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    . Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully
    as when they do it from religious conviction.
    Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Pensées

    The concept of a just or holy war is an ancient one. The Jews used the concept, and it was probably from them that Christians and Muslims adopted it. All three principal monotheistic religions still accept the idea and continue to use it. For Jews it is a kherem , for Muslims it is a jihad, and for Christians a crusade.

    The concept of a crusade was developed in the eleventh century as a result of organised Christian forces fighting Muslims in Sicily and Spain. The best known crusades were a series of military expeditions promoted by the papacy during the Middle Ages, aimed at taking the Holy Land for Christendom. The Holy Land had been in the hands of the Muslims since 638, and it was against them that the crusades were, at least nominally, directed. Desire for adventure, conquest and plunder seems to have been at least as influential in attracting Christians to the cause as any desire to restore Christ's supposed patrimony.

    The Church regarded crusaders as military pilgrims. They took vows and were rewarded with privileges of protection for their property at home. Any legal proceedings against them were suspended. Another major inducement was the offer of indulgences for the remission of sin. Knights were especially attracted by what were effectively Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free cards allowing them to commit any sins throughout the rest of their lives without incurring liability in this or the next world. During the Crusades the Western Church developed new types of holy warrior. These were military monks such as the Knights Hospitaller and Knights Templar. They were literally both soldiers and monks, and took vows for both callings, fulfilling their holy duties by killing God's enemies. Originally they followed the rule of St Benedict.

    Nine crusades are generally recognised, although there were many others. Many of them collapsed before they got out of Christendom. Some, such as the Children's Crusade, are now disowned as crusades. Others were directed not against Muslims but fellow Christians in Europe, the Church at Constantinople, Christian emperors and kings, sects who rejected the Roman Church, even powerful Italian families hostile to the pope of the day.


    The First Crusade The First Crusade was planned by Pope Urban II and more than 200 bishops at the Council of Clermont. It was preached by Urban between 1095 and 1099. He assured his listeners that God himself wanted them to encourage men of all ranks, rich and poor, to go and exterminate Muslims. He said that Christ commanded it. Even robbers, he said, should now become soldiers of Christ*. Assured that God wanted them to participate in a holy war, masses pressed forward to take the crusaders' oath. They looked forward to a guaranteed place in Heaven for themselves and to an assured victory for their divinely endorsed army. In 1095, at the Council of Clermont, at the very start of the First Crusade, Urban declared that a war could be not only a bellum iustum (just war), but could, in certain cases, be a bellum sacrum (holy war). The pope did not appoint a secular military supreme commander, only a spiritual one, the Bishop of Le Puy. Initial expeditions were led by two churchmen, Peter the Hermit and Walter the Penniless. Peter was a monk from Amiens, whose credentials were a letter written by God and delivered to him by Jesus. He assured his followers that death in the Crusades provided an automatic passport to Heaven.

    Peter the Hermit leading the advance party of the First Crusade

    One German contingent in the Rhine valley was granted a further sign from God. He sent them an enchanted goose to follow. It led them to Jewish neighbourhoods of Spier, where they took the divine hint and massacred the inhabitants. Similar massacres followed at Worms, Mainz, Metz, Prague, Ratisbon and other cities. These pogroms completed, Peter the Hermit's army marched through Hungary towards Turkey. On the way they killed 4,000 Christians in Zemun (present day Semlin), pillaged Belgrade, and set fire to the towns around Niš. They thieved and murdered all the way to Constantinople, by which time only about a third of the initial force remained. The Emperor was astonished. He had asked for trained mercenaries, but what arrived was a murderous rabble. To minimise the risks of danger to his own city he allowed the crusaders to proceed without entering the city. Once across the Bosphorus, they continued as before. Marching beyond Nicæa, a French contingent ravaged the countryside. They looted property, and robbed, tortured, raped and murdered the mainly Christian inhabitants of the country, reportedly roasting babies on spits*. Some 6,000 German crusaders, including bishops and priests, jealous of the French success, tried to emulate it. However, this time an army of Turks arrived and chopped the holy crusaders to pieces. Survivors were given the chance to save their lives by converting to Islam, which some did, including their leader Rainauld, setting a precedent for many future crusaders*.

    The principal expedition that followed was more organised, although crusaders continued to threaten their Christian allies in Constantinople on the way. The Christian Emperor was shocked to find his capital under attack by Western Christians in Holy Week*. He developed a technique for bringing the barbarian Westerners under control by speedily processing batches of them as they arrived. His technique was to induce them to swear fealty to him, then swiftly move them across the Bosphorus before the next batch arrived. On the far side of the water their massed forces were no threat to the city. Apart from further devastating the countryside they could do little but prepare for their first encounter with their non-Christian enemies.

    Sieges were laid to a series of Muslim cities. Crusaders had little respect for their enemies and enjoyed catapulting the severed heads of fallen Moslem warriers into besieged cities. After a victory near Antioch, crusaders brought severed heads back to the besieged city. Hundreds of these heads were shot into the city, and hundreds more impaled on stakes in front of the city walls. A crusader bishop called it a joyful spectacle for the people of God. When Muslims crept out of the city at night to bury their dead the Christians left them alone. Then in the morning the Christians returned, and dug up the corpses to steal gold and silver ornaments*.

