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I am curious as to where a compiled list of participants in The Crusades exist and how would one access this, particularly of European Crusaders but would find it interesting of any records of both sides of The Crusades as well.
I have always been under the assumption that due to the time period, the chaos, lack of literacy, record keeping, printing press, and decay and destruction of records that not much would exist.
Then I came across this article "Who Went on the Albigensian Crusade?" in the English Historical Review (Powers, English Historical Review, 2013) and it stating "Many deeds recorded grants, pledges or leases of property that were directly related to the crusade" and it got me wondering what other records would exist for each of the crusades.
I would expect there would at minimum be some records or organizers of groups and perhaps something like "John Smith and 3 swordsmen joined the campaign of so and so… " in addition to the records above as well.
So what I am looking for is a ** research resource(s) of an electronic compiled list of 'known' participants** (not expecting a list of every participant) of The Crusades and any other individual participant information.
As from the article above it implies such as list is definitely possible and there are already sites like Medieval Soldiers and Medieval Genealogy though the Crusades basically predate the sites but they do have some information from them.
Does anyone know where such compiled list is available?
The Crusades: Causes & Goals
The Crusades were a series of military campaigns organised by Christian powers in order to retake Jerusalem and the Holy Land back from Muslim control. There would be eight officially sanctioned crusades between 1095 CE and 1270 CE and many more unofficial ones. Each campaign met with varying successes and failures but, ultimately, the wider objective of keeping Jerusalem and the Holy Land in Christian hands failed. Nevertheless, the appeal of the crusading ideal continued right up to the 16th century CE, and the purpose of this article is to consider what were the motivating factors for crusaders, from the Pope to the humblest warrior, especially for the very first campaign which established a model to be followed thereafter.
Who Wanted What?
Why the Crusades happened at all is a complex question with multiple answers. As the historian J. Riley-Smith notes:
It cannot be stressed often enough that crusades were arduous, disorientating, frightening, dangerous, and expensive for participants, and the continuing enthusiasm for them displayed over the centuries is not easy to explain. (10)
An estimated 90,000 men, women, and children of all classes were persuaded by political and religious leaders to participate in the First Crusade (1095-1202 CE), and their various motivations, along with those of the political and religious leaders of the time, must each be examined to reach a satisfactory explanation. Although we can never know exactly the thoughts or motivation of individuals, the general reasons why the crusading ideal was promoted and acted upon can be summarised according to the following key leaders and social groups:
- The Byzantine Emperor - to regain lost territory and defeat a threatening rival state.
- The Pope - to strengthen the papacy in Italy and achieve ascendancy as head of the Christian church.
- Merchants - to monopolise important trading centres currently under Muslim control and earn money shipping crusaders to the Middle East.
- Knights - to defend Christianity (its believers and holy places), follow the principles of chivalry and gain material wealth in this life and special favour in the next one.
The Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire had long been in control of Jerusalem and other sites holy to Christians but, in the latter decades of the 11th century CE, they lost them dramatically to the Seljuks, a Turkish tribe of the steppe. The Seljuks, already having made several raids into Byzantine territory, shockingly defeated a Byzantine army at the Battle of Manzikert in ancient Armenia in August 1071 CE. They even captured the Byzantine emperor Romanos IV Diogenes (r. 1068-1071 CE), and although he was released for a massive ransom, the emperor also had to hand over the important cities of Edessa, Hieropolis, and Antioch. The defeat astonished Byzantium, and there followed a scramble for the throne which even Romanos' return to Constantinople did not settle. It also meant that many of the Byzantine commanders in Asia Minor left their commands to stake their claim for the throne in Constantinople.
Meanwhile, the Seljuks took full advantage of this military neglect and, c. 1078 CE, created the Sultanate of Rum with their capital at Nicaea in Bithynia in northwest Asia Minor, which was captured from the Byzantines in 1081 CE. The Seljuks were even more ambitious, though, and by 1087 CE they controlled Jerusalem.
Several Byzantine emperors came and went but some stability was achieved during the reign of Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081-1118 CE), himself a veteran of Manzikert. Alexios could not stop the Seljuks though, and he had only himself to blame for his territorial losses as it was he who had weakened the military provinces (themes) in Asia Minor. Alexios had done this in fear of the rising power, and thus potential threat to himself, of the theme commanders. Instead, he had bolstered the garrisons of Constantinople. The emperor had also been doubtful of the loyalty of his Norman mercenaries, given the Norman control of Sicily and recent attacks in Byzantine Greece. Seeing the Seljuk control of Jerusalem as a means to tempt European leaders into action, Alexios appealed to the west in the spring of 1095 CE to help kick the Seljuks out of not just the Holy Land but also all those parts of the Byzantine Empire they had conquered. The sword of Christendom could prove a very useful weapon in preserving the crown of Byzantium.
