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The Crusades

The crusades were military expeditions launched against the
Muslims by the Christians in an attempt to regain the Holy Land. They
took place between 1095 A.D. and 1270 A.D. It was one of the most
violent periods in the history of mankind.
The starting point of the crusades was on November 18, 1095
A.D. when Pope Urban II opened the Council of Clermont. On November
27, outside the French city of Clermont-Ferrand, the Pope made an
important speech . He called upon everyone to help the Christians in
the east to restore peace. The crowd's response was very positive.
Garments were cut into crosses which were attached to people's
shoulders in an imitation of Christ (Matthew 10:38).(1) The original
object of the First Crusade was to help Christian churches in the
east. The new goal became to free the Holy Land from Muslim control,
especially Jerusalem.
Pope Urban II stayed in France until September 1096 to provide
leadership and guidance for the members of the First Crusade. He
urged churchmen to preach the cross in France. Urban wanted the
crusading army to be mostly made up of knights and other military
personnel. Since the news of his speech at Clermont spread through
the west, people from all social classes and occupations joined the
Crusade. As a result of Urban losing control of personnel, violence
was launched against the Jews of northern France. This violence was
mostly instigated by bands of the urban and rural poor led by men like
Peter the Hermit and Walter Sans-Avoir.
These groups lacked supplies and discipline. They attempted
to reach Constantinople but most of them never got that far. The
leaders in lands which they passed through were frightened and killed
many of the crusading bands. Some did get to Constantinople and
traveled across the Bosphorus in August 1096. There they split into
two groups. One tried to overtake Nicaea and was unsuccessful. The
other was ambushed and slaughtered near Civetot in October. The
remaining crusaders retreated to Constantinople and joined the second
wave of the Crusade.
The crusaders were eager to start the journey to Jerusalem but
they needed to capture the Anatolian Turkish capital of Nicaea first
because it blocked the road that would be their main supply route. It
was held by Seljuk Turks. In May 1097, the crusaders attacked Nicaea.
The Turks realized that they were defeated and agreed to give the city
to the Byzantines in exchange for the lives of their men. The
Byzantines agreed to this and on June 18, Nicaea was under Byzantine
control. The leaders of the crusade disagreed and wanted to slaughter
the Turks because they were enemies of Christ.(2) On June 30, 1097,
the crusaders were ambushed at the city of Dorylaeum by Seljuk Turks
led by Kilij Arslam the Seljuk Sultan. The fight continued until July
1. The crusaders won a big victory and nearly wiped out the Turkish
force. This victory opened up the way to Anatolia.
The crusaders attacked Anitoch in northern Syria on October
21, 1097. "This was the main obstacle on the road to Jerusalem."(3)
In a long and gruesome battle, the city finally fell on June 2, 1098.
The crusaders were quickly attacked by a new Turkish army from Al
Mawsil. They arrived too late to revive Anitoch's Turkish defenders
and they were forced to retreat on June 28.
The starting date for the march to Jerusalem was set for
November 1, 1098 but was delayed by an epidemic as well as fighting to
the south of Anitoch. On January 13, 1099 the commander-in-chief,
Count Raymond IV of Toulouse, led the crusaders' march to Jerusalem.
They avoided attacks on cities to conserve forces. In May 1099 they
reached the northern border of Palestine. On June 7 they camped on
the summit of a hill where they could see Jerusalem. Many soldiers
had tears of joy on that day. The hill was named Montjoie.
Jerusalem was well fortified and only vulnerable from the
north and the southwest. On June 13 they tried to storm Jerusalem but
were driven back because of insufficient supplies. Extreme heat and a
water shortage lowered morale. A priest called Peter Desiderius told
them that if they