Godfrey of Bouillon, whose exceptional integrity had finally won recognition, was chosen to rule Jerusalem and its environs under the modest title of Defender of the Holy Sepulcher. Here, where Byzantine rule had ceased 465 years before, no pretense was made of subordination to Alexius; the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem became at once a sovereign state. The Greek Church was disestablished, its patriarch fled to Cyprus, and the parishes of the new kingdom accepted the Latin liturgy, an Italian primate, and papal rule.
The price of sovereignty is the capacity for self-defense. Two weeks after the great liberation, an Egyptian army came up to Ascalon to reliberate a city holy for too many faiths. Godfrey defeated it, but a year later he died (1100). His less able brother, Baldwin I (1100–18), took the loftier title of king. Under King Fulk, Count of Anjou (1131–43), the new state included most of Palestine and Syria; but the Moslems still held Aleppo, Damascus, and Emesa. The kingdom was divided into four feudal principalities, centering respectively at Jerusalem, Antioch, Edessa, and Tripolis. Each of the four was parceled into practically independent fiefs, whose jealous lords made war, coined money, and otherwise aped sovereignty. The king was elected by the barons, and was checked by an ecclesiastical hierarchy subject only to the pope. He was further weakened by ceding the control of several ports—Jaffa, Tyre, Acre, Beirut, Ascalon—to Venice, Pisa, or Genoa as the price of naval aid and seaborne supplies. The structure and law of the kingdom were formulated in the Assizes of Jerusalem—one of the most logical and ruthless codifications of feudal government. The barons assumed all ownership of land, reduced the former owners—Christian or Moslem—to the condition of serfs, and laid upon them feudal obligations severer than any in contemporary Europe. The native Christian population looked back to Moslem rule as a golden age.21
The young kingdom had many elements of weakness, but it had a unique support in new orders of military monks. As far back as 1048 the merchants of Amalfi had obtained Moslem permission to build a hospital at Jerusalem for poor or ailing pilgrims. About 1120 the staff of this institution was reorganized by Raymond du Puy as a religious order vowed to chastity, poverty, obedience, and the military protection of Christians in Palestine; and these Hospitalers, or Knights of the Hospital of St. John, became one of the noblest charitable bodies in the Christian world. About the same time (1119) Hugh de Payens and eight other crusader knights solemnly dedicated themselves to monastic discipline and the martial service of Christianity. They obtained from Baldwin II a residence near the site of Solomon’s Temple, and were soon called Knights Templar. St. Bernard drew up a stern rule for them, which was not long obeyed; he praised them for being “most learned in the art of war,” and bade them “wash seldom,” and closely crop their hair.22“The Christian who slays the unbeliever in the Holy War,” wrote Bernard to the Templars, in a passage worthy of Mohammed, “is sure of his reward; more sure if he himself is slain. The Christian glories in the death of the pagan, because Christ is thereby glorified”;23 men must learn to kill with a good conscience if they are to fight successful wars. A Hospitaler wore a black robe with a white cross on the left sleeve; a Templar a white robe with a red cross on the mantle. Each hated the other religiously. From protecting and nursing pilgrims the Hospitalers and Templars passed to active attacks upon Saracen strongholds; though the Templars numbered but 300, and the Hospitalers some 600, in 1180,24 they played a prominent part in the battles of the Crusades, and earned great repute as warriors. Both orders campaigned for financial support, and received it from Church and state, from rich and poor; in the thirteenth century each owned great estates in Europe, including abbeys, villages, and towns. Both astonished Christians and Saracens by building vast fortresses in Syria, where, dedicated individually to poverty, they enjoyed collective luxury amid the toils of war.25 In 1190 the Germans in Palestine, aided by a few at home, founded the Teutonic Knights, and established a hospital near Acre.
Most of the Crusaders returned to Europe after freeing Jerusalem, leaving the man power of the harassed government perilously low. Many pilgrims came, but few remained to fight. On the north the Greeks watched for a chance to recover Antioch, Edessa, and other cities which they claimed as Byzantine; to the east, the Saracens were being aroused and unified by Moslem appeals and Christian raids. Mohammedan refugees from Jerusalem told in bitter detail the fall of that city to the Christians; they stormed the Great Mosque of Baghdad, and demanded that Moslem arms should liberate Jerusalem, and the sacred Dome of the Rock, from unclean infidel hands.26 The caliph was powerless to heed their pleas, but Zangi, the young slave-born Prince of Mosul, responded. In 1144 his small well-led army took from the Christians their eastern outpost al-Ruah; and a few months later he recaptured Edessa for Islam. Zangi was assassinated, but he was succeeded by a son, Nur-ud-din, of equal courage and greater ability. It was the news of these events that stirred Europe to the Second Crusade.