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The Crusades were expeditions undertaken, in fulfilment of a solemn vow, to deliver the Holy Places from Mohammedan tyranny.

The origin of the word may be traced to the cross made of cloth and worn as a badge on the outer garment of those who took part in these enterprises. Medieval writers use the terms crux ( pro cruce transmarina , Charter of 1284, cited by Du Cange s.v. crux ), croisement (Joinville), croiserie ( Monstrelet ), etc. Since the Middle Ages the meaning of the word crusade has been extended to include all wars undertaken in pursuance of a vow, and directed against infidels, i.e. against Mohammedans, pagans, heretics, or those under the ban of excommunication. The wars waged by the Spaniards against the Moors constituted a continual crusade from the eleventh to the sixteenth century; in the north of Europe crusades were organized against the Prussians and Lithuanians ; the extermination of the Albigensian heresy was due to a crusade, and, in the thirteenth century the popes preached crusades against John Lackland and Frederick II. But modern literature has abused the word by applying it to all wars of a religious character, as, for instance, the expedition of Heraclius against the Persians in the seventh century and the conquest of Saxony by Charlemagne.

The idea of the crusade corresponds to a political conception which was realized in Christendom only from the eleventh to the fifteenth century; this supposes a union of all peoples and sovereigns under the direction of the popes. All crusades were announced by preaching. After pronouncing a solemn vow, each warrior received a cross from the hands of the pope or his legates, and was thenceforth considered a soldier of the Church. Crusaders were also granted indulgences and temporal privileges, such as exemption from civil jurisdiction, inviolability of persons or lands, etc. Of all these wars undertaken in the name of Christendom, the most important were the Eastern Crusades, which are the only ones treated in this article.


It has been customary to describe the Crusades as eight in number:

  • the first, 1095-1101;
  • the second, headed by Louis VII, 1145-47;
  • the third, conducted by Philip Augustus and Richard Coeur-de-Lion , 1188-92;
  • the fourth, during which Constantinople was taken, 1204;
  • the fifth, which included the conquest of Damietta, 1217;
  • the sixth, in which Frederick II took part (1228-29); also Thibaud de Champagne and Richard of Cornwall (1239);
  • the seventh, led by St. Louis, 1249-52;
  • the eighth, also under St. Louis , 1270.

This division is arbitrary and excludes many important expeditions, among them those of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In reality the Crusades continued until the end of the seventeenth century, the crusade of Lepanto occurring in 1571, that of Hungary in 1664, and the crusade of the Duke of Burgundy to Candia, in 1669. A more scientific division is based on the history of the Christian settlements in the East; therefore the subject will be considered in the following order:

I. Origin of the Crusades;
II. Foundation of Christian states in the East;
III. First destruction of the Christian states (1144-87);
IV. Attempts to restore the Christian states and the crusade against Saint-Jean d'Acre (1192-98);
V. The crusade against Constantinople (1204);
VI. The thirteenth-century crusades (1217-52);
VII. Final loss of the Christian colonies of the East (1254-91);
VIII. The fourteenth-century crusade and the Ottoman invasion;
IX. The crusade in the fifteenth century;
X. Modifications and survival of the idea of the crusade.


The origin of the Crusades is directly traceable to the moral and political condition of Western Christendom in the eleventh century. At that time Europe was divided into numerous states whose sovereigns were absorbed in tedious and petty territorial disputes while the emperor, in theory the temporal head of Christendom, was wasting his strength in the quarrel over Investitures. The popes alone had maintained a just estimate of Christian unity ; they realized to what extent the interests of Europe were threatened by the Byzantine Empire and the Mohammedan tribes, and they alone had a foreign policy whose traditions were formed under Leo IX and Gregory VII. The reform effected in the Church and the papacy through the influence of the monks of Cluny had increased the prestige of the Roman pontiff in the eyes of all Christian nations; hence none but the pope could inaugurate the international movement that culminated in the Crusades. But despite his eminent authority the pope could never have persuaded the Western peoples to arm themselves for the conquest of the Holy Land had not the immemorial relations between Syria and the West favoured his design. Europeans listened to the voice of Urban II because their own inclination and historic traditions impelled them towards the Holy Sepulchre.

