It is called a crusade to any of the partially Christian military movements that departed from Western Europe and aimed to place the Holy Land (the name by which Christians called Palestine) and the city of Jerusalem under the sovereignty of Christians. These movements extended between the 11th and 13th centuries, when Palestine was under the control of the Muslim Turks.
The rich and powerful knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (Hospitallers) and the Knights Templar were created by the Crusades. The term is also used, by extension, to describe uncritically any religious war or even a political or moral movement.
Nine Crusades are traditionally spoken of, but in reality they were an almost permanent movement.
By the end of the eleventh century, feudal society was beginning to show signs of change. The church, Western Europe's main institution, faced problems with the corruption of many of its bishops and abbots, who led a luxurious life and abandoned their religious obligations. In the fiefdoms, an increasingly large population could find no means of producing sufficient food for all.
In this context came the Crusades, a kind of holy war waged by Catholics against Muslims who ruled Jerusalem and other regions considered sacred by Middle Eastern Christians.
Nobles, peasants, children, beggars, in short, much of European society would be involved in these fighting, which spanned over two hundred years and represented, for all these characters, an economic and social alternative.
However, the major importance of the Crusades is that they helped initiate a process that would end the isolation of feudal society. At the same time as they crossed the continent and the Mediterranean Sea and established contacts with other peoples, Europeans strengthened cities and commerce. They thus subverted the order of the rural world, on which medieval society was founded.
Thus, the Crusades, which at first represented an alternative for the maintenance of medieval society, eventually became responsible for the formation of another social order.
Route of the main Crusades.
Summoning the Crusades
During the Middle Ages, many Christians used to go on pilgrimage to the places where Jesus Christ lived and preached (Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, etc.). These places, known as the Holy Land, were considered sacred to Christians.
As a result of the expansionism of the Arab peoples, Jerusalem was taken in the year 638. The Arabs were Muslims - they believed in Allah as their only god and the prophet Muhammad - but they tolerated Christian pilgrims.
In 1071, however, Jerusalem was conquered by the Turks, also Muslims. From then on there was persecution of Christians who were going to visit the Holy Land.
The Turks were expanding their domain and threatening to conquer Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine empire, also of Christian tradition.
The tension between Christians and Muslims led Pope Urban II to call for a resumption expedition of the Holy Land. The Pope, who accused the Turks of murdering the pilgrims and desecrating the holy places, sought to encourage Western Christians to war. In order to make the expedition feasible, it called feudal lords, bishops and the general population.
The first volunteers chose as a symbol of the expedition a cross painted on their clothes, hence the name Crusades for this movement.