First Crusade

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First Crusade

Post  thirsty on Fri 08 Feb 2008, 2:41 pm

The First Crusade was launched in 1095 by Pope Urban II with the dual goals of liberating the sacred city of Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslims and freeing the Eastern Christians from Muslim rule. What started as an appeal by Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos for western mercenaries to fight the Seljuk Turks in Anatolia quickly turned into a wholesale Western migration and conquest of territory outside of Europe. Both knights and peasants from many nations of Western Europe travelled over land and by sea towards Jerusalem and captured the city in July 1099, establishing the Kingdom of Jerusalem and other Crusader states. Although these gains lasted for less than two hundred years, the First Crusade was a major turning point in the expansion of Western power, as well as the first major step towards reopening international trade in the West since the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Background

The origins of the Crusades in general, and of the First Crusade in particular, stem from events earlier in the Middle Ages. The breakdown of the Carolingian Empire in previous centuries, combined with the relative stability of European borders after the Christianization of the Vikings and Magyars, gave rise to an entire class of warriors who now had little to do but fight among themselves.

By the early 8th century, the Umayyad Caliphate had rapidly captured North Africa, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Spain from a predominantly Christian Byzantine Empire. During the 12th century, the Reconquista picked up an ideological potency that is considered to be the first example of a concerted "Christian" effort to recapture territory, seen as lost to Muslims, as part of the expansion efforts of the Christian kingdoms along the Bay of Biscay. Spanish kingdoms, knightly orders and mercenaries began to mobilize from across Europe for the fight against the surviving and predominantly Moorish Umayyad caliphate at Cordoba. Another factor that contributed to the change in Western attitudes towards the East came in the year 1009, when the Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah ordered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre destroyed

Other Muslim kingdoms emerging from the collapse of the Umayyads in the 8th century, such as the Aghlabics, had entered Italy in the 9th century. The Kalbid state that arose in the region, weakened by dynastic struggles, became prey to the Normans capturing Sicily by 1091. Pisa, Genoa, and Aragon began to battle other Muslim kingdoms for control of the Mediterranean, exemplified by the Mahdia campaign and battles at Mallorca and Sardinia.

The idea of a Holy War against the Muslims seemed acceptable to medieval European secular and religious powers, as well as the public in general, for a number of reasons, such as the recent military successes of European kingdoms along the Mediterranean. In addition there was the emerging political conception of Christendom, which saw the union of Christian kingdoms under Papal guidance for the first time (in the High Middle Ages) and the creation of a Christian army to fight the Muslims. It was also felt that many of the Muslim lands had previously been Christian prior to their conquest by the Islamic armies, namely those which had formed part of the Roman and Byzantine empires - Syria, Egypt, the rest of North Africa, Hispania (Spain), Cyprus, Judaea. Finally, Jerusalem, along with the surrounding lands including the places where Christ lived and died, was understandably sacred to Christians.

In 1074, Pope Gregory VII called for the milites Christi ("soldiers of Christ") to go to the aid of the Byzantine Empire in the east. The Byzantines had suffered a serious defeat at the hands of the Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Manzikert three years previously. This call, while largely ignored and even opposed, combined with the large numbers of pilgrimages to the Holy Land in the 11th century, focused a great deal of attention on the east. Preaching by monks such as Peter the Hermit and Walter the Penniless, which spread reports of Muslims abusing Christian pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem and other Middle Eastern holy sites, further stoked the crusading zeal. It was Pope Urban II who first disseminated to the general public the idea of a Crusade to capture the Holy Land. Upon hearing his dramatic and inspiring speech, the nobles and clergy in attendance began to chant the famous words, Deus vult! ("God wills it!")

Siege of Jerusalem

Proceeding down the coast of the Mediterranean, the crusaders encountered little resistance, as local rulers preferred to make peace with them and give them supplies rather than fight. On June 7 the crusaders reached Jerusalem, which had been recaptured from the Seljuks by the Fatimids of Egypt only the year before. Many Crusaders wept on seeing the city they had journeyed so long to reach.

As with Antioch, the crusaders put the city to a lengthy siege, in which the crusaders themselves suffered many casualties, due to the lack of food and water around Jerusalem. Of the estimated 7,000 knights who took part in the Princes' Crusade, only about 1,500 remained. Faced with a seemingly impossible task, their morale was raised when a priest, by the name of Peter Desiderius, claimed to have had a divine vision instructing them to fast and then march in a barefoot procession around the city walls, after which the city would fall in nine days, following the Biblical example of Joshua at the siege of Jericho. On July 8, 1099 the crusaders performed the procession as instructed by Desiderius. The Genoese troops, led by commander Guglielmo Embriaco, had previously dismantled the ships in which the Genoese came to the Holy Land; Embriaco, using the ship's wood, made some siege towers and seven days later on July 15, the crusaders were able to end the siege by breaking down sections of the walls and entering the city. Some Crusaders also entered through the former pilgrim's entrance.

Over the course of that afternoon, evening and next morning, the crusaders murdered almost every inhabitant of Jerusalem. Muslims, Jews, and even eastern Christians were all massacred. Although many Muslims sought shelter in Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Jews in their synagogue by the Western wall, the crusaders spared few lives. According to the anonymous Gesta Francorum, in what some believe to be an exaggerated account of the massacre which subsequently took place there, "...the slaughter was so great that our men waded in blood up to their ankles...". Other accounts of blood flowing up to the bridles of horses are reminiscent of a passage from the Book of Revelation (14:20). Tancred claimed the Temple quarter for himself and offered protection to some of the Muslims there, but he was unable to prevent their deaths at the hands of his fellow crusaders. According to Fulcher of Chartres: "Indeed, if you had been there you would have seen our feet coloured to our ankles with the blood of the slain. But what more shall I relate? None of them were left alive; neither women nor children were spared".

However, the Gesta Francorum states some people managed to escape the siege unharmed. Its anonymous author wrote, "When the pagans had been overcome, our men seized great numbers, both men and women, either killing them or keeping them captive, as they wished". Later it is written, "[Our leaders] also ordered all the Saracen dead to be cast outside because of the great stench, since the whole city was filled with their corpses; and so the living Saracens dragged the dead before the exits of the gates and arranged them in heaps, as if they were houses. No one ever saw or heard of such slaughter of pagan people, for funeral pyres were formed from knows their number except God alone".

Raymond of Toulouse was offered the kingship of Jerusalem but refused, saying that he wouldn't wear "a crown of gold" where Christ had worn "a crown of thorns". In the days following the massacre, Godfrey of Bouillon was made Advocatus Sancti Sepulchri ("Protector of the Holy Sepulchre"). In the last action of the crusade, he led an army which defeated an invading Fatimid army at the Battle of Ascalon. Godfrey died in July 1100, and was succeeded by his brother, Baldwin of Edessa, who took the title King of Jerusalem.

thirsty
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Re: First Crusade

Post  walkinginJesus on Fri 08 Feb 2008, 4:44 pm

Thank you for such a nice article. I always wanted to read about the Crusades. This information has really helped me.

God bless you

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