    When the crusaders took Antioch in 1098 they slaughtered the inhabitants. Later the Christians were in turn besieged by Muslim reinforcements. The crusaders broke out, putting the Muslim army to flight and capturing their women. The chronicler Fulcher of Chartres was proud to record that on this occasion nothing evil (i.e. sexual) had happened, although the women had been murdered in their tents, pierced through the belly by lances. Time and time again Muslims who surrendered were killed or sold into slavery. This treatment was applied to combatants and citizens alike: women, children, the old, the infirm — anyone and everyone. At Albara the population was totally extirpated, the town then being resettled with Christians, and the mosque converted into a church. Often, the Christians offered to spare those who capitulated, but it was an unwise Muslim who accepted such a promise. A popular technique was to promise protection to all who took refuge in a particular building within the besieged city. Then after the battle, the Christians had an easy time: the men could be massacred and the women and children sold into slavery without having to carry out searches. Clerics justified this by claiming that Christians were not bound by promises made to infidels, even if sworn in the name of God. At Maarat an-Numan the pattern was repeated. The slaughter continued for three days, both Christian and Muslim accounts agreeing on the main points, although each has its own details. The Christian account describes how the Muslims' bodies were dismembered. Some were cut open to find hidden treasure, while others were cut up to eat*. The Muslim account mentions that over 100,000 were killed.

    When the crusaders captured Jerusalem on the 14 th July 1099, they massacred the inhabitants, Jews and Muslims alike, men, women and children. The killing continued all night and into the next day. Jews who took refuge in their synagogue were burned alive. Muslims sought refuge in the al-Aqsa mosque under the protection of a Christian banner. In the morning crusaders forced an entry and massacred them all, 70,000 according to an Arab historian, including a large number of scholars. As one churchman explained

    But now that our men had possession of the walls and towers, wonderful sights were to be seen. Some of our men (and this was more merciful) cut off the heads of their enemies; others shot them with arrows, so that they fell from the towers; others tortured them longer by casting them into the flames. Piles of heads, hands, and feet were to be seen in the streets of the city. It was necessary to pick one's way over the bodies of men and horses. But these were small matters compared to what happened at the Temple of Solomon, a place where religious services are ordinarily chanted. What happened there? If I tell the truth, it will exceed your powers of belief. So let it suffice to say this much, at least, that in the Temple and porch of Solomon, men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins. Indeed, it was a just and splendid judgment of God that this place should be filled with the blood of the unbelievers, since it had suffered so long from their blasphemies. The city was filled with corpses and blood*.

    Even before the killing was over the crusaders went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre "rejoicing and weeping for joy" to thank God for his assistance.

    Neither was this an isolated incident. It was wholly typical. When the crusaders took Caesarea in 1101, many citizens fled to the Great Mosque and begged the Christians for mercy. At the end of the butchery the floor was a lake of blood. In the whole city only a few girls and infants survived. Soon afterwards, there was a similar massacre at Beirut. Such barbarity shocked the Eastern world and left an impression of the Christian West that has still not been forgotten in the third millennium.

    By 1101 reinforcements were on the way, under the command of the Archbishop of Milan, to support the Frankish crusaders already in the Holy Land. Mainly Lombards, the new troops lived up to the record of their French and German predecessors, robbing and killing Christians on the way, and blaming the Byzantine Emperor for the consequences of their own shortcomings. At the first engagement with the enemy they fled in panic leaving their women and children behind to be killed or sold in slave markets. As Sir Steven Runciman, a leading historian of the period says: the Byzantines were "shocked and angered by the stupidity, the ingratitude and the dishonesty of the crusaders"*. They also questioned the crusaders" loyalty to their Byzantine allies. The crusaders had purportedly gone to help Byzantium, and had sworn to restore to the Emperor any of his territory that they recaptured, but not a single one ever did so. Indeed, Eastern Christians were regarded as enemies as much as the Muslims.

    Fired by the success of the crusade against the Muslims, Pope Paschal II (the successor to Urban II) gave his blessing in 1105 to a holy war against his fellow Christians in the East. Preached by a papal legate, the new crusade sought to subjugate the Eastern Empire to Rome. This was unprecedented treachery and undisguised imperialism. For the time being such perfidy got the crusaders nowhere.


    The Second Crusade Pope Eugene III proclaimed The Second Crusade in 1145. It was preached by St Bernard, a leading Cistercian theologian who declared that "The Christian glories in the death of a pagan, because thereby Christ himself is glorified". He also pointed out that anyone who kills an unbeliever does not commit homicide but malicide*; in other words they kill not a man but an evil. In his Praise Of The New Knighthood, wtitten before the second Crusade, he wrote: "'The knight of Christ may strike with confidence and die yet more confidently; for he serves Christ when he strikes, and saves himself when he falls.... When he inflicts death, it is to Christ's profit, and when he suffers death, it is his own gain." He knew how to sell a crusade to believers. His spiel was reminiscent of that of a high-pressure salesman selling to credulous punters:

    But to those of you who are merchants, men quick to seek a bargain, let me point out the advantages of this great opportunity. Do not miss them. Take up the sign of the cross and you will find indulgence for all sins that you humbly confess. The cost is small, the reward is great.... *

    The Second Crusade was led by the greatest potentates in western Europe: King Louis VII of France and the German Emperor Conrad III. Once again churchmen promoted anti-Semitism in Germany and France. Without the aid of a single enchanted goose the crusaders once again found unbelievers in their midst. Inspired by a Cistercian monk, they massacred Jews throughout the Rhineland — notably in Cologne, Mainz, Worms, Spier and Strasbourg.

