On November 27th 1095 CE, Pope Urban II called for a crusade to the Holy Land as part of a sermon at the Council of Clermont. In the speech, Pope Urban II argued for many different things, but one particular passage called for Europeans to assist the Byzantine Empire in the battle against Muslim civilizations to the east. Historians consider this speech to be the event that sparked the first crusade and began the movement of European Christians into the Middle East.
In reality, there were many different crusades. Historians disagree on the exact number but in general, there were seven main crusades and many other smaller ones which occurred over a period of two centuries. The first crusade began in 1096 CE following the Council of Clermont speech by Pope Urban II in 1095 CE, which was discussed previously. During the first crusade, which took place from 1096 CE to 1099 CE, thousands of Europeans migrated from Europe to the kingdoms of the Middle East.
The first example of this is referred to as the People’s Crusade and took place from April to October of 1096. During this event, European peasants attacked and killed populations of Jewish people in Europe before finally travelling to Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) where they faced off against Muslim Turks. They were eventually defeated by the Turks, but set the stage for the crusades that followed. For example, the first official crusade (meaning it was supported and led by the Catholic Church) began soon after in 1096. This first official crusade saw European nobles, knights, and peasants travel by land and sea to the Middle East in an attempt to free the Holy Land from Muslim control. During their travels, the crusaders followed a path that thousands of others would follow in the decades and centuries that followed. For instance, they first made their way to the city of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), which was the capital of the Byzantine Empire, before finally attacking into the societies of the Middle East and the Holy Land. On route to Jerusalem from Constantinople, the crusaders captured several key territories which they later turned into ‘crusader states’. These states were controlled by the crusaders for their benefit and used as a way of carrying out further attacks in the Middle East. The main crusader states established at the time were: the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the County of Tripoli. All of these states are in the area of the Eastern Mediterranean and were vital routes towards the Holy Land for European crusaders. The fighting of the first crusade continued until 1099 and saw the European crusaders face off against the Muslim fighters in a series of brutal battles. Eventually, the crusaders captured Jerusalem in July of 1099 and immediately slaughtered many of the Muslims and Jewish people living in the city. This victory served as inspiration for the crusades that followed, but in reality, Jerusalem and the Holy Land changed sides many times throughout the two centuries in which the crusades took place. As stated previously, several other main crusades took place in the decades and centuries after the first crusade and continued until 1291 when the crusades finally concluded.