The fall of Jerusalem in 1099 was a pivotal event for the Crusaders during the First Crusade. After a long and arduous journey, the Crusaders, led by Godfrey of Bouillon, reached the city of Jerusalem in June 1099. The city was under the control of the Fatimid Caliphate at the time.
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Siege of Jerusalem
Driven by extreme religious fanaticism, the Christian Crusaders had gathered from all around Europe in order to expel the Muslims from the Holy Lands. After cutting a swath of destruction through Central and Eastern Europe, massacring Jewish communities, pillaging Christian ones, and slaughtering the Muslims in Anatolia, the Crusaders finally reached outside the walls of Jerusalem on 7 June 1099.
The Crusaders launched a siege on Jerusalem on 7 June. Despite hardships and setbacks, they firmly continued the siege. The Crusaders were led by Godfrey of Bouillon. Jerusalem was now controlled by the Fatimids who had captured it from the Seljuqs one year before. The city was defended by Fatimid governor Iftikhar ad-Dawla.
Fall of Jerusalem
When the Muslims heard of the final assault of the Crusaders (on 14 July), they took shelter in the al-Aqsa mosque. But early next morning on 15 July, a band of Crusaders forced an entry into the mosque and slew everyone. The area was filled with corpses and blood that reached up to the knees.
Once inside, they unleashed a brutal and indiscriminate assault on the population, resulting in the massacre of both Muslims and Jews who resided in the city. The Jews of Jerusalem fled in a body to their chief synagogue. But no mercy was shown to them as well. Their synagogue was set on fire and they were all burnt within.
The Crusaders rushed through the streets and into the houses and mosques killing all that they met, men, women, and children alike. All that afternoon and all through the night, the massacre continued. The Muslims and the Jews were all slaughtered by the Christian Crusaders.
The infamous massacre of the Muslim and Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem
According to Ali ibn al-Athir, in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Franks (the Crusaders) killed more than 70,000, a large number of them being imams, ulema, righteous men and ascetics, Muslims who had left their native lands and come to live a holy life in this august spot.
According to Steven Runciman, no one can say how many victims it involved; but it emptied Jerusalem of its Moslem and Jewish inhabitants. The chief Jewish synagogue was set on fire and they were all burnt within.
According to Karen Armstrong, for three days the Crusaders systematically slaughtered about thirty thousand of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Ten thousand Muslims who had sought sanctuary on the roof of the Aqsā were brutally massacred, and Jews were rounded up into their synagogue and put to the sword. There were scarcely any survivors.
The streets literally ran with blood. “Piles of heads, hands, and feet were to be seen,” says the Provençal eyewitness Raymond of Aguilers. Muslims and Jews were cleared out of the Holy City like vermin.
The conquest of the city sparked a wave of enthusiasm and religious fervour among the Crusaders, leading to the establishment of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem remained under Crusader control for nearly a century, but it was not without continuous conflict. Muslim forces, led by renowned commanders like Saladin, launched multiple campaigns to recapture the city. In 1187, Sultan Salah al-Din (Saladin) succeeded in retaking Jerusalem.
Contrary to what the Crusaders had done to the Muslims, Salah al-Din ensured the safety and security of every citizen of Jerusalem irrespective of their faith. Even the defeated and captured king after short imprisonment was released by Salah al-Din.
Last updated on June 1st, 2023 at 11:50 pm
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