Timeline for the Crusades and Christian Holy War to c.1350





Copyright 2009

(Feel free to use this document for academic purposes, but please provide proper citation)


Link to general chronology c.950-c.1350


Historical definition of “crusade:

The crusades were a series of holy warscalled by popes with the promise of indulgences for those who fought in them and directed against external and internal enemies of Christendom for the recovery of Christian property or in defense of the Church or Christian people.  Crusades were characterized by the taking of vows and the granting of indulgences to those who participated.  Like going on pilgrimage, to which they were often likened, crusading was an act of Christian love and piety that compensated for and paid the penalties earned by sin.  It marked a break in earlier Christian medieval conceptions of warfare in that crusades were penitential warfare. Crusades combined the ideas of: a) Holy War and b) and Pilgrimage to produce the concept of “indulgence” (remission of penance and/or sin granted by papacy for participation in sacred activity).


Where were crusades fought? This is a matter of dispute among historians. “Traditionalists” would limit true crusades to expeditions aimed at recovering or protecting Jerusalem. “Pluralists” (and I count myself as one)  regard any expedition preached as a crusade in which the participants took crusading vows and received crusading privileges should be regarded as crusades. If so, crusades were fought not only in Syria,Palestine, and Egypt, but in Spain, the Baltic (Latvia and Prussia), Italy, Sicily, and southern France. 


When were the crusades?  The first crusade was launched by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095. There is controversy over the last crusade. “Traditionalists” would end the crusades in 1291 with the fall of the last crusader castle of the Latin Kingdom, the city of Acre (on the northern coast of present-day Israel). “Pluralists” disagree, but one good candidate would be the Spanish Armada of 1588.


Difference between Augustinian “just war” and “crusade”:

The standard for a Christian “just war” as developed by Augustine (c. A.D. 400) is: “rightful intention on the part of the participants, which should always be expressed through love of God and neighbour; a just cause; and legitimate proclamation by a qualified authority.” (Quoted from J. Riley-Smith, The Crusades, Yale University, 1987.)  The doctrine of holy war/crusade added two further assumptions: 1) Violence and its consequences–death and injury–are morally neutral rather than intrinsically evil, and whether violence is good or bad is a matter of intention. (The analogy is to a surgeon, who cuts into the body, thus injuring it, in order to make it better/healthier.)  2) Christ is concerned with the political order of man,and intends for his agents on  earth, kings, popes, bishops, to establish on earth a Christian Republic that was a “single, universal, transcendental state’ ruled by Christ through the lay and clerical magistrates he endowed with authority.

It follows from this that the defense of the Christian Republic against God’s enemies, whether foreign infidel (e.g. Turks) or domestic heretics and Jews was a moral imperative for those qualified to fight. A Crusade was a holy war fought against external or internal enemies for the recovery of Christian property or defense of the Church or the Christian people. It could be wages against Turks in Palestine, Muslims in Spain, pagan Slavs in the Baltic, or heretics in southern France, all of whom were enemies or rebels against God.


Economic Backdrop

c.950-1300   Period of steady demographic and economic growth in Western Europe.  The population of Europe (excluding Russia) more than doubled, growing from about 30 million people in A.D. 1000 to about 70-80 million in 1250, after which population growth leveled off until it began to decline in the fourteenth century.  The greatest population growth occurred in western and southern Europe.  Demographic growth was supported by (and, in turn, supported) an expansion of food resources.  European agricultural production increased markedly between c. 900-1300, especially between 1050 and 1250.  This represented both extensive and intensive agricultural growth. Most of the increase in grain production came from expanding the acreage under cultivation. (There is little good evidence for a significant increase in the crop yield to seed ratio, which for wheat remained between 3.5:1 and 4:1.) The increase in arable acreage under cultivation was the result of both natural and human action.  The climate of northern Europebetween  c.950 and c.1300 climate was warmer than in the early Middle Ages. This Medieval Climate Optimum meant longer growing seasons and the ability to cultivate lands further north and expand the repertoire of crops. Human activity took the form of extensive woodland clearance (assarting) and draining of marshes, both encouraged and funded by nobles who granted freedom to serfs willing to establish new villages in woodland clearances. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries marked the period of the greatest deforestation in Western European history. By 1250 there were few trees left in France large enough for ship masts and cathedral beams. New farming practices also resulted in higher crop yields. The most important of these was the shift from a two field system, in which half the land always lay fallow, to a three-field system of crop rotation.  Closer integration of animal husbandry and cereal agriculture led to more efficient manuring (animal and human manure were the main sources of fertilizer).  More extensive cultivation of beans and peas, nitrogen-fixing crops, not only improved peasant diets but also helped restore the soil’s fertility. Technology also played a role, especially the widespread use of the heavy plow with iron coulter and plowshare and moldboard, which allowed cultivation of the fertile heavy clay lands of northern Europe.  The invention of the horse collar and horseshoes made possible the replacement of oxen with horses for plowing and transport; the latter was especially important in reducing transportation costs for marketing. Underlying all these innovations were improvements in mining and metallurgy that increased the supply and reduced the cost of iron.  The period 950-1300 also witnessed the widespread use of watermills and vertical (post) windmills (introduced, c.1180), not only for grinding grain but for the production of iron, textiles, paper, and beer.

