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220px-Battle-of-Ager-SanguinisThe Crusades were a series of wars taking place in Asia Minor and the Levant between 1095 and1291, in which Western European nations engaged usingthe propaganda of religious expeditionary wars. The first crusade was called by Pope Urban II of the Roman Catholic Church, with the stated goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem. The background to the Crusades was the centuries of Arab–Byzantine Wars and the Seljuq-Byzantine Wars and the recent decisive defeat of the Byzantine army by Seljuk Turks at Manzikert in 1071. The Norman conqueror Robert Guiscard’s conquest of Byzantine territories added to the problems of the Byzantine Empire. In an attempt to curtail both dangers, its Emperor Alexios I sought to align Christian nations against a common enemy, requested western aid, and Pope Urban II in turn enlisted western leaders in the cause of taking back the Holy Land.

The crusaders comprised military units of Roman Catholics from all over western Europe, and were not under unified command. The main series of Crusades, primarily against Muslims in the Levant, occurred between 1095 and 1291. Historians have given many of the earlier crusades numbers. After some early successes, the later crusades failed and the crusaders were defeated and forced to return home. Several hundred thousand soldiers became Crusaders by taking vows; the Pope granted them plenary indulgence. Their emblem was the cross — the term “crusade” is derived from the French term for taking up the cross. Many were from France and called themselves “Franks,” which became the common term used by Muslims.
Europeans had historically called the occupants of the Holy Land Saracens, and used this in a negative sense throughout the Crusades and often into European history books into the 20th century.
The term “crusade” is also used to describe religiously motivated campaigns conducted between 1100 and 1600 in territories outside the Levant[a] usually against pagans, heretics, and peoples under the ban of excommunication for a mixture of religious, economic, and political reasons. Rivalries among both Christian and Muslim powers led also to alliances between religious factions against their opponents, such as the Christian alliance with the Islamic Sultanate of Rûm during the Fifth Crusade.
The Crusades had major political, economic, and social impact on western Europe. It resulted in a substantial weakening of the Christian Byzantine Empire, which fell several centuries later to the Muslim Turks. The Reconquista, a long period of wars in Spain and Portugal (Iberia), where Christian forces reconquered the peninsula from Muslims, is closely tied to the Crusades.

Source:From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia