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The Crusades

The crusades were never referred to as such by their participants. The original crusaders were known by various terms, including fideles Sancti Petri (the faithful of St. Peter) or milites Christi (knights of Christ). They saw themselves as undertaking a peregrinatio, a pilgrimage, though pilgrims were usually forbidden from carrying arms. Like pilgrims, each crusader swore an vow (a votus), to be fulfilled on successfully reaching Jerusalem, and they were granted a cloth cross (crux) to be sewn into their clothes. This "taking of the cross", the crux, eventually became associated with the entire journey; the word "crusade" (coming into English from the French croisade, the Italian crociata, or the Portuguese cruzado) developed from this. Since the 17th century the term "crusade" has carried a connotation in the west of being a "righteous campaign," usually to "root out evil," or to fight for a just cause. In the Arab world, the equivalent term is jihad, while "crusade" is a term which connotes a hostile and foreign invasion by "infidels," those disrespectful or defiling of the Muslim culture.

The major crusades
A traditional numbering scheme for the crusades gives us nine during the 11th to 13th centuries, as well as three others that are mostly contemporaneous and unnumbered. This is somewhat misleading, as there were frequent "minor" crusades throughout this period, not only in Palestine but also in Spain and central Europe, against not only Muslims, but also Christian heretics and personal enemies of the Papacy or other powerful monarchs. Such "crusades" continued into the 16th century, until the Renaissance and Reformation when the political and religious climate of Europe was significantly different than that of the Middle Ages. The following is a listing of the "major" crusades.

First Crusade
Full article: First Crusade
After Byzantine emperor Alexius I called for help with defending his empire against the Seljuk Turks, in 1095 Pope Urban II called upon all Christians to join a war against the Turks, a war which would count as full penance. Crusader armies marched up towards Jerusalem, sacking several cities on their way. In 1099, they took Jerusalem, massacring the Jewish and Muslim population. As a result of the First Crusade, several small Crusader states were created, notably the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Second Crusade
Full article: Second Crusade
After a period of relative peace, in which Christians and Muslims co-existed in the Holy Land, Bernard of Clairvaux called for a new crusade when the town of Edessa was conquered by the Turks. French and German armies marched to Asia Minor in 1147, but failed to accomplish any major successes, and indeed endangered the survival of the Crusader states with a foolish attack on Damascus. In 1149, both leaders had returned to their countries without any result.

Third Crusade
Full article: Third Crusade
In 1187, Saladin recaptured Jerusalem. Pope Gregory VIII preached a crusade, which was led by several of Europe's most important leaders: Richard I of England, Philip II of France and Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor. Frederick drowned in Cilicia in 1190, leaving an unstable alliance between the English and the French. Philip left in 1191 after the Crusaders had recaptured Acre from the Muslims, while Richard left the following year after establishing a truce with Saladin.

Fourth Crusade
Full article: Fourth Crusade
The Fourth Crusade was initiated by Pope Innocent III in 1202, with the intention of invading the Holy Land through Egypt. The Venetians gained control of this crusade and diverted it to Constantinople where they attempted to place a Byzantine exile on the throne. After a series of misunderstandings and outbreaks of violence the city was sacked in 1204. The popular spirit of the movement was now dead, and the succeeding crusades are to be explained rather as arising from the Papacy's struggle to divert the military energies of the European nations toward Syria.


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