The crusades were a series of wars between the Christians and the Muslims each looking to keep their territory in the Holy Lands. The first of many crusades took place in 1095 when Christians came to Pope Urban II’s plea to capture Jerusalem from Muslim forces. The last of the main crusades took place in 1291 although the Vatican led smaller crusades without much affect until the reformation of the 16th Century.


The aim of the first crusade was to enter the Holy Lands and set up Latin States with Christianity as the religion of the area. Muslims living in and around the area declared war on the Christians with the intention of regaining control.

Jerusalem was a city of immense importance to both Muslims and Christians alike. In 1099, the Christians of the first crusade won and took control of Jerusalem. Although Jerusalem was now under Christian control, the crusades did not end there and religious tension between Christians and Muslims continued.


After Jerusalem fell to the Christians, the majority of Christians returned home. Those who stayed in the Holy Lands established four Christian settlements. These settlements were known as Crusader states and were:

  • Edessa
  • Antioch
  • Tripoli
  • Jerusalem

Each of the four main states were protected by castles which protected the states until 1130. Edessa was the first state to fall to Muslim forces.


King Louis VII and King Conrad III led the second crusade in response to the news of Edessa. The first battle was lost to the Turks at Dorylaeum in October 1147. Louis and Conrad retreated to Jerusalem and assembled an army consisting of 50,000 men. This force marched forward to attack the Syrian stronghold Damascus. Damascus responded with their ruler calling for Muslim aid but this was not enough and the Muslim forces were defeated.


Fighting between the Christian and the Muslim forces continued on until the end of the 13th Century as Christians fought to gain more land in the Holy Lands. The eighth crusade was led by King Louis IX and ended in defeat in Egypt. After the eighth crusade, Christians continued to struggle as a new power dynasty arose in Egypt known as the Mamluks. Smaller attempts were made by the church without success until the 16th Century when the Reformation in Europe began.

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