Second Crusade

Alex Rover | June 2, 2023


The Second Crusade (1147-1150) was the most massive crusade expedition, following the 1096 Crusade, led by Europe against Islam. It was the direct consequence of the fall of the county of Edessa in December 1144 by the atabeg Zengī (Arabic ʿImād al-Dīn Zengī) of Aleppo and Mawṣil-which, with the Anatolian-Mesopotamian city of Ḥarrān, were the most significant centers of the region the Arabs called Jāzira (literally “the island”) – only nominally dependent on the Seljuks and, even more symbolically, on the Abbasid Caliph. The county of Edessa was created in 1098 during the First Crusade (1096-1099) by the future King Baldwin of Boulogne as the first Crusader state, which would later also be the first to fall.

The Second Crusade was announced by Pope Eugene III and was the first to be led by European rulers, namely Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Swabia, assisted by several other nobles. The armies of the two kings marched separately across Europe and, after crossing into Byzantine territory in Anatolia, were both defeated by the Seljuk Turks. The main Western Christian historiographical source, represented by the chronicles of Odo of Deuil, and the Syriac Christian sources, recount that the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenus allegedly worked secretly to hinder the Crusaders’ advance, particularly during their passage through Anatolia, where (according to these sources) they deliberately suggested to the Turks that they attack them. Louis VII and Conrad III, with the remnants of their armies en route, reached Jerusalem and, in 1148, launched into a reckless attack and unsuccessful siege of Damascus. The crusade thus ended with the complete failure of the Christians and the strengthening of the Muslims, a denouement that contributed to the siege of Jerusalem, which took place some forty years later (1187), and the subsequent proclamation of the Third Crusade at the end of the 12th century.

The only Christian success that came in the context of the Second Crusade, but not organically linked to it, came from an army of 13,000 Flemish, Frisian, Norman, English, Scottish and German brethren who, in 1147, traveling from England by ship to the Holy Land, stopped to help the small (about seven thousand soldiers) Portuguese army in the conquest of Lisbon, succeeding in expelling its Muslim inhabitants who had occupied the areas then defined as Portuguese for more than 400 years (711).

After the First Crusade and the Crusade of 1101, there were three Crusader states in the East: the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Principality of Antioch and the County of Edessa. A fourth, the county of Tripoli, was founded in 1109. Edessa was the northernmost of these and also the weakest and least populated. As such, it was subject to frequent attacks from the surrounding Muslim states, ruled by the Urtuqids, Danishmendids and Seljuk Turks. Count Baldwin II and the future Count Joscelin I were captured after their defeat at the Battle of Harran in 1104. Baldwin and Joscelin were both taken a second time in 1122, and although Edessa regained some strength after the Battle of Azaz in 1125, Joscelin was killed in combat in 1131. His successor Joscelin II was forced into an alliance with the Byzantine Empire, but in 1143 both the Emperor of Constantinople John II Comnenus and the King of Jerusalem Fulfulf V of Anjou died. Joscelin also quarreled with the Count of Tripoli and the Prince of Antioch, leaving Edessa without allies.

Meanwhile, ʿImād al-Dīn Zangī, Atabeg of Mawṣil, had added Aleppo to his possessions in 1128, a city disputed between the rulers of Mawṣil and Damascus for its strategic position regarding Syria. Both Zangī and King Baldwin II turned their sights toward Damascus; Baldwin was defeated outside the great city in 1129. Damascus, ruled by the Burid dynasty, allied with King Fulk V when Zangī besieged the city in 1139 and 1140; the alliance was negotiated by the politician, diplomat and chronicler Usama ibn Munqidh.

In late 1144 Joscelin II allied with the Urtuqids and left Edessa, taking almost his entire army with him for the purpose of supporting the Urtuqid army against Aleppo. Zangī, seeking to take advantage of the death of Folk V in 1143, hurried north to besiege Edessa, which capitulated after a month, on December 24, 1144. Manasseh of Hierges, Philippe de Milly and others were sent from Jerusalem to provide assistance to the city but arrived there late. Joscelin II continued to rule the remnants of the county from Turbessel, but little by little the rest of the territory was also conquered by the Muslims or sold to the Byzantines. Zangī was praised throughout Islam as “defender of the faith” and al-Malik al-Mansur i.e., “the victorious king.” He did not continue, as the Christians feared, in the attack on the remaining territory of Edessa, or toward the Principality of Antioch. Events in Mosul forced him to return home, and once again he set his attentions toward Damascus. However, he was assassinated by one of his slaves in 1146 and was succeeded in Aleppo by his son Norandinus.

