The Crusades
The truth?

Bible Truth

Abridging the Bible

Reformation Leaders

Faith or Works?

Free Will or

Changeable Truths.

The Virgin Mary.

Queen of Heaven

Images and Miracles

Memorial or Sacrifice?

By Their Fruits You
Shall Know Them.

Heaven and Hell.

The Crusades

The Da Vinci Con

Which is the True Church?


A Just War?

Today we are often told that the Crusades were a shameful episode in the history of Christianity - a period when intolerant Christians, lusting for wealth and power, attacked and laid waste a peaceful, cultured and tolerant Islamic society. But how true is this picture?


Until about 40 years ago, the public image of the Crusaders was of the most noble of chivalric knights who rode bravely into battle to defend Christendom from dire threat.

Now we are seeing an extreme swing of the pendulum the other way, and the perception is completely reversed. Many people have an image of the Crusades as a shameful episode of unprovoked Christian brutality and aggression. This has been largely due to the efforts of modern Revisionists who have completely re-written the story of the Crusades.

So Which Version is True?

The answer can be found by anyone who cares to do the research. A history book written 50 or more years ago will tell a far more detailed story than most modern ones. An older history will relate all the known facts in a detailed, step by step manner, explaining the personalities involved, the lead up to the conflict and every event along the way. Today's histories are far lazier, and tend to give only a general overview of what the writer believes are the most important events, with little precise detail, and in what is more a themed than a step by step account. These methods leave events far more open to being twisted by an opinionated writer. What detail is added, tends to be odd stories to add colour and "prove" the writers point.

This mode of history writing has tended largely to ignore the events that led up to and formed the context of the Crusades.

Christianity Under Attack

In the period of time between the mission of Christ and the 6th century, Christianity had spread across the Middle East, Turkey, North Africa and Europe. This growth was almost entirely by peaceful Evangelization, often in the face of bitter persecution. By 600 AD most of the former Roman Empire, North Africa and much of Europe were solidly Christian.

However, from 600 AD onward, Islam emerged from the Arabian peninsula as an aggressively expanding religion, which aimed to conquer all the lands of the region. This continuous war or "jihad" began just three years after Muhammad's death and continued for the next thousand years. In this time Muslim armies overran the Christian Lands of

Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine 630 AD
Egypt 650 AD
North Africa, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco 700 AD
Spain 780 AD
Southern France 790 AD
Sicily 850 AD
Southern Italy 860 AD
Turkish borders 900 AD
Armenia and Georgia 1050 AD
Central Turkey 1070 AD
Greece 1300 AD
Bulgaria, Serbia and the Balkans 1400 AD
Constantinople 1450 AD

Of all the churches mentioned in the New Testament, only a single one, Rome, escaped Muslim domination.

In addition, piratical raids and campaigns of raiding on land, slave-taking and slaughter took place virtually every summer for a thousand years, both to acquire plunder, and to destabilise and weaken neighbouring Christian lands. No permanent peace with "infidels" was allowed by Islam.

Islam's scriptures, the Koran, make the approach to non-muslims clear:

"Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God’s religion shall reign supreme" (8:39)

Prophet, rouse the faithful to arms. If there are twenty steadfast men among you, they shall vanquish two hundred; and if there are a hundred, they shall rout a thousand unbelievers, for they are devoid of understanding." (8:65)

Fight against such of those to whom the Scriptures were given ... and do not embrace the true Faith, until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued." (9:29)

"Slay the idolaters wherever you find them. ... lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way ..." (9:5)

The Koran contains many similar verses.

In fact, most Muslim Scholars see the world as divided into two "houses"—the House of Peace (Dar Al-Salaam) and the House of War (Dar Al-Harb). The lands controlled by Muslims belong to the House of Peace, while those who have not yet submitted to Islam belong to the House of War until they are "utterly subdued."

So the entire context of the eastern Crusades is one of response to continuous Islamic aggression.

What was the Immediate Cause of the Crusades?

The Crusades had two immediate causes. The first was the attacks by Muslims upon pilgrims going to Jerusalem, and destruction of the shrines there. The second, equally important was an appeal for help from the Eastern Christians who were suffering a renewed Islamic invasion by the Seljuk Turks. In 1095 Pope Urban the Second called for Christians to unite in a Crusade.

