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Crusade sceneFrom the confines of Jerusalem and from the city of Constantinople a horrible tale has gone forth .. an accursed race utterly alienated from God .. has invaded the lands of these Christians and depopulated them by the sword, plundering and fire. O most valient soldiers .. start upon the road to the Holy Sepulchre, to tear that land from the wicked race and subject it to yourselves.

Pope Urban II
AD 1095

Crusades and Pilgrimages

Islam had expanded rapidly and militantly from its beginnings in Arabia. The Seljuk Turks had conquered Jerusalem in AD1071 and, by 1095, threatened Constantinople, the home of Eastern Christianity.

French crusade flagPope Urban's sermon was received enthusiastically. Europe was on fire with this new adventure. The warriors of the West united in the crusade, with "God wills it" as their battle cry. Their banners proudly displayed the cross.

The attraction of the crusade was, first, a military expedition with the pope's blessing and, second, a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The pope offered spiritual incentives, particularly an indulgence guaranteeing crusaders a place in heaven.

Still, the crusades got off to a bad start. A mob of 50,000 undisciplined volunteer soldiers descended on Constantinople en route and disgraced themselves. Eventually they reached the Holy Land, arriving at a fortunate time. Islam was in disarray, due to internal religious feuding, and the crusaders were able to capture Jerusalem from Turks in AD 1099.

From Bad to Worse

Subsequent crusades went from bad to worse. The second crusade, begun in 1147, ended in a military disaster. Near Dorylaeum, the knights had dismounted to water their horses when the Turks attacked. It was a slaughter. Those who were not killed were sold into slavery by the Turks.

The German contingent defeated, the French traveled through Pergamum, Smyrna, and Ephesus, all cities of renown in Christian history. They reached Ephesus around Christmas time.

While camping en route to Antioch, the crusaders were flooded out by a storm, losing their tents, provisions, and some of their people.

They decided to go overland, cutting through the southwest corner of Turkey, shortening the distance to Antioch. In early January, they entered Laodicaea, but found that it had been stripped of supplies.

They now had to cross a range of mountains, with few supplies and Turks all around them. During the crossing, they came across the bodies of the German crusaders, dealing a sharp blow to morale. The Turks attacked and killed any stragglers, and the discipline of the army was failing.

Late in January, they were attacked by a large force of Turks. The French were routed. Fleeing soldiers fell into ambushes and were slaughtered. Those who survived were saved only by nightfall.

Reaching Attalia, a fleet of ships were commandeered, on which the officers and the knights set up for Antioch, leaving the remainder of the crusaders behind to fend for themselves. Disorganization, infighting, and desertion eventually led to a dissolution of the second crusade.

In 1187, the Muslim leader, Sala al-Din Yusuf, also known as Saladin, recaptured Jerusalem. Pope Gregory VIII ordered another crusade immediately, to reclaim the Holy City for Christianity. This was the start of the third crusade.

The new pope did not try to have the church lead the crusade. His appeal was to the lay leaders of Europe.Italy-Sicily Crusade

This third crusade, the one in which Richard the Lionheart took part, met with some success.

King William II of Sicily was one of the first monarchs to hear the news, and he immediately sent a fleet to the Holy Land, saving Tripoli and Tyre.

England and France, who were at war with one another at the time, declared a truce on the spot, and agreed to take up the cross. King Henry II of England and King Philip II of France determined to establish a tax to finance the crusade.

Rather than setting off to save Jerusalem, however, they went to war with one another again. King Henry's son, Richard of Poitou, switched sides and went to war against his father. In July of 1188, the old king died and Richard became Richard I, King of England.

Once Richard became king, he had no further excuse to delay in his promise to support the crusade, so, three years after the Sicily Crusadefall of Jerusalem, Richard departed for the Holy Land.

While King William II of Sicily was the first to respond to the appeal, sending a fleet, the first army actually to depart was led by the emperor of the Romans, Frederick I, whom the Italians had nicknamed "Barbarossa."

As a teenager, Frederick had participated in the second crusade. With Germany quiet, and Italy in good shape, Frederick answered the call eagerly, with the largest single crusading army ever to march.

Unfortunately, at an age approaching 70, King Frederick drowned attempting to cross the Saleph River in Armenia.

Their leader gone, the German army almost immediately began to dissolve. Some went home. Others continued to Antioch by ship, while others went overland. By the time the army reached the Holy Land, it was drastically reduced in numbers, disorganized, and ineffective.