Quantum praedecessores

News of the fall of Edessa reached Europe in early 1145 told by pilgrims and, later, by the “embassies” of Antioch, Jerusalem and Armenia. Bishop Hugh of Gabala informed Pope Eugenius III who, on December 1 of that year, promulgated the bull Quantum praedecessores, calling for a second crusade. Hugh also spoke to the pope about an Eastern Christian king on whom he relied to lift the fortunes of the Crusader states: this was the first documented mention of the Priest John. Eugene did not control Rome but resided in Viterbo, yet this new crusade had more centralized organization and control than the first: the armies would be led by the most powerful kings of Europe and the route to be followed would be planned in advance.

The initial response to the new bull was rather cold, and it took the news that Louis VII of France would be participating in the expedition to arouse more interest. Louis VII had also considered a new expedition independent of the Pope, which he announced to his court during Christmas 1145 in Bourges. It is debated whether Louis was planning his own crusade or actually a pilgrimage, as he wanted to fulfill the vow made by his brother Philip, who died prematurely, to travel to the Holy Land. It is likely that Louis made this decision regardless of having been aware of the Quantum praedecessores bull. In any case, Sugerius of Saint-Denis and other nobles were not in favor of Louis’ plans, as the Crusade would have removed him from the kingdom for several years. Louis consulted with Bernard of Clairvaux, who accompanied him to the Pope, who enthusiastically supported the king’s idea of the Crusade. A new, amended papal bull was promulgated by Eugene on March 1, 1146, and, echoing the appeal of his predecessor Urban II, it declared therein that – following the thinking of Bernard of Clairvaux – the loss of Edessa was to be blamed solely on the sins of Christians and therefore urged everyone to fight against the enemies of Christ, wherever they might be. He also reiterated that the crusaders’ privileges were plenary indulgence, suspension from any pending trials, a moratorium on interest on debts, and protection of the crusader’s person and property by the Church. In addition, the pope authorized Bernard to preach the call to crusade throughout France.

Pope Eugene III commissioned French abbot and theologian Bernard of Clairvaux (Bernard de Clairvaux) to preach the Second Crusade and granted the same indulgences that Pope Urban II had granted to participants of the First Crusade. A meeting was convened at Vézelay in Burgundy in 1146, and Bernard preached before the assembly on March 31. Louis VII of France, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the princes and lords present prostrated themselves at the feet of Bernard to receive the pilgrims’ cross. Bernard then traveled to Germany, and the tales of miracles that multiplied almost at his every step undoubtedly contributed to the success of his mission. In Speyer, Conrad III of Swabia and his nephew, the future Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, received the cross from Bernard’s hand. Pope Eugene personally went to France to encourage the enterprise.

Bernard of Clairvaux theorized, in response to the difficulty for a Christian to reconcile non-defensive warfare with the word of God, the theory of malicide: he who kills an intrinsically evil man, such as one who opposes Christ, does not actually kill a man, but the Evil within him; therefore he is not a murderer but a malicide. This bizarre justification, in response to an express question from the Knights Templar, did not, however, take on the character of a generalized justification for what was, in effect, a campaign to reconquer Edessa.

Bernard was by nature neither a bigot nor a persecutor. As in the First Crusade, preaching inadvertently involved attacks on Jews: a fanatical French monk named Rudolf (or Raoul) probably inspired the massacres of Jews in the Rhineland, Cologne, Mainz, Worms, and Speyer, claiming that Jews were not contributing financially to the rescue of the Holy Land. Bernard, the Archbishop of Cologne and the Archbishop of Mainz were so strongly opposed to these persecutions that Bernard himself traveled from Flanders to Germany to confront the violence and calm the crowds. Bernard then found Rudolf in Mainz and managed to have him confined to his monastery.

When the Second Crusade was called, many southern Germans volunteered to leave for the Holy Land, while the northern Saxons proved more reluctant. They, at the Diet of Frankfurt on March 13, 1147, spoke to Bernard of their intention to fight against the Elbe Slavs (Venedi or Vendi), pagan peoples settled between the rivers Elbe, Trave and Oder, mainly in and around the territory of present-day Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. This request was favorably granted, and Pope Eugene issued a papal bull known as divina dispensatione on April 13 in which it was stated that there would be no difference, in terms of spiritual rewards, between the different crusaders. Those who volunteered for the crusade against the Venedi were mainly Saxon, Danish and Polish princes, although there were some from Bohemia. The papal legate, Anselm of Havelberg, was placed in overall command while the campaign was led by the Saxon lineages of the Ascanids, Wettins and Schauenburgers.

