Edited by Hugh Fogelman



The conflict started in the 600’s C.E. when Arabs conquered the area around the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Jerusalem and other places remained under Arab rule until the 1,000's when the Turks captured all the land the Arabs had conquered.

The word "crusade" (crux in Latin) means "cross.” The call to the Christian faithful for a "holy crusade" against the Islamic infidels (non-believers in Christ) was issued by Pope Urban II, on November 26, 1095. The Byzantine emperor, Alexius Comnenus asked for help in fighting the Turks, who, during the 1000's, swept in from Asia and took all of Asia Minor (now Turkey) from the Byzantine Empire and occupied Arab Syria, which included the Holy Land, and captured Jerusalem in 1071.

Pope Urban II saw an opportunity to win glory for the church and by having a common foe, would help reduce warfare among European kings and nobles. Those who joined the great expeditions sewed the symbol of the cross of Jesus on their outer clothing. This was to be a Holy War in the name of Jesus. By the following summer, some 200,000 knights, men-at-arms, priests, thieves, peasants, and artisans had assembled in France to march against the Moslems (Arabs). Christians were roused to organize the crusades primarily by religious faith. But the expeditions also were part of the larger effort by Europeans to increase their power, territory, and riches.

During this time, another event in history was occurring. There was hardly a time during the Middle Ages when the Jews (also called "INFIDELS") were not under harsh attack from feudal kings, barons, popes, bishops or preaching friars. Under the disguise of "religious grounds," those in positions of power started casting their eyes on the Jews’ money, their homes and their possessions. This greed was always made to sound highly legal and righteous. There are number of instances found in old German history books in which the hatred for the Jew was accompanied by an undisguised love of Jewish money and for the sake of respectability, was delicately blended with the incense of faith and Christian morality.

 Hatred of the Jew served as a ready incendiary torch which could be lighted profitably at all times for the purpose of diverting the attention of the Christian masses from the misery of their daily lives in their inhumane feudal society. Jews were once again convenient scapegoats against whom the rulers could incite the anger of their subjects―an anger which otherwise might be directed against themselves. The popular image was that the Jew was a son of the Christian Devil, the Antichrist incarnated, as invented in the New Testament.

The religious hysteria of the Crusaders mounted under Peter the Hermit's (a preacher) impassioned verbal anti-Semitic attacks. Peter told his Christian Knights, since the Jews were as much infidels as the Arabs and since they were much closer than the Arabs, they might as well begin their "holy crusade for Christ" by killing Jews along the way―a sure way for the Crusaders to earn salvation for themselves. This precipitated a genocidal slaughter of Jews on a staggering scale. First in France, then in England, the Crusaders massacred the Jews wherever they found them. From there the tide of violence rolled on, without interference from any Church, into Germany, Austria, and elsewhere in Europe. Their war cry was, “Christ-killers, embrace the Cross or die!"  Thousands of Jews in the synagogues were burned alive by the Crusaders. European records tell of more than 350 Jewish communities which were wiped out. Hundreds of thousands Jews died―all under the approval of the Christian Church, in the name of Jesus.

The 1st crusade (1096-1099 C.E.) Peter the Hermit marched towards Constantinople (now Istanbul) with poorly armed and poorly trained common people and were soon slaughtered by the Turks. He didn’t wait for the main armies of knights, who were busy slaughtering unarmed Jews. Separate armies of knights left Europe in the autumn of 1096 by overland and in ships. In 1097, they began their long march to Jerusalem and in 1098 they captured the city. Most of the crusaders then returned home. Those who remained founded a group of four states on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. They named the area; the County of Edessa; the principality of Antioch; the County of Tripolis; and the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

After the First Crusade, deeply shocked by the bestiality of the Knights of the Cross, Bernard of Clairvaux, in vein, tried to put out the fires of Jew killings that he himself had helped light. But his pleas against violence toward the Jews went unheeded. The incitements of his colleagues in Christianity, Peter of Cluny and the monk Rudolph, successfully drowned out his moderation voice; the first even declared that death was too good a punishment for the Jews and that "Heaven had ordained that they be reserved for great ignominy, for an existence more bitter than death."

