The crusades consist of a set of military campaigns which took place in the 11th century. All this developed around European countries in order to recover lands that were under Muslim power.

  • When were they:  From 1095 to 1492
  • Where was it:   Holy Land

What were the Crusades?

The crusades were a series of military campaigns carried out, starting in the 11th century, by the main countries of Europe in order to recover territories of the “ Holy Land ” from the hands of the Muslims.


What did the crusades consist of?

With the arrival of the Middle Ages , many countries managed to define and establish their borders with each other. The fall of the Western Roman Empire ushered in a period of great uncertainty and instability, which gave rise to constant squabbles between the fledgling kingdoms of Europe . Its stabilization was an achievement of the West, and it allowed the kingdoms of that time to turn their attention to events beyond their borders.


The crusades were the result of that shift in attention. They were a series of military campaigns carried out by the main Christian kingdoms of Europe , and which had as an objective the recovery of lands (considered sacred by Christendom) from the dominion of the “infidels” Muslims, who, by the way, they had occupied a large part of the territories known by then.


Years before the beginning of the first of the crusades, the Byzantine Empire was considered the nation with the most conquered territories in the Christian world. This situation changed abruptly with the arrival of the Seljuk Turks , tribes from Central Asia who had converted to Islam and had wiped out the Byzantine armies, forcing the Emperor to give up a large part of the territories by then conquered. The interest of the Turks, however, was not limited to such territories, but they went after the southern cities and regions. Among these cities was, of course, Jerusalem: the capital of Christendom.


They were a series of warlike conflicts that began in 1095 at the encouragement of Pope Urban II . These crusades went on for more than a century in a series of skirmishes. Although there were more, the main ones were four . The first of them had the role of princes and feudal lords who sought to ” retake “ some of the lands that belonged to the Byzantine Empire, and which led to the taking of Antioch and Jerusalem by the Christians. In the second crusade , Muslims declare jihadto several of the cities that were under Christian rule at that time. This initiative becomes a failure due to the bad organization in the Christian faction, leading to the Muslim victory . The third crusade was one of the most famous this due to the characters who participated in it, likewise this led not to the Muslim victory, but to the truce between the parties. And finally, in the fourth crusade , which began under the desire to take Egypt from the hands of the Muslims, led to the conquest of Constantinople by the crusaders.

Stages of the crusades

Between 1095 and 1204 there were a total of four crusades , of which we can say:

First crusade

Which was originated by the initiative of Pope Urban II, who stimulated in the Christian peoples the recovery of the ” sacred lands” from the hand of the ” infidels”. This crusade led to the taking of Antioch and Jerusalem from the hand of the Christian faction.

Second crusade

The fall of Edessa to the Muslim kingdoms in 1145 began the second of these military campaigns. This campaign, however, did not end in failure due to disagreements between the kings of France and Germany, which implied the loss of a large part of the territories conquered in the first crusade .

Third crusade

Important historical figures participated in this crusade, such as Sultan Saladino, the Englishman Ricardo Corazón de León, the Frenchman Felipe II de Augusto and Federico Barbarroja. This crusade led to a peace pact that would last until 1198.

Fourth crusade

In this campaign, the taking of Egypt by the Christians was originally intended. However, previous conflicts and indebtedness that the Byzantine emperor had at that time modified his objective, ending in the taking of Constantinople by the crusaders.


  • 1095-1096: The crusade of the poor.
  • 1096-1099: First Crusade.
  • 1147-1149: Second Crusade.
  • 1182-1192: Third Crusade.
  • 1202-1204: Fourth Crusade.


Among which we can highlight:

  • They were treated in military campaigns so generally prompted by the Pope in Rome.
  • The objective, normally, was the taking of areas that were in the possession of Muslim kingdoms.
  • They were, for the most part, skirmishes that did not generate great territorial changes in Muslim regions.
  • Although its objectives were mainly religious , there were also territorial and mercantile interests .


In the manifest, it could be said that the main objective of the crusades was the recovery of territories that were considered sacred by Christians. These objectives, although they were not the only ones, also had other nuances, such as the desire to annex territories or conquer the trade routes of Asia in order to benefit from the tributes.

Causes of the crusades

The historical period in which the crusades are framed was that marked by its complexity. It is, therefore, important to understand that they are dealing with “ multi-causality ” events. Among the causes of the crusades that we can highlight are:

Religious interests

With the advance of the Muslims and the taking of territories considered sacred by the Christians, there was a fear on the part of the latter that Muslim expansionism would destroy Christianity in the known world.

Territorial interests

Much of the eastern and western European aristocracy had aspirations to incorporate various Asian lands into their fiefdoms.

Commercial interests

The existing trade routes in Asia were, for much of history , a point of interest for the powers of Europe , Asia and Africa. Access and control over these were synonymous with significant income for those who had control over these routes.


Among which we can mention:

  • With the departure of the feudal lords to the crusades , their political power significantly diminished in their own lands. Such power was gradually moving towards the figure of the king , who began to hold absolute powers within his lands. This implied a progressive weakening of the feudal system.
  • The trade between East and West lived a revitalization thanks to the exchanges (war) between the warring factions. This became important, since it turned the ports of Venice and Genoa into one of the most important commercial centers in Europe . All this created the antecedent of the founding of the first banks .


Each of the four great crusades followed their own routes. Among these we can say that:

  • The first crusade began in Europe , was unified in Constantinople and ended in Antioquia and San Juan de Acre .
  • The second crusade began in Paris , crossing much of the continent to end in Antioquia.
  • The third crusade started from London , Lisbon , Marseille , Genoa and Germany , crossing different routes (sea and land), to end in Antioch and Jerusalem .
  • The last crusade began in Italy , passing through the sea to end in the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire.


Some of the most famous names of the crusades are:

  • Richard the Lionheart.
  • The Sultan Saladin.
  • Frederick I Barbarossa.
  • Urban II.


Even though the military achievements obtained during these campaigns were not exactly the desired ones, the crusades marked a before and after in many areas. Especially in the economy . With the exchanges provided in the crusades , the division between east and west was dissolved, providing an ease in trade and the elevation of some Italian cities as important commercial centers in Europe . All this, in turn, facilitated the subsequent emergence of the banks.

The crusades in popular culture

Among the examples we have of films that take place in the crusades , are:

  • Crusade (2005)
  • Lionheart (1987)
  • Robin Hood (2010)
  • The Seventh Seal (1957)

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