Crusades in the Middle East: the Impact of the Holy Land Crusades on Europe

  By çok geç, 1 November 2006; Revised
  Category: Medieval Europe

The Crusades that were launched on the holy land, from the Urban II speech at the council of Clermont in 1095 to the siege and conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusaders in 1099, initiated a new phase of relationship between the West and the Near East.  There is no doubt that the brutality of the Crusades, with no less than nine major attacks initiated on the Middle East, left the Muslim world in such a shock that, even today, any western intrusion to the region is insufficient to be considered a "Crusade". However, the tangible impact of the Crusaders on the Middle East is unseen and one can hardly  notice any permanent changes to the local inhabitants of the region. Much of that impact on the Middle East is just memory preservations of massacres conducted on the Holy land, and epic of endless battles with figures such as Saladin and Richard the Lionhearted. The absences of permanent influence of the Crusaders on the Holy land can be attributed to its comparatively short reign over the East of the Mediterranean, and  the return of most European inhabitants of the Holy land to Europe. Also, in reality, the Crusaders have never been more than a dominant minority of predominantly Catholics of West European origin. The mass of the population surrounding the Crusaders' states – in some cases inside the state itself- consisted of villagers, who were indigenous of Muslims, Eastern Christians, and some Jews[1]. After the departure of the Crusaders, these lands were incorporated back to the surrounding Muslim domain without any difficulty.  On the other side, the impact of Crusades on Europe is, unarguably, of tremendous mark and influence. The reader must not fail to take into consideration that Crusades were launched inside Europe as well outside Europe. The purpose of this summary is to shed more light on the impact of Crusades of the Holy land on Europe itself. What has changed in Europe since 1099 and after the fall of the last Crusade stronghold, Acre, in 1291 on the hand of the Mamluks?

 I Economic Impact on Europe:

Merchant goods and Trade:  

The economic impact on Europe, which resulted from the Holy land Crusade, has forever influenced the Europeans' economy and attitude towards mechanism.  Once the Crusaders settled in the Holy land they conquered after the first crusade, their strategic position lies close to trade routes of the East. As a result, they were closer than ever to Eastern markets such as Damascus, Baghdad, and Alexandria with all of their spices, paper, metal work, and various traded currencies. Starting from the twelfth century, oriental textiles started to arrive to Europe in large quantities and pieces,  which would be made into luxurious vestments for the mass[2].  Fine glass objects found their place in European cathedrals, churches, or abbeys where they were considered to be gifts from the Crusades. Some Syrian glass objects have been unearthed in the Crusader Castle of Montfort,[3] which was destroyed in 1272[4]. Furthermore, treaties with Byzantine Empire allowed merchant cities of Italy, Genoa, Venice, and Pisa to benefit from the trading rights they were given in the Eastern of the Mediterranean.[5] All of these new goods found in large commercial quantities in the Near East, opened Europeans' desire to reach their sources. Indeed, it can be argued that the age of discovery by European ships, roaming the world looking for India or Mocha, have been inspired by the descriptions of Crusaders to the Holy Land.

Taxation and Trade Currency:

For the large expeditions of Crusaders to the Holy land, financing is always an issue. Because of that demand, European kingdoms and states were forced to develop and improve their system of administration, including the taxing system. Borrowing money for such expeditions became another source.[6]

Currency exchange for trading purposes had been part of the trade along the Mediterranean. However, regulations between various states regarding the currency exchange market had not been conducted in deals until the Crusaders started to enter the Byzantine Empire. Thousands of Europeans brought their currencies with them and the differences of exchanging those hard-metal currencies with the Byzantine one became a subject of complaint due to unfair ratios of exchange. For instance, in 1098, one Byzantine hyperpyron[7] equaled 180 deniers[8]. By the time of the second crusade, western resources have mentioned the dilemma of currency exchange as the accounts of Odo of Deuil[9]. The second and third Crusades were different from the first one in the matter of money exchange. All kings who wished to cross through the Byzantine Empire asked for a fair exchange. Members of the French Army brought both silver deniers and marks of silver[10] and as the money was not accepted in local Byzantine markets, King Louis VII insisted on the concambium competens as the first regulation of currency exchange. By 1136, the equivalence to the hyperpyron was  officially legislated [11]. Such agreements facilitated further commerce between Italian and Byzantine cities and between Italian cities and the rest of Western Europe.  It is also clear that these early treaties of currency exchange were the underpinning of later treaties of trade between Europeans around the continent. By now, European states and kingdoms were ensuring currency exchange treaties to their subjects and citizens with other European states and trading markets.

 II Impact on Architecture:

Most of Near Eastern influence on Europeans came via Moorish Spain and the trade that Italian merchant cities conducted with the Muslim cities of the Eastern Mediterranean shores. However, the Crusaders of the Holy land used their Muslim subjects in rebuilding the captured cities, which allowed for architectural forms and techniques to diffuse from the dominant Muslim sphere into the Crusade states. The use of bronze and ivory for relics, the very Syrian-style Islamic mausoleum built for the Norman prince, Bohemond, the random imitation of the Arabic script found all over medieval art, and ,especially, textile are all examples of the influence that was left on Crusaders and Europe. The Holy land may well have affected the architecture of late Romanesque cloisters[12].

