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Symbolic representation of the conquest of Jerusalem (12th-14th centuries)

The crusades were strategically, religiously and economically motivated wars between 1095/99 and the 13th century, sanctioned by the Latin Church . In this narrower sense, the term describes the Orient Crusades, which were directed against the Muslim states in the Middle East . In the 13th century the term for crusades (such as peregrinatio ) was also extended to other military actions that did not aim at the Holy Land ( crux cismarina ). In this broader sense, the campaigns against non-Christianized peoples such as the Wends , Finns and Balts , against heretics like the Albigensians and against the Eastern Church are also included. Occasionally popes have even called for crusades against Christian political opponents.

After an army of crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099 , a total of four crusader states were founded in the Levant . As a result of their threat from the Muslim neighboring states, further crusades were carried out, which were usually not very successful. The Kingdom of Jerusalem suffered a heavy defeat in the battle of Hattin in 1187 , and Jerusalem was also lost again. With Acre , the last crusader fortress fell in Outremer in 1291 .

The term "crusade" goes back to the attachment of a sign of the cross to the clothing of those who took the crusader oath. In the contemporary sources, however, other terms were used, especially expeditio , iter and peregrinatio (as participants often referred to themselves as peregrini and thus emphasized the motive of an armed pilgrimage). The French term croisade comes from the 15th century (Occitan crozada around 1213), the German translation "crusade" is modern.

Preliminary remarks


Map of the Crusades from a French Dictionary (1922)

Islamic expansion has taken place since the 7th century : the military subjugation and settlement of Christian areas by Arab-Muslim conquerors in the Middle East , North Africa , Italy (the conquest of Sardinia , the invasion of Rome and the destruction of the Basilica of St. Peter by the Aghlabids in 846 ) and (until the reconquest during the Reconquista ) the invasion of Spain and Portugal . From 638 Jerusalem was under Muslim rule. From the Christian side, the conquest of the Holy Land and the driving back of the Saracens was seen as a reconquest and an act of defense of Christianity , which was confirmed and led by the official assistance and support of the Church .

Another motive was to restore the unhindered access of Christian pilgrims to the holy places, which was made impossible by Muslim attacks on the pilgrims arriving in the Levantine ports. This is reported by the chronicler al-Azimi from Aleppo, who also gives these attacks as the reason for the first crusade.

The First Crusade was preceded by a call for help from the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos for military support against the Seljuks . On November 27, 1095 Pope called Urban II. The Christians at the Council of Clermont for a crusade in the "Holy Land". Urban II demanded that the Muslims living there be expelled and that the Christian holy places in Jerusalem be taken over. More than eight decades had passed after reprisals against the local Christian population, the destruction of churches and monasteries and, finally, in 1009 the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher , one of the greatest shrines of Christianity, during the reign of the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim .

After a short time, the crusades were instrumentalized to realize purely secular power interests, especially those directed against the Byzantine Empire . The term crusade was soon extended not only to wars against Muslims, but also against people who were declared "heretics" by the Roman Church (see Albigensians ). This fact gave the papacy a powerful political and military weapon.

Nevertheless, the religious aspect, especially during the crusades to the east, should not be underestimated. After the capture of Jerusalem in 1099, the fallen were celebrated as martyrs . Often the interests of the warring parties and those of the fighting troops were far apart. The rulers on both sides pursued, among other things, power-political interests. The crusaders themselves mostly believed in an honorable, even holy struggle for the Church and God. However, this did not prevent them from taking such brutal action against the civilian population that this has remained in the memory of the peoples affected to this day.

Even before the call to the crusade for the liberation of Jerusalem, the Church had begun to support military campaigns. In the course of the conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066 consecrated flags were sent to the warlords, which were supposed to strengthen him and his army in battle. Archangel Michael , the patron saint of the Roman-German Empire and later Germany, was depicted on the consecrated flags . The Aragonese-French campaign against the Moorish Barbastro in Spain in 1063, supported by Pope Alexander II , as well as the battles against the Arabs in Sicily in 1059, were also under papal patronage and are to be regarded as the forerunners of the Crusades. These are generally considered to be the first historical events on which the Catholic Church begins to dogmatically strengthen and justify military campaigns.

Basis of the Crusade Call

A crusade was both penitentiary and war campaign, which according to the opinion of the (non-Orthodox, Catholic Christian) contemporaries was proclaimed directly by God through the word of the Pope. The participants took a legally binding vow, similar to a pilgrimage . As a result of divine and papal proclamation, the crusades were very popular. This also explains the large number of participants. The officially proclaimed crusades (including, for example, the defensive struggles of the crusader states in Outremer ) were understood as a matter for all of Western Catholic Christianity. The crusader armies therefore usually consisted of "knights" from all over Europe.

From a Christian point of view, the basis for the crusades was the idea of ​​the just war (Latin bellum iustum ), as it was represented by Augustine of Hippo . This later meant that the "godly war" could only be proclaimed by a legitimate authority (such as the Pope). There had to be a just cause for war (such as treating believers unjustly), and the war had to be for good intentions (such as divine love).

