The Crusades were a series of religion-driven military campaigns waged
by much of Latin Christian Europe against external and internal
opponents. They were fought mainly against Muslims, though campaigns
were also directed against pagan Slavs, Jews, Russian and Greek Orthodox
Christians, Mongols, Cathars, Hussites, Waldensians, Old Prussians, and
political enemies of the popes. Crusaders took vows and were granted an
indulgence for past sins.
The Crusades originally had the goal of recapturing Jerusalem and the
Holy Land from Muslim rule and were launched in response to a call from
the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine Empire for help against the expansion of
the Muslim Seljuk Turks into Anatolia. The term is also used to describe
contemporaneous and subsequent campaigns conducted through to the 16th
century in territories outside the Levant[a] usually against pagans,
heretics, and peoples under the ban of excommunication for a mixture
of religious, economic, and political reasons. Rivalries among both
Christian and Muslim powers led also to alliances between religious
factions against their opponents, such as the Christian alliance with
the Sultanate of Rum during the Fifth Crusade.
The Crusades had far-reaching political, economic, and social
impacts, some of which have lasted into contemporary times. Because of
internal conflicts among Christian kingdoms and political powers, some
of the crusade expeditions were diverted from their original aim, such
as the Fourth Crusade, which resulted in the sack of Christian
Constantinople and the partition of the Byzantine Empire between Venice
and the Crusaders. The Sixth Crusade was the first crusade to set sail
without the official blessing of the Pope. The Seventh, Eighth and
Ninth Crusades resulted in Mamluk and Hafsid victories, as the Ninth
Crusade marked the end of the Crusades in the Middle East.
Middle Eastern situation
The Muslim presence in the Holy Land began with the initial Arab
conquest of Palestine in the 7th century. The Muslim armies' successes
put increasing pressure on the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine Empire.
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 destruction of the Church of the Holy
Sepulchre. In 1039 his successor, after requiring large sums be paid for
the right, permitted the Byzantine Empire to rebuild it. Pilgrimages
were allowed to the Holy Lands before and after the Sepulchre was
rebuilt, but for a time pilgrims were captured and some of the clergy
were killed. The Muslim conquerors eventually realized that the wealth
of Jerusalem came from the pilgrims; with this realization the
persecution of pilgrims stopped. However, the damage was already done,
and the violence of the Seljuk Turks became part of the concern that
spread the passion for the Crusades.
Western European situation
The origins of the Crusades lie in developments in Western Europe
earlier in the Middle Ages, as well as the deteriorating situation of
the Byzantine Empire in the east caused by a new wave of Turkish Muslim
attacks. The breakdown of the Carolingian Empire in the late 9th
century, combined with the relative stabilization of local European
borders after the Christianization of the Vikings, Slavs, and Magyars,
had produced a large class of armed warriors whose energies were
misplaced fighting one another and terrorizing the local populace. The
Church tried to stem this violence with the Peace and Truce of God
movements, which was somewhat successful, but trained warriors always
sought an outlet for their skills, and opportunities for territorial
expansion were becoming less attractive for large segments of the
nobility. One exception was the Reconquista in Spain and Portugal, which
at times occupied Iberian knights and some mercenaries from elsewhere in
Europe in the fight against the Islamic Moors.
In 1063, Pope Alexander II had given his blessing to Iberian
Christians in their wars against the Muslims, granting both a papal
standard (the vexillum sancti Petri) and an indulgence to those who were
killed in battle. Pleas from the Byzantine Emperors, now threatened by
the Seljuks, thus fell on ready ears. These occurred in 1074, from
Emperor Michael VII to Pope Gregory VII and in 1095, from Emperor
Alexios I Komnenos to Pope Urban II. One source identifies Michael VII
in Chinese records as a ruler of Byzantium (Fulin) who sent an envoy to
Song Dynasty China in 1081. A Chinese scholar suggests that this and
further Byzantine envoys in 1091 were pleas for China to aid in the
fight against the Turks.