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Pope Urban II (r. 1088-1099 CE) received Alexios' appeal in 1095 CE, but it was not the first time the Byzantine emperor had asked and got papal help. In 1091 CE the pope had sent troops to help the Byzantines against the Pecheneg steppe nomads who were invading the northern Danube area of the empire. Urban II was again disposed to assistance four years later for various reasons. A crusade would increase the prestige of the papacy, as it led a combined western army, and consolidate its position in Italy itself, having experienced serious threats from the Holy Roman Emperors in the previous century which had even forced the popes to relocate away from Rome.
Urban II also hoped to reunite the Western (Catholic) and Eastern (Orthodox) Christian churches, with himself at its head, above the Patriarch of Constantinople. The two churches had been split since 1054 CE over disagreements about doctrine and liturgical practices. The Crusades could be given wider appeal by playing on the threat of Islam to Christian territories and the Christians living there. Most important of all though was the loss of Christian control of the Holy Land with its unique sites of historical significance to Christianity, particularly the tomb of Jesus Christ, the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. On top of that, Spain was a reminder of how precarious the Christian world's situation really was. By 1085 CE half of Spain was back in Christian hands, and the Normans had wrested Sicily back to the Christian fold, but the Muslim threat in Europe remained a potent one, something Urban II could now remind people of. The appeal of Alexios I Komnenos had all sorts of political and religious advantages.
On 27 November 1095 CE, Urban II called for a crusade in a speech during the Council of Clermont, France. The message, known as the Indulgence and aimed specifically at knights, was loud and clear: those who defended Christendom would be embarking on a pilgrimage, all their sins would be washed away and their souls would reap untold rewards in the next life. In medieval Europe, Christianity permeated every aspect of daily life, pilgrimage was common, monasteries were full and the number of newly created saints booming. The idea of sin was especially prevalent and so Urban II's promise of immunity from its consequences would have appealed to many. Crucially, too, the church could condone a campaign of violence because it was one of liberation (not attack) and it had a just and righteous aim.
Urban II embarked on a preaching tour in France during 1095-6 CE to recruit crusaders, where his message was spiced up with exaggerated tales of how, at that very moment, Christian monuments were being defiled and Christian believers persecuted and tortured with impunity. Embassies and letters were dispatched to all parts of Christendom. Major churches such as those at Limoges, Angers, and Tours acted as recruitment centres, as did many rural churches and especially the monasteries. Across Europe, warriors gathered throughout 1096 CE, ready to embark for Jerusalem.
Merchants, although not so involved in the First Crusade, certainly became more involved from 1200 CE as they wanted to open up trade routes with the East, even to control such prosperous trade centres as Antioch and Jerusalem. Further, merchants could make a handsome profit from ferrying crusaders across the Mediterranean. Indeed, from the Second Crusade (1147-1149 CE), lucrative contracts were drawn up beforehand to ship armies across to the Middle East. The Italian trading states of Venice, Pisa, and Genoa, as well as Marseille in France, were particular rivals, and each was eager to gain a monopoly on east-west trade. It should be remembered, though, that these cities also provided plenty of religious zealots keen to fight for the Christian cause and not just make cash from it.
By the 11th century CE society in medieval Europe had become increasingly militarised. Central governments simply did not have the means to govern on the ground across every part of their territories. Those who did govern in practice at local level were large landowners, the barons who had castles and a force of knights to defend them. Knights, even kings and princes, too, joined the crusades for religious principles, a reward in the afterlife perhaps or the pure ideal that Christians and Christian sites must be protected from the infidel. It is important perhaps to note that there was only a very limited racial or religious hatred specifically against those who had usurped the Holy Land. Although the clergy certainly used the tools of propaganda available to them and delivered recruitment sermons across Europe, the fact that Muslims were virtually unknown to their audience meant that any demonisation had little value. Muslims were the enemy because they had taken Christian holy sites, not directly because they were Muslims. This important point is stressed by the historian M. Bull in the following terms:
Popular understanding of the crusades nowadays tends to think in terms of a great conflict between faiths fuelled by religious fanaticism. This perception is bound up with modern sensibilities about religious discrimination, and it also has resonances in reactions to current political conflicts in the Near East and elsewhere. But it is a perspective which, at least as far as the First Crusade is concerned, needs to be rejected. (Riley-Smith, 18)
For willing knights there was also the chance to win booty, lands, and perhaps even a title. Land might have to be sold and equipment was expensive, though, so there was certainly a major financial sacrifice to be made at the outset. Monasteries were on hand to arrange loans for this who struggled to meet the initial costs. There was, too, the idea of chivalry - that a knight should 'do the right thing' and protect not only the interests of their church and god but also those of the weak and oppressed. In the 11th century CE the code of chivalry was still in its infancy and so was more concerned with upholding a brotherhood of arms. Thus the relevance of chivalry as motivation to join the First Crusade is perhaps more to do with the importance of being seen to do what was expected of one by one's peers, and only in later crusades would its moral aspects become more prominent and the message fuelled by songs and poems of daring crusader deeds.
