Kingdom of Jerusalem

Alex Rover | May 30, 2023


The Kingdom of Jerusalem (Old Roman letters: Roiaume de Jherusalem, Latin Regnum Hierosolimitanum), also known as the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem is a crusader state that emerged in the Levant in 1099 after the end of the First Crusade. The kingdom lasted almost two hundred years, from 1099 to 1291, when its last remaining territory with the city of Acre was seized by the Mamelukes.

The history of the kingdom is divided into two periods. The first kingdom of Jerusalem lasted from 1099 to 1187 before it was almost completely overrun by Saladin. After the Third Crusade the kingdom was restored with its center in Acre in 1192 and lasted until the destruction of the city in 1291. During this period the state is commonly referred to as the Second Kingdom of Jerusalem or the Kingdom of Acre, from the name of the new capital of the kingdom. Acra remained the capital except for two decades after Frederick II Staufen diplomatically recovered Jerusalem from the Ayyubids in the Sixth Crusade. The vast majority of the crusaders who founded and settled the kingdom of Jerusalem were from the French kingdom, as knights and soldiers constituted the bulk of the constant stream of reinforcements throughout its bicentennial existence. Its rulers and elite were therefore of French descent. French crusaders and brought the French language to the Levant, thus making Old French lingua franca in the crusader states.

At first the kingdom was no more than a scattered cluster of towns captured during the First Crusade, but at its height in the mid-twelfth century the kingdom encompassed roughly the territory of modern Israel and southern Lebanon. From the Mediterranean, the kingdom stretched a thin strip of land from Beirut in the north to the Sinai desert in the south, to modern-day Jordan and Syria in the east, and to Fatimid Egypt in the west. Three more Crusader states founded during and after the First Crusade were to the north: the county of Edessa (1097-1144), the principality of Antioch (1098-1268), and the county of Tripoli (1109-1289). Although all three were independent, they were closely tied to Jerusalem. Beyond them to the north and west lay the states of Cilicia and the Eastern Roman Empire, with which Jerusalem had close relations in the twelfth century. Further east were various Muslim emirates, which were eventually linked to the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad. Later, after losing much of its territory, the kingdom was ruled by King Aymeri de Lusignan (1197-1205), king of Cyprus, another Crusader state founded during the Third Crusade. Dynastic ties were also strengthened with Tripoli, Antioch, and Cilicia. The kingdom was soon increasingly dominated by Italian city-states like the Republic of Venice and the Republic of Genoa, as well as the imperial ambitions of the Holy Roman Emperors. Emperor Frederick II (ruled 1220-1250) claimed the kingdom through marriage, but his presence sparked a civil war (1228-1243) among the kingdom’s nobility. The kingdom became no more than a pawn in the politics and military actions of the Ayyubid and Mamluk dynasties in Egypt as well as the Mongol invaders. As a relatively small state, it received little financial or military support from Europe; despite numerous small expeditions, Europeans were generally unwilling to undertake the costly journey east on a clearly losing cause. The Mamluk sultans Baybars (reigned 1260-1277) and al-Ashraf Khalil (reigned 1290-1293) eventually recaptured all remaining crusader fortresses, culminating in the destruction of Acre in 1291.

The kingdom was ethnically, religiously, and linguistically diverse, although the Crusaders themselves and their descendants were an elite Catholic minority. They adopted many customs and institutions from their homeland in Western Europe, and there were close family and political ties to the West throughout the kingdom’s existence. The kingdom also inherited “eastern” qualities, influenced by pre-existing customs and populations. The majority of the kingdom’s inhabitants were native Christians, especially Orthodox and Syro-Jacobean Christians, but also Sunni and Shiite Muslims. The local Christians and Muslims, who belonged to a segregated lower class, generally spoke Greek and Arabic, while the crusaders, who came mostly from France, spoke French. There were also a small number of Jews and Samaritans.

According to the records of Benjamin of Tudela, who traveled through the kingdom around 1170, there were 1,000 Samaritans in Nablus, 200 in Caesarea, and 300 in Ascalon. This sets the lower limit for the Samaritan population at 1500, since Tolida, the Samaritan chronicle, also mentions communities in Gaza and Acre. Benjamin of Tudela estimated the total Jewish population of the kingdom’s 14 cities at 1,200, making the Samaritan population at that time larger than the Jewish population.

In the run-up to the Crusade, Jerusalem’s growing importance in the Muslim world was manifested in less tolerance for other faiths. Christians and Jews in the Holy Land were persecuted, and many churches and synagogues were destroyed. This trend reached its peak in 1009 when the Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim Biamrillah, revered by Nizaris and Druze as “the living incarnation of Allah,” destroyed the temple of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. This provocation provoked great fury in the Christian world, leading to the beginning of preparations for a crusade from Europe to the Holy Land.

The first Crusade was proclaimed at the Council of Clermont in 1095 by Pope Urban II to aid the Roman Empire against the invasion of the Seljuk Turks. However, the main goal quickly became control of the Holy Land. The Romans were constantly at war with the Seljuks and other Turkish dynasties for control of Anatolia and the Levant. The Seljuks, being Sunni Muslims, had previously ruled the Seljuk Empire, but it disintegrated into several smaller states after the death of Malik Shah I in 1092. Malik Shah was succeeded in the Rum Sultanate by Kılıç-Arslan I, and in Syria by his brother Tutush I, who died in 1095. Tutush’s sons Radwan became the sultan of Aleppo and Dukak the emir of Damascus, thus further dividing Syria between emirs hostile to each other as well as Kerboga, the atabek of Mosul. This disunity between the Anatolian and Levantine emirs enabled the crusaders to overcome the Seljuk resistance they encountered on their way to Jerusalem.

Egypt and most of Palestine were under the control of the Arab Shiite Caliphate of the Fatimids, which had spread even further into Syria before the Seljuks came. The war between the Fatimids and the Seljuks caused great upheaval among local Christians and Western pilgrims. The Fatimids, who were under the nominal rule of the Caliph al-Mustali but actually controlled by the Vizier al-Afdal Shahanshah, lost Jerusalem, which was captured by the Seljuks in 1073; they recaptured it in 1098 from the Artukids, a small Turkish tribe related to the Seljuks, just before the Crusaders arrived.

