Jerusalem Massacres

The Jerusalem Massacre is one of the most extraordinary sieges in history that accounted for the loss of tens of thousands of lives. The bloodshed and the mass slaughter of soldiers in combat, unarmed women and children stills haunt the modern society in some way. A crusade of almost 1200 knights and 12000 infantry left their home and marched towards Jerusalem with a collective cause to reclaim Jerusalem from the Fatimid Caliphate. Raymond of Toulouse, Godfrey of Bouillon, Robert of Normandy and Tancred of Hauteville were among the core leaders of the angry and determined battalion of the Crusaders. The Crusaders began their conquest in Antioch and eventually in Marat before they embarked on a long goal-oriented journey. In Antioch, the Crusaders were partially weakened by a plague that killed many including one of their fundamental arbitrator leader Adhemor. The death of Adhemor led to the division that made some leaders such as Bohemond Prince of Taranto (he opted to expand his territory in Antioch) withdraw from the quest of reclaiming Jerusalem from the pagans. Raymond tried seeking reinforcement from with Alexios and Adhemor, but they all rejected his offer. Nevertheless, the Crusaders forged forward on a long and challenging journey frequently stroke by plague, desertion and famine to satisfy the burning desires in their hearts (BazBattles). What fueled the Crusaders to pursue this fatal mission that led to the historical Jerusalem Massacres? The essay discusses what influenced the Crusaders to attain sensational victory and cause the untold death tolls from the siege in 1099. 

The unstoppable and fierce attack by the Crusaders on Jerusalem inhabitants was ignited by the message from Pope Urban II. The Pope had sermon a meeting in 1095, where he revealed that God expected Christians to regain Jerusalem from the dirty grasp of pagans. Pope Urban II assured the soldiers of God’s protection and victory if they proclaimed the city. The Pope was highly respected by many and was very influential in society. The Pope led the people in religious activities, interceded on their behalf and conveyed messages from God to the people. The Pope aired the voice of God. Therefore, the Crusade embarked on the mission to Jerusalem, believing they had been ordained and approved to wage battle by God (Nicholson 18). The power of the Pope and his impact on the people can be exemplified when mere peasants decided to attack the Turks regardless of their military inferiority (“Crusaders Capture Jerusalem, 1099”). The Pope desired to be the best of all Pope in his time and despised the growth of Muslim territory. The Pope transferred the attitudes he had towards pagans to Crusaders, making them inhospitable to Muslims (Vicari and Jr 6). The Pope made the Crusaders realize how foreigners compromise their faith, the violation of holy places and the injustices Christians went through under the Turk administration. The Pope comments waked up the believers from sleep and provoked them to take a cause with vengeance spirit. Although the Popes assertions were compelled by the compassion towards the people of God, he incited the Crusaders in a bloodlust endeavour (Peters 49).

The Crusaders believed that joining the quest of reclaiming Jerusalem would cleanse them from their sins. The pope sermon promised the Crusaders that whoever enters the mission would have his sins forgiven. The pursuit was an opportunity to serve God and earn salvation. The Crusaders would be saved from the menacing fire of hell if they salvaged the holy land from Muslims. Therefore, the death of the enemies was associated with sacredness and liberation from the captivity of sins (Nicholson 50). The Crusaders received spiritual and emotional gratification by slaughtering the enemies. The knights could also turn their life of violence into a meaning task that was religiously approved if they joined the mission. The Jerusalem conquests and killing of the rivals could allow the knights to exercise their prowess and yet serve God in the process. The Pope had also urged the knights that their destiny and value is fighting for justice (Nicholson 22). People who had committed serious offences and were found guilty by courts could be granted amnesty if they conquered the enemy. The people also believed that death in combat is the most honourable way to die rather than the disgrace enacted by the pagans (Vicari and Jr 13). People who would join the quest could also walk free with debts and have interests from loans withdrawn. The families and property of Crusaders were also guaranteed protection upon joining forces to overcome the enemy. Therefore, the Crusaders fought with passion with the knowledge that they are fighting for their loved ones (Rooney and Miller).

The Crusaders had experienced a disastrous journey for three years to reach their final objective. The journey to reclaiming Jerusalem was protracted and tedious and led to the loss of many Crusaders. The Crusaders passed through arid lands in their quest with the sun burning their skins. They were thirsty and hungry. Plagues had also killed many Crusaders, including Adhemor in the pursuit of reclaiming Jerusalem (Weidenkopf). The difficulties of the journey towards Jerusalem darkened the hearts of Crusaders and made them bitter. The believers would stop at nothing due to the unimaginable suffering they experienced while heading to their destination. The brutal death of the enemy served as a remedy for the suffering inflicted on the Crusaders. The Crusaders were also fed up with their lives back at home. The lands were infertile and lacked the luxuries and safety Jerusalem offered. Consequently, the Crusaders became formidable in their quest because they did not desire to return to their life of suffering.