The Crusades were, in part, an outlet for an
intense religious piety which rose up in the late 11th century among the
lay public. A crusader would, after pronouncing a solemn vow, receive a
cross from the hands of the pope or his legates, and was thenceforth
considered a "soldier of the Church". This was partly because of the
Investiture Controversy, which had started around 1075 and was still
on-going during the First Crusade. As both sides of the Investiture
Controversy tried to marshal public opinion in their favor, people
became personally engaged in a dramatic religious controversy. The
result was an awakening of intense Christian piety and public interest
in religious affairs, and was further strengthened by religious
propaganda, which advocated Just War in order to retake the Holy Land
from the Muslims. The Holy Land included Jerusalem (where the death,
resurrection and ascension into heaven of Jesus took place according to
Christian theology) and Antioch (the first Christian city). Further, the
remission of sin was a driving factor and provided any God-fearing man
who had committed sins with an irresistible way out of eternal damnation
in Hell. It was a hotly debated issue throughout the Crusades as what
exactly "remission of sin" meant. Most believed that by retaking
Jerusalem they would go straight to heaven after death. However, much
controversy surrounds exactly what was promised by the popes of the
time. One theory was that one had to die fighting for Jerusalem for the
remission to apply, which would hew more closely to what Pope Urban II
said in his speeches. This meant that if the crusaders were successful,
and retook Jerusalem, the survivors would not be given remission.
Another theory was that if one reached Jerusalem, one would be relieved
of the sins one had committed before the Crusade. Therefore one could
still be sentenced to Hell for sins committed afterwards.[citation
All of these factors were manifested in the overwhelming popular
support for the First Crusade and the religious vitality of the 12th
immediate cause of the First Crusade was the Byzantine emperor Alexios
I's appeal to Pope Urban II for mercenaries to help him resist Muslim
advances into territory of the Byzantine Empire. In 1071, at the Battle
of Manzikert, the Byzantine Empire was defeated, which led to the loss
of all of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) save the coastlands. Although
attempts at reconciliation after the East-West Schism between the
Catholic Western Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church had failed,
Alexius I hoped for a positive response from Urban II and got it,
although it turned out to be more expansive and less helpful than he had
When the First Crusade was preached in 1095, the Christian princes of
northern Iberia had been fighting their way out of the mountains of
Galicia and Asturias, the Basque Country and Navarre, with increasing
success, for about a hundred years. The fall of Moorish Toledo to the
Kingdom of León in 1085 was a major victory, but the turning points of
the Reconquista still lay in the future. The disunity of Muslim emirs
was an essential factor.
While the Reconquista was the most prominent example of European
reactions against Muslim conquests, it is not the only such example. The
Norman adventurer Robert Guiscard had conquered Calabria in 1057 and was
holding what had traditionally been Byzantine territory against the
Muslims of Sicily. The maritime states of Pisa, Genoa and Catalonia were
all actively fighting Islamic strongholds in Majorca and Sardinia,
freeing the coasts of Italy and Catalonia from Muslim raids. Much
earlier, the Christian homelands of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt,
and so on had been conquered by Muslim armies. This long history of
losing territories to a religious enemy created a powerful motive to
respond to Byzantine Emperor Alexius I's call for holy war to defend
Christendom, and to recapture the lost lands starting with Jerusalem.
The papacy of Pope Gregory VII had struggled with reservations about
the doctrinal validity of a holy war and the shedding of blood for the
Lord and had, with difficulty, resolved the question in favour of
justified violence. More importantly to the Pope, the Christians who
made pilgrimages to the Holy Land were being persecuted. Saint Augustine
of Hippo, Gregory's intellectual model, had justified the use of force
in the service of Christ in The City of God, and a Christian "just war"
might enhance the wider standing of an aggressively ambitious leader of
Europe, as Gregory saw himself. The northerners would be cemented to
Rome, and their troublesome knights could see the only kind of action
that suited them. Previous attempts by the church to stem such violence,
such as the concept of the "Peace of God", were not as successful as
hoped. To the south of Rome, Normans were showing how such energies
might be unleashed against both Arabs (in Sicily) and Byzantines (on the
mainland). A Latin hegemony in the Levant would provide leverage in
resolving the Papacy's claims of supremacy over the Patriarch of
Constantinople, which had resulted in the Great Schism of 1054, a rift
that might yet be resolved through the force of Frankish arms.