The crusaders arrived in Jerusalem in June 1099; some of the neighboring towns like Ramla, Lod, Bethlehem and others had already been captured by the crusaders, Jerusalem itself was taken on July 15, 1099. On July 22, the leaders of the campaign held a council meeting in the temple of the Holy Sepulchre to choose a ruler for the newly created state. Raymond IV of Toulouse and Gottfried of Bouillon, leaders of the crusade, were candidates for the new head of state. Raymond was the richer and more powerful of the two, but he initially refused to become ruler, perhaps trying to show his piety and probably hoping that the other nobles would insist on his election anyway. The more popular Gottfried did not hesitate like Raymund, and accepted the offer to become head of the new state. He refused to accept the royal title, “not wishing to wear the royal crown where the Savior wore the crown of thorns,” and accepted another – Advocatus Sancti Sepulchri (“Defender of the Holy Sepulchre”). Instead of this title, Gottfried himself seems to have used the more ambiguous term princeps or simply retained his title of duke of Lower Lorraine. Robert Monk, the only contemporary chronicler of the crusade, reported in Historia Hierosolymitana that Gottfried did adopt the title “king.” Raymund became enraged and led his army to forage away from the city. The new kingdom and Gottfried’s reputation were secured by the defeat of the Egyptian Fatimid army under Al-Afdal Shahanshah at the Battle of Ascalon a month after the conquest, on August 12, but the continuing feud between Raymond and Gottfried prevented the Crusaders from taking control of Ascalon itself. Around 1099 the order of the Johannites (Hospitallers) appeared in Jerusalem and founded a hospital for pilgrims.

There was still some uncertainty about what to do with the new kingdom. The papal legate Daimbert of Pisa persuaded Gottfried to transfer Jerusalem to him as Latin patriarch with the intention of establishing a theocratic state directly under papal control. According to Guillaume of Tyre, Gottfried may have supported Daimbert’s efforts, and he agreed to take possession of “one or two other cities and thus expand the kingdom” if Daimbert was allowed to rule Jerusalem. Gottfried did expand the borders of the kingdom, capturing Jaffa, Haifa, Tiberias, and other cities, and forcing many others to pay tribute. He laid the foundations of a system of vassalage in the kingdom, establishing the principality of Galilee and the county of Jaffa. But his reign was short-lived, and he died in 1100. His brother Balduin of Boulogne successfully outsmarted Daimbert and proclaimed Jerusalem as his own, and for himself immediately adopted the title “King of the Latins of Jerusalem.” Daimbert compromised by crowning Baldwin I in Bethlehem instead of Jerusalem, but the way to a secular state was paved. Within this secular framework a Catholic ecclesiastical hierarchy was established, standing over the local Orthodox and Syriac-Orthodox churches, which retained their own organization (and vice versa). Under the Latin patriarch there were four suffragette archdioceses and numerous dioceses.

Baldwin I successfully expanded the kingdom, with the help of the Italian city-states and other adventurers, in particular King Sigurd I of Norway, capturing the port cities of Acre (1104), Sidon (1110) and Beirut (1111), and establishing his rule over the Crusader states in the North – the county of Edessa (which he himself founded), the principality of Antioch and the county of Tripoli. Under him the Latin inhabitants, who came with the rearguard crusade, increased, and a Latin patriarch appeared. Balduin repopulated Jerusalem with Franks and local Orthodox Christians after his expedition across the Jordan in 1115. The Italian city-states (Venice, Pisa, and Genoa) began to play an important role in the kingdom. Their navy was involved in taking over the ports where they got their quarters for trade. It successfully defended itself against Muslim invasions, against the Fatimids in numerous battles at Ramla and elsewhere in the southwest of the kingdom, and against Damascus and Mosul in the battle of al-Sannabra in the northeast in 1113. As Thomas Madden says, Baldwin was “the true founder of the kingdom of Jerusalem,” who “transformed a fragile structure into a solid feudal state. With brilliance and zeal he established a strong monarchy, conquered the Palestinian coast, reconciled Crusader feudal lords, and established strong borders with the kingdom’s Muslim neighbors.”

Balduin brought with him an Armenian wife named Arda (although contemporaries never called her that), whom he married in order to gain the political support of the Armenian population in Edessa, and whom he quickly left when he no longer needed Armenian support as king in Jerusalem. He, while married to Arda, entered into a second marriage with Adelazia del Vasto, the de facto ruler of Sicily, in 1113, but was forced to divorce her in 1117; Adelazia’s son from his first marriage, Roger II of Sicily, did not forgive this and for decades refused much needed Sicilian naval support for the kingdom.

Baldwin died in 1118 leaving no heirs, during a campaign against Egypt the kingdom was offered to his brother Eustachius III of Boulogne, who had accompanied Baldwin and Gottfried on the Crusade. Eustachius was not interested, and instead the crown went to Balduin’s cousin Balduin de Bourg, who had previously inherited Edessa. Balduin II was also an able ruler and also successfully defended himself against Fatimid and Seljuk invasions. Although Antioch was greatly weakened after the battle of Sarmada in 1119 and Balduin himself was held captive by the emir of Aleppo in 1122-1124, Balduin led the Crusader states to victory at the battle of Aazaz in 1125. His reign was marked by the establishment of the first military monastic orders, the Hospitaller Knights (who were made official at this time) and the Temple Knights, who settled in the converted al-Aqsa Mosque; the first surviving written laws of the kingdom, drawn up at the Council of Nablus in 1120; the first trade treaty with the Republic of Venice, Pactum Warmundi, in 1124. Increased naval and military support from Venice led to the capture of Tyre in 1124. Jerusalem’s influence also extended to Edessa and Antioch, where Balduin II acted as regent when their own leaders were killed in battle, although there were also regent governments in Jerusalem during Balduin’s captivity. Balduin was married to the Armenian princess Morphia of Melitene and had four daughters: Goderna and Alice, who married the count of Tripoli and the prince of Antioch; Jovetha, who became an influential abbess; and the eldest, Melisenda, who was named his heir and became queen after his death in 1131, with her husband Fulco V of Anjou as king consort. Their son, the future Baldwin III, was named co-heir by his grandfather.

