The First Crusade Outline


Launched by Pope Urban II in 1095.

Ultimately captured Jerusalem in 1099.

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I added some color and emphasized some city and river names here and there.

The geography is pretty hard to decipher.


Background for the First Crusade:


Western Roman Empire fell Sept. 4, 476 when it was conquered by northern Germanic tribes, “barbarians.”


In 614 Jerusalem taken by Sassanid forces (pre-Islamic Persians).  Extremely bloody.  Thousands of Christians were killed.


In 629 Byzantine Empire retakes Jerusalem.


622 – Isalm is born.


638 – Jerusalem taken by Islamic forces.  Jews finally allowed back in the city.  [Recall they had been banned since Constantine.]  Christians also protected under this new rulership. 


Late 600s – Dome of the Rock is constructed in Jerusalem.


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Great Schism: 1054- Western Latin Church and Eastern Greek Church split apart and act more or less independently.  A general feeling of hostility between the two churches.


In 1071/77 Jerusalem was conquered by Seljuk Turks. Christians, who had been relatively safe under previous Arab/Islamic rule, were now persecuted. Reports of Christian pilgrims being harassed and killed by Turks reach the West.  This instigates Pope Urban II's call to action.  Furthermore, Constantinople, the center of Eastern Christiandom, felt threatened by the encroaching Turkish forces.  [See map below. The Turks were right up on the edge of Constantinople by the late 11th century.] 


Late 11th Century: Constantinople, the center of Byzantine power, is dominated by Western (Latin) naval trade, primarily by Italians from the city-states of Venice, Genoa, and Pisa. In 1182 a popular uprising against these extremely rich and powerful foreigners (schizmatics to their mind) led to a masacre which was extremely brutal. Many were killed and mutilated, many sold to the Turks as slaves, and many fled. An estimated population of 50,000 or 60,000 Italians was reduced to ca. 4,000.  Needless to say, the already bad relations between Eastern and Western Christiandom were made even worse.


1095 – Pope Urban II (the Western Pope) called upon the nobility of Western Europe to recapture Jerusalem, and as a sideline, help out his Eastern Christian counterparts, although helping the Byzaninte Empire was not a particular popular cause in the West. 



The more detailed story of the First Crusade


Jerusalem was under (Turkish-Sunni) Muslim rule in the 11th century.  Christian pilgrims continued to go to Jerusalem even though it was ruled by what they considered to be infidels (unfaithfuls).  There was actually an extensive network stretching from the West all the way to Jerusalem to aid in pilgrimages and the Muslim leaders did not in general hinder these pilgrims.  But there were some skirmishes here and there.

As early as 1074 there was some talk in the West of mounting a military action in conjunction with Byzantine forces from Constantinople to conquer Jerusalem for Christendom.  This didn’t get anybody too excited.  But some religious zealots starting telling stories of Muslim atrocities against innocent Christian pilgrims.  These stories were probably exaggeration or simply fictions, but they started to generate some interest in the West. 

At this point in history the Christian church was split into two major camps: the Orthodox in the East and the Roman Catholics in the West. Relations between the two sides was not great, but not terrible.  This Catholic-Orthodox Schism in the Church occurred in 1054.  In the Islamic world there was a lot of infighting between rival leaders and groups.  Sunni and Shi’a divisions evident.  They didn’t see much of a threat from the West, which at this point in history was is pretty sorry shape.  For the Islamic world, the greater threat was from all the infighting and civil war.

In March of 1095, the Emperor of Byzantium, Alexius I Comnenus, asked for assistance from Pope Urban II (in the West) to fight the Muslim Turks who virtually surrounded Constantinople.  Urban may have thought that a reconciliation between the two Churches was possible if he gave assistance, and that this might lead to making him the leader of both the West and the East.  Urban started preaching around France promoting the idea of a Holy Crusade to free Jerusalem from the Muslims and to help the Christian Byzantine Empire, their brothers in faith.  He was mainly addressing the nobles of France – knights and the rich land owners who could afford to have a horse or two and armour and weapons and servants, all of which were prohibitively expensive.  A common serf had absolutely no access to these things.