Church records stated that the reason the Church, the emperors, the kings, and other princes, allowed the Jews to live among the Christians is this: "That they might always live in captivity and thus be a reminder to all men that they are descended from the lineage of those who crucified our Lord Jesus Christ." Thanks to the Gospel of Matthew, this was engraved into their minds.

The 2nd crusade (1147-1149 C.E.) was due to the fact that the Turks conquered the County of Edessa. King Louis VII of France and Emperor Conrad III of Germany, because of the  preaching of St. Bernard,  led armies into Asia Minor, but they fought among themselves and the Turks defeated them before they reached Edessa.

The 3rd crusade (1189-1192 C.E.) followed the Turkish recapture of the city of Jerusalem in 1187, along with much of the Holy Land under the leadership of Saladin. Only Tyre, Tripolis, and Antioch remained in Christian hands. King Richard I (the Lion-Hearted) of England defeated Saladin in several battles and recaptured the northern part of Jerusalem. He couldn't retake Jerusalem, but persuaded the Turks to let Christian enter the city freely.

The 4th crusade (1201-1204 C.E.) was the last serious expedition against the Arabs. Pope Innocent III persuaded many French nobles to take part in this expedition. The crusaders needed ships to take them across the Mediterranean, but could not pay the costs. The Venetians said they would transport the crusaders to the Holy Land if the crusaders helped them attack the Byzantine Empire. The combined forces seized Constantinople and removed the Byzantine Emperor from his throne and replaced him with Count Baldwin of Flanders. They ruled the Byzantine Empire until 1261.

The Children's Crusade in 1212 C.E. was not important to history, just another tragic story. The crusaders were boys and girls stirred by religious fever to go to the Holy Land. Many were less than 12 years old. There were 2 armies of them, one from France and one from Germany. None of the children reached the Holy Land and only a few of the young returned to their homes―all in the name of Christ.

 In the 5th crusade (1217-1221 C.E.) the Christians captured a town at the mouth of the Nile River in Egypt. They killed every Jew and Arab living there. But they soon gave up the town in exchange for a truce with the Arabs. The crusade was a failure.

 After the atrocities perpetrated on the Jews during the Fifth Crusade, in Europe and abroad, Pope Gregory IX protested to Saint Louis IX, the king of France, about the knightly deeds of his Crusaders: "Their excesses are horrible and outrageous, an offense against God and a dishonor to the Holy Chair through whose privileges the Jews are protected."

A few years later, Pope Innocent IV expressed his revulsion for the conduct of the Knights of the Cross in the Rhineland.  H called on the German bishops to halt the carnage and forbid all persecution of the Jews. This sounded good, but not everyone stopped the killing. The Archbishop Ruthard of Mayence, for example, invited Jews to take refuge in his palace, where they could conveniently be slaughtered.

Historic records show when the massacre was over, 1,300 Jewish bodies of men, women, and children were carried out of the palace.

The 6th crusade (1228-1229 C.E.) was led by Emperor Frederick II of the Holy Roman Empire. He was a skillful bargainer. Without fighting a single battle, he got the Arabs to turn over Jerusalem to the Christians. The Holy City remained Christian until the Arabs seized it again in 1244.

The 7th crusade (1248-1254 C.E.) was lead by King Louis IX of France, but was surrounded and captured by the Turks. They freed the crusaders only after the Christians paid a huge ransom.

The 8th crusade, in 1270, was again led by King Louis IX (seeking revenge). He landed his army at Tunis, but old and ill, he died and his army returned to Europe.

In the East, the Arabs continued to make gains against the Christians. They captured Antioch in 1268 C.E., and in 1291, they captured Acre, the last Christian foothold in Syria.

By this time, Europeans were losing interest in the Holy Land. There were weak attempts to organize crusades in the 1300 and 1400's, but none of them succeeded. Europe was turning its attention westward to the Atlantic Ocean and beyond.

Columbus sailed to the New World. Europe turned toward America to satisfy its ambition to expand.

As of that time, the Holy Land belonged to the Moslems (Arabs), the Islamic faith.


Reference Sources:

The Book of Jewish Knowledge

The World Book Encyclopedia

Byzantine Empire Frederick I & II

Holy Roman Emperors pope Innocent III

Knights & Knighthood

Knights of Saint John Knights of Templars

Louis IX of France

Peter the Hermit

Philip II of France

Richard I of England

Urban II