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The First Crusade (The Crusades)

The First Crusade was the Pope's successful attempt to recover the Holy Lands from the Muslims. After the Muslim capture of Jerusalem in 1076, any Christian pilgrim who wanted to visit the Holy Lands faced great danger - the Muslims didn't like Christians. To the East, Alexius I of Constantinople urged the Pope to send help to fight the Muslims who were slowly incorporating into his territory. The Pope had had enough so he summoned, among all Christendom, the First Crusade.

His promise was simple: Anyone who fought or died in The Crusade was going to have his sins forgiven by God. Within months, several large armies of volunteers marched to the Holy Lands. The journey proved a nightmare, as sailing through the Mediterranean Sea wasn't possible due to the Muslims control of all the Eastern ports. The armies had to march through the intense heat of the plains and snow of the mountains. The armies soon ran out of food and were forced to pillage villages in order to get resources. It took many months until in 1097, 10,000 men under several armies were stationed in Constantinople.

The first target of the Crusaders was the important fortress of Nicea. It quickly fell to the Crusaders as its leader was away fighting. With this foothold in the Middle East, the Crusaders could now send resources and reinforcements from Europe. This acquisition proved of enormous importance for the subsequent sieges.

The next target of the Crusaders was Antioch, a heavily fortified Turkish city. Antioch proved very difficult to conquer as the defenders had many supplies and lines of defense. However, the Crusaders were very numerous and they had continues supplies coming from Nicaea and the surrounding lands. It took seven months for Antioch to fall with some losses to the Crusaders. With its fall the way to Jerusalem was now open.

In the summer of 1099, the siege of Jerusalem started. Jerusalem had high walls, provisions and many defenders. The area around Jerusalem was very dry and the Crusaders soon ran out of food and water - this caused much distress and death. The Crusaders needed a quick victory. Dismantling their ships, the Genoese used the wood to build siege engines. The priest named Peter Desiderius raised the people's morale by having a divine vision of Jerusalem falling within nine days if the Crusaders marched around the city. They did and within a week, the Genoese were able to breach the walls and the rest of the Crusaders followed. Few lives were spared. Jews and Muslims were massacred filling the streets with a "river of blood one foot deep".

The Crusaders now had the Holy Land, but keeping it proved very difficult. In addition, pilgrims coming from Christian nations now faced other problems such as Muslim raiders. The area surrounding Jerusalem was still mostly not under their control and this created a need for more Crusades.

The Second Crusade was called by the Pope in 1145 to send reinforcements to Jerusalem and help recover the County of Edessa, lost shortly after the First Crusade.

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