    The initial object of the Second Crusade was to recapture Edessa (in what is now eastern Turkey), which had fallen to the Muslims in 1144. Initial contingents were led by military commanders like the bishops of Metz and Toul. On the way, travelling by sea, the crusaders besieged Lisbon, which at that time was a Muslim city. After four months the garrison surrendered, having been promised their lives and their property if they capitulated. They did capitulate and were then massacred. Only about a fifth of the original crusader force got as far as Syria, where the real crusade started. It proved a failure, at least partially because tactical targets were selected for religious rather than military reasons. A military tactician might have gone for Aleppo, but the crusade leaders agreed on mounting an attack on Damascus, apparently because they recognised its name as biblical. The leaders argued amongst themselves until the crusade collapsed in 1149, having failed to take either Edessa or Damascus. The whole thing had been a disaster. As Runciman put it:

    …when it reached its ignominious end in the weary retreat from Damascus, all that it had achieved had been to embitter relations between the Western Christians and the Byzantines almost to breaking-point, to sow suspicions between the newly-come Crusaders and the Franks resident in the East, to separate the western Frankish princes from each other, to draw the Muslims closer together, and to do deadly damage to the reputation of the Franks for military prowess*.

    The Muslim Turks extended their rule to Egypt soon afterwards. St Bernard had been promised a victory by God, but instead of this he had provided a complete disaster. Bernard and his supporters tried hard to work out why God's purpose had been so badly frustrated. Perhaps the best solution was that the outcome had been a great success after all, because it had transferred so many Christian warriors from God's earthly army to his heavenly one. Not everyone was convinced. Meanwhile the Christian forces resident in the East accommodated themselves to the realities of Eastern life. Eventually they would come to terms with the fact that until their arrival Muslims, Jews and Christians had lived together in amity. Resident Christians often preferred their old Muslim masters to their new Christian ones.

    Muslim captives who chose to convert to Christianity rather than die were allowed to, but only if there were no further monetary complications. When Cairo offered 60,000 dinars to the Templars for the return of a putative convert, his Christian instruction was promptly suspended and he was sent in chains to Cairo to be mutilated and hanged. Such incidents brought little glory to either side, but it is fair to say that Muslim princes generally conducted themselves with a degree of honour and chivalry lacking amongst the Christians.


    Jerusalem Retaken In 1187, almost 90 years after it had been captured by the Christian army of the First Crusade, Jerusalem was retaken by the Muslim warrior Saladin (c.1137-1193). Originating from Tikrit in modern-day Iraq, Saladin had first demonstrated his military prowess in the 1160s in campaigns against crusaders in Palestine. Succeeding his uncle as a vizier in Egypt, he conquered Egypt in 1175 and then set about improving that country's economy and military strength. Following further campaigns in Syria and Mesopotamia, in 1186 he proclaimed a jihad that led to his capturing Jerusalem for the Muslims in the following year.

    In addition to his abilities as a military leader, Saladin is renowned for his chivalry and merciful nature. It is known, for example, that in his struggles against the crusaders, he provided medical assistance on the battlefield to the wounded of both sides, and even allowed Christian physicians to visit Christian prisoners. Once the battle to retake Jerusalem was over, no one was killed or injured, and not a building was looted. The captives were permitted to ransom themselves, and those who could afford to do so ransomed their vassals as well. Many thousands could not afford their ransom and were held to be sold as slaves. The military monks, who could have used their vast wealth to save their fellow Christians from slavery, declined to do so. The head of the Church, the patriarch Heraclius, and his clerics looked after themselves. The Muslims saw Heraclius pay his ten dinars for his own ransom and leave the city bowed with the weight of the gold that he was carrying, followed by carts laden with other valuables. As the prisoners who had not been ransomed were led off to a life of slavery, Saladin's brother Malik al-Adil took pity. He asked his brother for 1,000 of them as a reward for his services, and when he was granted them he immediately gave them their liberty. This triggered further generosity amongst the victorious commanders, culminating in Saladin offering gifts from his own treasury to the Christian widows and orphans. As a contemporary historian has remarked, "His mercy and kindness were in strange contrast to the deeds of the Christian conquerors of the First Crusade"*.

    In contrast to the generally honourable behaviour of the Muslims, the Christians repeatedly made promises under oath and them reneged upon them, often with the encouragement of the priesthood. In 1188 the King of Jerusalem, Guy, who had been captured by Saladin, was released. Guy had solemnly sworn that he would leave the country and never again take arms against the Muslims. Immediately, a cleric was found to release him from his oath. Despite this sort of behaviour, Muslim leaders generally stuck to their own promises. They were rather bemused by the cynical behaviour of the Western Christians. Often the cynicism worked to the Muslims" advantage. For example, Saladin was pleasantly surprised to find that Italian city states were prepared to sell him high quality weapons to be used against crusaders.