Richard Coeur-de-Lion was one of the great kings of the Middle Ages. He was strong, courageous, and physically well-suited for warfare. He rode well, fought well, and proved himself to be a good field commander.red_shield

With little patience for politics or administration, he was a better knight than a king, but no one held that against him.

Philip Augustus was Richard's match, but he was also his opposite. An excellent administrator, he had a dislike for warfare.

The English and French assembled in July of 1190 at Vezelay, the starting point for Louis' crusade fifty years earlier. The two armies traveled together as far as Lyons, then the French went to Genoa, the English to Marseilles. Both kings arrived in Sicily in September.

King William II of Sicily had promised a fleet to accompany the crusaders, but William had died in November of 1189, and the succession was in dispute. Tancred of Lecce, who held Sicily at the time, had confiscated the treasure that William had put aside for the crusade, and was anxiously awaiting an invasion by the Germans. He was desparately looking for allies.

Richard the Lionheart managed to make enemies almost immediately. His soldiers quarreled with the locals. He raided a small island, and evicted the monks who were there in order to make room for his soldiers. When the citizens rioted against the English, Richard responded by constructing a fortress next to the city in October of 1190.

To compound the difficulties, Richard, who was engaged to be married to Philip's sister, decided he didn't like her and broke it off. This didn't endear him to the French king.

At any rate, the kings had delayed so long that the weather now prevented their leaving until spring. Philip finally set sail on March 30, 1190. Richard left on April 10th.

Knights in battlePhilip arrived in Tyre first, ordering the construction of siege towers while they awaited the arrival of the English.

Upon his arrival, Richard took command of the siege, which was successful in retaking Acre for the Christians.

Feeling ill, Philip returned to France, leaving a large contingent behind. Richard was now in sole command of the third crusade.

During negotiations with the Muslim commander, Saladin, Richard had agreed to terms that included the release of Muslim prisoners held in Jerusalem in return for payment of a fee. Once the first installment was paid, Richard did not honor his part of the agreement. Instead, he ordered the execution of approximately 2,700 prisoners, including women and children. They were executed outside the city walls. Saladin's soldiers could see the slaughter, which took all day, and tried to rescue them. Even as the executions were taking place, a battle was fought, but the Muslims were driven back and the prisoners died. It is interesting that Christian chroniclers of the time relate this story with great satisfaction.

Richard's next objective was to take Jerusalem and, understanding this, Saladin's chief goal was to keep them away from the city. His plan was to harass the crusaders at every opportunity, and to hope that the king would make a mistake.

Realizing this, Richard ordered his armies to remain next to the sea, with his infantry marching along the beach, the cavalry protecting his flank, and his fleet keeping pace with the army, protecting it from the seaward side. There were some skirmishes, but Richard was able to avoid a large confrontation.

Finally, it was Saladin who had to take a chance, attacking Richard's forces near Arsuf, hoping to lure his cavalry into an ambush. Against Richard's orders, a couple of Templars charged against the enemy. Their comrades followed, and within moments the entire line of knights moved to the attack. The fury of the Christian attack was too much for the Islamic forces, and Richard's armies continued south.

Lone KnightUnfortunately for Richard, while his forces were superior to Saladin's, he received word of trouble at home. His brother, John, was usurping power, and King Philip seemed about to renege on his promise not to attack any of Richard's lands while he was still away on the crusade. King Richard decided that he needed to make some sort of a treaty with Saladin and return home as soon as possible.

Saladin was having trouble within his own ranks. His was a loose confederation of emirs, so it was in his best interest to come to an agreement.

Jerusalem would remain in the hands of the Muslims, for the time being, but Christians would be allowed to visit it. The towns along the coast that the Christians had recovered would remain in their hands; except for Ascalon, which would be returned to Saladin. There would be peace in Palestine for five years. It was not what had been hoped for, but it would have to do.

Pilgrims and Pilgrimages

As early as the 4th century, faithful Christians began to make visits to the holy places, especially those sites connected with events in the life of Jesus.

Jerusalem was an important destination. Later, pilgrims began to visit Rome, to visit the shrines of Peter and Paul, and to view the many relics of the saints and martyrs that had been collected there.

The pilgrims would venerate the remains of a saint, believing that spiritual or physical healing could result from such devotion.


Overview of Bible Study