14 min

1096 to 1099

First Crusade

by Something Something

The First Crusade (1096–1099) was the first of a series of religious wars initiated, supported, and at times directed by the Latin Church in the medieval period. The initial objective was the recovery of the Holy Land from Islamic rule. These campaigns were subsequently given the name crusades. The earliest initiative for the First Crusade began in 1095 when the Byzantine Emperor, Alexios I Komnenos, requested military support from the Council of Piacenza in the Byzantine Empire's conflict with the Seljuk-led Turks. This was followed later in the Year by the Council of Clermont, during which Pope Urban II supported the Byzantine request for military assistance and also urged faithful Christians to undertake an armed pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

  Table of Contents / Timeline



1095 Jan 1 -

Jerusalem, Israel

The causes of the First Crusade are widely debated among historians. The motivation of the Crusaders is unknown.

Situation in Europe

By the start of the 11th century, the influence of the papacy had declined to that of little more than a localised bishopric.

Situation in the East

Compared with Western Europe, the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic world were historic centres of wealth, culture and military power. The first waves of Turkic migration into the Middle East enjoined Arab and Turkic history from the 9th century. The status quo in Western Asia was challenged by later waves of Turkish migration, particularly the arrival of the Seljuk Turks in the 10th century.

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The Battle of Manzikert


The Byzantine Emperor asks for help

1095 Mar 1 -

The Battle of Manzikert

Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos, worried about the advances of the Seljuqs in the aftermath of the Battle of Manzikert, who had reached as far west as Nicaea, sent envoys to the Council of Piacenza in March 1095 to ask Pope Urban II for aid against the invading Turks.

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Council of Clermont

1095 Nov 27 -

Clermont, France

In July 1095, Urban turned to his homeland of France to recruit men for the expedition. His travels there culminated in the ten-day Council of Clermont, where on Tuesday 27 November he gave an impassioned sermon to a large audience of French nobles and clergy. According to one version of the speech, the enthusiastic crowd responded with cries of Deus vult! ("God wills it!").

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The defeat of the People's Crusade


The People's Crusade

1096 Apr 12 -

Cologne, Germany

Several groups organically formed and headed their own crusader 'armies' (or mob) and headed towards the holy land by way of the Balkans. A charismatic monk and powerful orator named Peter the Hermit of Amiens was the spiritual leader of the movement. Peter gathered his army at Cologne on 12 April 1096. There were also many knights among the peasants, including Walter Sans Avoir, who was lieutenant to Peter and led a separate army.

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Massacre of the Jews of Metz during the First Crusade


The Rhineland massacres

1096 May 1 -

Mainz, Germany

At a local level, the preaching of the First Crusade ignited the Rhineland massacres perpetrated against Jews, which some historians have deemed "the first Holocaust". At the end of 1095 and beginning of 1096, months before the departure of the official crusade in August, there were attacks on Jewish communities in France and Germany. In May 1096, Emicho of Flonheim (sometimes incorrectly known as Emicho of Leiningen) attacked the Jews at Speyer and Worms. Other unofficial crusaders from Swabia, led by Hartmann of Dillingen, along with French, English, Lotharingian and Flemish volunteers, led by Drogo of Nesle and William the Carpenter, as well as many locals, joined Emicho in the destruction of the Jewish community of Mainz at the end of May. In Mainz, one Jewish woman killed her children rather than see them killed; the chief rabbi, Kalonymus Ben Meshullam, committed suicide in anticipation of being killed.Emicho's company then went on to Cologne, and others continued on to Trier, Metz, and other cities. Peter the Hermit may have been involved in violence against the Jews, and an army led by a priest named Folkmar also attacked Jews further east in Bohemia.

