painting by Helen Frankenthaler
(Redirected from Crusade)

The Crusades were a series of religious wars initiated, supported, and sometimes directed by the Christian Latin Church in the medieval period. The best known of these military expeditions are those to the Holy Land in the period between 1095 and 1291 that were intended to conquer Jerusalem and its surrounding area from Muslim rule. Beginning with the First Crusade, which resulted in the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099, dozens of military campaigns were organised, providing a focal point of European history for centuries. Crusading declined rapidly after the 15th century.


  • Through most of the heyday of chivalry the crusade had been regarded as the formal epitome of chivalrous activity.
  • The current fascination among Muslims with the history of the Crusades, the vast literature on the subject, both academic and popular, and the repeated inferences drawn from the final extinction of the Crusading principalities throw some light on attitudes in this matter. Islam from its inception is a religion of power, and in the Muslim world view it is right and proper that power should be wielded by Muslims and Muslims alone. Others may receive the tolerance, even the benevolence, of the Muslim state, provided that they clearly recognize Muslim supremacy. That Muslims should rule over non-Muslims is right and normal. That non-Muslims should rule over Muslims is an offense against the laws of God and nature, and this is true whether in Kashmir, Palestine, Lebanon, or Cyprus. Here again, it must be recalled that Islam is not conceived as a religion in the limited Western sense but as a community, a loyalty, and a way of life—and that the Islamic community is still recovering from the traumatic era when Muslim governments and empires were overthrown and Muslim peoples forcibly subjected to alien, infidel rule.
  • Religion, and it can merge into nationalism as orthodoxy does with the Serbs and the Russians, offers both a cause worth dying for and the promise of eternal life. The crusaders did not leave their homes all over Europe and make the long and dangerous journey to the Holy Land just to acquire loot and land. There was more and better to be had much closer to home. They were driven by what they thought was a divine mission, to retrieve the land where Christ had once lived for Christendom. Many crusaders – kings such as Richard I of England, the Lionheart, and Philip II of France and great landed magnates – left behind properties, position and families and many never returned. Egged on by religious leaders such as Pope Gregory VII, who reminded the faithful of the passage from the Book of Jeremiah ‘Cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood’, they killed indiscriminately those they thought of as infidels. In the massacres in Jerusalem in 1099 the streets were said to have run with blood, in some places up to the knees of the crusaders’ horses. ‘None of them were left alive; neither women nor children were spared,’ said a contemporary account.
  • In the heyday of the Byzantine Empire its rulers tried to manage affairs from Constantinople, either bringing foreign rulers to their court or conducting negotiations by letters and by envoys who acted as the self-styled “voice of kings.” In 1096 and 1097 the emperor Alexis Comnenos made a point of meeting the leaders of the First Crusade in his own palace, as did Manuel Comnenos when the Second Crusade arrived in 1147. But when Byzantium spiralled into decline in the fourteenth century, its emperors became as mobile as those of the late Roman Empire, and much less potent. Emperor Manuel II was reduced to touring the courts of Italy, France, Germany and England for help against the Ottoman Turks, handing out precious books and pieces of the supposed tunic of Christ as inducements. This was the diplomacy of desperation: Byzantium fell to the Turks in 1453, less than thirty years after Manuel’s death.
    • David Reynolds, Summits: Six Meetings that Changed the Twentieth Century (2007), p. 13
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