From Pope Urban II's call at the Council of Clermont in 1095

Freshly quickened by the divine correction, you must apply the strength of your righteousness to another matter which concerns you as well as God. For your brethren who live in the east are in urgent need of your help, and you must hasten to give them the aid which has often been promised them. For, as the most of you have heard, the Turks and Arabs have attacked them and have conquered the territory of Romania [the Greek empire] as far west as the shore of the Mediterranean and the Hellespont, which is called the Arm of St. George. They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire. If you permit them to continue thus for awhile with impurity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them. On this account I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ's heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends. I say this to those who are present, it is meant also for those who are absent. Moreover, Christ commands it.

So were the Eastern Christians really in mortal Danger?

The answer is yes. A new wave of conquest had been launched by the Seljuk Turks, who would give their name to the land now called Turkey.

This is from a contemporary account of their attack on Christian Armenia in 1059, 30 years before the Crusades.

On Sunday 6th August the siege of Sebastea began, as did the slaughter; thousands of corpses littered the ground. What a dreadful scene. The bodies of highly renowned men were piled in a heap as if a forest of trees had been felled. and the ground was soaked with blood...
They ruthlessly massacred an immense number of people, carried off booty and took untold numbers of captives, men and women, young boys and girls, whom they sold into slavery... Fateful day! In a matter of minutes Sebastea and the surrounding plain were bathed in blood. The clear waters of the River Kizil Irmak which cuts through the city walls, suddenly flowed red.

In 1064 the Turks returned.
He made his way towards Armenia and entered the country; the inhabitants were put to the sword and driven into slavery. The infidels were so numerous that they covered the plains and closed off al the escape routes. Then he invaded Georgia, bringing death and slavery wherever he went. .. The Turks exterminated all the inhabitants, men, women, priests, monks and nobles; the young boys and girls were taken away captive into Persia.."
Chronicle of Matthew of Edessa.

Then came the Muslim attack on Byzantium in 1071, 20 Years before the Crusades. They killed and slaughtered thousands in the cities of Anatolia. reaching to the very gates of Constantinople.

..from that time right on to my father's reign the barbarian power was never checked, but swords and spears were whetted against the Christians and there were battles, wars and massacres. Cities were wiped out, countries were laid waste, and the whole Roman (Byzantine) territory was defiled with the blood of Christians. For some perished miserably by darts or spears, while others were driven from their homes and led away captive to the cities of Persia. And dread seized them all and they hurried to hide themselves from the dangers that threatened, in the caves and groves and mountains and hills. Among these some lamented aloud over the ills which their friends who had been taken away to Persia were suffering; the few others who still survived in the Roman lands were sighing deeply, and lamenting, one for a son, another for a daughter; or weeping for a brother or a nephew cut off before his time, and shedding bitter tears like women. In fact there was no condition of life free from tears and groans.
From the 'Alexiad' of the Byzantine Princess Anna Comnena

All this happened before the first crusader set foot in the east.

The Crusades were actually from the beginning a defensive war. Without the united response of the Crusades the whole of Europe could well have fallen piecemeal to Islam before 1400.


But didn't the Crusaders Behave far worse than the Muslims once the Conflict had begun?

Again, current depictions of chivalrous Muslims and brutal Christian warriors are more modern legend than reality. Modern historical writers tend to quote in graphic detail any outrages that were committed by Christian troops whilst quietly passing over the often greater outrages committed by Muslims.

Christian armies did sometimes commit outrages in the heat of battle. However we must understand that most of those who went east were career soldiers (much like those who take part in wars today, in Iraq and elsewhere), who go into battle, kill and are killed, and who obeyed the often harsh rules of war of their day.


The Christian massacre of several thousands of the population of Jerusalem immediately following the capture of the city, is an incident that is repeatedly quoted as one of particular Christian brutality - as opposed to the supposed greater leniency of Saladin when he took the city a hundred years later. However, as with most such charges, this is a major distortion of what was really taking place.

The rules of siege warfare at the time were very clear, and accepted by both sides. Those rules were that a besieged city was given a choice of surrendering to an attacking army without further bloodshed. However if that city resisted assault, and so needed to be stormed by the besieging army at great cost of life to the attackers, then the population of the city were considered combatants, and subject to the fury and spoil of the attackers. Once a battering ram hit the gates of a city, the die was cast and all inside could be subject to attack and treated as enemy. The justification was, that the citizens had had the chance of a peaceful hand-over and had rejected it. Jerusalem held out to the last, and a large number of the Crusaders perished in the siege and assault.