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Coloman of Hungary


Cologne to Hungary

1096 May 8 -


The voyage towards Constantinople started peaceful but met with some conflicts in Hungary, Serbia, Nis. King Coloman the Learned, had to deal with the problems that the armies of the First Crusade caused during their march across Hungary towards the Holy Land in 1096. He defeated and massacred two crusader hordes to prevent their pillaging raids in Kingdom of Hungary. Emicho's army eventually continued into Hungary but was defeated by the army of Coloman. Emicho's followers dispersed; some eventually joined the main armies, although Emicho himself went home.

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Reception of Walter Sans Avoir by the King of Hungary, who permitted him to pass through his territory with the Crusaders.


Walter Sans Avoir

1096 May 10 -

Belgrade, Serbia

Walter Sans Avoir, a few thousand French crusaders left before Peter and reached Hungary on 8 May, passing through Hungary without incident and arriving at the river Sava at the border of the Byzantine territory at Belgrade. The Belgrade commander was taken by surprise, having no orders on what to do with them, and refused entry, forcing the crusaders to pillage the countryside for food. This resulted in skirmishes with the Belgrade garrison and, to make matters worse, sixteen of Walter's men had tried to rob a market in Zemun across the river in Hungary and were stripped of their armor and clothing, which was hung from the castle walls.

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Trouble in Belgrade

1096 Jun 26 -

Zemun, Belgrade, Serbia

In Zemun, the crusaders became suspicious, seeing Walter's sixteen suits of armor hanging from the walls, and eventually a dispute over the price of a pair of shoes in the market led to a riot, which then turned into an all-out assault on the city by the crusaders, in which 4,000 Hungarians were killed. The crusaders then fled across the river Sava to Belgrade, but only after skirmishing with Belgrade troops. The residents of Belgrade fled, and the crusaders pillaged and burned the city.

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Siege of Niš on 4 July 1096


Trouble at Niš

1096 Jul 3 -

Niš, Serbia

Then they marched for seven days, arriving at Niš on 3 July. There, the commander of Niš promised to provide escort for Peter's army to Constantinople as well as food, if he would leave right away. Peter obliged, and the next morning he set out. However, a few Germans got into a dispute with some locals along the road and set fire to a mill, which escalated out of Peter's control until Niš sent out its entire garrison against the crusaders. The crusaders were completely routed, losing about 10,000 (a quarter of their number), the remainder regrouping further on at Bela Palanka. When they reached Sofia on 12 July they met their Byzantine escort, which brought them safely the rest of the way to Constantinople by 1 August.

Peter the Hermit and the People's Crusade


The People's Crusade in Constantinople

1096 Aug 1 -


They reached Constantinople by 1 August. Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus, not knowing what else to do with such an unusual and unexpected "army", quickly ferried all 30,000 across the Bosporus by 6 August. Alexius warned Peter not to engage the Turks, whom he believed to be superior to Peter's motley army, and to wait for the main body of crusaders, which was still on the way.

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Crusaders looting


The People's Crusade in Asia Minor

1096 Sep 1 -

Nicomedia (Izmit), Turkey

Peter was rejoined by the French under Walter Sans-Avoir and a number of bands of Italian crusaders who had arrived at the same time. Once in Asia Minor, they began to pillage towns and villages until they reached Nicomedia, where an argument broke out between the Germans and Italians on one side and the French on the other. The Germans and Italians split off and elected a new leader, an Italian named Rainald, while for the French, Geoffrey Burel took command. Peter had effectively lost control of the crusade.

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The Battle of Civetot


Battle of Civetot

1096 Oct 21 -

Iznik, Turkey

Back at the main crusaders' camp, two Turkish spies had spread rumors that the Germans who had taken Xerigordos had also taken Nicaea, which caused excitement to get there as soon as possible to share in the looting. Three miles from the camp, where the road entered a narrow, wooded valley near the village of Dracon, the Turkish army was waiting. When approaching the valley, the crusaders marched noisily and were immediately subjected to a hail of arrows. Panic set in immediately and within minutes, the army was in full rout back to the camp. Most of the crusaders were slaughtered; however, women, children, and those who surrendered were spared. Eventually the Byzantines under Constantine Katakalon sailed over and raised the siege; these few thousand returned to Constantinople, the only survivors of the People's Crusade.

