The Crusades were a series of wars during the Middle Ages where the Christians of Europe tried to retake control of Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the Muslims.
Jerusalem is important to the monotheistic religions. It was the site of the Jews’ original temple to God built by King Solomon. The Muslims believe Muhammad ascended to heaven from Jerusalem. Christians believe that Christ was crucified and rose again in Jerusalem.
The Arabs had allowed Christians to go on pilgrimages to the city of Jerusalem until the Seljuk Turks took control of the Holy Land in 1070. They refused Christian pilgrims. Byzantine Emperor Alexius I asked the Pope to help pushing the Turks out of the Holy Land. The Pope gathered an army together with the Franks and the Holy Roman Empire.
Some crusaders saw the army as a way to get rich and use their fighting skills; others saw it as a holy mission.
The Crusaders displayed a red cross on their clothing, armor, and flags.
The First Crusade (1095-1099): Around 30,000 soldiers from Europe, including knights, peasants, and other commoners, drove out the Seljuk Turks and took control of Jerusalem. This was the most successful crusade.
The Second Crusade (1147-1149): In 1146 the city of Edessa was conquered by the Turks. The entire population was killed or sold into slavery. The second Crusade was unsuccessful. The Teutonic Knights and the Templars were formed to help defend Christendom.
The Third Crusade (1187-1192): In 1187 Saladin, the sultan of Egypt, recaptured the city of Jerusalem from the Christians. Emperor Barbarossa of Germany, King Philip Augustus of France, and King Richard the Lionheart of England together launched the Third Crusade. Richard the Lionheart fought Saladin for several years without conquering Jerusalem. He did win the right for Christian pilgrims to visit Jerusalem again.
The Fourth Crusade (1202-1204): Pope Innocent III hoped to recapture the Holy Land. However, the Crusaders became greedy and they conquered and plundered Constantinople instead.
Children's Crusade (1212): Started by a French child named Stephen of Cloyes and a German kid named Nicholas, tens of thousands of children gathered to march to the Holy Land. None of the children made it to the Holy Land and most disappeared, likely sold into slavery.
Crusades Five through Nine (1217 - 1272): None of these five crusades had any success.
Source: The Crusades 1
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