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The crusades were a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church in the medieval period. The best-known crusades are the campaigns 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 became the leading descriptive term in English around the year 1760.

Pope Urban II preached for the First Crusade in 1095, at the Council of Clermont. He encouraged military support for Emperor Alexios I who needed reinforcements for the Byzantine Empire’s conflict with westward migrating Turks colonising Anatolia. Urban aimed to guarantee pilgrim access to the eastern Mediterranean holy sites under Muslim control. Urban's strategy may have been to establish himself as head of the unified Church, uniting the eastern and western branches that had been divided by the East–West Schism. The crusade established four crusader states in the eastern Mediterranean: the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the County of Tripoli. The enthusiastic response to Urban's preaching across all social strata in western Europe established a precedent for further crusades. Volunteers became crusaders by taking a public vow and receiving plenary indulgences from the Church. Some were hoping for a mass ascension into heaven at Jerusalem or God's forgiveness for their sins. Others participated to satisfy feudal obligations, obtain glory and honour, or to seek economic and political gain.

Conventionally an arbitrary system devised by the historian Charles Mills in 1820 is used to number nine distinct campaigns as Crusades. The Second Crusade achieved little beyond the capture of Lisbon from the Moors by the English. The Third Crusade failed to recapture Jerusalem. The Fourth diverted to sack Constantinople. The Fifth was defeated in Egypt. The Sixth regained Jerusalem by negotiation for a period of fifteen years. The Seventh also ended in defeat in Egypt and the Eighth failed in Tunis. The Ninth is sometimes considered part of the Eighth and is of minor importance, only notable for the presence of Prince Edward, the future king of England. The last of the Eastern Crusader cities fell in 1291 and there were no more crusades to recover the Holy Land. Territorial gains lasted longer in northern and western Europe. Crusades brought all the north-east Baltic and the neighbouring Slavic tribes, known as Wends, under Catholic control in the late 12th century. The Teutonic Order created a crusader state in Prussia in the early 13th century, and the French monarchy used the Albigensian Crusade to extend the kingdom to the Mediterranean Sea. The rise of the Ottoman Empire in the late 14th century prompted a Catholic response which led to further defeats at Nicopolis and Varna. In the 15th century the pivotal events in Christian–Islamic relations were marked by two events: the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans, and a conclusive victory for the Spanish over the Moors in the conquest of Granada. The idea of crusading did continue, not least in the form of the Knights Hospitaller, until the end of the 18th century, but the focus of western European interest moved to the New World.

Modern historians hold widely varying opinions of the crusaders.


The term crusade used in modern historiography at first referred to the wars in the Holy Land beginning in 1095. The range of events to which the term has been applied has been greatly extended, so its use can create a misleading impression of coherence, particularly regarding the early crusades. The Latin terms used for the campaign of the First Crusade were iter, "journey", and peregrinatio, "pilgrimage".[3] The terminology of crusading remained largely indistinguishable from that of Christian pilgrimage during the 12th century. This reflected the reality of the first century of crusading, when not all armed pilgrims fought and not all who fought had taken the cross. It was not until the late 12th and early 13th centuries that a more specific "language of crusading" emerged.[4] Pope Innocent III used the term negotium crucis or "affair of the cross". Sinibaldo Fieschi, the future Pope Innocent IV, used the terms crux transmarina—"the cross overseas"—for crusades in the Outremer (crusader states) against Muslims and crux cismarina—"the cross this side of the sea"—for crusades in Europe against other enemies of the church.[5] The modern English "crusade" dates to the early 1700s.[6][1] The term used in modern Arabic, ḥamalāt ṣalībiyya حملات صليبية‎, lit. "campaigns of the cross", is a loan translation of the term "crusade" as used in western historiography.[7]

The crusades in the Holy Land are traditionally counted as nine distinct campaigns, numbered from the First Crusade of 1095–99 to the Ninth Crusade of 1271–72. This convention was used in 1820 by historian Charles Mills in his History of the Crusades for the Recovery and Possession of the Holy Land. It is often retained for convenience even though it is a somewhat arbitrary system for what some historians now consider to be seven major and numerous lesser campaigns.[8]

"Saracen]]" was a common term for an Arab Muslim. This was derived from a name used by the later Greeks and Romans for the nomadic peoples of the Syro-Arabian desert who raided the Syrian region of the Roman Empire.[9] The first English use of "Muslim" is dated to the 17th century.[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".[9][9] 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]


Christianity was adopted throughout the Roman Empire in Late Antiquity. The first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, founded the great city of Constantinople in 324. In this city the Roman Empire continued until 1453, while the Empire in the west collapsed at the end of the 4th century. The city and the Eastern Roman Empire are more generally known as Byzantium, the name of the older Greek colony it replaced.[14]