From the end of the fifth century there had been no break in their intercourse with the Orient. In the early Christian period colonies of Syrians had introduced the religious ideas, art, and culture of the East into the large cities of Gaul and Italy. The Western Christians in turn journeyed in large numbers to Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, either to visit the Holy Places or to follow the ascetic life among the monks of the Thebaid or Sinai. There is still extant the itinerary of a pilgrimage from Bordeaux to Jerusalem, dated 333; in 385 St. Jerome and St. Paula founded the first Latin monasteries at Bethlehem. Even the Barbarian invasion did not seem to dampen the ardour for pilgrimages to the East. The Itinerary of St. Silvia ( Etheria ) shows the organization of these expeditions, which were directed by clerics and escorted by armed troops. In the year 600, St. Gregory the Great had a hospice erected in Jerusalem for the accommodation of pilgrims, sent alms to the monks of Mount Sinai ("Vita Gregorii" in "Acta SS.", March 11, 132), and, although the deplorable condition of Eastern Christendom after the Arab invasion rendered this intercourse more difficult, it did not by any means cease.

As early as the eighth century Anglo-Saxons underwent the greatest hardships to visit Jerusalem. The journey of St. Willibald, Bishop of Eichstädt, took seven years (722-29) and furnishes an idea of the varied and severe trials to which pilgrims were subject (Itiner. Latina, 1, 241-283). After their conquest of the West, the Carolingians endeavoured to improve the condition of the Latins settled in the East; in 762 Pepin the Short entered into negotiations with the Caliph of Bagdad. In Rome, on 30 November, 800, the very day on which Leo III invoked the arbitration of Charlemagne, ambassadors from Haroun al-Raschid delivered to the King of the Franks the keys of the Holy Sepulchre, the banner of Jersualem, and some precious relics (Einhard, "Annales", ad an. 800, in "Mon. Germ. Hist.: Script.", I, 187); this was an acknowledgment of the Frankish protectorate over the Christians of Jerusalem. That churches and monasteries were built at Charlemagne's expense is attested by a sort of a census of the monasteries of Jerusalem dated 808 ("Commemoratio de Casis Dei" in "Itiner. Hieros.", I, 209). In 870, at the time of the pilgrimage of Bernard the Monk (Itiner. Hierosol., I, 314), these institutions were still very prosperous, and it has been abundantly proved that alms were sent regularly from the West to the Holy Land. In the tenth century, just when the political and social order of Europe was most troubled, knights, bishops, and abbots, actuated by devotion and a taste for adventure, were wont to visit Jerusalem and pray at the Holy Sepulchre without being molested by the Mohammedans. Suddenly, in 1009, Hakem, the Fatimite Caliph of Egypt, in a fit of madness ordered the destruction of the Holy Sepulchre and all the Christian establishments in Jerusalem. For years thereafter Christians were cruelly persecuted. (See the recital of an eyewitness, Iahja of Antioch, in Schlumberger's "Epopée byzantine", II, 442.) In 1027 the Frankish protectorate was overthrown and replaced by that of the Byzantine emperors, to whose diplomacy was due the reconstruction of the Holy Sepulchre. The Christian quarter was even surrounded by a wall, and some Amalfi merchants, vassals of the Greek emperors, built hospices in Jerusalem for pilgrims, e.g. the Hospital of St. John, cradle of the Order of Hospitallers .

Instead of diminishing, the enthusiasm of Western Christians for the pilgrimage to Jerusalem seemed rather to increase during the eleventh century. Not only princes, bishops, and knights, but even men and women of the humbler classes undertook the holy journey ( Radulphus Glaber, IV, vi). Whole armies of pilgrims traversed Europe, and in the valley of the Danube hospices were established where they could replenish their provisions. In 1026 Richard, Abbot of Saint-Vannes, led 700 pilgrims into Palestine at the expense of Richard II, Duke of Normandy. In 1065 over 12,000 Germans who had crossed Europe under the command of Günther, Bishop of Bamberg, while on their way through Palestine had to seek shelter in a ruined fortress, where they defended themselves against a troop of Bedouins ( Lambert of Hersfeld, in "Mon. Germ. Hist.: Script.", V, 168). Thus it is evident that at the close of the eleventh century the route to Palestine was familiar enough to Western Christians who looked upon the Holy Sepulchre as the most venerable of relics and were ready to brave any peril in order to visit it. The memory of Charlemagne's protectorate still lived, and a trace of it is to be found in the medieval legend of this emperor's journey to Palestine (Gaston Paris in "Romania", 1880, p. 23).