After expelling the Obodrites (a subgroup of the Slavic Venedi lineage) from Christian territory, the crusaders set their sights on the fort of Dobin am See and that of Demmin. The forces attacking Dobin were those of the Danes Canute V and Sweyn III, the Archbishop of Bremen Adalbert II, and Duke Henry the Lion of Saxony. The latter’s army retreated after the pagan leader, Niklot, agreed to have the garrison of Dobin baptized.

Following the lack of success in besieging Demmin, a contingent of crusaders was sent to attack Pomerania. They made their arrival in the Christian city of Szczecin where they met Bishop Adalbert of Pomerania and Prince Ratibor I of Pomerania and then dispersed. According to the preaching of Bernard of Clairvaux, the goal of the crusade was to fight the pagan Slavs “until, with God’s help, they are converted or annihilated.”

However, the crusade failed to achieve its goal of converting most of the Venedi. Initially the Saxons achieved profound changes in Dobin, however when the Christian armies withdrew, the Slavs returned to their former pagan beliefs. Albert of Pomerania explained, “If one wanted to strengthen their Christian faith … it should be done by preaching, not by arms.”

By the end of the crusade the Mecklenburg and Pomeranian countryside was plundered and depopulated with considerable bloodshed, particularly due to the actions of troops commanded by Henry the Lion. The native Slavs also lost much of their productive infrastructure, implying their limited ability to resist for the future.

In the spring of 1147 the pope authorized the expansion of the Crusade into the Iberian Peninsula in the context of the so-called Reconquista. He also authorized Alfonso VII of León and Castile to assimilate his campaigns against the Moors with the rest of the Second Crusade. In May of that year, the first contingents of Crusaders departed from Dartmouth, England, for the Holy Land. On June 16, poor weather conditions forced the ships to land on the Portuguese coast, more specifically in the northern city of Porto, with the belief that there they would meet King Alfonso I of Portugal.

The crusaders entered into a solemn agreement with the king in which they pledged to help him attack Lisbon in exchange for the opportunity to plunder the city’s possessions and to make their own the money from ransoming prisoners. The siege of Lisbon lasted from July 1 to October 25, 1147, when after four months the Muslim rulers agreed to surrender, mainly because of the famine that was bringing the city to its knees. Most of the crusaders decided to settle in Lisbon but others continued on to the Holy Land. Many of those who stayed then contributed to the conquest of Santarém earlier that year and later to the taking of Sintra, Almada, Palmela and Setúbal, and were allowed to settle permanently in the conquered lands.

Almost simultaneously, elsewhere on the Iberian Peninsula, Alfonso VII of León, Raymond Berengar IV of Barcelona and other nobles led a mixed army of Catalans, Leonese, Castilians and French crusaders against the wealthy port city of Almería. Thanks in part to the support of a Genoese-Pisan fleet, the city was occupied in October 1147.

Raymond Berengar later invaded the Reinos de Taifas of the Almoravids of Valencia and Murcia. In December 1148 he conquered Tortosa after a five-month siege with the help of French, Anglo-Norman and Genoese crusaders. The following year, Fraga, Lleida and Mequinenza, cities located at the confluence of the Segre and Ebro rivers, fell to his army.

Muslim armies

During this period Islamic forces were composed of small professional troop corps that were enlarged by volunteers and experienced soldiers during the war. The largest of the Muslim states at the time, the Seljuk sultanate that ruled over much of the territory belonging to the modern states of Turkey, Iran, and Iraq, boasted about ten thousand full-time soldiers. The number of troops available to the Syrian states was much smaller. The core of professional troops were the ghilmān (pl. of ghulām), i.e., mamluks trained in warfare from childhood. The cost of educating and training a mamluk was about thirty dīnār (by comparison, a good horse in Syria could cost about one hundred dīnār).

