Medieval illustration of a battle during the Second Crusade
A battle of the Second Crusade (illustration of William of Tyre's Histoire d'Outremer, 1337)

The Crusades were a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church in the medieval period. The most commonly known Crusades are the campaigns in the Eastern Mediterranean aimed at recovering the Holy Land from Muslim rule, but the term "Crusades" is also applied to other church-sanctioned campaigns. These were fought for a variety of reasons including the suppression of paganism and heresy, the resolution of conflict among rival Roman Catholic groups, or for political and territorial advantage. At the time of the early Crusades the word did not exist, only becoming the leading descriptive term around 1760.

In 1095, Pope Urban II called for the First Crusade in a sermon at the Council of Clermont. He encouraged military support for the Byzantine Empire and its Emperor,  I, who needed reinforcements for his conflict with westward migrating Turks colonizing Anatolia. One of Urban's aims was to guarantee pilgrims access to the Eastern Mediterranean holy sites that were under Muslim control but scholars disagree as to whether this was the primary motive for Urban or those who heeded his call. Urban's strategy may have been to unite the Eastern and Western branches of Christendom, which had been divided since the East–West Schism of 1054 and to establish himself as head of the unified Church. The initial success of the Crusade established the first four Crusader states in the Eastern Mediterranean: the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the County of Tripoli. The enthusiastic response to Urban's preaching from all classes in Western Europe established a precedent for other Crusades. Volunteers became Crusaders by taking a public vow and receiving plenary indulgences from the Church. Some were hoping for a mass ascension into heaven at Jerusalem or God's forgiveness for all their sins. Others participated to satisfy feudal obligations, obtain glory and honour or to seek economic and political gain.

The two-century attempt to recover the Holy Land ended in failure. Following the First Crusade there were six major Crusades and numerous less significant ones. After the last Catholic outposts fell in 1291, there were no more Crusades; but the gains were longer lasting in Northern and Western Europe. The Wendish Crusade and those of the Archbishop of Bremen brought all the North-East Baltic and the tribes of Mecklenburg and Lusatia under Catholic control in the late 12th century. In the early 13th century the Teutonic Order created a Crusader state in Prussia and the French monarchy used the Albigensian Crusade to extend the kingdom to the Mediterranean Sea. The rise of the Ottoman Empire in the late 14th century prompted a Catholic response which led to further defeats at Nicopolis in 1396 and Varna in 1444. Catholic Europe was in chaos and the final pivot of Christian–Islamic relations was marked by two seismic events: the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453 and a final conclusive victory for the Spanish over the Moors with the conquest of Granada in 1492. The idea of Crusading continued, not least in the form of the Knights Hospitaller, until the end of the 18th-century but the focus of Western European interest moved to the New World.

Modern historians hold widely varying opinions of the Crusaders. To some, their conduct was incongruous with the stated aims and implied moral authority of the papacy, as evidenced by the fact that on occasion the Pope excommunicated Crusaders. Crusaders often pillaged as they travelled, and their leaders generally retained control of captured territory instead of returning it to the Byzantines. During the People's Crusade, thousands of Jews were murdered in what is now called the Rhineland massacres. Constantinople was sacked during the Fourth Crusade. However, the Crusades had a profound impact on Western civilisation: Italian city-states gained considerable concessions in return for assisting the Crusaders and established colonies which allowed trade with the eastern markets even in the Ottoman period, allowing Genoa and Venice to flourish; they consolidated the collective identity of the Latin Church under papal leadership; and they constituted a wellspring for accounts of heroism, chivalry, and piety that galvanised medieval romance, philosophy, and literature. The Crusades also reinforced a connection between Western Christendom, feudalism, and militarism.


The term crusade used in modern historiography at first referred to the wars in the Holy Land beginning in 1095, but the range of events to which the term has been applied has been greatly extended, so that its use can create a misleading impression of coherence, particularly regarding the early Crusades. The term used for the campaign of the First Crusade was iter "journey" or peregrinatio "pilgrimage".[1] The terminology of crusading remained largely indistinguishable from that of pilgrimage during the 12th century, reflecting the reality of the first century of crusading where not all armed pilgrims fought, and not all who fought had taken the cross. It was not until the late 12th to early 13th centuries that a more specific "language of crusading" emerged.[2] Pope Innocent III used the term negotium crucis "affair of the cross" for the Eastern Mediterranean crusade, but was reluctant to apply crusading terminology to the Albigensian crusade. The Song of the Albigensian Crusade from about 1213 contains the first recorded vernacular use of the Occitan crozada. This term was later adopted into French as croisade and in English as crusade.[3] The modern spelling crusade dates to c. 1760.[4] Sinibaldo Fieschi (the future pope Innocent IV) used the terms crux transmarina for crusades in Outremer against Muslims and crux cismarina for crusades in Europe against other enemies of the church.[5]