In the Byzantine homelands, the Eastern Emperor's weakness was
revealed by the disastrous defeat at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071,
which reduced the Empire's Asian territory to a region in western
Anatolia and around Constantinople. A sure sign of Byzantine desperation
was the appeal of Alexios I to his enemy, the Pope, for aid. But Gregory
was occupied with the Investiture Controversy and could not call on the
German emperor, so a crusade never took shape.
For Gregory's more moderate successor, Pope Urban II, a crusade would
serve to reunite Christendom, bolster the Papacy, and perhaps bring the
East under his control. The disaffected Germans and the Normans were not
to be counted on, but the heart and backbone of a crusade could be found
in Urban's own homeland among the northern French.
After the First Crusade
On a popular level, the first crusades unleashed a wave of impassioned,
personally felt pious Christian fury that was expressed in the massacres
of Jews that accompanied the movement of the Crusader mobs through
Europe, as well as the violent treatment of "schismatic" Orthodox
Christians of the east. During many of the attacks on Jews, local
Bishops and Christians made attempts to protect Jews from the mobs that
were passing through. Jews were often offered sanctuary in churches and
other Christian buildings.
In the 13th century, Crusades never expressed such a popular fever,
and after Acre fell for the last time in 1291 and the Occitan Cathars
were exterminated during the Albigensian Crusade, the crusading ideal
became devalued by Papal justifications of political and territorial
aggressions within Catholic Europe.
The last crusading order of knights to hold territory were the
Knights Hospitaller. After the final fall of Acre, they took control of
the island of Rhodes, and in the sixteenth century, were driven to
Malta, before being finally unseated by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798.
A traditional numbering scheme for the crusades totals nine during the
11th to 13th centuries. This division is arbitrary and excludes many
important expeditions, among them those of the 14th, 15th, and 16th
centuries. In reality, the crusades continued until the end of the 17th
century, the crusade of Lepanto occurring in 1571, that of Hungary in
1664, and the crusade to Candia in 1669. The Knights Hospitaller
continued to crusade in the Mediterranean Sea around Malta until their
defeat by Napoleon in 1798. There were frequent "minor" Crusades
throughout this period, not only in Palestine but also in the Iberian
Peninsula and central Europe, against Muslims and also Christian
heretics and personal enemies of the Papacy or other powerful monarchs.
Attacked by stones, arrows, and flames, Godfrey and his soldiers
over the Saracens and enter Jerusalem.
First Crusade 1095-1099
In March 1095 at the Council of
Piacenza, ambassadors sent by Byzantine Emperor Alexius I called for
help with defending his empire against the Seljuk Turks. Later that
year, at the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban II called upon all
Christians to join a war against the Turks, promising those who died in
the endeavor would receive immediate remission of their sins. Sigurd
I of Norway was the first European king who went on a crusade and
crusader armies defeated the Turks at the Dorylaeum and at Antioch.
The Siege of Antioch took place shortly before the siege on Jerusalem
during the first Crusade. Antioch fell to the Franks in May 1098 but not
before a lengthy siege. The ruler of Antioch was not sure how the
Christians living within his city would react and he forced them to live
outside the city during the siege, though he promised to protect their
wives and children from harm, while Jews and Muslims fought together.
The siege only came to end when the city was betrayed and the Franks
entered through the water-gate of the town causing the leader to flee.
Once inside the city, as was standard military practice at the time,
the Franks then massacred the civilians, destroyed mosques and pillaged
the city. The crusaders finally marched to the walls of Jerusalem
with only a fraction of their original forces.
Siege of Jerusalem
The Jews and Muslims fought together to defend Jerusalem against the
invading Franks. They were unsuccessful though and on 15 July 1099 the
crusaders entered the city. Again, they proceeded to massacre the
remaining Jewish and Muslim civilians and pillaged or destroyed mosques
and the city itself. One historian has written that the "isolation,
alienation and fear" felt by the Franks so far from home helps to
explain the atrocities they committed, including the cannibalism which
was recorded after the Siege of Maarat in 1098. As a result of the First
Crusade, several small Crusader states were created, notably the Kingdom
of Jerusalem. In the Kingdom of Jerusalem at most 120,000 Franks
(predominantly French-speaking Western Christians) ruled over 350,000
Muslims, Jews, and native Eastern Christians.