The nobles of the West were in bad shape.  They were constantly fighting each other.  Part of the problem was that first sons inherited everything while second and third sons didn’t get anything except for support roles to their oldest brothers.  [Warning: this theory of 'second tier' nobles is no longer considered the whole story, but for this write-up I'll continue with that theme.  Just realize that it is only a part of the story.]  These ‘second tier’ nobles were trouble and were a bloody violent bunch. The pope was aware that something had to be done to stop all the violence amongst the noble class.  Urban suggested that instead of fighting and stealing from each other, they should go to the East and fight and kill Muslims in the Holy Land.  This would not only be a spiritually beneficial thing to do (Urban suggested) but it would also direct the violent natures of the nobles somewhere else onto foreign people.  The nobles could do a holy service and win some booty as well. 

Urban proposed a novel idea - he combined the holy and peaceful act of pilgrimage to the Holy Land with the violent concept of a Holy War.  This way a restless noble could get rich, get land, get booty, kill infidels, save the Holy Land, and find the peace and salvation of God and Jesus Christ all at the same time. Urban and his underlings preached this idea throughout France, Italy, and Germany. 


-The actual term “Crusade” or “crusader” did not come into use until about 100 years after the 1st Crusade.  During the 1st "Crusade" the term used was peregrinus or peregrinator, “pilgrim” on a pilgrimage or journey, peregrinatio or iter. 


Here is what a crusader could hope to receive when he combined this idea of pilgrimage to Jerusalem (the Holy Land) with the Holy War concept.

-Legal benefits afforded to the pilgrim status.  Debts and pending legal actions all put on hold.  If you had a land dispute with a neighbor or owed somebody a ton of money, it was put into limbo.

-Crusaders could earn “plenary indulgence,” which was a get-out-of-purgatory-free card of sorts.

-Normally the spiritual benefits of a peaceful pilgrimage only came about if you actually made it to Jerusalem.  If you died on the way, too bad.  But a Holy Warrior got the spiritual benefits no matter where he died. Thus, death at any point was good.  What a deal! Even if you fail you win.

-And of course, a big incentive – booty: land, money, commercial goods in general, power.


Some other reasons why a Crusade made sense to some people:

In this era many people believed that the second coming of Jesus was near and that in order for this to happen the Holy Land (and the world in general) had to be purified, meaning that everybody had to be either Christian or dead. This was often referred to as the “Last Days.”  The Crusades, as a concept, fit with this belief perfectly.  The Crusades were a holy mission to convert or kill non-Christians.

Though violence was generally frowned upon in the Church, this new Crusade movement redefined the rules of war and violence by making the issue not about the behavior of the Christian aggressor, but about the alien nature of the enemy.  The Muslim was considered in a sense not to be human and therefore normal rules of conduct for fighting them did not apply.  There were no ethical or moral problems with the extreme brutality that characterized the Christian crusaders against the Muslims.  The Byzantine Christians, on the other hand, did not buy into this theory and tended to be much more humain in their battles with the Turks/Muslims.


So Urban II and his minions preached this new form of violent pilgrimage hoping to enlist Western knights (nobles) to the cause.  Unexpectedly, he got a large response from the poor, people with little to no means for mounting a major offensive in a land nearly 2000 miles away. The common people got really fired up over this idea of Crusade. This was a big problem. Common people don’t make good soldiers. They have no weapons, no armour, no assistants, no entourage, no supplies, no horses or wagons, no money, no food. They have no way of getting to Constantinople except for walking and carrying what they could on their backs.  This was not what Urban II had in mind. 



Pope Urban II officially launched the 1st Crusade on Nov. 27, 1095. People didn’t leave for the East on that date, but the Crusade was penciled in on the calendar. [See Urban II's call for crusade in other readings.]


Recap of the big reasons:

- The Byzantines needed assistance to beat up the Turks. The Byzantines were very weak at this point.  Also there was some hope for a Catholic-Byzantine reconciliation: The Pope hoped to make up with the East and get the upper hand over Byzantium after Great Schism.

-The Pope hoped to focus Noble/Knight violence elsewhere.  [The peace and truce of God movement associated with this.  A movement inspired by the idea of Holy War.]


Some Crusade trivia:

-Crusaders often performed some sort of ritual upon taking up the cross for Holy War.  Many had a cross burned/branded onto their foreheads. Others simply wore a cloth cross as part of their wardrobe. 