Many knights, too, were simply obliged to join their baron or lord as part of the service they performed to earn a living. Technically, crusaders were volunteers but one can imagine that staying at home to tend the castle fireplace while one's lord and benefactor rode off to the Middle East was not a practical option for knights in service. In addition, many knights followed their fathers or brothers as ties of kinship and mutual protection were strong. As the Crusades continued, traditions and expectations were established within families so that at least one member of each generation was expected to continue to fight for the cause.
Besides knights, the idea of a crusade had to appeal to ordinary foot soldiers, archers, squires, and all the non-combatants needed to support the cavalry units of knights when on campaign. That the ideal did appeal to ordinary folk, including women, is illustrated by such events as the people's army led by the preacher Peter the Hermit which gathered and arrived in Constantinople in 1096 CE. The unruly army, sometimes referred to as the “People's Crusade”, were promptly shipped by Alexios I Komnenos to Asia Minor, where, ignoring the Byzantine's advice, they were ambushed and wiped out near Nicaea by a Seljuk army on 21 October 1096 CE.
Besides the prestige and honour of 'taking up the cross', so called because crusaders wore a badge on the shoulder on their tunic or cloak, there were some practical benefits for ordinary citizens, at least by the 13th century CE. These included a delay in feudal service, a court case might be speeded up before departure, an exemption from certain taxes and tolls, a postponement of the repayment of debts, and even a release from excommunication.
As the historian C. Tyerman points out in his God's War, in many ways 1095 CE was the 1914 CE of the Middle Ages - a perfect storm of moral outrage, personal gain, institutionalised political and religious propaganda, peer pressure, societal expectations, and a thirst for adventure, which all combined to inspire people to leave their homes and embark on a perilous journey to a destination they knew nothing about and where they might meet glory and death or just death. The fervour did not dissipate either. If anything, the success of the First Crusade and the recapture of Jerusalem on 15 July 1099 CE only inspired more people to 'take the cross'. The idea of crusading spread to such endeavours as liberating Spain from the Moors (the Reconquista) and attacking minority targets in Europe such as the Jews, pagans, and heretics (the Northern Crusades). Orders of knights were created to defend the territories gained in the Middle East, and taxes were continuously raised to fund the crusades which followed as Muslim and Christian armies enjoyed both successes and failures, constantly keeping cartographers busy for the next four centuries.
Where to find a list of participants in The Crusades? - History
The First Crusade had a very difficult journey getting to the Middle East. There were about 30,000 foot soldiers and 10,000 knights on horseback.
They could not use the Mediterranean Sea as the Crusaders did not control the ports on the coast of the Middle East. Therefore, they had to cross land. They travelled from France through Italy, then Eastern Europe and then through what is now Turkey. They covered hundreds of miles, through scorching heat and also deep snow in the mountain passes.
They were four separate proper Crusader armies in the First Crusade but also a large number of smaller armies. However, there was no proper command structure and problems with communications . It took a seven month siege before the city fell.
A monk called Fulcher was on the First Crusade. He wrote about the attack on the Holy City and he can be treated as an eye-witness as to what took place.
Fulcher claimed that once the Crusaders had managed to get over the walls of Jerusalem, the Muslim defenders there ran away. Fulcher claimed that the Crusaders cut down anybody they could and that the streets of Jerusalem were ankle deep in blood. The rest of the Crusaders got into the city when the gates were opened.
The slaughter continued and the Crusaders "killed whoever they wished". Those Muslims who had their lives spared, had to go round and collect the bodies before dumping them outside of the city because they stank so much. The Muslims claimed afterwards that 70,000 people were killed and that the Crusaders took whatever treasure they could from the Dome of the Rock.