Following the foundation of the Islamic religion by Mohammad in the 7th century, and continuing through the 8th century, Muslim Arabs under the Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates captured Syria, Egypt, and North Africa from the Roman Empire, Iran from the Sasanian Empire and Iberia from the Visigothic Kingdom.[15] In 750 a bloody coup brought an end to Umayyad rule to be replaced by the Abbasids and the Islamic state's centre of power moved to Baghdad.[16]

The initial phase of Turkic migration into the Middle East saw the intersection of Abbasid and Turkic history from the 9th century. One key driver of Middle Eastern state formation for the following thousand years was the use of slave soldiers. 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 the theory was, that as slaves they would be more loyal to their masters. In practice it took the Turks only a few decades to make the journey from guard, to commander, governor, dynastic founder and eventually king maker. Political cohesion gradually fragmentated. Examples include the Tulanid dynasty in Egypt and Syria (868–905) and the Ikhshidids who followed in Egypt (935–969).[17]

Muslim Iberia (modern Portugal and Spain) established an independent state in the eighth century, the Sunni-Shia rift intensified over the decades and in 969 North Africa broke away under the Fatamids. These were a Shi'ite faction named after Fatima, the daughter of Mohammad. The Fatimids took control of swathes of the Near East including Jerusalem, Damascus and parts of the Mediterranean coastline. The Fatimids asserted their independence from the Sunni Abbasids and had a rival Shi'ite caliph who they considered the successor to Mohammad.[18] From the 8th century, the Christians were campaigning to retake Iberia in what has become known as the Reconquista and from 1060 Norman adventurers began the conquest of the Muslim Emirate of Sicily.[19][20]

The second wave of Turkish migration saw the arrival of the Seljuk Turks in the 10th century.

The recovery of territory by the Byzantine Empire reached its furthest extent in 1025, through the military successes of Emperor Basil II. Its frontiers stretched as far east as Iran. It controlled Bulgaria as well as much of southern Italy and piracy had been suppressed in the Mediterranean Sea. From this point, the arrival of new enemies on all frontiers placed intolerable strains on the resources of the state. In Italy they were confronted by the Normans; to the north, the Pechenegs, the Serbs and the Cumans, as well as the Seljuks to the east. Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes attempted to confront 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.[23] This situation was probably the cause of instability in the Byzantine hierarchy rather than the result. To maintain order, the Emperors were forced to recruit mercenary armies, sometimes from the very forces that posed the threat. Yet positive signs of the overall health of the Empire at this time have been identified by recent scholarship.[24]

By the end of the 11th century, the age of Islamic territorial expansion was long gone.[25] However, fractious frontier conditions between the Christian and Muslim world remained across the Mediterranean Sea.


Historical analysis has demonstrated that the First Crusade had its roots in developments earlier in the 11th century but for Western chroniclers it seems to have been a surprising and unexpected event.

Before the middle of the 11th-century Gregorian Reform, rival Roman noble families and the Holy Roman Emperor competed to control a papacy that amounted to little more than a localised bishopric. Roman families appointed relatives and protégés as popes,[31] while Emperor Henry III invaded Rome and replaced two rival candidates with his nominee. The reforming movement coalesced around Pope Leo IX, intent on abolishing simony and clerical marriage and implementing a college of cardinals responsible for electing future popes.[32] This movement established an assertive, reformist papacy eager to increase its power and influence over secular Europe. A struggle for power developed between Church and state in medieval Europe from around 1075 and continued through the period of the First Crusade. This struggle, now known as the Investiture Controversy,[33] was primarily about whether the Catholic Church or the Holy Roman Empire held the right to appoint church officials and other clerics. To gather military resources for his conflict with the Emperor, Pope Alexander II developed a system of recruitment via oaths that Pope Gregory VII extended into a network across Europe. This also supported the development of a doctrine of holy war developed from the thinking of 4th-century theologian Augustine of Hippo on the treatment of heresy. Death in a just war came to be seen as martyrdom and warfare itself as a penitential activity.[34] Gregory's doctrine of papal primacy led to conflict with eastern Christians whose traditional view was that the pope was only one of the five patriarchs of the church alongside the Patriarchates of Antioch, Constantinople, Alexandria and Jerusalem.[35] In 1054 Leo IX sent a legation to the Patriarch of Constantinople demanded that his supremacy be recognised. The Patriarch responded with an alternative manifesto so the legation excommunicated him. A Synod of the Greek church in turn excommuinicated the legation while condemning the Latin church as heretics in creed and practice. This created an irreparable split known as the East–West Schism. There were now two supposedly universal orthodox Christian realms. Where the principle line of division was between a heathen North and a Christian South, now it was between the Catholic West and an Orthodox East.[36]

It was the enmity between the Abbasids and Fatamids that prevented any concerted response to Christian invasion.