-the cost of being a knight: equipment, supplies, horse, and servants has been estimated to be about 5 times a nobleman’s annual income.  Their families often endured much suffering to raise the money required. Most who survived the Crusade and returned to the West returned without much booty, thus the investment in general had a pretty poor return.

-7000 knights, 35,000 infantry, and between 20k and 60k non-combatants (servants, assistants, roadies, etc.)  left for the East.  =Totaling: 62,000 to 102,000. 

There were two distinct parts of the 1st Crusade: the People’s Crusade and the Noble’s Crusade



The People’s Crusade;  1st part of the First Crusade.  The “poor people” Crusade unofficially led by a charismatic itinerant preacher and vagabond named Peter the Hermit.



-A severe drought had afflicted France and Central Europe in the years leading up to 1096, there was widespread famine.  Adding insult to injury, there were large scale outbreaks of ergotism (an illness caused by moldy rye that for some caused ‘tripping’) and plague.  The stories of a plentiful and bountiful East would have been very appealing to the poor in these conditions.

-May 21, 1096 the first wave started heading East.  Thousands followed for the next few months.  The basic plan was to meet up at Constantinople.

-About 15,000 men, women, and children headed off to the East, mostly on foot with few if any supplies.  A few nobles were among this bunch, but it was overwhelmingly made up of poor people, an assortment of criminals, and other types not ready for combat.  Imagine trying to organize these giant roving camps who were continually hungry. They moved across the landscape like a dark cloud of destruction and violence, negotiating from local inhabitants for food in some places and in many other places simply stealing it and fighting with the landowners and local peasants, killing and injuring many along the way.

- Urban II and Byzantine Emperor did not have this in mind.  They expected a few hundred knights to go, not thousands of unprepared poor people with no equipment or supplies.

-The Crusades initially got traction and recruitment by characterizing the mission as a Holy War/Pilgrimage [think jihad for Christians].  Combining the passive concept of pilgrimage with the concept of religious purification through war had very bad consequences.  All non-Christians, as a result, were dehumanized.  Any non-Christian was therefore categorized as an infidel and extermination or conversion of the infidel was an objective of the Crusade.  This fit in well with the idea of a popular belief called “Millenarianism.”  This Millennium craze, an End of Days cult [mentioned above], was looking forward to the Apocalypse as a goal and dictated that the world must be cleansed of non-believers before Jesus’ second coming.  Add this frenzied and passionate belief onto a bunch of hungry and desperate people attempting to walk 3000 km to Jerusalem with no supplies, and it spells trouble. 

-Many bands from this Popular (Peoples) Crusade went North before heading East. They went into the Rhine Valley (Germany) in order to kill or “convert” Jews and steal their stuff to supply their trip East. They justified their actions as necessary to purify Europe and unify it entirely as Christian territory so that they could then conquer Jerusalem and fulfill the Millenarian (End of Days) scheme which required a pure Christian world.  Before the Crusades, the Jews and the Christians tended get along relatively well.  Jews tended to live in their own towns or communities but were generally respected as fellow human beings who worshiped the same God as the God of Christianity. Local leaders tended to protected Jews and Christians alike.  But the People’s crusaders no longer respected this social structure.  Hunger drove them to steal food and supplies and religious fervor gave them a reason to focus their wrath upon Jews.  The Church disapproved, but could do little to stop them.  The stories are horrific and tragic.  One account of the atrocities performed by a crusader named Count Emicho is as follows: (The story teller is Jewish.)

“They (Emicho’s men) took a ‘trampled corpse’ of theirs, which had been buried 30 days previously, and carried it through the city, saying, ‘Behold what the Jews have done to our comrade. They [the Jews] took a gentile [a Christian] and boiled him in water. They then poured the water into our wells in order to kill us.’”


[In other words, the crusaders claimed that the Jews had cooked a Christian and poured the broth into Christian wells.] The idea was to incite the local Christian population to violence against Jews.  It worked. Some Jews were able to get protection from the local bishop (Bishop of Worms) but many others were slaughtered and their bodies dragged through the streets.  One particularly grisly incident was a fellow named Isaac who was dragged around the streets by a rope around his neck. He did not die and was asked if he would convert to Christianity.  He couldn’t talk since he had been severely strangled.  He signaled with his finger that he wanted his head to be chopped off.  The crusaders did what he asked of them.




