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Crusader soldiers on the marchCrusader soldiers on the march The Crusades were wars fought between Christians and Muslims during the Middle Ages. In 1095 Pope Urban II, the leader of the Christian Church, called for European Christians to stop fighting among themselves and instead to recapture Palestine, the “Holy Land”. This region was important to Christians because it was where Jesus Christ had lived. In 637 Jerusalem had been captured by the Muslims, who made it difficult for Christians to visit holy sites and shrines. In 1087 Jerusalem's rulers had banned Christian pilgrims from entering the city. In answer to the Pope’s call, Christians from all over Europe organized military expeditions called Crusades. Everyone from kings to knights, nobles to peasants, took part.

Army leaders of the First CrusadeArmy leaders of the First Crusade

First Crusade

There were eight Crusades in all, taking place between 1096 and 1270. The aim of the Crusaders was to recapture the Holy Land, and to protect Constantinople and the rest of the Byzantine Empire from the Turks. The Crusaders fought many battles and, in 1099, captured the holy city of Jerusalem from Muslim forces, massacring the local population. The Crusaders held on to the city for nearly 100 years, setting up several four Crusader states—Jerusalem, Edessa, Antioch and Tripoli—in the region and building sturdy castles to defend them.

Richard the Lionheart, King of England, who led the Third Crusade (1190–94), spent only six months of his 10-year reign actually on English soil.

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