The Crusades were a series of wars carried out by the Catholic Church between the years 1096 and 1272 and whose declared objective was the reconquest of the Holy Land – Jerusalem.
The Crusades, also called the Holy War , received this name because the crusaders used a cross – a symbol of Christianity – stamped on their clothes during battles.
Despite the stated motivation to reconquer Jerusalem, the Crusades also had other motivations, such as territorial conquests , the search for riches , and new trade routes .
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The beginning of the Crusades
To understand the context in which the Crusades began, it is important to understand the relevance of Jerusalem to Christianity. In Jerusalem is the Holy Sepulcher , where Jesus Christ was buried.
But Jerusalem is also a holy site for Muslims and Jews, and as such it has been a subject of dispute for centuries.
The city had been under Arab rule since 638, but Christians were able to visit it. From 1071, with the conquest of the territory by the Seljuk Turks, the Christian pilgrimage to the place became difficult.
Pope Urban II then called on the faithful to participate in these expeditions to recover Jerusalem. In exchange, the crusaders – the name given to those who participated in the crusades – would have the remission of their sins.
Objectives of the Crusades
Catholics were interested in regaining control of the city of Jerusalem, which had been conquered by Muslims for centuries. This was a motivation that united both Christians of the Catholic Church and Christians of the Orthodox Church.
Prevent the advance of Islam and protect the Byzantine Empire
In the 11th century, Muslims began to expand and conquer new territories. The Muslims had already conquered the Iberian Peninsula and were threatening to invade the Byzantine Empire, which was dominated by the Orthodox Church.
Rapprochement between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church
In 1054 there was the split of the Christian Church between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, an episode that became known as the Great Schism . With the threats of Islam, the Catholic Church sought approximation to strengthen itself.
Conquest of territories and new trade routes
Due to population growth in Europe, many nobles participated in the Crusades to conquer lands in the east. There was also a desire to resume trade routes across the Mediterranean, which had been interrupted with the fall of the Roman Empire.
Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula, where Portugal and Spain are located today, had been dominated by the Muslims and the Christians wanted to recover this territory.
Summary of the Crusades
Over these two centuries, 9 official crusades and two unofficial crusades took place. See the summary of each of them:
Beggars’ Crusade (1096) – Unofficial
This Crusade was a popular movement called by the monk Peter the hermit. The monk managed to gather many people, among them children, women, the elderly and beggars.
As they had no resources, the Crusaders began to rob the infidels. On these occasions they killed a very large number of Jews, provoking great revolt.
When they arrived in Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, which was on the way to Jerusalem, the Crusaders were already weakened. They were welcomed by the Emperor, but were soon expelled, as they sacked the city.
First Crusade (1096 – 1099)
Also called the Knights Crusade , this was the first official Crusade, called by Pope Urban II.
This was the only successful Crusade with a view to reconquering the Holy Land. During this conflict, there were many deaths, mainly of Turks in Jerusalem.
Thousands of Crusaders also died along the way from hunger, thirst and disease that spread among the combatants.
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Second Crusade (1147 – 1149)
The Crusaders aimed to attack Damascus, but were defeated by the Turks. This crusade was a failure, apart from the fact that they managed to reconquer Lisbon.
Third Crusade (1189 – 1192)
This Crusade was called the Crusade of the Kings , as it was led by King Frederick I of Germany, King Philip II of France and King Richard the Lion’s Heart of England.
By 1189 the Arabs had regained control of Jerusalem, but the Crusaders managed to negotiate with the Arab sultan Saladin to open Jerusalem for Christian pilgrimage.
Fourth Crusade (1202 – 1204)
On the way to Jerusalem, the Crusaders arrived in Constantinople and completely sacked the city. The amount of money and valuables stolen was so great that the Crusaders gave up going to Jerusalem and returned to Europe.
This episode had an extremely negative repercussion, as the Byzantines (Orthodox) were a friendly nation of the Catholic Church. After this crusade, the rift between the Christian churches only intensified.
Children’s Crusade (1212) – unofficial
The Children’s Crusade took place as a result of the Fourth Crusade. The looting and destruction of the city of Constantinople came as a shock to the Byzantines and people began to believe that only pure people could reconquer the Holy Land.
It is not known for sure what actually happened in this crusade and what is fantasy.
Fifth Crusade (1217 – 1221)
In the Fifth Crusade, the Crusaders decided that they would first conquer Egypt and then head towards Jerusalem. The Sultan of Egypt offered Jerusalem to the Crusaders to avoid war, but they refused.
While waiting for reinforcements to continue the battle for Egypt, the Crusaders were defeated and had to return to Europe.
Sixth Crusade (1228 – 1229)
The Sixth Crusade was the only peaceful Crusade . Emperor Frederick II of Germany, who led this Crusade, managed to negotiate the possession of Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem for 10 years.
Seventh Crusade (1248 – 1254)
In this Crusade, the Christians again tried to invade Egypt before reaching Jerusalem. The Egyptians again offered Jerusalem to the Crusaders, who again did not accept it.
Eighth Crusade (1270)
Louis IX, dissatisfied with the defeats in Egypt, decides to return to the country, now with the aim of Christianizing the Egyptian sultan. Arriving in the country, Louis IX contracts an illness and dies.
Ninth Crusade (1271 – 1272)
The ninth Crusade was led by England’s Prince Edward I. But arriving in Jerusalem, the prince learned of his father’s death and had to return to his country.
The Crusades took place during the Middle Ages , learn more about that time.
Consequences of the Crusades
The wars over these 200 years did not achieve the objective of reconquering Jerusalem, but had diverse social, economic, religious and political consequences. See some of them:
- Opening of trade with the Mediterranean: trade in the region had been impeded by Muslim expansion;
- Definitive break between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church: especially after the sack of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade;
- Weakening of European nobility: many nobles lost lands and serfs during the Crusades;
- Intensification of conflicts between Christians and Muslims: the fighting during the Crusades increased the rivalry between these religions;
- Strengthening of the bourgeoisie: with new trade routes created, the bourgeois class was strengthened;
- Intensification of the crisis of feudalism: with the weakening of the nobility and the strengthening of the bourgeoisie, feudalism is heading towards its end;
- Renaissance of cities: with the strengthening of commerce and the bourgeoisie, cities begin to be reborn.