The study of the crusades touches many different aspects of history, from war, politics, and economics to religious and cultural diversity. From the late eleventh to the seventeenth centuries, the idea of crusade played a significant role in the history of European thought. Yet the term crusade itself only came into existence after the movement it described had achieved a clearly recognized identity. In the modern era the word crusade also carries a considerable amount of historical baggage, which makes the task of definition very hard. Still, from the beginning, what gave the movement a special character was the involvement of the church, especially the papacy, in warfare. Its defining moment occurred on 27 November 1095 at the church council held at Clermont in the Auvergne, when Pope Urban II (1088-1099) summoned the knights of western Europe to go to the aid of their fellow Christians subjected to Muslim rule in the Near East. Within a short time that summons also came to focus on the liberation of the city of Jerusalem and the holy places in Palestine.
The response to Urban Il’s appeal transformed what had been a long and often frustrating war against Muslim expansion into a war of liberation. Thus, what had been a struggle of individual rulers and their peoples in defense of their own lands took on a new purpose and found new means to achieve this end. Its principal objective lay in the East, in the lands sanctified by the life of Jesus Christ.
The Mediterranean world was the cradle of Europe. It was the seat of the Roman Empire, which by the third century A.D. covered all of continental Europe south of the Rhine and the Danube and most of the island of Britain, as well as Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, parts of Arabia, and the whole of Africa north of the Sahara. During the second and third centuries, this empire underwent a profound religious transformation. Christianity, which had originated among the Jews of Palestine, gradually spread through both Jewish and Gentile communities of the Greco-Roman world until, by the early fourth century, it gained legal status as a recognized religion under Emperor Constantine I (306-337); it later received official status as the religion of the empire under Emperor Theodosius (379-395).
To the east, the Roman Empire faced its ancient enemy, the Persian Empire. To the north, migrant Germanic peoples, many of them fleeing the Huns, nomadic warriors from central Asia, pressed against the Roman frontiers or sought refuge within the empire’s borders. These factors had persuaded Constantine I to move his capital from Rome to the town of Byzantium on the Bosporus, on the straits that formed the juncture of Europe and Asia. There he built a new Christian city, naming it after himself: Constantinople (mod. Istanbul, Turkey).
The next two centuries saw a continuing effort to preserve the empire, but control over the West was gradually slipping away. There was one mighty attempt to restore it under Emperor Justinian I (527-565): North Africa, a large part of Italy, and even part of Spain were taken back from their barbarian rulers, while the Persians were staved off mostly by diplomacy. By the late sixth century, however, Germanic kingdoms were already being formed throughout western Europe on the ruins of the empire. Yet the conquerors were not mere destroyers. They adopted Christianity and with it as much of late Roman culture as they could use and preserve. The clergy, who formed the largest educated class, were that culture’s chief transmitters. From Lombard Italy, Frankish Gaul, and Visigothic Spain to Anglo-Saxon England, behind the chaos of rivalries and the violence of anarchy there were efforts to build new local societies that, in some way or other, reflected the memory of the Roman Empire. In the meantime, the Roman Empire in the East fought to retain its position against Persia. The two great states fought one another to exhaustion in the early seventh century.
Destruction threatened both empires from an unexpected source. For centuries, the Arabian Peninsula had been a pathway of commerce to the East, a way around the Persian Empire, and the home of nomadic Bedouin tribes, who lived chiefly on their flocks and from raiding the caravans of merchants. Most were pagans, but a few were Christians, as were some of the people of the towns along the caravan route. Some of the towns also had Jewish communities. Mecca was one of the chief towns of Arabia and a religious center for many of the pagan Bedouins on account of a black meteoric rock there, the Ka‘ba, that was believed to possess supernatural powers. It was in Mecca that Muhammad, the future Prophet, was born around the year 570.
Muhammad’s leadership provided the catalyst that united the Arabian Peninsula. He combined a religious mission with a political program. Exiled from Mecca with some his followers, he fled north to the town of Medina. There he built a power base, conquering Mecca and gradually uniting the Arabian Bedouins. He did not insist on conversion to Islam, the religion he founded, but within a short time religious conformity became the mark of those who followed him. The religion of Islam (submission to God) professed a rigid monotheism and prescribed prayer, fasting, and charitable acts as well as moral behavior. It owed much to Judaism, a religion with which Muhammad had had close contact in Medina, but it also preserved some elements of pre-Islamic Arabian religion, notably reverence for the Ka‘ba. It respected the prophets of the Old Testament and considered Jesus as another prophet, with Muhammad as the last and greatest. The duty to spread the religion was incumbent on every Muslim. All these teachings were included in the sacred book of the Qur’ân (Koran). Military expansion and the benefits offered to those of the conquered who converted were effective in leading many to the new religion even during Muhammad’s lifetime. Islam’s major conquests outside the Arabian Peninsula, however, occurred only after his death.
Following the death of Muhammad in 632, his successors, known as caliphs, waged war against all unbelievers. They overthrew the Persian Empire, which had been worn down by the long war with the eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire. At the battle of the Yarmuk in 637 the Muslims and their allies defeated a Byzantine army, and Syria fell into their hands. The conquest of Egypt followed. The Arab Muslim military elite found themselves ruling vast territories with populations diverse in both culture and religion. But the Prophet had already allowed for this in his conquests in Arabia, permitting “the People of the Book”—meaning chiefly Jews and Christians—to retain their religion by paying the jizya, a poll tax not levied on Muslims. Thus, in Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, as well as in other lands in North Africa, there remained very large Christian populations, chiefly among the rural population, for centuries after the Muslim conquests.
By the early eighth century the Muslim conquerors had reached Spain and had begun to raid along the coasts of Italy and France, establishing outposts even in the Alps. The Visigothic kingdoms of Iberia were virtually destroyed, with only a remnant surviving in northwestern Spain. In 732, near Poitiers, a large Muslim raiding party was turned back by Charles Martel, a magnate of the Austrasian Frankish kingdom who bore the title of mayor of the palace. This marked the furthest Muslim penetration into western Europe. For more than a century afterward, however, the West was under threat. Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and the Balearic Islands were lost. Muslim fleets raided coastal towns such as Bari and even penetrated to the suburbs of Rome itself. Meanwhile, in the East the Byzantine Empire also suffered severe setbacks, but in the tenth century it undertook a series of campaigns aimed at reestablishing its power in Syria. By the late tenth century, under Emperor John I Tzimiskes (969-976), the Byzantines had pushed as far as the towns of Caesarea Maritima (mod. Har Qesari, Israel) and Tiberias (mod. Teverya, Israel) in northern Palestine. They controlled Lebanon and much of northern Syria, either directly or through client rulers.
The tenth and eleventh centuries witnessed the beginnings of efforts to free lands in the West from Muslim rule. The most dramatic results were achieved in Sardinia, Corsica, the Balearic Islands, and Sicily. Adventurers from Normandy, who already ruled most of the Italian south, launched a campaign of reconquest that brought Sicily under their control by 1091. The island became the seat of the Norman kingdom founded by King Roger II (1130-1154). But the resurgence of the West was much more broadly based. In the tenth century, there already were signs of growing population and increased political stability, especially in northern Italy and Germany under the leadership of the Ottonian dynasty. The Holy Roman Emperor Otto I (936-973) instilled new life into the imperial idea that had motivated his predecessor Charlemagne in the early ninth century. Increased demand for foodstuffs and the lure of trade stimulated the efforts of maritime cities such as Genoa and Pisa to expand their control of neighboring seas, lands, and islands. The Iberian kingdoms also began to go on the offensive. By the mid-eleventh century, Mediterranean Europe was a vital region, and northern Europe was entering a new phase of political and economic development. Not so in the East.
The once-mighty caliphate of the ‘Abbāsid dynasty at Baghdad, whose authority had been recognized throughout the Islamic world from the Strait of Gibraltar to the frontiers of India, was by this time opposed by a rival Fātimid caliphate in Egypt, which upheld the minority, Shī‘ite branch of Islam. The eleventh-century Muslim world was much less tolerant of religious minorities than were its predecessors. In Egypt and North Africa there is evidence of considerable pressure on Christian minorities, which had remained quite sizable in many areas. The mad Fātimid caliph al-Hākimordered the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which had been built by Emperor Constantine I.
More dangerous to Christendom, however, was the increasing power of the Turks, a nomadic people from central Asia. Originally pagan, the Turks converted to Islam, and in the course of the eleventh century, under the leadership of the Saljûq family, they conquered Khurasan, Persia, Iraq, and Armenia and effectively established a protectorate over the ‘Abbāsid caliphate in Baghdad. The weakness of the Byzantines became evident when they were defeated by the Saljûqs at the battle of Mantzikert in 1071. This defeat deprived the Byzantine Empire of some of its richest recruiting grounds for the army, and it was followed by the loss of Syria, Palestine, and most of Asia Minor. It was unlikely that the empire could recover its losses without assistance from the West.