The expansion of agricultural production encouraged and made possible the growth of towns, increased trade, and an integrated European-wide monetized commodity economy. Flourishing textile industries arose in the towns of Flanders (Bruges, Ypres, Brussels) and northern Italy.  Regions became economically interdependent (e.g. in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the Flemish cloth makers depended upon English wool grown in Yorkshire.) Between the late twelfth and the late thirteenth centuries, the fairs of Champagne in France served as wholesale markets linking the merchants and cloth makers of Flanders and Italy. During the thirteenth century the growth of international trade led to the emergence of banking houses in Italy which developed instruments of financial exchange that side-stepped the Christian prohibition on money-lending (usury).

c. 950   Revival of Christian trade in the Mediterranean, as Venice, Amalfi, Pisa, and  Genoa successfully confront Arab pirates; long-distance trade routes began to be dominated by Italian and Jewish merchants. Development of merchant guilds as sworn associations/confraternities of merchants to protect, avenge, bury members (artificial kindred).

1130s-1170s    Fairs of Champagne become meeting place of merchants from Italy with those of Flanders (wholesale trade: Italian cloth, swords, warhorses; silks, sugar, spices from east/Flemish cloth and English tin); cycle of 6 trade fairs in four cities. The Champagne fairs remain central to the European commercial economy until the late thirteenth century.

 1256-1270   Crusades: War of Saint Sabasa commercial war between the Mediterranean maritime republics of Genoa(aided by Philip of Montfort,  Lord of Tyre; John of Arsuf; and the Knights Hospitaller) and Venice (aided by the Count of Jaffa and the Knights Templar). The war began with the murder of a Genoese by a Venetian in a dispute over land owned by the monastery of Saint Sabas in the city of Acre but claimed by both Genoa and Venice.

1260      Hanseatic League. The merchant gilds (hansa) of the north German trading cities of Lübeck, Hamburg, and Cologne form a commercial alliance that dominates the salt-cod and herring fishing trade of the North Sea and the Baltic. This is the beginning of what will be called the “Hanseatic League.” The League would begin regular meetings of its members (Diets of the Hansa) and acquire an official structure and general policies in 1356.

c. 1300   Decline of Champagne fairs (reflects the growing maturity of the European international commercial economy; use of resident agents in foreign cities by merchant houses and rise of professional carter to transport goods make fairs unnecessary). (Lendit Fair, Saint-Denis. 15thcentury ms.)



753   Pope Stephen II tells the Carolingian ruler of the Franks Pepin the Short that St. Peter will remit sins of those who fight for his Church. This is directed against the Lombards who threatened the pope’s control over Rome and the “Papal State.”

852   In the 846 a Saracen fleet of 73 ships landed at Ostia, and raided inland, sacking Rome. In doing so, they burnt the churches of St. Peter and St. Paul. The new pope Leo IV (r.847-855) ordered Rome’s walls to be rebuilt and refurbished, and had them extended to protect the Vatican hill. He also formed a naval alliance with the cities of Amalfi, Naples, and Gaeta, which drove off a Saracen fleet in 849. Three years later Pope Leo IV issued a call to the Franks, declaring “Whoever meets death steadfastly in this fight [against Moslem raiders of Italy] the Heavenly Kingdom will not be closed to him.” This becomes a much quoted text among canonists of the High Middle Ages.

886-908   Ten German bishops killed in battles. Theologically, the Church was opposed to clerics getting involved in warfare. Canon law forbade priests from shedding blood, and the Council of Chalcedon of 451 prohibited priests from joining armies, which was repeated (with an interesting escape clause) in a capitulary (edict) issued by Charlemagne in 769: priests may not carry weapons or going to war, except to celebrate mass, pray for Christian victory, or carry relics of saints. The Council of Tribur forbade prayers being offered for clerics killed in wars of brawls. Nonethless, bishops and abbots in the early middle ages were men of great wealth and power. German bishops in particular exercised extensive secular power as royal officials and agents. This often entailed them leading troops into battle in the service of the king. In terms of Christian warfare, doctrine and practice were seriously at odds.

989   Peace of God. Synod of Charroux (at a Benedictine monastery in La Marche in western France on the border of Aquitaine): beginning of the Christian “Peace of God”movement. Threatens excommunication “for attacking or robbing a church, for robbing peasants or the poor of farm animals—among which the ass is mentioned but not the horse which would have been beyond the reach of a peasant—and for robbing, striking or seizing a priest or any man of the clergy who is not bearing arms. Making compensation or reparations could circumvent the anathema of the Church.” Subsequent peace councils were held at Poitiers (1011-14) and Limoges (994, 1028, 1031, 1033).

