The Crusades Facts for Kids

  • People went on the Crusades to fight for different reasons.
  • Christians and Muslims fought because they wanted control of religious places important to both.
  • The Crusades made Europeans important players in fighting for land in the Middle East.

Crusades lasted a long time. They started in the 11th century and went on down to the 16th century.

The crusades were against the Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula and also against people in the Baltic and Mongols. The Crusades were also called when Christians fought against political opponents of the Church.

Why did the Crusades begin?

For many years, Christians have been pushing back against Muslim land on the edge of Europe. They also pushed back in Sicily. Sometimes churches offer rewards for people who took part in these events.

The First Crusade began in November 1095 when the Pope called it at a town called Clermont.

The pope proposed for people to go to Jerusalem. They could get penance from going as well as money and honour.

Many knights in Western Europe took the opportunity to stop fighting with each other and instead focus on what they should have been doing. They helped weak people, not just the strong.

The knights had to dedicate their energy to doing a good deed that involved taking Jerusalem away from the Muslims. They would get forgiven for all of the bad things if they did this.

Jerusalem is a city in Israel. Jesus had lived there, and that made it a very important city in the crusades.

People wanted to take Jerusalem from the Muslims. They also thought that doing this would be a way to be spiritually better.

At the same time, the pope and the emperor were fighting. The crusades would help the pope because they would make him stronger.

Thousands of people saw the Crusades as a way to find salvation and escape their sinful life. They may have had other reasons for going on the Crusade, like honour, adventure, and financial gain. The Crusade was also a way to get land (though this was usually unsuccessful).

People of all social ranks joined the First Crusade.

Led by some nobles, the army of all sorts of people gathered in Constantinople. Alexios, the leader of the Greek Christians, saw an opportunity to get land back from the Turks.

Most of the leaders in the crusade swore to give Alexios land that the Byzantines owned. They would do this if they got supplies, guides, and luxury gifts from him.

The Crusaders won a key fight. They took Nicaea, a tough city with a wall around it.

This victory was hard to win, but it was a good lesson for Christians. And as the army went on, they became better at fighting.

In 1098, the first Crusader state was created. This was the County of Edessa.

The army had reached Antioch, which was the place where the saint’s Peter and Paul lived.

The discovery of a Holy Lance inspired the Crusaders. This was the spear used to kill Christ when he was on the cross.

After a hard winter, the crusaders broke into the city and captured it from the Turks. But they didn’t win. The citadel, a tall building in the city, was still in Muslim hands. This made things difficult because they knew that a large Muslim army was coming from Mosul to help out.

The crusade was inspired by the holy spear. They charged the Muslim forces until they were defeated.

After the victory, many Christians became sick. The old crusaders were angry because they did not agree with each other.

Some crusaders wanted to go to Jerusalem to find Christ’s tomb. But some people said they should go north instead, so others said they should go south. Finally, they agreed that the south was best.

When they reached Jerusalem in June 1099, they captured the city. Many Muslim and Jewish defenders of Jerusalem were killed in the fight.

The crusaders were happy they reached their goal, the tomb of Christ in the Holy Sepulchre.

Most of the people on a crusade went back to their homes. But some people chose to stay in the Levant and protect Christ’s property. They wanted to make themselves lordships as well.

The Crusades: Jerusalem under Christian Control

The History of Jerusalem during the Kingdom of Jerusalem begins with the siege of the city in 1099 as part of the crusades.

Once Christians controlled holy sites, many westerners could visit the sites. Communities grew because of this. The basic idea behind the Crusades was fulfilled.

The stories from the Crusades became what is known as “Chansons de Geste.” These were popular and told the feats of knights, and sometimes they included dragons and other fantasy elements.

European settlers had to fit into the culture there. They needed to make alliances with Muslim neighbours. They even shared churches.

One woman had to rule over Jerusalem. She faced many challenges, like her husband and son trying to take her rule away from her. Queen Melisende led for a long time because she was so powerful.

The Hospitallers and the Templar Knights in the Crusades

The Franks were always short on people, and they invented new Military Orders to help look after pilgrims.

Hospitallers took care of the sick. Meanwhile, Templars guarded people who came to visit the River Jordan.

Pilgrims admired and were grateful to the Military Orders, giving them money. The military orders turned this money into land and castles when Christendom had no standing army.

The Templars and Hospitallers ended up with a lot of land in western Europe. They helped to fund the Christian Crusades. They made castles that were important for the Church’s control.

The Second Crusade

Zengi, the Muslim ruler of Aleppo and Mosul, took Edessa. This was the first major loss for the Franks of the Middle East.

The Pope wanted people to go on a Second Crusade. He called them to do what their ancestors had done before.

France and Germany were interested in this idea, so they took the cross.

The Spanish Catholicwhich kings joined with the Genoese to attack towns in Spain and take them from the Muslims.

This is not true. The Spanish campaigns were successful, but the expedition to the Holy Land was a disaster.

The armies did not have discipline, supplies, or finance. The Seljuk Turks badly beat them.

The crusaders attacked the most important Muslim city in Syria, called Damascus. They were there for four days, but then they had to leave because they were afraid that Muslims led by Nur ad-Din would come and help the city.