The Crusaders also tried to gain control of the city of Tyre, but
were defeated by the Muslims. The people of Tyre asked Zahir al-Din
Atabek, the leader of Damascus, for help defending their city from the
Franks with the promise to surrender Tyre to him. When the Franks were
defeated the people of Tyre did not surrender the city, but Zahir al-Din
simply said “What I have done I have done only for the sake of God and
the Muslims, nor out of desire for wealth and kingdom.”
After gaining control of Jerusalem the Crusaders created four
Crusader states: the kingdom of Jerusalem, the County of Edessa, the
Principality of Antioch and the County of Tripoli. Initially,
Muslims did very little about the Crusader states due to internal
conflicts. Eventually, the Muslims began to reunite under the
leadership of Imad al-Din Zangi. He began by re-taking Edessa in 1144.
It was the first city to fall to the Crusaders, and became the first to
be recaptured by the Muslims. This led the Pope to call for a second
The Crusaders worship the true cross after it is found in Jerusalem
placed in the church of the Resurrection.
Crusade of 1101
Following this crusade there was a second, less successful wave of
crusaders, in which Turks led by Kilij Arslan soundly defeated the
Crusaders in three separate battles in a well-managed response to the
First Crusade. This is known as the Crusade of 1101 and may be
considered an adjunct of the First Crusade.
Second Crusade 1147–1149
After a period of relative peace in which Christians and Muslims
co-existed in the Holy Land, Muslims conquered the town of Edessa. A new
crusade was called for by various preachers, most notably by Bernard of
Clairvaux. French and South German armies, under the Kings Louis VII and
Conrad III respectively, marched to Jerusalem in 1147 but failed to win
any major victories, launching a failed pre-emptive siege of Damascus,
an independent city that would soon fall into the hands of Nur ad-Din,
the main enemy of the Crusaders. On the other side of the
Mediterranean, however, the Second Crusade met with great success as a
group of Northern European Crusaders stopped in Portugal, allied with
the Portuguese King, Afonso I of Portugal, and retook Lisbon from the
Muslims in 1147. In the Holy Land by 1150, both the kings of France
and Germany had returned to their countries without any result. St.
Bernard of Clairvaux, who in his preachings had encouraged the Second
Crusade, was upset with the amount of misdirected violence and slaughter
of the Jewish population of the Rhineland. North Germans and Danes
attacked the Wends during the 1147 Wendish Crusade, which was
unsuccessful as well.
Godfrey requests tributes from the emirs of Cæsarea, Ptolemais,
and Ascalon to acknowledge their submission.
Third Crusade 1187–1192
In 1187, Saladin, Sultan of Egypt,
recaptured Jerusalem, following the Battle of Hattin. After taking
Jerusalem back from the Christians, the Muslims spared civilians and for
the most part left churches and shrines untouched to be able to collect
ransom money from the Franks. Saladin is remembered respectfully in
both European and Islamic sources as a man who "always stuck to his
promise and was loyal." The reports of Saladin's victories shocked
Europe. Pope Gregory VIII called for a crusade, which was led by several
of Europe's most important leaders: Philip II of France, Richard I of
England (aka Richard the Lionheart), and Frederick I, Holy Roman
Emperor. Frederick drowned in Cilicia in 1190, leaving an unstable
alliance between the English and the French. Before his arrival in the
Holy Land Richard captured the island of Cyprus from the Byzantines in
1191. Cyprus would serve as a Crusader base for centuries to come,
and would remain in Western European hands until the Ottoman Empire
conquered the island from Venice in 1571. After reaching port,
Richard the Lionheart promised to leave noncombatants unharmed if the
city of Acre surrendered. The brutality of an outnumbered army in a
hostile land could be seen again when the city surrendered and Richard
proceeded to massacre everyone, despite his earlier promise. From
the Frankish point of view, an oath made to a non-Christian was no oath
at all. Philip left, in 1191, after the Crusaders had recaptured Acre
from the Muslims. The Crusader army headed south along the coast of the
Mediterranean Sea. They defeated the Muslims near Arsuf, recaptured the
port city of Jaffa, and were in sight of Jerusalem. However, Richard
did not believe he would be able to hold Jerusalem once it was captured,
as the majority of Crusaders would then return to Europe, and the
crusade ended without the taking of Jerusalem. Richard left the
following year after negotiating a treaty with Saladin. The treaty
allowed unarmed Christian pilgrims to make pilgrimages to the Holy Land
(Jerusalem), while it remained under Muslim control.