The long wars fought by Christians against Muslims from the seventh to the eleventh centuries did not constitute crusades:
they were a series of uncoordinated military operations, at first of a purely defensive nature but increasingly aimed at pushing the Muslims back from Europe and the islands of the Mediterranean and at freeing Christian populations under Muslim rule. Western Europe was fragmented politically, and for much of this period the papacy was chiefly concerned with missionary endeavors and affairs in Italy. Only after the middle of the eleventh century did popes begin to assume a role at the head of a movement to reform the Western church, to free it from the dominance of secular rulers and from entanglement in secular affairs. The resultant struggle is often known as the Investiture Controversy (or Investiture Contest), from its effort to sever ties between bishops and secular rulers, or as the Gregorian Reform, after its most vigorous proponent, Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085). The attempts to reform the church brought the papacy into conflict with Western monarchs and princes. Although Gregory, like his predecessors, was concerned about the threat posed by the Muslims, he was not able to respond with tangible aid to the requests that reached him from the East. Still, in the changing conditions of the eleventh century, we find the seeds that produced the crusade.
The events that set the crusade in motion were not in themselves different from much that had gone before. Popes had encouraged Christian rulers in Iberia and Sicily to recover those lands lost to the Muslims and to reestablish the churches there. Christians from the East and from North Africa had traveled in the West, and numerous Westerners had gone on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There was certainly a body of informed opinion regarding the situation in the East. On at least one occasion, in 1074, the Eastern emperor, Michael VII, had appealed to Pope Gregory VII for aid. There is ample evidence that the situation in the East was becoming critical. Likewise, given the fragmented political situation in the West, the only practical way to channel support to the East was through the papacy. The popes of the late eleventh century more and more saw themselves as the leaders of Christendom. It was from the necessity of the East and the leadership of the reform papacy that the crusade came into existence.
We should not regard the summons issued by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095 as embodying a total vision of the crusade. That would evolve over the course of the next century. At Clermont Urban II set forth the main lines of his concern. He stressed the plight of Eastern churches. Interestingly, he made no direct appeal for aid to the Byzantine Empire, at least as recorded in any of the surviving accounts of his sermon; he seems to have stressed the liberation of Jerusalem early on, though not perhaps at Clermont, and to have made reference to a penitential pilgrimage. To all those who would go on it, taking the badge of the cross as a sign of their undertaking, Urban II promised forgiveness of their sins, a full indulgence. Although his sermon clearly implied military action against the Turks and other Muslims, his emphasis was on the religious value of this work. He seems to have said little about Islam, although one report of his sermon written later suggests otherwise. For him, the offense of Muslims stemmed not from their religious beliefs but from their oppression of Christians.
Urban had been cardinal bishop of Ostia and a strong supporter of Pope Gregory VII. He reflected the monastic culture that was a major influence on the papal reform. He favored the Normans in Sicily, who had liberated the island from Muslim rule only a few years earlier, in their effort to establish a Latin Church hierarchy there. He was less passionate than Gregory VII, but he was a more effective administrator. For him, the idea of an expedition to the East appealed in part because it promised some relief from internal conflict and directed military activity to a religious end.
Though we cannot reconstruct Urban’s sermon at Clermont with certainty from the reports that survive, its effect on its largely clerical audience was overwhelming. Urban could hardly have foreseen its impact. Clearly it touched a chord in the religious feeling of the time, igniting spontaneous preaching on the part of figures such as Peter the Hermit, that went well beyond the ideas of the pope. The response to the preaching of Peter and others rapidly outdistanced the careful planning undertaken by the pope and the members of the Western aristocracy who responded to his summons. The so-called People’s Crusades, more properly a popular outburst that tapped into various currents of religious enthusiasm, were little encumbered by the need for preparations, since their leaders relied entirely on their sense of divine mission.
Among these disparate groups were some whose anti- Judaism found justification in their belief that they were carrying out a divine plan. To them it seemed only right to attack or forcibly convert infidels living within Christendom before carrying on the struggle against the infidels of the East. The Rhineland, where Jews had settled in the relatively recent past, often at the invitation of the rulers and bishops, was a principal center for persecutions. The main body of the People’s Crusades made its way eastward into the Byzantine Empire. As might be expected, these enthusiasts were little inclined to listen to anyone, even their own leaders. Unable to control them, Emperor Alexios I Komnenos permitted them to cross to the Asian shore of the Bosporus. They launched an attack on the Turks, but they lacked sufficient forces for the task and were defeated. Peter and some of the other leaders managed to escape.
The main body of the First Crusade was composed of contingents recruited by some of the leading nobles of the West. Raymond of Saint-Gilles, count of Toulouse, was among the first to join. Godfrey of Bouillon, duke of Lower Lotharingia; Hugh of Vermandois, brother of the king of France; Robert II, count of Flanders; and Robert Curthose, duke of Normandy, the son of William the Conqueror, were also leaders, as was Count Stephen of Blois, husband of William’s daughter Adela. One of the most prominent was a Norman from southern Italy: Bohemund, prince of Taranto, who was accompanied by his nephew Tancred.
At Clermont those who promised to go on the journey to the East had received cloth crosses to be sewn on their garments as a symbol of their commitment. Thus, the religious character of the campaign was reinforced. All who participated did so at their own expense or with the support of a noble patron. Many mortgaged or sold property, often to religious houses, in order to make the journey. Yet most indicated their intention to return home and resume their lives. Those who made the journey were more likely to be influenced by the new religious currents of the age than were their neighbors, but they represented only a minority of the Western aristocracy. Nevertheless, they were a diverse group whose motives were not always unswervingly religious or even easy to determine. As each contingent of crusaders arrived in Constantinople, their leaders were met by the demand of Emperor Alexios that they swear an oath to restore to the Byzantine Empire all the lands they would conquer that had belonged to the empire prior to the Turkish invasions. There was considerable resistance to this on the part of the crusaders, but Alexios was able to pressure each group into swearing the oath. With this question resolved, the crusaders moved across the Bosporus with Byzantine support and advanced against Nicaea (mod. fznik, Turkey), which surrendered to the emperor after a short siege.
The road across Asia Minor was difficult. After defeating the forces of the Turkish sultanate of Rûm at the beginning of July 1097, the crusaders rested briefly before making a slow and often hazardous passage that lasted four months. Baldwin of Boulogne, Godfrey of Bouillon’s younger brother, pressed on and with the aid of local Armenians reached Edessa (mod. fianliurfa, Turkey), which he seized from its Armenian ruler, T‘oros, who had invited him to become his partner. But Antioch (mod. Antakya, Turkey) was the major stumbling block in their path. This once-great city on the river Orontes was dominated by a citadel on the mountain above it. The crusaders undertook what was to be a long siege. Indeed, Antioch might never have fallen, save that Bohemund managed to enter into an arrangement for access with the captain of one of the towers, possibly an Armenian, who agreed to hand it over to him. Having gained agreement that the city should belong to the one who liberated it, Bohemund entered Antioch. But the citadel remained in Turkish hands, and a relief army under Kar- bughā, the ruler of Mosul, having failed to take Edessa, was approaching the city. Yet inspired by visions and by the finding of what some believed to be the Holy Lance that had pierced the side of Christ, the crusaders rallied. On 28 June 1098 they defeated the Turkish forces and the citadel surrendered, but they were worn out and decided to pass the summer in Antioch before setting out for Jerusalem.
There was a reluctance on the part of the leaders to press forward, but the rank and file had found new inspiration in their victory. It was only under pressure that the leaders began the move southward in early 1099, bypassing many of the coastal towns and arriving before Jerusalem on 7 June. The siege of Jerusalem was complicated by the lack of proper siege machines and by the difficult terrain surrounding the city. Only the arrival of Genoese and English ships at Jaffa (mod. Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel) made it possible for the crusaders to obtain the timber needed for the siege. Still, it was not until 15 July that the crusaders breached the defenses and took the city, which was, according to the prevailing custom, sacked. Many of the inhabitants were killed, but some, including a part of the Jewish inhabitants of the city, were protected by some of the leaders of the crusade. Godfrey of Bouillon was elected to rule Jerusalem. The holy places were once again under Christian control.
