Crusade: The War Between Crescent And Cross “The Holy War”


Let us have a look at the map, showing the world of the end of the 1st millennium after Christ. Many different ideologies dominated the world in different regions. The conflict between these  ideologies led to the “Crusade: The holy war.”

Asia and Europe About 1000 A.D.
Asia and Europe About 1000 A.D.

As we can see that the world dominated by the four important regional powers of that time: –

  1. Western region: – Dominated by Holy Roman Empire.
  2. Present Middle East region: – Dominated by Eastern Roman Empire. (Constantinople as its capital)
  3. Central and Western Asia: – Dominated by Seljuk Turks.
  4. Eastern region: – Asia with many Regional Powers. Like Sung dynasty of China, the early period of Delhi Sultanate in India, Indian colonies in Cambodia, Buddhist Empire of Sumatra etc.

Now from the very ancient time west was dependent on the east for its survival and this relation between east and west was maintained through three routes: –

  1. Silk Route
  2. Northern Route (Uttara Path)
  3. Southern Route (Dakshina Path)

This relationship apart from the trade and commerce also became helpful in the movement of ideas, philosophies, cultures etc. which took a U-TURN in the 7th century CE with the Birth of Islam in West Asia.

Ideological Revolution

Crescent: ISLAM

Islam was a revolution in 7th century CE. It was the new force or idea which woke up the Arabs and filled them with self-confidence and energy. This religion started by a prophet, Mohammad, who was born in Mecca in 570 CE. Islam is said, to begin with, the flight of Prophet Mohammad from Mecca to Medina, the Hijrat-in 622 CE.

It emphasised on Equality, Liberty, Fraternity, Millet System etc. Mohammad died in 632 CE, ten years after the Hijrat. Initially, he was succeeded by Abu Bakr, as Caliph. Two years later Abu Bakr died and was succeeded by Omar, who was Caliph for ten years. Abu Bakr and Omar were great men who laid the foundation of Arabian and Islamic greatness.

Expansion of Islam After Prophet Mohammad

For nearly 100 years the caliphs belonged to the Ommeyade branch of the Prophet Mohammad’s family, ruled from Damascus (presently capital of Syria). During their rule, the Muslim Arabs carried the standard of Islam far and wide from Spain to Mongolia. Though the Arabs conquered in distant lands, they were fighting in their home and it was the war of succession between Ommeyades and Abbasides.

Ultimately the Ommeyades were overthrown by Abbaside (Another Branch of Mohammad’s family, descended from his uncle abbas). So, this was the beginning of the long reign of Abbaside Caliphs in 750 CE. The capital now shifted from Damascus to Baghdad in Iraq.

Abbaside Empire

The Abbaside Empire was at the height of its outward glory during the reign of Harun-al-Rashid from 789 to 809 CE. But After the death of Harun-al-Rashid trouble came to Arab Empire. There were disorders, and different parts of the empire fell away, the provincial governors becoming hereditary rulers.

Islam: Centralisation and Decentralisation comparison
Islam: Centralisation and Decentralisation comparison

Separate kingdoms arose everywhere from Egypt to Khorasan in Central Asia. Now the old Turks of Central Asia became Muslims and came and took possession of Baghdad. So, they were known as the Seljuq Turks. Seljuq Turks defeated the Byzantine army of Constantinople and surprised the European cities.

About 1000 CE, In Central and Western there was remnants of the Abbaside Empire of Baghdad. Baghdad still flourishes, and indeed is increasing in power under the Seljuq Turks. But the old Empire has split into many Kingdoms. Islam has ceased to be one empire and become merely the religion of many countries and peoples.

Many great and famous cities also flourished in Central Asia at this time- Bokhara, Baghdad, Samarqand, Balkh, and others. Seljuq Turks moved towards the west to revive the fortune of the Baghdad Empire. So, they started Attacking and defeating the Eastern Roman Empire of Constantinople.

Cross: The Christian States of Europe

Europe, apart from the Spain, at the same time, was divided up into a number of Christian states. Christianity by over the time became the religion of West. In the center of Europe, from the North Sea to Rome, the Holy Roman Empire was spread, consisting of many states with the one head, the Emperor.

So, between this, the German Emperor and the Pope of Rome had a continuous tussle for mastery. Gradually Popes increased their power in the society because at that time the Religion was considered as the Constitution. So, there is also a saying about,

One proud emperor, indeed, was brought so low by the Pope of the day that to beg mercy he had to go barefoot in the snow and to wait thus outside the pope’s residence at Canossa in Italy till the pope was kind enough to admit him!

Division between Rome Empire

In various layers, the Europe society had been divided. The church was giving sanctions and blessing to this order. So, there was no feeling of nationality but an idea of Christendom was binding them all. Two Empires of Rome was:

  1. Eastern Roman Empire(Constantinople)
  2. Holy Roman Empire

In 11th century CE, Islam started its expansion in the different direction. Seljuk Turks surrounded the Constantinople as shown in the map above. Eastern Roman Empire forgot the hatred of Rome and appealed to the Pope for the help against the Muslim infidel.