Contemporary criticism of the crusades

After the catastrophic outcome of the Second Crusade, theologians who opposed the idea of ​​armed crusades increased. In Germany these include the Würzburg annalist of the Second Crusade and the theologian Gerhoch von Reichersberg as well as the author of the play Ludus de Antichristo , in France the abbot of Cluny Petrus Venerabilis in his later writings, the English Cistercian Isaak von Stella (later abbot in France) , Walter Map (a courtier to King Henry II of England) and the Englishman Radulphus Niger. They invoked, among other things, Mt 26.52  ELB , according to which whoever draws the sword should die by the sword, but also Rev. 19.21  ELB , where it is prophesied that the returning Messiah as King of kings will join the enemies of Christianity with the Breath of his mouth - so only with God's word - will destroy. Around 1200, the canonists, canon lawyers like Alanus Anglicus , also advocated tolerating Muslims.

From the end of the 13th century in particular, the popes had to significantly increase indulgences for listening to crusade sermons, which is also to be interpreted as an indication of the decreasing enthusiasm for the non-Middle Eastern crusades. In the early 14th century, some popes even called for crusades against political opponents, for example against Milan at the end of 1321.

Criticism of the more recent church historians of the crusades

Despite the new beginnings of the ecumenical movement and the Second Vatican Council, relatively few representatives of church history dealt critically with the Crusades in the 20th century . On the evangelical side z. B. Jonathan Riley-Smith , who criticized the long prevailing ecclesiastical understanding of the crusades as holy war to regain allegedly legitimate Christian property rights. On the Catholic side z. B. Arnold Angenendt, in the context of his criticism, describes the Crusades as a heavy mortgage that the Church has incurred because the Popes not only approved the Crusades as holy wars, but even initiated them.

Controversies in History

With regard to the Crusades, several points are controversial in modern research, for example with regard to the extent of the acceptance of the Crusade idea in later times. An agreement is made more difficult by different historical 'schools'.

Some historians (such as Hans Eberhard Mayer ) only see the Orient Crusades as the 'real' Crusades. In contrast, in the Anglo-American language area there is an occasional tendency to use the term more broadly in terms of content and time (particularly influential: Jonathan Riley-Smith , Norman Housley). Some of the military actions of the early modern period are added to the crusades. Riley-Smith and his students call this view "pluralistic"; According to them, the idea of ​​a crusade met with enthusiasm in the late Middle Ages . Critics oppose this school to ignore sources that prove that the crusade idea in the late Middle Ages clearly lost its appeal. An agreement has not yet been reached.

In the history of the past decades, the history and structure of the crusader states are increasingly taken into account, so that the focus is no longer solely on the chronological sequence and historical events of the crusades.

Motifs of the crusaders and the situation before the crusades

The motivation of the crusaders was in no way fed solely by religious zeal; rather, there were other reasons for their actions, which also changed over time. The individual motives were:

Religious motifs

The capture of Jerusalem 1099. Late medieval book illustration.

Building on Pope Urban II's call to crusade at the Synod of Clermont in 1095 (accompanied by the cry “ Deus lo vult ” - God wants it), many crusaders were convinced that by expelling Muslims from the Holy Land they were fulfilling God's will to obtain the remission of all their sins ( indulgences , treasure trove ). This must be seen against the background of Christian reports and rumors of atrocities by the Islamic rulers against the Christian population of the Holy Land and the devastation of Christian sites, for example the Church of the Holy Sepulcher 1009 in Jerusalem. Al-Azimi, a Muslim chronicler from Aleppo , also reports of Muslim attacks on pilgrims, which made access to the holy places impossible. The preacher Peter the Hermit had also been mistreated by the Turks on an earlier pilgrimage to Jerusalem and forced to repent. In competition with economic interests, the religious motives took a back seat over time - this becomes particularly clear with the conquest and plunder of the Christian city of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade . With regard to the Crusades to the Orient, however, they never completely disappeared, they also had a great influence on the Christian population in Europe.

Relationship to Islam

A major foreign policy problem for the Christian world was Islam, which first attacked the Christian Byzantine Empire in its striving west in the middle of the 7th century . East / Byzantium lost the provinces of Syria and Egypt , which had been in religious opposition to the Greek and Latin territories since the Monophysite schism, within a few years to the Arabs , who were perhaps welcomed there by parts of the population as liberators (which is disputed in research); however, it still maintained the Greek-influenced Asia Minor. Western North Africa resisted the Arabs up to the end of the 7th century, while the Spanish Visigothic Empire collapsed within a few months under the Arab storm around 700, so that the Arabs in the west were only stopped and pushed back by the Frankish Empire .