Traditionally, the major crusades that went to the East between 1096 and 1270 have been assigned numbers, giving the impression of a series of eight or nine discrete campaigns (there is no complete agreement as to numbering). However, this practice distorts the historical significance of crusading, as the concentration on these expeditions obscures the importance of other, equally significant forms of crusade: the numerous smaller (and unnumbered) expeditions that went to the East between the major crusades; the large number of expeditions that had objectives in Iberia, the Baltic lands, and elsewhere; and not least, the continuing importance of crusades to the eastern Mediterranean region, whether executed or merely planned, long after the last Christian strongholds in Palestine fell to the Muslims in 1291. The numbered crusades are merely one expression of a multifaceted movement that affected most of Christian Europe from the end of the eleventh century until well into the early modern era.
We must recognize that the crusade was a technique for raising troops to fight in a cause endorsed by the Christian church as justifiable and meritorious. As this technique evolved, it came to include not merely the crusade indulgence but also numerous other privileges aimed at protecting the families and property of the crusaders while they were away. By the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries it was becoming clear that this technique could be applied to other pressing needs of the church and Christian society, such as the repression of heresy, the defense of newly converted peoples on the frontiers of Christendom, or the defense of the church from political enemies. None of these uses was without precedent, but the development of an effective technique for recruitment was at least partially new. Still, the crusade was never just a means of raising and protecting recruits and their families. It provided a military arm for the reform papacy, relieving to some degree its dependence on secular rulers as defenders of the church. As long as the crusade focused on the Muslim frontier, and particularly on the liberation of the holy places, its critics were few. Indeed, this aspect of crusading retained a certain compelling logic based on the circumstances in which Europe found itself throughout this period. Other “crusades” depended more on local circumstances and the particular reasons used to justify them. Support for them varied.
After the capture of Jerusalem in 1099 many crusaders returned to their homes, regarding their goal as having been achieved and their vows as having been fulfilled. Those who remained in the East controlled still-isolated pockets of territory that formed the nuclei of new Christian-controlled territories: the county of Edessa, the principality of Antioch, and the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, which were soon joined by the county of Tripoli, formed by Raymond of Saint-Gilles and his son. These states or principalities were dominated first by the original crusaders and later by their descendants and further immigrants. This dominant group, who never constituted more than a large minority among diverse native peoples, are variously known as Latins, from their “Latin,” or Roman Catholic, faith, or as Franks, from the name applied to them by Muslims and Byzantines alike. Their territories are thus known collectively as Latin states, Frankish states, or—less accurately—Crusader States, although in the Middle Ages they were usually referred to simply as Syria, the Holy Land, or Outremer, the last term meaning the “land beyond the sea” (that is, from the perspective of western Europe).
The most immediate task for the small number of Franks in Outremer was to secure their territories against the two main Muslim powers of the region, the Saljûq Turks and their satellites, and the Fātimids of Egypt. It was above all crucial to gain control of the ports of Syria and Palestine, which would guarantee communications with the West. The Frankish settlements developed strong ties with the maritime cities of the West, especially Genoa, Pisa, and Venice, in return for their naval support. Outremer continued to be heavily dependent on military support from the West in the form of numerous expeditions that enabled the rulers to undertake specific campaigns.
Godfrey of Bouillon died on 18 July 1100. He was succeeded by his brother, Baldwin I, count of Edessa, who took the title king of Jerusalem. Baldwin was confronted by the determined effort of the new papal legate, Archbishop Dai- bert of Pisa, to establish ecclesiastical control over Jerusalem after he had been installed as patriarch. Baldwin vigorously opposed Daibert’s claims because they would have left little for the monarchy, which was charged with the defense of the kingdom. Daibert was a dedicated prelate, but he failed to grasp the situation that confronted the kingdom. Ultimately he lost and was forced into exile. Baldwin vigorously pursued the policies of his brother. Despite the failure of the Crusade of 1101 to provide significant support for Outremer because of its losses during the crossing of Asia Minor, Baldwin made notable additions to the territory of the Latin kingdom.
In the meantime, Prince Bohemund I of Antioch did not fare so well. He was captured by the Turkish Dānishmendid emirs in 1100 and was only released in 1103. He returned to the West, where he launched a scheme to conquer the Byzantine Empire, but his attempt ended in his defeat in 1108 and the disgrace of the Treaty of Devol. He died in 1111.
In 1118 Baldwin II, count of Edessa, succeeded to the throne of Jerusalem. He proved to be a very able ruler. He saved the principality of Antioch after its disastrous defeat by the Turks at the battle known as the Ager Sanguinis (Field of Blood) in 1119 and acted as regent for the minor son of Bohemund until 1126. He was especially active in the north of Outremer, but in 1123 he was captured while defending Edessa and remained a prisoner until 1124. During his imprisonment the Franks of Jerusalem, with the help of a Venetian crusade, undertook the siege of Tyre (mod. Soûr,Lebanon). Following the death of Prince Bohemund II in battle in 1130, Baldwin again became regent of Antioch for Bohemund’s infant daughter. He died in 1131, having consolidated the principalities of Outremer and having withstood continuing pressure from the Turks.
One of the most important developments of this period was the foundation of the military religious orders. A knight named Hugh of Payns, with eight companions, founded the Knights Templar, or Order of the Temple, to protect pilgrims on the dangerous road from Jaffa to Jerusalem. They took their name from the Temple of Solomon, or al-Aqsā mosque, granted to them by the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem. In 1128, with the aid of Bernard of Clairvaux, the famed Cistercian preacher, they drew up their rule and obtained its approval. The Knights Hospitallers, or Order of St. John, had a different origin. The order was founded by merchants from the Italian city of Amalfi prior to the First Crusade to provide care for pilgrims, and their rule reflected their dedication to this task. Only gradually in the course of the twelfth century did they take on a military role. By the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, these orders played a major part in the defense ofOutremer. Other military orders were founded in this period both in the East and in Iberia, and somewhat later, in the Baltic region. The orders provided substantial support for the Latin settlements in the East and elsewhere, not merely in manpower but also in goods and money. They were among the largest landowners in Outremer and also held substantial property in the West, which they used to finance their military and charitable activities.
From the perspective of the Latin states in the East, the uncertain flow of men and supplies made it necessary to use moments of crisis to rally support in the West. Appeals for aid were almost constant. But it was a major disaster, the fall of the city of Edessa to Zangi, the ruler of Mosul, on 24 December 1144, that brought home to the West the need for major help. For the first time a crowned head, Louis VII of France, took the crusade vow. Pope Eugenius III (11451153) issued an important crusade letter, Quantum praede- cessores, that revealed the degree to which the papal ideology of the crusade had taken shape.
The foremost preacher of the age, Bernard of Clairvaux, drove home the message: “Now is the acceptable time”
Enthusiasm spread to Germany, where a Cistercian monk, Ralph, (or Rudolf) acting contrary to Bernard’s express instructions, stirred up the populace against the Jews. Bernard had little choice but to take action against Rudolf and to extend his preaching to Germany, where King Conrad III took the cross, although reluctantly. Some German crusaders sought to direct their efforts against the pagan Wends, Slavic tribes living beyond the river Elbe; Bernard endorsed these wishes in a letter that approved the use of military compulsion as a means to conversion. This was an unfortunate lapse on Bernard’s part, since in Christian tradition conversion was only possible through an act of the free will, though the use of force to compel acceptance was not new. The pope did not adopt Bernard’s position, though he approved the crusade against the Wends. Eugenius also approved a crusade against the Muslims in Iberia by King Alfonso VII of Castile. Nevertheless, the crusade to the East remained on track.
The armies of Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany made their way separately through the Byzantine Empire and into Asia Minor, while a seaborne contingent from England, Germany, and Flanders delayed in Portugal to assist in the conquest of Lisbon. Conrad and the Germans were defeated by the Turks at Dorylaion in October 1147. Retreating to Nicaea, Conrad and a remnant of his forces awaited the French king. The French joined Conrad and journeyed to Smyrna (mod. Izmir, Turkey), but Conrad was forced to return to Constantinople because of illness, and the French suffered a major defeat at Laodikeia in Phrygia. Strong feelings developed against the Byzantines, especially because Manuel I Komnenos, the Byzantine emperor, had entered into a treaty with the Turkish sultan of Rûm. Although this behavior may appear surprising, it stemmed from the fundamental insecurity of the Byzantines, their distrust of the crusaders, and their desire to protect their own possessions. Despite these setbacks, the crusaders continued on to Palestine. Louis and Conrad, who had recovered and rejoined the crusade, agreed with the Franks of Jerusalem to undertake an attack on the Muslim city of Damascus. Although some modern historians consider this to have been an unwise decision, the plan had much to recommend it. Following the death of Zangi, his son Nûr al-Din had taken up his father’s project to create a powerful state in Muslim Syria. It was only a matter of time until Damascus became part of that state. A successful preemption of Nûr al-Din’s plan might compensate for the loss of Edessa. In addition, Damascus was the key link to the great caravan routes. But the effort to take the city failed, and Damascus was never taken.