Idea of Christendom

Christians believed that the world would come to a sudden end just after 1000 years of Christ. And this prospect of ‘millennium’ brought relief to many a languid person and many people journeyed to Palestine in their Holy Land. But the world did not come to the end. So, the thousands of pilgrims journeyed to Jerusalem and Turks ill-treated them. They returned to Europe and spread the stories of their sufferings in the Holy Land.

One these pilgrim, Peter the Hermit, especially, went about, staff in hand, preaching to the people to rescue their Holy city from the Turks.

Proclamation of Crusade

All these religious factors were used to grew Christendom, and seeing this the both Eastern and Holy Roman Empire had tied themselves in a thread of religion and raged against the oncoming Turks. In 1095 a Great Church Council decided to proclaim a holy war against the Turks for the recovery of the Holy city of Jerusalem. Thus began the “Crusades- Between Cross(Christian) and Crescent(Muslim).

Crusade: The Holy War
Crusade: The Holy War

Some hidden reasons of Crusade

  1.  At this time Abbaside Empire of Arabs had split into many parts and Turks became the real masters of Baghdad and central and west Asian region. Abbaside Empire divided into many parts, there was no strong central power. Seljuq Turks occupation to this region was not acceptable for the natives. So, the Crusaders had thus to fight against these Seljuq Sultans and their followers.
  2.  Rome wanted once for all to become the Boss of Constantinople. the pope wanted to put an end to this orthodox eastern Roman empire and to bring it into his fold.
  3. The most important reason for this crusade was Commercial one. The central and west Asians started disturbing the trade links between West and East. The central and west Asian people had their habitats very near to the Heart of the west and east Trade link i.e. Suez Canal, as shown in the map. So, the infant business class especially of the growing ports of Venice and Genoa wanted this trading link free of the threat of the Turks.

    World Trade Route
    World Trade Route

The common people were really unaware of these political and economic reasons. The elite class used religion for their cause. So large number of people gathered and fought for these causes.

Results of Crusade

There were total 3 Crusades between the period of 11th century CE to 13th century CE. In the 1st Crusade, in 1099, Crusaders managed to reach Palestine under a Norman Godfrey of Bouillon. Jerusalem fell to them. There was a terrible massacre. A French eyewitness of this says that

under the portico of the mosque, the blood was knee-deep and reached the horses’ bridles.

Saladin, the Sultan of Egypt retook the Jerusalem from Christians after Seventy years. This excited the people of Europe again and several Crusades followed. In some complete, it is a dismal story of ghastly and cruel war and petty intrigue and sordid crime.

Children’s Crusade

The most terrible of all these Crusades was Children’s Crusade.

A Large number of young boys, in their excitement, left their homes and decided to go to Palestine. Many of them died on the way, many were lost. Most of them reached Marseilles, and there these poor children were tricked and their enthusiasm was taken advantage of by scoundrels. Under the pretext of taking them to the “holy land”, slave-traders took them on their ships carried them to Egypt, and sold them into Slavery. 🙁

Interesting facts of Crusade

One of the later Crusades was interesting and unusualThe Emperor Frederick II, of Holy Roman Empire(also known as ‘Wonder of the World’), came and instead of fighting, had an interview with the then Sultan of Egypt and they came to a friendly understanding!

The Crusades weakened the power of Seljuq Turks. There was no powerful center. Big feudal lords declared themselves independent.

There is another interesting view of the Crusades, by the English historian, G. M. Trevelyan. He said,

The Crusades were the military and religious aspect of a general urge towards the East on the part of the reviving energies of Europe. The prize that Europe brought back from the Crusaders was not the permanent liberation of the Holy Sepulchre or the potential unity of Christendom, of which the story of the Crusades was one long negation. She brought back instead of the finer arts and crafts, luxury, science, and intellectual curiosity everything that Peters the Hermit would most have despised.


The chief result of the Crusades was to bring death and misery to millions of people and to soak Asia Minor and Palestine with the human blood. These extreme massacring wars indeed disturbed the whole political, societal structure of Europe. So, it particularly distorted the trade link between the west and east. And the Europe prepared the ground for the next development  i.e. renaissance meaning rebirth of rationalism.

Renaissance eventually spurred the geographical discoveries in which two European countries Spain and Portugal took the lead in the voyages of exploration. In which important discoveries were North America by the Columbus(1492), the direct sea route to the India by Vasco-Da-Gama(1498) and Magellan started on his western voyage, which was going to be the greatest voyage of them all(1519).

Geographical Discoveries
Geographical Discoveries

Geographical discoveries flourished the world trade and this lead to the era of machines i.e. Industrial Revolution, and Britain will be the epicenter of this Industrial revolution. So, we will learn and understand it in the next coming post.

Thank you so much. 🙂 Stay Connected. 🙂

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