Edessa, Damascus, and the Second Crusade

Baldwin II was succeeded by his daughter Melisenda of Jerusalem, who ruled with her husband Fulco of Anjou. Fulk was an experienced crusader and gave military support to the kingdom during the mass pilgrimage to the Holy Places in 1120. He brought Jerusalem into the sphere of Angevin power as the father of Joffrois V Plantagenet and the future grandfather of Henry II of England. Not everyone appreciated the emergence of the stranger as king. In 1132 Antioch, Tripoli and Edessa proclaimed their independence and conspired to prevent Fulco from exercising suzerainty of the Kingdom of Jerusalem over them. He defeated the armies of Tripoli and established a regency in Antioch, arranging a marriage between the countess, Melisande Constance’s niece, and his own relative Raymunde de Poitiers. Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, local aristocratic crusaders opposed Fulk’s greater preference for his Anjou retinue. In 1134 Hugo II de Puise rebelled against Fulk, joining with the Muslim garrison at Ascalon, for which he was condemned in absentia for treason. The Latin patriarch intervened to settle the dispute, but then Hugo was assassinated and Fulk was blamed. This scandal allowed Melisenda and her supporters to gain power. Accordingly, Fulk “became so obstinate that…even in minor cases he took no action without her knowledge and assistance.”

During their reign the greatest cultural and economic development was achieved, symbolized by the Melisenda Psalter commissioned by the queen between 1135 and 1143. Fulk, the famous general, faced a dangerous new enemy, the atabek of Mosul, Zengi, who had taken control of Aleppo and was also targeting Damascus; the union of these three states would have been a serious blow to the growing power of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Brief interventions in 1137-1138 by the Roman Emperor John II Comnenus, who wanted to bring Antioch back into the fold of the empire, did not stop the threat of Zenga; in 1139 Damascus and Jerusalem recognized the seriousness of the threat to both states and an alliance was forged that stopped the advance of Zenga. Although Fulk successfully confronted Zenga during his reign, Guillaume of Tyre censured him for his poor border security. Fulk used this time to build numerous castles, including Ibelin and El Karak. Fulk died in a hunting accident in 1143. Zengi took advantage of this and invaded the lands of the county of Edessa in 1144, which he conquered in 1146. Queen Melisande, who became regent under her son Baldwin III, appointed Manasse d’Ierge as the new constable who led the army after Fulk’s death, but Edessa could not be retaken despite Zenga’s own assassination in 1146. The fall of Edessa shook Europe and in 1148 the Second Crusade began.

Meeting in Acre, the crusader leaders, King Louis VII the Young of France and King Konrad III Staufen of Germany, decided to attack the kingdom-friendly Emir of Damascus as the most vulnerable enemy, despite the treaty between Damascus and the Kingdom of Jerusalem. This was in complete contradiction to the advice of Melisande and Manasseh, who considered the main enemy to be Aleppo, the victory over which made it possible to regain Edessa.

The Crusade ended in total failure in 1148. The siege of Damascus proved extremely unsuccessful; when the city seemed on the verge of collapse, the Crusader army suddenly moved on the other side of the wall and was driven back. The Crusaders retreated within three days. There were rumors of treachery and bribery, Conrad III felt betrayed by the Jerusalem nobility. Whatever the reason for the failure, the French and German armies returned home, and a few years later Nur ad-Din captured Damascus.

Civil War

The failure of the Second Crusade had terrible long-term consequences for the kingdom. The West hesitated to send large-scale expeditions; over the next few decades, only small armies, led by small European nobles wishing to make the pilgrimage, came. Meanwhile the Muslim states of Syria were gradually united by Nur ad-Din Mahmud, who defeated the Principality of Antioch at the Battle of Inaba in 1149 and gained control of Damascus in 1154. Nur ad-Din was fanatically religious, and during his reign the concept of jihad was used more than before as a holy war against infidels.

In Jerusalem, the crusaders were distracted by the conflict between Melisande and Baldwin III. Melisande continued to rule as regent long after Baldwin came of age. She was supported in particular by Manasseh of Jerg, who essentially ruled the kingdom as a connetable, her son Amaury, whom she appointed Count of Jaffa, Philip de Milly, and the Ibelin family. Balduin asserted his independence by mediating in disputes at Antioch and Tripoli, gaining the support of the Ibelin brothers when they began to oppose the growing power of Manasseh through his marriage to their widowed mother Helvis of Ramla. In 1153 Balduin was crowned sole ruler, and a compromise was reached in which the kingdom was divided in two: Balduin received Acre and Tyre in the north, while Melisande was left with Jerusalem and the cities in the south. Baldwin was able to replace Manasseh with one of his supporters, Onfrua II de Toron. Baldwin and Melisende realized that this situation would not last. Soon Balduin invaded his mother’s possessions, defeated Manasseh, and besieged his mother in the Tower of David in Jerusalem. Melisenda surrendered and retired to Nablus, but Balduin appointed her his regent and chief counselor, and she retained some of her influence, especially in appointing church officials. In 1153 Balduin launched an attack on Ascalon, a fortress in the south from which the Egyptian armies of the Fatimids had constantly raided Jerusalem since the founding of the kingdom. The fortress was captured and annexed to the county of Jaffa, still in the possession of his brother Amaury.

Alliance with Constantinople and invasion of Egypt

With the capture of Ascalon, the southern border of the kingdom was now secure, and Egypt, previously a serious threat to the kingdom but now destabilized under the rule of several minor caliphs, was relegated to tribute. Nur ad-Din remained a threat in the east, and Balduin had to contend with the advance of the Roman emperor Manuel I Comnenus, who claimed Antioch. To strengthen the kingdom’s defenses against the growing power of the Muslims, Baldwin III made his first direct alliance with the Eastern Roman Empire by marrying Theodora Comnenus, niece of Emperor Manuel; Manuel had married Baldwin’s cousin Mary. As Guillaume of Tyre put it, it was hoped that Manuel could “through his own prosperity remedy our distress in which our kingdom stood, and turn our poverty into superabundance.

