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The Crusades - War for the Holy City

Pope Urban II and the "Holy War"

Jerusalem is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for the Christians of the Middle Ages, alongside Santiago de Compostela. Numerous believers make a pilgrimage to the Holy City every year, where Jesus Christ is said to have died and risen. They can do that even after Jerusalem is already under Muslim rule.

But in the middle of the 11th century, pilgrimages to the Holy Land were made more difficult: The Seljuks, a Turkish tribe, conquered large areas in the Middle East and in 1070 also brought Jerusalem under their control.

With their expansion efforts, the Seljuks also put the Christian Byzantine Empire in distress, which finally asks Pope Urban II for help.

In November 1095 Urban II called at the Council of Clermont to go to war against the Seljuks and to make the holy places of Jerusalem accessible again for Christian pilgrims. His appeal is successful - many believers feel called to "holy war".

In addition to the religious motives, the steadily increasing population in Europe is also a reason for the spirit of optimism. The participants in the crusade hope that their efforts will not only bring salvation to their soul, but also new lands.

Bloodbath in Jerusalem

The first army to set out after the Council of Clermont is a disorganized bunch led by popular preachers like Peter of Amiens.

This people's army is plundering eastwards, devastating, among other things, the Jewish quarters of Trier, Cologne and Worms. The journey comes to an abrupt end when the Crusaders are crushed by the Seljuks in Asia Minor in 1096.

In the same year, a far better organized army of French, Lorraine and Norman knights set out on the actual first crusade.

With a stopover in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, the army reached Jerusalem in 1099 and took the city. A bloodbath ensues: numerous Muslim and Jewish residents, including children and women, are slaughtered by the crusaders.

After the Holy City was again in Christian hands, the Crusaders proclaimed the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1100. Baldwin of Boulogne becomes the first king.