In the eastern Mediterranean

In 1095, Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos requested military aid from Pope Urban II at the Council of Piacenza, probably a small body of mercenary reinforcements he could direct and control. Alexios had restored the Empire's finances and authority but still faced numerous foreign enemies. Most significant were the migrating Turks, in particular the Seljuks and their followers, who had colonised the sparsely populated areas of Anatolia. Later that year at the Council of Clermont, Urban raised the issue of military support again and preached for a crusade.[40]

Almost immediately, the French priest Peter the Hermit led thousands of mostly poor Christians out of Europe in what became known as the People's Crusade.[41] In transit through Germany these crusaders massacred Jewish communities in what became known as the Rhineland massacres. This was part of wide-ranging anti-Jewish activities, extending from limited, spontaneous violence to full-scale military attacks.[42] Jews were perceived to be as much an enemy as Muslims: they were held responsible for the crucifixion, and were more immediately visible than the distant Muslims. Many people wondered why they should travel thousands of miles to fight non-believers when there were already non-believers closer to home.[43] The end of the Peoples' Crusade was abrupt. Almost immediately after leaving Byzantine controlled territory on their journey to Nicaea the crusaders were annihilated in a Turkish ambush at the battle of Civetot.[39]

Conflict with Pope Urban II meant that King Philip I of France and Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV declined to participate in the crusade. But members of the high aristocracy from France, western Germany, the Low Countries, Languedoc and Italy led independent military contingents in loose, fluid arrangements based on bonds of lordship, family, ethnicity and language. Foremost amongst these was the elder statesman, Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse. He was rivalled by the relatively poor but martial Bohemond of Taranto and his nephew Tancred from the Norman community of southern Italy. They were joined by Godfrey of Bouillon and his brother Baldwin and forces from Lorraine, Lotharingia, and Germany. These five princes were pivotal to the campaign, which was also joined by a northern French army led by: Robert Curthose, Count Stephen II of Blois, and Count Robert II of Flanders.[45] The armies, which may have contained as many as 100,000 people including non-combatants, travelled eastward by land to Byzantium where they were cautiously welcomed by the Emperor.[46] Alexios persuaded many of the princes to pledge allegiance to him; he also convinced them their first objective should be Nicaea, the capital of the Sultanate of Rum. The over-confident Sultan Kilij Arslan left the city to resolve a territorial dispute, thus enabling its capture after a crusader siege and a Byzantine naval assault. This was a high point in Latin and Greek co-operation and the beginning of crusader attempts to take advantage of disunity in the Muslim world.[47]

The first experience of Turkish tactics, using lightly armoured mounted archers, occurred when an advanced party led by Bohemond and Robert was ambushed at Dorylaeum. The Normans resisted for hours before the arrival of the main army caused a Turkish withdrawal.[48] The three-month crusader march to the Muslim city of Antioch was arduous. Numbers were reduced by starvation, thirst and disease, combined with Baldwin's decision to leave with 100 knights and their followers to carve out his own territory in Edessa which became one of the crusader states.[49] The crusaders besieged Antioch for eight months but lacked the resources to fully invest the city; the residents lacked the means to repel the invaders. Finally, Bohemond persuaded a guard in the city to open a gate. The crusaders entered, massacring the Muslim inhabitants as well as many Christians amongst the Greek Orthodox, Syrian and Armenian communities.[50]

A force to recapture the city was raised by the Iraqi general Kerbogha. The Byzantines did not march to the assistance of the crusaders because the deserting Stephen of Blois told them the cause was lost. Instead Alexius retreated from Philomelium, where he received Stephen's report, to Constantinople. The Greeks were never truly forgiven for this perceived betrayal and Stephen was branded a coward.[51] Losing numbers through desertion and starvation in the besieged city, the crusaders attempted to negotiate surrender but were rejected. Bohemond recognised that the only remaining option was open combat and launched a counterattack. Despite superior numbers, Kerbogha's army — which was divided into factions and surprised by the Crusaders commitment and dedication— retreated and abandoned the siege.[52] The crusaders then delayed for months while they argued over who would have the captured territory. The debate ended when news arrived that the Fatimid Egyptians had taken Jerusalem from the Seljuk Turks, making it imperative to attack before the Egyptians could consolidate their position. Bohemond remained in Antioch, retaining the city, despite his pledge to return it to Byzantine control, while Raymond led the remaining crusader army rapidly south along the coast to Jerusalem.[53]

An initial attack on the city failed, and the siege became a stalemate, until the arrival of craftsmen and supplies transported by the Genoese to Jaffa tilted the balance. Crusaders constructed two large siege engines; the one commanded by Godfrey breached the walls. For two days the crusaders massacred the inhabitants and pillaged the city. Historians now believe the accounts of the numbers killed have been exaggerated, but this narrative of massacre did much to cement the crusaders' reputation for barbarism.[54] Godfrey further secured the Frankish position by defeating an Egyptian relief force at Ascalon.[55] Now, most of the crusaders considered their pilgrimage complete and returned to Europe. When it came to the future governance of the city it was Godfrey who took leadership and the title Defender of the Holy Sepulchre. The original ideas that Jerusalem would become an ecclesiastical domain and the claims of Raymond were discounted in the face of the contingent of troops from Lorraine.[56] At that point Godfrey was left with a mere 300 knights and 2,000 infantry to defend Palestine. Tancred was the other prince who remained. His ambition was to gain a Crusader state princedom of his own.[57] When Godfrey died in 1100 the Lorrainers foiled the attempt of Jerusalem's Patriarch, Daimbert to seize power and enabled Godfrey's brother, Baldwin, to take the crown.[58]

The Islamic world seems to have barely registered the crusade; certainly, there is limited written evidence before 1130.

The Crusader states were almost constantly at defensive or expansionist war in the early 12th century.

Under the papacies of successive popes, smaller groups of crusaders continued to travel to the eastern Mediterranean to fight the Muslims and aid the crusader states.

For the first time, the rise of Imad ad-Din Zengi saw the Crusaders threatened by a Muslim ruler attempting to restore jihad to Near Eastern politics. After his father was executed for treason in the Seljuk succession crisis little is known of his early years. He became Atabeg of Mosul in 1127 and used this to expand his control to Aleppo and then Damascus. In 1144 he conquered Edessa. After a delay of nearly two years preaching began for what subsequently became known as the Second Crusade. Initially, support was sluggish, partly because Pope Eugenius III delegated the preaching. The French Benedictine abbot, Bernard of Clairvaux spread the message that the loss was the result of sinfulness, and redemption was the reward for crusading. Simultaneously, the anti-Semitic element of the crusade preaching of a Cistercian monk called Rudolf initiated further massacres of Jews in the Rhineland.[67] This formed part of a general increase in crusading activity, including in Iberia and northern Europe.[68]

Zengi was murdered in uncertain circumstances.

After the conquest of Ascalon in 1153 opened a strategic road south from Palestine, Jerusalem demonstrated an increasing interest in expanding into Egyptian territory.

As Nur al-Din's territories became fragmented after his death, Saladin legitimised his ascent by positioning himself as a defender of Sunni Islam subservient to both the Caliph of Baghdad and to Nur al-Din's 11-year-old son and successor, As-Salih Ismail al-Malik.[75] While claiming to be the young prince's regent until the boy died seven years later, he seized Damascus and much of Syria but failed to take Aleppo.[76] After building a defensive force to resist a planned attack by the Kingdom of Jerusalem that never materialised, his first contest with the Latin Christians was not a success. His overconfidence and tactical errors led to defeat at the Battle of Montgisard.[77] Despite this setback, Saladin established a domain stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates through a decade of politics, coercion and low-level military action.[78] After a life-threatening illness early in 1186, he determined to make good on his propaganda as the champion of Islam, embarking on heightened campaigning against the Latin Christians.[79] King Guy responded by raising the largest army that Jerusalem had ever put into the field. Saladin lured the force into inhospitable terrain without water supplies, surrounded the Latins with a superior force, and routed them at the Battle of Hattin. Guy was amongst the Christian nobles taken prisoner, but he was later released. Saladin offered the Christians the option of remaining in peace under Islamic rule or taking advantage of 40 days' grace to leave. As a result of his victory, much of Palestine quickly fell to Saladin, including—after a short five-day siege—Jerusalem.[80] According to Benedict of Peterborough, Pope Urban III died of deep sadness on 19 October 1187 after hearing of the defeat.[81]

