Second crusade

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The case of Edessa

The Second Crusade was a church-sponsored campaign to relieve the crusader states , which was caused by the loss of the county of Edessa in 1144. It began in 1147 and, after several defeats by the Crusaders in the Holy Land, ended in failure in 1149; the Christians, however, had successes in other arenas.


Between the crusader rule established as a result of the First Crusade , conflicts arose quickly, often of a warlike nature. In addition, the Norman principality of Antioch was involved in constant battles with the Byzantine Empire until it came under Byzantine suzerainty in 1138. When the Count of Edessa set out with a large army in support of Hisn Kaifa in the autumn of 1144 and left the city unprotected, Emir Zengi of Mosul used the resulting weakness and conquered Edessa . Much of the civilian population in the city was killed by the conquerors. This put the remaining crusader states in distress. On the other hand, the first devastating blow against a crusader rule increased the Muslims' willingness to fight.

Crusade call

Developments in the Holy Land made another crusade seem necessary. On December 1, 1145, Pope Eugene III called. therefore in Vetralla with the first "cruise bull " Quantum praedecessores on a second crusade. The appeal was initially addressed to the French King Louis VII as well as the people of France and Northern Italy, but hardly met with any response. The bull does not seem to have reached Ludwig at all; in any case, the Pope published the bull a second time on March 1, 1146.

Since the Pope was indispensable due to a political dispute with Arnold von Brescia in Rome , he sent the Cistercian Abbot Bernhard von Clairvaux to preach the crusade. It was important for Bernard of Clairvaux that control of the crusade remained in the hands of the Pope. On the mediation of Bernhard, the French king solemnly declared his participation in the crusade on March 31, 1146 in Vézelay . Ludwig was to receive the supreme command of the crusade, which now more and more volunteers, not only from France, but also from Flanders , England and northern Italy joined. Ludwig and Eugen then made contact with King Roger II of Sicily, Emperor Manuel I Comnenus of Byzantium, King Géza II of Hungary and the German King Konrad III. to ask them to allow the crusader army free passage to Asia Minor and to ensure the food supply, which they promised.

Through the eager sermons and the tenacious insistence of Bernhard von Clairvaux, the German king was finally persuaded to join the crusade. Shortly after Christmas 1146 he declared his participation. From now on, Ludwig and Konrad jointly took over the organization and leadership of the crusade. Easter 1147 was set as the start date.

In addition to the crusade sermons, Bernhard also tried to expand the Knights Templar , the first Christian knightly order, which was founded in Jerusalem in 1120, but initially had little importance.

Bernhard von Clairvaux targeted the nobility with his sermons in order to avoid the excesses of the People 's Crusades. In particular, a Cistercian monk named Radulf went preaching through northern France and western Germany, where he incited the rural population to violent attacks on Jews , for example on Rabbenu Tam in the northern French village of Ramerupt . Radulf was finally stopped by Bernhard. However, these pogroms lagged behind the excesses surrounding the First Crusade .


In 1146 the Pope allowed the Crusaders from the Iberian Peninsula to stay at home to fight the Moors there. For this struggle they should receive the same indulgences as the crusaders to Palestine. Some European crusaders also joined the campaigns in Spain. Crusaders from Genoa , Pisa and cities on the French Mediterranean coast succeeded in conquering Almería in 1147 , Tortosa in 1148 and Lerida and Fraga in 1149 . A fleet manned by English, Scottish, Flemish and German crusaders stopped in 1147 en route to the Holy Land in Portugal, where they wintered and with their help succeeded in conquering Lisbon and the castles of Sintra and Palmela from the Moors.

Some of the German, Danish and Polish crusaders were given permission by Bernhard von Clairvaux , in view of the pagan threat on their immediate borders , not to move towards Palestine , but against the pagan Slavic Wends , which settled between the Elbe and the Oder. This so-called Wendenkreuzzug was recognized as such on April 13, 1147 with the papal bull Divini dispensatione and the participants were given the prospect of indulgence . They set out from Magdeburg in August 1147 . From whom the proposal of the Wendenkreuzzug originated is controversial in historical research.



Arrival of the Crusader Army in Constantinople ( Jean Fouquet , around 1460)

In mid-May 1147 the Staufer King Konrad III set out. in Regensburg . On the march through Austria and Hungary, further contingents joined the crusade. A few weeks later, the French King Louis VII set out from Metz . Pope Eugene had assigned papal legacies to the armies. Dietwin , Cardinal Bishop of Porto , accompanied the Germans, Guido of Florence , Cardinal Priest of San Chrysogono, the French. A large number of unarmed pilgrims traveled with the crusader armies , including many women and children, which made it difficult to get ahead and to eat.

Both main armies took the land route, along the Danube across the Balkans to Constantinople . There should Konrad III. wait for Louis VII. The march through Hungary and the Byzantine Empire was largely peaceful and orderly for both armies. It was only at Philippopolis and Adrianople that there were occasional looting by German crusaders and skirmishes with the Byzantine natives.