1027   Truce of God. Council of Toulouges(in eastern Pyrenees) proclaims the “Truce of God,” prohibiting warfare on Sundays and holy days.

1033   Peace of God.  Peace council at Limoges adds merchants to list of noncombatants protected by the Peace of God.

1073   Pope Gregory VII (r. 1073-1085) initiates a new conception of the Church and the role of the papacy within it. According to Gregory, the Church is obligated to create “right order in the world” rather than withdraw from it. Gregory seeks to create a papal monarchy with moral authority over the “temporal sword” (secular state) and rule over the clergy. Gregory’s claims are enunciated in the Dictates of the Pope” (Dictatus Papae), a list of 27 assertions recorded in Gregory’s papal register under 1075a) the supremacy of the Roman pontiffover the entire  Church, including the eastern branch (‘That the Roman pontiff alone can with right be called universal/That his name alone shall be spoken in the churches’) and rule over the episcopate, which entailed the right of deposing and reinstating bishops (a right that could be exercised even by a legate), the power of organizing diocese, the right to be the ultimate judge in ecclesiastical cases, and a claim to be exempt from human judgment); b. The power to issue canon lawc. the sanctity of the pope qua pope (through the merits of St Peter); d. papal supremacy over the princes of the earth (‘That he alone may use the imperial insignia/That of the pope all princes shall kiss the feet’), with the practical and revolutionary claim ‘that he may absolve subjects from their fealty to wicked men.’ [There is an indication here of Gregory’s view of the pope as the final judge over the entire feudal system; in his treatment of Henry IV at Canossa there is some indication that he conceived of himself as being the ultimate feudal overlord. The feudal claims of the papacy is a topic that deserves to be explored in more depth.]

       Upon assuming the papacy in 1073 issued bulls urging Christian princes to recover lands from Muslims in Spain, over which he claimed papal sovereignty on the basis of ancient right. Gregory’s ideas about Christian war, which were extended to fighting against domestic enemies of the papacy and Church (the Emperor Henry IV), were adopted by his successors in the papacy. Gregory VII’s idea that popes were responsible for the right order in the world, which could only be obtained through righteous Christian violence directed by the papacy, forms the basis for the Crusades.

1095   Council of Clermont. The First Crusade is initiated when Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus requests help in reconquering from the Seljuk Turks the lost territory of Asia Minor. Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont calls upon the princes of Christendom for an armed “pilgrimage” to recover Jerusalem from the Muslims. Among his goals is the strengthening of the Gregorian papacy by bringing the Greek Orthodox Church under papal authority. The response is dramatic with two waves of “crusaders” answering the Pope’s call.  War continues between Pope Urban II and the German Emperor Henry IV, who is forced to flee Italy. (Miniature of Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont.)

1096‑1099: Phases and major events of the First Crusade.

1096People’s Crusade. About 20,000 lesser nobles and peasants from northern France and Germany, led in part by Peter the Hermit and Walter Sansavoir. Peasants massacred Jews of Rhineland along the way. Many of the crusaders were killed by Hungarians in retaliation for their looting of the countryside. Those that made it to Constantinople were slaughtered by the Turks in Anatolia. Remnant, about 3,000 strong, including Peter the Hermit, joined up with Prince’s Crusade. Probably the greatest significance of the People’s Crusade was that it revealed the wide-spread popular appeal of Urban’s call to crusade and that the poor military showing it made against the Turks lulled the Sultan Kilij Arslan to underestimating the threat of the Princes’ Crusade that followed.

1096‑1099Princes’ Crusade. Force of about 50-60,000 (including noncombatants), of which about 7,000 were knights. Led by dukes and counts: Godfrey of BouillonBaldwin of Boulogne,Raymond IV of ToulouseStephen of Blois, Robert Curthose of NormandyHugh of Vermandois, Bohemond of Taranto (Norman of southern Italy), and Robert of Flanders. The crusade did not have a military commander or a chain of command. Its moral leader was Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy, the papal legate.  Results: Jerusalem taken and CrusaderStates established.

