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The Crusaders and the Medieval Crusades

Only the medieval mind and heart can truly understand this age of crusades, cathedrals, and quests - when the City of God drew more fervent loyalty than any city of man.

Sparked by the Turkish defeat of the Byzantine army and conquest of Palestine, the crusaders were bent on retaking Jerusalem and the Holy Land - in other words, they viewed it as a defensive campaign, rather than an unprovoked attack.

For two hundred years, the Europeans fought to maintain their hold on Palestine, fighting, building and bickering. Their only legacies are the magnificent crusader castles and the omnipresent clash between the Christian west and the Muslim east.

Medieval Crusades Timeline:

  • 1095 AD - First Crusade called for by Pope Urban II
  • 1096 AD - People's Crusade begins
  • 1099 AD - Jerusalem taken, the massacre of Jews and Muslims taints all views of the crusades to the present day
  • 1119 AD - Christian states erected, Templars and Hospitallers founded
  • 1147 AD - Second Crusade, short and sweet - Christian army loses
  • 1187 AD - Saladin retakes Jerusalem, crusaders' castles fall
  • 1189 - 1192 AD - Third Crusade, Richard the Lionheart, Christian army regains some ground, but fails to retake Jerusalem
  • 1204 AD - Fourth Crusade, never reaches the Holy Land, sacks Constantinople instead - not a boost for ecumenism
  • 1212 AD - Children's Crusade, total disaster, as they either die or become slaves
  • 1217 - 1222 AD - Fifth Crusade, tries for Egypt, fails
  • 1228 AD - Sixth Crusade, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II reoccupies Jerusalem under a peace treaty, not for long
  • 1248 AD - Seventh Crusade, tries for Egypt again, King Louis IX (Saint Louis) captured
  • 1291 AD - Acre falls, end of European presence in the Holy Land
Buy Books about the Medieval Crusades and the Crusaders
Warriors of God
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Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade
by James Reston, Jr.

Engrossing tale of honor and glory, focusing on the characters and skills of two great warriors as they face off in a clash of culture, religion and politics. The author stretches a bit in his desire to tie current political situations to the historical past.
The First Crusade
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The First Crusade : A New History
by Thomas Asbridge

On the last Tuesday of November 1095, Pope Urban II delivered an electrifying speech that launched the First Crusade. His words set Christendom afire. Some 100,000 men, from knights to paupers, took up the call--the largest mobilization of manpower since the fall of the Roman Empire.

Now, in The First Crusade, Thomas Asbridge offers a gripping account of a titanic three-year adventure filled with miraculous victories, greedy princes and barbarity on a vast scale. Featured in vivid detail are the siege of Nicaea and the pivotal battle for Antioch, the single most important military engagement of the entire expedition, where the crusaders, in desperate straits, routed a larger and better-equipped Muslim army.
The Crusades through Arab Eyes
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The Crusades Through Arab Eyes
by Amin Maalouf, Jon Rothschild

First published in the 80s, this book is highly popular now due to our present political situation. Notwithstanding, it is an excellent book in which the author has collated numerous eyewitness medieval Arab sources, telling the story of the Crusades from their viewpoint within a culture they considered (perhaps rightly) superior to the European. Fascinating, highly readable and entertaining.
A Concise History of the Crusades
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A Concise History of the Crusades
by Thomas F. Madden

Readable account of 200 years of crusader history, put into the context of medieval culture and worldview. Includes the reasons why the crusader armies went to retake Jerusalem from the Turks, putting the Christians in a much better light than the books above (with good backup).
God Wills It!
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God Wills It!: An Illustrated History of the Crusades
by W. B. Bartlett

A beautifully and bountifully illustrated book, readable and entertaining. A very nice introduction to the history of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the men who stayed, built and lived for hundreds of years in the fulcrum of geographical history.
Chronicles of the Crusades
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Chronicles of the Crusades
edited by Elizabeth Hallam, preface by Hugh Trevor-Roper

Wow! Eyewitness accounts by the famous and the lowly, Europeans, Byzantines and Muslims, men and women, bring the Crusades to glorious life. Accompanied by essays by leading authorities and lavish illustrations. Highly recommended.
The Templars
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The Templars: The Dramatic History of the Knights Templar, the Most Powerful Military Order of the Crusades
by Piers Paul Read

The Knights Templar, a holy order of warrior knights created at the time of the first crusade to escort pilgrims to the Holy Land, remain one of the most mysterious and controversial organizations ever known. Read traces their history from its beginning to its (supposed) end in 1312, with the massacre ordered by Pope Clement V and King Philip of France.
The Knights Templar in Britain
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The Knights Templar in Britain
by Evelyn Lord

Details the origins and history of the Templars in Britain - from what we've read, the order was bigger there than previously realized, particularly in Scotland. Many consider the Templars to be the forerunners of freemasonry (think "Scottish Rite").