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The leaders of the crusade on Greek ships crossing the Bosporus


Princes' Crusade

1096 Nov 1 -


The four main crusader armies left Europe around the appointed time in August 1096. They took different paths to Constantinople and gathered outside its city walls between November 1096 and April 1097. The size of the entire crusader army is difficult to estimate. The princes arrived in Constantinople with little food and expected provisions and help from Alexios. Alexios was understandably suspicious after his experiences with the People's Crusade, and also because the knights included his old Norman enemy, Bohemond, who had invaded Byzantine territory on numerous occasions with his father, Robert Guiscard, and may have even attempted to organize an attack on Constantinople while encamped outside the city. The crusaders may have expected Alexios to become their leader, but he had no interest in joining them, and was mainly concerned with transporting them into Asia Minor as quickly as possible. In return for food and supplies, Alexios requested the leaders to swear fealty to him and promise to return to the Byzantine Empire any land recovered from the Turks. Before ensuring that the various armies were shuttled across the Bosporus, Alexios advised the leaders on how best to deal with the Seljuq armies that they would soon encounter.

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Siege of Nicaea

1097 Jun 1 -

Iznik, Turkey

The Crusader armies crossed over into Asia Minor during the first half of 1097, where they were joined by Peter the Hermit and the remainder of his relatively small army. In addition, Alexios also sent two of his own generals, Manuel Boutoumites and Tatikios, to assist the crusaders. The first objective of their campaign was Nicaea, previously a city under Byzantine rule, but which had become the capital of the Seljuq Sultanate of Rum under Kilij Arslan I. The Turkish garrison surrendered on 18 June.

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Battle of Dorylaeum

1097 Jul 1 -


The crusaders had left Nicaea on 26 June 1097, with a deep distrust of the Byzantines, who had taken the city without their knowledge after the lengthy siege of Nicaea. In order to simplify the problem of supplies, the Crusader army had split into two groups; the weaker led by Bohemond of Taranto, his nephew Tancred, Robert Curthose, Robert of Flanders, and the Byzantine general Tatikios in the vanguard, and Godfrey of Bouillon, his brother Baldwin of Boulogne, Raymond IV of Toulouse, Stephen II of Blois, and Hugh of Vermandois in the rear.

On 29 June, they learnt that the Turks were planning an ambush near Dorylaeum (Bohemond noticed that his army was being shadowed by Turkish scouts). The Turkish force, consisting of Kilij Arslan and his ally Hasan of Cappadocia, along with help from the Danishmends, led by the Turkish prince Gazi Gümüshtigin. Contemporary figures place the number of Turks as between 25,000–30,000, with more recent estimates are between 6,000 and 8,000 men.

The Battle of Dorylaeum took place during the First Crusade on 1 July 1097, between the Seljuk Turks and the Crusaders, near the city of Dorylaeum in Anatolia. Despite the Turkish forces of Kilij Arslan almost destroying the Crusader contingent of Bohemond, other Crusaders arrived just in time for a very close victory.

The crusaders did indeed become rich, at least for a short time, after capturing Kilij Arslan's treasury. The Turks fled and Arslan turned to other concerns in his eastern territory.

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The Siege of Antioch


Siege of Antioch

1097 Oct 21 -


After the Battle of Dorylaeum, the crusaders were allowed to march virtually unopposed through Anatolia on their way to Antioch. It took almost three months to cross Anatolia in the heat of the summer, and in October they began the siege of Antioch. The crusaders arrived outside the city on 21 October and began the siege. The garrison sortied unsuccessfully on 29 December. After stripping the surrounding area of food, the crusaders were forced to look farther afield for supplies, opening themselves to ambush.

