The First Crusade

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The First Crusade was launched in 1095 by Pope Urban II with the stated goal of capturing the sacred city of Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslims, but this was more easily said than done. The motions that set this in place began “in 1071 when the Seljuk Sultan of Baghdad defeated the main Byzantine field army at Manzikert in Eastern Asia Minor and during the next few years Turkish war bands occupied most of the Asiatic Provinces of Byzantium. This made it hazardous for western pilgrims to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem unless they were rich enough to pay a large, armed escort. But in the 1090’s the Turkish Empire was weakened by faction. It was an ideal time for Byzantine intervention and the Emperor Alexius I (1081-1118) appealed to the Pope for help in recruiting western knights to serve as mercenaries in his armies.”¹ to build support for Alexius’s cause Pope Urban II traveled to Clermont Cathedral preaching that people should aid their eastern brethren against the Turks, but he also added in his own twist. As a reward for going on the crusade he offered spiritual salvation to anyone who would take on this daunting task claiming, “Whoever for devotion alone, not to gain honor or money, goes to Jerusalem to liberate the Church of God, can substitute this journey for all penance.”¹ Because of this claim their numbers swelled as all fighting men were members of the Church and soon took up the cross. “Urban’s crusade indulgence allowed knights to substitute military service for all other penances prescribed for all past sins which they had confessed. The Pope was aware of the problems which warriors experienced because he came from a family of fighting men, and he encouraged them to practice the Christian life by using their fighting skills and aggressive instincts in the service of God.” This movement soon grew out of the Pope’s control and now is starting to be preached in northern France by unauthorized people like Peter the Hermit. Peter who was liked by the people, soon gathered a small force of peasants and began on his way to Jerusalem; this became known as the Peasants’ Crusade, but ended almost as quickly as it had begun. Since most of the people in the crusade were non-combatants and because of the lack of leadership when they went in front of the main crusade and they were massacred by the Turks, only a small portion escaped from the carnage and returned to the main crusade. By 1096, the crusaders had gathered and were on their way to Constantinople; split into five armies led by Godfrey of Bouillon, Bishop Adhémar, Count Raymond IV of Toulouse, Hugh of Vermadois, Bohemond of Otranto, Robert of Normandy, and Count Robert of Flanders. As they marched through the Byzantine Empire they foraged off the land until they reached Constantinople. The chief Turkish ruler in Asia Minor Sultan Kilij-Arslan did not pay much attention to the crusaders and did not return from a campaign on his eastern frontier thinking that it was going to just like the Peasants’ Crusade earlier. The crusaders meet the army of Kilij-Arslan at Dorylaeum where the crusaders won; this now left a path open to Syria. “The aim was to find a crossing through the mountains in friendly territory, the descend into Syria and approach Antioch from the east rather than the north. It was at this stage that the princes began to disagree. The main body of the army took the Armenia route but two of the contingent leaders decided to make their own ways to Antioch. Baldwin of Boulogne, Godfrey of Lorraine’s younger brother, managed to bluff his way through the Cilician Gates and arrived in front of the southern Anatolian city of Tarsus, close to the Mediterranean Sea. Tancred, nephew of Prince Bohemond, had already separated from the main body and reached Tarsus. He was obliged to hand the city over to Baldwin, who commanded the larger force. The two groups of crusaders continued eastward, skirmishining with each other as much as with the Turks.”² Baldwin...
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