After the Byzantine Empire had been ousted from central Italy by the Longobards in 751 (fall of the Exarchate of Ravenna ), it was mainly limited to the Orthodox heartland of Asia Minor, the coasts of the Balkans and southern Italy at the beginning of the 8th century. In the following period, in the 9th and 10th centuries, the empire found a modus vivendi with the Arabs, which even resulted in military alliances with individual Arab states. The military resurgence around the year 1000 was followed by an internal decline. With the Islamic Turkic people of the Seljuks , a new, expansive power entered the political stage in the Middle East at the same time, which expanded at the expense of the Arabs and Byzantines. In 1071 this led to the military catastrophe for the Byzantines in the Battle of Manzikert against the Seljuks, which marked the beginning of the Turkish conquest of Anatolia.

The Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenus finally left Asia Minor to the Seljuks in 1085, with the exception of a few bases, in order to avoid being crushed between two opponents because of the defense against the Norman invasion of Epiros and Macedonia (with the aim of conquering Constantinople). After the victory over the Normans, Alexios asked the Pope to help him recapture the territory of Asia Minor, which had meanwhile been split up into several Turkish emirates, which Byzantine diplomacy played off against each other.

The great military effort of all Christian powers at that time can be explained by the fact that Islam was seen as a great danger - not only for the Byzantine Empire. After all, the Islamic-Arab region of power bordered France on the Pyrenees , and almost all Mediterranean islands and parts of southern Italy were temporarily conquered by Arabs. The latter were repeatedly attacked by them even after they had been retaken. Byzantine Sicily was conquered by the Arabs from 827, then by the Normans , until it passed to Henry VI in 1194 . fell, whereby the empire of the Hohenstaufen also bordered directly on the Islamic sphere of influence.

Relationship to orthodoxy

The oriental schism of 1054 strained the relationship between Orthodox and Catholic Christians from the beginning of the Crusades. Another aspect is the political relationship between the two leading powers of the Catholic and Orthodox world. Both the German and the Byzantine empires were referred to as “Roman Empire”, and the respective emperor derived a claim to leadership over the entire Christian world. Byzantium pursued an expansive western policy in the 12th century. Dynastic marriages with the Hungarian and German rulers, but also military interventions in Italy with the aim of gaining the (West) Roman imperial crown, were a basic constant of the foreign policy of the Byzantine Comnen dynasty . In order to reduce the influence of Venice in the Byzantine Empire, a harsh anti-Venetian policy was pursued in Constantinople in the second half of the 12th century. Of course, this was not without reaction in Western Europe. The Crusades were therefore increasingly directed not only against Islam, but also more and more against the Orthodox, Greek-influenced Byzantium.

Nevertheless, the religiously motivated idea of ​​the crusade remained a recurring component of European politics in the years that followed, even though research sometimes emphasizes that the idea of ​​the crusade lost its strength from the 13th century (see the section on controversies in historical studies ). Overall, their importance in the late Middle Ages can no longer be overestimated. A military expedition was considered in 1453 to defend Constantinople against Sultan Mehmed II . But this half-hearted expedition started rather late, namely in April 1453. However, the Sultan had already started the structural preparations for a possible siege in the spring of 1452 and made no secret of it.

Whether the concerted military aid of Christian powers, such as B. the Holy Roman Empire and Poland , in the defense of Vienna against the Turks in 1683 in the crusade tradition, is questionable. In 1528 an event occurred that was unimaginable just a few decades earlier: France and the Ottoman Empire formed an alliance against the Habsburg Empire. At the latest with the integration of the Muslim state into the alliance system of the Christian powers, the unifying claim of the Catholic crusade idea in European politics ended.

Social factors in Europe

The Krak des Chevaliers in Syria

The occidental nobility hoped for new possessions through the conquest. This was particularly true of the younger sons of the nobility, who were not entitled to inheritance and who now saw the opportunity to rule over their own territory after all. This was also a goal of the church, since the peace of God was repeatedly disturbed by conflicts in which it was primarily territorial disputes. The crusades also offered a welcome occupation for the surplus sons who could not or would not be accommodated in the monastery or the clergy.

Large parts of the rural population saw the crusade as an opportunity to escape from the harsh and often very unjust living conditions in their homeland - especially since the Pope had promised an end to serfdom for anyone who would take the cross and go to the holy land. The crusaders were joined by non-combatants in the entourage: women , clerics, old and poor.

Criminals and outlaws also followed the calls because their crusade vows enabled them to evade prosecution and hope for a new life or booty.

Economic policy motives

The Italian Maritime Republics ( Genoa , Pisa , Venice and others) also benefited economically from trade with the Orient. For a short time it was considered to carry out a crusade to secure the spice route. The idea was soon dropped.

The papacy hoped that control over the Holy Land would massively strengthen its position of power. Ultimately, the popes probably also hoped for reunification with or control of the Eastern Church. At the beginning of the Fourth Crusade, economic interests also dominated. The best example of this motif is probably the Fourth Crusade itself, which was diverted from the trading metropolis of Venice to Constantinople and resulted in the plundering by the crusader army with the transport of the booty to Venice in order to eliminate the trading rivals. This shows the complete perversion of the originally religious idea of ​​the crusade, on the one hand, and on the other hand also a reason for the increasingly less effective effect of the crusades in the defense of the Eastern Roman Empire.

