Christian History Institute

Sharing our story of faith across the ages

items tagged with crusades

In Context

  1. The Christian glories in the death of the pagan, because Christ is glorified.
    Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153), from In Praise of the New Knighthood.
  2. God wills it!
    Franks at Clermont (1095). Shouted in response to Pope Urban II.

Study Modules

Magazine Issues


30 Dec 2011

“Our lords the sick”

by Theresa M. Vann | Issue 101

IMAGINE a reasonably well-off farmer living in twelfth-century Europe. All his life he has heard about the brave crusading knights who rescued Jesus’ tomb from the infidels. Now he is going to Jerusalem to see the tomb himself.

But the journey is long and arduous, the ship crowded and filthy. When he arrives at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, he is weak, ill, and far from home. He collapses in the street, expecting to die. Instead, a man wearing a religious habit picks him up and brings him to a large, clean hospital just opposite the...

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15 May 2004

Innocent’s Corrupted Crusade

by Steven Gertz | Issue 82

THE BAND OF KNIGHTS who gathered at Count Thibaut of Champaigne’s castle in November 1199 intended simply to enjoy their host’s hospitality and impress their ladies in jousting tournaments. But when the electric preacher Fulk of Neuilly gained entrance to the castle and publicly lamented the success of Saladin’s Muslim forces in the Holy Land, frivolity left the hall. Wearing crosses of cloth across their shoulders, Count Thibaut and a company of knights marched to Pope Innocent III and pledged their lives to war.

Innocent was delighted...

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15 May 2002

A Deadly Give and Take

by Paul Crawford | Issue 74

OSAMA BIN LADEN called America’s response to September 11, a “new crusade and Jewish campaign led by the big crusader Bush under the flag of the cross.” He clearly meant to link the military campaign to European campaigns from a millennium ago, during which, the prevailing mentality holds, Christian warriors unjustly attacked Islamic possessions in and around Palestine.

By establishing this connection, though, the fugitive fanatic admits more than he alleges. In the Middle Ages, as in 2001, Islam struck first—and in such a way that the West...

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30 Nov 1993

Objections to Crusades Answered

by Humbert of Romans | Issue 40

DID PEOPLE SPEAK OUT against the Crusades? Yes, but as historians Louise and Jonathan Riley-Smith explain,”Criticism of crusading…was much less widespread…than is often believed.” And when objections did arise, they could be forcefully answered, as shown in the following treatise. Humbert of Romans, a former leader of the Dominican Order, wrote this “closely argued tour de force” in about 1272. Here are brief excerpts, translated by the Riley-Smiths:

There are some men given over to leisure who avoid all labor for Christ and are in the...

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30 Nov 1993

The Children’s Crusade

by Steven Runciman | Issue 40

THOUGH A RELATIVELY MINOR EPISODE of the Crusades, the “Children’s Crusade” starkly reveals the atmosphere of the times. Distinguished historian Steven Runciman, in his three-volume A History of the Crusades , cut through the scholarly debate surrounding this bizarre episode. Here is a condensed version of his account of one branch of the venture.

One day in May 1212, there appeared at St. Denis, where King Philip of France was holding his court, a shepherd boy of about 12 years old called Stephen. He brought with him a letter for the king,...

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30 Nov 1993

The Crusades: Recommended Resources

by James M. Powell | Issue 40


• Sir Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades,  3 vols. (Cambridge, 1951–54) remains a striking historical narrative.

• Kenneth M. Setton, ed., The History of the Crusades,  6 vols. (Wisconsin, 1969–89) is a comprehensive work by dozens of specialists. Though some articles are out of date, it is still valuable.

• Hans Eberhard Mayer, The Crusades,  2nd ed. (Oxford, 1988) stresses the relationship between the Crusades and contemporary religious movements.

• Jonathan Riley—Smith The Crusades: A Short History  (Yale, 1987) differs...

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30 Nov 1993

Holy Violence Then and Now

by Jonathan Riley-Smith | Issue 40

Christians marching off to holy war—how can we understand that? And did any good come of it? To answer these questions,  Christian History editors Kevin Miller and Mark Galli talked with Jonathan Riley—Smith, professor of history at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, University of London. Professor Riley—Smith is author of  The Crusades: A Short History (Yale, 1987) and numerous other books on the crusading era.

Christian History: In the first three centuries, Christians were pacifists. By 1096, they embarked on a holy war. What caused...

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30 Nov 1993

Long Journey to Jerusalem

by the Editors | Issue 40

By Land

A crusader leaving from Paris would have traveled more than 2,100 miles (3,360 km) to Jerusalem. That journey is roughly equivalent to walking from New York to Salt Lake City. This distance doesn’t include numerous side journeys to forage for food or skirmish with enemy forces.

Most pilgrims walked , and they had to climb steep mountains and cross semi-desert. The band tramped perhaps 12–15 miles per day, fewer in mountainous areas. Thus, the journey took many months. With sieges and delays for gathering food and supplies, most...

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30 Nov 1993

Women of the Cross

by Ronald C. Finucane | Issue 40

THOUGH HISTORIANS HAVE FIXED the crusading knight firmly in the public mind, it is less easy to picture the women who went along on these ventures. Women followed the pilgrimage routes of medieval Europe as avidly as men. Women suffered while on ordinary pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and they could hardly expect lighter treatment on the Crusades. And yet they went.

well-known ladies accompanied their husbands on these dangerous journeys—for example, the wives of Baldwin of Boulogne and Raymond of Toulouse, leaders in the First Crusade, and...

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30 Nov 1993

Puzzling Encounters

Issue 40

Take My Son?

