Essay Preview: The Crusades
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The Crusades took part in both propagating and diminishing the expansion and development of Christianity throughout Europe during the eleventh through thirteenth centuries.
While The Crusades, a series of military campaigns, began in the name of the Christian faith and with the initial incentive to regain the Holy Land of Jerusalem, the holy wars quickly evolved into a battle of egos and religious supremacy. Christianity was both positively and adversely affected by the nine major holy wars that took place throughout this time period, resulting in new perspectives on the religion itself, and all those directly and indirectly involved.
While each crusade is associated with its respective immediate cause of origin, the crusading movement in its entirety was caused by an accumulation of various developments in Western Europe which occurred earlier in the Middle Ages. The deteriorating condition of the Carolingian Empire towards the end of the ninth Century in addition to the Christianization of Vikings and Slavs among European countries directly resulted in an entire population of combatants that had nothing left to fight for. Also, because Muslim armies had previously occupied themselves with conquering numerous Christian dominated regions in northern Africa, Christian warriors were familiar with the concept of “holy war” and were readily prepared to defend their territory and their faith. (Crusades; Madden, 12-28)
I. The First Crusade
The First Crusade, which lasted from 1095 to 1099, was immediately caused by a plea of desperation from King Alexius I to Pope Urban II for his aid in the defense of the Byzantine Empire against the Muslims. With the hope to regain Jerusalem from the Muslims and place the holy city under Christian control once again, the pope ultimately agreed to help Alexius in his time of need. In 1095, Pope Urban II accrued a large audience at the Council of Clermont in France to use his propaganda and persuasion to convince his people to support the crusade. Soon after the popes sermon in France, over one hundred thousand poor, amateur fighters (including women and children) assembled into what is known as “The Peoples Crusade” and left much earlier for the crusade than the pope had anticipated. Led by the popular preacher, Peter the Hermit, the unskilled and ill-equipped army was immediately massacred by the Turks upon entry into Asia Minor. Later in the summer of 1096, in what is referred to as the “German Crusade”, an army of German soldiers embarked on the crusade and because of the existence of anti-Semitism throughout Europe, took part in the “first mass organized violence against Jewish communities” (Crusades). As the crusaders moved through the Rhine Valley, they massacred thousands of innocent Jews under the premise that all non-believers of the Christian faith were enemies, not just the Muslims. (Riley-Smith, 18-39; Moynahan, 222-228)
The crusader armies marched towards Antioch, arrived in October of 1097, and began siege on the city immediately. Because the city was too large for the crusaders to completely surround, the city of Antioch was able to continuously receive supplies, causing the siege to last longer than originally anticipated by both the leaders and the troops. The siege of Antioch ultimately ended when a bribe gained the crusaders entry into the city, where they killed majority of the inhabitants. Within days, however, the crusaders became the besieged as the Muslims attacked. Due to internal politics among the leaders of both armies, the crusade was delayed for the remainder of the year until a decision was made and the march to Jerusalem was resumed in 1099. (Madden, 42-44)
With little resistance, the crusaders finally reached the holy city of Jerusalem on May seventh of 1099 and instantly began a length siege on the city. By following the instruction of Father Peter Desiderius, who claimed to have a detailed vision of the crusaders method of attack and success, the army constructed multiple siege engines and was able to break down sections of the walls and enter the city. Upon entry, the crusaders killed almost all of the inhabitants of the city and crowned Godfrey of Bouillon as “King of Jerusalem”, who was soon replaced by Baldwin III of Edessa. (Madden, 44-48)
II. The Second Crusade
The Second Crusade, 1144 to 1150, was initiated in direct response to the capture of the County of Edessa, the first of the established Crusader states in Europe, by Zengi of the Seljuk Turks. It was announced by Pope Eugene III on December first, 1144 and was led by European kings, primarily King Louis VII of France and King Conrad III of Germany. The first portion of this crusade, however, was not led by a king or prince, but was simply a conglomerate of Flemish, Frisian, Norman, English, and Scottish crusaders. This assembly of warriors traveled to Spain where they aided King Alfonso I of Portugal in conquering the city of Lisbon from Moorish control. After an approximate four month siege, Lisbon fell to the crusaders in 1147, who thoroughly plundered the city before handing it over to Alfonso. This will be the only success siege of the Christian armies throughout this crusade. (Riley-Smith, 93-95; Crusades).
This first army of crusaders was later joined by German crusaders in May of 1147 and French crusaders a month later in June, to accompany them on the journey to Jerusalem. Upon arrival in Acre, King Conrad III, Louis VII and King Baldwin III of Jerusalem, came to the conclusion that a siege on Damascus was necessary in order to enable crusader expansion. The crusaders arrived in Damascus on July twenty-fourth and set-up camp in well-supplied and shaded orchards on the western side of city. The Muslims constantly attacked the crusader army while it advanced through the orchards and the decision was made to relocate the Christian army to the western side of the city, which provided considerably less resources. Because of the lack of food and supplies along with the constant Muslim raids, the crusaders were forced to make a humiliating retreat back to Jerusalem. (Madden, 60-70)
Following this significant defeat, Saladin was proclaimed the Sultan of Egypt and in 1171 a unification of Syria and Egypt was generated, completely surrounding the established crusader kingdom. Saladins forces expanded their power north to capture all of the Crusader states, with exception of the capital cities. (Moynahan, 253-255)
III. The Third Crusade
The Third Crusade, which lasted for the duration of 1189 to 1192 and is referred to as “The Kings Crusade”, was an attempt by European leaders to regain the holy territory that was conquered by Saladin