The crusades in the individual dioceses were financed through the tithes of the crusades . Official registers such as the Liber decimationis were created for this purpose .

Other factors

The British historian Robert Bartlett sees the Crusades in a larger, pan-European context: In the 11th century, population growth began due to favorable climatic conditions and new developments in agricultural technology. The population surplus leads to an expansion into the periphery of Europe: Iberian Peninsula, Ireland, Germania Slavica , the Baltic States and also into the Holy Land.

Overview: term and time frame

In a narrower sense, crusades are generally only understood to mean the Orient Crusades , ie crusades directed against the Muslim states of the Near East (see, however, the section “Research Problems” above). In addition or afterwards there were the following types of crusades:

The crusade in its original meaning had only the liberation of the Eastern Church as its goal and was also called passagia generalia . From this the passagia particularia developed , which could turn against any other place.

The symbol of the cross, which was attached to the clothing of the crusaders, is already present in the first crusade. The Gesta Francorum (around 1100) begins with the quotation of Jesus' words from Luke 9:23 ("Whoever wants to follow me, deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me") and mentions the sewn-on sign of the cross ( Franci audientes talia protinus in dextra crucem suere scapula, dicentes sese Christi unanimiter sequi uestigia “when the Franks heard this, they immediately sewed the cross on their right shoulder and said they were following in the footsteps of Christ with one accord”). The term cruce signatus (“marked with the cross” or “crossed”) took on the special meaning “to take the cross” in the 12th century; taking the crusader oath ”. Until the end of the 12th century, the crusades themselves were referred to merely as "armed pilgrimage ", "armed pilgrimage ": In contemporary Latin sources, the crusade was predominantly described as expeditio , iter in terram sanctam (journey to the Holy Land) or peregrinatio (pilgrimage).

The vernacular term crozada "crusade" was coined in the early 13th century . "Propagandists" of the idea of the crusade, such as Caesarius von Heisterbach, used the terms crux transmarina for oriental crusades and crux cismarina for the opening of a "second front" against heretics in the interior of the Christian West. These "internal" ( interius ) crusades were v. a. the Cathars - or Albigensian Crusade , which took place in Occitania ( southern France ), but also the campaign of the Teutonic Knights in the Baltic States in 1225. The Hussite Wars were also referred to as the crusade.

Various later campaigns in the Orient, called crusades, against Turks or Mongols , extended into the 15th century .

A permanent legacy of the Crusades were the orders of knights , originally militarized monastic orders .

Classic way of counting the crusades

In historical studies, a total of seven crusades (Orientkreuzzüge) are distinguished as official crusades, even if other acts of war took place under the name 'crusade'. The numbering is not entirely uniform in the specialist literature, as some crusades are not unanimously rated as independent crusades.


First crusade : 1096-1099, destination: Jerusalem
People's Crusade : 1096, destination: Jerusalem
German crusade of 1096 , destination: actually Jerusalem
Crusade of 1101 : destination: Jerusalem
Sigurd's crusade of Norway : 1108–1111, destination: Jerusalem / Sidon
Second crusade : 1147–1149, destination: actually Edessa, ultimately Damascus
Wendenkreuzzug : 1147, destination: Germania Slavica
Third Crusade : 1189–1192, destination: Jerusalem
Henry VI's crusade : 1197–1198, destination: Jerusalem
Fourth crusade : 1202–1204, destination: actually Egypt / Jerusalem, ultimately Constantinople
Children's crusade : 1212, destination: Jerusalem
Albigensian Crusade : 1209–1229, destination: Occitania
Fifth Crusade:
Crusade of Damiette : 1217–1221, destination: actually Jerusalem, ultimately Egypt
Frederick II's crusade : 1228–1229, destination: Jerusalem
Theobald IV's crusade of Champagne : 1239–1240, destination: Askalon / Damascus
Richard's crusade of Cornwall : 1240–1241, destination: Askalon / Jerusalem
Sixth Crusade : 1248–1254, destination: Egypt / Jerusalem
Shepherds' crusade of 1251 : destination: actually Egypt
Seventh crusade : 1270, destination: Tunis / Jerusalem
Prince Edward's crusade : 1270–1272, destination: Acre / Jerusalem
Aragonese Crusade : 1284–1285, destination: Girona
Shepherds' crusade of 1320 : destination: actually Andalusia
Crusade against Smyrna : 1343–1347, goal: Turkish principalities on the coast of Asia Minor, curbing piracy
Crusade against Alexandria : 1365, destination: Egypt
Crusade against Mahdia : 1390, aim: curbing piracy
Nicopolis Crusade : 1396, aim: containment of the Ottoman advance in Europe

The Swedish campaigns of conquest against the pagans in Finland in the 13th century are also known as the Crusades. In the 14th century over 50 crusades were waged against the then pagan Prussians and Lithuanians . These campaigns organized by the Teutonic Order were also referred to as " Prussian trips " or "Lithuanian trips". The 15th century saw four crusades against the Hussites . From 1443 to 1444 a campaign against the Ottoman Empire , usually classified as the “last crusade”, took place, which failed in the battle of Varna .