The Second Crusade (1147-1149) had accomplished almost nothing. Bernard of Clairvaux bore the brunt of the criticism. His overenthusiastic promotion of the crusade made him sensitive to its failure. As a result, he and later preachers began to put more emphasis on the spiritual preparation of the crusaders. They argued that failure showed that the crusaders needed to make themselves more worthy of divine aid. Still, failure did not dampen ardor for the crusade.
The rulers of Outremer were well aware of the need to undertake serious action to protect their lands from Nûr al- Din. But times were difficult. King Baldwin II of Jerusalem had worked to ensure a strong succession by arranging the marriage of his daughter Melisende to Fulk of Anjou, and Fulk provided about a decade of stability prior to his death in 1143. But a period of turmoil ensued. Fulk and Melisende’s son, Baldwin III, was a minor, while Antioch too had lost its ruler. The city of Edessa remained in Muslim hands, and its count, Joscelin II, died a prisoner. Queen Melisende was caught up in the intrigues that often accompanied regencies. It was not until Baldwin was able to assert his own control in 1152 that the kingdom regained the initiative, which lasted until his death in 1163. Baldwin was succeeded by his brother Amalric, one of the most effective and ambitious of the rulers of Jerusalem. He worked to strengthen the control of the Crown over the aristocracy. His great plan was the conquest of Egypt, a policy that henceforth would remain a key to the effort to stabilize the position of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem. But the growing power of Nûr al-Din and his effort to consolidate the rule of Syria and Egypt in his hands frustrated Amalric’s plans and led, ultimately, to the near overthrow of the Frankish settlements.
The twelfth century, despite the political difficulties sketched here, witnessed substantial developments in the constitutional, cultural, and religious life of Outremer. The monarchy had weathered its early crises and had achieved a central role in the governance of the Latin kingdom, though it was forced to rely heavily on support from the West. Defense was, of course, a primary concern. The first priority was the strengthening of the fortifications of the towns, usually by improving existing walls and towers. But the Franks also had to establish a defensive frontier, and during this period numerous castles were built to protect strategic points. Among the most famous were Montfort, which was held by the Teutonic Knights in the thirteenth century; Krak des Chevaliers, which controlled the north- south route to the east of the Jordan; and Beaufort in Lebanon.
Latin rule also brought about a revival of religious architecture. The most important achievement was the completion of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, dedicated in 1149, which united the various sites associated with the Crucifixion and burial of Christ. The tomb of Christ had been destroyed by the Fātimid caliph al-Hākim but was later rebuilt with support from the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX Monomachos (1042-1055). The new churches of this period were designed to meet the needs of the much larger groups of pilgrims who now flocked to the Holy Land. The city of Jerusalem, which had long sheltered Christian churches, saw a considerable increase in religious buildings. Important monasteries, such as St. Mary in the Valley of Jehosaphat, gained international fame and support. Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel), the chief port of the kingdom, had no fewer than thirty-eight churches. At Caesarea Maritima, the main mosque was converted to a cathedral dedicated to St. Peter, while the cathedral in Hebron was built after 1120 above the newly discovered cave of the biblical patriarchs. Other types of construction included customs houses and warehouses, hospitals, and hospices. Taken together, these buildings provide evidence of an enormous building boom and demonstrate the resources needed to maintain the Frankish presence in the East.
Intellectual life in Outremer was fragile. The chief figure in the twelfth century was William, archbishop of Tyre and chancellor of the Latin kingdom (d. 1186). He was born in the East but educated in the West, and he later served as tutor for King Amalric’s son, Baldwin IV. William’s chief work was his history of the Latin kingdom, composed in the third quarter of the century, which reveals a very considerable knowledge of the East. Recently, more attention has been given to other figures. Gerald of Nazareth possessed considerable knowledge of Greek Orthodox theology, and his writings show that some Westerners were working closely with their Eastern counterparts. Increasing interest in the East is also evident in the writings of James of Vitry, bishop of Acre in the early thirteenth century. Another area of interest is in the production of books. About 1135 King Fulk was responsible for the preparation of the Melisende Psalter, which he gave to his wife. It was the work of seven different hands, and, profusely illustrated, it represented a high state of the art of book illustration. The artwork produced in the East has suffered greatly through the destruction of churches and the dispersal of many objects to the West. Yet ample evidence has remained to demonstrate that local craftsmen were capable of producing high-quality work in painting, sculpture, and stained glass.
Much attention has been given to the economic impact of the crusades, chiefly on international trade. On balance, it now seems clear that commercial development played only a subsidiary role in the crusade movement. The major economic focus was on the need to sustain the Latin settlements of Outremer. Although there were continuous efforts to produce goods and incomes from lands, rents, and taxes in the East, it seems most likely that the Latin states were seldom capable of providing for their own needs over a lengthy period of time. They required massive infusions of aid from the West. The military orders, monasteries, churches, and military classes were often engaged in raising moneys in the West, both on their own lands and from sympathetic donors. This does not rule out the existence of some successful lordships or prosperous trading centers. Indeed, these were absolutely essential to the continuance of Outremer. Behind what must have seemed a thriving picture during the reign of King Amalric and even under the short reign of his son, the Leper King, Baldwin IV, disaster loomed.
Nūr al-Dīn’s goal of uniting Egypt and Syria was realized by Saladin, the nephew of his general Shirkūh. On the death of Nūr al-Dīn in 1174, Saladin, as his uncle’s heir, moved from his base in Egypt to seize control of Muslim Syria. The realization of this goal posed the most serious threat ever to the Latin settlements of Outremer, since Saladin was now in a position to challenge their very existence. Over the next decade he mounted repeated invasions of the Latin kingdom while using periods of truce to consolidate his control over the Muslim Near East. The most serious invasion occurred in the summer of 1187, when he moved his forces to Galilee and laid siege to the town of Tiberias. Guy of Lusignan, king of Jerusalem as consort to Baldwin IV’s sister Sibyl, decided to move against Saladin. The forces met at the foot of the Horns of Hattin, an extinct volcano in Galilee. It was early July, and the heat was nearly unbearable. Already in a vulnerable position and short of water, the Frankish army was driven upward to the summit. The bulk of the Frankish forces, some 20,000 men, were killed or captured.
The defeat at Hattin removed the only force strong enough to prevent the fall of most of the cities and castles of Outremer. Jerusalem itself fell on 2 October 1187. Pope Urban III died from shock at the news. From the perspective of the West, this was the worst possible disaster. Yet all was not lost. Frankish forces held out in the cities of Tyre, Tripoli, and Antioch. King William II of Sicily sent a fleet to the aid of Tripoli, thus helping prevent its fall. The new pope, Gregory VIII, summoned the Western leaders to come to the aid of the Holy Land in a moving letter (Audita tremendi) that reflected his strong commitment to the crusade.
The response to this disaster, the Third Crusade (11891192), showed how deeply the West felt this emergency. The Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick I Barbarossa, enthusiastically took the cross, though he had had conflicts with the papacy over imperial interests in Italy. King Richard the Lionheart of England took up the crusade vow of his father Henry II, who had died in 1189, while King Philip II of France also took the cross. Frederick Barbarossa, at the head of a very large force of Germans, traveled by the land route to Constantinople in 1189, and despite numerous difficulties with the Byzantines, he struck out with his forces across Asia Minor, taking the city of Ikonion (mod. Konya, Turkey) by force on 18 May 1190. Although the Turks of Asia Minor now offered no further resistance, Frederick drowned while swimming in the river Goksu on June 10. His forces immediately split, with some deciding to return home. The rest made their way overland to Antioch or by sea to Acre, which King Guy of Jerusalem had been besieging since shortly after his release from captivity by Saladin.
Richard of England and Philip of France set out in July 1190, taking the sea route to the Holy Land. The siege of Acre had been begun by Guy of Lusignan over the objections of Conrad of Montferrat, a new arrival from Europe who held Tyre, and most of the remaining nobles of the kingdom. It was only the dogged determination of Guy and the arrival of various contingents in advance of the main crusader bodies that forced Conrad and the other nobles to abandon their opposition and join the siege. But the affair was further complicated by the death of Queen Sibyl and her daughters. Richard continued to support Guy, but Philip and most of the Germans supported Conrad, who was now married to Isabella I, Sibyl’s younger sister and the heir to the throne of Jerusalem. Despite these differences, the siege of Acre continued successfully. Saladin was unable to relieve the city, and it surrendered on terms. Soon afterward, Philip departed, and Richard decided to move the remaining crusader forces southward along the coast, winning a victory at Arsuf.