               Some Jews, when they heard about the approaching crusaders massacred each other (no doubt thinking of Masada) so as to beat the crusaders to the kill.  Many local bishops tried to save their local Jews but the crusaders were ruthless and even attacked Christian sanctuaries where Jews were seeking refuge. [pp. 83-89 in Asbridge]  Thousands of Jews in Europe died as a result of the Crusades.

-The People’s crusaders then raped and pillaged their way to Constantinople.  Heavy damage was done in Byzantine-led Hungary and the Balkans (Albania, the former Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Eastern Turkey, Croatia, Greece) where the locals (Christians) defended themselves by killing a large percentage (estimates of about 25%) of the crusaders. The People’s crusaders were essentially a mob of murderers and crazed religious fanatics.  They were desperate and had very little fear.  God was on their side… or so they believed.  For the crusaders salvation was inevitable unless they ran away.  If they lived to fight on they were blessed by God, and if they died while trying they were blessed by God.  Win-win in their minds.

-They arrived in Constantinople in August, much earlier than expected to the annoyance of the Byzantines.  [They walked 3000 km (1850 miles) in about 3 months! That’s from NYC to about Denver or Salt Lake City!] Once in the vicinity of Constantinople the Peoples crusaders were thuggish and robbed and fought with the locals like they had done all the way across Eastern Europe.

-There are two versions of the story that happened next

        -The Byzantine version of what happened:  The Popular crusaders, against the advise of Alexius I Comnenus (The Byzantine Emperor), crossed the Bosporus into Muslim territory to take on the Turks and were routed (annihilated). [See map below.]

        -Western version:  Alexius I Comnenus, pissed off at the unruly crusaders who were terrorizing his city and surrounding lands,  tricked them into going into Asia Minor (crossing the Bosporus) suggesting that they would be safe there and that they would receive assistance. The same result… they were annihilated by the Turks.

-Either story has most of the Peoples Crusade getting massacred by the well organized Turks.  There were, however,  many survivors who later caused more trouble. Peter the Hermit survived.

The Barons’ or Noble’s Crusade – The Actual Knights and Armored Warriors

– The First Crusade -  part II


The Latins (crusaders) were divided into factions:   Some of the factional leaders were…

-Raymond of Saint-Gilles- Highly religious and powerful, old than others

-Bohemond- driven by money and power issues; the manipulative leader at Antioch

…and a host of other nobles from the West.


Aug. 15, 1096 was set as the official departure date. The Barons (Nobles) traveled to Constantinople by land and by sea.  Once in Constantinople they met with the Emperor.

Alexius I Comnenus (The Byzantine Emperor), demanded an oath of loyalty from the Barons to Byzantine interests.  Without such an oath he was unwilling to help the crusaders. He insisted that any city captured by the crusaders that had recently been Byzantine property, was to be returned to Byzantine control and not looted and pillaged. Bohemond was one of the only who agreed initially, but he clearly was never going to keep his word. In general the Barons refused this arrangement at first,… until Alexius cut off their food supply, they then fell into line with Alexius. 


This is a Map of the Byzantine Empire at 1092. Notice that

Nicaea and Antioch are not under Byzantine influence.


Spring 1097- The Baron crusaders set off from Constantinople to Nicaea with Byzantine soldiers.


Siege of Nicaea; May 1097

(Note: Franks = crusaders=Latins)

Nicaea had been in Byzantine control until 1077, but now it was under Muslim rule.

- The idea was to lay siege to Nicaea and drive the Turks out.

-However it was very difficult to cut off supplies to the Turks in Nicaea due to the geography. It was on a lake and it was next to impossible to keep smugglers and traders from getting in and out. 



Image derived from Google Earth.


-Alexius had his men build boats to seal off water access.

-Alexius also brokered a surrender surreptitiously with the Nicaeans so that Byzantine soldiers, not the overly brutal crusaders, gained control of the city.  To the surprise of the crusaders, one morning (June 19, 1097)  they woke up to see Byzantine flags flying within the city.

-Byzantine treatment of Nicaean prisoners was lenient.  Over the years the Byzantines and the Turks had developed their own rules of battle and war and they did not tend to brutalize each other.  (Sort of a “do unto others… “ strategy).  This angered the crusaders to no end.  They were hoping to take Nicaea for themselves and loot it.  The Byzantine forces restricted Nicaean access to the crusaders only allowing them to enter the city under guard and in small numbers.  This made the bad blood between the allies even worse. (allies = crusaders and the Byzantine forces from Constantinople).

Crusaders anticipated that at the current pace they would make Jerusalem in about 5 weeks.  (It took another 2 years.)

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The Siege of Nicaea (of Nicene Creed fame),

From "Histoire d'Outre Mer" Guillaume de Tyr. Reproduction from "Croisades", Claude Lebedel. 13th Century

Look at this closely and figure out what is going on.

Yes, the crusaders are launching heads into the city using a catapult.


Siege of Antioch; Oct. 20, 1097 through June 3, 1098. [9-month siege]-

[Second Siege lasted from June 4 – June 25.]


Notice the river in the foreground and the steep

mountain in the back with the fortification walls.


-Antioch was too big for the crusaders to surround effectively.  It was built between a river and a huge and very steep mountain at the top of which was a fortress.  Extensive ramparts and fortified walls surrounded the entire city.  The city had been well supplied and was ready for a long siege.  The siege lasted 9-months.

-Byzantine soldiers left the crusaders for this siege perhaps due to rumors the Byzantine commander was going to be assassinated by Latin leaders.  This rumor may have been started by Bohemond (one of the Crusade leaders) who was busy devising ways take Antioch for himself and wanted the Byzantine forces out of the way.  The crusaders were now even more convinced that the Byzantines were wimps. (Keep in mind that the Byzantine forces were not crusaders.  They were not fighting for God or the second coming of Jesus or for penance or forgiveness or religious purification or even for extensive booty.  They were fighting to get back cities and land taken from them by the Turks. They were a professional army doing a professional job. Many of them had wives and families back in Constantinople. The crusaders probably seemed crazy to these hardened professionals. The crusaders knew no bounds in brutality and had less to lose overall.  If they died in battle, they were still winners in Christ. If a Byzantine soldier died in battle, he just died.]

- Example of crusader atrocity: The crusaders dig up Muslim cemetery and tear up the bodies and send body parts to various Islamic leaders.  The people within the city, who included families and the elderly, not just military types, were terrified by the behaviour of the crusaders.  They had never heard of such atrocities.  The crusaders were gaining the reputation of being completely beyond the boundaries of civilized behavior. 

-The Muslim forces quickly learned the brutal terror tactics of the crusaders and counter by capturing and burning to death some crusaders, their screams of pain audible to their comrades outside the walls of Antioch. They also rounded up Christians, Greeks, Syrians, and Armenians who lived in the city, and catapulted their heads at the crusaders.  They also periodically hung the Orthodox patriarch of the city by his feet over the walls of the city and beat his feet with rods for the crusaders to see. Another story tells of a crusader found by Muslim forces “playing dice” with a young woman in an orchard near the city.  He was beheaded on the spot and she was repeatedly raped and killed.  Their heads were launched into the crusader camp the next day. The stakes were raised.  It became clear to both sides that surrender was not a good option since being a captive probably meant torture and death. 

-The crusaders took the port city of St. Simeon in mid November and got a few shiploads of supplies from Europe and even some postal service.  But by late November their supplies were running short and winter was coming.  Ships tend not to sail in the winter so supplies were unlikely. They were in the mountains of Syria/Turkey.  It snows there and they were hungry and cold.  About 20% died over the winter.  100,000 crusaders left from Europe.  Only about 30,000 remained at the siege of Antioch.  But these were the survivors, the fittest of the bunch.  (Combat selection in Darwinian terms.)  Supplies started to come in at the port in March.

-Sin was frowned upon, especially theft, cheating, and  “fornication or adultery.”  It is not clear if fornication includes man-on-man or just man-on-woman.  I’m guessing both were prevalent in the crusader camp. 

-Desertion was also a problem.  Even Peter the Hermit, the leader of the People’s Crusade who had joined up with the Nobles, deserted in early 1098.  He was quickly found and brought back and forced to swear an oath of loyalty.  The men were angry about being hungry while the horses owned by the nobles were getting better treatment.

