The Byzantine Empire controlled most of the land on the Mediterranean Sea in the AD 500's. In the 600's, Arab Muslims conquered Palestine, which included Jerusalem and other sacred Christian areas. However, the Arab Rulers allowed Christians to visit the shrines. Later, in the 1000's, Seljuk Turks from Central Asia conquered this area. The Turks destroyed the Byzantines in 1071 and the Turks became Muslims. They made it hard for Christian Pilgrims to get to the holy places.
In 1095, the emperor of Byzantine, Alexius Conners asked Pope Urban II for assistance in fighting the Turks. Urban wanted Christianity defended against the Muslims. Urban also wanted more power and prestige for himself. He believed that a crusade against the Turks would stop fighting of the Christian knights and nobles of Western Europe.
In November of 1095 AD, Pope Urban II had a speech. He wanted to remove a "witched race' from the Christian Lands because Christ demands it. His sermon urged Europeans Christians to stop fighting themselves and recapture the Holy Land from the Muslims. The crowd responds "God wills it!' Thousands of people joined the cause.
Some crusaders joined the expeditions for more than religious reasons. French knights wanted more land, Italian Merchants wanted to expand trade. Priests and monks wanted religious relics. Poor people also joined to escape their normal lives. The First Crusade started in 1096. Peter the Hermit led one group and they rushed ahead in front of the main armies.
This group was known as the Peasant's Crusade, they did not have the training or discipline they would ahead of them. They often stole what they wanted and angered the Europeans and were killed. The Turks later slaughtered the survivors. The main armies that were sent by the pope were well trained French and Norman Knights. When they reached Constantinople, Byzantine forces joined the crusaders. The combined army defeated the Muslims near Nicaea.
Afterwards, the Western Europeans marched toward Jerusalem, fighting bloody battles along the way. Many crusaders died at Antioch. The Europeans arrived at Jerusalem in the summer of 1099. They recovered the Holy City after six weeks of fighting.
Most of the crusaders then returned home. The leaders who remained divided the conquered land into four states. Since many knights left Jerusalem after they captured and went back home. Christians forces were growing weak and the Turks captured Edessa. This threat caused Christians to bring another Crusade, The Second Crusade (1147-1149). The religious leader of France, Bernard of Clair va, inspired Europeans of the West to defend the Latin states against the Muslims.
The two armies, one of them being French and the other from Germany did not cooperate. The Muslims crushed them before they reached Edessa. The Muslims continually attacked the Christians in the Holy Land. The sultan of Egypt and Syria, Saladin, united the Muslims around the Latin States. In 1187, Saladin's forces destroyed a Christian army at the Battle of Horns of Hattie, and entered Jerusalem. The Christians only had the cities of Tyre, Tripoli, and Antioch.
The loss of Jerusalem led the way for the Third Crusade (1189-1192). The European leaders were Frederick I, King Richard I, and King Philip II. While on his way to the Holy Land, Frederick had drowned. The leaders got into quarrels and were not successful.
They captured the Palestinian Ports of Acre and Jaffa in 1191. Richard tried to recapture Jerusalem, but failed. He did, however, made an agreement with Saladin so Christian pilgrims would be allowed to enter Jerusalem freely. The Forth Crusade (1202-1204) resulted from the failure to recapture Jerusalem. The crusaders never reached their original goal because they became involved in attacks of the Byzantine Empire. In 1212, thousands of boys and girls from ages 10 to 18 years old believed they could capture Jerusalem.
Since they were poor, they thought god would deliver the Holy City to them. They never went to the Holy Land, most starved or froze to death. Some returned to their homes in shame, while others got on boats and were sold into slavery by the Muslims. This was known as the Children's Crusade.
The Fifth Crusade (1217-1221), the Christians captured Damietta in Egypt, but they didn't get much further and gave up Damietta. Frederick II led the Sixth Crusade (1228-1229). He made a peace treaty with the Muslim Sultan and the sultan gave Jerusalem to the Christians. The Seventh Crusade (1248-1254) was caused by the recapture of Jerusalem by the Muslims in 1244. Louis attached cities in Egypt and was capture by the Muslims. For a huge ransom, Louis was set free.
He led the Eighth Crusade in 1270, but died shortly afterwards. A plague had broken out among his troops. After the Crusades, Western Europeans could build better ships. They could also make more accurate maps.
From Asia, They obtained the magnetic Compass to tell directions. The Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. The pope's prestige fell because they used the crusades for personal and political gain. It increased trade between cities on the Mediterranean Sea causing economic growth. Italian cities grew power by carrying the crusaders and their supplies. Asian goods passed throughout these territories such as spices and silk.
Feudalism had decreased since many nobles died and increased the kings' power. Although the Crusades were a flop, Europe had advancements in weaponry and imported Asian goods. They also had economic growth with increased trade. The Muslims eventually captured the remaining Christian centers. At this time, Europeans were more interested in exploring the Atlantic Ocean. After Columbus sailed to New World, they no longer cared about the Holy Land and left it to the Muslims.
Crusades', World Book Encyclopedia 1999 ed.