Baldwin III died in 1162, a year later than his mother, and was succeeded by his brother, Amaury. Nur ad-Din Zangi seized the lands lying to the northeast of Antioch, took Damascus, and became a close and extremely dangerous neighbor to the crusaders. In 1163 the crusaders managed to inflict a heavy defeat on Nur al-Din at the battle of al-Buqaya, frustrating his plans for further territorial expansion. Amaury renewed the alliance made by Baldwin. In 1163 the unstable situation in Egypt led to a refusal to pay tribute to Jerusalem, and help was requested from Nur ad-Din; Amori responded by invading Egypt, but was forced to turn back when the Egyptians destroyed the dams on the Nile at Bilbeis. The Egyptian vizier Shawar again appealed for help to Nur ad-Din, who sent his general Shirkuh, but Shawar quickly turned his back on him and allied himself with Amori. Amori and Shirkukh besieged Bilbeis in 1164, but both retreated because of Nur ad-Din’s campaigns against Antioch, where Boemund III of Antioch and Raymund III of Tripoli were defeated at the Battle of Harim. It seemed that Antioch itself would fall under the onslaught of Nur ad-Din, but he retreated when Emperor Manuel sent a large Romanian force into the area. Nur ad-Din sent Shirkuh back to Egypt in 1166, and Shawar allied himself again with Amori, who was defeated at the battle of al-Babein. Despite the defeat, both sides retreated, but Shawar remained under the control of the Crusader garrison in Cairo. Amaury strengthened his alliance with Manuel by marrying Manuel’s niece Maria Comnenus in 1167, and an embassy led by Guillaume of Tyre was sent to Constantinople to negotiate a military expedition, but in 1168 Amaury sacked Bilbeis without waiting for the maritime support Manuel had promised. Amaury achieved nothing more, but his actions prompted Shavar to switch sides again and turn to Shirkukh for help. Shavar was quickly assassinated, and when Shirkukh died in 1169 he was succeeded by his nephew Yusuf, later known as Saladin. In the same year, Manuel sent a large fleet of 300 ships to help Amori, and the city of Damietta was besieged. But the Roman fleet sailed with only three months’ provisions. By the time the Crusaders were ready, supplies were running low and the fleet retreated. Each side sought to blame the other for the failure, but both knew that they could not take Egypt without each other’s help: the alliance was maintained, and plans were made for another campaign against Egypt, which would eventually come to naught.

In the end Nur ad-Din was victorious and Saladin proclaimed himself sultan of Egypt. Saladin soon began to assert his independence from Nur ad-Din, and with the death of Amori and Nur ad-Din in 1174 he had the perfect opportunity to gain control of Nur ad-Din’s Syrian possessions. After the death of Emperor Manuel in 1180, the kingdom of Jerusalem lost its most powerful ally.

Subsequent events have often been interpreted as a struggle between two opposing factions: “the courtly party,” consisting of Balduin’s mother, Amaury’s first wife Agnese de Courtenay, her closest relatives and recent arrivals from Europe, who were inexperienced in the affairs of the kingdom and advocated war with Saladin; and the “noble party,” led by Raymond of Tripoli and the petty nobility of the kingdom, who advocated peaceful coexistence with the Muslims. This is the view offered by Guillaume of Tyre, who was firmly placed in the “noble” camp, and his view was picked up by subsequent historians; in the twentieth century, Marshall W. Baldwin and Hans E. Meyer supported this view. Peter W. Edbury, on the other hand, argues that Guillaume, as well as the thirteenth-century authors who continued the “Guillaume chronicle” in French and who were in league with Raymond’s supporters in the Ibelin family, cannot be considered impartial. Although these events were clearly dynastic struggles, “the division was not between local barons and newcomers from the West, but between the king’s maternal and paternal relatives.

Amaury I was succeeded by his young son, Balduin IV. From an early age he learned that he was ill with leprosy, but this did not prevent him from proving himself an active and strong ruler and a good military leader. He was able to push the external threat away from the kingdom for a while, but his illness and early death brought new strife and discord to the already paralyzed life of the kingdom.

Mil de Plancy was briefly bali of the kingdom or regent during Balduin IV’s infancy. De Plancy was assassinated in October 1174 and Count Raymund III of Tripoli, Amaury’s maternal cousin, became regent. It is very likely that Raymund or his supporters orchestrated the assassination. Baldwin came of age in 1176 and, despite his illness, no longer needed a regent. Since Raimund was his closest male relative and had a serious claim to the throne, he was concerned about the extent of his ambition, though he had no direct heirs. To balance this, the king occasionally turned to his uncle, Joclain III of Edessa, who was appointed seneschal in 1176; Joclain was more closely related to Balduin than Raymund, but he did not claim the throne himself.

Being a leper, Baldwin had no children and could not rule for long, so his closest successors were his sisters Sibylla and his younger half-sister Isabella. Baldwin and his advisors recognized the need for Sybilla to marry a nobleman from the West in order to gain the support of European states in the event of a military crisis; while Raymond was still regent, a marriage was arranged between Sybilla and William of Montferrat, a cousin of Louis VII of France and Frederick Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor. It was hoped that by uniting with a cousin of the Western emperor, Friedrich would come to the aid of the kingdom. Jerusalem again turned to the Eastern Roman Empire for help, and Emperor Manuel sought a way to restore the prestige of his empire after his defeat at the Battle of Myriokefal in 1176; Renaud de Chatillon undertook this mission. After the arrival of William of Montferrat in 1176, he fell ill and died in June 1177, leaving Sibylle a widow and pregnant with the future Baldwin V.

Soon after, Philip of Alsace arrived in Jerusalem on a pilgrimage; he was a cousin of Baldwin IV, and the king offered him regency and command of the army, which Philip refused, although he objected to Renaud’s appointment as regent. Philip then tried to intervene in negotiations for Sibylla’s second husband and offered one of his cronies, but the local barons rejected his offer. In addition, Philip seemed to think that he could win his own domain in Egypt, but he refused to participate in the planned Roman-Jerusalem expedition. The expedition was postponed and eventually cancelled, and Philip withdrew his army to the north.

Most of the kingdom’s army moved north with Philip, Raymond III and Boemund III to attack Hama, and Saladin seized the opportunity to invade the kingdom. Balduin proved to be an effective and energetic king as well as a brilliant military leader: he defeated Saladin at the Battle of Mongizar in September 1177, despite his considerable numerical superiority and the need to rely on the militia. Although Balduin’s presence, despite his illness, inspired people, direct military decisions were actually made by Reno.

