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Living History Project
THE LIVING HISTORY PROJECT
Richard I and the Crusades
The land of Palestine, where Jesus Christ had lived and preached, came under the rule of the Muslims in the 7th century. As you can probably remember, the Muslims were fairly tolerant with Christians and Jews and allowed them to keep their faiths. Christian pilgrims from Europe were allowed to travel to the 'Holy Land' and visit the Christian shrines.
Saladin and Guy de Lusignan after battle of Hattin in 1187
In the 11th century the situation changed completely. The fierce Seljuk Turks descended from central Asia into Arab and Byzantine lands. They took Jerusalem and began persecuting Christian pilgrims. For this reason, and because Christian Constantinople itself was threatened by the Turks, Pope Urban II, at Clermont in 1095, called for a 'Holy War' or 'Crusade' against the Muslim occupiers of the Holy Lands.
Thousands of people took up the call and, with crosses pinned on their tunics, set off for Palestine. This 'People's Crusade' was a complete failure and was crushed by the Turks immediately. However, a much more serious 'Lord's Crusade ' of well-equipped knights from France, Germany and Italy was organised. This is considered the First Crusade. In 1099 they reached Jerusalem and sacked the city, slaughtering its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants and stealing all the valuable goods they could find.
A Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem was set up along with a County of Tripoli, a County of Edessa and a Principality of Antioch. To help defend the new kingdom and look after pilgrims, two 'orders' of fighting monks were created : The Knights of St. John or Hospitallers and the Knights of the Temple or Templars. The Hospitallers built the Krak of the Knights, often considered the world's finest castle, in Syria. The Templars became fabulously rich because of all the land and treasure given to them in Europe.
Map of the Holy Land
When the County of Edessa fell to the Turks in 1144 a Second Crusade set off from France and Germany to re-conquer it. It failed, and worse was to come for the Christians : the Turkish Sultan Saladin recaptured Jerusalem itself in 1187. A Third Crusade set off, led by England's Richard I, France's Philip II and Germany's Frederick I but it was not successful : Jerusalem could not be retaken by the Christians.
In the next (13th ) century there were five more crusades organised to try to win Jerusalem back again. Two of them were led by France's Louis IX (St. Louis). None of them succeeded, however, and the last Christian stronghold in the region was lost in 1291.
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