Konrad's German crusader army arrived in Constantinople on September 10, several weeks before the French. The Germans stayed in Pera for a while before they crossed to Asia Minor at the urging of Emperor Manuel I Komnenos at the end of September. Konrad now led his army on without waiting for Ludwig.

On October 4, Ludwig's army also reached Constantinople, where he intended to wait for his northern Italian contingent, which arrived via Brindisi and Durazzo . At Manuel's insistence, the French soon crossed over to Asia Minor, where they waited until reinforcements arrived.

Manuel I. Komnenos had meanwhile concluded a peace treaty with the Turkish sultan of Iconium and therefore, unlike the first crusade, provided the crusaders with hardly any local guides and no auxiliary troops. This created diplomatic tension between the Crusaders and Byzantium.

Fight in Asia Minor

Arrived in Asia Minor, Conrad's army of crusaders split up. The unarmed participants chose under the leadership of Bishop Otto von Freising , a half-brother of Conrad III., A route along the coast of Asia Minor, while Konrad and his troops traveled directly through Asia Minor. Konrad's army quickly became involved in battles with the Turkish Seljuks , which culminated in the heavy defeat for the Crusaders in October 1147 at Dorylaeum . Konrad fled to Nicaea with his remaining troops . The majority of the crusaders who traveled along the coast were attacked and killed by the Seljuks on November 16, 1147 near Laodikeia .

About a month later the French arrived under King Ludwig VII and broke together with the remaining troops of Conrad III. from Nicaea. When the crusader army reached Ephesus at the end of 1147 , Konrad fell ill and traveled back to Constantinople. The French moved on and were attacked by the Seljuks near Laodikeia, while crossing the Honaz Dağı , where they suffered heavy losses. The remaining French troops fought their way to the city of Attaleia , from where they crossed to Antioch .

Council in Acre

Conrad had meanwhile recovered and took the sea route to Palestine in March 1148. In June 1148, Konrad and Ludwig met in Acre . There they stopped on June 24, 1148 together with King Baldwin III. held a council from Jerusalem to discuss how to proceed. The actual aim of the crusade, to retake the city ​​of Edessa , which had fallen to Zengi in 1144 , had already been eliminated. After Count Joscelin II briefly recaptured the city after Zengi's death in 1146, Zengi's son, Nur ad-Din , had Edessa almost completely destroyed and depopulated. After a controversial discussion, the crusaders agreed to besiege Damascus . The city was actually neutral towards the Crusaders and an enemy of Nur ad-Din and even paid tribute to the Crusaders. However, Damascus also appeared to be a worthwhile destination as it was wealthy and nearby and didn't have an overly strong military. The city was also a strategically interesting destination, the conquest of which would have cut off the Muslim empires of Syria from those of Egypt .

Siege of Damascus

The siege began on July 23, 1148. In view of this threat, the Burid rulers of the city decided to ask their previous enemy Nur ad-Din for help. When the emir approached with a relief army, the crusaders, weakened by the lack of water and the disagreement of the commanders, had to break off the siege after only four days and retreat to Jerusalem. All sides felt mutually betrayed.


Conrad III. moved with his troops to Ascalon , but due to the now prevailing distrust after the unsuccessful attack on Damascus, no help was received. So the plan for the conquest of Ashkelon had to be abandoned. Konrad returned to Constantinople in September 1148 and allied himself there with the Byzantine emperor.

Louis VII initially stayed in Jerusalem. He returned to France in April 1149 without having achieved anything. After his return to Europe, Bernhard von Clairvaux was also humiliated and, after his call for a new crusade had gone unanswered, tried to distance himself completely from the fiasco of the Second Crusade. Bernhard died in 1153.

The rash attack on Damascus had catastrophic long-term consequences for Jerusalem. Damascus no longer trusted the Kingdom of the Crusaders and surrendered to Nur ad-Din in 1154. King Amalrich I allied himself with the Byzantines and took part in an invasion of Egypt in 1169, which, however, failed. In 1171 Saladin was promoted to Sultan of Egypt. He united Egypt and Syria so that the Kingdom of Jerusalem was completely surrounded. The Byzantine alliance ended with the death of Emperor Manuel I Komnenus. The conquest of Jerusalem by Saladin in 1187 finally gave rise to the Third Crusade .


  • Jonathan P. Phillips: The Second Crusade: Extending the Frontiers of Christendom. Yale University, New Haven 2007, ISBN 978-0-300-11274-0 .
  • MW Baldwin: A History of the Crusades, volume I, The first hundred years . University of Wisconsin Press, Madison 1969, pp. 463-512.

Web links

Commons : Second Crusade  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Thomas Asbridge: The Crusades . 7th edition. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2016, ISBN 978-3-608-94921-6 , pp. 214 f .