Richard had sufficient forces to take Jerusalem, but the leaders of the various contingents in the army were badly divided. Richard advanced to within 19 kilometers (12 miles) of the city. In all probability, he could have taken Jerusalem. In light of subsequent events, especially the assassination of Conrad of Montferrat by the Assassins and the death of Saladin, it seems that Jerusalem could probably have been held. But Richard decided to withdraw and to make a truce with Saladin, which left the Christians in control of the coast from Tyre to Jaffa. As a result, the Third Crusade has been judged by some a failure, but it salvaged what had been a lost cause and laid the foundation for further attempts to retake the Holy City. Still, the situation in western Europe would seldom be so favorable for a new crusade as it was in the aftermath of Hattin.
The much-reduced kingdom of Jerusalem, with its new capital at Acre, was left in the hands of Henry of Champagne, who had married Isabella I. Guy of Lusignan was compensated with Cyprus, which Richard had seized from its Greek ruler during the Third Crusade. The island would remain under the rule of the Lusignan family until 1489 and was one of the last Christian outposts in the East when it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1573.
The setbacks suffered by the Third Crusade did not dampen enthusiasm for crusading. The election of a youthful pope, Innocent III, in 1198 marked the beginning of a new effort to organize the crusade along more effective lines. Innocent, who was an able administrator, proclaimed his commitment to reform of the church and the crusade. In August 1198 Innocent called upon all Christian people to participate in a crusade. Times were not propitious for royal participation. The German Crown was in dispute. Philip II of France, who had repudiated his marriage to Ingeborg of Denmark, was under a papal interdict. Richard the Lion- heart died in March 1199, to be succeeded by his brother John. By default, the crusade, which was received enthusiastically by many among the nobility, especially those whose families already had strong ties to the movement, found its leadership in their midst.
A seaborne expedition was planned in order to avoid the arduous journey overland and the attendant military risks. Agreement was reached with the republic of Venice to provide transport, which specified the number of crusaders (about 30,000) and the charges, as well as providing that the Venetians would themselves participate with fifty ships and would share equally in the conquest. The total price to the crusaders was 85,000 marks. There was also a secret codicil specifying that the goal of the crusade was to be Egypt: the main power base of the Ayyûbids, Saladin’s successors, was increasingly seen as the key to the recovery of the Holy Land. The date for departure was set for late June 1202. Innocent ordered a general tax of a fortieth of all church incomes for one year and pledged that the Roman Church would pay a tenth of its income. He also issued a generous crusade indulgence to all who would take part in the crusade at their own expense.
The death of Count Thibaud III of Champagne deprived the crusade of its putative leader at a critical stage. His replacement was Boniface, marquis of Montferrat. Well connected to both the French and German royal houses, Boniface was a friend to one of the claimants to the German Crown, Philip of Swabia, who was married to a Byzantine princess, Irene. Her father, Emperor Isaac II Angelos, had been deposed and blinded by his brother, who had assumed the throne as Alexios III. Isaac’s son, also named Alexios, escaped and came to the West seeking aid to restore his father, but he found no support from Innocent III, who was already negotiating with Alexios III.
The crusaders began to gather in Venice during the summer of 1202. Yet many had decided on alternative routes, and the number that appeared at Venice was insufficient to raise the money needed to pay the Venetians for passage. After paying about 50,000 marks, almost 35,000 was still owed. The Venetians proposed that the crusaders should join them in retaking Zara (mod. Zadar, Croatia), a port on the Dalmatian coast, which had thrown off Venetian rule. The town was in the possession of King Emeric of Hungary, who had himself taken the crusade vow and was thus under the protection of the papacy. Despite the pope’s prohibition and internal divisions among the crusaders, the majority of the crusaders agreed to help the Venetians. The leaders also listened to the younger Alexios, who promised to solve their economic problems with the Venetians and to provide aid for the crusade in return for their support. Behind Innocent’s refusal to countenance this idea lay not only the fact that it represented a diversion of the crusade but also, in all likelihood, his hopes for cooperation with Alexios III and for a reunification of the Latin and Greek Orthodox churches.
Zara was captured after a short siege. Innocent’s attempt to punish the Venetians with excommunication was thwarted by Boniface of Montferrat, who delayed publication of the pope’s decree until the crusaders had moved on to Constantinople. There, the Venetians and their crusader allies met with quick success. After their initial attack on the city, Alexios III fled and Isaac was restored, with his son as coemperor. But it soon became clear that the newly crowned Alexios IV had promised more than he could deliver. As the winter of 1202-1203 came and went, the crusaders sought absolution from the pope and tried to persuade Alexios IV to further the reunification of the Greek and Latin churches. From the Greek side, however, opposition mounted, and Isaac II and Alexios IV were overthrown by a Greek nobleman, who seized the throne as Emperor Alexios V. The crusaders now decided to take the city: in April 1204 they breached the walls, and the great capital of the eastern Roman Empire fell. In the sack that followed, the riches of the empire were dispersed to the West. Religious relics found their way to Venice and to virtually every French homeland.
The Venetians and the crusaders had conquered not only the city of Constantinople but much of the European territory of the Byzantine Empire. Count Baldwin IX of Flanders was elected and crowned as emperor, to the disappointment of Boniface of Montferrat. For all practical purposes, the crusade was over. Only a few of the crusaders ever arrived in the Holy Land, and their presence there made no difference. Although some effort was made to view the conquest of Constantinople as a stepping-stone to further success, that expectation was doomed to disappointment. Reunification of the Latin and Greek churches, which had long proved to be elusive, was now still more remote. The energies of the crusaders and their supporters and an increasing amount of Western resources were devoted to defending and conquering lands and fending off the efforts of various Greek claimants to reconquer the empire. New Frankish principalities were established throughout Greece, but their existence did nothing to further the liberation of the Holy Land.
Even though the Greeks recaptured Constantinople in 1261, the restored Byzantine Empire was a shadow of its former self. Most of all, the events of 1204 gave rise to a deep distrust of the Latin West on the part of Greek Orthodox Christians that persisted for centuries and still finds its echoes today. Innocent III had suffered a severe setback in his dream of a successful crusade. He tried to make the best of things, but his letters reveal a bitterness, especially toward the Venetians, that never entirely receded. This experience undoubtedly helped shape the attitude of the pope to the crusade. It did not discourage him so much as act as a challenge. He would build on this experience.
The diversion of the Fourth Crusade did not dampen the enthusiasm of western Europeans for the crusade, though it may well have undermined the confidence of many in their leadership. If anything, the crusade increased in popularity. The crusade indulgence and the privileges attached to it proved a most effective instrument in the arsenal of both preachers and papal legates. In the mid-twelfth century the indulgence and other privileges had already been granted to those fighting for the interests of Christianity in other areas besides the East. The pontificate of Innocent III marked the further development of this tendency, building on the enthusiasm for the crusade to support papal efforts to aid the young king of Sicily, Frederick, the son of Henry VI of Germany and Constance of Sicily, who had been placed in the pope’s care by his mother before her death. Part of the forces that had joined the Fourth Crusade but refused to attack Zara were devoted to this cause, though their leader, Walter III of Brienne, had family interests that drew him into the struggle as well.
The thirteenth century marked the culmination of religious currents that both influenced the crusade and drew sustenance from the movement. Lay piety flourished among the nobility and the urban middle and upper classes. The deeply emotional note sounded in the sermons of Bernard of Clairvaux in the mid-twelfth century became integral to crusade preaching by such famous figures as Oliver of Paderborn and James of Vitry in the early thirteenth. The cross, the Passion of Christ, and a profound sense of identification with the life of Christ formed themes for preaching throughout the period that were codified by the former Dominican master general, Humbert of Romans. The powerful religious energy generated in this period was harnessed not merely for the crusade to the East but also for the defense and expansion of Latin Christianity.
The so-called Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229) against the Cathar heretics in southern France was precipitated by the assassination of the papal legate Peter of Castelnau, which led Innocent III to grant an indulgence to those who would fight against the Cathars (also known as Albigensians) and their supporters, who he believed were responsible for this act. For all practical purposes this meant a crusade against the lands of the great nobles of the Languedoc. Yet it had only limited success and was subordinated to the great crusade that Innocent began planning in 1213. Only later, when the French monarchy became involved, did the Albigensian Crusade achieve significant gains. The pope played an important role in the Albigensian Crusade, as he did in supporting King Alfonso VI of Castile and in the preparations leading up to the great victory against the Moors at Las Navas de Tolosa (1212). But to some extent Innocent was himself being drawn along by a deep swelling of popular feeling for the crusade to the East, a feeling that manifested itself in 1212 in the so-called Children’s Crusade.