On Richard's way home, his ship was wrecked and he ended up in
Austria, where his enemy, Duke Leopold, captured him. The Duke delivered
Richard to the Emperor Henry VI, who held the King for ransom. By 1197,
Henry felt ready for a crusade, but he died in the same year of malaria.
Richard I died during fighting in Europe and never returned to the Holy
Land. The Third Crusade is sometimes referred to as the Kings' Crusade.
Fourth Crusade 1202–1204
The Fourth Crusade was initiated in 1202 by Pope Innocent
III, with the intention of invading the Holy Land through Egypt. Because
the Crusaders lacked the funds to pay for the fleet and provisions that
they had contracted from the Venetians, Doge Enrico Dandolo enlisted the
crusaders to restore the Christian city of Zara (Zadar) to obedience.
Because they subsequently lacked provisions and time on their vessel
lease, the leaders decided to go to Constantinople, where they attempted
to place a Byzantine exile on the throne. After a series of
misunderstandings and outbreaks of violence, the Crusaders sacked the
city in 1204, and established the so-called Latin Empire and a series of
other Crusader states throughout the territories of the Greek Byzantine
Empire. This is often seen as the final breaking point of the Great
Schism between the Eastern Orthodox Church and (Western) Roman Catholic
The Albigensian Crusade was launched in 1209 to eliminate the heretical
Cathars of Occitania (the south of modern-day France). It was a
decade-long struggle that had as much to do with the concerns of
northern France to extend its control southwards as it did with heresy.
In the end, both the Cathars and the independence of southern France
The Children's Crusade is a series of possibly fictitious or
misinterpreted events of 1212. The story is that an outburst of the old
popular enthusiasm led a gathering of children in France and Germany,
which Pope Innocent III interpreted as a reproof from heaven to their
unworthy elders. The leader of the French army, Stephen, led 30,000
children. The leader of the German army, Nicholas, led 7,000 children.
None of the children actually reached the Holy Land: those who did not
return home or settle along the route to Jerusalem either died from
shipwreck or hunger, or were sold into slavery in Egypt or North Africa.
Gerard of Avesnes, a Christian knight, tied to a high mast
enemy wall and certain to die, begs Godfrey to save his life.
Fifth Crusade 1217–1221
By processions, prayers, and preaching, the Church attempted to set
another crusade afoot, and the Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215)
formulated a plan for the recovery of the Holy Land. In the first phase,
a crusading force from Austria and Hungary joined the forces of the king
of Jerusalem and the prince of Antioch to take back Jerusalem. In the
second phase, crusader forces achieved a remarkable feat in the capture
of Damietta in Egypt in 1219, but under the urgent insistence of the
papal legate, Pelagius, they then launched a foolhardy attack on Cairo
in July of 1221. The crusaders were turned back after their dwindling
supplies led to a forced retreat. A night-time attack by the ruler of
Egypt, the powerful Sultan Al-Kamil, resulted in a great number of
crusader losses and eventually in the surrender of the army. Al-Kamil
agreed to an eight-year peace agreement with Europe.
Sixth Crusade 1228–1229
Emperor Frederick II had repeatedly vowed a crusade but failed to live
up to his words, for which he was excommunicated by Pope Gregory IX in
1228. He nonetheless set sail from Brindisi, landed in Palestine, and
through diplomacy he achieved unexpected success: Jerusalem, Nazareth,
and Bethlehem were delivered to the crusaders for a period of ten years.
Louis IX attacks DamiettaIn 1229 after failing to conquer Egypt,
Frederick II of the Holy Roman Empire, made a peace treaty with
Al-Kamil, the ruler of Egypt. This treaty allowed Christians to rule
over most of Jerusalem, while the Muslims were given control of the Dome
of the Rock and the Al-Aksa mosque. The peace brought about by this
treaty lasted for about ten years. Many of the Muslims though were
not happy with Al-Kamil for giving up control of Jerusalem and in 1244,
following a siege, the Muslims regained control of the city.
Baldwin storms the city of Cæsarea, ruthlessy killing all of the people.
