The Crusades in the Middle Ages: Facts, History - Causes, Reasons, Pope, Leaders, Army of the Poor

Research Topics  History Essays Medieval Time Period Knights    Crusaders

Christ's tomb was supposedly found by Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem in 325 A.D. near the ancient ruins of the Roman Temple of Aphrodite. Empress Helena (mother of the Emperor Constantine) who was on pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 325 A.D. discovered 3 crosses not far from the Tomb of Christ in an underground cave. A rotunda was built over top of the tomb. A church was built over the cave and named the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (grave). 

After the death of Mohammed, Islam spread from Spain to Persia quickly. In 732 A.D. the Arabs were defeated and stopped in France by Charles the Hammer.  The Christians regarded Islam as heresy. Although the two religions conflicted, there were many years of peace. Jerusalem was ruled by Arabs who allowed a Christian community and allowed Christian pilgrims to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher unmolested.

In the 11th century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Persia and converted to Islam. In 1071, the Seljuk Turks under the command of Seljuk Alp Arslam defeated the Byzantine Emperor Romanus at the battle of Manzikert. Romanus died a year later. The Byzantine empire that once stretched from Egypt to the Danube was no more. The Turks captured Jerusalem from the Arabs. they captured Nicaea which was less than 100 miles from Constantinople. In 1085, Antioch fell.

With the defeat of the Byzantine Empire, came trouble for Christians who journeyed to Jerusalem on pilgrimages. Many were tortured, killed, arrested, or sold into slavery. In 1081, Alexius Comenus took the throne of what was left of the Byzantine Empire. Alexius wrote a moving letter to Pope Urban II and the western princes requesting military assistance to regain lands lost. He cited atrocities committed on Christian pilgrims as well as debauchery to Christian shrines and relics.

Pope Urban II: Clermont: A Call to Action: Reasons for fighting the Crusades

Pope Urban II was a French nobleman born near Chatillon sur Marne France in 1042. He became Pope in 1088.  Alexius' letter deeply touched Urban II so much he read the letter to a huge gathering at Clermont on November 27, 1095.  He called for a Crusade to free the holy land from the infidels. He also called for the Truce of God which banned fighting on Sunday to Wednesday as well as religious holidays. It also banned priests, monks, women, laborers and merchants from fighting. He hoped to unite Europe in a holy war and end the incessant fighting among the princes.

What stirred the crowd at Clermont was the thought of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the hands of the Turks and that Christians on Pilgrimages were being tortured and killed. The crowd roared God wills it or Diev li volt which became the war cry of the Crusaders. Urban II told the crowd to wear the crucifix upon their shoulders and breasts to ensure victory in the name of Christ. Confessions of sins were then held. After which, Bishop of Le Puy was the first to take the cross from the Pope. It was not a wooden cross, but a cross of cloth. He sewed it on his right shoulder of his mantle. More cloth appeared on the scene and soon everyone was sewing the cross upon their mantles. This cross of cloth became the badge of the Crusaders. The Bishop of Le Puy was appointed Papal Legate of the Crusaders who would be the Pope's field representative.

The Crusaders were promised the Kingdom of Heaven for fighting in the Crusades. When they died, their soul would not go to Purgatory to work off sins, instead it would go directly to heaven.

Crusades Leader: Peter the Hermit: The Army of the Poor

Before the great princes embarked upon the Crusade, Peter the Hermit gathered together a great army of the poor. This army left a year and a half before any of the other armies left. Peter the Hermit was not a trained soldier and had trouble maintaining discipline among his troops. He left to seek assistance from the Emperor Alexius in Constantinople. While he was gone, the majority of his troops were killed by the Turks at Civetot Oct 21, 1096. Peter eventually made his way to Jerusalem. However, he returned to France a few years after Jerusalem fell to the Crusaders.

Leaders of the Crusades

The  princes who led the Crusades were Raymond, Count of Toulouse, Godfrey of Bouillon, Bohemond, Prince of Otranto and Hugh Count of Vermandois sometimes called Hugh the Great. Raymond Count of Toulouse was the most committed to the cause. He was 56 years old at the time of the Crusade and hoped to die in the holy land which came to pass.

The March across Europe

The Crusaders marched across Europe, many taking their families with them.  Both Godfrey and Baldwin of Bouillon both took their wives.

Hugh Count of Vermandois reached Constantinople first. Trouble began at the beginning. Rumors circulated that Hugh had been thrown into prison. Emperor Alexius of Constantinople did not trust the Crusaders and the Crusaders did not trust the Emperor or the Byzantines. The emperor required that the Crusading Princes take an oath of Loyalty to Alexius and that they would return all conquered land to the Byzantine empire. Raymond of Toulouse refused because he knew he would not keep the oath. The other princes took the oath knowing they had no intentions of keeping it. Alexius respected Raymond and modified the oath so Raymond could take it. Raymond was the only crusader invited back to Constantinople by the Emperor.


After conquering Jerusalem, the Crusaders massacred all within the city. It is said that the blood was knee deep.

Baldwin of Bouillon was crowned King of Jerusalem after his brother Godfrey and Raymond Count of Toulouse refused the crown.

Crusade Facts
  • The crusades started in 1095
  • The Crusaders used little strategy in their battles which resulted in huge losses of life.
  • The Crusaders expected miracles and to find holiness and awe in everything in the holy lands.
  • They were deeply religious and certain in their faith in Christ.
  • The one relic the Crusader regarded as the most revered and holiest of all was Christ's tomb. Here Christ was resurrected giving meaning to Christianity.
  • The first Crusade was the only Crusade that successfully captured Jerusalem.