4.2 The Crusades

AGE 4: The Time of cities and states
4.2 The Crusades
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This lesson contains 39 slides, with interactive quizzes, text slides and 5 videos.

time-iconLesson duration is: 45 min

Items in this lesson

AGE 4: The Time of cities and states
4.2 The Crusades

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people in this lesson
Urban II
Byzantine empire
Egypt & Syria
Richard the Lionheart

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What you can explain /  do after this lesson
  • why the Pope called for the Crusades
  • why people took part in the Crusades
  • explain the positive and negative effects of the Crusades
  • explain the difference between short and long term effects of the Crusades
  • make a difference between intended and unintended causes of the Crusades

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Important dates in this lesson:

1054: the Great Schism 
1095: Pope Urban II calls for a Crusade
1099: Crusaders conquer Jerusalem
1178: Saladin reconquers Jerusalem for the Muslims
1192: Treaty of Jaffa
1289: Muslims have reconquered all Crusader states

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Word Duty

Crusade: Military expeditions to free Jerusalem from Muslim rule
Seljuqs: a Turkish Muslim tribe
Holy land: Jerusalem and its surroundings
Great Schism: split between the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of the Eastern Orthodox
Crusader states: small states formed by crusaders to defend their conquered lands

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In 1095, Pope Urban II asked all Christians in Western Europe for help. He wanted to organise Crusades: military expeditions to free Jerusalem from Muslim rule. Why did the Pope ask his followers to fight? And why did so many people respond to his plea?
Painting by Frederic Schopin (1804-1880) depicting the First Crusade — "Battle delivered under the walls of Antioch between the crusaders led by Bohemond and the army of Karbouka, general of the Sultan of Persia, June 1098" 

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Jerusalem: a divided city

Around the year 1000, Muslims led by Caliph Al-Hakim conquered the city of Jerusalem in the former Kingdom of Israel. Jerusalem is a very special city. The three great monotheistic faiths see Jerusalem as a holy city.

For the Jews, Jerusalem is a holy city because it is where the famous Temple of Solomon once stood. But the Christians also see Jerusalem as their holy city, because Jesus Christ lived in the city and was killed and buried near Jerusalem. Finally, Islam also sees Jerusalem as a holy city, because Mohammed ascended to heaven from Jerusalem.
Until the year 1000, followers of all three faiths could make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. But when the Muslims took control of Jerusalem, pilgrims of other faiths were no longer welcome. To show that the Muslim leaders meant business, the Caliph had the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre destroyed in 1009.
The Wailing Wall: the remains of the Jewish Temple of Salomon
the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre built on the site where Jesus was crucified
the Dome on the Rock, built on the place where Muhammad ascended into heaven

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1. The importance of Jerusalem. Drag the symbols and texts to the correct picture
Holy Sepulcher
Wailing Wall
Dome of the Rock

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A call for help

As mentioned in Lesson 3.2, Islam rapidly spread in the Middle East after it was established by Muhammad in the seventh century. Around 1050, a Turkish Muslim tribe called the Seljuqs had conquered large parts of the Arabian world. By 1080 the Seljuqs threatened to attack the Byzantine Empire. This Christian empire was the eastern continuation of what was once the Roman Empire. Its Emperor, Alexios I, called on Pope Urban II to help him.
modern painting depicting the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 AD.
In this 15th-century French miniature depicting the Battle of Manzikert, the combatants are clad in contemporary Western European armour.

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Catholic and orthodox church

The Pope wanted to make the Holy Land, Jerusalem and its surroundings, Christian again. Christians who wanted to visit Jerusalem, so-called pilgrims, should be able to travel there safely. Giving support to Alexios I could also make the Pope more powerful.
In 1054, the Great Schism took place: The Church split up between the Catholic Church in the West and the Eastern Orthodox Church in the East. The Byzantine Empire did not recognise the authority of the Pope in Rome as their religious leader. Instead of Latin, Greek was used in the Eastern Orthodox Church. They also had their own leader, who was called the patriarch of Constantinople.
Urban II saw the Crusades as a chance to reunite all Christians and become the spiritual leader of the entire Christian Church, both catholic and orthodox.
In 2016 Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill have held the first meeting of a Catholic pope and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in almost 1,000 years. 
Medieval map of the (flat) earth with Jerusalem at the center.

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Orthodox Church
Catholic Church
2. Do the drag & drop

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3. Look at source 4.2.4. As on most other maps in the Middle Ages, Jerusalem is located in the middle of the map. What does this tell you about the importance of Jerusalem?

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4. In this section a number of reasons are mentioned for Pope Urban II to organise the Crusades.
What are these reasons mentioned?

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5. Which of these reasons was the direct cause for him to organise the Crusades? Explain your answer.

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God wills it !

In 1095, Urban II organized a council in the city of Clermont. It was visited by so many nobles and churchmen that the meeting had to take place outside. In a religious speech called a sermon, he pleaded for the nobility and people to free the Holy Land from the control of the Seljuqs. He told the people that the Seljuqs robbed, tortured or even killed Christian women and children.

Pope Urban II’s speech at Clermont was very successful. People were said to have shouted ‘God wills it!’ in response. They were especially eager to take action, because the Pope had promised that all their sins would be forgiven if they took part in the Crusades.
Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont. Painting from 1474 (Bibliothèque nationale).
Pope Urban II’s speech at Clermont, according to an eyewitness called Fulcher of Chartres. His chronicle about the First Crusade was published around 1106.

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6. Try to remember what you know from lesson 2.3 about the spread of Islam.

a. How did the first Muslims who spread their religion treat the Christians?

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6b. How did the Seljuqs treat the Christians according to Pope Urban II?