Friedrich I. Barbarossa as a crusader - miniature from a manuscript from 1188

A more detailed description of the story can be found in the separate articles on each of the Crusades.

First crusade and creation of the crusader states

Due to the oppression of the Byzantine Empire by the Muslim Seljuks as a result of the Byzantine defeat in the Battle of Mantzikert in 1071, the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos asked for help in the west. Pope Urban II. Had then in 1095 and on the Council of Clermont to the First Crusade called to free the holy places of Christianity. However, at the time of the "crusade call" in 1095 , Jerusalem was temporarily in the possession of the Seljuks (1071-1098), who allowed Christian pilgrims to go largely undisturbed. A religious enthusiasm was aroused in Western Europe that sometimes took on terrifying traits: In the Rhineland, for example, several Jewish communities were literally destroyed by Christians, and even ordinary people set off for the Holy Land with Peter the Hermit (so-called People's Crusade ) - but they should never reach.

When the various crusader armies reached the Byzantine capital Constantinople at the end of 1096 , further problems arose: Although the Byzantines had by no means wanted a crusade (they had rather hoped for mercenaries from Europe) and did not distrust the crusaders for no reason - some of them, like them Lower Italian Normans , who had previously fought against Byzantium - Alexios initially supported them, especially since they swore an oath of allegiance to him and the crusaders were also dependent on the emperor. In the spring of 1097 the army set out and the first successes soon followed, such as the conquest of Nikaia , which was left to the Byzantines according to the treaty. After heavy fighting, including taking Antioch , this crusade ended with the conquest of Jerusalem in July 1099, during which there were bloody massacres of the remaining inhabitants - regardless of religious affiliation. However, the number of victims in the conquest of Jerusalem was greatly exaggerated in the past by both Muslim and Christian sides. Based on a Hebrew source, Thomas Asbridge only assumed a little over 3,000 victims in 2010; Benjamin Kedar came to the same conclusion in 2004.

The Crusader States came into being . Although Byzantium had regained parts of Asia Minor, the establishment of states in the Holy Land that were independent of Byzantium was viewed with suspicion, which soon led to battles with the Principality of Antioch .

Situation of the Crusader States and Second, Third and Fourth Crusade

The crusader states around 1100

In the long run, however, the so-called crusader states proved to be unable to cope with the Muslim pressure: most of the nobles had left shortly after the fall of Jerusalem; By no means only the elite remained behind. On the one hand, the feudally organized crusader states were dependent on supplies from Europe due to their small Catholic-Christian population (where the majority of the population was Christian, such as in Syria ), which gave these states a certain "colonial" character. On the other hand, there was a remarkable change in the relationship between Christians and Muslims: From then on they mostly lived together peacefully. The Muslims were allowed to practice their religion largely freely and were given their own jurisdiction. The Catholic "Franks" (this is what the Crusaders were called in Arab sources in particular) were also quite tolerant towards the other Christian denominations. This development was also a direct consequence of the insufficient number of crusaders who remained behind, who otherwise would not have been able to control the conquered area - which was only possible within certain limits. The Jews , too , had a much better position in the Crusader states than in Europe, and in Outremer , unlike in Europe, they never fell victim to pogroms after the conquest of Jerusalem.

Even if the crusaders sometimes even succeeded in playing off the hostile Muslim empires that surrounded them against each other (the Fatimids in Egypt, for example, were hostile to the Seljuks), the military situation was always extremely difficult. The ultimately unsuccessful Second Crusade (1147–1149) already had the goal of relieving the beleaguered crusader states (after the fall of the county of Edessa ). After the Battle of Hattin in 1187, in which virtually the entire military contingent of the Kingdom of Jerusalem had been defeated, even Jerusalem fell again into Muslim hands. The subsequent crusades, which were intended to reverse this development, had little success, partly due to insufficient planning or strategic mistakes, partly due to disagreement in the leadership of the high command. Only in the Third Crusade could parts of Outremer along the coast be recaptured. However, due to the extreme conditions far from Europe, the victims among the crusaders were high; among the aristocratic elite, for which specific figures are available, a patriarch , six archbishops and twelve bishops , 40 counts and 500 other well-known nobles died.

The Fourth Crusade even ended in 1204 with the conquest and sacking of Constantinople , at that time the largest Christian city in the world, by crusaders who “paid” for the shipping of the crusader army by the Venice fleet with part of the booty . The Pope , who, in view of the atrocities of the Crusaders, was also aware that this would make an ecclesiastical union with Orthodoxy practically impossible, condemned this action in the strongest possible terms, which was practically without consequences.

Consequences of war and other crusades in the Middle Ages

The Republic of Venice had thus permanently weakened its greatest competitor in the oriental trade, the nimbus of the Crusades was permanently damaged, especially since in this context the Byzantine Empire was degraded from an intact great power to a regional power (after the reconquest of Constantinople in 1261 ). In addition, the relationship between the Orthodox peoples and Western Europe was severely strained for centuries.