The term Children’s Crusade is not entirely accurate, since many of those who took part in it were adults. Yet at least some of the leaders were youths, and many were drawn from the rural classes of peasants and shepherds. It was not a unified movement, but some of the groups may have been linked by some form of communication. A German group crossed the Alps into northern Italy and supposedly arrived in Rome, where they were received by Innocent III and encouraged to return home. A French group moved to Paris, where King Philip II and members of the clergy persuaded the adults to devote themselves to the Albigensian Crusade. In one account of the crusade, a group of children went to Marseilles, where they were promised passage to North Africa by Genoese merchants, only to be sold into slavery. Yet this account contains elements that raise serious doubts as to its veracity; it may in fact have been a piece of propaganda directed against the prominent merchants whose names were given in this tale.
The Children’s Crusade may have been a reaction on the part of the young and the frustrated to the failure of the Fourth Crusade. What is more important is that it provides evidence that understanding of the crusade movement and support for it reached down to the lowest levels of society. There was a much broader body of opinion than we might expect in a society that lacked efficient means of communication. The spoken word, especially sermons but also vernacular stories and songs, was an important source of information as well as a barometer of popular attitudes.
Innocent was probably planning a new crusade to the East about the time that the Children’s Crusade was taking place. He started to make formal preparations in 1213. In April he issued one of the most important crusade letters to date, known as Quia maior (from the first two words of its Latin text). What is immediately evident is that Innocent had learned much from his previous experience. He was allowing two years for preparation before he would actually proclaim the crusade, which he planned to do at the Fourth Lateran Council, summoned for November 1215. Quia maior set forth detailed instructions for the preaching of the crusade. Innocent also established a network of crusade preachers, drawing on previous knowledge and experience. Several, including James of Vitry and Oliver of Paderborn, had been key figures in the preaching of the Albigensian Crusade. The pope ordered that the crusade should be preached to all, including women, regardless of their military suitability. Those not able to fulfill their vows in person might have them commuted for a money payment. Fund-raising was to begin immediately.
Innocent gave priority to this new crusade over the crusade against the Moors in Iberia or that against the Cathar heretics. He appointed legates with the task of resolving outstanding conflicts among European rulers, especially that between Philip II of France and John of England and their respective allies. He gave his own support to the young Frederick of Sicily to be crowned as king of Germany (as Frederick II) in place of Otto IV, the Holy Roman Emperor, whose policies in Italy had disappointed him. While some have suggested that Innocent did not want royal participation, this is an inference drawn from the fact that he did not at this time undertake final plans for the leadership of the crusade. He did, however, encourage Frederick to take the crusade vow in 1215. Frederick’s ally Philip of France, who did not take the crusade vow, played a key role in the selection of John of Brienne as the husband of Maria la Marquise, the heiress to the kingdom of Jerusalem.
The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) was the greatest meeting of its kind in the Middle Ages. More than 400 bishops and 800 heads of religious houses took part. Through Cardinal Pelagius of Albano, his legate to the East, Innocent had also tried to secure participation from the Eastern churches, but this effort was largely unsuccessful. There were representatives of the crowned heads of Europe. In addition to the reform decrees of the council, which were to have a lasting impact not only on the church but on European society as a whole, the important crusade appendix Ad liberandam provided for a crusade tax approved by the council and detailed regulations of virtually all aspects of the crusade, which was scheduled to depart on 1 June 1217. Drawing on themes he had already developed in Quia maior, Innocent provided a contemporary theology of the crusade, grounded in the theology of the cross. But the pope died on 16 July 1216.
The implementation of what became known as the Fifth Crusade (1217-1221) fell to Innocent III’s successor, Honorius III. He was an able administrator, mature, somewhat cautious, but deeply dedicated to both the crusade and the reform of the church. Honorius moved quickly to keep the crusade on its schedule. He also made increasingly clear that he was looking to Frederick II to play a leading role in it. But Frederick continued to be preoccupied in Germany, where the supporters of Otto IV remained active. The crusaders from the Rhineland and the Low Countries were ready to leave in 1217, as were some of the English, but Frederick was not. Nor were many of the French crusaders. King Andrew II of Hungary and Duke Leopold VI of Austria moved eastward in August 1217. Some of the Rhenish contingent delayed in Portugal to assist in the capture of Alcacer do Sal. The crusade armies were to meet at Acre in Palestine.
Andrew of Hungary arrived first and conducted a sweep through the area around Lake Tiberias before returning home. Other crusaders laid siege to the Muslim fortifications on Mount Tabor, southwest of Tiberias. They were not able to vanquish the Muslim forces, but after their withdrawal the Muslims left Mount Tabor and retired to Nablus.
The crusaders also strengthened fortifications along the coast in Caesarea and Château Pelerin (‘Athlit). Although these operations have been criticized, they were probably necessary to ensure the security of the Frankish settlements while the crusade moved against its main objective, Egypt. Thus, the Fifth Crusade picked up on the task left undone by the Fourth Crusade.
As the main forces gathered, still without Frederick, the crusaders selected as their leader the king of Jerusalem, John of Brienne. They moved to the Damietta mouth of the Nile to begin the siege of this important port, the gateway to Egypt, as it was known. In September 1218 the papal legate, Cardinal Pelagius of Albano, arrived, followed by a large body of French crusaders. The attack on Damietta was made more difficult by a chain that stretched from the city wall to a tower near the opposite side of the river and blocked passage upriver. The historian Oliver of Paderborn planned and directed the building of siege machinery on two boats that enabled the crusaders to take the tower. The sultan of Egypt, al-‘Ādil, brother of Saladin, is said to have died of shock at the news. He was succeeded by his son al-Kāmil. The capture of the Chain Tower enabled the crusaders to cross the Nile and lay siege to Damietta, while the new sultan consolidated his position. The Egyptians offered to surrender Jerusalem and other sites in return for the end of the siege. The crusade leadership was divided, but Cardinal Pelagius and the heads of the military orders pointed out that Jerusalem was indefensible without the possession of key fortresses in Transjordan. Damietta fell on 4 November 1219, and by the end of the month, the crusaders controlled most of the eastern Nile Delta.
Still Frederick had not arrived. He sought postponements from the pope while negotiations regarding his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor dragged on. He was determined to secure his rights before embarking on the crusade. Pope Honorius granted the postponements in the interest of the crusade, but events began to outrun the pace of the negotiations. After Frederick was crowned in Rome in November 1220, he entered his kingdom of Sicily and began to put matters there back into order. He had been in Germany for almost eight years. Many have criticized Frederick for his failure to go on crusade and Honorius for his laxity in pressing Frederick to fulfill his vow. Yet the problems that detained Frederick were real and weighty from his point of view, and Honorius was anxious to secure full cooperation. Neither could have anticipated what would even tually happen in Egypt. In fact, both tried to forestall just that kind of outcome. But events on the ground in the East could hardly be expected to wait on decisions in the West. King John left the crusader camp to meet what he regarded as a threat to the Latin kingdom from Syria as well as to pursue a personal claim to the Armenian throne. Pelagius was placed in a difficult position as the demand for action by rank-and-file crusaders mounted, which increased with the arrival of substantial reinforcements with Duke Ludwig I of Bavaria, the official representative of Emperor Frederick. In an attempt to placate those who wanted action, Pelagius and the duke decided to order a limited advance. They were joined shortly afterward by King John. But once begun, the advance became victim to its own success and, against the advice of John, moved toward Mansurah (mod. El-Mansûra, Egypt) at the point where a canal entered the Nile from the East. The Egyptians, reinforced by al-Kāmil’s brothers, cut the crusaders’ line of retreat and forced their surrender. In return for the surrender of Damietta, the crusaders were permitted to withdraw from Egypt. The Fifth Crusade had failed.
The blame for this defeat was shared by Frederick and the pope. Cardinal Pelagius has come under fire as well. But the failure of the Fifth Crusade chiefly illustrates the problem of conducting large-scale land operations far removed from western Europe. The immediate result of this defeat, however, was the determination by the pope to persuade Frederick to fulfill his vow. A marriage was arranged between Frederick and the young heiress to the Latin kingdom, Isabella II, the daughter of John of Brienne and Maria la Marquise. Frederick renewed his pledge to go on crusade, but before he was able to depart, Honorius died, in March 1227. The new pope was Cardinal Hugolino of Ostia, who took the name Gregory IX. When Frederick finally set out from Brindisi for the East in August 1227, there was an expectation that things would be different. But illness forced the emperor to turn back almost immediately. Gregory imposed the sentence of excommunication that had been agreed to by Frederick as part of the Treaty of San Germano in 1225.