Seventh Crusade 1248–1254
The papal interests represented by the Templars brought on a conflict
with Egypt in 1243, and in the following year a Khwarezmian force
summoned by the latter stormed Jerusalem. The crusaders were drawn into
battle at La Forbie in Gaza. The crusader army and its Bedouin
mercenaries were completely defeated within forty-eight hours by
Baibars' force of Khwarezmian tribesmen. This battle is considered by
many historians to have been the death knell to the Kingdom of Outremer.
Although this provoked no widespread outrage in Europe as the fall of
Jerusalem in 1187 had done, Louis IX of France organized a crusade
against Egypt from 1248 to 1254, leaving from the newly constructed port
of Aigues-Mortes in southern France. It was a failure, and Louis spent
much of the crusade living at the court of the crusader kingdom in Acre.
In the midst of this crusade was the first Shepherds' Crusade in 1251.
Eighth Crusade 1270
The eighth Crusade was organized by Louis IX in 1270, again sailing from
Aigues-Mortes, initially to come to the aid of the remnants of the
crusader states in Syria. However, the crusade was diverted to Tunis,
where Louis spent only two months before dying. For his efforts, Louis
was later canonised. The Eighth Crusade is sometimes counted as the
Seventh, if the Fifth and Sixth Crusades are counted as a single
crusade. The Ninth Crusade is sometimes also counted as part of the
In an impulsive attack on the Saracens, 200 Christian knights,
Baldwin, attack 20,000 Saracens and are surrounded and vanquished.
Ninth Crusade 1271–1272
The future Edward I of England undertook another expedition against
Baibars in 1271, after having accompanied Louis on the Eighth Crusade.
Louis died in Tunisia. The Ninth Crusade was deemed a failure and ended
the Crusades in the Middle East.
In their later years, faced with the threat of the Egyptian Mamluks,
the Crusaders' hopes rested with a Franco-Mongol alliance. The
Ilkhanate's Mongols were thought to be sympathetic to Christianity, and
the Frankish princes were most effective in gathering their help,
engineering their invasions of the Middle East on several
occasions. Although the Mongols successfully attacked
as far south as Damascus on these campaigns, the ability to effectively
coordinate with Crusades from the west was repeatedly frustrated most
notably at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260. The Mamluks eventually made
good their pledge to cleanse the entire Middle East of the Franks. With
the fall of Antioch (1268), Tripoli (1289), and Acre (1291), those
Christians unable to leave the cities were massacred or enslaved and the
last traces of Christian rule in the Levant disappeared.
The very last Frankish foothold was the island of Ruad, three
kilometers from the Syrian shore, which was occupied for several years
by the Knights Templar but was ultimately lost to the Mamluks in the
Siege of Ruad on September 26, 1302.
Northern Crusades (Baltic and Germany)
The Crusades in the Baltic Sea area and in Central Europe were efforts
by (mostly German) Christians to subjugate and convert the peoples of
these areas to Christianity. These Crusades ranged from the 12th
century, contemporaneous with the Second Crusade, to the 16th century.
Contemporaneous with the Second Crusade, Saxons and Danes fought
against Polabian Slavs in the 1147 Wendish Crusade. In the 13th century,
the Teutonic Knights led Germans, Poles, and Pomeranians against the Old
Prussians during the Prussian Crusade.
Between 1232 and 1234, there was a crusade against the Stedingers.
This crusade was special, because the Stedingers were not heathens or
heretics, but fellow Roman Catholics. They were free Frisian farmers who
resented attempts of the count of Oldenburg and the archbishop
Bremen-Hamburg to make an end to their freedoms. The archbishop
excommunicated them, and Pope Gregory IX declared a crusade in 1232. The
Stedingers were defeated in 1234.
The Teutonic Order's attempts to conquer Orthodox Russia
(particularly the Republics of Pskov and Novgorod), an enterprise
endorsed by Pope Gregory IX, can also be considered as a part of the
Northern Crusades. One of the major blows for the idea of the conquest
of Russia was the Battle of the Ice in 1242. With or without the Pope's
blessing, Sweden also undertook several crusades against Orthodox
Hiding their sorrow, the Christians support Baldwin when he falls
deathly ill in the desert between Egypt and Palestine.