To compensate for their meager numbers, Muslim states sought to prioritize quality. Professional soldiers belonging to Muslim states, usually Turks, tended to be very well trained and equipped. The Islamic military system was the Iqtaʿ’ system, a non-inheritable grant of a fiefdom, useful for providing a certain number of troops for each district. In the event of war, militias called aḥdath, based in the cities under the command of the raʾīs (chief) and usually ethnic Arabs, were called in to augment the number of troops. The aḥdath militia, although less well trained than the regular Turkish troops, were often shown to be strongly motivated by religious reasons, particularly on the concept of jihād. Additional support came from the Turkish Seljuks and Kurdish auxiliaries, who could have been mobilized in wartime; however, these forces were prone to indiscipline.

The chief Islamic commander was the buride Muʿīn al-Dīn Onor, the atabeg of Damascus between 1138 and 1149. Historian David Nicolle described Unur as a capable and diplomatic general, also known as a patron of the arts. As the Buridi dynasty was replaced in 1154 by the Zengid dynasty, Onur’s role in the counteroffensive to the Second Crusade was largely downplayed by historians and chroniclers loyal to the Zangids, who gave greater prominence to Onor’s rival, ‘Imād al-Dīn Zangī, atabeg of Aleppo.

Crusader armies

Unlike what happened in the First Crusade this time two important rulers responded, and no longer mere nobles of greater or lesser stature: the Germanic King Conrad III of Swabia (who was never actually crowned as Emperor) and the Capetian French ruler Louis VII of France, with their retinue of wives and courtiers

The German contingent included about two thousand cavalry while the French contingent included about seven hundred from the royal domains to which were added some nobles. The Kingdom of Jerusalem could field about five hundred and fifty horsemen and six thousand infantrymen.

Both the French and German contingents could have a large following, most of which did not survive the crusade. As the monk Odo of Deuil noted, “the weak and helpless are always a burden on their commanders and a source of prey for their enemies.”

French knights preferred to fight on horseback, while German knights were more inclined to foot combat. The Byzantine historian John Cinnamo wrote, “The French are particularly adept at riding in good order and attacking with the lance, and their cavalry surpasses the German cavalry in speed. The Germans, however, are able to fight on foot better than the French and excel in the use of the great sword.”

Conrad III was considered a brave knight, although often described as indecisive at the most critical moments. Louis VII was a devout Christian with a sensitive side, often attacked by contemporaries such as Bernard of Clairvaux because he showed more interest in his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine than in war or political affairs.

After Zangi was murdered by one of his slaves, Joscelin II tried to retake Edessa but found opposition from Norandine’s forces who defeated him in November 1146. On February 16, 1147, the French crusaders met in Étampes to discuss their itinerary. The Germans had already decided to travel overland through Hungary, as the route by sea was politically impractical because of the enmity between Roger II of Sicily and Conrad III. Many of the French nobles were also wary of the overland route that would take them through the Byzantine Empire where the bad reputation about the participants of the First Crusade persisted. Nevertheless, it was decided to follow Conrad and leave on June 15. Roger II took offense and refused to participate further in the expedition. In France, Abbot Sugerius of Saint-Denis and Count William II of Nevers were elected as regents while the king would be on crusade. In Germany, Adam of Ebrach devoted himself to another preaching and Otto of Freising took up the cross. The Germans thus decided to join the crusade for Easter, but then did not leave until May.

Journey of the Germans

The German crusader army, accompanied by the papal legate and Cardinal Theodosius, planned to meet with the French in Constantinople. Ottokar III of Styria joined Conrad in Vienna, and Conrad’s enemy, Géza II of Hungary, allowed him to cross his possessions without trouble. When the German crusaders, twenty thousand strong, arrived in Byzantine territory, Emperor Manuel I Comnenus feared they would be attacked and Byzantine troops were sent to make sure this did not happen. There was a brief skirmish with some of the more undisciplined German soldiers near Philippopolis and Adrianople, where the Byzantine general Proschè clashed with Conrad’s nephew, the future emperor Frederick I Barbarossa. To make matters more difficult, in early September some of the German soldiers were killed in a flood. On September 10, however, they finally made their arrival in Constantinople, where relations with Manuel proved cold, resulting in a battle, which convinced the Germans to cross Asia Minor as quickly as possible.

So Conrad decided not to wait for the French and marched to Konya, capital of the Seljudian Sultanate of Rum. Much of the Byzantine Empire’s authority in the western provinces of Asia Minor was more nominal than real, with most of the provinces being no-man’s land controlled by Turkish nomads. Conrad underestimated the length of the march to Anatolia and assumed that Emperor Manuel’s authority was greater than de facto. Therefore he took with him only the horsemen and the best troops to follow the beaten road, while he sent aides-de-camp, led by Otto of Freising, to follow the coastal road. The division led by the king was almost totally destroyed on October 25, 1147 in the second battle of Dorylaeum.

