When Did the Crusades Take Place?
The Crusades were a series of holy wars authorized by successive Popes and waged by the Christians of Western Europe from 1095 to the end of the 13th Century. Their purpose was the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and other sacred places from the Mohammedans. The word comes from the Spanish cruzada, meaning “marked with a cross”.
There were three basic causes for the Crusades: first, the threat to pilgrims journeying to the Holy Sepulchre from the Seljuk Turks who had overrun Anatolia, Syria and Palestine; secondly, a great surge of energy in Christianized Western Europe and a desire to expand territory and control trade routes; thirdly, the determination of the Church to make its authority universal.
The First Crusade, summoned by Pope Urban II in 1095, took Jerusalem by storm on July 15, 1099 and set up Christian governments in the city and in the three “Latin states” of Edessa, Antioch and Tripoli. When Edessa was captured by the Mohammedans in 1144, Pope Eugenius III called the Second Crusade (1147-1149), but this was so mismanaged that it accomplished nothing.
The recapture of Jerusalem in 1187 by the wise, brave and chivalrous Mohammedan leader Saladin gave rise to the Third Crusade (1189-1191) led by Philip the Fair of France and Richard the Lion-Hearted of England.
In the Holy Land Acre was captured but the two kings quarreled and first Philip and then Richard abandoned the struggle. The Fourth Crusade (1202-1204) never reached Palestine but instead attacked and captured the Christian city of Constantinople. The Fifth Crusade (1221) was a complete failure but on the Sixth Crusade (1228-1229) Jerusalem was obtained from the Mohammedans by the negotiation.
The city’s capture by the Turks in 1244 brought the Seventh Crusade (1249) in which the leader King Louis IX of France was taken prisoner and ransomed. Louis also led the Eighth Crusade, this time to Tunis where he died of the plague in 1270. The knights held out in Acre until 1291 when they surrendered. Attempts to revive the Holy Wars in the 14th Century failed.
The crusades had a profound impact on Western civilization: they reopened the Mediterranean to commerce and travel (enabling Genoa and Venice to flourish); consolidated the collective identity of the Latin Church under papal leadership; and were a wellspring for accounts of heroism, chivalry and piety. These tales consequently galvanized medieval romance, philosophy and literature. The crusades also reinforced the connection between Western Christendom, feudalism, and militarism.