Hugo III of Burgundy was supposed to come to Jerusalem and marry Sibylla, but Hugo could not leave France because of political unrest there in 1179-1180 after the death of Louis VII. Meanwhile Balduin IV’s stepmother Mary, mother of Isabella and stepmother of Sibylla, married Balian Ibelin. At Easter of 1180, Raymund and his cousin Boemund III of Antioch tried to force Sibylla to marry Balduin Ibelin’s brother Balduin. Raymund and Boemund were King Balduin’s closest paternal relatives and could claim the throne if the king died without an heir or suitable replacement. Even before Raimund and Boemund arrived, Agnes and King Baldwin arranged for Sibylla to marry Guy de Lusignan, a newcomer from Poitou, whose older brother Amaury II de Lusignan was already a well-known figure at court. Internationally, the Lusignans were useful as vassals to Baldwin and Sibylla’s cousin Henry II of England. Balduin betrothed the eight-year-old Isabella to Onfroy IV de Thoron, stepson of the powerful Renaud de Chatillon, thereby ridding her of the influence of the Ibelin family and her mother.

The dispute between the two factions in the kingdom influenced the election of a new patriarch in 1180. When Patriarch Amaury Nesl died on October 6, 1180, the two most obvious candidates for his place were Guillaume of Tyre and Heraclius of Caesarea. They were fairly equal in birth and education, but politically they were in alliance with opposing parties, for Heraclius was one of Agnes de Courtenay’s supporters. The canons of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre sought the king’s advice, and Heraclius was elected under the influence of Agnes. It was rumored that Agnes and Heraclius were lovers, but this information comes from the 13th-century records of Guillaume of Tyre, and there is no other evidence to support such a claim.

At the end of 1181, Renaud de Chatillon raided south into Arabia toward Medina, although he was not able to advance that far. It is probable that around the same time Renaud also attacked a Muslim caravan. At the time, the kingdom had a truce with Saladin and Reno’s actions were seen as an independent act of plunder; he may have been trying to prevent Saladin from moving his troops north to take control of Aleppo, which would have strengthened Saladin’s position. In response, Saladin attacked the kingdom in 1182 but was defeated at the Battle of Belvoir Castle. King Balduin, though gravely ill, was still able to personally command the army. Saladin tried to besiege Beirut from land and sea, but Balduin raided the area around Damascus, but neither side did much damage. In December 1182 Reno began a maritime expedition on the Red Sea that reached Rabigh. The expedition was defeated, and two of Renaud’s men were taken to Mecca for public execution. Like his earlier raids, Renaud’s expedition is usually viewed as selfish and ultimately fatal to the kingdom of Jerusalem, but according to Bernard Hamilton, it was actually a cunning strategy designed to damage Saladin’s prestige and reputation.

In 1183 a general tax was imposed throughout the kingdom, unprecedented in the kingdom of Jerusalem and almost all of medieval Europe. The tax helped pay for large armies over the next few years. Of course, more troops were needed as Saladin was finally able to gain control of Aleppo, and with peace in his northern territories he could focus on Jerusalem to the south. King Balduin was so incapacitated by his leprosy that a regent had to be appointed, Guy de Lusignan, since he was Balduin’s rightful heir and the king was soon to die. The inexperienced Guy led the kingdom’s army against Saladin invading the kingdom, but neither side made any real progress, and his opponents criticized Guy for not striking against Saladin when he had the chance.

In October 1183 Isabella married Onfrua IV de Toron at Kerak, at the same time they were besieged by Saladin, who may have hoped to capture some valuable prisoners. When King Balduin, though now blind and crippled, recovered enough to resume his rule and command of his army, Guy was removed from the regency and his five-year-old adopted son, King Balduin’s nephew and namesake, was crowned co-regent in November. King Balduin himself went to the aid of the castle, carried on a stretcher and accompanied by his mother. He reconciled with Raymund of Tripoli and appointed him military commander. The siege was lifted in December and Saladin retreated to Damascus. Saladin made another siege attempt in 1184, but Balduin repulsed that attack as well, then Saladin raided Nablus and other cities on his way home.

In October 1184, Guy de Lusignan led an attack on the Bedouin nomads from his base at Ascalon. Unlike Renault’s attacks on caravans, which may have had some military purpose, Guy attacked a group that was usually loyal to Jerusalem and provided intelligence on the movements of Saladin’s troops. At the same time, King Baldwin’s illness worsened and Raymund of Tripoli was appointed his regent rather than Guy. Balduin IV died in the spring of 1185 and the title of king passed to his nephew, the minor Balduin V.

Meanwhile, the crisis of succession prompted a mission to the West and an appeal for help. In 1184 Patriarch Heraclius toured all the courts of Europe, but no help was forthcoming. Heraclius offered “the keys of the temple of the Holy Sepulchre, the tower of David and the banner of the kingdom of Jerusalem,” but not the crown itself, to Philip II Augustus and Henry II Plantagenet; the latter, being the grandson of Fulk, was a cousin of the king and promised to go on a crusade after Thomas Becket was killed. Both kings chose to remain at home to defend their own territories rather than act as regents for a child in Jerusalem. The few European knights who were in Jerusalem did not even see the battles as the truce with Saladin was restored. William V of Monferrat was one of the few who came to the aid of his grandson Baldwin V.

The reign of Balduin V, whose regent was Raymond of Tripoli and whose guardian was his great-uncle Jocelyn I de Courtenay, was short-lived. He was a sickly child and died in the summer of 1186. Raymund and his supporters went to Nablus, apparently in an attempt to prevent Sibylle from taking the throne, but Sibylle and her supporters went to Jerusalem, where it was agreed that the kingdom should go to her, provided that her marriage to Guy was annulled. She agreed, but only if she could choose her own husband and king, and after the coronation she immediately crowned Guy with her own hands. Raymund refused to attend the coronation and in Nablus offered to crown Isabella and Onfrua, but Onfrua refused, knowing that this would surely cause civil war. Onfrua went to Jerusalem and swore allegiance to Guy and Sibylla, as did most of Raymund’s other former supporters. Raymund himself refused to do so and left for Tripoli; Baldwin Ibelin also refused to do so and gave up his fiefs and left for Antioch.

The Loss of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade

The subsequent fall of Jerusalem in 1187 essentially ended the first Kingdom of Jerusalem. The capture of the city shook Europe and led to the Third Crusade, which began in 1189. It was led by Richard I the Lionheart and Philip Augustus (Frederick Barbarossa died en route). The Crusader army twice approached Jerusalem, but never dared to attack the city.

