WHY WAS JERUSALEM SO IMPORTANT?
The crusades are one of the most significant events in the history of Europe and the Middle East. They were a series of religious wars carried out by Christian crusaders from Europe during the timeframe of the Middle Ages. Beginning in 1095 CE, the crusades saw European knights and noblemen travel to the Middle East in an attempt to capture the Holy Land away from Muslim people that had controlled the region for the previous centuries. The term crusade means ‘cross’. Therefore, the Europeans that became crusaders viewed themselves as ‘taking up the cross’. In fact, many of the crusaders wore crosses on their clothing and armor as they made their pilgrimage to the Holy Land in order to conquer Jerusalem.
The city of Jerusalem was the heart of the fighting of the crusades. The city was centrally located in the Holy Land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea. While the history of the city itself goes back much further, it was a significant site in the crusades because of the importance it holds in the three main religions of the region: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. For Christians, Jerusalem was the site of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. As such, the city was vitally important to their understanding of the teachings and history of Jesus. For Muslims, the city was the land guaranteed by Abraham and the place where the prophet Muhammed ascended into heaven to meet Allah (God). For Jewish people Jerusalem was important because it was the land guaranteed to them by Abraham. All three religions had (and still have) important religious sites in the city including temples, churches, mosques and synagogues. As a result, all three religions wanted access to the city which led to clashes and disagreements over time.