In this battle, the Turks used their typical tactic of pretending to retreat and then returning to attack the German cavalry that had separated from the main army to pursue them. Conrad thus began a slow retreat from Constantinople punctuated by daily harassment by the Turks, who attacked deserters and destroyed the rear guard. Conrad was also wounded in a clash with them. The other division, led by the king’s half-brother, Bishop Otto of Freising, had marched south to the Mediterranean coast where it too was defeated in early 1148. The men led by Otto found themselves with meager provisions as they prepared to cross an inhospitable countryside and were ambushed here by the Seljuk Turks near Laodicea on November 16, 1147. Most of Otto’s crusaders fell in battle or were captured and sold into slavery.

Journey of the French

The French crusaders set out from Metz in June 1147, led by Louis VII, Theodoric of Alsace, Rinaldo I, Count of Bar, Amadeus III of Savoy and his half-brother William V of Montferrat, William VII of Auvergne and others, along with armies from Lorraine, Brittany, Burgundy and Aquitaine. A contingent from Provence, led by Alfonso of Toulouse, chose to wait until August and cross the sea. At Worms Louis joined with crusaders from Normandy and England.

From the first negotiations between Louis and Manuel I, the latter interrupted his military campaign against the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum and signed a truce with his enemy, Sultan Mas’ud I. In this way Manuel would be free to concentrate on defending his empire from the crusaders, who had earned the unhappy reputation for treachery and theft during the previous crusade and thus were widely suspected of having sinister intentions toward Constantinople. However, Manuel’s relations with the French army turned out to be better than those with the Germans, and Louis spent a happy time in Constantinople. Some Frenchmen were outraged by Manuel’s truce with the Seljudians and called for an alliance with Roger II and an attack against Constantinople, but they were diverted from these intentions by Louis.

When the armies of Savoy, Auvergne, and Montferrat joined Louis near Constantinople, after traveling through Italy and passing from Brindisi to Durres, the entire army crossed the Bosporus into Asia Minor. The Greeks were encouraged by rumors that the Germans had conquered Konya, but Manuel refused to supply any Byzantine troops to Louis. The Byzantine empire had just been invaded by Roger II of Sicily, and Manuel’s entire army was stationed in the Peloponnese. Both the Germans and the French, therefore, entered Asia without any Byzantine help, unlike what had happened to the armies of the First Crusade. As his grandfather Alexius I Comnenus also did, Manuel asked the French to swear that they would hand over some of the conquered territories to the Empire.

The French met the remnants of Conrad’s army at Lopadion, and the latter joined Louis. The two armies followed the route of Otto of Freising approaching the Mediterranean coast and arrived at Ephesus in December, where they found that the Turks were about to attack them. In addition, Manuel sent ambassadors to complain about the looting that Louis’ troops carried out along the way, so there was no guarantee that the Byzantines would rush to their aid against the Turks. In the meantime, Conrad fell ill and returned to Constantinople, where Manuel personally received him, and Louis, without heeding the warnings about the impending Turkish attack, marched from Ephesus with the French and German survivors. The Turks waited for the best time to attack, but were then defeated at the Battle of Ephesus. The French, therefore, fought successfully at another Turkish ambush near the Meander River.

They reached Laodicea at Lico in early January 1148, around the same time that Otto of Freising’s army was being destroyed in the same area. Resuming their march, the vanguard led by Amadeus of Savoy became separated from the rest of the army near Mount Cadmus, and Louis’s troops suffered heavy losses due to attacks by the Turks. Louis himself, according to Odo of Deuil, climbed a rock and was ignored by the Turks, who did not recognize him. The Turks did not bother to attack further and the French marched on to Adalia, continually harassed from afar by the Turks, who had also burned the land to prevent the French from replenishing their food, both for themselves and their horses. Louis no longer wanted to continue ashore, and it was decided to gather a fleet at Adalia and sail for Antioch. After being delayed for a month by storms, most of the promised ships did not arrive at all. Louis and his colleagues supported the ships for themselves, while the rest of the army had to resume the long march to Antioch. The army was almost completely destroyed, either by the Turks or by disease.