In 1192 Richard the Lionheart mediated the negotiations that resulted in the Margrave Conrad of Monferrat becoming King of Jerusalem and Guy de Lusignan being granted Cyprus. In the same year Conrad fell by the hand of an assassin in Tyre. After Conrad’s death, his relative Henry II of Champagne married Isabella.

When Frederick II Staufen became King of Jerusalem in 1225, he managed to temporarily return Jerusalem to the Christians by taking advantage of the controversy between the Muslim rulers. The capture of Jerusalem in 1244 by the Khorezmians (the remnants of Jalal-ud-Din Manqburna’s Turkmen forces), who had been summoned by the Ayyubid Sultan of Egypt, As-Salih Najm al-Din Ayyub ibn Muhammad, marked the end of Christian rule over this ancient city. Although Conrad II of Hohenstaufen was King of Jerusalem at the time, actual power in the kingdom passed into the hands of the Cyprian kings of the Lusignan dynasty. The kingdom of Jerusalem itself ceased to exist in 1291 when the Mamelukes seized its capital, Acre, during a siege.

The Fifth and Sixth Crusades and Frederick II

The Lombard War and the Baron Crusade


The Latin population of the kingdom was always small; although a steady stream of settlers and new crusaders was constantly arriving, most of the crusaders who fought in the First Crusade simply went home. According to Guillaume of Tyre’s records, “scarcely three hundred knights and two thousand infantrymen could be found” in the kingdom in 1100 during the siege of Arsuf. From the beginning the kingdom was little more than a colonial frontier, exercising authority over the local Greek and Syriac Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish, and Samaritan populations that were more numerous. But the kingdom of Jerusalem became known as Outremer, which is French for “overseas.” The new generation, born and raised in the Levant, regarded the Holy Land as their homeland and had a negative attitude toward the newly arriving crusaders. They were also often more like Syrians than Franks. Many knew Greek, Arabic and other Oriental languages and married local Christian women, whether Greek, Syrian or Armenian, and sometimes from Muslim converts. Although they never abandoned their basic identity as Western Europeans or Franks, their clothing, diet, and commercialism included many Eastern, especially Romanian, influences.

As the chronicler Fulgerius of Chartres wrote about 1124:

We, the inhabitants of the West, have become inhabitants of the East; he who was a Roman or a Frank has become here a Galilean or an inhabitant of Palestine; he who lived in Rheims or Chartres sees himself as a citizen of Tyre or Antioch.

Arnulf de Rool, a participant in the First Crusade and chaplain to Baldwin I, continued his chronicle until 1127. His chronicle was very popular and was used as a source by other historians in the West, such as Orderick Vitale and William of Malmesbury. Almost immediately after the capture of Jerusalem throughout the twelfth century, many pilgrims left their essays on the kingdom; among them the Angosaxon Zebulf, the Ruthenian Daniel the Pilgrim, the Frank Rorgo Fretellus, the Roman John Foca, and the German John of Würzburg. Apart from their writings, after that there is no record of events in the Kingdom of Jerusalem until Guillaume of Tyre, Archbishop of Tyre and Chancellor of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, who began writing around 1167 and died around 1184, although his work includes much information about the First Crusade and the intervening years from Arnulf’s death to his own time, information drawn mainly from the writings of Albert of Aachen and Arnulf himself. From the Muslim perspective, the main source of information is Usama ibn Munkiz, a soldier and frequent ambassador from Damascus to Jerusalem and Egypt, whose memoirs, Kitab al-itibar, include lively accounts of crusader society in the east. Further information is available from such travelers as Benjamin of Tudela and Ibn Jubayr.

Crusader Society and Demographics

The kingdom was at first virtually devoid of a loyal population and had few knights to enforce the laws of the realm. With the arrival of Italian traders, the creation of military orders, and the immigration of European knights, artisans, and peasants, the kingdom’s affairs improved and a feudal society developed, similar but different from the society the Crusaders knew in Europe. The nature of this society has long been a subject of debate among historians of the Crusades.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, French scholars such as E. G. Rey, Gaston Daudoux, and René Grousset believed that crusaders, Muslims, and Christians lived in a fully integrated society. Ronnie Ellenblum argues that this view was influenced by French imperialism and colonialism; if medieval French crusaders could integrate into local society, then surely modern French colonies in the Levant could flourish. In the mid-twentieth century, scholars such as Joshua Prauer, R. C. Smail, Meron Benvenisti, and Claude Caen argued that the Crusaders lived completely isolated from the locals, who were completely Arabized and Islamized and posed a constant threat to foreign crusaders. Prauer further argued that the kingdom was an early attempt to colonize territory where the crusaders were a small ruling class whose survival depended on the local population, but made no attempt to integrate with the locals. Since ancient times in this region the entire economy was concentrated in the cities, unlike in medieval Europe. On this basis, the feudal lords, owning land, preferred to live in safer and more comfortable cities rather than in the countryside.

According to Ellenblum’s theory, the inhabitants of the kingdom (Latin Catholics living alongside indigenous Greek and Syro-Jacobean Christians, Shia and Sunni Arabs, Sufis, Bedouins, Druze, Jews, and Samaritans) had significant differences both among themselves and with the Crusaders. The relationship between local Christians and Crusaders was “complex and ambiguous,” not merely friendly or hostile. The local Christians, at least, probably felt a closer relationship with their fellow Crusader Christians than did the Muslim Arabs.

Although the Crusaders encountered ancient urban society, Ellenblum argues that they never completely abandoned their European rural way of life, but neither was European society originally completely rural. Crusader settlements in the Levant resembled the various types of colonies and settlements already practiced in Europe, a mixture of urban and rural civilization centered around castles. The crusaders were neither fully integrated with the local population nor separated in urban from rural areas; rather, they settled in both urban and rural areas; in particular, in areas traditionally inhabited by local Christians. Areas that were traditionally Muslim had very few Crusader settlements because they had few Christian inhabitants.

