9 Crusades into the Holy Land

9 Crusades was a series of nine religious wars between the European Christians and the Muslims to secure the holy places. It sought to reclaim Jerusalem and other sacred places to Christianity from the Muslims.

The Crusades, also known as military expeditions, of the Christians began in the late 11th century. It was organized by the western European Christians in response to the expansion of Muslim groups.

Formally launched in the late 11th century by Pope Urban II, Crusades were aimed to expand the Byzantine Empire against the Seljuk Turks, but later the Holy Land of Jerusalem became the primary goal.

The violent, bloody, and ruthless conflicts drove the status of the European Christians, in turn making them the major players in the war for Holy land in the Middle East.

Below is a list of 9 Crusades to the Holy Land that occurred between the 11th and 13th centuries.

First Crusade (1096-99): Fall of Jerusalem

The major reason for this war was the rise of the Seljuks against the Byzantine armies in ancient Armenia, conquering cities like Antioch and Edessa, and Jerusalem.

Pope Urban launched the First Crusade to help the Eastern Christians. Four armies were formed led by Hugh of Vermandois, Godfrey of Bouillon, Raymond of Saint-Gilles, and Bohemond of Taranto, to recapture the Holy Land and Jerusalem from the Muslim control.

More than 60,000 soldiers set-off for this battle led by the four military armies. After the military campaigns in the Middle East and Asia Minor, they recaptured cities like Antioch, Nicaea and finally Jerusalem on 15th July, 1099 CE.

The leaders of the crusade created the Principality of Antioch, Kingdom of Jerusalem, County of Edessa, and County of Tripoli, after their victory against the Muslims in the First Crusade.

Second Crusade (1147-49): Failure to Conquer Damascus

The Second Crusade
Source: William R. Shepherd, 1911

The Second Crusade was a Catholic holy battle against Islam, launched from Europe. The Second Crusade, led by King Conrad III of Germany and King Louis VII, the king of France, began in response to the demise of the County of Edessa, founded during the First Crusade, in 1147.

They wanted to recapture the County of Edessa that was taken away by the Muslims in 1144. Both the armies took different routes to Anatolia but both were defeated by the Seljuk Muslims.

The leaders along with their armies came to Jerusalem and got involved in an attack on the Damascus in 1148. The main objective of the Second Crusade, which was to un-restrain the Latin East from the Muslims, remained unfulfilled.

County of Edessa was the first crusader state to be established and the first to fall. The Crusade in the East was a big failure for the crusaders and a huge victory for the Muslims. It would have a great influence on the demise of Jerusalem, giving rise to the Third Crusade during the 12th century.

While travelling from England to the Holy Land of Jerusalem by ship, the combined Christian army including 13000 Frisian, Flemish, Norman, Scottish, English, and German Crusaders helped the smaller Portuguese army of 7000 soldiers to capture Lisbon, banishing its Moorish occupants.

Third Crusade (1189-92): Permission to Go Holy Land

The Zengid dynasty took full control of Syria and got involved in a dispute with the rulers of Egypt, after the failure of the Second Crusade. Leader Salidin employed the Syrian and Egyptian forces to recapture the Holy Land of Jerusalem and reduce the other Christian States in 1187.

In response to this, King Philip II of France and King Henry II of England led the Third Crusade, which was known as the Kings’ Crusade. Henry’s death in 1189 meant that King Richard I of England, successor to Henry, took to the command of the English contingent.

The Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I of Germany also took to the conflict but unfortunately, he submerged into a river on 10th June 1190 in Asia Minor. This created grief among German Crusaders, most of whom returned home.

The Crusaders failed to recapture Jerusalem, but King Richard I managed to make a treaty of granting free access to the unarmed Christian merchants and pilgrims to Jerusalem.

The Third Crusade was partly successful in capturing the essential cities of Jaffa and Acre and in reversing many of Saladin’s conquests. But it failed to recapture Jerusalem, which was the spiritual and emotional motivation of the Third Crusade.

Fourth Crusade (1202-04): Destruction of Constantinople

The Fourth Crusade was called by Pope Innocent III with the objective of conquering Jerusalem from its Muslim control, by invading through Egypt.

He successfully raised an army of crusaders, but they failed to reach the Holy Land. The Crusaders captured the Adriatic city of Zara and then got involved in the battle for the Byzantine throne.

Instead of fulfillment of the objective, The Fourth Crusade ended in 1204 with the sack of Constantinople, the greatest Christian city and the capital of the Byzantine Empire.

The city was stripped of its artworks, relics, and riches, and the entire Byzantine Empire got divided into Venice and its allies.

This became one of the final actions in the Great Schism between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. The sack of Constantinople was a key turning point in the diminution of the Byzantine Empire and with it, of the Christianity in the Near East.

The crusaders formed Latin Empire on the captured Byzantine territories. The Byzantine resistance in the unbeatable parts of the empire like Trebizond, Epirus, and Nicaea ultimately freed the capital and dethroned the crusader states.

The Fourth Crusade got its infamous reputation as the most profit-seeking and cynical of all the crusades.

Fifth Crusade (1217-21): Capturing Port of Damietta

Even after the infamous collapse of the Fourth Crusade, the Popes resumed preaching of army expeditions to the Holy Land. Honorius III, Pope Innocent’s successor, managed to persuade Leopold VI, Duke of Austria, and Andrew II of Hungary to lead the expedition. But they decided to start the campaign in Egypt.