Why Did People Join the Crusades?
People originally joined the Crusades for the promise of an eternal place in Heaven or because their services were volunteered by lords. Once word of wealth and spoils began to spread, the Crusades became a treasure hunt for some participants.
The First Crusade was a mission to the holy land to defend Christians who, it was rumored, were being tortured in the Middle East. Once the first crusaders realized the amount of wealth the Islamic people of the East possessed and began returning with spoils, others decided to join so they too would have an opportunity to improve their financial situations by capturing a few of the riches, which were not taxed if taken in the name of God during a crusade.
In some situations, men did not join the Crusades for religious reasons or the prospect of finding riches but because they were offered land back home in return for their service. Jerusalem became somewhat of a Mecca for Christians after control of it was taken from the Muslims in 1076. As with the soldiers who first joined the Crusades for the promise of rewards in Heaven, Christians felts that a journey to Jerusalem would make them closer to God.
Facts about Crusades 5: the long war
Crusades were considered as a very long war for it lasted for more than 200 years. The initial crusades took place in 1095.
Facts about Crusades 6: the most successful crusade
The most successful crusade is the first crusade. It took place in 1095 until 1099. Jerusalem was under the control of armies of Europe after they expelled the Turks.
The Discovery of the Holy Lance
On June 15th, 1098, the army of the First Crusade discovered the Holy Lance – the very spear that had pierced Christ’s side on the cross - in the city of Antioch.
Early in June 1098 the army of the First Crusade, heading south through Syria on its way to wrest Jerusalem from the Saracens, captured the city of Antioch, but was promptly shut in the city and besieged by a powerful Turkish and Arab force. Food quickly ran out, morale plummeted and the crusaders were nearing desperation when the situation was saved by a miraculous discovery. A scruffy Provençal peasant named Peter Bartholomew, with a reputation as a drinker and womaniser, demanded to see the Count of Provençe, one of the principal crusading leaders. When given an audience by the count, and the Bishop of Le Puy, he explained that St Andrew had a appeared to him in a vision and had told him where the Holy Lance was – the very spear that had pierced Christ’s side on the cross – could be found in the cathedral of St Peter in Antioch. The bishop viewed the story with a cynical eye, but Count Raymond was impressed and a mood of excited expectation began to spread through the hard-pressed crusaders in the city. On June 15th, Count Raymond and others went with Peter Bartholomew to the cathedral. Workmen dug down into the floor where Peter indicated. They found nothing and Count Raymond walked away in disappointment, but then Peter himself who was wearing only a shirt, jumped down into the trench and triumphantly produced a piece of iron which everyone immediately hailed as the sacred lance-head itself.
As Sir Steven Runciman, the historian of the Crusades, remarked: ‘It is useless now to judge what really happened.’ Raymond of Aguilers, a reputable historian who was one of Count Raymond’s chaplains, observed what took place and reported that he had seen the iron in the ground before Peter Bartholomew began brandishing it. Whether Peter somehow salved the dig, or whether he had the diviner’s gift for sensing the precious of buried metal and knew there was something buried beneath the floor – whatever it really was – is impossible to say. In any case, the excitement in the city was intense as word of the find spread and even Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy and other sceptics kept their doubts to themselves for the moment because of the evident boost to the crusaders’ morale. This was so transformed that on June 28th, following further instructions issued through Peter Bartholomew by St Andrew, who guaranteed victory in another vision, the crusaders sailed out from Antioch. They were led by their best soldier, the Norman warrior Bohemond of Taranto, with the Holy Lance carried by Raymond of Aguilers. Desperately weak from hunger, they were in an exalted mood and some cried out that they could see celestial cavalrymen on white horses riding to help them, bearing white banners and led by St George. In berserk frenzy, they sent the besieging Saracens packing and slaughtered many of them in flight.
The victory saved the crusade and the lance was kept by Count Raymond, who treated it with great reverence. It was a useful addition to his armoury in his running power struggle with Prince Bohemond, but Peter Bartholomew did not inspire confidence. Doubts about the genuineness of the relic reached such a peak that eventually in April 1099, Peter demanded an ordeal by fire. On Good Friday April 8th, he walked through a narrow passage between two massive piles of blazing wood, wearing only a tunic and carrying the lance. He was hideously burned, and died in agony on the 20th, and few in the crusading army outside the Provençal ranks put much faith in the lance’s authenticity any longer. It was kept at Constantinople for a time, and later at St Peter’s in Rome. It was to play a major role in medieval European legends, however, in close association with the supremely sacred relic of Christ’s redeeming blood, the Holy Grail – the chalice of the Last Supper. The two relics appear together in many stories of the quests of King Arthur’s knights of the Round Table.