Urban III's successor as pope, Gregory VIII, issued a papal bull titled Audita tremendi that proposed what became known as the Third Crusade to recapture Jerusalem. In August 1189, the freed King Guy attempted to recover Acre from Saladin by surrounding the strategic city, only for his own forces to be besieged in turn.[82][83] Both armies could be supplied by sea, so a long stalemate commenced. The crusaders became so deprived at times they are thought to have resorted to cannibalism.[84] Travelling overland to join the crusade, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I drowned in the Saleph River; few of his men reached their destination.[85] Richard the Lionheart, King of England, travelled by sea; his sister and his fiancée travelled separately. In response to their capture by the Cypriot ruler, Isaac Komnenos, Richard conquered the island in 1191.[86] Philip II of France was the first king to arrive at the siege of Acre; Richard arrived on 8 June 1191.[82] The arrival of the French and Angevin forces turned the tide in the conflict, and the Muslim garrison of Acre finally surrendered on 12 July. Philip considered his vow fulfilled and returned to France to deal with domestic matters, leaving most of his forces behind. But Richard travelled south along the Mediterranean coast, defeated the Muslims near Arsuf, and recaptured the port city of Jaffa. He twice advanced to within a day's march of Jerusalem. Richard judged that—while Saladin had a mustered army—he himself lacked the resources to successfully capture the city or defend it in the unlikely event of a successful assault. This marked the end of Richard's crusading career and was a calamitous blow to Frankish morale.[87] A three-year truce was negotiated that allowed Catholics unfettered access to Jerusalem.[88] Politics in England forced Richard's departure, never to return; Saladin died in March 1193.[82] Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI initiated the German Crusade to fulfil the promises to undertake a crusade to the Holy Land made by his father Frederick. Led by Conrad, Archbishop of Mainz, the army captured the cities of Sidon and Beirut. In 1197 Henry died and most of the crusaders returned to Germany to protect their holdings and take part in the election of his successor as Emperor.[89]

Pope Innocent III announced a new Crusade on his election in 1198.[90] Crusaders arrived in insufficient numbers to pay the Venetians for the fleet for which they had contracted.

Innocent did excommunicate the Venetians who continued to plot to further their aggressive territorial objectives.

Alexios III fled.

The 13th century saw a new military threat to the Christian and Islamic worlds.

Saladin's brother Al-Adil disinherited Saladin's sons from the Ayyubid succession. He lacked the Islamic moral authority of his brother required to unite the Muslim world. The result was he left the kingdom of Jerusalem in peace between 1194 and 1217 prompting a revival of the kingdom. Innocent III's Fourth Lateran Council in 1213 called for another Crusade. In the papal bull Quia maior he did much to codify existing practices in preaching, recruitment and financing the crusades. The plenary indulgence was defined as forgiveness of the sins confessed to a priest for those who fought in, or even provided funding for crusades. Geoffrey Chaucer's The Pardoner's Tale may demonstrate a cynical view of vow commutation but it was a pragmatic approach that led to more people taking the cross and raising more money in the following century than in the previous hundred years.[99] The lack of immediate threat and the wait for the expiration of a number of treaties meant that crusading did not resume until 1217, after Innocent's death.[100]

In what is categorised as the Fifth Crusade a force—primarily raised from Hungary, Germany, Flanders—led by King Andrew II of Hungary and Leopold VI, Duke of Austria achieved little. Leopold and John of Brienne, the King of Jerusalem and later Latin Emperor of Constantinople, besieged and captured Damietta, but an army advancing into Egypt was compelled to surrender.[101] Damietta was returned, and an eight-year truce agreed.[102]

Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II was excommunicated for breaking a treaty obligation with the pope and failing to join the crusade. But after his marriage to Isabella II of Jerusalem, John of Brienne's daughter and heir, he had a claim to the kingdom of Jerusalem prompting him to journey to Acre in 1228. Frederick was culturally the Christian monarch most empathetic to the Muslim world, having grown up in Sicily, with a Muslim bodyguard and even a harem. His great diplomatic skills meant the Sixth Crusade was largely a negotiation supported by force.[103] A peace treaty was agreed upon giving Latin Christians most of Jerusalem and a strip of territory that linked the city to Acre while the Muslims controlled their sacred areas. In return, an alliance was made with Al-Kamil, Sultan of Egypt, against all of his enemies of whatever religion. The treaty, and suspicions about Frederick's ambitions in the region, made him unpopular, and he was forced to return to his domains when they were attacked by Pope Gregory IX.[104]

Attention given to the conflict between Holy Roman Empire and the papacy often meant that the responsibility for the prioritisation of campaigns in the Crusader states fell to secular, rather than papal, leadership.

The Mongols displaced a central Turkish Asian people, the Khwarazmian, providing Al-Kamil's son As-Salah with useful allies.[107] The Khwarazmians savagely captured Jerusalem, pursuing the Christian refugees. Only 300 reached safety at Ramla. A combined Egyptian Khwarazmian then defeated an army of Christians and Syrians at the battle of La Forbie. This was the last occasion the Crusader State nobility had the resources to put an army in the field. The Patriarch of Jerusalem put the total loses at 16,000; only 36 out of 348 templars, 26 out of 351 Hospitallers and 3 out 0f 400 Teutonic knights escaped alive.[108] When Innocent IV wrote to the Mongols to question what right they had to attack peaceful Christians in Russia, Poland and Hungary they replied by demanding his total submission to their authority[109]

Thirteenth-century politics in the eastern Mediterranean was complex, with numerous powerful and interested parties.

