Post Author: Bill Pratt
The Crusades are one of the most frequently mentioned historical events nowadays, but the vast majority of people who mention the Crusades know virtually nothing about them. In his excellent book Church History: An Essential Guide, Justo Gonzalez briefly outlines what happened in the Crusades and when they occurred.
First, the motivation. The most obvious motivation, according to Gonzalez, was religious, “to recover the Holy Land . . . from the ‘infidel’ Muslims; to go in pilgrimage to the holy places of Palestine; and to gain the remission of suffering in Purgatory that was promised the crusaders.”
There were also economic and political reasons. “The Crusades were a vast outpouring of landless peasants and equally landless nobles hoping to carve a better future in the lands to be taken from the Muslims.”
The First Crusade was proclaimed by Urban II in the year 1095. The first wave was composed mostly of peasants, but they were followed by military contingents in subsequent waves. In 1099 they actually took control of Jerusalem from the Muslims and formed the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. This Kingdom lasted until 1187 until Jerusalem was re-taken by the Muslims.
The Second Crusade was proclaimed in 1144 when the Muslim Turks took Edessa. According to Gonzalez, “Its military achievements were negligible.”
The Third Crusade was launched in response to the fall of Jerusalem in 1187. This crusade included the famous King Richard the Lion Hearted of England. Their only military achievement was the taking of Acre. However, King Richard did negotiate an agreement with Sultan Saladin to allow Christians to go in pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
“The Fourth Crusade was a disaster.” Instead of the crusaders reaching the Holy Land to fight Muslims, they sacked the Christian city of Constantinople in 1204, the seat of the Christian Byzantine Empire. It was formed into the Latin Empire of Constantinople until 1261 when the Byzantine Empire was reestablished.
“The Fifth Crusade (1219) attacked Egypt, but only managed to take the port of Damietta, which was retaken by the Arabs two years later.”
“The Sixth and Seventh were led by King Louis IX of France (Saint Louis), and had practically no results.” These occurred in 1248 and 1270.
There you have it, a very brief overview of the Crusades. If you want more information, there are certainly volumes written about the Crusades. One book, in particular, that has come highly recommended to me, is Christopher Tyerman’s God’s War: A New History of the Crusades.