The Crusades in the Holy Land are traditionally counted as nine distinct campaigns, numbered from the First Crusade of 1095–99 to the Ninth Crusade of 1271–72. This convention is used by Charles Mills in his History of the Crusades for the Recovery and Possession of the Holy Land (1820) and is often retained for convenience even though it is somewhat arbitrary. The Fifth and Sixth Crusades led by  II may be considered a single campaign, as can the Eighth Crusade and Ninth Crusade led by  IX.[6]

The Arabic loanword Muslim is first attested in English in the 17th century. Before this the common term for Muslim was Saracen,[7] in origin referring to the pre-Islamic, non-Arab inhabitants of the desert areas around the Roman province of Arabia.[8] The term evolved to include Arab tribes, and by the 12th century it was an ethnic and religious marker in Medieval Latin literature corresponding to modern "Muslim".[9]

Frank and Latin were used during the Crusades for Western Europeans, distinguishing them from Greeks.[10][11] Crusader sources used the term Syrians to describe Arabic speaking Christians who were members of the Greek Orthodox Church and Jacobites for those who were members of the Syrian Orthodox Church[12]

The term used in modern Arabic, ḥamalāt ṣalībiyya حملات صليبية‎, lit. "campaigns of the cross", is a loan translation of the term Crusade as used in Western historiography.[13]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Kruistog
Alemannisch: Kreuzzug
العربية: حملات صليبية
aragonés: Cruzatas
asturianu: Cruzaes
azərbaycanca: Səlib yürüşləri
বাংলা: ক্রুসেড
Bân-lâm-gú: Si̍p-jī-kun
башҡортса: Тәре яуҙары
беларуская: Крыжовыя паходы
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Крыжовыя паходы
brezhoneg: Kroaziadegoù
català: Croades
Cebuano: Mga Krusada
Cymraeg: Y Croesgadau
dansk: Korstog
Deutsch: Kreuzzug
Ελληνικά: Σταυροφορίες
español: Cruzadas
Esperanto: Krucmilitoj
euskara: Gurutzadak
Fiji Hindi: Crusade
français: Croisades
furlan: Crosadis
Gaeilge: Crosáidí
galego: Cruzadas
한국어: 십자군
արեւմտահայերէն: Խաչակրաց արշաւանքներ
हिन्दी: क्रूसेड
Bahasa Indonesia: Perang Salib
interlingua: Cruciadas
íslenska: Krossferðir
italiano: Crociata
עברית: מסעי הצלב
Basa Jawa: Perang Salib
Kiswahili: Vita za Misalaba
Kreyòl ayisyen: Kwazad
Ladino: Krusatas
latviešu: Krusta kari
Limburgs: Kruutstoch
lumbaart: Croxade
македонски: Крстоносни војни
Malti: Kruċjata
मराठी: क्रुसेड
Bahasa Melayu: Perang Salib
Baso Minangkabau: Parang Salib
Mirandés: Cruzada
Nederlands: Kruistocht
नेपाल भाषा: क्रुसेड्स्
日本語: 十字軍
norsk: Korstog
norsk nynorsk: Krosstog
Nouormand: Crouésade
occitan: Crosada
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Salib yurishlari
پنجابی: صلیبی جنگاں
Patois: Krusiedz
Picard: Croésades
Piemontèis: Crosià
Plattdüütsch: Krüüztog
polski: Krucjata
português: Cruzada
română: Cruciadă
русиньскый: Хрестовы походы
sardu: Crosadas
Scots: Crusades
sicilianu: Cruciati
Simple English: Crusades
slovenčina: Križiacka výprava
slovenščina: Križarske vojne
српски / srpski: Крсташки ратови
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Krstaški ratovi
svenska: Korståg
Tagalog: Mga Krusada
татарча/tatarça: Täre yawları
తెలుగు: క్రూసేడులు
Türkmençe: Haçly ýörişler
українська: Хрестові походи
vèneto: Crociade
Tiếng Việt: Thập tự chinh
Võro: Ristisõda
West-Vlams: Kruustochtn
Winaray: Krusada
ייִדיש: קרייצצוג
žemaitėška: Krīžiaus žīgē