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Digital Subscriptions > History Revealed > March 2016 > Need to Know

Need to Know

1 THE CRUSADES IN A NUTSHELL

What sent Christian armies to the East?

The era of we think of as the Crusades began in November 1095, when Pope Urban II proposed a military expedition to seize Jerusalem from the Muslims. About 60,000 men, mainly from France, Flanders and Germany, marched into Asia Minor. In 1097, they defeated the Turks at Dorylaeum and, twoyears later, captured Jerusalem. The victorious Crusaders founded four new states in the eastern Mediterranean: Edessa, Antioch, Tripoli and the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem

HOLY MISSION Pope Urban II calls upon the Christian kingdoms to take up arms in 1095
ART ARCHIVE X2, ALAMY X2, BRIDGEMAN IMAGES X1, TOPFOTO X1, GETTY X6

OUT OF TIME

When Pope Urban II died in 1099, Jerusalem had just been captured by the Crusaders, but he died before the news reached him.

“THE KINGDOM OF JERUSALEM WAS ALL BUT SURROUNDED BY ENEMIES”

It soon became apparent that these remote new kingdoms had a chronic shortage of men. Many of those who had taken part in the Crusade had gone home, leaving behind barely enough troops to defend, let alone extend, their newly conquered lands. The Kingdom of Jerusalem never pushed its frontiers to the natural barriers of the deserts to the east and south. It remained nothing more than a small coastal strip, all but surrounded by enemies.

However, for more than 50 years, those Muslim enemies were far from united. As rivals themselves, they did not co-ordinate their opposition to the Christians, although they did recapture Edessa in 1144 and see off the Second Crusade in the late 1140s. All that changed in the 1170s when, through a mixture of warfare and diplomacy, Sultans Nur al-Din and Saladin succeeded in uniting the Muslim Middle East. Hopes of further Christian conquests were now a dim and distant memory and Jerusalem fell to Saladin in 1187. Helped by sporadic Crusades (which were often launched in response to some military setback) the Western Christians hung on for another century. When possible, they took advantage of divisions among the Muslims but, when the Mamelukes (a dynasty of former slave soldiers) seized power in Egypt, the writing was on the wall. After defeating the Mongols, the Mamelukes turned their attention to the Western Christians. In 1291, Acre, the last great Crusader bastion fell to the Mamelukes. Western Christianity’s time in the Holy Land was over.

600

The weight in pounds of stone balls shot at Saone castle by Saladin in 1188

WESTERN BATTLES

CRUSADING IN EUROPE

It is popularly thought that the Crusades were Christian attempts to capture or defend Jerusalem – Jesus Christ’s place of death. But in fact, crusading was never simply confined to the Holy Land. As early as 1114, a crusade was launched to recapture the Mediterranean Balearic Islands from Muslim hands while Crusaders from England, Germany and Flanders helped the King of Portugal retake Lisbon from the Moors in 1147.

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The March 2016 issue of History Revealed.
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