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What are The Crusades of the Middle Ages

Updated on January 9, 2013
As they moved southwards, most of the peasants purchased their own food
As they moved southwards, most of the peasants purchased their own food | Source
The response to the crusade spread to other lands quickly.
The response to the crusade spread to other lands quickly. | Source

Responding to The Papacy Call

The crusades were movements that occurred between the 11th and 13th century and they were mainly under the direction of the Papacy. Before this time, much of the land surrounding the Holy land and the Holy land itself had fallen to the rule of the Muslims. However, around the ninth and tenth century the emergence of heavily armed knights on horse backs started changing the tide. The knights had a sense of being protectors and a sense of superiority. This increased the strength of Europe and they started gaining rule over many of the surrounding territories. The Carolingian Empire broke down in the 9th century, and coupled with the relative stabilization of the borders of Europe increased Europe’s stability. A Christianization of Magyars, Slavs, and Vikings produced a whole group of warriors who had nothing to do. It resulted to rowdy bunches of warriors fighting each other and poor peasants as an outlet to their yearning for war. Therefore, when the pope made a rallying call to bring liberation to the land, which had fallen to the Muslims, it fell on willing ears.

The papacy made a promise that those who would join the crusades were to get rewards in terms of with tax withdrawals. Other promises included cancellation of debts and external life (. The response to the crusade spread to other lands quickly and large groups of peasants sold their lands to get passage to the Holy land. The enthusiasm was more in Scotland, Scandinavia and England. All this happened even before the Pope could organize his armies. As they moved southwards, most of the peasants purchased their own food. However looting took place in some towns along the way. Officials at Constantinople at times hurried the mobs out of town to prevent the looting. The crusaders arrived in the Holy land before the Knights, and many of them ended up butchered. The Knights were much more successful than the crusaders.

The crusaders advanced their liberation war with a cry that, “God wills it!”
The crusaders advanced their liberation war with a cry that, “God wills it!” | Source

An Accounts of The Conquest

The belief that the crusade was a noble task for Christendom only added the fuel to their enthusiasm. This was a chance for many to emulate the great deeds they had seen from Charlemagne. History credits Charlemagne with changing the tide of Muslim dominance around 801 when he took Barcelona. The Knights were all in a good mood for victory, conquest and loot. The first crusaders were mainly drawn from France and Germany. For the Western Christendom, they were looking to asserting their prominence to the Eastern Christendom whom they viewed as more pagan that Christian. They felt that victory in recovering the Holy land would result in more respect and honor to them and consequently absorption of the Eastern Christendom .


The march of the Knights through Europeans towns was not without drama. They sought contributions from the Jews and at times looted and murdered them. They did this in the conviction that Jews had murdered Jesus Christ. Certain Jews who rejected baptism got murdered around the year 1096. A Catholic Bishop named John sought to protect the Jews from the killing and gathered them under his protection. He ordered that those found killing the Jews should be punished by having their hands cut off. Many more Jews were killed as the crusades progressed. The crusaders advanced their liberation war with a cry that, “God wills it!” Unlike the peasants before them, when they finally arrived at the Holy land, they conquered.


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    • kenyanXstian profile imageAUTHOR

      Eword Media Unit 

      6 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Sure what goes around comes around!

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      6 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Constantine had abandoned Rome in the 5th Century, and gone further east to establish the Christian Eastern Roman Empire. Despite strong opposition and a long struggle, Constantine's eastern empire flourished. By the 9th-10th Centuries links were made with the burgeoning Rus principalities of Novgorod (the New City - Holmgard or Island Fortress to the Norsemen) and Kiev (Koenungagard or King's Fortress) via the long rivers in Eastern Europe.

      At first the Norsemen raided Constantinople (Miklagard - or the great fortress city - to the Rus), then the emperor Basil II, 'the Bulgar slayer', made a truce with Prince Vladimir 'the Great' who adopted the Eastern Orthodox form of worship to his realm, which later became Russia. Basil recruited the Rus into his army as 'the Varangian Guard' ('Varangi' being the Greeks' reference to the Scandinavians who came through Novgorod and Kiev to Miklagard).

      Later the Varangian Guard included the future king of Norway, the 7' foot tall (reputedly) Harald Sigurdsson, nicknamed Hardradi ('Hard Ruler') who invaded Northumbria in September, 1066. After the Norman invasion of the same year and the siege of Ely in 1071 many Englishmen (nobles and huscarls) went east to join the Varangian Guard and fought the old enemy, the Normans under Robert 'Guiscard' de Hauteville in Byzantine territory.

      What goes around, comes around, eh?

    • kenyanXstian profile imageAUTHOR

      Eword Media Unit 

      6 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      I gather that Constantinople was a very wealthy city in the middle ages, this is including the treasures of art and literature. I find the history of former the Byzantium, most intriguing. Your information is very insightful alancaster149 , I will be doing deeper digging on this. Thank you.

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      6 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Hello Kenyan Xstian. Liked the Hub, but just to fill you in, in 1212 a French or German boy (he might have been from Alsace or Lorraine) claimed he had a vision, in which he was given divine instruction to assemble an 'army' of children. They were to take Christianity to the Moslems in the Holy Land. Historians doubt this, saying there were bands of orphaned or runaway children who may or may not have made their way south-east towards the Mediterranean ports of Genoa or Venice. Chances are they ended up in slavery.

      Constantinople suffered at the hands of crusaders, despite offering hospitality to fellow Christians making their way to Jerusalem. Rome instigated many criminal acts towards Constantinople after the Schism between east and west in the late 12th Century and gains were made by both Venice and Genoa at the expense of Constantinople - including several large artefacts you see in St Mark's Square like the lions and the victory columns.

      The Templars (Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon) grew rich on landholdings in the east and became targets for cash-strapped kings in western Europe, especially Philippe IV. This is a whole saga to itself, but Phiippe and Pope Clement were both cursed by the Templars' leader Jacques de Molay as he died at the stake in front of Notre Dame de Paris in 1307. Both died within months. The Templars were active until 1312, then disappeared mysteriously. The last order was that of the Knights Hospitallers, fighting monks of the Order of St John of Jersusalem who also tended to the sick. Their last bastion before Malta was Rhodes, which was besieged by the Turks for years before they left under a truce. They are now a uniformed volunteer force of medical orderlies you see at football or other large sporting venues.

      The peasants didn't need to give up or sell anything before going on crusade, they owned nothing. To the consternation of landlords who faced a hard task in gathering in the harvest etc, the Church gave the peasants leave to go to the Holy Land. They also finished up enslaved around the 'sunny Med'. They wouldn't have lasted long unless they fed themselves properly!

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