The arrangement was largely based on the feudal orders of Western Europe at the time, but with many important differences. The kingdom was located in a small area, and there was little land suitable for agriculture. As in Europe, the feudal lords had their own vassals, but were vassals of the king. However, the kingdom practiced the so-called close oath, if in most European countries the vassals of the sovereign’s vassals were not vassals of the sovereign personally, which increased the possibility of treason and loyalty to the crown by ordinary knights and vassals of the sovereign, in this case ordinary knights also gave an oath to the sovereign himself, not just his liege lord, which should reduce the possibility of disobedience by ordinary knights as well as by the vassal sovereign himself. Agriculture was based on the Muslim version of the feudal system, the ikta (set of allotments), an order that was not greatly altered.

According to Hans Meyer, “the Muslims of the Latin kingdom almost never appear in the Latin chronicles,” so information about their role in society is difficult to find. Crusaders “had a natural tendency to ignore these matters as simply not of interest and certainly not worth mentioning. Although Muslims, like Jews and local Christians, had virtually no rights in the countryside, where they were essentially the property of the feudal lord who owned the land, tolerance for other faiths was generally no higher or lower than elsewhere in the Middle East. The Greeks, Syrians, and Jews continued to live as before, subject to their own laws and courts, and their former Muslim overlords were simply replaced by Crusaders; Muslims now found themselves on the same social status as other religious groups at the lowest social level of society. The “Rais,” the chief of the community, was a kind of vassal of the feudal lord who owned the land, and since the feudal lords lived in towns, the communities had a high degree of autonomy.

The Andalusian Arab geographer and traveler Ibn Jubayr, who was hostile to the Franks, described Muslims living in the Kingdom of Jerusalem at the end of the twelfth century:

In the cities Muslims and local Christians could live in peace, although Muslims were forbidden to settle in Jerusalem. They were all second-class citizens, played no part in politics, and had no military service to the crown, unlike in Europe, although in some cities they may have been the majority of the population. Similarly, Italians did not have any duties, despite living in port cities. As a result, the army of the kingdom was small and consisted of the Franks, the inhabitants of the cities.

An unknown number of Muslim slaves lived in the kingdom. There was a very large slave market in Acre, which functioned throughout the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Italian merchants were sometimes accused of selling Orthodox Christians along with Muslim slaves. Slavery was less common than ransom, especially for prisoners of war; the large numbers of prisoners captured each year in raids and battles provided a free flow of ransom money between the Christian and Muslim states. Escape for prisoners and slaves was probably not difficult, since in some places the inhabitants of the countryside were predominantly Muslim and runaway slaves were always a problem. The only legal means of liberation was conversion to Catholicism. No Christian, whether Western or Eastern, could legally be sold into slavery.

The nomadic Bedouin tribes were considered the property of the king and were under his patronage. They could be sold or alienated just like any other property, and later, in the twelfth century, they were often under the protection of a smaller nobility or one of the military orders.

In the twenty-first century scholars are still divided on the question of cultural integration or cultural apartheid. Interaction between the Franks and local Muslims and Christians, though confusing, demonstrated practical coexistence. Although probably an exaggeration, Osama Ibn Munkid’s accounts of Shayzar’s travels through Antioch and Jerusalem describe a level of aristocratic exchange that rose above ethnic prejudice. Contacts between Muslims and Christians took place on an administrative or personal level (based on taxes or remittances) rather than on a communal or cultural level, representing a hierarchical relationship of lord over subordinate. Evidence of intercultural integration remains scarce, but evidence of intercultural cooperation and complex social interaction appears more prevalent. Key uses of the word dragoman, translated literally as interpreter, engaged with Syrian and Arab community leaders, which represented a direct need to reconcile interests on both sides. The comments about families with Arabic-speaking Christians and a few Arabized Jews and Muslims represent a less dichotomous relationship than was portrayed by mid-twentieth-century historians. Rather, the commonality of Franks with non-Franco priests, doctors, and other roles in households and intercultural communities represents the absence of standardized discrimination. Guillaume of Tyre complained of a tendency to employ Jewish or Muslim physicians over their Latin and Frankish counterparts. Evidence even points to changes in Frankish cultural and social customs regarding hygiene (notorious among Arabs for their lack of washing and knowledge of bathing culture), going so far as to provide a water supply for domestic use in addition to irrigation.


It is impossible to give an exact estimate of the kingdom’s population. Josiah Russell has estimated that at the time of the Crusades the whole of Syria numbered about 2.3 million people, perhaps with eleven thousand villages; most of these, of course, were outside the Crusader power even to the greatest extent of all four Crusader states. Scholars such as Joshua Prauer and Meron Benvenisti estimate that there were no more than 120,000 Franks and 100,000 Muslims living in the towns, and another 250,000 Muslim and Christian peasants in the countryside. Crusaders accounted for 15-25% of the total population. Kedar estimates that there were between 300,000 and 360,000 Nephrans in the kingdom, 250,000 of whom were rural inhabitants “it may be assumed that Muslims were the majority in some, perhaps most parts of the kingdom of Jerusalem…” as Ronnie Ellenblum points out, there is simply not enough existing evidence to accurately count the population, and any estimate is inherently unreliable, to determine the amount of tax money that could be collected from residents, Muslim or Christian. If the population was indeed counted, William did not record their numbers. In the thirteenth century John Ibelin compiled a list of fiefs and the number of knights owed to each of them, but this gives no indication of the ignorant, non-Latin population.

The Mamelukes, led by Baybars, finally fulfilled their promise to cleanse the entire Middle East of the Franks. With the fall of Antioch (1268), Tripoli (1289) and Acre (1291), those Christians who could not leave the Holy Land were either killed or enslaved and the last vestiges of Christian rule in the Levant vanished.

The Economy

The predominance of cities in the area and the presence of Italian merchants led to an economy that was more commercial than agricultural. Palestine had always been a crossroads of trade; now trade had spread to Europe. European goods – textiles from Northern Europe, for example – appeared in the Middle East and Asia, while Asian goods were sent to Europe. Italian city-states made huge profits, which influenced their prosperity in the following centuries. The kingdom of Jerusalem was particularly involved in the trade in silk, cotton, and spices; other items that first appeared in Europe through trade with the kingdom of Jerusalem included oranges and sugar, the latter of which the chronicler William of Tyre called “very necessary for the benefit and health of mankind.” The countryside grew wheat, barley, pulses, olives, grapes, and dates. The Italian city-states derived enormous profits from this trade, through trade treaties such as Pactum Warmundi, and this influenced their renaissance in subsequent centuries.