    When the Emperor in Constantinople heard of the Muslim victory, he sent an embassy to congratulate its leaders. Eastern Christians had already generally allied themselves with the Muslims, regarding them as fairer and more civilised rulers than the followers of the Church of Rome. Now they asked to stay in Jerusalem, were allowed to do so, and gave "prodigious service" to their new masters.


    The Third Crusade After the loss of Jerusalem, a Third Crusade was preached by Pope Gregory VIII. It was jointly led by Frederick Barbarossa, Philip of France, and Richard I of England (The Lionheart). The Archbishop of Canterbury, Baldwin, went along too. Richard had been crowned on 3 rd September in 1189 with crusading fervour already in the air. English Christians emulated their continental co-religionists, and took to murdering Jews, starting with those who had come to offer presents to their new king. This sparked further persecutions throughout the country, most notably in York. Soon the crusaders, including those who had engaged in the murder of Jews, departed for the East along with their continental co-religionists. Frederick Barbarossa died on the way, an event that mystified the crusaders, but which Muslims immediately recognised as a miracle wrought by God for the one true faith. Philip and Richard squabbled and attempted to bribe each other's armies to change allegiance (three gold pieces per month for English knights who joined Philip: four for French knights who joined Richard).

    Eventually, Philip gave up and went home. Richard went on to capture Acre in 1191. Saladin was unable to pay for the release of the survivors quickly enough, so Richard ordered the massacre of his 2,700 captives, many of them women and children. They waited in line, each watching the one in front have their throat slit. Wives were slaughtered at the side of their husbands, children at the side of their parents while bishops blessed the proceedings. Corpses were then cut open in the hope of finding swallowed jewels.

    Richard found further success difficult to come by, and a truce was made with Saladin, although Richard felt free to break it when it suited him. Despite Richard's behaviour, Saladin continued to treat him with respect when they met on the battlefield, apparently because Richard's fighting prowess impressed him. When Richard's horse fell, wounded in battle outside Jaffa in August 1192, Saladin sent a groom through the mêlée with fresh mounts for him. The Lionheart's treatment by his Muslim enemy contrasted with his treatment by his own Christian allies. On his way home later that year Richard was captured and imprisoned by a fellow crusader, Leopold, Duke of Austria. He was eventually released on payment of the Christian sum of 150,000 marks (£100,000), literally a king's ransom.


    The Fourth Crusade The Fourth Crusade was preached by Pope Innocent III and lasted from 1202 to 1204. Although intended to regain the Holy Land from the Muslims by way of Egypt, the crusade was hijacked by the Venetians and directed against the Christian cities of Zara and then Constantinople, which offered a softer target and richer pickings. Constantinople was taken, the Emperor deposed, and Baldwin of Flanders was set up in his place. The victorious crusaders amused themselves in the usual way, even though this was the capital of Christendom. As well as the standard bout of destruction, the men of the cross desecrated imperial tombs, plundered churches, stole holy relics, wrecked houses, vandalised libraries, destroyed whatever loot they could not carry, raped nuns, and murdered at will. They also set a prostitute on the patriarch's throne in Sancta Sophia, the Church of the Holy Wisdom, the greatest Church in Christendom. Later a Latin (i.e. Roman Catholic) patriarch was installed, and the Venetians shipped off the remaining treasures to their own city, where some of them remain to this day. We have sympathetic accounts of these events, including one of an Abbot threatening to kill an Orthodox priest if he did not hand over a stash of “powerful” relics*. The Eastern Churches still harbour bitter resentment about the behaviour of Western Christians during this time. Here is a modern Orthodox bishop on the subject:

    Eastern Christendom has never forgotten those three appalling days of pillage. "Even the Saracens are merciful and kind," protested Nicetas Choniates [a contemporary historian], "compared with these men who bear the Cross of Christ on their shoulders". What shocked the Greeks more than anything was the wanton and systematic sacrilege of the Crusaders. How could men who had specially dedicated themselves to God's service treat the things of God in such a way? As the Byzantines watched the Crusaders tear to pieces the altar and icon screen in the Church of the Holy Wisdom, and set prostitutes on the Patriarch's throne, they must have felt that those who did such things were not Christians in the same sense as themselves*.

    The Western Church saw nothing wrong with its conduct. It is true that the Pope was initially irritated by the crusade having been diverted to attack Zara. But His Holiness was soon reconciled by a victory in his name over the Emperor, and any pretence that the crusade was ever intended to fight the infidel was abandoned. A papal legate, Peter of Saint-Marcel, issued a decree absolving the crusaders from having to proceed further to fight the Muslims. The new Emperor in Constantinople, Baldwin, wrote to the Pope about the sack of the city as "a miracle that God had wrought". The Pope rejoiced in the Lord and gave his approval without reserve*. Modern historians tend to take a different view. As Sir Steven Runciman put it "There was never a greater crime against humanity than the Fourth Crusade"*.


