In the 7th cent., Jerusalem was taken by the caliph Umar. Pilgrimages (see pilgrim) were not cut off at first, but early in the 11th cent. the Fatimid caliph Hakim began to persecute the Christians and despoiled the Holy Sepulcher. Persecution abated after his death (1021), but relations remained strained and became more so when Jerusalem passed (1071) from the comparatively tolerant Egyptians to the Seljuk Turks, who in the same year defeated the Byzantine emperor Romanus IV at Manzikert.
Late in the 11th cent., Byzantine Emperor Alexius I, threatened by the Seljuk Turks, appealed to the West for aid. This was not the first appeal of the kind; while it may have helped to determine the time and the route of the First Crusade, 1095–99, its precise import is difficult to estimate. Modern historians have speculated that two internal problems also helped trigger the First Crusade: an attempt, begun by Pope Gregory VII, to reform the church, and the pressing need to strengthen the weakened Papacy itself. Direct impetus was given the crusade by the famous sermon of Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont (now Clermont-Ferrand) in 1095. Exaggerating the anti-Christian acts of the Muslims, Urban exhorted Christendom to go to war for the Sepulcher, promising that the journey would count as full penance and that the homes of the absent ones would be protected by a truce. The battle cry of the Christians, he urged, should be
Proclaimed by many wandering preachers, notably Peter the Hermit, the movement spread through Europe and even reached Scandinavia. It is estimated that between 60,000 and 100,000 heeded the call and took up the cause of the First Crusade. The chief factors that contributed to this enthusiastic response were the increase in the population and prosperity of Western Europe; the high point that religious devotion had reached; the prospect of territorial expansion and riches for the nobles, and of more freedom for the lower classes; the colonial projects of the Normans (directed against the Byzantine Empire as much as against the Muslim world); the desire, particularly of the Italian cities, to expand trade with the East; and a general awakening to the lure of travel and adventure.
Sections in this article:
- Aftermath and Heritage of the Crusades
- Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Crusades
- Sixth Crusade
- Fourth, Children's, and Fifth Crusades
- Third Crusade
- Second Crusade
- The Later Crusades
- Course of the Crusade
- First Crusade
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