`           The horror of the Jerusalem siege was a payback of the inhuman acts of the enemy. When Ad-Dawla leader of the Fatimid Caliphate received the news of the Crusaders reaching the port of Jaffa he staged a tactical plan to weaken the latter. Ad-Dawla cut down the trees surrounding Jerusalem, poisoned the water supplies and buried some boreholes. The strategy aimed to starve the Crusaders to death and persuade them to abandon their cause. Indeed the Crusaders suffered as a result of the Turks plan when they camped around the walls of Jerusalem. The Crusaders had to travel long distances to find food and shelter. Besides, the Turks attacked and killed the Crusade when they separated in search of accessories. Even before the actual battle began, the Crusaders were thirsty to repay the favour of the Turks that welcomed them at Jerusalem. Many soldiers also died at the beginning of the struggle before Guglielmo Embriaco brought furniture to build stable siege towers. The death of Crusaders brothers compelled them to wage a ferocious attack on the city (Phillips). The Muslims had also slaughtered over six thousand men in combat and women and children in cold blood under the command of Zengi. Likewise, the Baybars had wildly massacred Christians who settled in east Latin (Nicholson 70). The Baybars had also conquered Antioch and closed the gates to slaughter all Christians who had survived the attack. The gruesome scene at Jerusalem was a payback to the Muslims on how they treated fellow Christians (Weidenkopf).

The Crusaders massacred the Turks fearing possible attacks from their enemies in the future. The Crusaders had received news that Egyptian allies would join forces with the Turks to overcome them. Consequently, the Crusaders opted to wipe out the majority of their enemies when they captured the city. The army of Christians also knew the dangers of treacherous acts by faithful Muslims would compromise their safety after reclaiming the town. The Crusaders had initially conquered Antioch through the help of some loyal Christians who opened up the gate of the town (Chrissis, et al. 36). The Crusaders also hoped to instil fear in potential rivals after the Jerusalem siege. The attack was one of the greatest ever that was recorded in the history of wars. The few Muslims, including Ad-Dawla who were spared, witnessed a terrifying scene that they spread to other people. The Crusaders could exaggerate the Jerusalem massacre to stir up enemies and makes them doubt their ability before waging war on the city. The Crusaders indeed enjoyed almost a century in peace before another troop attempted to conquer Jerusalem. The army of Al-Afdal took time to build and enhance its military capabilities before attacking Jerusalem. Therefore, the Jerusalem massacre played a crucial role in scaring away potential invaders of the city.

Breaking the defence of the Fatimid was an extraordinary event that gave the Crusaders the motivation to ravage the city of Jerusalem. The Crusaders believed God had acknowledged and blessed them in their endeavour. The Crusaders tirelessly fought because they had received an extra motivation for God’s favour after Guglielmo Embriaco arrived at the port of Jaffa and aided the battle. The Crusaders had lodged a fruitless attack with one ladder before they built more robust towers. A priest in the Crusade received a vision of Ademor who required the Crusaders to make a procession around the walls barefooted while fasting and repenting (Tyerman 7). The Crusaders did precisely as the vision required, and remedy came at Jaffa harbour. Guglielmo Embriaco came along with skilled builders and building material which the Crusaders used to make two siege towers. The Crusaders praised God for the miracle, and now more than ever believed it was the will of God to reclaim the holy land. The Crusaders understood that God was frustrated by the Muslims violation of the sacred ground, and their death would serve a significant purpose. The Crusaders also desired to regain the political power that rightfully belonged to them since the ages of King David. The Crusaders identified themselves as the army of Christ and related their mission to the Bible (Nicholson 17).   

In conclusion, the Jerusalem massacre resulted in massive death of soldiers, women, and children never witnessed in history. The impacts of the siege affect the modern world and remain a fundamental debate in historical reviews. For instance, using the term ‘crusade’ to refer to military forces may seem offensive to certain people. The Crusaders marched for three years to reclaim Jerusalem and went through hell to accomplish their mission. The troop of believer took the quest after a sermon from Pope Urban II that gave them the core aspiration to embark on the cause. Pope Urban II was an influential man that represented God’s will to the people. Consequently, the Crusaders believed their journey to recapture Jerusalem was fully ordained by God. The Crusaders also thought they would be purified from their sins if they salvaged the holy land from pagans. The misery the Crusaders faced in the quest mad them resentful and cruel to their enemies. The Jerusalem massacre was also a form of vengeance to Turks for the injustices and pain they inflicted on Christians. The group also hoped that the vicious attack would threaten enemies who might challenge the kingdom of Jerusalem.       

Works Cited

BazBattles. “First Crusade: Siege of Jerusalem 1099 AD.” YouTube, 31 Aug. 2017,

Chrissis, Dr N., et al. Crusades: Volume 14. Ashgate Publishing, 2015.

“The Crusaders Capture Jerusalem, 1099.” EyeWitness to History – History Through the Eyes of Those Who Lived It, 2000,

Nicholson, H. Palgrave Advances in the Crusades. Springer, 2005.

Peters, Edward. The First Crusade: “The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres” and Other Source Materials. U of Pennsylvania P, 2011.

Phillips, Jonathan. “The Crusades: A Complete History | History Today.” History Today |, May 2015,

Rooney, Rachel, and Andrew Miller. “The Crusades: Motivations, Administration, and Cultural Influence: Digital Collections for the Classroom.” Home: Digital Collections for the Classroom, 10 Dec. 2010,

Tyerman, Christopher. Chronicles of the First Crusade. Penguin UK, 2012.

Vicari, George, and Jr. “The Secular Motivations of the First Crusade.” 2002.

Weidenkopf, Steve. “The Massacre of Jerusalem.” Catholic Answers, 31 July 2015,

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