1097-1098   Siege of Antioch. The crusaders, after swearing oaths of allegiance to Emperor Alexius and promising to restore to him formerly held Byzantine territory, crossed into Anatolia, the Seljuq Sultanate of Rum ruled by Kilij Arslan. They laid siege to the Seljuq capital city of Nicaea and defeated a relief army led by Kilij Arslan, but were deprived of plunder when the city surrendered to Alexius after secret negotiations. In compliance with their oaths, the crusaders ceded Nicaea to Alexius and marched southeast, but this was the beginning of bad blood between the crusader leaders and the Byzantines. Kilij Arslan’s forces intercepted the army (which was marching in two divisions separated by mile) atDorylaeum but the crusaders managed to defeat it. They continued marching south through Anatolia meeting little opposition. Baldwin of Boulogne broke off from the main army to take control of the county of Edessa, while the main crusader army marched on to Antioch. The Siege of Antioch (20 Oct 1097-3 June 1098) proved a turning point. This long siege turned into a competitive starving match during which many hungry crusaders deserted.  After beating off several relief attempts from local Turkish rulers, the crusaders took the city by treachery. Bohemond, who wanted Antioch for himself, contacted a disaffected Armenian warden of one of the city’s towers. After forcing the other leaders to agree to give him Antioch (in breach of their agreement with Alexius), Bohemond had his confederate permit the crusaders to enter the city through his now unguarded tower. The crusaders now found themselves starving within the city’s walls and caught between the still untaken city citadel and a large advancing Turkish army commanded by the atabeg(governor) of Mosul, Kerbogha. Stephen of Blois, who had left the crusade just before the city was taken and was on his way back to his mortified wife Adela, convinced Alexius that the crusaders’ situation was hopeless and that there was no point in coming to their rescue. When all seemed lost, a simple soldier in Count Raymond’s southern French army, Peter Bartholomew, had visions in which St. Andrew told him where to find the Holy Lance. The discovery of the “Holy Lance” was greeted with skepticism by Bohemond and Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy, but it raised morale in the ranks and was an important factor in the Crusaders victory over Kerbogha’s relief army. (In the following year Peter Bartholomew was to die in an ordeal by fire to prove the authenticity of the Lance.) The Fatimids of Egypt, enemies of the Seljuqs, entered into negotiations with the crusaders, whom they understood to be a Byzantine mercenary army, facilitating their capture of Turkish held towns in Syriaand the Levant as they marched south toward Jerusalem. 

1099   The crusaders of the First Crusade, numbering now around 20,000, capture Jerusalemmassacring its inhabitants (Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike). The Crusaders divide their new territories into four principalities. Godfrey of Bouillon is named “defender of the Holy Sepulcher” and ruler of Jerusalem.

1101-1102: the Crusade of the Faint-hearted (coda to the First Crusade). Pope Paschal II, taking up where his predecessor Pope Urban II left off,preached another crusade to aid the fledgling Kingdom of Jerusalem. He called in particular upon those who had taken but failed to fulfill the crusader vow but had not fulfilled it, whom he threatened with excommunication, and those who had left the First Crusade before it reached Jerusalem (the “faint-hearted”).  The result was another large, disorganized crusade, even more heterogeneous and far less successful than the First. The largest contingent was townspeople and peasants from Lombardy (northern Italy). Others came from various parts of France and Germany.  Among the Crusades’ leaders were Count Stephen of Blois and Count Hugh of Vermandois, both seeking to restore the honor they had lost by leaving the First Crusade prematurely. (Stephen’s ignominious flight from the Crusade during the dark days of the siege of Antioch mortified his wife Countess Adela, the daughter of King William the Conqueror; she nagged him into going back to restore her honor.]  The crusade of 1101 was almost annihilated in Asia Minor by the Seljuqs.

 c.1100   The Song of Roland, the oldest chanson de geste (medieval epic poem) is composed by an anonymous poet in Anglo-Norman French. The poem is set in northern Spain during the reign of Charlemagne and is (loosely) based on an historical event, the massacre of Charlemagne’s rearguard at Roncesvalles in 778. The poem praises knightly martial values of prowess, courage, and loyalty. The poet uses the story of Ganelon’s plot to kill his stepson Roland by betraying him and Charlemagne’s rearguard to the Saracens to promote the idea that a knight’s loyalty to his lord ought to take precedence over loyalty to kinsmen and even over slights to one’s honor. Roland reveals no knowledge of Islam, representing Muslims as pagans who worship three stone idols and Islam as the inverse of Christianity, as represented by the mantra: “Christians are right and pagans are wrong!” 12th century illustration of Song of Roland

1114   Catalan crusade to recover the Balearic Islands from Saracen pirates.

 1119/1129: First Crusading Military Orders founded. “Military Orders” were a hybrid creation combining knighthood and monasticism. The Brother Knights lived under a monastic rule modeled in the case of the Primitive Rule of the Templars upon the Cistercian rule. Their monastic “work” was prayer and warfare. Like the Cistercians, the Military Orders only accepted adults into their ranks.

Knights Hospitaller (“Knights of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem”), founded in 1099 but recognized by papacy as a religious order in 1113. Although founded earlier than the Templars, the Hospitallers became a “military order” later, c. 1126.