The Real Story of the First Crusade
Last month (July 15) marked the 918th anniversary of the liberation of the Holy City by the warriors of Christendom on the First Crusade. It was a momentous event, and when news reached Christendom that the Crusaders had succeeded, there was much rejoicing. Those who returned home from the Crusade were feted as heroes and known as “Jerusalemites” for the rest of their lives.
The story of how the First Crusade succeeded is filled with personal heroics, sacrifice, and miraculous interventions throughout the journey. The real story has been obscured by the sensationalism and “Hollywood history” of our time, and the story should be set straight.
Those who entered the city in that summer of 1099 endured three years of battle, starvation, and disease in order to complete their armed pilgrimage at the Holy Sepulchre of the Lord. Eighty percent of their brothers in arms who marched from Europe with them were dead, missing, or had deserted. Those few who remained succeeded in accomplishing the task given to them by Pope Urban II (r. 1088-1099) in the fall of 1095: the liberation of Jerusalem.
The warriors of the First Crusade left the comfort of their homes and loved ones at the urging of Urban II. In November 1095, Urban preached the First Crusade at a Church council at Clermont. He called upon the warriors of Christendom to liberate the Holy Sepulchre of the Lord in Jerusalem and to stop the persecution of Holy Land Christians and Muslim harassment of Christian pilgrims from the West. Urban then traveled throughout France exhorting warriors to take the cross and participate in the armed pilgrimage.
It is estimated that 60,000 warriors responded to Urban’s call and made preparations to leave for the Holy Land. These warriors were organized into four main army groups commanded by Hugh of Vermandois, the younger brother of Philip I of France Raymond of Toulouse Godfrey de Bouillon and the well-known warrior Bohemond. The groups left Europe separately and traveled overland to Constantinople where they encountered Emperor Alexius I.
Alexius was less than enthusiastic at their arrival and feared they would try to overthrow him. After receiving assurances the Christian warriors were more interested in liberating Jerusalem, Alexius transported the groups to Anatolia to begin the march to the Holy City.
After liberating Nicaea, the Crusader armies began the long march through Anatolia on their way to their second objective, Antioch. The Crusaders embarked on what became known as the Anatolian Death March during the high summer heat. Food and water were scarce, and horses died in droves. Men even died of hyponatremia (water intoxication) after drinking too much water too fast when fresh sources were found. Count Raymond of Toulouse became so ill that, fearing death was near, he received the sacrament of extreme unction.
Adding to their suffering on the march, the Crusaders were attacked by an allied Muslim force near the town of Dorylaeum. Despite their weakened condition, the Christian warriors fought well and under the leadership of Bohemond defeated the Muslim army. News of the victory spread throughout the region and contributed to the belief that the Christian force was invincible.
After the grueling four-month march through Anatolia, the Crusaders arrived at the ancient Christian city of Antioch where they settled in for a long siege. Antioch was a heavily defended city with a massive wall, and the Crusader force was too small to fully encircle the city.
The siege wore on, and as casualties mounted, the city was eventually breached through a plan concocted by Bohemond, who successfully bribed one of the tower guards to allow the Crusaders entry into the city unmolested. Although the Crusaders were in control of the city, the citadel remained in Muslim hands and only one day after the Crusaders captured Antioch, a large Muslim relief army under the command of Kerbogha arrived at the walls. The Christian warriors were caught between the Muslim-held citadel inside the city and the large Muslim army outside the walls.
The long siege was costly, and morale was exceptionally low. Many believed this was the end of the Crusade, but God intervened and morale was restored when the relic of the Holy Lance (the spearhead used by St. Longinus to pierce the Lord’s side as he hung on the cross) was found in a church after the layman Peter Bartholomew received visions about its location.
Emboldened by the finding of the relic, the Crusaders launched a surprise offensive on the Muslim relief army outside the walls of Antioch. Veterans of the battle recalled seeing angels and the spirits of dead Crusaders riding into combat with the living. The Crusaders were exhausted after their miraculous victory over a numerically superior foe and spent the next several months resting and preparing for the assault on Jerusalem.
The remnant of the First Crusade armies arrived 12,000 strong at the city walls of Jerusalem on June 7, 1099. They spent the next six days building their siege camp and reconnoitering the defenses of the city. After failed attacks, the situation was desperate as news of a Fatimid relief army on the march reached the Crusader camp. The Crusaders were now engaged in a race against time.