-Meanwhile, Bohemond (one of the Crusade commanders) has big plans for himself. He blackmails the other crusaders; he says that he and his contingent will leave unless he is given Antioch after victory.  This proposal is initially refused.  (Who does he think he is? … Achilles?)

-After many months of siege, word arrives that a Muslim army of 35,000 men led by the dreaded Kerbogha approaches to relieve the Muslim inhabitants of Antioch and will arrive soon.

-Bohemond finds a weakness in the defenses of Antioch. He finds an inhabitant within Antioch willing to betray his comrades for money and passage to safety. He bribes this man (Firuz) and sets up plans to get his men into the city.  Bohemond then informs the other crusaders about this new situation.  He again blackmails them, threatening to leave (with his plan) if the other Latin leaders will not give him Antioch upon their victory. Because a Muslim army is closing in on them and Bohemond has a good plan, other commanders agree to Bohemond’s demands.  A bit like the story of the Trojan Horse, the crusaders are secretly let into the city at night and they infiltrate the defenses (accidentally hacking Firuz’s brother to death in the process) and let in more crusaders at a gate.  The skirmishes emboldened the Christian population of Antioch to join in the melee and they opened other gates for the crusaders.  Sadly, it was dark and the crusaders were crazed.  They killed everybody they could vaguely see, including many of the Christians who let them in.  They killed pretty much everybody.  Very very very brutal.  Blood bath. 

-The very next day, June 4, 1098, the Muslim relief army arrives and besieges Antioch, the crusaders now penned up inside.  This is the ultimate strange turn of events.  The crusaders were very weary after 9 months of besieging Antioch. They had very few supplies and the Byzantine army had left them and was not supplying them.  They had been feeding themselves mostly by attacking nearby towns and stealing from farmers. Antioch itself was totally drained by the time the crusaders got inside and pillaged it.  When they finally breach the defenses of Antioch and storm the city, the very next day they are themselves besieged inside a totally ruined city covered with thousands of corpses and no food.  [Imagine all the nasty stuff they probably did while beseiging to any water source that may have been remotely accessible.]

-Meanwhile, in besieged Antioch.  The crusaders are desperate.  They are literally eating leather and drinking blood that they drain from their pack animals. Out of nowhere, a lowly fellow named Peter Bartholomew, a poor commoner in the crusader ranks, has avision that the Holy Lance that pierced Jesus on the Cross was somewhere in Antioch.  Bartholomew convinces people to go looking for this lance and start digging around.  Somehow, a “lance” is found by Bartholomew in a trench and this is considered an ominous sign of good fortune.  It is probably just a scrap of metal, but they all rally behind it as the “Holy Lance.”  Bohemond considers it to be total b.s., there was supposedly a lance in Constantinople too, but Raymond of Saint-Gilles (another crusader commander) is very impressed.

-With this newfound religious inspiration they make a daring escape attack on June 25, 1098. The crusaders, at this point only numbering about 20k break the Muslim army which numbered perhaps 100k. In fact, the large number of Muslim forces may have worked against them.  They lost their formation and retreated into themselves and were routed.  Maintaining order and holding formation was absolutely paramount in this type of combat.  The crusaders got tons of booty from this miraculous victory.  Being the pious soldiers that they aspired to be, they bragged about not raping the women they found, they just killed them. 


-aside: Even while all of this is going on, crusaders could travel in the Muslim lands relatively easily and even be entertained at times by Muslim hosts.  This is perhaps due to the infighting that was going on in these areas. [p. 198]


-Crusader trivia: At this point in the Crusade there were only about 100 horses.  Horses were scarce.  Many died, some were eaten.  Many knights actually rode donkeys and mules.  Also, what horses they did have were not quite the animals that we generally consider to be a war horse.  Horses of the period tended to be more like ponies.  They were very small.


