The definition of Crusades is a series of religious wars started in 1095 by the Roman Catholic Church. They continued, in various forms, through the centuries. The most famous Crusades took place between 1095 and 1291 in the Near East, in which European Christian armies attempted to retake the city of Jerusalem from Islamic rule.
The Near East is a term often used by archaeologists and historians to refer to the Levant or Levant (now Palestine, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Jordan), Anatolia (now Turkey), Mesopotamia (Iraq and eastern Syria), and Plato. Iranian (Iranian).
There were other Crusades against Muslims in Iberia and against pagans and fellow Christians in Europe who the Catholic Church deemed heretical. After the First Crusade (1095-1099) launched by Pope Urban II, most of the Holy Land was occupied by the Crusader States of Europe, as well as military orders such as the Knights Templar. By the end of the 18th century the Crusades had ended, leaving Europe and the Near East forever changed.
When Did the Crusades Begin?
The Crusades began 926 years ago, in November 1095 to be precise, at the Council of Clermont in France, Nicholas Morton, senior lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, and author of The Teutonic Knights in the Holy Land, 1190-1291 (Boydell, 2009), put it this way .
“During this council, Pope Urban II gave his famous speech, instigating the First Crusade, thus marking the beginning of the Crusade movement,” wrote Morton. “It is rare for historians to seriously suggest an earlier date, but many scholars observe that features that quickly became intrinsic to the Crusades (such as the papal authorization to wage war) did appear in earlier years.”
On the other hand, the Crusades did not necessarily end at the end of the 13th century. “Throughout the centuries the popularity of the Crusades fluctuated throughout Western Christendom, but remained a feature of life for a very long time,” wrote Morton.
The late Jonathan Riley-Smith, a noted historian of the Crusades, has pointed out that the papal willingness to initiate crusading movements began to decline in the 17th century; nonetheless, Riley-Smith points out, aspects of the crusading movement persisted into the following centuries.
The Knights Hospitaller — the Church’s military religious order and a product of the crusading movement — continued to defend Malta until 1798, and several military orders participated in military activities in the following years,” said Riley-Smith.
How Many Crusades Were There?
Several Crusades occurred between the 11th and 13th centuries, but the exact number is disputed among historians. “Historians are generally quite consistent in numbering the five greatest crusades to the Eastern Mediterranean, using terms such as the ‘First Crusade,’ ‘Second Crusade,’ and so on,” writes Morton.
“The problem is that this numbering system is neither comprehensive nor was it used by contemporaries. During the First Crusade, which lasted from 1095 to 1099, European Christian armies defeated Jerusalem and established the Crusader States. After the Fifth Crusade, some modern historians identify several crusades in the late 13th century using labels such as the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Crusades. However, the consistency is lacking here.”
Definition of the Crusades
Morton claims it is difficult to define exactly what a crusade is. “Neither the papacy nor anyone else refers to the earliest Crusades as such. At the time, writers sometimes described the crusaders as ‘crucesignati’ — meaning ‘one marked with the sign of the cross’ — but at other times, they described them using other words such as ‘pilgrim’. The definition of Crusades also evolved over time, taking many different forms and operating in many different geographic areas – all of which complicates easy definition,” he wrote.
There are several main features that help historians to come up with a definition of the Crusades. “In order to be considered a true ‘Crusade’, it had to be supported by the pope. Additionally, a true Crusader took a Crusader vow and then sewed crosses onto their clothing to symbolize their commitment. They also wear symbols traditionally. associated with the pilgrimage — such as the ‘manuscript’ (sac) and pilgrim staff.
Over time, crusaders acquired a certain legal status, which gave them privileges designed to protect them and their families during their absence; such status also comes with punishment if they fail to live up to their vows.”
When the First Crusade broke out, the term “Crusade” was not yet known. The Christian military campaigns at that time were called “travels” (Latin: iter ) or “pilgrimage” (Latin: peregrinatio ). These wars with the blessing of the church were only associated with the term “crucifixion” after the Latin word “ crucesignatus ” (one who is marked with the cross) came into use in the late 12th century.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the etymology of the word ” crusade ” (the British term for “Crusade”) is related to the modern French croisade , Old French croisée , Provençal crozada , Portuguese and Spanish cruzada , and Crociata in Italian language. All of these words are derivatives of the Medieval Latin cruciāta or cruxiata , which originally meant “to torture” or “to crucify,” but from the 12th century also to mean “to cross.”
