What happened during the Crusades? What were the Crusades? This time is one of the most misunderstood periods of Western history. From 1095 to 1291, successive waves of Christian knights and royals, called to action by the Catholic Church, quested to the Holy Land in an effort to capture (or re-capture) it from Muslim armies.
But facts about the Crusades are much more complicated than that. The Crusades weren't just one movement, but dozens, led by hundreds of knights, kings, and dukes, and not always bent on capturing Jerusalem. They tried to free Jerusalem, but also claimed a number of ancient cities, destroying priceless artifacts and culture.
The history of the Crusades is complicated, but also full of interesting information. Here are some of the most fascinating Crusades facts about this difficult period.
The Crusades Lasted Two Centuries
The Crusades aren't so much a series of events as they are an entire time period. The call for what became the First Crusade went out in 1095, and years later, in 1291, one of the remaining Crusader cities — Christian-held Acre — fell to the Muslims, marking the end to a period lasting roughly two centuries.
It's Linked With The Catholic Church
By definition, the Crusades were Christian invasions of Muslim-held lands that were sanctioned by the Catholic Church. The immediate goal was to guarantee pilgrims access to the Holy Land, which had been under Muslim control since it was conquered by the Rashidun in 637. The Church also sought to reunite the Eastern and Western branches of Christendom after their split in 1054. Instead, two centuries of bloodshed began.
There Were Nine 'Official' Crusades
Starting with the First Crusade in 1095, there were nine major Crusades. While their details vary, including who exactly was crusading and where they were going, they all involved armies of Christian knights, who were soldiers of God that swore a public oath, traveling from Europe to the Holy Land in order to "liberate" it from Muslim control.
There Were Also Dozens of Smaller Crusades
Beyond the nine-numbered Crusades, there were numerous other minor crusades, usually involving an army raised by a king or duke going off to liberate one particular city or place. They took place all over Europe, everywhere from France to what's now Turkey.