The Crusades were a series of military campaigns during Medieval times against the Muslims of the Middle East. 

Crusade comes from the Latin word crux, meaning a ‘cross’. It referred to the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified and to go on a crusade meant going to fight for Christ. In 1100, it meant going to fight the Muslims in the Holy Land, around Jerusalem, where Christ had lived.

The Muslims were the followers of Muhammad. He was born in the city of Mecca in AD 570. He founded a great religion and his followers were called Muslims. Some of his followers were warlike and over the next few hundred years they had captured land around the Mediterranean Sea.  ( )

In 1076, the Muslims captured Jerusalem - the most holy of holy places for Christians because Christ had lived and died in that area. Jesus had been born in nearby Bethlehem and Jesus had spent most of his life in Jerusalem. He was crucified on Calvary Hill, also in Jerusalem. There was no more important place on Earth than Jerusalem for a true Christian which is why Christians called Jerusalem the "City of God". Christians across Europe enjoyed making a pilgrimage or visit to this Holy Land. 

However, Jerusalem was also extremely important for the Muslims as Muhammad, the founder of the Muslim faith, had been there and there was great joy in the Muslim world when they captured Jerusalem. A beautiful dome - called the Dome of the Rock - was built on the rock where Muhammad was said to have sat and prayed. It was so holy that no Muslim was allowed to tread on the rock or touch it when visiting the Dome.

Therefore the Christian fought to get Jerusalem back while the Muslims fought to keep Jerusalem. These wars were to last nearly 200 years. (


1. On a new page in your book or folder write the heading: 'The Crusades.'
2. Open this interactive web site and watch the journey taken by each of the different Crusades:

3. On your new page complete the following:
a) From the above text, pick out and write in your book three key points about Muhammad.
b) Explain why the Muslims wanted control of Jerusalem.
c) Explain why the Christians from Europe also wanted to be able to visit Jerusalem.
The First Crusade was the Christian's attempt to re-capture Jerusalem. Any Christian who wanted to pay a pilgrimage to the city faced a very hard time. Muslim soldiers made life very difficult for the Christians and trying to get to Jerusalem was filled with danger for a Christian. This greatly angered all Christians.

One Christian - called Alexius I of Constantinople - also feared that his country might also fall to the Muslims as it was very close to the territory captured by the Muslims. Constantinople is in modern day Turkey. Alexius called on the Pope - Urban II - to give him help.

In 1095, Urban spoke to a great crown at Clermont in France. He called for a war against the Muslims so that Jerusalem was regained for the Christian faith. In his speech he said:

 Source A  "...Christians, hasten to help your brothers in the East, for they are being attacked. Arm for the rescue of Jerusalem under your captain Christ. Wear his cross as your badge.
      If you are killed your sins will be pardoned..."

Those who volunteered to go to fight the Muslims cut out red crosses and sewed them on their tunics. The French word "croix" also means cross, and the word changed to "croisades" or crusades. The fight against the Muslims became a Holy War.

Many people did volunteer to fight on the First Crusade.

There were true Christians who wanted to reclaim Jerusalem for their belief and get the Muslims out of the city. There were those who knew they had committed sin and that by going on the Crusade they might be forgiven by God. They had also been told by the pope that if they were killed, they would automatically go to heaven as they were fighting for God. 

There were those who thought that they might get rich by taking the wealth that they thought existed in Jerusalem. Any crusader could claim to be going on a pilgrimage for God - pilgrims did not have to pay tax and they were protected by the Church.
                                           Pope - Urban II
at Clermont (Click to enlarge)

      The following sources will give you other possible reasons or motives for why the Christians went on a Crusade.

4. Print off this blank map and fill it in with the information from Source E (the map) on the next page. Remember to include cities and the Key. Also mark on your map where the Byzantine Empire was (see the interactive map site above for this information.)
5. List (or mind map) on your page, eight reasons for why the European Christians went on Crusades to the Middle East.
6. Which two reasons do you think gave the men the most motivation for taking these long and dangerous journeys? Quote form the Sources in your answer. Blend two or three quoted words from the sources into your own sentences.
 Source B  'Many Christians joined the Crusades because they thought that was what God wanted.  Others joined for selfish reasons.  Many nobles were no longer rich, if hey joined the Crusades, they did not have to pay taxes or their debts while they were away.  They hoped to get money, power and land in the Middle East. Some crusaders were thieves and murderers.'
                       (A.C. Morales, The Story of Man, 1991)
 Source C  "For about 500 years, the Christians, led by the Pope in Rome, had tried to bring themselves and the Orthodox Christians together.  So when Alexius [the leader of the Orthodox Christians in Constantinople] asked for help [to fight against the Muslims] in 1081, Pope Urban II saw his chance.  In 1093, at Clermont, he called all men to promise to save the Holy Land before it was too late. "    Source D  "One of the problems in the 1090s was that good land was in short supply – younger sons simply had no inheritance and their ‘land hunger’ caused constant warfare among the warrior class. 
For many, a crusade seemed an instant solution to a very pressing problem.  They could fight for the cross and for personal profit also."
    (Paula Bartley and Hilary Bourdillon, 'Medieval Islam', 1993)                   (Brian Catchpole.  'The Clash of Cultures'. 1981)

 continue on The First Crusade