Trip to Jerusalem

After being delayed, partly because of storms, Louis finally arrived in Antioch on March 19; Amadeus of Savoy had died in Cyprus during the journey. Here he was welcomed by Raymond of Poitiers, who expected that he would thus be able to receive help in defending himself against the Turks and that Louis would accompany him on an expedition against Aleppo, the Muslim city that formed the gateway to the Edessa route. However, he had to receive the refusal of the French king, who preferred instead to continue on his pilgrimage to Jerusalem rather than devote himself to the military aspect of the Crusade. Queen Eleanor appreciated the stay at Antioch, however her uncle urged her to expand the family possessions and divorce King Louis if he refused to fulfill the military cause of the Crusade. During this period rumors circulated about an affair between Ramon and Eleanor, a situation that caused tension between the latter and the king. So Louis quickly left Antioch and traveled to Tripoli.

Meanwhile, Otto of Freising and the rest of his troops made their arrival in Jerusalem in early April, followed soon after by Conrad. Fulcherius of Angoulême, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, was also sent to meet Louis to persuade him to leave Tripoli and join them. The fleet that stopped in Lisbon also arrived, as did the Provençals who set out from Europe under the leadership of Alfonso Giordano, count of Toulouse. However, Alfonso himself failed to reach Jerusalem as he died of poisoning in Caesarea. Although the main goal of the crusade had been the city of Edessa Baldwin III and the Knights Templar proved more likely to head for Damascus.

In response to the crusaders’ arrival, the regent of Damascus Mu’in al-Din Unur began a feverish preparatory activity for war, strengthening fortifications, rallying troops, and destroying or diverting water sources that were along the road to the city. Unur sought help from the Zengid rulers of Aleppo and Mosul (normally his rivals), however, troops from these states did not arrive in time to take part in the fighting outside Damascus. It is almost certain that the Zengid rulers had voluntarily delayed sending their troops in the hope that their rival Unur might lose his city to the Crusaders.

Council of Acre

The nobility of Jerusalem welcomed the arrival of the troops from Europe, and a council was announced where they were to decide which would be the best target for the crusaders. This took place on June 24, 1148, when the High Court of Jerusalem met with the crusaders who had recently arrived from Europe near Palmarea, near Acre, a large city that was part of the Kingdom of Jerusalem; it was the largest assembly of nobles in the history of Jerusalem. The Second Crusade was proclaimed to recapture Edessa, but in Jerusalem King Baldwin III and the Knights Templar were aiming at Damascus. Conrad III and Louis VII were also persuaded of the need to attack Damascus, although many of the Jerusalem nobles considered such a plan foolish, since the Burid dynasty of Damascus, though Muslim, was allied with the crusaders and strongly intent on facing the threat posed by the Zengid dynasty.

However, the strategic importance of Damascus to the Outremer was all in its location along its eastern frontier and its ability to prevent the welding of the anti-crusader circle by hostile Muslim forces. Thus, in July, the Crusader armies gathered in Tiberias and took the road to Damascus via Baniyas. It is estimated that the army consisted of about fifty thousand soldiers in total.

Siege of Damascus

The Crusaders decided to attack Damascus from the west, where the presence of orchards would ensure a steady supply of food. Therefore, they made their arrival at Darayya on July 23. The following day the Muslims forcefully counterattacked the Christian army advancing through the orchards. The besieged found help from Saif ad-Din Ghazi I of Mosul and Nur ad-Din of Aleppo, the latter personally leading one of many attacks on the Crusader camp.

According to William of Tyre on July 27, the crusaders decided to continue on to the plain located on the eastern side of the city, which was considered less fortified but also lacked the possibility of procuring food and water. Meanwhile, Nur ad-Din and Saif ad-Din arrived to defend the city, and it was no longer possible for the Crusaders to return to their best position. Given the difficult situation, trapped between the walls they could not break and the Muslim armies, the local crusader lords refused to continue with the siege, and the three kings had no choice before them but to abandon the city and the siege. The first to fall back was Conrad, who returned to Jerusalem on July 28. Even the retreat was not easy as all along the way they were followed by Turkish archers who attacked them frequently.

Each of the Christian forces felt betrayed by the other. A new plan was devised to attack Ascalon, and Conrad began to rally his troops; however, no help came to him because of the now loss of confidence in the enterprise that arose from the failed siege. This mutual distrust profoundly influenced the ruin of the Christian kingdoms in the Holy Land for an entire generation. After abandoning Ascalona Conrad returned to Constantinople to try to broaden his alliance with Manuel; Louis remained in Jerusalem until 1149. The defeat also affected the marriage between Louis and Eleanor, which fell apart during the crusade, so that the two rulers of France returned in April 1149 to their lands on different ships.