The rise of the Seljukian Turks, however, compromised the safety of pilgrims and even threatened the independence of the Byzantine Empire and of all Christendom. In 1070 Jerusalem was taken, and in 1071 Diogenes, the Greek emperor, was defeated and made captive at Mantzikert. Asia Minor and all of Syria became the prey of the Turks. Antioch succumbed in 1084, and by 1092 not one of the great metropolitan sees of Asia remained in the possession of the Christians. Although separated from the communion of Rome since the schism of Michael Cærularius (1054), the emperors of Constantinople implored the assistance of the popes ; in 1073 letters were exchanged on the subject between Michael VII and Gregory VII. The pope seriously contemplated leading a force of 50,000 men to the East in order to re-establish Christian unity, repulse the Turks, and rescue the Holy Sepulchre. But the idea of the crusade constituted only a part of this magnificent plan. (The letters of Gregory VII are in P.L., CXLVIII, 300, 325, 329, 386; cf. Riant's critical discussion in Archives de l'Orient Latin, I, 56.) The conflict over the Investitures in 1076 compelled the pope to abandon his projects; the Emperors Nicephorus Botaniates and Alexius Comnenus were unfavourable to a religious union with Rome ; finally war broke out between the Byzantine Empire and the Normans of the Two Sicilies.

It was Pope Urban II who took up the plans of Gregory VII and gave them more definite shape. A letter from Alexius Comnenus to Robert, Count of Flanders, recorded by the chroniclers, Guibert de Nogent ("Historiens Occidentaux des Croisades", ed. by the Académie des Inscriptions, IV, 13l) and Hugues de Fleury (in "Mon. Germ. Hist.: Script.", IX, 392), seems to imply that the crusade was instigated by the Byzantine emperor, but this has been proved false (Chalandon, Essai sur le règne d'Alexis Comnène, appendix), Alexius having merely sought to enroll five hundred Flemish knights in the imperial army (Anna Comnena, Alexiad., VII, iv). The honour of initiating the crusade has also been attributed to Peter the Hermit , a recluse of Picardy, who, after a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and a vision in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, went to Urban II and was commissioned by him to preach the crusade. However, though eyewitnesses of the crusade mention his preaching, they do not ascribe to him the all-important rôle assigned him later by various chroniclers, e.g. Albert of Aix and especially William of Tyre. (See Hagenmeyer, Peter der Eremite Leipzig, 1879.) The idea of the crusade is chiefly attributed to Pope Urban II (1095), and the motives that actuated him are clearly set forth by his contemporaries: "On beholding the enormous injury that all, clergy or people, brought upon the Christian Faith. . . at the news that the Rumanian provinces had been taken from the Christians by the Turks, moved with compassion and impelled by the love of God, he crossed the mountains and descended into Gaul " (Foucher de Chartres, I, in "Histoire des Crois.", III, 321). Of course it is possible that in order to swell his forces, Alexius Comnenus solicited assistance in the West; however, it was not he but the pope who agitated the great movement which filled the Greeks with anxiety and terror.


After travelling through Burgundy and the south of France, Urban II convoked a council at Clermont-Ferrand, in Auvergne. It was attended by fourteen archbishops, 250 bishops, and 400 abbots ; moreover a great number of knights and men of all conditions came and encamped on the plain of Chantoin, to the east of Clermont, 18-28 November, 1095. On 27 November, the pope himself addressed the assembled multitudes, exhorting them to go forth and rescue the Holy Sepulchre. Amid wonderful enthusiasm and cries of " God wills it!" all rushed towards the pontiff to pledge themselves by vow to depart for the Holy Land and receive the cross of red material to be worn on the shoulder. At the same time the pope sent letters to all Christian nations, and the movement made rapid headway throughout Europe. Preachers of the crusade appeared everywhere, and on all sides sprang up disorganized, undisciplined, penniless hordes, almost destitute of equipment, who, surging eastward through the valley of the Danube, plundered as they went along and murdered the Jews in the German cities. One of these bands, headed by Folkmar, a German cleric, was slaughtered by the Hungarians. Peter the Hermit, however, and the German knight, Walter the Pennyless (Gautier Sans Avoir), finally reached Constantinople with their disorganized troops. To save the city from plunder Alexius Comnenus ordered them to be conveyed across the Bosporus (August, 1096); in Asia Minor they turned to pillage and were nearly all slain by the Turks. Meanwhile the regular crusade was being organized in the West and, according to a well-conceived plan, the four principal armies were to meet at Constantinople.