Between 1265 and 1271, Sultan Baibars drove the Franks to a few small coastal outposts.[117] Baibars had three key objectives: to prevent an alliance between the Latins and the Mongols, to cause dissension among the Mongols (particularly between the Golden Horde and the Persian Ilkhanate), and to maintain access to a supply of slave recruits from the Russian steppes. He supported King Manfred of Sicily's failed resistance to the attack of Charles and the papacy. Dissention in the crusader states led to conflicts such as the War of Saint Sabas. Venice drove the Genoese from Acre to Tyre where they continued to trade with Baibars' Egypt. Indeed, Baibars negotiated free passage for the Genoese with Michael VIII Palaiologos, Emperor of Nicaea, the newly restored ruler of Constantinople.[118] In 1270 Charles turned his brother King Louis IX's crusade, known as the Eighth, to his own advantage by persuading him to attack his rebel Arab vassals in Tunis. The crusader army was devastated by disease, and Louis himself died at Tunis on 25 August. The fleet returned to France. Prince Edward, the future king of England, and a small retinue arrived too late for the conflict but continued to the Holy Land in what is known as the Ninth Crusade. 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.[119]

The 1281 election of a French pope, Martin IV, brought the full power of the papacy into line behind Charles. He prepared to launch a crusade against Constantinople but, in what became known as the Sicilian Vespers, an uprising fomented by the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII proclaimed Peter III of Aragon as king of Sicily depriving Charles of the resources of the island. In response, Martin excommunicated Peter and called for an Aragonese Crusade, which was unsuccessful. In 1285 Charles died, ending a period when he and his brother and later saint, Louis, had viewed themselves as God's instruments to uphold the papacy. He had spent his life in the attempt to amass a Mediterranean empire.[120]

The causes of the decline in crusading and the failure of the crusader states are multi-faceted.

The mainland Crusader states were finally extinguished with the fall of Tripoli in 1289 and Acre in 1291. It is reported that many Latin Christians evacuated to Cyprus by boat, were killed or enslaved. Despite this, Ottoman census records of Byzantine churches show that most parishes in the former Crusader states survived at least until 16th-century and remained Christian.[122][123]

In Europe

The success of the First Crusade led to further and multifaceted crusading in the Middle Ages.

At the time of the First Crusade, Spain had the largest population of Latin Christians living under Muslim rule.

In 1212, the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa was won by the Spanish with the support of 70,000 foreign combatants responding to a crusade preached by Innocent III. Many of the 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.[128] 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 the mainstream Roman church by the Cistercians, Cluniac clerical appointments and the military orders.[123] The Reconquista continued to attract crusaders and crusader privileges.[129] 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.[130]

At the Third Council of the Lateran in 1179, Pope Innocent III set a precedent relevant to those crusades that were and are considered as political. In this he encouraged those who suppressed sects considered heretical by the offering of indulgences. One early 13th-century example was the twenty years of campaigning—primarily by French nobility— to suppress a heretical sect called the Cathars in southern France. This is now known as the Albigensian Crusade and is named after the city of Albi, one of the main centres of Catharism. The thirty-year delay in instigating the crusade illustrates a lack of priority given to the campaign in comparison with the more immediate response in crusading rhetoric regarding the papal territorial conflicts in Italy.[131] The Albigensian Crusade taught the papacy that it was in fact far easier to attack those who tolerated heresy rather than to identify and eradicate the heresy itself. Pressure was exerted on the Commune of Milan because of allegations that the city tolerated Catharism. In Languedoc, feudal lords who failed in its suppression had their lands confiscated and titles forfeited. The historian Norman Housley notes the strong political undertones and connection between heterodoxy and anti-papalism. The pope and the Inquisition would claim that anyone not with them was against them and label opponents as Cathars without requiring evidence. Indulgences were offered to anti-heretical groups such as the Militia of Jesus Christ and the Society of the Blessed Virgin in Milan.[132]

In 1147, the papacy began to describe the wars waged by Scandinavian and German Christians against the pagans in the Baltic coastal region as crusades.

