Pope Urban II sent the first of eight crusades in 1095. The reason was to take back the Holy Lands from the Muslims, who had controlled them since the birth of Christ. The battle cry for the Christian soldiers was “God wills it!”, showing that the popular reason was religious. Europe became strong enough under the unity of the Catholic Church to fight back. The underlying reasons were economic. The population and wealth of Europe was growing, so trade needed to spread to the Middle East. There were also historical reasons. The Muslims had invaded the Byzantine Empire in the 8th century and nearly took it over.
Pope Urban II ordered Christian Europe to strike back at the Turks, who controlled Jerusalem and were harassing Christian pilgrims, in 1095 at Clermont, France. It was lead by French nobles and barons, each with his own personal army. This lead to many divisions within the Christian army. During the march, many knights and peasants joined hoping to gain freedom and wealth from the journey. This is considered the most successful Crusade because the Christian took Jerusalem from the Turks.
This crusade was started in 1147 and ended in 1149. This was lead by the armies of France and Germany similar the First Crusade. This was a huge failure for the Christians because they lost Jerusalem to the Muslims and most of their causalities occurred in Turkey, away from the Holy Lands.
This crusade started in 1189 and ended in 1192. This was by far the most organized crusade led by Philip Augustus of France, King Richard I (the Lionhearted) of England, and Frederick Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Empire (modern-day Germany). The Muslims were also well-organized under the leadership of Saladin. The HRE was not a factor after the death of their leader Barbarossa during battle in Turkey. This ended in a truce between Saladin and King Richard. It allowed Christian pilgrims to enter Jerusalem without harassment or paying a tax. King Richard was taken prisoner and held for ransom, which was paid through a large amount of money. It was said to be twice the annual revenue of England.
The Fourth Crusade, started by Pope Innocent III and led by France in 1199, was the last of the organized and significant crusades. The Byzantium Empire was set up as a result. There was also a Children’s Crusade in 1212 that had around 30,000 young kids lead by a shepherd to the Holy Lands. The final results were disastrous with many children either dying from hunger, being sold into slavery with very few ever returning home. The Crusades continued on into the 15th Century, but they were small in numbers and significance.
Militarily, the Crusades were a total failure for the Christians. The gains that were made initially, were all lost and countries lost a majority of their army. Intellectually, it facilitated the spread of Arabic and European thought. The Crusades had brought Europe higher standards of Eastern medicine and learning. Europe also learned a great deal of information about Muslim and Greek culture. The Crusades had the biggest impact on the economies of both Europe and the Middle East. Italy replace the Byzantine Empire as the biggest trader and trade increased throughout Europe. Subsequently, this increased the political power of Italy. The discovery of Eastern delicacies, such as spices, fruits, and metals, started the interest in exploration and eventually led to the expeditions of Da Gama and Columbus. The Crusades had a mixed impact on Europe. It contributed to the decline in feudalism and the power of the noble. It led to the development of the absolute monarch in Europe during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. It also served to increase corruption in the papacy and the fragmentation of the Catholic Church. The Protestant Reformation occurred as a result of this.
"The Crusades." World History. N.p., 2010. Web. 4 Nov. 2011. <http://historyworld.org/crusades.htm>. "The Second Crusade." Middle Ages. N.p., 2010. Web. 4 Nov. 2011. <http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/the-second-crusade.htm>.