On the other hand, Crusader impact on Byzantine architecture, especially from Frankish architecture, has only recently been highlighted and it is still relatively ignored by students of the Crusaders’ era. By the thirteenth century, technological innovations in France have transformed Western Europe from Romanesque to Gothic[13] to create a formal system that came to dominate the Latin Christendom[14].  By the fourth crusade, the contact between Latin Europe and Byzantine had grown exponentially. Latin occupation of Constantinpole from 1204 to 1261 allowed for a permanent location for Latins in Greece and the islands. That period was marked by the adoption of western administrative models and the establishment of monasteries in the region. Examples are numerous: from Hagios Georgios in the cemetery at Androusa with Gothic style doorways to pointed arches with jamb molds built by typical mid-Byzantine masonry. Other examples is Hagia Moni in Nauplion (built in 1149), which contains a wealth of Gothic details such as the typical gaged columns, arches and porches in front of the entrance[15].  

III Impact on European Culture:

The Arab learning and books based on Greek scholarship came to the notice of Western Europeans through two gates, Moorish Spain and Southern Italy. The Palestinian Franks transferred back to Europe many of Muslim scientific learning. The Franks there, in fact, learned from the Muslims at an everyday level as the twelfth-century Syrian nobleman, Usama Ibn Munqidgh, depicted them adopting the local customs of bathing regularly and eating Muslim food 6]. Literature was not far from that impact as the Seven Sages of Rome fictional stories written in French, and written in the second half of the thirteenth century, was heavily influenced by oriental traditions. Some literacy scholars have gone to the extreme of also including the work of Boccaccio’s Decameron and Dante’s Commedia, under medieval European literature, influenced by Arab literature through the Crusaders.

Furthermore, European literature has also been inspired , in whole or in part, by the crusading wars between Christians and Muslims, such as the Chanson de Roland. Lastly, the Crusades in the Holy land were without doubt the basis of a whole French cycle of stories known as the Crusade cycle. These epics gave birth to later work, such as the sixteenth century romantic poem, la Gerusalemme liberate, that inspired many adoptions and imitations[17].

IV Impact on Attitude toward the Muslims and Byzantine:

It is classically assumed that the Crusades have resulted in nothing but a widened gap between Christianity and Islam,  and a new chapter in the relationship between Catholics and Orthodox Christians. Yet, the aftermath of the Crusades and their relationship with the Near East is, actually, much more complex.

The Crusades brought to Europe first hand experience of the Near East throught the thousands of Crusaders who went to and from that region. The knowledge and goods brought back to Europeans increased the interest of Europeans in the Eastern cultures. For the images that had been implanted in the minds of returning Crusaders, it influenced the minds of a great many, including Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen,[18] who enjoyed philosophy, logic, medicine, and mathematics discussion with Muslims. In fact, he established, at Lucera, a colony of Saracens in his service, with their own mosque and all aspects of eastern life[19].

In contrast, what seemed to be an attempt to rescue the Holy land and assist the Byzantine Empire against the continuous attacks of the Seljuks, has resulted in the occupation of Constantinople by the fourth Crusade. The incident marked the distrust of the Byzantines to the Crusades and Latin Europe. In 1339, when Emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos sent his Calabrian monk, Barlaam,  to Avignon and delivered two speeches to Pope Benedict XII about the necessity to unite against the Turks, the Pope demanded the unification of the two churches to precede any military aid. Barlaam answered, “it is not so much difference in dogma that alienates the hearts of the Greeks form you, as the hatred that has entered their souls against the Latins.”[20]



Helen Nicholson, “The Crusades”, Greenwood press, 2004.
Angeliki E. Laiou & Roy Parviz Mottahedeh, “The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World”, 2001 Dumbarton Oaks, trustees for Harvard University, Washington DC, 2001.
Joseph Schacht & C. E. Bosworth, “the Legacy of Islam”, 2nd edition,
Oxford at the Clarendon press, 1974.





[1]  Page 189- 90 of Schacht and Bosworth.

[2]  Page 299 of Schacht and Bosworth.

[3]  Built in 1226 in Western Galilee, Palestine for the knights of the Teutonic order.

[4]  Page 308-09 of Schacht and Bosworth.

[5]  Page 96 of Nicholson.

[6]  Page 60 of Nicholson.

[7]  A slightly smaller Byzantine coin to the Soldi, the gold coin.

[8]  A French coin created by Charlemagne and became widespread in Latin Europe.

[9]  A historian and participant of the second crusade and the author of De profectione Ludovici VII in Orientem.

[10]  Another used non-Teutonic currency in Western Europe.

[11]  Page 170 of Laiou and Mottahedeh.

[12]  Page 239 of Laiou and Mottahedeh.

[13]  Many historians have argued that the appearance of Gothic forms came formally into recognition by 1144 in France due to returning Frankish Crusaders. Their argument also points out the similarities of Gothic arches forms with the Near East architectural forms. Also, Gothic churches started to appear in Spain as an influence from French Gothic churches, and not the opposite.

[14]  Page 247 of Laiou and Mottahedeh.

[15]  Page 250 of Laiou and Mottahedeh.

[16]  Page 94 of Nicholson.

[17]  Page 95 of Nicholson.

[18]  The Holy Roman Emperor from the papal coronation in 1220.

[19]  Page 24 of Schacht and Bosworth.

[20]  Page 117 of Laiou and Mottahedeh.