Military orders played a controversial role in the Baltic, most notably the Teutonic Knights who were founded in Palestine after the Siege of Acre in the 1190s and modelled on the Templars. A precedent for the knights had already been set by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword and the Order of Dobrzyń who were founded to defend Riga and German commercial interests. The Teutonic Knights' strong links to German imperium diverted efforts from the Holy Land to Prussia and Livonia. The order conducted harsh and brutal suppression of the local populations, including Orthodox Christians. In this way Latin control was extended 300 miles (480 kilometres) to the east in the 13th century.[134] Historian Robert Bartlett defines the conquest and organisation of power in the Baltic as part of a general movement for 'the expansion of Latin Christendom'. It was made possible by the crusading ideology placing the full machinery of the Church behind superior military technology. It enabled the recruitment of troops via preaching, the offer of spiritual rewards for combatants and the administrative machinery to establish government in the conquered territories.[135]

Crusades were launched during the 14th and 15th centuries to counter further Ottoman expansion in the Balkans. The Ottomans had conquered most of the Balkans and reduced Byzantine influence to the area immediately surrounding Constantinople after their victory at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. Pope Boniface IX proclaimed a new Crusade of Nicopolis to recover the city from the Ottomans, that ended in 1396 with a comprehensive defeat in the Battle of Nicopolis and left Bulgaria in Muslim hands for 500 years.[136] As the Ottomans pressed westward, Sultan Murad II destroyed the last papal-funded crusade at Varna on the Black Sea in 1444. Four years later, he crushed the last Hungarian expedition.[137] After the fall of Constantinople the crusading response was largely symbolic even when there was a genuine plan, such as Duke Phillip of Burgundy's promotion of a crusade that never materialised at the Feast of the Pheasant.[138]

Venice was the only polity to continue to pose a significant threat to the Ottomans in the Mediterranean, but it pursued the "crusade" mostly for its commercial interests, leading to the protracted Ottoman–Venetian Wars, which continued, with interruptions, until 1718. The end of crusading in terms of at least nominal efforts by Catholic Europe against Muslim incursions, came in the 16th century, when the Franco-Imperial wars assumed continental proportions. King Francis I of France sought allies from all quarters, including from German Protestant princes and Muslims. Amongst these, he entered into one of the capitulations of the Ottoman Empire with Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent while making common cause with Hayreddin Barbarossa, an Ottoman admiral, and the Sultan's North African vassals.[139]

Crusader states

After the First Crusade's capture of Jerusalem and victory at Ascalon most crusaders considered their personal pilgrimage complete and returned to Europe.

The Frankish population of the Kingdom of Jerusalem became concentrated in three major cities.

The new territories were based on shared language, family or feudal ties and the settlers' regions of origin.

The "Law of Conquest" supported the seizure of land and property by impecunious crusaders from the indigenous population, enabling poor men to become rich and part of the nobility. However some historians, like Andrew Jotischky, question the model once proposed, where the primary motivation was understood in sociological and economic rather than spiritual terms.[148] The Franks did not distinguish on grounds of religion; the basic division in society was between Frank and non-Frank, and not between Christian and Muslim. The new Frankish rulers did not expel the native population but adopted strict segregation and at no point attempted to integrate it by way of religious conversion. In this way the crusaders created a colonial nobility that perpetuated itself through an incessant flow of religious pilgrims and settlers keen to take economic advantage.[144]

The key differentiator in status and economic position in the crusader states was between urban and rural dwellers.

Largely based in the ports of Acre and Tyre, Italian, Provençal and Spanish communes had distinct cultural characteristics and exerted significant political power.

Records preserved by John of Ibelin indicate that the military force of the kingdom of Jerusalem was based on a feudal host of about 647 to 675 knights in 1170. Each feudatory would also provide his own armed retainers. This force would be augmented by mercenary serjants and John records 5,025 of these. In times of emergency, the king could also call upon a general muster of the population. Historian Joshua Prawer estimates that the military orders could match the fighting strength of the king's army. This means the total military strength of the kingdom can be estimated at 1,200 knights and 10,000 serjants. This indicates further territorial gains were possible, but these were likely to be nothing more than ephemeral because of a lack of the required numbers to maintain military domination. This demographic lack of numbers was also a problem defensively. Putting an army into the field required draining every crusader castle and city 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 the destruction of the walled cities and castles would end crusader rule. 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.[152]

The conquest of Christian Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade created a significant increase in the Frankish crusader presence in the eastern Mediterranean.

Military orders

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.

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.

Art and architecture

According to Joshua Prawer no major European poet, theologian, scholar or historian settled in the crusader states. Some went on pilgrimage, and this is reflected 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.[161]

Historians consider military architecture—demonstrating a synthesis of the European, Byzantine and Muslim traditions—the most original and impressive artistic achievement of the crusades.

