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Crusades, The

Series of military campaigns; 1095-1291; crusade literally means "religious war." Dan Brown says one goal of the Crusades was to destroy evidence that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had been married (DVC, 254). There is no reliable historical evidence for this claim.

In the eleventh century, rumors began to circulate in Europe that Muslim marauders were harassing Christian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. Muslim warlords did charge high tariffs when pilgrims crossed into their territories; even so, harassment was not widespread. Nevertheless, when Emperor Alexius I of the Eastern (Byzantine) Roman Empire asked Pope Urban II to assist him in his struggle, the pope responded eagerly. At a council in the French city of Clermont, Urban II urged nobles, knights, and knaves to undertake a crusade against the Muslims, declaring at the climax of his speech, "All who die, by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins. This I grant them through the power of God!" To this, the crowd responded, "Deus volt!" ("God wills it!"). A total of nine crusades were ultimately directed against the Muslims.

  • First Crusade (1095-1099): Crusader armies went east and conquered Jerusalem, expelling Muslims from the Holy Land while slaughtering thousands of Muslims, Jews, and Eastern Orthodox Christians in the city.

  • Second Crusade (1147-1149): Urged by Bernard of Clairvaux, French and German armies marched across Asia Minor and attacked Damascus. Failing to conquer, both armies returned to Europe.

  • Third Crusade (1187-1191): In 1187, Muslim leader Saladin recaptured Jerusalem; Richard the Lionhearted of England, Philip II of France, and Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I led the Third Crusade to recapture it. Frederick drowned en route, and Philip returned to France after the crusaders captured the seaport Acre. The remaining crusaders were unable to reach Jerusalem; Richard negotiated peace with Saladin and returned to England.

  • Fourth Crusade (1202-1204): Initiated by Pope Innocent III, who intended to invade the Holy Land through Egypt. The onslaught was diverted northward into Asia Minor where—on Good Friday, 1204— frustrated crusaders pillaged Constantinople, murdering, robbing, and raping thousands of Eastern Orthodox Christians.

  • Fifth Crusade (1215-1219): Crusaders from Hungary, Austria, and Bavaria attempted to capture Cairo. Nile flooding forced them to surrender.

  • Sixth Crusade (1228-1229): Through diplomacy and without the pope's support, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II established a ten-year truce between Christians and Muslims in Jerusalem. The truce expired in 1239, and Egyptian Muslims reconquered the city five years later.

  • Seventh Crusade (1249-1252): Following the fall of Jerusalem, King Louis IX of France launched a failed crusade against Egypt, after which the French withdrew.

  • Eighth Crusade (1270): Louis IX's second campaign against the Egyptians was diverted to Tunisia, where he died.

  • Ninth Crusade (1271): The future King Edward I of England led this failed crusade against Muslims in Syria.

In 1291, the last crusader stronghold—the seaport Acre—fell to a Muslim army. The last order of crusading knights, the Knights Hospitaller, fled to the island of Rhodes and then to Malta. The Knights remained on Malta until they were defeated by France's Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798.

Despite the nobility and chivalry associated with the crusaders in the imaginations of many, their cruelty poisoned relationships between Western Christians and Eastern Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and Jews for centuries. On March 12, 2000, Pope John Paul II, on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church, asked forgiveness for wrongs committed during the Crusades. See also Godefroi de Bouillon; Holy Roman Empire; Knights Hospitaller.

Printed with permission from Bethany House Publishers, South Bloomington, Minnesota from the book "The Da Vinci Codebreaker : an easy-to-use fact checker for truth seekers" by James L. Garlow.

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