The main objective of this crusade was to reestablish the Christian ownership of Jerusalem and some of the holy cities of Egypt. The Crusaders captured the port of Damietta in 1219 and were provided all the holy cities in return if they withdrew from Egypt.

Inspired by their success, the crusaders declined to withdraw which proved to be a mistake later. The invasion to Cairo failed and they were forced to return without capturing either the holy cities or Egypt.

The Fifth Crusade largely failed due to lack of enough resources.

Sixth Crusade (1228-29): Surrender to Frederick II

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Common

Started in 1228, the Sixth Crusade was another attempt to recapture Jerusalem. It was started after almost seven years, post the failure of the Fifth Crusade.

It had involved very little fighting and was mostly dependent on the diplomatic maneuvering of Frederick II that resulted in the Jerusalem Kingdom regaining the control of Jerusalem and many other cities for about fifteen years. In February 1,229 CE, a treaty was signed between Frederick II and the Sultan of Egypt and Syria, al-Kamil to hand over Jerusalem to the Christians.

Jerusalem had been out of the hands of the Christians since 1187 CE but was eventually won back from the hands of Muslim control, thanks to the diplomatic skills of Frederick rather than any actual fighting.

Thus, the Sixth Crusade was successful in achieving by peaceful means what the previous bloody and ruthless Crusades had failed to do.

Seventh Crusade (1248-54): Lost and Captured King

Seventh Crusade
Photo Credit: usu.edu

Despite the lack of interest from his closest noblemen and barons, and being ill with malaria, King Louis IX of France decided to begin the Seventh Crusade in December 1244 which was a direct reply to the loss of the Holy City.

He was eager to recapture Jerusalem that had been taken once again by the Turks in August 1244, about fifteen years post the success gained by Frederick II and his Sixth Crusade. He was also eager to save Damascus that had been taken over by the vast armies of Egypt’s Sultan.

King Louis believed that situation in Europe was perfect to start a new Crusade, as there was a break in tussle between the Holy Roman Empire and the Bishop of Rome.

The French Kingdom was at peace then and the Holy Roman emperor and his barons eventually decided to support King Louis in his effort to launch the Seventh Crusade.

King Louis succeeded in capturing Damietta without any resistance and started advancing on to Cairo.

An outbreak of dysentery among the crusader army and stiffening Muslim resistance turned the tide and Kin Louis failed to capture Cairo and was forced to quit his operational base at Damietta.

He was taken captive while returning to the port of Damietta and approximately 800,000 bezants had to be paid in ransom. He was then released from captivity, post which he returned to France.

Eighth Crusade (1270): Capture of Bibras

Led by the French King Louis XI, the Eighth Crusade was the second attempt to free the holy cities. The Eighth Crusade took place sixteen years post the unsuccessful Seventh Crusade.

This crusade came about because of distress over the diminishing potential confined to the remaining states of Crusaders.

The strategy was to first attack and conquer Tunis, then move along the north African coast and defeat the Muslims in Egypt, and lastly liberate Jerusalem. King Luis mistakenly believed that Tunisia could be easily transformed to Christianity.

However, upon arrival, he realized that the city had already been ready to fight any invasion. A new city wall was rebuilt and armies shipped from Morocco to fight back.

The crusaders were harassed by the local soldiers. Soon after, a disease broke out among the crusaders and King Louis XI died from illness.

Louis’ brother, Charles of Anjou had arrived one day before his death with supplies and reinforcements for the Crusaders. Full control of the warriors and the crusades were taken over by Charles.

Charles, being an unwilling crusader, immediately entered into an agreement to ensure the safe departure of the crusaders with Tunis’ Bey. In August 1270, the campaign was abandoned even before it had properly begun.

Ninth Crusade (1271-72): Crusade to Holy Land

Ninth Crusade
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Common

Finally, soon after the fall of the Eighth Crusade, Prince Edward of England began the expedition to Jerusalem during the Ninth Crusade.

The Ninth Crusade is sometimes grouped with the Eighth Crusade with the objective to help in defending Tripoli and the rest of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

It was conventionally considered as the last major crusade to Jerusalem and it took place during 1271-1272. It saw many impressive conquests over Baibars for Edward of England.

Edward landed in 1271 and tried to gain support for his cause but the absence of any interest and news about his father’s illness, from England prompted Edward to return home. With his departure, the various attempts of Christian Europe to regain the Holy Land of Jerusalem finally came to an end.

1291 finally saw the termination of the crusading era in Jerusalem because of the demise of Acre, which was probably the last remaining crusader base in Palestine.

Final Conclusion: While the nine Crusades ultimately resulted in the downfall of the Europeans, it has been argued that the Europeans successfully extended the reach of Western civilization and Christianity.

The power of Pope exalted, and the Roman Catholic Church gained an increase in wealth. The battles created a constant demand for transportation and supplies, and thereby, in the improvement of trade and transportation throughout Europe.

Overall, the Crusades have played an important role in the growth and evolution of medieval Europe. There is no question that the years of conflicts brought by the Crusades had a huge impact on Western Europe and Middle Easter

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