A massacre was not typical of the Christian practice on capturing a city, however. In those Muslim cities that surrendered to the Crusaders the people were left unmolested, retained their property, and were allowed to worship freely.

Saladin's capture of Jerusalem, however, was not a storming. It was a negotiated surrender in which the Christian inhabitants sought terms for their lives in return for giving up the city. It is this, rather than Saladin's tolerance, which accounts for the difference. Even so, Saladin's terms were considerably harsher than is normally reported in modern histories.

The terrified and craven mob kept running to the Patriarch Heraclius and the Queen Sybilla, who were at that time in charge of the city. They complained tearfully and urged that negotiations be started with Saladin immediately about handing over the city. The pact that followed was more to be deplored than commended. For each person a ransom was paid: Twelve sovereigns for a man, five for a woman, one for a child. Anyone who could not pay was taken captive. So it happened while a good many people were able to find the payment for their safety, fourteen thousand who could not pay went under the yoke of perpetual slavery... On that day, 2nd October 1187, the queen of all cities was taken into bondage.
Itinerarium Regis Ricardi

When the Turks captured Jerusalem from the Christians for a second time, in 1244, 5,700 of 6,000 Christians were killed or enslaved as they fled the city,

At last these heathens entered Jerusalem on 11 July 1244 and brutally disembowelled before the Sepulchre itself, all the Christians who had stayed behind.
Robert, Patriarch of Jerusalem.

In fact widespread massacres of Christians by the Muslims were very common, and used as an instrument of terror by Baybars, the Sultan who captured much of the Holy Land..

Eyewitness account of the Templar of Tyre
On Friday 18th May 1291, before daybreak, there came the loud and terrible sound of a kettledrum, and as the drum sounded, the Saracens assaulted the city of Acre on every side. The place where they first got in was through this damned tower which they had taken...
That day was appalling, for nobles and citizens, women and girls were frantic with terror; they went running through the streets, their children in their arms, weeping and desperate; they fled to the sea shore to escape death, and when the saracens caught them, one would take the mother and another the child, they would drag them from place to place and pull them apart; and sometimes two Saracens would quarrel over a woman and she would be killed; or a woman was taken and her sucking child flung to the ground where it died under the horses hooves.

Arab account of the taking of Tripoli.
On Tuesday 26th April 1289 the Sultan's army entered the city by force, it population fleeing towards the harbour. A few of them escaped by boat, though the majority of the male population were killed, while the children were led away into captivity. The Muslims took with them a huge amount of booty. When the Muslims had ceased killing and plundering the people of Tripoli, the Sultan ordered it be razed to the ground. In the sea near Tripoli there was an island, on which stood a church named the church of St Thomas. when the Muslims took Tripoli, many of the women fled to the church there.
Defying the sea, the Muslim army made the crossing to the island, swimming with their horses. They killed the menfolk who were there and claimed as booty the women and children and property. After this island had been cleared of all plunder, I crossed over in a boat. I found it covered in corpses which were putrefied to such an extent that the stench made it impossible to remain there.

Abu al-Fida

Similar accounts have survived from Michael the Syrian reporting the massacre at Edessa in 1144. And that of Sultan Baybars himself, reporting the massacre and destruction of Christian Antioch. So completely was the city destroyed, that Antioch, once one of the four greatest cities of the East, never recovered. Even today, all that remains is just an insignificant village.


So why are the Crusades now so Misrepresented in the West?.

The change of the image of the Crusaders from noble paladins to brutal Imperialists has been driven by:

1. A feeling of guilt amongst modern intellectuals over recent colonialism. Muslims have been seen as being victims of the West, and this world-view was then projected backward on the Crusades. To "compensate" for recent western dominance, past Muslim misdeeds were overlooked, and Christian ones were exaggerated and emphasized.

2. The need of many in modern society to try to tear down the specifically Christian roots of Western civilisation. Such people like to promote the view that modern society developed despite Christianity, rather than because of it. So they run down Christianity's huge contribution to society, progress and civilisation, and over-emphasize any negatives.

3. The desire of modern historians to have something "new" to say in order to make their reputations. So if the standard view of the Vikings, for example, is that they were murderous destroyers, the revisionist will try to argue that they were cultured, caring intellectuals.

However, this "Christian-hating" view of the crusades is counter-productive, since it encourages an unjustified sense of grievance against Christians in the Islamic world. It also protects Muslims from the need to face and modify their own aggressive historical tendencies.



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