The crusades had lost their original motive, the reconquest of the Holy Land. However, this goal was never completely lost sight of, even if all further attempts - apart from the diplomatic success of the Staufer Emperor Friedrich II during the fifth (or sixth according to another count) crusade - were unsuccessful or even ended in military catastrophes.

The Albigensian Crusade (1209–1229) - like other, similar undertakings against Christians - contributed to the fact that the Crusades were often understood only as a political weapon of the papacy. Even campaigns against the Ghibellines (followers of the emperor) in Italy were still declared to be crusades. In contrast, the “crusades” of the Reconquista on the Iberian Peninsula already had de facto national features. The crusades to the Baltic States , which were mainly used for proselytizing and were also understood by the participating nobles as a “social event”, continued into the 14th century.

The Crusades to the Levant ended in 1291 with the fall of Acon . The late crusades against the Islamic world, which were now directed against the Ottoman Empire advancing into Europe , finally ended towards the end of the 14th / mid-15th century. The last two crusades are considered to be the crusades of the Hungarian (and later Roman-German) King Sigismund , which ended with the battle of Nicopolis , and the crusade of the Polish king Władysław III. which ended with the defeat of Varna in 1444 .

Crusades outside the Middle Ages

The Persian War of the Eastern Roman Emperor Herakleios in the 7th century already bore the characteristics of a Christian religious war in a certain way, whereby the Emperor was later stylized as the outstanding model of a Christian fighter: for example, the historical work of William of Tire was translated into Old French under the title Livre d'Eracles published.

Even after the end of the Middle Ages , military actions were repeatedly declared as "crusades" (such as the attempt to invade England by the Catholic King of Spain, Philip II , and the battle of Lepanto was also fought by a so-called "crusade league"). Portugal's King Sebastian also saw his campaign to Morocco as the prelude to a new crusade and fell in 1578. The papacy made similar attempts in the 17th century, but these were at best only temporary.


The term " crusade " is not limited to the historical crusades, but is also used today in a figurative sense.

General use of the term

Kreuzzug ” is also used in German and English as a synonym for a social effort or an organized campaign that aims to achieve certain goals. For example, there is talk of “crusades” against global child poverty or against diseases and epidemics. In political debates, the term is often used polemically to brand an approach of the other side as far excessive, for example when a verbal exchange of blows speaks of a “crusade against the Internet infrastructure”.

Political use of the term

  • In the USA, participation in the liberation of Europe from the rule of National Socialism was often associated with the term “crusade”. For example, the US Commander in Chief and later US President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his war diary the title Crusade in Europe .
  • In the 20th century, the evangelical mass preacher Billy Graham referred to his large-scale events, also for troop support during the Vietnam War , as "Crusades". for crusades.
  • US President George W. Bush repeatedly referred to the second Iraq war as a "crusade against terrorists". At the urging of his advisors, however, Bush quickly abandoned this term, primarily because of its historical and content-related significance. Conversely, the western states, especially insofar as they take part in the conquest and occupation of Iraq, are often referred to in Arab countries as "crusaders" or "crusaders" to whom the collective resistance of the Muslims has to apply.
  • In response to the protests in the Islamic world in the cartoon dispute , the Italian reform minister Roberto Calderoli from the right-wing ruling party Lega Nord called on the Pope to lead a “new crusade” against Muslims.
  • In July 2006, Al-Qaeda published a video message entitled “The Zionist-Crusader War against Lebanon and the Palestinians”, in which the alleged “crusader alliance” between Western states and Israel is polemicized. Amin Maalouf discussed the reasons why Al-Qaeda can apparently effectively call for a fight against the “crusaders” ; he draws parallels to what happened during the conquest of the city of Maarat an-Numan in 1098.
  • Quite generally, in parts of the Muslim world, crusade and crusader are used as expressions to denote the aggressive behavior of the West against Islam. ("Turkish government condemns the Pope's 'crusade mentality'.")

Reception in the Islamic area

For centuries the history of the Crusades was hardly present in collective memory in the Islamic world. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that the first signs of interest in the Crusades appeared. Around 1865 the term al-hurub al-Salabiyya (the "Cross Wars") appeared for the first time in the translation of French history books for those events that had previously been referred to as the wars of the Ifranji (Franks). There was a slowly increasing interest, with Asbridge only identifying the founding of Israel in 1948 as the transition point in a strongly intensified dispute with the Crusades. As a result, the crusades and individual Islamic personalities, especially Saladins , were increasingly instrumentalized by Middle Eastern despots such as Hafiz al-Assad and Saddam Hussein .

Today the supporters of two diametrically opposed Muslim ideologies refer to the history of the Crusades: both Arab nationalism and Islamism try to use this era for their goals in a manipulative approach to the past. In the spiritual instructions with which the September 11th assassins prepared for their attacks, the "crusaders", ie the western world , are named as enemies , alongside the Jews and Arab governments that cooperate with the west.



See also the comprehensive bibliography in: Kenneth M. Setton (Ed.): A History of the crusades , Vol. 6 (see below).