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Baldwin of Boulogne entering Edessa in 1098


Baldwin captures Edessa

1098 Jan 1 -


While the main crusader army was marching across Asia Minor in 1097, Baldwin and the Norman Tancred launched a separate expedition against Cilicia. Tancred tried to capture Tarsus in September, but Baldwin forced him to leave it, which gave rise to an enduring conflict between them. Baldwin seized important fortresses in the lands to the west of the Euphrates with the assistance of local Armenians. Thoros of Edessa invited him to come to Edessa to fight against the Seljuqs. Taking advantage of a riot against Thoros, Baldwin seized the town and established the first crusader state on 10 March 1098. To strengthen his rule, the widowed Baldwin married an Armenian ruler's daughter (who is now known as Arda). He supplied the main crusader army with food during the siege of Antioch. He defended Edessa against Kerbogha, the governor of Mosul, for three weeks, preventing him from reaching Antioch before the crusaders captured it.

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Bohemond of Taranto Alone Mounts the Rampart of Antioch


Bohemond takes Antioch

1098 Jun 2 -


Bohemond persuaded the other leaders that if Antioch fell he would keep it for himself and that an Armenian commander of a section of the cities walls had agreed to enable the crusaders to enter. Stephen of Blois had been his only competitor and while deserting his message to Alexius that the cause was lost persuaded the Emperor to halt his advance through Anatolia at Philomelium before returning to Constantinople. Alexius failure to reach the siege was used by Bohemond to rationalise his refusal to return the city to the Empire as promised. The Armenian, Firouz, helped Bohemond and a small party enter the city on the 2nd June and open a gate at which point horns were sounded, the city's Christian majority opened the other gates and the crusaders entered. In the sack they killed most of the Muslim inhabitants and many Christian Greeks, Syrians and Armenians in the confusion.

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The besiegers have become the besieged

1098 Jun 4 -


The besiegers have become the besieged. On 4 June the vanguard of Kerbogha's 40,000 strong army arrived surrounding the Franks. From 10 June for 4 days waves of Kerbogha's men assailed the city walls from dawn until dusk. Bohemond and Adhemar barred the city gates to prevent mass desertions and managed to hold out. Kerbogha then changed tactics to trying to starve the crusaders out.

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The Battle of Antioch

1098 Jun 28 -


Morale inside the city was low and defeat looked imminent but a peasant visionary called Peter Bartholomew claimed the apostle St Andrew came to him to show the location of the Holy Lance that had pierced Christ on the cross. This supposedly encouraged the crusaders but the accounts are misleading as it was two weeks before the final battle for the city. On 24 June the Franks sought terms for surrender that were refused. On 28 June 1098 at dawn the Franks marched out of the city in four battle groups to engage the enemy. Kerbogha allowed them to deploy with the aim of destroying them in the open. However the discipline of the Muslim army did not hold and a disorderly attack was launched. Unable to overrun a bedraggled force they outnumbered two to one Muslims attacking the Bridge Gate fled through the advancing main body of the Muslim army. With very few casualties the Muslim army broke and fled the battle.

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The Siege of Jerusalem as depicted in a medieval manuscript


Siege of Jerusalem

1099 Jun 13 -

Jerusalem, Israel

The crusaders reached Jerusalem, which had been recaptured from the Seljuqs by the Fatimids only the Year before, on 7 June. Many Crusaders wept upon seeing the city they had journeyed so long to reach. The Fatimid governor Iftikhar al-Dawla prepared the city for the siege as he heard about the arrival of the Crusaders. He prepared an elite troop of 400 Egyptian cavalry men and had expelled all the eastern Christians from the city due to the fear of betrayal from them (in the siege of Antioch an Armenian man named Firoz helped crusaders enter the city by opening the gates). To make the situation worse for the crusaders, ad-Daula poisoned or buried all the water wells, and cut down all trees outside Jerusalem. On 7 June 1099, the crusaders reached outside the fortifications of Jerusalem, which had been recaptured from the Seljuqs by the Fatimids only the Year before. The city was guarded by a defense wall 4 km long, 3 meters thick and 15 meters high, there were five major gates each guarded by a pair of towers. The Crusaders divided themselves into two large groups- Godfrey of Bouillon, Robert of Flanders and Tancred planned to besiege from north while, Raymond of Toulouse positioned his forces on the south.

