The Crusades (1096 to 1487)

The Crusades were a series of religious wars between Christians and Muslims started primarily to secure control of holy sites considered sacred by both groups. In all, eight major Crusade expeditions occurred between 1096 and 1291.

The Siege of Acre by Dominique Papety

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The crusades were a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church. The best-known crusades are the campaigns in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries fought in the eastern Mediterranean, aimed at recovering the Holy Land from Muslim rule. The term crusade is now also applied to other church-sanctioned and even non-religious campaigns. These were fought for a variety of reasons including the suppression of paganism and heresy, the resolution of conflict among rival Roman Catholic groups, or for political and territorial advantage. At the time of the early crusades the word did not exist, and it only much later became the leading descriptive term in English.

Templar Knights

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The eight Crusades

There were at least eight Crusades. The First Crusade lasted from 1096 to 1099. The Second Crusade began in 1147 and ended in 1149. The Third Crusade started in 1189 and was concluded in 1192. The Fourth Crusade got underway in 1202 and ended in 1204. The Fifth Crusade lasted from 1217 until 1221. The Sixth Crusade occurred in 1228–29. The Seventh Crusade began in 1248 and ended in 1254. And the Eighth Crusade took place in 1270. There were also smaller Crusades against dissident Christian sects within Europe, including the Albigensian Crusade (1209–29). The so-called People’s Crusade occurred in response to Pope Urban II’s call for the First Crusade, and the Children’s Crusade took place in 1212.

Scheme of the fourth Crusade

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The First Crusade, called in response to a request for help from the Byzantine emperor Alexius Comnenus, was astonishingly successful. The Crusaders conquered Nicaea (in Turkey) and Antioch and then went on to seize Jerusalem, and they established a string of Crusader-ruled states. However, after the Muslim leader Zangī captured one of them, the Second Crusade, called in response, was defeated at Dorylaeum (near Nicaea) and failed in an attempt to conquer Damascus. The Third Crusade, called after the sultan Saladin conquered the Crusader state of Jerusalem, resulted in the capture of Cyprus and the successful siege of Acre (now in Israel), and Richard I’s forces defeated those of Saladin at the Battle of Arsūf and at Jaffa. Richard signed a peace treaty with Saladin allowing Christians access to Jerusalem. The Fourth Crusade—rather than attacking Egypt, then the centre of Muslim power—sacked the Byzantine Christian city of Constantinople. None of the following Crusades were successful. The capture of Acre in 1291 by the Māmluk sultan al-Ashraf Khalil marked the end of Crusader rule in the Middle East.

The Knights Templar

After Christian armies captured Jerusalem from Muslim control in 1099 during the Crusades, groups of pilgrims from across Western Europe started visiting the Holy Land. Many of them, however, were robbed and killed as they crossed through Muslim-controlled territories during their journey. Around 1118, a French knight named Hugues de Payens created a military order along with eight relatives and acquaintances, calling it the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon—later known simply as the Knights Templar.

Knights Templar

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With the support of Baldwin II, the ruler of Jerusalem, they set up headquarters on that city’s sacred Temple Mount, the source of their now-iconic name, and pledged to protect Christian visitors to Jerusalem.

How the world changed after the Crusades

The Crusades slowed the advance of Islamic power and may have prevented western Europe from falling under Muslim suzerainty. The Crusader states extended trade with the Muslim world, bringing new tastes and foods to Europe. The Crusades had a marked impact on the development of Western historical literature, bringing a plethora of chronicles and eyewitness accounts. However, Constantinople never returned to its former glory after being sacked by the Fourth Crusade, and the schism between Eastern and Roman Catholic Christianity was further entrenched. The Islamic world saw the Crusaders as cruel invaders, which helped engender distrust and resentment toward the Christian world.

Representation of Templars against Muslims

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