the Teachable Moment
What were the Crusades?
Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and holy to the three major Abrahamic religions – Judaism, proclaimed by King David as the capital of the United Kingdom of Israel in the 10th century BC; Christianity as the central focus of the life and death of Jesus Christ in the 1st century AD; and Islam as the location where Muhammad ascended to Heaven to meet previous prophets of Islam in the 7th century AD. The Crusades were a series of wars during the Middle Ages fought between the Christians and the Muslims mainly over possession of Jerusalem and the Holy Land in the Middle East.
Although Jews and Christians had inhabited Jerusalem for over a thousand years, Muslims captured the Holy City in 1076 AD, destroying much of the city, burning Jewish synagogues and Christian churches, and massacring Jewish and Christian inhabitants. Beginning in 1095 AD, Christian knights and noblemen and their attendants from all over Europe marched to the Middle East to reclaim the Holy Land and to drive the Muslims from Jerusalem.
The first Christian soldiers going to Jerusalem called themselves “pilgrims,” and they wore large red cloth crosses, which led to their being called “crusaders,” from the Latin word “crux” for cross. There were nine crusades during 200 years, with control of the Holy City changing hands several times: Christian control (1099 – 1187), Muslim control (1187 – 1229), Christian control (1229 – 1244). In 1244 AD the Holy City was overtaken and conquered by the Mamluks, powerful mercenary Arab slave soldiers taken as young men from Central Asia and raised as warriors. They were replaced by the Ottoman Turks in 1517, the British in 1917, and Israel and Palestine in 1948.