Knights Templar (“Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon”) established c.1119 to protect pilgrims to Jerusalemand confirmed by papacy as a religious order in 1129. Cistercian abbot St. Bernard of Clairvaux  popularized the Templars  in his treatise the New Knighthood  (Manuscript illumination of Bernard of Clairvaux writing.) (Great Seal of the Master of the Knights Templar.)

1146‑1174   Nur‑al‑Din, Turkish ruler of Mosul and Aleppo, unites Moslem Syria under his rule. Reintroduces idea of JihadCoin of Nur al-Din

 1147-1148   Second Crusade called by Pope Eugene II, preached by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and led by King Louis VII of France and King Conrad of Germany, to recover the city of Edessa, which had been taken by the Muslims in 1144. Accomplishes nothing. 

1147   Crusade: capture of Lisbon. A fleet filled with English, Flemish, Frisian, and Scottish crusaders bound for the East were forced by storms to put into port in Portugal, where King Alfonso of Portugal persuaded them to aid him besiege Moorish held Lisbon. They took the city and expelled the Moors from it. Lisbon became part of the Christian kingdom of Portugal. The Capture of Lisbon (eyewitness account by Osbernus).

1147   Wendish Crusade: first of the Northern Crusades Pope Eugene extends crusading privileges to Germans campaigning against the pagan Wendish Slavs settled around the Elbe River.

1157-1158   Crusade in Spain.


 1169    Kurdish general Saladin (r. 1169-1193) rules Egypt in the name of Nur-al-Din but establishes an independent sultanate. (Portrait of Saladin.)

1170        Almohad dynasty establishes Seville as its capital.  Between 1130 and 1170, the Almohads, a Berber family from Morocco who promoted a puritanical and fundamentalist brand of Islam, ousts Almoravid rulers of north Africa and Spain. Out of reforming zeal initially oppress Spanish Jews and Christians who take refuge in Christian Portugal, Aragon, and Castile. In 1195 the Almohads defeated King Alfronso VIII of Castile in the Battle of Alarcos, temporarily halting the Reconquista, but the Christians recover and in 1212 a Christian coalition from Leon/Castile, Navarra, and Aragon defeat the Almohads in the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. With this, the Almohads were forced back to Africa.  Almohads rule in Morocco comes to an end 1269.


 1187   The entire army of the kingdom of Jerusalem is wiped out by the sultan of Egypt Saladin (1137-1193) in the battle of Hattin. The king of Jerusalem Guy of Lusignan is taken prisoner and the True Cross is captured. In the months following Hattin, Saladin conquers all the cities of the Kingdom of Jerusalem south of Tyre, including Jerusalem itself. News of the fall of Jerusalem leads to the pope calling for the Third Crusade. The call will be answered by the German Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, French King Philip Augustus and English King Richard the Lionheart.

1188   Saladin Tithe. Upon hearing of the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin, King Henry II of England and King Philip Augustus of Franceboth took the Cross and vowed to liberate the Holy City.  To raise money for the expedition, they devised what might be the first national income tax. The Saladin Tithe was, as its name implies, a tax of a tenth of the value of all moveable properties and revenues upon all those not going on crusade. The edict issued by Henry and Philip declared: “This year each man shall give in alms a tenth of his revenues and movables with the exception of the arms, horses and garments of the knights, and likewise with the exception of the horses, books, garments and vestments, and all appurtenances of whatever sort used by clerks in divine service, and the precious stones belonging to both clerks and laymen.” In France the resistance to the Tithe was so great that King Philip was not only forced to suspend it but apologized for having proposed it. In England, where royal power was stronger, the Tithe was collected and raised £70,000 from Christians and approximately another £10,000 from the Jews. In England, the Saladin Tithe was collected with ruthless efficiency. Because it was a “tithe” rather than a royal secular exaction, the money was collected by parish priests, bishops, deans of the local churches, local barons, and royal sergeants rather than by sheriffs, and turned over to a special office with ten tellers set up in Salisbury rather than to the Exchequer. Henry II used the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller to help organize the collection.  Anyone who joined the crusade was exempt from the Tithe. This was meant to encourage participation, and many did indeed join in order to avoid the tallage. All other landowners, both clerics and laymen, had to pay; if anyone disagreed with the assessment of their property, they were imprisoned or excommunicated. The procedures established for the Saladin Tithe formed a model for future English royal exactions, such as those used to ransom Richard in 1194 and to pay for John’s Continental wars in 1207.

1189-1192   Third Crusade: Crusade to recapture Jerusalem from Saladin. Call to crusade answered by German Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, French King Philip Augustus and English King Richard the Lionheart. Frederick drowned in Cilicia; Philip returned after the capture of Acre (1191), and Richard campaigned until 1192, when he made peace with Saladin, a compromise which left the Christians in control of the coast down to Ascalon and Saladin as ruler of Jerusalem, with Christian pilgrims allowed free access to the Holy City.