    The Cathar wars or Albigensian Crusade

    In 1208 Pope Innocent III launched crusades against the Cathars in southern France, and in 1211 against Muslims in Spain, but it was difficult to raise interest in expeditions to the more distant and dangerous Holy Land.

    More on the persecution of the Cathars >



    The Children's Crusade

    The year 1212 saw the so-called Children's Crusade. This crusade was preached by a French shepherd boy aged around 12, inspired by a vision of Christ. Christ gave him a letter for the King of France, and despite the King's indifference, the boy succeeded in rousing 30,000 recruits, none over the age of 12. The crusader children were blessed by priests and marched off to Marseilles. The idea was that God would protect them and supply them with suitable fighting skills. He would even part the sea so that they could walk from Marseilles to the Holy Land. But God declined to perform his promised miracle at Marseilles. Instead two men, monks according to one tradition, Hugh the Iron and William the Pig according to another, offered the children ships free of charge to take them to their destination. Most accepted, embarked, and were promptly sold as slaves to African Muslims. This was not an isolated incident. Roman Catholic traders were engaged in an established commerce involving the sale of young boys to Muslim rulers*.

    Some 40,000 German children also set out on the crusade, but God declined to perform his promised miracle for them either. How many ever arrived to fight, if any at all, is not known. Few ever returned home.

    Meanwhile in the Holy Land the resident Christians were becoming ever more accustomed to Eastern life. They wore robes and turbans, ate Eastern food, married Eastern women and learned Eastern medicine. Alliances were made between powerful rulers, often irrespective of religion. Christians accepted Muslims as their feudal Lords and Muslims accepted Christians as theirs.


    The Fifth Crusade This crusade was preached by Pope Innocent III but undertaken in the reign of Pope Honorius III. It was led by Cardinal Pelagius of Lucia and lasted from 1217 to 1221. Although ultimately intended to recover Jerusalem, the main force was initially directed against Egypt. Damietta (a Mediterranean port on the Nile delta) was besieged. Saladin proposed a deal. He would cede Jerusalem, all central Palestine, and Galilee if the crusaders would spare Damietta. Pelagius rejected this offer, against military advice.

    Damietta duly fell to the Christians. The surviving inhabitants were sold into slavery, and their children handed over to the Christian priests to be baptised and trained into the service of the Church. But Saladin soon recovered Damietta by force. The Christian campaign had been another failure, undermined by a combination of personal and national jealousies along with the lack of strategic insight on the part of Cardinal Pelagius, a man who has been described as "an ignorant and obstinate fanatic". As the defeated Christians sailed off, stories of their atrocities triggered a wave of persecution of Christians communities in Egypt, which until then had happily coexisted with their Muslim masters for centuries.


    The Sixth Crusade The Sixth Crusade was proposed by Pope Gregory IX, but found few takers, previous crusades having proved such failures. The Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II organised his own crusade while under sentence of excommunication, and pursued it between 1222 and 1229. Despite the Pope's machinations and much to his embarrassment Frederick's military and strategic skill led to a negotiated settlement under which Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem came under Christian control. On his return to Europe the victorious Frederick crushed the papal forces that had been sent to destroy him, and the Pope had no choice but to lift the sentence of excommunication.


    The Seventh Crusade The Seventh Crusade lasted from 1248 to 1254. It was initiated under Pope Innocent IV, Jerusalem having been lost to the Muslims again in 1244. It was led by King Louis IX of France ( St Louis) who started by attacking Egypt. Once again Damietta was captured, and once again the Sultan offered to exchange it for Jerusalem. Once again the offer was rejected, and once again the Muslims won Damietta back by force of arms. Louis himself was captured and had to be ransomed for 400,000 bezants (gold coins). After his release he went to the Holy Land but failed to recover the holy cities, and so gave up and went home.

    Innocent's successor, Pope Alexander IV, tried to organise yet another crusade, this time against the Mongols, but he was unsuccessful. Had he had a better grasp of strategy he might instead have allied Western Christendom with the Asian powers. Nestorian Christianity was still influential in Asia, and the Mongols might easily have become allies, some of their leaders having already been baptised. Western and Eastern forces combined could have overcome the forces of Islam. In 1254 the Great Khan Mongka, whose mother had been a Nestorian Christian, had offered to recover Jerusalem for the Christians, if they would co-operate. But European Christians were unwilling to co-operate with each other, much less a remote and unknown semi-heathen whose mother had been a heretic. In time the victorious Mongols would themselves convert to Islam and spread their new religion throughout Asia, eclipsing Christianity from the Levant to the Far East.


    The Eighth Crusade The Eighth Crusade was proposed by Pope Gregory X, but not organised until a later reign. It lasted only from 1270 to 1271, and was initially led once again by St Louis. An English contingent was made up largely of men who needed to hold on to lands they had taken by force in the baronial wars of the 1260s. By joining a crusade they were assured of the protection of the Church, and thus able to keep their newly acquired property. The project was another failure. It collapsed after Louis died of disease while attacking Carthage (modern Tunis).