Frederick, however, was determined to go on crusade. He now had a vital stake in the East from the fact that he was, through marriage, king of Jerusalem. Moreover, he had hopes of securing a treaty from al-Kāmil that would return Jerusalem and other holy sites to the Christians. It was, in fact, very close to the agreement that had been offered and rejected during the Fifth Crusade. But al-Kāmil had his eye on Syria, ruled by his brother, al-Mu‘azzam. Even after al-Mu‘azzam’s death, Frederick continued to push for an agreement.
When Frederick crossed to the East in June 1228, he once again demonstrated his strong determination to ensure what he regarded as his rights. Despite having few men and little money, he was able to secure the treaty, and on 17 March he entered Jerusalem. The treaty was denounced by Gerold of Lausanne, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, on the grounds that it provided no security for the city and left the lands of the patriarch and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on which they depended for income, in Muslim hands. Frederick’s calculations were further upset by events in Italy, where Pope Gregory IX ordered an attack on the kingdom of Sicily, apparently in reprisal for the seizure of the March of Ancona by Rainald of Urslingen, duke of Spoleto, who had been a source of friction between the papacy and the emperor for some time. Frederick returned to Italy, where he defeated the papal forces. By the Treaty of Ceprano (1230), Frederick and the pope resolved their immediate differences. Frederick’s achievement by his crusade was accepted, even if not welcomed.
There followed almost a decade of cooperation between pope and emperor. During this period, Frederick’s representatives in the Latin kingdom attempted to dominate the politics that swirled around the various noble factions. Frederick himself was occupied with affairs in Sicily and Germany. In the East, Cypriot nobles led by John of Ibelin, the lord of Beirut, carried on a struggle against the imperial lieutenants that ended in the lieutenants’ defeat in 1233. Likewise, on the mainland imperial administrators acting for Frederick as guardian of his son Conrad IV fared no better, though they held out until 1243 (the War of the Lombards). The only significant crusade in this period was led by Count Thibaud IV of Champagne in 1240, but it ended with only minor gains. With the expiration of Frederick’s treaty with al-Kāmil, the Ayyûbids moved to occupy Jerusalem. With the loss of the city, the crusades entered a new phase.
Hopes for the recovery of Jerusalem were now vested in the king of France, Louis IX. The Capetian kings of France had a tradition of crusading, but they were also known as hardheaded and practical men of affairs. The leading French historian of Louis IX, Jean Richard, has argued that he did not make a decision to go on crusade without overcoming a certain reluctance on his own part as well as the opposition of his mother, Blanche of Castile. What decided him was a serious illness that nearly cost him his life. Once determined, he set himself to the task with great energy. He entrusted the government of the kingdom to his mother and devoted himself to raising the required funds and making the necessary preparations. Although he worked with the pope, Innocent IV, the entire initiative was in his hands. The thoroughness of his preparations is demonstrated by the fact that he improved the Mediterranean port of Aigues- Mortes to serve as a point of departure and made arrangements for supplies to be stored in Cyprus. His objective was Egypt, and specifically the same port of Damietta that had been attacked by the Fifth Crusade.
Although Louis’s crusade was preached in various countries, it remained a French enterprise. Louis’s army was not large, but it was quite respectable in medieval terms. Louis spent about six times his annual income on the crusade, but most of the money came from nonroyal sources. He left for the East on 25 August and landed near Damietta on 5 October, meeting almost no opposition. The garrison of the city fled, leaving it open to him. He immediately took over the city and made preparations to move inland. Some thought was given to the capture of Alexandria, but this was rejected in favor of an attack aimed at Cairo. On 20 November Louis moved south along the east bank of the Nile toward Mansurah. There the army stalled, unable to cross the canal that lay in its path, until a secret crossing place was made known to them. The king’s brother Robert of Artois led an advance guard across the canal but rashly attacked the Muslim camp. Louis, who crossed to aid his brother with the bulk of the army, was stymied by the arrival of the Ayyûbid sultan with reinforcements. Forced to retreat, he suffered heavy losses and had to surrender. Louis was ransomed, but Damietta was once more returned to the Egyptians. Louis left for Acre, where he devoted himself to improving the coastal fortifications of the Latin kingdom.
Perhaps more than any previous crusade, Louis’s expedition showed the magnitude of the task confronting those who desired to liberate the Holy Land. When the king returned home in 1254, he had accomplished little more than repairing some of the damage resultant from his failure at Damietta. He had not, however, lost his sense of commitment to the crusade, which, if anything, had been reinforced by the increasing depth of his personal piety.
The second half of the thirteenth century continued the story of military decline in the Latin states of Outremer. There were various efforts to provide support. Among the most important efforts was King Louis IX’s second crusade, launched on 2 July 1270. It was an impressive force. Lord Edward—the future King Edward I and son of Henry III of England—was due to join Louis. Although the goal of the crusade was to aid the Latin East, Louis had decided first of all to land at Tunis in North Africa. This landing was not, as some have thought, part of a plot against Tunis by Charles I of Anjou, the king’s brother, but the result of Louis’s belief that the ruler of Tunis was prepared to accept the Christian faith. But soon after the landing, dysentery swept through the camp. The king was one of its prominent victims and died from its effects. Edward, who arrived just as the crusaders were preparing to leave, continued to the East, where he conducted a limited campaign.
The second crusade of Louis IX was the last major crusade of the thirteenth century. Pope Gregory X, who had been elected pope while in Acre, worked zealously to promote the crusade to the East. On his instructions, the Dominican master general Humbert of Romans conducted an extensive survey to determine the depth of support for the crusade. At the Second Council of Lyons in 1274, Gregory issued a crusade document that not only codified previous experience but drew on the materials gathered by Humbert and others. His efforts bore fruit when the leading rulers of Europe took the cross, but the projected crusade did not get off the ground before the pope died in 1276. Thereafter, despite a growing awareness of the perils facing Outremer, no major crusade was mounted prior to the fall of Acre in 1291 to the Mamlûks of Egypt.
The Mamlûk victory at Acre was the culmination of a Muslim resurgence that had begun shortly after the First Crusade of King Louis IX, when the Mamlûks, military slaves who formed an elite guard in Egypt, overthrew the Ayyûbid sultan and took control of the government. The military state that they created directed its external energies against the Franks as part of its effort to prove its legitimacy. By August 1291 the Franks no longer had a toehold on the Palestinian mainland. Still, they were a power in the region by reason of their possession of the kingdom of Cyprus and the naval power of the Western maritime cities, as well as by virtue of the military and financial support afforded by the military orders.
Why did the continuing failure of the crusades to the East in the thirteenth century not lead to greater opposition to them? This question has often been posed and has been variously answered, with some observers even believing that the crusades did become less popular and that this unpopularity reflected on the medieval church. But there is little evidence that this was the case. In fact, the thirteenth century continued to be the great age of crusading. In part this was because the liberation of the holy places had captured the imaginations of western Europeans. Even rulers who were wrapped up in dynastic and territorial politics viewed the crusade as a higher duty to which they felt an obligation. Moreover, the East was no longer as remote as it had been in the late eleventh century. Many of the European aristocracy had relatives in the East. The ships of Venice, Pisa, Genoa, Marseilles, and Barcelona plied the Mediterranean Sea from one end to the other. Lands that had been remote were now brought closer. Even people who did not venture from their homes sent money to the East. Crusading had become an integral part of the European fiber. Nor was this attachment to crusading limited to those expeditions directed to the Holy Land.
While the crusade against the Muslims, or Moors, of the Iberian Peninsula did not command the attention that it had in the centuries before the victory at Las Navas de Tolosa had so decisively turned the tide in favor of the Christian kings in the early thirteenth century, Rhenish and English crusaders had participated in the liberation of Portugal at the time of the Fifth Crusade, and Spanish kings continued to carry out successful military campaigns. The middle decades of the thirteenth century were a period of renewed successes in both Castile and Aragon. Cordoba, the capital of the Moorish kingdom, was taken in 1236, and Seville was taken in 1248. King James I of Aragon conquered Muslim Valencia and the island of Mallorca, laying the foundations for an Aragonese Empire in the western Mediterranean.