1190   Massacre of the Jews of York. Richard the Lionheart’s preparations for going on crusade entailed demanding money from the Jews, who were officially serfs of the Crown. Jewish moneylenders, in turn, raised the required money by calling in debts.  This exacerbated the Christian hostility toward the Jews which had already been stirred up by crusading fervor. In 1189-1190 there were a series of attacks upon Jewish communities across England, including the massacre of thirty Jews who tried to bring gifts to Richard during his coronation at Westminster by a mob responding to a (false) rumor that the new king had ordered the extermination of the Jews.  The new king responded by having the ringleaders hanged. The most notorious event was the massacre of the Jewish community of York.  A local noble Richard Malebrisse, who was deeply in debt to the wealthy banker Aaron of York, took advantage of a fire that broke out in town to incite the local population against the Jews. A mob broke into the home of a recently deceased agent of Aaron, sacked the premisses and killed his widow and children. The town’s Jews, about 150 men, women, and children, sought refuge with the royal warden of Clifford’s Tower. He agreed, but when the Jews refused to readmit him after he had left the castle, the warden asked the sheriff of Yorkshire to raise the forces of the shire to evict the Jews. This swelled into a mob that set fire to the castle. Rather than surrender, the Jews inside decided to kill themselves. The rioters then went to the cathedral of York, where the records of debt owed to Jewish moneylenders were kept, and burned the accounts. The king’s chancellor William de Longchamp, bishop of Ely, regarded this as an attack upon the royal dignity and fired the sheriff and constable for dereliction of duty and confiscated the estates of the instigator, Richard Malebrisse.

1191-1192   Richard the Lionheart leads the Third Crusade. The arrival at Acre of King Philip II Augustus of France in April and King Richard I of England in early June with about 18,000 soldiers between them proved decisive in the siege of Acre, which fell to the crusaders in early July after a siege of two years. In the aftermath of the victory Richard made a mortal enemy of Duke Leopold of Austria when he ordered the Duke’s banner, which had been raised beside his and King Philip’s, removed from the city’s walls. When Philip Augustus decided to return to France because of illness and political concerns, Richard assumed sole command of the crusading army, including the French and German contingents. After massacring 2,700 Muslim captives when Saladin missed the deadline for ransom, Richard began a march down the coast. Richard secured the coast by marching from Acre to Jaffa, taking each port city along the way. This march was among Richard’s most impressive military feats. The crusaders marching in close formation were under constant attack, as Saladin tried to lure Richard into a set battle. Richard, intent on securing the port cities as a necessary prelude to taking Jerusalem, refused to get drawn into battle. Using Cyprus (which he had taken on his way to the Holy Land in 1191) as a supply depot and Acre as a logistical base, Richard ordered his fleet to follow along the coast, so that they could bring supplies and reinforcements to the troops and take away the wounded and sick. When the crusaders’ patience finally gave out near Arsuf, just shy of Jaffa, and the Hospitallers in the rearguard decided to charge the Saracens, Richard quickly deployed his troops from line of march to line of battle using prearranged trumpet signals, and attacked. Although victorious in the battle, Richard chose not to pursue Saladin’s army but instead continued his march to Jaffa. Richard, however, came to recognize that although he could take Jerusalem, because it was inland he would not be able to hold it. His best chance was to attack the capital of Saladin’s empire, Egypt, but the army balked and insisted on marching to Jerusalem. Faced with news that his brother Prince John with the support of Philip Augustus was attempting to seize the English throne (the historical setting for most modern versions of the Robin Hood story), Richard negotiated a three year truce with Saladin and a settlement that allowed Christian pilgrims access to Jerusalem, although the city remained under Muslim control. Saladin, fearful of the threat posed to Egypt, required also that the walls of Ascalon, the southern most port in Palestine, be leveled. Richard was unsuccessful as well in his attempt to preserve the kingship of Jerusalem for his Poitevin vassal King Guy of Lusignan.  Faced with an unanimous vote by the barons of the Kingdom, Richard reluctantly accepted Conrad of Montferrat, a supporter of Philip Augustus, as King of Jerusalem. He sold Guy the lordship of Cyprus as a consolation prize. Before he could be crowned Conrad was assassinated by two members of the Ismali Shiite sect the Hashshashins. Suspicion immediately fell on Richard. Conrad belonged to a well connected family, having been a cousin of the Emperor Henry VI of Germany, King Philip Augustus of France, and Duke Leopold of Austria. All of them held Richard responsible for his murder.

1193   Teutonic Order established as a new Military Order, grew out of a German order of monks who ran a hospital in Acre. Modeled on Hospitallers. Pope Celestine III calls for a crusade against pagans of the Baltic.

1198-1212   Livonian Crusade in present-day Latvia.

