The Crusades

The crusades were military expeditions launched against the

Muslims by the Christians in an attempt to regain the Holy Land. They

took place between 1095 A.D. and 1270 A.D. It was one of the most

violent periods in the history of mankind.

The starting point of the crusades was on November 18, 1095

A.D. when Pope Urban II opened the Council of Clermont. On November

27, outside the French city of Clermont-Ferrand, the Pope made an

important speech . He called upon everyone to help the Christians in

the east to restore peace. The crowd's response was very positive.

Garments were cut into crosses which were attached to people's

shoulders in an imitation of Christ (Matthew 10:38).(1) The original

object of the First Crusade was to help Christian churches in the

east. The new goal became to free the Holy Land from Muslim control,

especially Jerusalem.

Pope Urban II stayed in France until September 1096 to provide

leadership and guidance for the members of the First Crusade. He

urged churchmen to preach the cross in France. Urban wanted the

crusading army to be mostly made up of knights and other military

personnel. Since the news of his speech at Clermont spread through

the west, people from all social classes and occupations joined the

Crusade. As a result of Urban losing control of personnel, violence

was launched against the Jews of northern France. This violence was

mostly instigated by bands of the urban and rural poor led by men like

Peter the Hermit and Walter Sans-Avoir.

These groups lacked supplies and discipline. They attempted

to reach Coneztinople but most of them never got that far. The

leaders in lands which they passed through were frightened and killed

many of the crusading bands. Some did get to Coneztinople and

traveled across the Bosphorus in August 1096. There they split into

two groups. One tried to overtake Nicaea and was unsuccessful. The

other was ambushed and slaughtered near Civetot in October. The

remaining crusaders retreated to Coneztinople and joined the second

wave of the Crusade.

The crusaders were eager to start the journey to Jerusalem but

they needed to capture the Anatolian Turkish capital of Nicaea first

because it blocked the road that would be their main supply route. It

was held by Seljuk Turks. In May 1097, the crusaders attacked Nicaea.

The Turks realized that they were defeated and agreed to give the city

to the Byzantines in exchange for the lives of their men. The

Byzantines agreed to this and on June 18, Nicaea was under Byzantine

control. The leaders of the crusade disagreed and wanted to slaughter

the Turks because they were enemies of Christ.(2) On June 30, 1097,

the crusaders were ambushed at the city of Dorylaeum by Seljuk Turks

led by Kilij Arslam the Seljuk Sultan. The fight continued until July

1. The crusaders won a big victory and nearly wiped out the Turkish

force. This victory opened up the way to Anatolia.

The crusaders attacked Anitoch in northern Syria on October

21, 1097. "This was the main obstacle on the road to Jerusalem."(3)

In a long and gruesome battle, the city finally fell on June 2, 1098.

The crusaders were quickly attacked by a new Turkish army from Al

Mawsil. They arrived too late to revive Anitoch's Turkish defenders

and they were forced to retreat on June 28.

The starting date for the march to Jerusalem was set for

November 1, 1098 but was delayed by an epidemic as well as fighting to

the south of Anitoch. On January 13, 1099 the commander-in-chief,

Count Raymond IV of Toulouse, led the crusaders' march to Jerusalem.

They avoided attacks on cities to conserve forces. In May 1099 they

reached the northern border of Palestine. On June 7 they camped on

the summit of a hill where they could see Jerusalem. Many soldiers

had tears of joy on that day. The hill was named Montjoie.

Jerusalem was well fortified and only vulnerable from the

north and the southwest. On June 13 they tried to storm Jerusalem but

were driven back because of insufficient supplies. Extreme heat and a

water shortage lowered morale. A priest called Peter Desiderius told

them that if they fasted and held a procession around the walls of

Jerusalem with sufficient piety, the city would be theirs within nine

days. The crusaders did this and, when they completed building

three mini castles,