  • Godfrey of Bouillon, Duke of Lower Lorraine at the head of the people of Lorraine, the Germans, and the French from the north, followed the valley of the Danube, crossed Hungary, and arrived at Constantinople, 23 December, 1096.
  • Hugh of Vermandois, brother of King Philip I of France, Robert Courte-Heuse, Duke of Normandy, and Count Stephen of Blois, led bands of French and Normans across the Alps and set sail from the ports of Apulia for Dyrrachium ( Durazzo ), whence they took the "Via Egnatia" to Constantinople and assembled there in May, 1097.
  • The French from the south, under the leadership of Raymond of Saint-Gilles , Count of Toulouse, and of Adhemar of Monteil, Bishop of Puy and papal legate, began to fight their way through the longitudinal valleys of the Eastern Alps and, after bloody conflicts with the Slavonians, reached Constantinople at the end of April, 1097.
  • Lastly, the Normans of Southern Italy, won over by the enthusiasm of the bands of crusaders that passed through their country, embarked for Epirus under the command of Bohemond and Tancred, one being the eldest son, the other the nephew, of Robert Guiscard . Crossing the Byzantine Empire , they succeeded in reaching Constantinople, 26 April, 1097.

The appearance of the crusading armies at Constantinople raised the greatest trouble, and helped to bring about in the future irremediable misunderstandings between the Greeks and the Latin Christians. The unsolicited invasion of the latter alarmed Alexius, who tried to prevent the concentration of all these forces at Constantinople by transporting to Asia Minor each Western army in the order of its arrival; moreover, he endeavoured to extort from the leaders of the crusade a promise that they would restore to the Greek Empire the lands they were about to conquer. After resisting the imperial entreaties throughout the winter, Godfrey of Bouillon , hemmed in at Pera, at length consented to take the oath of fealty. Bohemond, Robert Courte-Heuse, Stephen of Blois, and the other crusading chiefs unhesitatingly assumed the same obligation ; Raymond of St-Gilles, however, remained obdurate.

Transported into Asia Minor, the crusaders laid siege to the city of Nicæa, but Alexius negotiated with the Turks, had the city delivered to him, and prohibited the crusaders from entering it (1 June, 1097). After their victory over the Turks at the battle of Dorylæum on 1 July, 1097, the Christians entered upon the high plateaux of Asia Minor. Constantly harrassed by a relentless enemy, overcome by the excessive heat, and sinking under the weight of their leathern armour covered with iron scales, their sufferings were wellnigh intolerable. In September, 1097, Tancred and Baldwin, brothers of Godfrey of Bouillon , left the bulk of the army and entered Armenian territory. At Tarsus a feud almost broke out between them, but fortunately they became reconciled. Tancred took possession of the towns of Cilicia, whilst Baldwin, summoned by the Armenians, crossed the Euphrates in October, 1097, and, after marrying an Armenian princess, was proclaimed Lord of Edessa. Meanwhile the crusaders, revictualled by the Armenians of the Taurus region, made their way into Syria and on 20 October, 1097, reached the fortified city of Antioch, which was protected by a wall flanked with 450 towers, stocked by the Ameer Jagi-Sian with immense quantities of provisions. Thanks to the assistance of carpenters and engineers who belonged to a Genoese fleet that had arrived at the mouth of the Orontes, the crusaders were enabled to construct battering-machines and to begin the siege of the city. Eventually Bohemond negotiated with a Turkish chief who surrendered one of the towers, and on the night of 2 June, 1098, the crusaders took Antioch by storm. The very next day they were in turn besieged within the city by the army of Kerbûga, Ameer of Mosul. Plague and famine cruelly decimated their ranks, and many of them, among others Stephen of Blois, escaped under cover of night. The army was on the verge of giving way to discouragement when its spirits were suddenly revived by the discovery of the Holy Lance, resulting from the dream of a Provençal priest named Pierre Barthélemy. On 28 June, 1098, Kerbûga's army was effectually repulsed, but, instead of marching on Jerusalem without delay, the chiefs spent several months in a quarrel due to the rivalry of Raymond of Saint-Gilles and Bohemond, both of whom claimed the right to Antioch. It was not until April, 1099, that the march towards Jerusalem was begun, Bohemond remaining in possession of Antioch while Raymond seized on Tripoli. On 7 June the crusaders began the siege of Jerusalem. Their predicament would have been serious, indeed, had not another Genoese fleet arrived at Jaffa and, as at Antioch, furnished the engineers necessary for a siege. After a general procession which the crusaders made barefooted around the city walls amid the insults and incantations of Mohammedan sorcerers, the attack began 14 July, 1099. Next day the Christians entered Jerusalem from all sides and slew its inhabitants regardless of age or sex. Having accomplished their pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre, the knights chose as lord of the new conquest Godfrey of Bouillon, who called himself "Defender of the Holy Sepulchre ". They had then to repulse an Egyptian army, which was defeated at Ascalon, 12 August, 1099. Their position was nevertheless very insecure. Alexius Comnenus threatened the principality of Antioch, and in 1100 Bohemond himself was made prisoner by the Turks, while most of the cities on the coast were still under Mohammedan control. Before his death, 29 July, 1099, Urban II once more proclaimed the crusade. In 1101 three expeditions crossed Europe under the leadership of Count Stephen of Blois, Duke William IX of Aquitaine, and Welf IV, Duke of Bavaria. All three managed to reach Asia Minor, but were massacred by the Turks. On his release from prison Bohemond attacked the Byzantine Empire, but was surrounded by the imperial army and forced to acknowledge himself the vassal of Alexius. On Bohemond's death, however, in 1111, Tancred refused to live up to the treaty and retained Antioch. Godfrey of Bouillon died at Jerusalem 18 July, 1100. His brother and successor, Baldwin of Edessa, was crowned King of Jerusalem in the Basilica of Bethlehem, 25 December, 1100. In 1112, with the aid of Norwegians under Sigurd Jorsalafari and the support of Genoese, Pisan, and Venetian fleets, Baldwin I began the conquest of the ports of Syria, which was completed in 1124 by the capture of Tyre. Ascalon alone kept an Egyptian garrison until 1153.

