antioch. Orthodox monasteries were rebuilt and Orthodox monastic life revived. This toleration continued despite an increasingly interventionist papal reaction demonstrated by Jacques de Vitry, bishop of Acre. The Armenians, Copts and Jacobites, Nestorians and Maronites had greater autonomy. As they were not in communion with Rome they could retain their own bishops without a conflict of authority. Around 1181 Aimery of Limoges, Patriarch of Antioch, managed to bring the Maronites into communion with Rome, establishing a precedent for the Uniate Churches. [150]

Religion prevented assimilation evidenced by the Franks' discriminatory laws against Jews and Muslims. They were banned from living in Jerusalem and sexual relationship between Muslims and Christians was punished by mutilation. Some mosques were converted into Christian churches, but the Franks did not force the local Muslims to convert to Christianity. Frankish lords were particularly reluctant, because conversion would have ended the Muslim peasants' servile status. The Muslims could pray in public and their pilgrimages to Mecca continued. [151] The Samaritans' annual Passover festival attracted visitors from beyond the kingdom's borders. [152]


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). (British Museum) Crusader coins of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.jpg
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). (British Museum)

Largely based in the ports of Acre, Tyre, Tripoli and Sidon, Italian, Provençal and Catalan 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 towns of origin. This gave them the ability to monopolise foreign trade and almost all banking and shipping in the Outremer. Their parent cities' naval support was essential for 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 Syrian and Palestinian ports were unable to replace Alexandria and Constantinople as the primary centres of commerce in the region. Instead, the communes competed with the monarchs 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. [153] [154]


The crusaders followed the customs of their Western European homelands meaning that there were few cultural innovations in the Outremer. Innovations are all related to the military, including the establishment of the military orders and the development of tactics and military architecture. [155] Records from John of Ibelin indicate that around 1170 the military force of the kingdom of Jerusalem was based on a feudal host of about 647 to 675 heavily armoured knights. Each feudatory would also provide his own armed retainers. Non-noble light cavalry and infantry were known as serjants. The prelates and the towns were to provide 5,025 serjants to the royal army, according to Ibelin's list. This force would be augmented by hired soldiery. Turcopoles were recruited from among the natives. In times of emergency, the king could also call upon a general muster of the Christian [156] population, Franks and natives alike. Joshua Prawer estimated that the military orders could match the king's fighting strength. This means the total military of the kingdom can be estimated at 1,200 knights and 10,000 serjants. Enough for further territorial gains, but fewer than the required numbers to maintain military domination. This was also a problem defensively. Putting an army into the field required draining castles and cities 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 they could not conquer the Crusader states without destroying the Franks' fortresses. 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. [157]

Military orders

13th-century miniature of Baldwin II of Jerusalem granting the captured Al Aqsa Mosque to Hugues de Payns Baldwin II ceeding the Temple of Salomon to Ugo dei Pagani and Gaudefroy de Saint-Homer.jpg
13th-century miniature of Baldwin II of Jerusalem granting the captured Al Aqsa Mosque to Hugues de Payns

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. [158] The Knights Hospitaller, formally the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, had a medical function in Jerusalem before the First Crusade. The order later adding a martial element and became a much larger military order. [159] In this way the knighthood entered the previously monastic and ecclesiastical sphere. [160] 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 were founded around 1119 by a small band of knights who dedicated themselves to protecting pilgrims en route to Jerusalem. [161] King Baldwin II granted the order the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1129 they were formally recognised by the papacy at the 1129 Council of Troyes. [162]

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. [163] After the fall of Acre the Hospitallers relocated to Cyprus, then ruled Rhodes until the island was taken by the Ottomans in 1522 and Malta until Napoleon captured the island in 1798. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta continues in existence to the present-day. [164] 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. [165]

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. Crac des chevaliers syria.jpeg
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 seen 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. [166]

Historians consider military architecturedemonstrating a synthesis of the European, Byzantine and Muslim traditionsthe 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. [167] 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. [168]

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. [169]

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. [170]

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. [171] 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. [172]