The siege was saved when a priest, Peter Desiderius, shocked the warriors with an announcement that he had seen a vision of Bishop Adhemar, the papal legate who had died shortly after the final victory at Antioch. According to his testimony, Adhemar was upset at the lack of unity among the Crusade leaders and indicated the Holy City could fall only with a show of penance by the Crusaders. He demanded they fast for three days and then process barefoot and unarmed around Jerusalem.
On July 8 the Christian host processed around the Holy City singing prayers and bearing relics, including the Holy Lance from Antioch. The Muslim defenders mocked the Crusaders’ imitation of Joshua and the Israelites at Jericho by hanging crosses over the walls while hitting and abusing them.
A week later at 3 p.m., the hour of the Crucifixion, the Crusaders achieved their final objective and entered the Holy City of Jerusalem. Much has been made of the “Massacre of Jerusalem” after the Crusaders entered the city. While it is true the Crusaders killed thousands in the city (combatants and non-combatants), tens of thousands were captured, ransomed, or fled. The dictates of warfare at the time, followed by Christians and Muslims alike, allowed victorious siege armies free reign once the city fell. This is why many cities accepted conditional surrender when armies first appeared at the walls.
Their three-year armed pilgrimage complete, most Crusaders decided to return home. Some stayed and decided they needed to protect, organize, and consolidate the liberated territory. In order to accomplish this, they needed a strong leader, so they decided to appoint a king. The choice eventually fell to Godfrey de Bouillon, who refused the title “king,” choosing instead the moniker “Defender of the Holy Sepulchre.” In explaining his choice of titles, Godfrey reportedly said that he refused to wear a crown of gold in the city where his Savior wore a crown of thorns.
For more exciting reading on the real history of the Crusades, please see my book The Glory of the Crusades.
Jerusalem or Bust? The problems of the First Crusade
Article and additional research by Jacob Harrison-Beaumont. Edited by Linley Wareham.
Ask anyone with any vague historical knowledge about the First Crusade and they will invariably tell you that it was a military expedition to recover the city of Jerusalem from the Muslims (they might also go on to talk about Holy War, subsequent crusades, jihad and maybe even more recent events if you let them). However, this interpretation of the First Crusade is very teleological. Yes, the First Crusaders did take the city of Jerusalem in 1099, but this was not a foregone conclusion, and it shocked both the Christian and Muslim worlds. It is, in fact, very likely that the original aim of the First Crusade was merely to provide military assistance to the Byzantine empire, but that events spiralled out of hand, and due to a tremendous amount of luck the Crusaders found themselves masters of the Holy Land. This article attempts to highlight some of the problems in viewing Jerusalem as the inevitable end point of the First Crusade.
To begin with, one of the main problems with studying the First Crusade is that almost all of the surviving sources were written after the capture of Jerusalem in 1099. The earliest text, the Gesta Francorum (an anonymous text most likely written by a Southern Italian Norman knight who participated in the Crusade) dates to a few years after 1099. As all the sources come from after the successes of the First Crusade, they portray the whole expedition with the goal of capturing Jerusalem, irrespective of what its true intentions were. Another problem lies in the fact that, other than the Gesta, all the contemporary sources for the Crusade were written by men in religious orders, many of whom did not even take part in the Crusade, but relied on secondary accounts. Since the writers’ backgrounds were different to those who were the principal actors in the story of the First Crusade, those who fought (from the nobles all the way down to armed peasants), the picture they paint is not a complete one. This is not to say that for many participants the First Crusade was not a religious experience (or that there weren’t monks and priests who bent the rules and did fight), but it would be difficult for men who have dedicated their lives to God to not blur the boundaries between a divine and a mundane experience. The accounts of the First Crusade are predominantly those which have been coloured with this interpretation of the world.
A final problem with the contemporary texts is a problem of language. To us, the word ‘Crusade’ has a myriad of different connotations, both good and bad, and it has been used to describe a number of different events throughout history. However, the word only came into common usage several hundred years after the First Crusade. The context we place on the word almost implicitly implies Jerusalem as an end goal, distorting how those at the time perceived what they were doing. The contemporary terms included iter (journey) and the crusaders themselves were seen as milites Christi (soldiers of Christ). Another term used for the crusaders was peregrinus, which means traveller, or more commonly, pilgrim. That the crusaders were viewed as pilgrims suggests a different take on events. Pilgrims were not supposed to bear arms on their journey, almost suggesting that the journey to Jerusalem itself should or could be a peaceful one. But this again could just be wishful thinking on the part of the men writing these events down.