    The Ninth Crusade The Ninth Crusade continued St Louis's Eighth Crusade. It was led by Prince Edward, the future English King Edward I, between 1271 and 1272. Edward reached the Holy Land and was mystified by what he found. The Venetians were supplying the Sultan with all the timber and metal he needed to manufacture his armaments, while the Genoese controlled the Egyptian slave trade. Like Edward, new arrivals were generally surprised by the realities of life in the East. Italian city states jostled with each other for trade with Christians and Muslims without distinction. Senior churchmen paralysed strategic military initiatives. Noble families argued and betrayed each other without compunction. So did the representatives of European nation states, jealous of each other's favour or success. Members of the Eastern and Western Churches bickered continuously. Military Orders squabbled with each other and subverted military expeditions when they threatened their own commercial interests. The Knights Templar created the first true multinational banking corporation serving Christians and Muslims alike, while Muslim Assassins continued to pay homage to the Hospitallers. Native Christians resented their supposed saviours from the West, and would have preferred life under Byzantine or Muslim rulers. Edward got nowhere in such a milieu, so alien to his preconceptions. Like earlier crusades, this one fizzled out, a total failure.

    Civil wars in the remaining Christian territories in the East hastened the end of the crusading period in the Holy Land. Christian princes burned each other's castles and besieged each other in their strongholds. Western Christians were regarded as barbarians by almost everyone. They were likely to kill anyone on a whim, whether Muslim, Jew or Christian. In 1290 newly arrived Italian crusaders went on a Muslim-killing spree in Acre, but since they assumed that any man with a beard was a Muslim, they murdered many Christians as well. The Italians seem to have been even worse than most of their fellow crusaders:

    …the Italians, with their arrogance, their rivalries and the cynicism of their policy, caused irremediable harm. They would hold aloof from vital campaigns and openly parade the disunity of Christendom. They supplied the Muslims with essential war-material. They would riot and fight each other in the streets of the cities*.


    Further Crusades In 1297 Pope Boniface VIII preached a crusade against the Colonnas, a powerful Italian family that regarded the papacy almost as its hereditary possession, and that felt free to take papal treasure at will, even when the papacy was temporarily out of its control. The crusade was announced, complete with indulgences, but Colonna forces captured the Pope. Although he was rescued, he died a month later, a broken man. New crusades against the Turks were proposed by a number of fourteenth century popes, but they never got started. Benedict XII , Innocent VI , Urban V and Gregory XI all proposed them, and Urban even got as far as proclaiming his in 1363, but nothing ever came of it.

    King Peter I of Cyprus organised his own crusade, which attacked and took Alexandria in 1365. The subsequent massacres followed traditional lines of Jerusalem in 1099 and Constantinople in 1204. Crusaders massacred native Christians indiscriminately along with Jews and Muslims. Some 5,000 survivors, representing all three religions, were sold into slavery. European triumphalism over this victory soon waned. Muslim bitterness was revived, Venetian merchants were almost ruined, the spice and silk trades dried up, pilgrims" access to the Holy Land was imperilled, and native Eastern Christians were persecuted once more. Christendom became alarmed at what might happen next. Providentially, Peter was assassinated in 1369, and a peace treaty was signed the following year.

    In the fifteenth century, Pope Martin V organised an unsuccessful crusade against the Hussites, a Christian sect in Bohemia. Pope Eugene IV tried to organise another crusade to recover the Holy Land, but it was a failure. A few years later Cardinal Cesarini persuaded the King of Hungary to support another crusade against the Turks. A ten-year truce was in place, but the Cardinal gave assurances that an oath sworn to a Muslim was invalid. Battle was joined at Varni in Bulgaria, in 1444, where the Christian forces were roundly defeated, leaving Cardinal Cesarini amongst the dead. The annihilation opened up central Europe to the Muslims and further weakened Constantinople.

    In 1453 the Turks finally sacked Constantinople, news of which terrified European leaders. Pope Nicholas V tried to organise a crusade to recover the city, but it was yet another failure. Pope Callistus III did manage to organise one, funded by the sale of indulgences, but it was diverted and finished up attacking Genoa. Pope Pius II was so keen to revive the Crusades that he went himself, but hardly anyone else could be coerced into going with him. He waited near the coast at Ancona in the summer of 1464, hoping for others to turn up. His attendants concealed the fact that no supporting armies were on the way, and drew the curtains of his litter so that he should not see the desertions from his own fleet. When a few Venetian galleys hove into sight His Holiness died, apparently of excitement, and the crusade was promptly abandoned.

    When Columbus sailed to the americas in 1492 he wrote to their Catholic Majesties, Ferdinand and Isabella, "I propose to your Majesties that all the profit derived from this enterprise be used for the recovery of Jerusalem". Crusades were still regarded as desirable and possible. Their Catholic Majesties' grandson, the Emperor Charles V, also talked of Crusades - he was after all the titular King of Jerusalem - and his crusader talk was taken seriously enough for Suleiman to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Over the next three centuries, further attempts were made at organising a crusade, but nothing came of them.