At this period the Christian states formed an extensive and unbroken territory between the Euphrates and the Egyptian frontier, and included four almost independent principalities: the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Countship of Tripoli, the Principality of Antioch, and the Countship of Rohez ( Edessa ). These small states were, so to speak, the common property of all Christendom and, as such, were subordinate to the authority of the pope. Moreover, the French knights and Italian merchants established in the newly conquered cities soon gained the upper hand. The authority of the sovereigns of these different principalities was restricted by the fief-holders, vassals, and under-vassals who constituted the Court of Lieges, or Supreme Court. This assembly had entire control in legislative matters; no statute or law could be established without its consent; no baron could be deprived of his fief without its decision; its jurisdiction extended over all, even the king, and it controlled also the succession to the throne. A "Court of the Burgesses" had similar jurisdiction over the citizens. Each fief had a like tribunal composed of knights and citizens, and in the ports there were police and mercantile courts (see ASSIZES OF JERUSALEM ). The authority of the Church also helped to limit the power of the king; the four metropolitan sees of Tyre, Cæsarea, Bessan, and Petra were subject to the Patriarch of Jerusalem, similarly seven suffragan sees and a great many abbeys, among them Mount Sion, Mount Olivet, the Temple, Josaphat, and the Holy Sepulchre. Through rich and frequent donations the clergy became the largest property-holders in the kingdom; they also received from the crusaders important estates situated in Europe. In spite of the aforesaid restrictions, in the twelfth century the King of Jerusalem had a large income. The customs duties established in the ports and administered by natives, the tolls exacted from caravans, and the monopoly of certain industries were a fruitful source of revenue. From a military point of view all vassals owed the king unlimited service as to time, though he was obliged to compensate them, but to fill the ranks of the army it was necessary to enroll natives who received a life annuity ( fief de soudée ). In this way was recruited the light cavalry of the "Turcoples", armed in Saracenic style. Altogether these forces barely exceeded 20,000 men, and yet the powerful vassals who commanded them were almost independent of the king. So it was that the great need of regular troops for the defence of the Christian dominions brought about the creation of a unique institution, the religious orders of knighthood, viz.: the Hospitallers, who at first did duty in the Hospital of St. John founded by the aforesaid merchants of Amalfi, and were then organized into a militia by Gérard du Puy that they might fight the Saracens (1113); and the Templars, nine of whom in 1118 gathered around Hugues de Payens and received the Rule of St. Bernard. These members, whether knights drawn from the nobility, bailiffs, clerks, or chaplains, pronounced the three monastic vows but it was chiefly to the war against the Saracens that they pledged themselves. Being favoured with many spiritual and temporal privileges, they easily gained recruits from among the younger sons of feudal houses and acquired both in Palestine and in Europe considerable property. Their castles, built at the principal strategic points, Margat, Le Crac, and Tortosa, were strong citadels protected by several concentric enclosures. In the Kingdom of Jerusalem these military orders virtually formed two independent commonwealths. Finally, in the cities, the public power was divided between the native citizens and the Italian colonists, Genoese, Venetians, Pisans, and also the Marseillais who, in exchange for their services, were given supreme power in certain districts wherein small self-governing communities had their consuls, their churches, and on the outskirts their farm-land, used for the cultivation of cotton and sugar-cane. The Syrian ports were regularly visited by Italian fleets which obtained there the spices and silks brought by caravans from the Far East. Thus, during the first half of the twelfth century the Christian states of the East were completely organized, and even eclipsed in wealth and prosperity most of the Western states.