Side story of the lance;  After the great success at Antioch, Peter Bartholomew (the Holy Lance discoverer) becomes the popular spiritual leader of the crusaders. Apparently Peter was an unstable fellow with delusions of grandeur.  He continued to have visions and claimed to have been visited by Jesus on several occasions.  He made weirder and weirder pronouncements as time went on.  On April 5, 1099 he was told by Jesus, St. Peter and St. Andrew to get rid of all of the sinners amongst the crusaders.  He was told to assemble all of the crusader army and have them line up in 5 rows as if for a military engagement.  The first three rows would be the pure ones and the last two rows would be the sinners.  Peter was ready to execute these sinners, a full 40% of the army.  This plan of Peter Bartholomew’s clearly did not sit well with anyone.  He had gone off the deep end.  An up-and-comer named Arnulf of Chocques publicly challenged Peter and the validity of the “Holy Lance.”  Peter was un-phased and volunteered to prove the authenticity of the Lance.  He volunteered to undergo a trial by fire.



Trial by fire was a popular way to determine truth at the time.  The theory goes like this- If you can walk through a tunnel of fire and live, God has endorsed your position, even if you are badly injured.  Peter walks through a blazing 13’ corridor of olive branches while holding the lance.  He is burnt to a crisp and dies several agonizing days later.  But one of the leaders, Raymond of Saint-Gilles, keeps the lance for himself, just in case.



On to Jerusalem

-After several months of rest in Antioch and innumerable skirmishes and a few important battles… off to Jerusalem.

-In the meantime, Jerusalem had actually been conquered, but not by the Byzantine army or the crusaders, it was conquered by the Egyptian Shi’a Fatimids in August of 1098.  The Fatimids had very good relations with the crusaders and had met with them in relation to the siege of Antioch.  The Fatimid leader al-Afdal offered the crusaders peaceful visitation rights to Jerusalem.  The crusaders refused this offer.  They wanted Jerusalem for themselves.  This rather friendly alliance between the Egyptians (Fatimids) and the Latins (crusaders) was over.  The enemy of my enemy was no longer my friend, they were now my enemy.

-The Fatimids and the Seljuq Turks did not like one another at all.  This division probably explains the successes of the crusaders more than anything else.  The crusaders came at a time when the overall Islamic world was too busy fighting internally to effectively deal with a bunch of lunatics from the West.

-Most knights at this point had died or gone home.  Of the original 7000 knights or so, only 1200 reached the walls of Jerusalem.

-The crusaders realized that they had to attack Jerusalem as soon as possible, before the Fatimid forces got their defenses organized.  The Siege of Jerusalem started June 1099 and they breached the walls in July.

-Religious vision #2- Another Peter, Peter Desiderius, has a prophetic vision.  He claimed that if the crusaders circumambulated (walked around) the city of Jerusalem in their bare feet the city would fall in 9 days.

-After fasting, the crusaders followed Desiderius’ instructions and, oddly enough, while marching along they were not attacked by the Muslim Jerusalemites.  Why?  I can only speculate.  [Perhaps they just looked to strange.  Or perhaps the Fatimids were unsure if the crusaders were going to attack and did not want to make the first move…?]

-On July 15 1099 they entered the city and massacred almost the entire population including fellow Christians, Jews, and of course Muslims. 

-Jerusalem was held by Westerners until Saladin retook it about a century later in 1187.  Unlike the crusaders, Saladin took Jerusalem in a fashion similar to Muhammad taking Mecca, without much violence.  He also did not make a policy of expelling or executing Jews and Christians who happened to be living in Jerusalem.


  This short highlight reel from the First Crusade is by no means complete.  There were many more battles and atrocities and sieges and religious visions and weapons and siege towers and hunger and treachery.  I put this together so that you all could get a taste of some of the good bits.  Daniel Newsome



Much of this information was derived from…

Asbridge, Thomas S. The First Crusade: A New History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Page numbers in the outline refer to this book.


This map shows the Byzantine Empire about a century later, after the 4th Crusade. 

At the time of the 1st Crusade Nicaea, Antioch, and Jerusalem

were all controlled by the Turks (Muslim forces).


This map shows the layout of the area at the time of the 1st Crusade (1096-1099). I have underlined a few of the significant places and terms in red.  Here is a list of underlined things on this map: Constantinople, Nicaea (hard to read), Antioch, Jerusalem, Fatimite, and Seljuk Turks.  The crusaders all entered this map from the upper left-hand side.



Here is a list of all of the crusades:  ListOfCrusades.htm