1199   Crusade. Pope Innocent III calls a crusade against Markward of Anweiler, Margrave of Ancona and Count of Abruzzo in central Italy and lord of Palermo in the kingdom of Sicily. Markward was a supporter of Innocent’s enemy the Hohenstaufen claimant to the German throne Philip of Swabia, and posed a threat both to the Papal States and to the pope’s claim to supremacy over Sicily. This was the first “political crusade.”


Crusaders1203-1204   Fourth CrusadeInnocent III calls for a crusade to liberate Jerusalem. The Fourth Crusade starts with Venetians diverting crusaders to Yugoslav city of Zara, which they take for Venetians to pay for ships to take them to the Holy Land. Crusade is then diverted to Constantinople, where crusaders support pretender to the imperial throne. When their candidate is killed, they sack Constantinople and foundLatin Kingdom of Constantinople. The crusaders divide up Greece into vassal fiefs: the Kingdom of Thessalonica, the Principality of Achaea, the Duchy of Athens, the Duchy of the Archipelago and the short-lived duchies of Nicaea, Philippopolis, and Philadelphia. The Byzantines retain control over the Despotate of Epirus (western Greece) and the Empire of Nicaea and the Empire of Trebizond in Anatolia.

Innocent III establishes new German Military Order, the Brothers of the Sword, to aid in the establishment of Christian rule in Livonia and the pagan Baltic.


 1209-1229   Albigensian Crusade against the ‘Cathar’ heretics of southern France/Cathar heresy. After the murder of the Cistercian monk and papal legate (St) Peter of Castelnau following a stormy meeting with Count Raymond VI of Toulouse (1156-1222) over the count’s supposed protection of heretics, Pope Innocent III calls for the Albigensian Crusade against the dualist Cathar heretics (Albigensians) and their supporters in Languedoc (“land of the language of ‘oc’ [yes]”=southern France, as opposed to ‘Langedoïl,’ northern France where people used “oïl”/oui to say yes). Although King Philip II Augustus of France, faced with enemies to his west (King John) and east (Emperor Otto IV) showed no interest in leading this crusade, he gave permission to his barons in the Ile-de-Franceto answer  the summons. The northern French crusading army was led by the pious, sanctimonious, and brutal Count Simon de Montfort (c.1165-1218), lord of Montfort l’Amaury in the Ile-de-France, and father of the English Earl Simon de Montfort (see below 128/1259). Montfort had gone on the Fourth Crusade but had left in disgust when the crusaders attacked Christian Zara to pay the Venetians for transport to the Holy Land. This ferociously brutal war began with a massacre in the southern French city of Béziers in 1209, after which crusaders and southern French defenders exchanged atrocities. Montfort’s army of northern French crusaders proved initially successful, and apparently “won” the war when they defeated King Pere II of Aragon in the Battle of Muret in 1213, after which Montfort styled himself Count of Toulouse and Narbonne. Montfort’s brutality, however, led to renewed support for Count Raymond VI of Toulouse. Montfort died besieging Toulouse in 1218, crushed by a rock thrown by a mangonel. Count Raymond VI died in 1222, and his capable son Count Raymond VII took up the fight. The turning point in the war came in 1226 when King Louis VIII of France (r.1223-1226) brought the full military weight of the French Crown to bear against the southern French. In 1229 the Albigensian Crusade came to an end. Count Raymond VII was allowed to retain his county, but it was to pass after his death to his daughter and her husband, Alphonse of Artois, the younger brother of King (St) Louis IX. The ultimate political consequence of the Albigensian Crusade was that Languedoc became part of the French king’s royal domain.  Siege of Carcassonne, early 13th-century carvingWalls of Carcassonne

The Cathars were dualists who believed that there were two gods, the good god of the New Testament who created the world of spirit and the evil god of the Old Testament who created the material world. They believed that the evil god had imprisoned the souls of men into prisons of flesh, and that unless released by the sacrament of the Consolamentum (akin to baptism but without the use of water), the soul upon the physical death of a person would transmigrate to a new “prison of flesh.”  The Cathar clergy, known as “Perfects” (also as the Good Men and the Good Women), lived lives of purity, abstaining from meat, fish, sex, or any worldly pleasures or luxuries, and conceived of themselves to be living vessels of the Holy Spirit. Upon death their souls would be released to go back to heaven. There were few Perfects. There were many more who were “Believers,” Cathar laity, who lived lives much like their Catholic neighbors but hoped to receive the Consolamentum upon their deathbeds. Of course, the Cathars rejected completely the Catholic Church, its clergy, and its sacraments. Even in southern France Cathar believers made up only a small minority of the population. But they were disproportionately well represented among the lesser nobility and were tolerated—and sometimes protected—by Catholic nobles, including the count of Toulouse, Raymond VI. The religion originated in the East, perhaps Bulgaria, and spread to the West in the middle of the twelfth century via Constantinople. It took root in southern France, in part because of the weakness of the institutional church in that region. In the first decade of the thirteenth century (St.) Dominic de Guzman, a Spanish Augustinian canon, and the Diego, bishop of Osma, conducted a preaching mission against the Cathars, debating them in public. The failure of this preaching movement led to the Albigensian Crusade and, later, to the Papal Inquisition. The Church regarded the Cathars as the most serious of the various heretical movements of the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

1212      Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. Combined army of the Christian kingdoms of Spain led by King Alfonso VIII of Leon/Castile and King Pere II of Aragon-Catalonia decisively defeats the Almohads at Las Navas de Tolosa (northeast of Cordoba), driving the Almohads back to Morocco. Turning point in the Christian Reconquista of Spain.