Nur ad-Din and Saladin

After the defeat at Damascus, people were not as excited about the Crusades. They weren’t interested so much because the defeat was bad.

There wasn’t a big Crusade in the Holy Land for three decades after that, even though people would still ask for help.

The Franks who lived in Jerusalem captured Ascalon. This made trade and pilgrim travel safer by reducing harassment by Muslim ships.

The following year, Nur ad-Din came to power in Damascus. The cities of Aleppo and Damascus had not been ruled by the same person before during the crusader period. This made it hard for the Franks.

Nur ad-Din was a pious man. He made sure that teaching colleges were available and also wrote poetry and books about the city of Jerusalem. This helped him gain favour with the ruling class because they trusted him more.

Nur ad-Din also took over Shiite Egypt. This was a big change, and it put pressure on the Franks. He also got more money since there were many fertile places to grow food and a port for trading.

Al-Nasir Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, better known simply as Salah ad-Din or Saladin, was a Sunni Muslim Kurd who became the first sultan of both Egypt and Syria, founding the Ayyubid dynasty.

Nur ad-Din’s successor, Saladin, hoped to take control of the Muslim Near East. He wanted to get rid of the Franks from Jerusalem.

The sultan brought a large group of warriors from different countries. The group had the power to defeat the Franks.

Within months, Jerusalem fell, and Saladin had recovered Islam’s third most important city after Mecca and Medina.

The Third Crusade

When the news of Jerusalem’s fall came, people were sad and angry. According to legend, the pope died of a heart attack upon hearing the news.

The new pope made an emotional speech, and the rulers of Europe began to organise their armies. Frederick Barbarossa’s army defeated the Seljuk Turks.

After that, many Germans died of sickness, and Saladin escaped. He had faced a powerful enemy.

Richard the Lionheart landed in Acre. Saladin defended this city. The city surrendered. Saladin was no longer the greatest champion in the Crusades.

Richard made two attempts to capture Jerusalem, but the holy city remained in Muslim hands. As a result of this, the Third Crusade came to an end.

In southern France, the church was worried about a new religion, the Cathars. The church tried to stop it, but it was not successful. So Innocent permitted a group of people to go there and make a Crusade.

Years of war happened. The Crusaders wanted to drive the Cathars out, but they were too strong. They could not get rid of them. Then the Inquisition came and used more powerful techniques to get rid of them.

The Fourth Crusade

This was the worst crusade. It started with the idea to get Jerusalem back. The Fourth Crusade ended up sacking Constantinople, the biggest Christian city in the world.

The Crusaders came to the walls of Constantinople and then broke into the city. The pope was happy that Constantinople was now under his control.

Later, he discovered that the violence and looting had come with the conquest. He was horrified by this and thought it was a bad idea.

The Children’s Crusade

The Children's Crusade was a failed popular crusade by European Christians to establish a second Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in the Holy Land, said to have taken place in 1212.

Two groups of young peasants thought they were pure and had visions to go to the Holy Land. They met in Cologne.

The teenagers crossed the Alps, but they couldn’t get to the East.

Even more Crusades

The early 13th-century was the time when crusading was big. Crusading allowed the church to use force against its enemies on many different fronts.

The Fifth Crusade got to Egypt. But they became stuck outside of the city of Damietta. They made a plan to march on Cairo, but they failed.

The Seventh Crusade was led by King Louis IX of France. Historians say this was the greatest expedition of all the Crusades.

The Muslim resistance in this area was strong. The crusaders had weakened. They were forced to stop their attack and give up.

Louis went back to the Holy Land for four more years. This showed that he felt guilty about not succeeding in his campaign. It was also a terrible thing for a European King to stay away from his home country for six years.

Then came a series of plans to try to recover the Holy Land during the 14th century. Elsewhere, people were still interested in crusading.

By the 15th century, enemies were Christianizing in this area. They couldn’t go to war with each other because it was no longer a holy war.

When Christopher Columbus was trying to find a route to the Indies, he wanted to find a way to go to Jerusalem from the East. This way, he ended up in the Caribbean.

The End of the Templars

The 14th century began with the arrest and imprisonment of the Knights Templar. They were accused of being heretics because they did not do a good job protecting Jerusalem, so they were put in prison.

The French king owed them a lot of money because the Templars had become powerful bankers.

The King of France pressured the Pope to disband the Order, resulting in the Templars, one of the most influential organisations, disappearing during the Middle Ages.

The Fall of Constantinople

The Ottomans used to be a part of the Christian world, but now they were enemies. They captured Constantinople in 1453.

Many people tried to bring the leaders of Europe together again for a new Crusade, but they couldn’t because there was a lot of fighting among countries.

Sultan Mehmet II brought an army to Constantinople. Twice he had already besieged it, and in 1453, he succeeded.

Emperor Charles V called for people to go on a crusade. This time it wasn’t about religion. It was more about the emperor’s power and influence than anything else.

Almost no one was interested in crusading anymore. People had grown weary of the Church’s ideas.

Read about the Middle Ages


People in Europe and the Middle East remembered and imagined crusading. In Europe, the crusades were in people’s minds when writers such as Sir Walter Scott wrote Romantic literature.

Although the memory of the Crusades faded in the Muslim world, Saladin remained a figure held up as an example of a great ruler.


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