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7. How did Pope Urban II motivate people to join the Crusades in source 4.2.7?

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8. People in Europe responded to Urban’s speech by shouting ‘God wills it!’
Do you think that Muslims would have agreed to this?

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The first Crusade

The pope had hoped for a couple of hundred knights to answer the call. But instead, about 100,000 common men and women, mostly peasants with very little fighting skills, took part in the First Crusade.
Only 15,000 of them eventually reached Jerusalem in 1099. Most of them died of hunger, thirst, exhaustion and disease. Along the way, the Crusaders plundered towns and villages to find food and supplies. Apart from the knights, most of them had no real weapons to fight the Muslims.
Women enthusiastically took part of the Crusades. An Arab historian called Imad al-Din (1125-1201) even wrote that they wore men’s clothes and joined the front lines.

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9. Besides knights and people of the Church, many common men and women joined the Crusades as well. How could they have been motivated by Pope Urban’s speech (source 4.2.7)?

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Massacre of the Jews

The Crusades were a turning point in the history of the Jews. Although local bishops were against it, crusaders killed groups of Jewish people as they travelled to the Holy Land.
In parts of France and Germany, Jews were seen as enemies of Christians, just as much as the Muslims. During the First Crusade this led to the destruction of Jewish communities in Germany, known as the Rhineland Massacres. After Jerusalem was captured in 1099, Crusaders massacred about 70,000 Jews and Muslims.
During the Second and Third Crusades, Jews in France suffered most. In England, the persecution of Jews went furthest: they were completely expelled from the country in 1290.
These massacres are often seen as the first in a sequence of antisemitic events in Europe which culminated in the Holocaust in World War 2.

Massacre of the Jews of Metz during the First Crusade, by Auguste Migette, 19th century

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10. Why were Jews seen as the enemies of Christians during the Crusades?

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What were the different motives for the Crusades?

Why did so many people join the crusade? Some reasons for going were:
  1. To obey the Pope's call to free the Holy city from the infidels and ensure access for pilgrims. 
  2. To be forgiven for past sins. The Pope offered forgiveness for anyone who took part. This was important for knights who had killed many people in battle.
  3. To get land overseas. This was tempting for a younger son who would not inherit his father's lands.
  4. Kings encouraged troublesome knights to go on Crusade because it got them out of the country.
  5. To see the world, have an adventure and prove their bravery.
  6. Serfs, peasants who belonged to their lord, joined the Crusades because the Pope promised them their freedom if they went.
  7. To gain wealth.

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11. The six reasons to join a crusade are numbered in the text. Drag the numbers to the correct picture. (1 picture can be linked to two numbers)

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Saladin reconquers Jerusalem

Although only few Christians survived the First Crusade, they were able to conquer Jerusalem and established Crusader States. These small states were ruled by European nobles and were designed to defend the land they had conquered. The most important Crusader state was the Kingdom of Jerusalem
Saladin was a Muslim military leader who wanted to remove the Crusaders from the Middle East and regain control of Jerusalem.
In 1187, after defeating a Crusader army, Saladin marched to Jerusalem. His army surrounded the city and began to fire arrows and catapult rocks over the walls. Within a week, the city surrendered and Saladin marched in victorious. Over the next year, Saladin captured most of the Crusader castles in the region.
When the Christians in Europe heard of the defeat of the Crusaders and the loss of Jerusalem, they mounted the Third Crusade under the leadership of King Richard the Lionheart. For the first time in his military career, Saladin suffered major defeats in battle at both Acre and Arsuf. Despite their victories, the Crusaders soon wore down and realized they would not be able to take Jerusalem. Saladin and King Richard agreed to a truce. In 1192, they signed the Treaty of Jaffa which kept Jerusalem in the hands of the Muslims, but allowed for the safe passage of Christian pilgrims.

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Effects of the Crusades

In the end, the Holy Land did not become Christian. Because of this, the Crusades have often been considered a failure: The Byzantine Empire was not saved, Christians were not united and tens of thousands of people were killed or ended up as slaves.
The Crusades did have huge economic and cultural effects. Italian cities such as Venice and Genoa became very rich from shipping Crusaders to the Holy Land. At the same time, trade with the Middle East prospered. Both European and Arab traders made great profits.

Europe also benefited from the Crusades culturally. The Arabs were far ahead of Europeans in terms of medicine and science. They had preserved a lot of knowledge from the ancient Greeks and Romans. This included knowledge that was lost in Western Europe. Christians that came into contact with Arabs learned about new medical practices, astrology, Arabic numbers, navigation techniques and pastimes such as chess.
Cities like Venice became very rich during the Crusades. Miniature from the 15th century.
Science in the Islamic world. Image from the 16th century.

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12. A historian states that: “Although the Holy Land was not conquered, the Crusades were a success in the long run”.
People at the time might think differently about this statement, depending on their position in society. Argue for each of the following people, if they would agree with the historian:

A. the pope

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12. A historian states that: “Although the Holy Land was not conquered, the Crusades were a success in the long run”.
People at the time might think differently about this statement, depending on their position in society. Argue for each of the following people, if they would agree with the historian:

B. a merchant in Venice

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12. A historian states that: “Although the Holy Land was not conquered, the Crusades were a success in the long run”.
People at the time might think differently about this statement, depending on their position in society. Argue for each of the following people, if they would agree with the historian:

C. a Jew in Aachen, Germany

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12. A historian states that: “Although the Holy Land was not conquered, the Crusades were a success in the long run”.
People at the time might think differently about this statement, depending on their position in society. Argue for each of the following people, if they would agree with the historian:

D. a doctor in Rome

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Anything that's not clear?
Ask your question about this lesson here.

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