    Repercussions The object of the crusades had been to save Eastern Christendom from the Muslims. They were undertaken with God's encouragement, support and promise of victory. When they ended they had proved a disastrous failure. The whole of Eastern Christendom was under Muslim rule. The Crusades, especially the later ones, had been characterised by partisan self-interest, short-sighted pettiness, internal squabbles, strategic mismanagement, poor military leadership, bigotry, barbarism, corruption and dishonour. The implications were wide-ranging. The popes had succeeded in ruining the emperors of both East and West, while strengthening and unifying disparate Muslim enemies. The greatest Church in Christendom, Sancta Sophia, was now a mosque. Many Eastern Churches, which had always enjoyed toleration under Muslim rulers, now suffered persecution and decline. The schism between East and West, which might have been healed by allies in war, was instead made permanent. Asia was lost to Christianity and was soon to convert wholesale to Islam. The balance of world power had shifted irrevocably. The death toll of these expeditions will never be known accurately for either side, but it is certain that it numbered hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions. Most of the dead were Christians. In fact Christian forces themselves may have killed as many Christians and Jews as they did Muslims.

    Both sides fought fiercely, not to say barbarously. Christian virtues such as mercy and cheek-turning had been almost totally absent throughout, at least on the Christian side. At the end of it all nothing positive had been achieved. Before the crusades, Muslims had established a great reputation for tolerance. Now that they had suffered Christian atrocities and perfidy, they had become fanatical in defence of their religion. As Runciman wrote of the slaughter at Jerusalem during the First Crusade: "It was this bloodthirsty proof of Christian fanaticism that recreated the fanaticism of Islam"*. Muslim respect for Eastern Christians was superseded by hatred and contempt for Western ones.

    The bitterness that was generated between the Christian West and the Muslim Levant was so great that its effects rumbled down the centuries and echo to the present day. Across many Eastern countries the word for a western foreigner is ferenghi, a corruption of Frank, and an echo of the fact that crusaders were usually referred to as Franks in the Middle Ages — but this is far from the most serious reverberation from the crusades.

    Western Churchmen kept the crusader ideal alive. In the early ninteenth century François-René, Vicomte de Chateaubriand was inducted into the Order of the Holy sepulchre by Franciscans in the sepulchre itself- knighting him with the first crusader King of Jerusalem's sword.

    Later In the nineteenth century the Crimean War was triggered by Holy Russia declaring itself protector of Christians in Ottoman lands. Czar Nicholas I saw himself "waging war for a solely Christian purpose, under the banner of the Holy Cross". He thought of the Christian God as the "Russian God" and Russia as the successor of Constantinople. Moscow even called itself the Third Rome, i.e. the third capital of the Empire. Among others the new Rome sought to protect the Armenians, the victims (as well as the perpetrators) of numerous atrocities over the centuries. In 1915 Christian Armenians rebelled against the Turks and massacred Muslims. At Van alone they were reported to have killed 30,000. Over the next five years, hundreds of thousands died. According to some the victims were mainly Christians, according to others they were mainly Muslim. Such killing has continued into recent times. In 1988 Christians and Muslims started killing each other again, this time over the enclave of Ngorno Karabakh in Azerbaijan.

    When General Allenby took Jerusalem in 1917 he was careful not to offend Christians by riding his horse into the city, but he ws not as careful about Moslem sensitivities. When he ceremonially accepted the keys to the city he is supposed to have said "The Crusades have now ended", at which the Mayor and Mufti stalked off. He went on to accept the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre from their Muslim custodians giving them back with the words "Now the Crusades have ended, I return to you the keys but these are not from Omar or Saladin but from Allenby"*. American millenarians also saw the taking of Jerusalem as the triumph of the last Crusade. Many in the Middle East are familiar with the story of the French General Henri Gouraud. After marching into Damascus in July 1920 he is reported to have kicked Saladin's tomb and said: "The Crusades have ended now! Awake Saladin, we have returned! My presence here consecrates the victory of the Cross over the Crescent.".

    General Pershing's Crusaders in the 20th Century shown on a US Government poster.
    Note the ghostly medieval Crusader army riding alongside Pershing's modern Crusader army

    Many Muslims regarded the Anglo-French Suez expedition of 1956 as another attempted repeat of crusader victories of 1199. The Palestine Liberation Organisation regards Israel as the West's new crusader State.

    American soldiers represented as Crusaders, urged on by an angelic figure representing the USA, crucified under the benign gaze of a Jesus

    Christian-Muslim killing was not over. In the 1980s and 90s Christian-Muslim fighting broke out in Africa, notably in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. It happened in Europe as well — in Bosnia and Kosovo. Christian forces were also heavily involved in the civil war in the Lebanon. Arguably, the most brutal incident during the whole war was perpetrated by Christians against Muslim refugees. In 1982 hundreds of men, women and children were massacred by Christian troops in the refugee camps in Sabra and Chatila. It was like the original crusades all over again, except with machine guns. Maronite Christians, who are in communion with Rome, still emulate the behaviour of their crusader forbears. When General Michel Aoun launched a Christian offensive in March 1989 against Syrians in the Lebanon, he explicitly called it a "crusade". Some Muslim fighters in the Lebanon call themselves Salabeyen after Saladin's men who fought the crusaders.