Female involvement

Until abolished by Innocent III, married men required their wives consent before taking the cross and the husbands' prolonged absences caused objections. Muslim and Byzantine observers were viewed with disdain the many women who willingly joined the armed pilgrimages and female fighters. Western chroniclers indicated female crusaders were wives, merchants, servants and sex workers. Attempts were made to control the women's behaviour in ordinances of 1147 and 1190. Aristocratic women had a significant impact: Ida of Formbach-Ratelnberg led her own force in 1101; Eleanor of Aquitaine conducted her own political strategy; and Margaret of Provence negotiated her husband Louis IX's ransom with an opposing womanthe Egyptian sultana Shajar al-Durr. Misogyny meant that there was male disapproval; chroniclers tell of immorality and Jerome of Prague blamed the failure of the Second Crusade on the presence of women. Even though they assisted crusade promotion preachers would typecast them as obstructing recruitment, despite the donations, legacies and vow redemptions. Reward did come in the sharing of crusaders plenary indulgences. [173]


The crusades were costly enterprises, armies and retainers needed feeding and pay. Payment provided order and discipline, was not in conflict with religious motivation and prompted innovative initiatives for the funding of campaigns. Property was sold or mortgaged; taxation was raised at estate, clerical and national level; and charges were made for vow redemption. [174] Money was also borrowed, extorted and stolen from Jewish commuinities. [175]


The Crusades created national mythologies, tales of heroism, a few place names and developed Europe's political topology. [176] 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. [177] Muslim thinkers, politicians and historians have drawn parallels between the crusades and modern political developments such as the establishment of Israel in 1948. [178] 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. [179]



Illustration of the Council of Clermont, Jean Colombe, Les Passages d'Outremer, BnF Fr 5594, c. 1475 CouncilofClermont.jpg
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. The Gesta was reworked by Robert of Rheims who created a papalist, northern French template for later works. These all demonstrated a degree of martial advocacy that attributed both success and failure to God's will. [180] This clerical view was soon challenged by vernacular adventure stories based on the work of Albert of Aachen. William of Tyre expanded on Albert's writing in his Historia. Completed by 1184, William's work describes the warrior state the Outremer had become through the tensions between divine providence and humankind. [181] Medieval crusade historiography remained more interested in presenting moralistic lessons than information, extolling the crusades as a moral exemplar and a cultural norm. [182]


Attitudes toward the crusades during the Reformation were shaped by confessional debates and the Ottoman expansion. Protestant martyrologist John Foxe in his History of the Turks (1566) blamed the sins of the Catholic 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 Emperor Henry IV. On this view, the crusade was flawed, and the idea of restoring the physical Holy Places was "detestable superstition". [183] 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. [184]


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. [185] 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. [186] In France the idea that the crusades were an important part of national history and identity continued to evolve. In scholarly literature, the term "holy war" was replaced by the neutral German kreuzzug and French croisade. [187] 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. [188] 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. [189] Much of the popular understanding of the crusades derives from the 19th century novels of Scott and the French histories by Joseph François Michaud. [190]


In a 2001 articleThe Historiography of the CrusadesGiles Constable attempted to categorise what is meant by Crusade into four areas of contemporary crusade study. His view was that Traditionalists such as Hans Eberhard Mayer are concerned with where the crusades were aimed, Pluralists such as Jonathan Riley-Smith concentrate on how the crusades were organised, Popularists including Paul Alphandery and Etienne Delaruelle focus on the popular groundswells of religious fervour, and Generalists, such as Ernst-Dieter Hehl focus on the phenomenon of Latin holy wars. [4] [5]

The historian Thomas F. Madden argues 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. [191]


The Muslim world exhibited little interest in the crusades until the middle of the 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". The Ottoman Turk Namık Kemal published the first modern Saladin biography in 1872. The Jerusalem visit in 1898 of Kaiser Wilhelm prompted further interest, with the Egyptian Sayyid Ali al-Hariri producing the first Arabic history of the crusades. Modern studies can be driven by political purposes, in the hope of learning from the Muslim forces' triumph over their enemies. [192]

See also

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Further reading