Many dangers, unfortunately, threatened this prosperity. On the south were the Caliphs of Egypt, on the east the Seljuk Ameers of Damascus, Hamah and Aleppo, and on the north the Byzantine emperors, eager to realize the project of Alexius Comnenus and bring the Latin states under their power. Moreover, in the presence of so many enemies the Christian states lacked cohesion and discipline. The help they received from the West was too scattered and intermittent. Nevertheless these Western knights, isolated amid Mohammedans and forced, because of the torrid climate, to lead a life far different from that to which they had been accustomed at home, displayed admirable bravery and energy in their efforts to save the Christian colonies. In 1137 John Comnenus, Emperor of Constantinople, appeared before Antioch with an army, and compelled Prince Raymond to do him homage. On the death of this potentate (1143), Raymond endeavoured to shake off the irksome yoke and invaded Byzantine territory, but was hemmed in by the imperial army and compelled (1144) to humble himself at Constantinople before the Emperor Manuel. The Principality of Edessa, completely isolated from the other Christian states, could not withstand the attacks of Imad-ed-Din, the prince, or atabek , of Mosul, who forced its garrison to capitulate 25 December, 1144. After the assassination of Imad-ed-Din, his son Nour-ed-Din continued hostilities against the Christian states. At news of this, Louis VII of France, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, and a great number of knights, moved by the exhortations of St. Bernard, enlisted under the cross (Assembly of Vézelay, 31 March, 1146). The Abbot of Clairvaux became the apostle of the crusade and conceived the idea of urging all Europe to attack the infidels simultaneously in Syria, in Spain, and beyond the Elbe. At first he met with strong opposition in Germany. Eventually Emperor Conrad III acceded to his wish and adopted the standard of the cross at the Diet of Spires, 25 December, 1146. However, there was no such enthusiasm as had prevailed in 1095. Just as the crusaders started on their march, King Roger of Sicily attacked the Byzantine Empire, but his expedition merely checked the progress of Nour-ed-Din's invasion. The sufferings endured by the crusaders while crossing Asia Minor prevented them from advancing on Edessa. They contented themselves with besieging Damascus, but were obliged to retreat at the end of a few weeks (July, 1148). This defeat caused great dissatisfaction in the West; moreover, the conflicts between the Greeks and the crusaders only confirmed the general opinion that the Byzantine Empire was the chief obstacle to the success of the Crusades. Nevertheless, Manuel Comnenus endeavoured to strengthen the bonds that united the Byzantine Empire to the Italian principalities. In 1161 he married Mary of Antioch, and in 1167 gave the hand of one of his nieces to Amalric, King of Jerusalem. This alliance resulted in thwarting the progress of Nour-ed-Din, who, having become master of Damascus in 1154, refrained thenceforth from attacking the Christian dominions.