    There are many other echoes of the Crusades — louder in the East than in the West. Two of the PLO's divisions are named after the sites of Muslim victories over the Christian crusaders (Hattin and Ayn Julat). Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981, described his victim in a letter as the "supreme commander of the Crusades"*. During the Gulf war of 1991, Saddam Hussein was guaranteed massive public support in many Muslim countries by likening the Western offensive to a Christian crusade, and implicitly likening himself to Saladin - that other famous native of Tikrit.

    Following terrorist actions against the USA in 2001, President George W. Bush characterised America's response by remarking that "this crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while" — thus opening up the whole issue of the crusades again. Although the reference passed almost unnoticed among Americans, it sounded to many Muslims like a call for a holy war against Islam. In 2010 it was revealed that the US were using gun sights produced by Trijicon Inc, a Michigan arms company. These sights were stamped with biblical references and widely used in Iraq and Afghanistan. The practice had been started by the firm's founder, a devout Christian*. Most people in countries such as the USA and UK are still unaware of how sensitive the whole issue still is in the Muslim world. Not so in Spain, where it is widely known that the train bombings of 2004 were carried out in retribution for Spain's part in the war in Iraq as well as the reconquista — the fifteenth century Christian crusade against the moors of Iberia.

    A large number of Christians on social media see themselves as warriors for Christ.


    The crusaders' cross is still remembered by Muslims and it is for this reason that any symbol in the form of a red cross is not acceptable in Muslim countries, even if it has no connection with the crusaders' cross. The organisation generally known in the west as the Red Cross is to Muslims known as the Red Crescent. Nor is this the only symbolic reminder: Western swords are still made in the shape of a cross, just as scimitars are still made in the shape of a crescent.



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    § With the notable exception of Raimon of Toulouse.

    § Other warrior-saints include Adrian, Ansanus, Bavo, Demetrius, Eustace, Florian, George, Hippolytus, Longinus, and William of Aquitaine. {Halls p 339}

    §. An account of Urban's speech delivered at the Council of Clermont on 27 th November 1095 was included in an account by a French priest Fulcher of Chartres, A History of the Expedition to Jerusalem: 1095-1127, Book 1, Chapter 3.

    §. Runciman, A History of the Crusades vol. 1, p 128.

    §. The leader was Rainauld, See Runciman, A History of the Crusades vol. 1, p 130.

    §. Anna Comnena, the Emperor's daughter, recorded her father's horror during the First Crusade that the Western armies fought on holy days (attacking their fellow Christians) and that these armies included armed and fighting priests. Anna Comnena, Alexiad, x, viii, 8, vol. II, pp 218-19; x, ix, 5-6, vol. II, p 222. Cited by Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol. 1, p 87.

    §. Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol. 1, p 228.

    §. Maarat an-Numan was taken on 12 th December 1098. A Christian account is to be found in the Gesta Francorum et Aliorum Hierosolymitanorum {TC&tHL p 135}. The Christian chronicler takes care to mention that the Christians cooked the flesh of the Muslims before eating it, perhaps thinking that this minimised the barbarism.

    §. Raymond d'Aguiliers, Historia francorum qui ceperunt Jerusalem, in RHC Occ, vol. III, XX, p 300. English translation by August. C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants, (Princeton: 1921), 250-56. See also Runciman, A History of the Crusades vol. 1, p 287.

    §. Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol. 2, p 25.

    §. St Bernard, De Laude Novae Militiae, III (De Militibus Christi).

    §. St Bernard (translated by Bruno Scott James) in James A Brundage, Crusades: A Documentary Survey, Marquette University Press ( Milwaukee, 1962).

    §. Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol. 2, p 288.

    §. Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol. 2, p 466.

    §. "Come, perfidious old man, show me the most powerful relics you have, or you shall die immediately." Abbot Martin of Paris , quoted with evident approval by Gunther of Paris in Historia Constantinopolitana, ch. xix, in Riant: Exuviae, Vol. 104 ff. English translation from An inventory of Abbot Martin's loot (from the same original source) is given at

    §. Ware, The Orthodox Church, p 69.

    §. Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol. 3, p 128, citing Innocent III, letters VII, 153, 154, 203 and 208 (M. P. L. vol. ccxv, cols. 454-61, 512-16 and 521-3).

    §. Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol. 3, p 130.

    §. N. Daniel, Islam and the West: The Making of an Image ( Edinburgh, 1960), pp 142-5 {cited by tTotT pp 191, 282, 293}.

    §. Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol. 3, p 365.

    §. Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol. 1, p 287.

    §. Allenby's comments on taking the keys of Jerusalem have been doubted, but his comments on accepting the keys of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre lend them credence. Simon Sebag Montifiore quotes his words about the keys to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (Weidenfield & Nicholson, London, 2011) citing the memoirs of Hazem Nusseibeh, Jordanian Foreign Minister, whose family has been custodian of the keys since Saladin entrusted them to an ancestor.

    §. Cited by Amin Maalouf (trans. Jon Rotschild), The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, Al Saqi (1984).

    §. New York Times, 21 Jan 2010, "Firm to Remove Bible References From Gun Sights", Erik Eckholm.








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