Typically, early church design was in the French Romanesque style. This can be seen in the 12th-century rebuilding of The Church 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.[164]

In contrast to architecture and sculpture, it is in the area of visual culture that the assimilated nature of the society was demonstrated.

Manuscripts were produced and illustrated in workshops housing Italian, French, English and local craftsmen leading to a cross-fertilisation of ideas and techniques.


The Kingdom of Jerusalem was the first experiment in European colonialism, setting up a "Europe Overseas" or the Outremer. The raising, transportation, and supply of large armies led to flourishing trade between Europe and the Outremer. The Italian city-states of Genoa and Venice flourished, planting profitable trading colonies in the eastern Mediterranean.[168] The crusades consolidated the papal leadership of the Latin Church, reinforcing the link between Western Christendom, feudalism, and militarism and increased the tolerance of the clergy for violence.[92] Muslim libraries contained classical Greek and Roman texts that allowed Europe to rediscover pre-Christian philosophy, science and medicine.[169] The growth of the system of indulgences became a catalyst for the Reformation in the early 16th century.[166] The crusades also had a role in the formation and institutionalisation of the military and the Dominican orders as well as of the Medieval Inquisition.[171]

The behaviour of the crusaders in the eastern Mediterranean area appalled the Greeks and Muslims.

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. Secular Arab nationalism highlights the role of western imperialism. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser likened himself to Saladin and imperialism to the crusades. In his History of the Crusades Said Ashour emphasised the similarity between the modern and medieval situation facing Muslims and the need to study the crusades in depth. Sayyid Qutb declared there was an international crusader conspiracy.[173] Muslim thinkers, politicians and historians have drawn parallels between the crusades and modern political developments such as the mandates given for the governance of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel by the United Nations.[174] 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.[175] Some historians, such as Thomas F. Madden, argue 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 purely medieval phenomenon that can only be understood in the terms that the crusaders were engaged in acts of love and charity in a purely defensive war on behalf of their co-religionists.[176]


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. This created a papalist, northern French and Benedictine template for later works. These all demonstrated a degree of martial advocacy with both success and failure attributed to God's will.[177] This clerical view was soon challenged by vernacular adventure stories based on the work of Albert of Aachen. The historian William of Tyre expanded on Albert's writing in his Historia. Completed by 1200 William's work describes the warrior state the Outremer had become through the tensions between the providential and secular.[178] Largely, medieval crusade historiography remained more interested in presenting moralistic lessons than information, with the crusades as a moral exemplar and a cultural norm.[179]

The attitudes to the crusades during the Reformation were shaped by the radical fragmentation of religious orthodoxy, the perceived threat of the Ottomans and the French Wars of Religion. Protestant martyrist John Foxe in his History of the Turks (1566) blamed the sins of Roman church for the failure of the crusades and 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 German Emperor Henry IV. The crusade was flawed, the idea of restoring the physical Holy Places was “detestable superstition”.[180] French Catholic lawyer Etienne Pasquier (1529–1615) is thought to be the first to number the crusades, he calculated there were six. His work reflected the damage that religious conflict had inflicted on France. It lists victims of papal aggression, sale of indulgences church abuses and corruption. The crusades had failed, damaged the church and led to conflict at home.[181]

In The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 18th-century English historian Edward Gibbon wrote that the crusaders' efforts could have been more profitably directed towards improving their own countries.[8] Jonathan Riley-Smith considers that much of the popular understanding of the crusades derives from the 19th-century novels of Walter Scott and the French histories by Joseph François Michaud. The crusades provided an enormous amount of source material, stories of heroism, and interest that underpinned growth in medieval literature, romance, and philosophy.[92]

In modern historiography, the term "crusade" may differ in usage depending on the author.

  • Traditionalists restrict their definition of the crusades to the Christian campaigns in the Holy Land, "either to assist the Christians there or to liberate Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulchre", during 1095–1291.[183]
  • Pluralists use the term crusade for any campaign explicitly sanctioned by the reigning pope.[184] This reflects the view of the Roman Catholic Church (including medieval contemporaries such as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux) that every military campaign given papal sanction is equally valid as a crusade, regardless of its cause, justification, or geographic location. This broad definition includes attacks on paganism and heresy such as the Albigensian Crusade, the Northern Crusades, and the Hussite Wars, and wars for political or territorial advantage such as the Aragonese Crusade and the Reconquista.[185]
  • Generalists see crusades as any and all holy wars connected with the Latin Church and fought in defence of the faith.
  • Popularists limit the crusades to only those that were characterised by popular groundswells of religious fervour – that is, only the First Crusade and perhaps the People's Crusade.[182]

The Muslim world exhibited little interest in European culture until the 16th century and in the crusades until the middle of the 19th century.

See also

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