King Amalric profited by this respite to interpose in the affairs of Egypt, as the only remaining representatives of the Fatimite dynasty were children, and two rival viziers were disputing the supreme power amid conditions of absolute anarchy. One of these disputants, Shawer, being exiled from Egypt, took refuge with Nour-ed-Din, who sent his best general, Shírkúh, to reinstate him. After his conquest of Cairo, Shírkúh endeavoured to bring Shawer into disfavour with the caliph; Amalric, taking advantage of this, allied himself with Shawer. On two occasions, in 1164 and 1167, he forced Shírkúh to evacuate Egypt ; a body of Frankish knights was stationed at one of the gates of Cairo, and Egypt paid a tribute of 100,000 dinárs to the Kingdom of Jerusalem . In 1168 Amalric made another attempt to conquer Egypt, but failed. After ordering the assassination of Shawer, Shírkúh had himself proclaimed Grand Vizier. At his death on 3 March, 1169, he was succeeded by his nephew, Salah-ed-Dîn (Saladin). During that year Amalric, aided by a Byzantine fleet, invaded Egypt once more, but was defeated at Damietta. Saladin retained full sway in Egypt and appointed no successor to the last Fatimite caliph, who died in 1171. Moreover, Nour-ed-Din died in 1174, and, while his sons and nephews disputed the inheritance, Saladin took possession of Damascus and conquered all Mesopotamia except Mosul. Thus, when Amalric died in 1173, leaving the royal power to Baldwin IV, "the Leprous", a child of thirteen, the Kingdom of Jerusalem was threatened on all sides. At the same time two factions, led respectively by Guy de Lusignan, brother-in-law of the king, and Raymond, Count of Tripoli, contended for the supremacy. Baldwin IV died in 1184, and was soon followed to the grave by his nephew Baldwin V. Despite lively opposition, Guy de Lusignan was crowned king, 20 July, 1186. Though the struggle against Saladin was already under way, it was unfortunately conducted without order or discipline. Notwithstanding the truce concluded with Saladin, Renaud de Châtillon, a powerful feudatory and lord of the trans-Jordanic region, which included the fief of Montréal, the great castle of Karak, and Aïlet, a port on the Red Sea, sought to divert the enemy's attention by attacking the holy cities of the Mohammedans. Oarless vessels were brought to Aïlet on the backs of camels in 1182, and a fleet of five galleys traversed the Red Sea for a whole year, ravaging the coasts as far as Aden ; a body of knights even attempted to seize Medina. In the end this fleet was destroyed by Saladin's, and, to the great joy of the Mohammedans, the Frankish prisoners were put to death at Mecca. Attacked in his castle at Karak, Renaud twice repulsed Saladin's forces (1184-86). A truce was then signed, but Renaud broke it again and carried off a caravan in which was the sultan's own sister. In his exasperation Saladin invaded the Kingdom of Jerusalem and, although Guy de Lusignan gathered all his forces to repel the attack, on 4 July, 1187, Saladin's army annihilated that of the Christians on the shores of Lake Tiberias. The king, the grand master of the Temple, Renaud de Châtillon, and the most powerful men in the realm were made prisoners. After slaying Renaud with his own hand, Saladin marched on Jerusalem. The city capitulated 17 September, and Tyre, Antioch, and Tripoli were the only places in Syria that remained to the Christians.