Bernard of Clairvaux felt humbled by the failure of the crusade and considered it his specific duty to send a letter of apology to the pope, a writing he later included in the second part of his Book of Reflection. In it he explained how the sins of the crusaders were the cause of their misfortune and failures. He later tried in vain to preach a new crusade disassociating himself from the previous failure.

In Germany the failed crusade was seen as a very disastrous event, and many monks asserted that only the work of the devil could have caused this. An anonymous monk, author of the chronicle Annales Herbipolenses, relates that for decades German noble families had to pay ransoms to free their knighted relatives who had been captured in Anatolia. Other soldiers and aides-de-camp who were taken prisoner were not so lucky, as they ended up being sold into slavery by the Turks. Despite widespread reluctance about keeping memory of the unhappy expedition it nevertheless had a considerable impact on German literature of the time, so much so that many epic poems of the late 12th century recount battle scenes clearly inspired by the fighting that took place during the Second Crusade.

In France, the cultural impact of the Second Crusade was even greater; many troubadours became fascinated by the alleged love affair between Eleanor and Raymond, which helped inspire themes concerning courtly love. Unlike Conrad, the image of Louis benefited from the crusade in that many of his subjects saw him as a suffering pilgrim king who silently accepted the punishments inflicted by God.

Relations between the Eastern Roman Empire and France were severely compromised by the outcome of the crusade. Louis and other French leaders openly accused Emperor Manuel I of aiding the Turkish attacks suffered during the march through Asia Minor. Within the empire, however, the crusade was remembered as a masterpiece of diplomacy. In the eulogy for Emperor Manuel delivered by Archbishop Eustatius of Thessalonica it was stated:

The revenge crusade achieved mixed results. While the Saxons were able to assert their possession of Wagria and Polabia the pagans retained control of the Odobrite lands east of Lübeck. In addition, the Saxons received tribute from Chief Niklot, which enabled them to colonize the Diocese of Havelberg and free some Danish prisoners. However, the Christian commanders harbored considerable suspicions among themselves and accused each other of sabotaging the campaign.

On the Iberian Peninsula, the campaigns in Spain, along with the siege of Lisbon, were some of the few victories achieved by Christians during the Second Crusade. These, however, can be seen as battles embedded in a larger context known as the Reconquista, a series of military actions that ended in 1492 with the expulsion of the Muslims from the peninsula.

In the East, for Christians, the situation became much more critical. In the Holy Land the Second Crusade had disastrous long-term consequences involving Jerusalem itself. Although Baldwin III had extended Christian influence in Egypt, relations with the Byzantine Empire were now compromised and very little reinforcements could be counted on from Europe. In 1171 Saladin, grandson of one of Nur ad-Din’s generals was proclaimed sultan of Egypt, uniting Egypt and Syria under his single command and, as a result, completely encircling the Crusader kingdom. Meanwhile, in 1180, with the death of Emperor Manuel I the alliance with the Byzantines came to an end. In 1187 Jerusalem capitulated to Saladin. Thereafter, Muslim forces swept northward, conquering all but the capitals of the Crusader states, laying the groundwork for the proclamation of the Third Crusade.


  1. Seconda crociata
  2. Second Crusade
  3. ^ J. Norwich, Byzantium: The Decline and Fall, 94
  4. Jonathan Riley-Smith (2005). The Crusades: A Short History 2ª ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. pp. 50–53. ISBN 0-300-10128-7
  5. a b c d e f g h Christopher Tyerman (2006). God’s War: A New History of the Crusades. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. pp. 185–189, 273–288, 332. ISBN 0-674-02387-0
  6. Matthew, Margaret, & Stephen Bunson (1998). Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of Saints. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor. 130 páginas. ISBN 0-87973-588-0  !CS1 manut: Nomes múltiplos: lista de autores (link)
  7. a b J. Norwhich, Byzantium: The Decline and Fall, pp. 94-95
  8. Durant (1950) p.594.
  9. Bunson (1998) p.130.
  10. Riley-Smith (1991) p.48
  11. Norwich, 1995, pp. 94–95.
  12. Успенский, 1900—1901.
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