The term “Crusade” can be interpreted differently, depending on the views of the authors who use it. Giles Constable in The Historiography of the Crusades (2001) describes four different points of view among historical scholars as follows.
1. The Viewpoint of the Traditionalists
Traditionalists limited their definition of the Crusades to the wars waged by Christians in the Holy Land from 1095 to 1291, both to help the Christians in that land and to liberate Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulcher from occupation.
2. The Pluralist Perspective
Pluralists use the term Crusades as a designation for all kinds of military actions openly sanctioned by the sitting pope. This meaning reflects the view of the Roman Catholic Church (including figures of the Middle Ages during the Crusades, such as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux) that every war sanctioned by the Pope can be legally called a Crusade, without distinction of cause, reason or place.
This broad definition includes acts against pagans and heretics such as the Albigensian Crusades, the Northern Crusades, and the Hussite Crusades. This definition also includes wars for political advantage and territorial domination such as the Crusades of Aragon in Sicily, the Crusades proclaimed by Pope Innocent III against the Markward of Anweiler in 1202, and those declared against the people of Stedingen, several crusades which were declared ( by different popes) against Emperor Frederick II and his sons, two crusades declared against opponents of King Henry III of England, and the crusade of the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula by Christians.
3. The Generalist Perspective
Generalists view the definition of Crusades as any kind of holy war associated with the Latin Church and which was waged as an act of defense of religion.
4. The Popularist Perspective
Popularists limit the definition of Crusades as wars characterized by the movement of the masses for religious reasons, that is, only the first Crusade and perhaps also People’s Crusades.
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First, Second, and Third Crusades
The most famous Crusades are the first three. The First Crusade was a very important event. “It started the Crusades and resulted in the conquest of several major cities and towns in the Near East including Edessa, Antioch and Jerusalem,” says Morton.
The Second Crusade (1147-1150) was a complex event that was not confined to the Near East. “It was a response to the fall of the city of Edessa (capital of the County of Edessa) in 1144 by the Turkic ruler (Imaduddin) Zangi,” wrote Morton. “The crusade itself set out to recapture Edessa, but never approached this target and culminated in the failed siege of Damascus in 1148. The Second Crusade also included expeditions launched on other frontiers, including movements made in Iberia (Spain and Portugal ) and the Baltic region”.
The Third Crusade (1189-1192) was launched following the dramatic Islamic reconquest of Jerusalem. The Pope launched the Third Crusade after the Battle of Hattin, when the Muslim ruler Saladin (Salahuddin Yusuf bin Ayub or Salahudin Al Ayub) defeated the kingdom of Jerusalem, Morton said. “The Papacy responded by mounting major new crusades led by rulers – such as Frederick I of Germany, Philip II of France and Richard I of England (also called The Lionheart). “At the end of the Crusades, Jerusalem remained under Saladin’s control, but the crusaders managed to recapture some of the kingdom’s coastal cities of Jerusalem,” says Morton.
Following their success in capturing Jerusalem in 1099, the Crusaders established four Roman Catholic territories in the Middle East. Known as the “Crusader States” or “Outremer” (medieval French term for “overseas”). “They consisted of the County of Edessa, the Kingdom of Antioch, the Kingdom of Jerusalem and, later, the County of Tripoli,” according to Morton.
Antioch, Edessa, and Tripoli covered what is now Syria, Lebanon, and southeastern Turkey, while Jerusalem included modern Israel and Palestine. Although the states were founded by the Crusaders, the populations of the states contained only a minority of “Franks” — the Muslim and Eastern Orthodox term for Western Europeans.
Most of the people living in the state were native Christians and Muslims who spoke various Middle Eastern languages, writes Andrew Jotischky in his book “Crusades and the Crusader States” (Routledge: Taylor & Francis, 2014).
Edessa fell to the Turkish warlord Imad ad-Din Zangi in 1144, but other nations held out against Muslim forces for years. In 1268, the Mamluk sultan of Egypt at the time, known as Baibars, and his army captured Antioch; then in 1289, the Mamluk sultan Qalawun defeated Tripoli. The city of Jerusalem was captured by Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria, in 1187, but the kingdom lasted until his successor’s capital, Acre, fell in 1291.
Crusades Target Heretics Against Pope Politics
Although the more famous campaigns took place in the Near East, several Crusades also took place in Europe. This Crusade was launched by ambitious soldiers. After this first religious war, other commanders tried to get the pope to also support their military endeavours, according to Morton. “Within a few decades, crusade campaigns took place against the Byzantine Empire, in Iberia (Spain and Portugal) and also in the Baltic region.”
