Later Crusades

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Later Crusades


Children’s Crusade. With the embarrassment of the Fourth Crusade (1198-1202), all remaining crusading fervor seems to have left European warriors. There were a few thirteenth-century crusades, but these were also almost always embarrassments, such as in the case of the Children’s Crusade of 1212 when a large number of adolescents thought that they could simply defeat the Muslims with their childlike faith. (It was wisely stopped by the Pope and its leaders were put to death, although some of the children did make it to Egypt, where they were sold into slavery.) That is not to state, however, that those who strived to participate in the Holy Land during that century were not earnest in their endeavors, such as the crusaders who went with Andrew II, the king of Hungary, and Leopold VI, the duke of Austria, in 1217-1219, or with Emperor Frederick II in 1227 or 1228, or with Louis IX in 1248-1250 and 1254, but these Crusades were almost always poorly planned and even more poorly executed. There were some victories, such as the capture of the Egyptian city of Damietta

etta by Leopold VI in 1219 and its recapture by Louis IX in 1248 (in between those two conquests, it had been retaken by the Egyptians in 1221) or the recapture of Jerusalem by Frederick II in 1228 (it was lost again in 1244), but even those could not outweigh the large number of defeats that these Crusaders suffered. Indeed, on one occasion, in 1250, King Louis IX and his entire army were taken prisoner by the Egyptians, necessitating the payment of a huge ransom for their freedom.

Demise of the Crusader States. Not even the onslaught of the Mongols against the Muslims in the Holy Land in the middle of the century allowed the Christians to take advantage of the situation. (The Mongols conquered all of Turkey, Persia, and Syria, destroying Aleppo, Damascus, and Baghdad, but withdrew from the Holy Land because of Ghengis Khan’s death in 1227 before encountering any of the Crusader holdings there.) By the end of the thirteenth century the remaining Crusader Kingdoms began to fall: in 1265 Caesarea, Haifa, and Arsuf were taken; in 1268 Antioch fell; in 1289 Tripoli was captured; and, finally, in 1291 the last vestige of the Crusader Kingdoms disappeared when Acre fell to the Egyptians.

Albigensian and Northern Crusades. During the thirteenth century a shift occurred in priorities when Crusades began to be called not to the Holy Land but to places in Europe. Two of these are the most famous, the first a successful Crusade against the Albigensians, a heretical Christian sect living in southern France, which took place between 1209 and 1229, and the second against the people of Prussia and Livonia, the inhabitants of which had never accepted Christianity. To fight this latter Crusade, the Teutonic Knights shifted their emphasis from the Holy Land to northeastern Europe. Begun in 1226, this Northern Crusade never really ended before the Reformation and early sixteenth-century German nationalism reduced the political role of that monastic military order to almost nothing.

Royal Duty. There would be continual calls for Crusades into the Holy Lands well into the early modern era. It almost became the duty of every late medieval king to agree to participate in one, only to readily and quickly break the promise. Moreover, by the middle of the fourteenth century a new and far more violent Islamic foe would appear in the Middle East: the Ottoman Turks. Their presence in the eastern Mediterranean quickly altered the balance of power there and throughout southeastern Europe. Even before the fourteenth century was over they had occupied not only the Holy Land and Asia Minor but had also soundly defeated a large Anglo-Franco-Burgundian-Hungarian force at the battle of Nicopolis in 1396.


Eric Christiansen, The Northern Crusades (London & New York: Penguin, 1396.

Norman Housley, The Later Crusades, 1274-1580: From Lyons to Alcazar (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).

Jonathan Riley-Smith, The Crusades: A Short History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987).

Riley-Smith, ed., The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).

Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades, three volumes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1951-1954).

Jonathan Sumption, The Albigensian Crusade (London & Boston: Faber & Faber, 1978).