The major arenas for crusading in the thirteenth century outside Iberia and the East were the lands inhabited by pagan peoples along the eastern and southern coasts of the Baltic Sea. The conquest and conversion of these lands were carried out by crusaders from Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and other countries, and in particular by two new military orders, the Sword Brethren and the Teutonic Knights. The latter erected a sovereign territory in Prussia and Livonia alongside lands controlled by bishops and by the Danish and Swedish crowns. The conquest of Prussia involved the immigration of Germans who were settled there to ensure the protection of the country, a policy that inevitably led to the spread of German influence and the building of German religious and political institutions in the region. Efforts on the part of the Sword Brethren and Teutonic Knights to expand into Lithuania and the western parts of Christian Russia were repulsed. During this same period, there was increasing interest in the possibility of an alliance between the crusaders and the Mongols, some of whom were known to have Christian Nestorians in their courts. The papacy encouraged these efforts with missionaries from the mendicant orders, but they produced no direct benefit to the crusade. Nevertheless, Christian missionaries traveled as far as China, and an archbishopric was established briefly in Beijing.
The thirteenth century also witnessed further adaptation of the idea of crusade to the interests of the church. At times these policies were misdirected, as was the case with the crusade against the Stedinger peasants of northwestern Germany, who were the object of persecution by the archbishop of Bremen. The papacy also found the crusade vow a potent means of garnering military support in its political struggles. Given the complexity of political life in Italy and the long-standing alliances of the papacy with many northern Italian communes, as well as the efforts of the popes to establish their hegemony over central Italy, the reform papacy had developed a highly protective reaction against any expansion of the power of the Holy Roman Emperor in Italy that was not in the papal interest.
For their part, the emperors, especially those of the Staufen (or Hohenstaufen) dynasty, harbored dreams of a central European hereditary monarchy encompassing Germany and the entire Italian peninsula. Beginning in the late 1230s and extending through most of the thirteenth century, the popes carried on a campaign to prevent the Staufen rulers from realizing their dreams in Italy. Between 1239 and 1250, the crusade was employed against Emperor Frederick II, who was deposed at the First Council of Lyons in 1245. Following his death, various European houses were canvassed to find a suitable cadet to rule Frederick’s kingdom of Sicily. The younger brother of King Louis IX of France, Charles I of Anjou, was finally offered the throne. Louis, who had long maintained the French alliance with the Staufen, abandoned it after the deaths of Frederick II and his son and successor, Conrad IV.
Charles, aided by a crusade indulgence, defeated another of Frederick’s sons, Manfred, in the battle of Benevento (1266). When, in 1282, the Angevins were expelled from the island of Sicily and the Sicilians called in King Peter I of Aragon to be their ruler, the papacy again supported the Angevins with the crusade indulgence. Although some modern critics have viewed this use of the indulgence as a perversion of its purpose, there is no question that it remained effective.
From the end of the thirteenth century onward the wars in the East became entirely defensive. The Hospitallers were able to conquer the island of Rhodes (mod. Rodos, Greece) in 1306 with Genoese assistance. The Templars had a different fate: King Philip IV of France carried out a violent campaign against the order, ending in its suppression by Pope Clement V. The Teutonic Order was occupied in the Baltic. All in all, this was a period of considerable disarray, with much energy devoted to plans for crusades and with considerable effort spent in dissecting the failures of the past in order to plan better for the future.
Gradually, the entire focus of military operations in the East was moved inexorably away from the Holy Land to the southeastern flank of Europe itself. A new Turkish dynasty, the Ottomans, directed its energies to the conquest of Anatolia and southeastern Europe. The most significant of the fourteenth-century crusades was the Crusade of Nikopolis in 1396. It took place at the time of the Great Schism, which divided the Latin Church into different loyalties, with some following the pope at Rome and others his rival at Avignon. Naturally, the power and influence of the papacy were weakened, but the urgency of the Ottoman threat, which jeopardized the existence of Hungary, required united action. A large military force under Sigismund, king of Hungary, advanced to the fortress of Nikopolis (mod. Nikopol, Bulgaria) on the Danube, where he was able to obtain naval support. The Ottoman sultan raised the siege of Christian Constantinople to move against the crusaders. The ensuing battle at Nikopolis was a major disaster for Christendom. Turkish power was now supreme in southeastern Europe. The fall of Constantinople and the extinction of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, for all their dramatic significance, were in fact an anticlimax. They brought about no major change in the character of naval and military operations. They did, however, remove a psychological obstacle to the completion of the Turkish conquest of southeastern Europe in the sixteenth century.
After the loss of Rhodes to the Ottomans in 1582, the Hospitallers moved west to the island of Malta, where they carried on naval warfare against the Turks and the Barbary Corsairs of North Africa until they were dispossessed by Napoleon in 1798. The Venetians lost Cyprus in 1571 and Crete in 1670. Ottoman expansion helped shift European maritime interest toward the Atlantic Ocean. The early explorers of the African coast and Christopher Columbus himself never lost sight of the goal of the crusade. Columbus believed that the resources of the lands he discovered might provide the means for the conquest of Jerusalem. As long as the Ottoman Empire posed a threat to Europe, which was well into the seventeenth century, defensive war continued. The great Christian naval victory near Lepanto in 1571 symbolized the idea of crusade in the sixteenth century. Pope Pius V played a leading role in organizing the Holy Alliance, which brought about the crushing naval defeat of the Ottoman forces. But once the enemy was defeated, the pope was unable to hold the alliance together. Papal diplomacy continued to work in support of rulers in need, but the crusade was now subsidiary to political and military interests.
The Protestant Reformation did not witness an immediate change in the efforts of the papacy to support resistance to Ottoman expansion. Protestants even played a part in this defense, but the unity of Christendom was broken, and the popes did not exercise sufficient influence to make their leadership effective save for periods when urgent necessity dictated cooperation among rulers.
Historians looking back at the age of the crusades need to recognize that the movement changed substantially over its long history. The early period, which encompassed the twelfth century, was formative. By the early thirteenth century the idea of crusade reached maturity and was extended to meet the needs of the church within the West. In the fourteenth century, following the loss of Acre, the crusade took on a defensive character, chiefly aimed at protecting Christian holdings in the eastern Mediterranean and the southeastern flank of Europe. In the course of the sixteenth century the idea of crusade was subordinated to European political and military interests. It is this changing character that makes the crusade so difficult to define. Yet the role of the papacy remained central over most of the age of crusades. The idea of the crusade contains the notion that it was sanctioned by God and had a sacred, defensive character. This view helped provide a positive view of warfare and reinforced the idea of nobility of arms. But the very fact that the crusade was a special kind of war demonstrated that Christian thought remained uncomfortable about the use of force. The crusade clearly tipped the balance toward the acceptance of just war. The difficulty of defining just war made virtually every war just in the eyes of its proponents.
Some have seen in the crusades a kind of proto-imperialism. It is easy to see how such an idea would have appeal. In the twelfth century the need to make the Latin states of Outremer more viable was already leading to more permanent settlements and to the exploitation of the local population. But we need to emphasize that these efforts never went beyond a rather rudimentary stage. Many of the settlements we know about were connected to religious foundations, which are better documented. The Latins of the East were attached to the West by a long umbilical cord on which they depended for supplies, manpower, and, during critical periods, their very existence. There is simply no way to calculate the amount of wealth transferred from the West to the East during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, but the systematic records of the Hospitallers suggest that it was enormous. The role of the maritime cities of Venice, Genoa, Pisa, Marseilles, and Barcelona has received very considerable attention, but most scholars recognize that they probably lost as much as they gained from the crusades. Their commerce was disrupted, and they devoted considerable forces to supporting the Latin settlements in Outremer, Cyprus, and Frankish Greece. Moreover, their commerce with the Muslim world was mutually beneficial. We have only to see the degree to which the shift in trade routes to the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries contributed to the decline of the eastern Mediterranean trade and, ultimately, to the economic torpor of the region. At most, we might suggest that the crusade provided a sense of adventure and a base of experience for the future.
The employment of the crusade within Europe contributed eventually to its controversial meaning. By the late eighteenth century a negative understanding of the crusade was established. But it is interesting to note that this negative sense was first applied to the crusades against heretics and then, when this meaning was fixed, it was extended to the crusades to free the Holy Land. It is also fair to say that the negative image of the crusade, along with the Inquisition, contributed substantially to the view that religion is intolerant. In the case of the crusade, this has led to a greater emphasis on religious differences, rather than concerns over Muslim expansion, as the crucial element behind the fighting. But at different times and under various circumstances, one or the other has predominated. In shaping the ideological image of the crusade, they are inseparable.
Still, the idea of crusade never lost its positive meaning. The notion that a crusade is undertaken to achieve a good end remains very much a part of the term’s meaning, as we may note from its frequent use in the titles of books, such as Dwight Eisenhower’s Crusade in Europe. Obviously, there has been an unwillingness to reject the idea of crusade entirely. There may, after all, be something in the idea of crusade that transcends its imperfections. The idea of the struggle for justice will always have a certain appeal.