1212   Children’s Crusade    This actually refers to two separate peasant movements. One was led by a German shepherd who led about 7,000 peasants of all ages across the Alps to Genoa, believing that the sea would part so that they could walk to Jerusalem. It didn’t, and the “crusade” evaporated.  The other wasn’t a crusade at all. A twelve year old peasant boy named Stephen of Cloyes claimed to have a letter from Jesus to King Philip Augustus of France. Thousands followed him to St. Denis, where he supposedly worked miracles. King Philip, after consulting with the faculty of the University of Paris, dispersed the crowds and sent them home. The idea of an actual popular “crusade” of children was the result of medieval chroniclers writing several decades after these events misinterpreting the characterization of the crowds as pueri, a Latin word that literally means “boys” but which was also slang for peasants of all ages.

1213   Battle of Muret. Decisive victory in southern France by Simon de Montfort, leader of the Crusading army in the Albigensian Crusade, over (ironically) King Pere II of Aragon-Catalonia, hero of the Christian victory at Las Navas de Tolosa a year earlier.

1218‑1221   Fifth Crusade directed against Egypt. Gets bogged down in a siege of port city of Damietta and ends in complete failure.

1225   Frederick II, who had taken crusader vows in 1215 and 1220, married (by proxy) Yolande (aka Isabella) daughter of John of Brienne, the nominal ruler of the kingdom ofJerusalem. By right of his wife, Frederick II claimed the kingdom of Jerusalem.

1227   Emperor Frederick II excommunicated for failing to fulfill crusader vow. Frederick II set sails from Brindisi to Acre, but is forced to return to Italy when an epidemic breaks out in the fleet. The new pope Gregory IX excommunicates Frederick ostensibly for his persistent failure to fulfill his crusade vow but probably really because of Frederick’s political designs over Italy which threatens the pope’s control over the papal states.

1228-29  Crusade of Emperor Frederick II.  Ignoring his excommunication, Frederick II leads a crusade to Palestine and retakes Jerusalem through negotiations with the Ayyubid sultan of Egypt al-Kamil rather than by force. Because of the excommunication, Frederick’s forces melted away but he retained enough troops to present a threat to al-Kamil, who had just recently emerged from a civil war against his brother, the emir of Syria.  The sultan allowed Frederick control over Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Sidon, and Jaffa. In response, Frederick agreed not to restore the defenses of Jerusalem and to allow the Muslims to retain control over theTemple Mount area of Jerusalem, the al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock. Frederick II, claiming the throne of Jerusalem by right of his second wife Yolande of Brienne, had himself crowned King of Jerusalem in the church of the Holy Sepulcher, although legally he was only regent for his son by Yolande, Conrad. The pope and much of Christendom are appalled at his willingness to deal with infidels.  The Christians would continue to hold Jerusalem until 1244.

1239-1241   Crusades to the East of Thibault, count of Champagne and Richard, earl of Cornwall. In 1239 Count Thibault of Champagne crusaded in the East with a minimum of military action. After two small engagements, one a victory and the other a defeat, Thibault arranged a treaty with the Sultan of Egypt that increased the territory of the Latin Kingdom. He left in 1240 just as Earl Richard of Cornwall, the younger brother of King Henry III of England arrived. His crusade also involved little actual warfare, and he too negotiated a favorable settlement with the Sultan of Egypt (who was more concerned with his Muslim rival in Damascus than with the Franks in the Latin Kingdom). This nearly forgotten crusade was ironically the most successful with the exceptions of the First Crusade and the Emperor Frederick II’s “crusade” of 1228-1229.

1244   Jerusalem lost to Muslims (again). Jerusalem is sacked by the Muslim Turkic Khwarezmian mercenaries. The Ayyubid Sultan Salih Ayyub, in Egypt, hired these Turkic warriors (whose empire had extended over Iran and Iraq until destroyed by the Mongols) to fight against his uncle Salih Ismail. The Khwarezmiyyas, heading south from Iraq towards Egypt, invaded Christian-held Jerusalem along the way.  Jerusalem is lost by the West and is not recaptured again until 1917.

1244    Montsegur, the last Cathar strongholdsurrenders. 220 Cathar perfects are burnt. Marks the effective end of organized Catharism in Languedoc.



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