The Three Crusades There were three Crusades and they all took different routes from western Europe to Palestine. THE FIRST CRUSADE - The first crusade began in A.D. 1095. Pope Urban II mounted a platform outside the church at Clermont, France. The crowd shouted "Deus vult!" in response to the pope's plea. Knights and peasants alike vowed to join the expedition to the Holy Land. For knights, the Crusade was a welcome chance to employ their fighting skills.

For peasants, the Crusade meant freedom from feudal bonds while on the Crusade. All were promised immediate salvation in heaven if they were killed freeing the Holy Land from non-Christians. Adventure and the possibility of wealth were other reasons to join the Crusade. The First Crusade heightened already existing hatred of non-Christians and marked the onset of a long period of Christian persecution of the Jews. During the First Crusade, which began in A.D. 1096, three armies of Crusader knights and volunteers traveled separately from western Europe to the eastern Mediterranean.

On the way, many of them killed Jews and sometimes massacred entire Jewish communities. The three armies finally met in Constantinople in A.D. 1097. From there the Crusaders made their way to Jerusalem, enduring the hardships of desert travel as well as quarrels among their leaders. In June A.D. 1099, the Crusaders finally reached the city.

After the siege of almost two months Jerusalem fell. Crusaders swarmed into the city and killed most of its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants. The success of the First Crusade reinforced the authority of the Church and strengthened the self-confidence of western Europeans. The religious zeal of the Crusaders soon cooled, however, and many knights returned home. Those who stayed set up feudal states in Syria and Palestine. Contact between the Crusaders and the relatively more sophisticated civilizations of the Byzantines and the Muslims would continue for the next 100 years and become major factor in ending the cultural isolation of western Europe.

THE SECOND CRUSADE - Less than 50 years after the First Crusade, the Seljuks conquered part of the Crusader states in Palestine. Pope Eugenius IV called for a Second Crusade to regain the territory. Eloquent sermons by the monk Bernard ofClairvaux persuaded King Louis VII of France and Holy Roman Emperor Conrad to lead armies to Palestine. The Second Crusade, which lasted from A.D. 1147 to A.D. 1149, was unsuccessful.

Louis VII and Conrad quarreled constantly and were ineffective militarily. They were easily defeated by the Seljuks. THE THIRD CRUSADE - A diplomatic and forceful leader named Saladin united the Muslim forces and then captured Jerusalem inA.D. 1187. The people of western Europe were stunned and horrified.

Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of Germany, King Philip Augustus of France, and King Richard I of England assembled warriors for the Third Crusade. This " Crusade of Kings" lasted from A.D. 1189 to A.D. 1192 and was no more successful than the Second Crusade. Frederick Barbarossa died on the way to Palestine, and his army returned home. Philip Augustus returned to France before the army reached Jerusalem. Richard continued the struggle alone.

Although his army defeated the Muslims in several battles, Richard could not win a decisive victory over Saladin's well-trained and dedicated forces. After three years of fighting, Richard signed a truce with the Muslims and tried to persuade Saladin to return Jerusalem to the Christians. "Jerusalem", he wrote to the Muslim leader, "we are resolved not to renounce as long as we have a single man left". Although Saladin refused to turn over Jerusalem, he allowed Christian pilgrims access.