Beginning in the 13th century, various popes launched Crusades against their European opponents. This war targeted a broad swath of individuals, including heretics in Western Christendom and political opponents of the Pope, said Morton. As the policies and agendas of the Christian movement developed, so did those who were targeted by the Crusades.
“In this way, crusades were fought in many different areas, not just the Eastern Mediterranean, against many different peoples and communities,” said Morton. “To contemporary eyes, the journey to Jerusalem has always maintained a special and unique importance.”
Crusades Without the Pope’s Permission
Although they were primarily military campaigns, the medieval Crusades were based on the ambitions of Christianity. They were often spiritual activities that could be classified as “Popular” movements, wrote Morton. “Popular” Crusades occurred sporadically throughout most of the history of the Crusades,” he said.
“It was basically the times when enigmatic preachers or leaders – often from humble backgrounds – spontaneously gathered crowds, incited their followers to join or started crusading campaigns. This was often with little or no papal permission.”
The two most famous Popular Crusades are the People’s Crusade (1096) and the Children’s Crusade (1212). During the Children’s Crusade, thousands of young people from northern France marched south towards the Mediterranean coast with the hope—which was never fulfilled—of reaching the Holy Land. The People’s Crusade is the name given to the first part of the First Crusade, when the massive army raised by Peter the Hermit tried to retake Jerusalem and the rest of the Holy Land from Islamic control.
The Popular Crusade was not successful. “They almost never reach the desired target. The Crusades of the Children never left Western Christendom, and Peter the Hermit’s armies suffered a major defeat as soon as they entered Turkish-controlled Anatolia. Despite military setbacks and failures, this movement demonstrates how popular the Crusades became and crossed the social spectrum of Western Christendom.”
Crusades Through Egypt
During the 13th century, the Crusades to the Near East were mostly attempts to recapture or maintain control of the city of Jerusalem. The most successful of the later crusaders was the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. “Frederick managed to regain Jerusalem in 1229, although it only remained in Frankish (Western European) hands until 1244,” says Morton. “In Frederick’s case, he sailed directly to the kingdom of Jerusalem and secured the return of the Holy City during diplomatic negotiations with the Egyptian sultan”.
This period also saw Egypt become a crusader battleground. “Two other very large Crusades, the Fifth and Seventh, attempted to conquer Egypt before advancing against Jerusalem. Their plan was to secure the agricultural wealth of the Nile Delta and the revenues of Egypt’s trading cities,” said Morton. “They will then use these resources as a base to achieve the permanent reconquest of Jerusalem. Both attempts failed.”
The Crusades expanded away from the Holy Land during this time, with the Pope trying to gain tighter control of movements. “Perhaps the most significant developments in crusading over the course of this century have occurred in other areas,” says Morton. “At that time, the Pope started Crusades against various opponents in many areas. These included the Albigensian heretics in southern France, the Mongols in Central Eurasia and political opponents of the Pope. In addition, the papacy encouraged the wider population to contribute to the crusade whether through financial donations, prayers, processions or other religious rituals,” said Morton.
Legacy of the Crusades
The legacy of the Crusades remains strong even in the 21st century, according to Morton. “The era of the Crusades to the Holy Land is best known today as one of the most conflictual periods in the history of relations between Western Christianity and Islam,” he said. “In the popular imagination, this Crusade was seen as a direct conflict between two opposing religions.”
The Crusades were just as complex during the Middle Ages. “The irony is that, although the Crusades continue to be remembered in this way in the 21st century, the surviving sources from the medieval period – written by authors from different cultures – tell a different story,” says Morton.
“They do contain statements of hatred, violence, massacres, incitement to victory for religious wars and the defeat of other religions. However, they also include descriptions of friendship, alliance, expressions of respect and admiration that cross cultural and religious boundaries.” He added that “the frontiers of war in the Near East are rarely as clear as ‘Christians vs. Muslims’ or ‘Muslims vs. Christians’.”
Such military campaigns and major religious movements eventually influenced other areas of human development in the Near East. For example, they encourage the sharing and creation of new technologies, new art forms and architecture, as well as the exchange of ideas and even different cuisines. “The two worlds – the Muslim and Christian West – are learning a lot about each other,” said Morton.
So, that’s information about the terminology and background of the Crusades. The Crusades is the term for the religious wars in West Asia and Europe between the 11th and 17th centuries, which were supported by the Catholic Church. The war is called the Crusades by Christians, while Muslims call it the Holy War.
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