The speech of Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095 has been seen by many contemporary and modern writers as the starting point of the First Crusade. Of all the contemporaries who mention the Council, possibly only one, Fulcher of Chartres, was actually present. The earliest extant writings about the Council were produced at least five years later, after the Crusaders had captured Jerusalem. As a result, there exist many different versions of what Urban actually said at Clermont, all of which would have been influenced by the subsequent successes of the First Crusade. The Chroniclers did as writers stretching back to Thucydides had done, that is to ‘make the speakers say what was in [the writer’s] opinion demanded of them by the various occasions, of course adhering as closely as possible to the general sense of what they really said’, in this case write the oration which launched the re-conquest of the Holy Land.
Is it possible to see past the teleology of the chroniclers to Urban’s actual intentions at Clermont? He was undoubtedly influenced by various concepts – pilgrimage, the Reconquista in Spain, Augustine of Hippo’s ‘Just War’ and feudalism – but was an armed recovery of Jerusalem his intent? Fulcher of Chartres makes no mention of Jerusalem in his version of the speech, although other authors (who were not present at the Council) do. The Gesta sums all of Urban’s efforts with a few quotes from the Bible. The small size of the Gesta account is no doubt because the author was not that competent a writer, and so would not fill in the blanks as other authors would. The differing versions of the speech do have one thing in common, that there should be a military journey to aid Eastern Christians. Could it therefore be that Urban’s original intent was for a military expedition to aid the Byzantine empire? In the previous twenty years Byzantium had lost all of Anatolia and some of Syria, including Antioch, to the Seljuk Turks. As a result the Byzantines had become immensely reliant on mercenaries and the Byzantine emperor, Alexius I, had recently sent numerous requests for aid to various nobles in Western Europe, as well as sending ambassadors to the Council of Piacenza earlier in 1095. Indeed, this explains some of the confusion amongst the Crusaders over who would lead them after they arrived at Constantinople.
The idea that Urban wanted to send troops to aid the Byzantines also fits in well with other aspects of the narrative. Jerusalem had been in Muslim hands for over four and a half centuries, and pilgrims from the West had been able to access the city largely unhindered over this period. However, the region had become much less stable after the Turkish invasion. The safe land route from Constantinople to Jerusalem was no more. Perhaps Urban’s plan was that the road should be restored to pilgrims by assisting the Byzantines in driving out the Turks, and restoring peaceful relations with the Muslim emirs of Syria and Palestine. For Urban to really consider the conquest and control of territory two thousand miles away suggests either an optimism verging on the insane, or a deluded mind. The idea of the Pope sending military aid to the Eastern emperor also fits well with papal claims that Constantine had gifted them the Western half of the Roman empire as it was reminiscent of when the Eastern and Western Roman emperors would provide military aid to one another. A complete Christian recovery of the Eastern Church, and the restoration of the patriarchs in Jerusalem and Antioch would only really serve to cause more problems for the papacy (which had trouble enough with only one Patriarch, that of Constantinople).
Perhaps the greatest problem with Urban’s speech at Clermont is that only an infinitesimal fraction of those who took part in the First Crusade actually heard it. Most of the promulgation of the crusade was the result of preachers, many of whom may have only heard second or third hand about Urban’s speech. It is these men, such as Peter the Hermit, who inspired the vast numbers of peasants of the Peoples Crusade to leave their farms and walk to what would be for many a violent death in Asia Minor at the hand of Turkish armies. It was preachers such as these who had inspired the thousands of pilgrims of the Great German Crusade some thirty years before. These preachers also played a role in making soldiers, knights and lords take up the Cross, often in large ceremonies making use of religious theatrics and rousing sermons to bring the participants to emotionally charged states. Indeed, at one such occasion, at the siege of Amalfi in 1096, so many soldiers joined up with the passing crusaders that there were not enough men left to carry on the siege. It is possible that the idea that the Crusade should have Jerusalem as its objective resulted from the influence of these preachers, who perhaps would not have Urban’s greater knowledge of world affairs. Indeed, after the Crusader’s had captured Antioch in June 1098 they did not immediately carry on to Jerusalem until the first half of 1099. The nobles were content to capture territory around Jerusalem, but the lower orders felt uneasy and eventually forced the Crusade to Jerusalem. Perhaps then, the desire to recover Jerusalem was the aim of the peasant and the foot soldier, based on their understanding of the Bible, sermons, and their conception of the world, rather than the desire of Popes and Princes, who had much greater, more worldly concerns.