Crusade against the Tatars
In 1259 Mongols led by Burundai and Nogai Khan ravaged the principality
of Halych-Volynia, Lithuania and Poland. After that Pope Alexander IV
tried without success to create a crusade against the Blue Horde (see
Mongol invasion of Poland).
In the 14th century, Khan Tokhtamysh combined the Blue and White
Hordes forming the Golden Horde. It seemed that the power of the Golden
Horde had begun to rise, but in 1389, Tokhtamysh made the disastrous
decision of waging war on his former master, the great Tamerlane.
Tamerlane's hordes rampaged through southern Russia, crippling the
Golden Horde's economy and practically wiping out its defenses in those
After losing the war, Tokhtamysh was then dethroned by the party of
Khan Temur Kutlugh and Emir Edigu, supported by Tamerlane. When
Tokhtamysh asked Vytautas the Great for assistance in retaking the
Horde, the latter readily gathered a huge army which included
Lithuanians, Ruthenians, Russians, Mongols, Moldavians, Poles, Romanians
and Teutonic Knights.
In 1398, the huge army moved from Moldavia and conquered the southern
steppe all the way to the Dnieper River and northern Crimea. Inspired by
their great successes, Vytautas declared a 'Crusade against the Tatars'
with Papal backing. Thus, in 1399, the army of Vytautas once again moved
on the Horde. His army met the Horde's at the Vorskla River, slightly
inside Lithuanian territory.
Although the Lithuanian army was well equipped with cannon, it could
not resist a rear attack from Edigu's reserve units. Vytautas hardly
escaped alive. Many princes of his kin—possibly as many as 20—were
killed (for example, Stefan Musat, Prince of Moldavia and two of his
brothers, while a fourth was badly injured), and the
victorious Tatars besieged Kiev. "And the Christian blood flowed like
water, up to the Kievan walls," as one chronicler put it. Meanwhile,
Temur Kutlugh died from the wounds received in the battle, and
Tokhtamysh was killed by one of his own men.
Crusades in the Balkans
To counter the expanding Ottoman Empire, several crusades were launched
in the 15th century. The most notable are:
the Crusade of Nicopolis (1396) organized by Sigismund of Luxemburg
king of Hungary culminated in the Battle of Nicopolis
the Crusade of Varna (1444) led by the Polish-Hungarian king Władysław
Warneńczyk ended in the Battle of Varna
and the Crusade of 1456 organized to lift the Siege of Belgrade led by
John Hunyadi and Giovanni da Capistrano
The Aragonese Crusade, or Crusade of Aragón, was declared by Pope Martin
IV against the King of Aragón, Peter III the Great, in 1284 and 1285.
The Alexandrian Crusade of October 1365 was a minor seaborne crusade
against Muslim Alexandria led by Peter I of Cyprus. His motivation was
at least as commercial as religious.
The Hussite Crusade(s), also known as the "Hussite Wars," or the
"Bohemian Wars," involved the military actions against and amongst the
followers of Jan Hus in Bohemia in the period 1420 to circa 1434. The
Hussite Wars were arguably the first European war in which hand-held
gunpowder weapons such as muskets made a decisive contribution. The
Taborite faction of the Hussite warriors were basically infantry, and
their many defeats of larger armies with heavily armoured knights helped
affect the infantry revolution. In the end, it was an inconclusive war.
The Swedish conquest of Finland in the Middle Ages has traditionally
been divided into three "crusades": the First Swedish Crusade around
1155 AD, the Second Swedish Crusade about 1249 AD and the Third Swedish
Crusade in 1293 AD.
The First Swedish Crusade is purely legendary, and according to most
historians today, never took place as described in the legend and did
not result in any ties between Finland and Sweden. For the most part, it
was made up in the late 13th century to date the Swedish rule in Finland
further back in time. No historical record has also survived describing
the second one, but it probably did take place and ended up in the
concrete conquest of southwestern Finland. The third one was against
Novgorod, and is properly documented by both parties of the
According to archaeological finds, Finland was largely Christian
already before the said crusades. Thus the "crusades" can rather be seen
as ordinary expeditions of conquest whose main target was territorial
gain. The expeditions were dubbed as actual crusades only in the 19th
century by the national-romanticist Swedish and Finnish