  • Alan V. Murray (Ed.): The Crusades. To Encyclopedia . 4 vols., ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara / Calif. u. a. 2006, ISBN 1-57607-862-0 .
    (Scientific encyclopedia, takes into account the research literature up to around 2005.)

Secondary literature

  • Thomas Asbridge : The Crusades. 2nd Edition. Klett-Cotta Verlag, Stuttgart 2011, ISBN 978-3-608-94648-2 .
  • Michel Balard et al. a. (Ed.): Dei gesta per Francos. Études sur les croisades dédiées à Jean Richard. Crusade Studies in Honor of Jean Richard . Ashgate Books, Aldershot 2001, ISBN 0-7546-0407-1 .
  • Carl Erdmann: The Origin of the Crusade Thought (habilitation thesis, University of Berlin 1932). Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1980, ISBN 3-534-00199-0 (unchanged reprint of the Stuttgart 1955 edition).
  • Francesco Gabrieli: The Crusades from an Arab perspective (“Storici arabi delle crociate”). Bechtermünz-Verlag, Augsburg 2000, ISBN 3-8289-0371-1 .
  • Alfred Haverkamp (ed.): Jews and Christians at the time of the crusades . J.Thorbecke-Verlag, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN = 3-7995-6647-3
  • Carole Hillenbrand: The Crusades. Islamic Perspectives . University Press, Edinburgh 1999, ISBN 0-7486-0630-0 .
  • Felix Hinz: The Crusades (compact knowledge of history). Reclam-Verlag, Stuttgart 2017, ISBN 978-3-15-017092-2 .
  • Peter M. Holt: The Age of the Crusades. The Near East from the Eleventh Century to 1517 . Longman, London 1997, ISBN 0-582-49303-X .
  • Norman Housley: The Later Crusades, 1274-1580. From Lyons to Alcazar . University Press, Oxford 2001, ISBN 0-19-822136-3 .
  • Nikolas Jaspert: The Crusades (compact story). 4th revised edition, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2008, ISBN 978-3-534-20091-7 .
  • Hans-Jürgen Kotzur (Ed.): The Crusades - No war is holy . Verlag von Zabern, Mainz 2004. ISBN 3-8053-3240-8 .
    (Catalog of the exhibition in the Cathedral Museum Mainz.)
  • Thomas F. Madden: A new concise history of the crusades . Rowan & Littlefield, Lanham 2005, ISBN 0-7425-3822-2 (formerly A concise history of the crusdaes ).
  • Hans Eberhard Mayer: History of the Crusades. 10th, completely revised and expanded edition. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-17-018679-5 (standard work).
  • Jonathan Phillips: Holy War: A New History of the Crusades (Original title: Holy Warriors. A Modern History of the Crusades ), Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-421-04283-5 .
  • Jean Richard: The Crusades 1071-1291 ("Histoire des croisades"). University Press, Cambridge 1999, ISBN 0-521-62369-3 (Cambridge Medieval Textbooks).
  • Jonathan Riley-Smith : Why Holy Wars? Occasions and motifs of the crusades (original title: What were the crusades ). Wagenbach-Verlag, Berlin 2003. ISBN 3-8031-2480-8 .
    (brief introduction)
  • Jonathan Riley-Smith: The Crusades . Philipp von Zabern / WBG, Darmstadt 2014, ISBN 978-3-8053-4959-8 . (Original title: The Crusades: A History ; comprehensive current presentation of the Crusades in the broader sense, including those that did not aim at the Holy Land or Muslims.)
  • Jonathan Riley-Smith (Ed.): Illustrated History of the Crusades . Campus Verlag, Berlin-New York 1999. ND Parkland-Verlag, Cologne 2004. ISBN 3-89340-068-0 .
    Original title: The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades , Oxford 1995. (Illustrated introduction with contributions from several historians.)
  • Jonathan Riley-Smith (ed.): Large picture atlas of the crusades. Six centuries of occidental cultural and religious history . Herder, Freiburg / B. 1992, ISBN 3-7632-4038-1 .
  • Steven Runciman : History of the Crusades . Dtv, München 4 2003, ISBN 3-423-30175-9
    Original title: The History of the Crusades . (Partly romanticizing standard work that takes into account the state of research up to the 1950s.)
  • Kenneth M. Setton (Ed.): A History of the Crusades . 6 volumes at University Press, Madison / Wisc. 1969-1989. Is considered the standard work on all aspects of the Crusades.
A History of the Crusades , at,
A History of the Crusades , at
  • Emmanuel Sivan: L'Islam et la Croisade. Idéologie et propagande dans les réactions musulmanes aux Croisades . Librairie d'Amerique et d'Orient, Paris 1968.
  • Rodney Stark: God's Warriors - The Crusades in a New View . Haffmans & Tolkemitt, Berlin 2013, ISBN 3-942989-28-X .
    (Representation by a sociologist of religion who explains the Crusades more as a reaction to the previous Islamic expansion and gives greater weight to the religious element of the Crusades.)
  • Philipp A. Sutner / Stephan Köhler / Andreas Obenaus (eds.): God wants it. The First Crusade - Actors and Aspects , Vienna 2016, ISBN 978-3-85476-496-0
  • Peter Thorau: The Crusades . Beck, Munich 2008. ISBN 978-3-406-56287-7 .
    (Brief introduction.)
  • Christopher Tyerman: God's war. A new history of the crusades . Penguin Books , London 2007, ISBN 978-0-14-026980-2 .
  • Christopher Tyerman: The Invention of the Crusades . Macmillan, London 1998, ISBN 0-333-66901-0 .
  • Hans Wollschläger : The armed pilgrimages to Jerusalem. History of the Crusades. Göttingen 2003. (2nd extended edition Göttingen 2006, ISBN 3-89244-659-8 ).