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11 century Genoese Dromone


Supplies and siege weapons arrive

1099 Jun 17 -

Jaffa, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel

A small fleet of Genoese and English ships arrives at the port of Jaffa bringing essential supplies for siege weapons to the First Crusaders at Jerusalem. The Genoese sailors had brought all the necessary equipment with them for the construction of the siege equipments.


Siege towers

1099 Jul 10 -

Jerusalem, Israel

Robert of Normandy and Robert of Flanders procured timber from the nearby forests. Under the command of Guglielmo Embriaco and Gaston of Béarn, the crusaders began the construction of their siege weapons. They constructed the finest siege equipment of the 11th century in almost 3 weeks. This included: 2 massive wheel-mounted siege towers, a battering ram with an iron-clad head, numerous scaling ladders and a series of portable wattle screens. On the other hand the Fatimids kept an eye on the preparation by the Franks and they set up their mangonels on the wall in the firing range once an assault began. The preparation by the crusaders was complete.


Siege of Jerusalem: The Final Assault

1099 Jul 14 -

Jerusalem, Israel

On 14 July 1099, the crusaders launched their attack, Godfrey and his allies were positioned towards the Northern wall of Jerusalem, their priority was to break through the outer curtain of the walls of Jerusalem. By the end of the day they penetrated the first line of defense. On the South Raymond's (of Toulouse) forces were met with ferocious resistance by the Fatimids. On 15 of July the assault recommenced in the Northern front, Godfrey and his allies gained success and the crusader Ludolf of Tournai was the first to mount the wall. The Franks quickly gained the foothold in the wall, and as the city's defenses collapsed, waves of panic shook the Fatimids.

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Siege of Jerusalem: Massacre

1099 Jul 15 -

Jerusalem, Israel

The crusaders made their way into the city through the tower of David and history witnessed one of the most bloody encounters. The crusaders massacred every inhabitant of the city (Jerusalem), Muslims and Jews alike.

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The Kingdom of Jerusalem

1099 Jul 22 -

Jerusalem, Israel

On 22 July, a council was held in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to establish governance for Jerusalem. Godfrey of Bouillon (who played the most fundamental role in the city's conquest) was made Advocatus Sancti Sepulchri ("advocate" or "defender of the Holy Sepulchre").


Battle of Ascalon

1099 Aug 12 -

Ascalon, Israel

The Battle of Ascalon took place on 12 August 1099 shortly after the capture of Jerusalem, and is often considered the last action of the First Crusade. The crusader army led by Godfrey of Bouillon defeated and drove off a Fatimid army, securing the safety of Jerusalem.

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1100 Jan 1 -

Jerusalem, Israel

The majority of crusaders now considered their pilgrimage complete and returned home. Only 300 knights and 2,000 infantry remained to defend Palestine. Relations between the newly created Crusader states of the County of Edessa and Principality of Antioch were variable. The Franks became fully engaged in Near East politics with the result that Muslims and Christians often fought each other. Antioch's territorial expansion ended in 1119 with a major defeat to the Turks at the Battle of Ager Sanguinis, the Field of Blood.



  • Asbridge, Thomas (2012). The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-84983-688-3.
  • Frankopan, Peter (2012). The First Crusade: The Call from the East. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-05994-8.
  • Gil, Moshe (1997) [1983]. A History of Palestine, 634–1099. Translated by Ethel Broido. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-59984-9.
  • Madden, Thomas (2005). New Concise History of the Crusades. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0-7425-3822-2.

The End

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