For 200 years, Palestine was dominated by the Crusaders, who, following an appeal by Pope Urban II, came from Europe to recover the Holy Land from the infidels. In July 1099, after a five-week siege, the knights of the First Crusade and their rabble army captured Jerusalem, massacring most of the city's non-Christian inhabitants. Barricaded in their synagogues, the Jews defended their quarter, only to be burnt to death or sold into slavery. During the next few decades, the Crusaders extended their power over the rest of the country, through treaties and agreements, but mostly by bloody military victories. The Latin Kingdom of the Crusaders was that of a conquering minority confined mainly to fortified cities and castles.
When the Crusaders opened up transportation routes from Europe, pilgrimages to the Holy Land became popular and, at the same time, increasing numbers of Jews sought to return to their homeland. Documents of the period indicate that 300 rabbis from France and England arrived in a group, with some settling in Acro (Akko), others in Jerusalem.
After the overthrow of the Crusaders by a Muslim army under Saladin (1187), the Jews were again accorded a certain measure of freedom, including the right to live in Jerusalem. Although the Crusaders regained a foothold in the country after Saladin's death (1193), their presence was limited to a network of fortified castles. Crusader authority in the Land ended after a final defeat (1291) by the Mamluks, a Muslim military class which had come to power in Egypt.
The Eight Crusades
The First Crusade: 1096-1099
- Alexus Comnenus asked for mercenaries to defend Constantinople. Instead he received perhaps 12,000 commoners intent on liberating Jerusalem. The European nobility marched on Jerusalem.
The Second Crusade: 1147-1149
- Originally preached by Bernard of Clairvaux. Only a few Greek islands were taken.
The Third Crusade: 1189-1192
- Led by Frederick Barbarosa, Richard I of England and Philip II of France. Results in a truce which gives Christians access to Jerusalem and the Holy Places.
The Fourth Crusade: 1202-1204
- Instead of marching on Jerusalem, this crusade was diverted to Constantinople. The city remained in Latin hands until 1261.
The Albigensian Crusade: 1208
- Preached by Pope Innocent III against the Albigensian heretics in southern France.
The Children's Crusade: 1212
- Preached by Stephan of Vendome and by Nicholas of Koln. One group reached Marseilles and was sold into slavery; the other turned back.
The Fifth Crusade: 1218-1221
- An attack on Egypt.
The Sixth Crusade: 1228-1229
- Led by Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor. He negotiated a treaty which led to Christian control of several important holy sites, including Jerusalem. Jerusalem was retaken by Muslim mercenaries in 1244.
The Seventh Crusade: 1248-1254
- Led by King Louis IX of France (Saint Louis). He captured the Egyptian city of Damietta, but was himself taken captive in the battle for Cairo. He was eventually ransomed.
The Eighth Crusade: 1270
- An unsuccessful attack on Tunis.