Web links

Commons : Crusades  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Crusade  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. For motives and course of events cf. Introductory article in: Alan V. Murray (Ed.): The Crusades. To Encyclopedia . Santa Barbara / Calif. u. a. 2006
  2. For the large number of terms used, see Adrian Boas (Ed.): The Crusader World. London / New York 2016, here p. 278f.
  3. ^ Crusade first with Christoph Ernst Steinbach , Complete German Dictionary (1734), s. Grimm, German dictionary , sv "Kreuzzug". Thomas S. Asbridge: The Crusades. 7th edition. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2016, ISBN 978-3-608-94921-6 , p. 403 ff.
  4. al-Azimi: La chronique abrégée d'al-'Azîmî, années 518-538 / 1124-1144. In: Revue des Études Islamiques 59 (1991), pp. 101–164, here: p. 110.
  5. Leo Trepp : The Jews. People, history, religion. Hamburg 1998, ISBN 3-499-60618-6 , p. 66.
  6. Hannes Möhring : King of Kings. The Bamberg rider in a new interpretation. Langewiesche Nachf. Köster, Königstein im Taunus 2004, p. 53 ff.
  7. Jonathan Riley-Smith: Crusades. In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie Vol. 20, Berlin 1990, pp. 1-10.
  8. Arnold Angenendt: The Crusades: Call for 'just' or 'holy' war? In: Andreas Holzem (Ed.): War experience in Christianity. Religious Theories of Violence in the History of the West. Paderborn et al. 2009, 341-367.
  9. See, for example, the critical comments in the reviews of Housley's books The Avignon Papacy and the Crusades and The Later Crusades .
  10. al-Azimi: La chronique abrégée d'al-'Azîmî, années 518-538 / 1124-1144. In: Revue des Études Islamiques 59 (1991), pp. 101-164.
  11. Steven Runciman: History of the Crusades . Beck, Munich 2001, p. 111 .
  12. Cf. Jonathan Riley-Smith, Die Mentalität der Orientkreuzfahrer , in: Jonathan Riley-Smith (Ed.): Illustrated history of the crusades. P. 83 ff.
  13. Robert Bartlett : The birth of Europe from the spirit of violence . Munich 1998, Knaur-TB 77321 ISBN 3-426-60639-9 . The English original edition (1993) has a more neutral title: The making of Europe. Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change.
  14. ^ Christopher Tyerman, God's War: A New History of the Crusades (2006), p. 480.
  15. Philipp A. Sutner, Stephan Köhler and Andreas Obenaus (eds.): God wants it. The First Crusade - Actors and Aspects. Vienna 2016
  16. Runciman describes the history of the Crusades in the greatest detail; see. also Setton (ed.), A History of the Crusades .
  17. Thomas S. Asbridge: The Crusades. 7th edition. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2016, ISBN 978-3-608-94921-6 , p. 117.
  18. ^ Benjamin Z. Kedar : The Jerusalem Massacre of 1099 in the Western Historiography of the Crusades. In: Journal of the Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East. No. 3, 2004, pp. 15-75.
  19. Cf. in general on internal relations Mayer, Geschichte der Kreuzzüge , 10th edition, p. 186 ff.
  20. Thomas S. Asbridge: The Crusades. 7th edition. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2016, ISBN 978-3-608-94921-6 , p. 532.
  21. ^ The German Reich and the Second World War, Vol. 4 (The attack on the Soviet Union) , Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1983, ISBN 978-3-421-06098-3 , pp. 908-935.
  22. here online (
  23. Amin Maalouf: The Holy War of the Barbarians - The Crusades from the perspective of the Arabs . Kreuzlingen 2001, pp. 52-55. ISBN 3-89631-420-3 .
  24. Zeit online , June 26, 2016
  25. Thomas S. Asbridge: The Crusades. 7th edition. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2016, ISBN 978-3-608-94921-6 , p. 723 ff.
  26. Thomas S. Asbridge: The Crusades. 7th edition. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2016, ISBN 978-3-608-94921-6 , p. 726 ff.
  27. ^ Samuel Salzborn : Global anti-Semitism. A search for traces in the abyss of modernity. Beltz Juventa, Weinheim 2018, p. 117.