The news of these events caused great consternation in Christendom, and Pope Gregory VIII strove to put a stop to all dissensions among the Christian princes. On 21 January, 1188, Philip Augustus , King of France, and Henry II, Plantagenet, became reconciled at Gisors and took the cross. On 27 March, at the Diet of Mainz, Frederick Barbarossa and a great number of German knights made a vow to defend the Christian cause in Palestine. In Italy, Pisa made peace with Genoa, Venice with the King of Hungary, and William of Sicily with the Byzantine Empire. Moreover, a Scandinavian fleet consisting of 12,000 warriors sailed around the shores of Europe, when passing Portugal, it helped to capture Alvor from the Mohammedans. Enthusiasm for the crusade was again wrought up to a high pitch; but, on the other hand, diplomacy and royal and princely schemes became increasingly important in its organization. Frederick Barbarossa entered into negotiations with Isaac Angelus, Emperor of Constantinople, with the Sultan of Iconium, and even with Saladin himself. It was, moreover, the first time that all the Mohammedan forces were united under a single leader; Saladin, while the holy war was being preached, organized against the Christians something like a counter-crusade. Frederick Barbarossa , who was first ready for the enterprise, and to whom chroniclers attribute an army of 100,000 men, left Ratisbon, 11 May, 1189. After crossing Hungary he took the Balkan passes by assault and tried to outflank the hostile movements of Isaac Angelus by attacking Constantinople. Finally, after the sack of Adrianople, Isaac Angelus surrendered, and between 21 and 30 March, 1190, the Germans succeeded in crossing the Strait of Gallipoli. As usual, the march across Asia Minor was most arduous. With a view to replenishing provisions, the army took Iconium by assault. On their arrival in the Taurus region, Frederick Barbarossa tried to cross the Selef (Kalykadnos) on horseback and was drowned. Thereupon many German princes returned to Europe ; the others, under the emperor's son, Frederick of Swabia, reached Antioch and proceeded thence to Saint-Jean d'Acre. It was before this city that finally all the crusading troops assembled. In June, 1189, King Guy de Lusignan, who had been released from captivity, appeared there with the remnant of the Christian army, and, in September of the same year, the Scandinavian fleet arrived, followed by the English and Flemish fleets, commanded respectively by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Jacques d'Avesnes. This heroic siege lasted two years. In the spring of each year reinforcements arrived from the West, and a veritable Christian city sprang up outside the walls of Acre. But the winters were disastrous to the crusaders, whose ranks were decimated by disease brought on by the inclemency of the rainy season and lack of food. Saladin came to the assistance of the city, and communicated with it by means of carrier pigeons. Missile-hurtling machines ( pierrières ), worked by powerful machinery, were used by the crusaders to demolish the walls of Acre, but the Mohammedans also had strong artillery. This famous siege had already lasted two years when Philip Augustus, King of France, and Richard Coeur de Lion, King of England, arrived on the scene. After long deliberation they had left Vézelay together, 4 July, 1190. Richard embarked at Marseilles, Philip at Genoa, and they met at Messina. During a sojourn in this place, lasting until March, 1191, they almost quarrelled, but finally concluded a treaty of peace. While Philip was landing at Acre, Richard was shipwrecked on the coast of Cyprus, then independent under Isaac Comnenus. With the aid of Guy de Lusignan, Richard conquered this island. The arrival of the Kings of France and England before Acre brought about the capitulation of the city, 13 July 1191. Soon, however, the quarrel of the French and English kings broke out again, and Philip Augustus left Palestine, 28 July. Richard was now leader of the crusade, and, to punish Saladin for the non-fulfilment of the treaty conditions within the time specified, had the Mohammedan hostages put to death. Next, an attack on Jerusalem was meditated, but, after beguiling the Christians by negotiations, Saladin brought numerous troops from Egypt. The enterprise failed, and Richard compensated himself for these reverses by brilliant but useless exploits which made his name legendary among the Mohammedans. Before his departure he sold the Island of Cyprus , first to the Templars, who were unable to settle there, and then to Guy de Lusignan, who renounced the Kingdom of Jerusalem in favour of Conrad of Montferrat (1192). After a last expedition to defend Jaffa against Saladin, Richard declared a truce and embarked for Europe, 9 October, 1192, but did not reach his English realm until he had undergone a humiliating captivity at the hands of the Duke of Austria, who avenged in this way the insults offered him before Saint-Jean d'Acre.

While Capetians and Plantagenets, oblivious of the Holy War, were settling at home their territorial disputes, Emperor Henry VI, son of Barbarossa, took in hand the supreme direction of Christian politics in the East. Crowned King of the Two Sicilies, 25 December, 1194, he took the cross at Bari, 31 May, 1195, and made ready an expedition which, he thought, would recover Jerusalem and wrest Constantinople from the usurper Alexius III. Eager to exercise his imperial authority he made Amaury de Lusignan King of Cyprus and Leo II King of Armenia. In September, 1197, the German crusaders started for the East. They landed at Saint-Jean d'Acre and marched on Jerusalem, but were detained before the little town of Tibnin from November, 1197, to February 1198. On raising the siege, they learned that Henry VI had died, 28 September, at Messina, where he had gathered the fleet that was to convey him to Constantinople. The Germans signed a truce with the Saracens, but their future influence in Palestine was assured by the creation of the Order of the Teutonic Knights. In 1143, a German pilgrim had founded a hospital for his fellow-countrymen; the religious who served it moved to Acre and, in 1198, were organized in imitation of the plan of the Hospitallers, their rule being approved by Innocent III in 1199.


In the many attempts made to establish the Christian states the efforts of the crusaders had been directed solely toward the object for which the Holy War had been instituted; the crusade against Constantinople shows the first deviation from the original purpose. For those who strove to gain their ends by taking the direction of the crusades out of the pope's hands, this new movement was, of course, a triumph, but for Christendom it was a source of perplexity. Scarcely had Innocent III been elected pope, in January, 1198, when he inaugurated a policy in the East which he was to follow throughout his pontificate. He subordinated all else to the recapture of Jerusalem and the reconquest of the Holy Land. In his first Encyclicals he summoned all Christians to join the crusade and even negotiated with Alexius III, the Byzantine emperor, trying to persuade him to re-enter the Roman communion and u

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