Jerusalem collected money by paying tribute, first from coastal cities that had not yet been conquered, and then from other neighboring states such as Damascus and Egypt, which the crusaders had failed to conquer. After Baldwin I extended his rule to Transjordan, Jerusalem received revenue from taxation from Muslim caravans passing from Syria to Egypt or Arabia. The monetary economy of the kingdom of Jerusalem meant that their problem of cadre troops could be partially solved by paying mercenaries, which was a rare phenomenon in Medieval Europe. The mercenaries could have been European crusaders or perhaps more often Muslim soldiers, including the famous Turkopolos.


Jerusalem was the center of education in the kingdom. At the temple of the Holy Sepulchre there was a school where the basics of reading and writing in Latin were taught; the relative wealth of the merchant class meant that their children could be educated there along with the children of the nobility and it is likely that Guillaume of Tyre was a classmate of the future King Baldwin III. Higher education had to take place in one of Europe’s universities; the establishment of a university was impossible in the culture of Crusader Jerusalem, where war was far more important than philosophy or theology. Nevertheless, the nobility and the Frankish population in general were highly literate: lawyers and clerks were plentiful, and the study of law, history and other academic subjects was a favorite pastime of the royal family and nobility. Jerusalem had an extensive library not only of ancient and medieval Latin works, but also of Arabic literature, most of it presumably taken from Usama ibn Munkiz and his entourage after the shipwreck of 1154. The temple of the Holy Sepulchre contained the scriptorium of the kingdom, and there was an office in the city where royal charters and other documents were produced. In addition to Latin, the standard written language of medieval Europe, the population of Crusader Jerusalem communicated in local languages: French, Italian, Greek, Armenian, and even Arabic, which were spoken by the Frankish settlers.

Art and Architecture

In Jerusalem itself, the greatest architectural achievement was the rebuilding of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Western Gothic style. This rebuilding combined all the separate shrines on the site into one building and it was completed by 1149. Outside Jerusalem castles and fortresses were the main object of construction: El Karak and Montreal in Transjordan and Ibelin near Jaffa are among the many examples of Crusader castle architecture.

Crusader art was a mixture of Western, Romanesque, and Islamic styles. Large city houses had baths, indoor plumbing, and other modern hygiene facilities that were lacking in most other cities and towns around the world. The most striking example of Crusader art is perhaps the Psalter of Melisande, an illuminated manuscript commissioned between 1135 and 1143 and now housed in the British Library. Paintings and mosaics were popular art forms in the kingdom, but many were destroyed by the Mamelukes in the 13th century; only the most rugged fortresses survived the wars with the Muslims.

Government and the legal system

Immediately after the First Crusade, the lands were distributed among Godfrid’s loyal vassals, forming numerous feudal possessions within the kingdom. This was continued by Godfrid’s successors Baldwin. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the number and importance of the fiefs changed, with many towns becoming part of the royal dominions. The king was assisted by several state officials. The king and the royal court were usually located in Jerusalem, but because of the ban on Muslim settlement, the population of the capital was small. The king also often kept a court in Acre, Nablus, Tyre, or wherever. In Jerusalem the royal family lived first on the Temple Mount, before the establishment of the Templar Order, and then in the palace complex surrounding the Tower of David; there was another palace complex in Acre.

Because the nobles lived more in Jerusalem than on estates in the countryside, they had much more influence over the king than in Europe. The nobles, together with the bishops, formed the High Council of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which was responsible for electing a new king (or regent if necessary), collecting taxes, minting coins, giving money to the king, and raising an army. The high council was the only judicial body for the nobility of the kingdom, dealing with criminal matters such as murder, rape, treason, and simpler feudal disputes such as the return of slaves, the sale and purchase of feudal estates, and dereliction of duty. Punishments included confiscation of land and exile, and in extreme cases the death penalty. The first laws of the kingdom were, according to tradition, established during the short reign of Godfrid of Bouillon, but it is more likely that they were established by Baldwin II at the council of Nablus in 1120. Benjamin Kedar has argued that the canons of the Council of Nablus were in force in the twelfth century, but went out of use in the thirteenth century. Marwan Nader questions this and suggests that the canons may not have applied to the entire kingdom at all times. The most extensive collection of laws, known as the Assizes of the kingdom of Jerusalem, was created in the middle of the thirteenth century, although many of its provisions presumably date from the twelfth century.

There were other, smaller courts for non-nobles and non-Latins; the Cour des Bourgeois provided justice for non-Nobles-Latins, dealing with minor criminal offenses such as assault and theft, and established rules for disputes between non-Latins, who had fewer legal rights. In coastal cities there were special courts, such as the Cour de la Fond (for commercial disputes in markets) and the Cour de la Mer (Maritime Court). The extent to which local Islamic and Christian courts continued to function is not known, but the Raees probably exercised some legal power locally. The Cour des Syriens tried non-criminal cases among local Christians (Syrians). For criminal cases between non-Latinos there was the Cour des Bourgeois (or Haute Cour, if the crime was serious enough).

The Italian communes were granted almost complete autonomy from the earliest days of the kingdom, thanks to their military and maritime support in the years following the First Crusade. This autonomy included the right to administer their own justice, although the types of cases that fell under their jurisdiction varied at different times.

The king was recognized as the head of the High Court, although by law he was only primus inter pares or first among equals.

The lack of troops was largely compensated by the creation of ecclesiastical orders of chivalry. The Templar and Hospitaller orders were created in the early years of the kingdom and often replaced the barons in the provinces. Their leaders were based in Jerusalem, lived in huge castles and often bought lands that the barons could not defend. The orders were directly under papal rule, not royal; they were largely independent and were not obliged to perform military service, but in fact participated in all the major battles.

The writings of William of Tyre and the Muslim writer Usama ibn Munkiz are important sources of information on the life of the kingdom.

Other sources


  1. Иерусалимское королевство
  2. Kingdom of Jerusalem
  3. ^ including 120,000–140,000 Franks
  4. включая 120 000–140 000 латинян
  5. ^ Prawer, p. 89.
  6. ^ Bordonove, p. 60-65
  7. ^ Prawer, p. 131.
  8. ^ Bini-Luschi, p. 38
  9. ^ Bordonove, p. 120
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