A very important Frankish knight . . . had come on a pilgrimage and was going home again. We got to know one another, and became firm friends. He called me “Brother,” and an affectionate friendship grew up between us.

When he was due to embark for the return journey, he said to me, “My brother, as I am about to return home, I should be happy if you would send your son with me” (the boy, who was about 14 years old, was beside me at the time), “so that he could meet the noblemen of the realm and learn the arts of politics and...

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30 Nov 1993

The Muslim Defense

by Hadia Dajani—Shakeel | Issue 40

To get a full historical picture of any war, it is especially helpful to see it from the perspective of the invaded. What did Muslims think of their enemies? And how devastating was their being conquered? To get answers to such questions,  Christian History  asked Islamic historian Dr. Hadia Dajani—Shakeel to explain. She is associate professor in the department of Middle East and Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto and co-editor of  The Jihad and Its Times (Michigan, 1991).

Pope Urban II staged a massive military invasion of the...

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30 Nov 1993

Major Crusades to the East: Christian History Timeline

by the Editors | Issue 40

Seljuk Turks defeat Byzantine armies at Manzikert 

Anselm serves as archbishop of Canterbury 

The First Crusade 

Baldwin I becomes King of Jerusalem 

Crusader military order, the Hospitallers of St. John, recognized 

Bernard founds Cistercian monastery of Clairvaux 

Order of Knights Templar founded to protect pilgrims 

Abelard shocks theologians with his “Yes and No,” seemingly contradictory statements of theology 

Turkish chief Zengi takes Edessa from crusaders 

First Crusade  

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30 Nov 1993

The Crusades: A Gallery of Martial Monks & Holy Kings

by Stephen M. Miller | Issue 40

Bernard of Clairvaux 

The “theologian of love” who preached war

Bernard, the son of a crusader, was a model monk. While young, he fasted so much he damaged his health, causing lifelong digestive problems. He reportedly studied the Bible and worshiped more than half of each day. He said Christ came to him in visions.

His spiritual intensity made for penetrating sermons, letters, and hymns. His essay “On Loving God” is one of Christian literature’s most eloquent on the subject. In it, Bernard writes, “God himself is the reason why...

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30 Nov 1993

Why You Should Crusade

by Bernard of Clairvaux | Issue 40

THE EARTH HS BEEN SHAKEN and has trembled, because the Lord has caused his land to lose territory. His land, I repeat, where he was seen and in which he lived among men for more than thirty years. His land, which he honored by his birth, embellished by his miracles, consecrated with his blood, and enriched by his bruial. His land, in which the voice of the turtledove was heard when the son of the Virgin praised the life of chastity. His land, where the first flowers of his Resurrection appeared.

Evil men have begun to occupy this land of...

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1 Dec 1993

How Could Christians Do This?

by Bruce L. Shelley | Issue 40

WITHIN CHRISTIAN CIRCLES, the terms crusade  and crusader  survive as expressions of devout purpose. Near where I live, a Christian high school calls its athletic teams “Crusaders,” and several evangelical organizations refer to their ministries as Christian “crusades.”

In other circles, however, crusade  usually triggers less admiration, more shock. It recalls the violence and cruelty of medieval military expeditions to conquer the Holy Land, all done in the name of Christ and with the blessing of the church.

Many of us, then, not only balk...

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30 Nov 1993

The Crusades: From the Editor — The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

by Mark Galli | Issue 40

RECENTLY, a group of Christian leaders, mostly missionaries to the Muslim world, gathered in Jerusalem, at the spot where 900 years earlier Christian knights and soldiers stormed the walls. They read historical accounts of the Jerusalem massacre. Then they formally apologized for the Crusades. I apologize for their apology.

Not because I’m a cheerleader for the Crusades. I cringe when I think of the centuries of slaughter and pillaging done in the name of Christ, with the blessing of the church. I’m saddened by what Muslims and heretics...

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30 Nov 1993

The Crusades: Did You Know?

by Caroline T. Marshall | Issue 40

THERE WERE literally hundreds of crusades. In some periods, armed religious expeditions set forth almost every year.

Many crusades did not fight against Muslims or go near the Holy Land. The church marched against European pagans (such as the Slavs) or heretics (such as the Albigensians).

Women participated actively in the Crusades, with a few on the front lines. Arab historian Imad al-Din noted, “Among the Franks there were indeed women who rode into battle dressed in men’s clothes; who rode out into the thick of the fray.”

The Crusades...

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30 Nov 1993

The Fighting Monks

by Michael Gervers | Issue 40

A MUSLIM ARMY quietly set up camp on the Mount of Olives in 1152, preparing for a surprise attack on the city of Jerusalem. Victory seemed certain: Jerusalems Christian ruler, Baldwin, was away in Tripoli.

But during the night, the encamped Muslims were slaughtered in a surprise counterattack that reportedly left 5,000 dead. Who had so heroically saved the city of Jerusalem?

Brothers in a religious order, men who had vowed themselves to poverty, chastity, and obedience.

But these devout men came from new religious groupsmilitary orders...

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30 Nov 1993

Bloody Pilgrimage

by Mark Galli | Issue 40

When he heard the Christian armies were approaching, Iftikhar ad-Dawla, Muslim governor of Jerusalem, readied the city for a siege. He destroyed the wells outside the walls, poisoning some, dumping earth in others. He drove outlying flocks and herds into the city, and then drove Christian inhabitants, who outnumbered the city’s Muslims, out into the Judean wilderness. He strengthened the towers with sacks of cotton and hay, to absorb the shock of bombardment by French catapults. Then he sent a message to fellow Fatimids (a branch of Islam)...

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