In the end, all our opinions of the First Crusade have been coloured by its successes. It would take another century before a similar expedition could be launched without Jerusalem as the necessary target. By then it was quite acceptable for a crusade to be waged against fellow Christians. Had Urban known that the expedition he launched in 1095 would lay the groundwork for the sack of Constantinople and the destruction of the Byzantine empire by the Fourth Crusade, would he have still made his speech? I’d like to think that he would be horrified by the consequences of his actions, but it is possible he would be pleased. After all, what better way to help the Greeks than to bring them under the jurisdiction of Rome?
Several of the accounts of Pope Urban II’s speech can be found on the Internet Medieval Sourcebook: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/urban2-5vers.html, as can an account of the Great German Pilgrimage: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1064pilgrim.html
For much more in depth reading on the question of whether there were any crusades at all, I strongly recommend Christopher Tyerman’s The Invention of the Crusades (Basingstoke, 1998).
Other far-right symbols
The “Don’t Tread on Me” flag favored by militias symbolizes support for gun rights and individual liberties. (Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
Members of the Proud Boys, the violent far-right group that Trump told to “stand back and stand by” during a September presidential debate, wear black-and-yellow Fred Perry polo shirts along with red Make America Great Again caps. (Fred Perry, a U.K. brand, has said it would stop selling the shirts because of their association with the group.)
Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, who said he quit the group in 2018, was spotted in the D.C. crowd . The group’s current leader, Enrique Tarrio, was ordered to leave the city earlier this week after being arrested on weapons charges.
An earlier version of this article mentioned reports of a Proud Boys protester wearing a MWE” shirt, which stands for “Six Million Wasn’t Enough,” a reference to the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust. However, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency was not able to substantiate this claim, as the image circulating on social media appears to be from a Proud Boys protest in December rather than from this week.
The Sixth Crusade
The Sixth Crusade was of monumental importance to Europe as it managed to achieve what previous Crusades had failed to do – recapture the Holy Land. Considerably less fighting was involved in this Crusade, rather it was the diplomatic manoeuvring by the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, which achieved the desired outcome and saw the Kingdom Of Jerusalem regain control of Jerusalem and other surrounding areas for the next 15 years.
The Crusade - which began seven years after the failed Fifth Crusade – was brought about by Frederick, who sought to assuage his guilt at his lack of leadership of the Fifth Crusade by launching the Sixth Crusade to recover Jerusalem, paid for by Holy Roman Empire funds.
While he had been encouraged to take a more definite leadership role in the Fifth Crusade by Honorius III and later Gregory IX, Frederick had declined and was eager to make amends. As his power as Emperor grew, the Pope became increasingly angry at the Papacy's power decline and excommunicated Frederick, citing as the reason his failure to participate in the Fifth Crusade despite promising to do so.
Sailing first to Cyprus in order to gain a strong base prior to launching the planned attack on Egypt, Frederick and his army hit trouble along the way following a dispute with John of Ibelin which forced them to depart earlier than planned. They sailed onto the Holy Land soon afterwards, realising upon arrival that the army was smaller than the one which took part in the Fifth Crusade – a fact which led them to believe launching an attack on the powerful Ayyubid Empire would be a foolish mistake.
Frederick then tried another tactic. He approached the sultan of Egypt, Al-Kamil and was dishonest about the true size of the army that accompanied him, telling him that it was far larger than it was. Frederick hoped that this would lead to the recovering of Jerusalem through diplomacy. As Al-Kamil was preoccupied with a rebellion in Syria, he agreed that Jerusalem, Nazareth and several other small towns would be returned to Christian control, in exchange for a decade-long truce.
Frederick and his army had achieved what four previous crusades had failed to do and he entered Jerusalem on 17 March 1229 under the terms of the peace treaty. Following this triumph, he was hailed a hero and the Pope soon lifted the excommunication
Many believe that the key accomplishment of the Sixth Crusade was highlighting the evident decline of the Papacy's power. It was the first major crusade not to be backed by the Church. Frederick’s success in recapturing the Holy Land changed the course of history as it led to the later Seventh and Eighth Crusades following in the same vein. Each of these were led by single kingdoms keen to emulate the triumph of the Sixth Crusade, rather than by a union of several kingdoms, as had been the case in the unsuccessful first Crusades.
Despite the glory enjoyed by Frederick and his Sixth Crusade, the Holy Land was conquered by the Turks just fifteen years later in 1244.