The Second Crusade 1147-1149

Unlike the spectacular success of the First Crusade, the Second Crusade, launched in 1145, is generally considered a disaster for the Christian West. Even those who took part in the Crusade saw it as a failure. According to William of Tyre:

Thus a multitude of kings and princes had gathered such as we have not read throughout the centuries and, for our sins, they had been forced to return, covered in shame and dishonor, with their mission unfulfilled… henceforth those who pilgrimages were less and less fervent. (Brundage, 1962, p. 120)

Brundage claims that the failure of the Crusade to achieve any victory in the East emboldened Muslim military leaders, destroyed the myth of Western weaponry progress, and was responsible, at least in part, for causing the Muslim states of the East to crumble. get closer, unite for new attacks against the Latin states. He says that the end of the Second Crusade saw the Muslims preparing to unite, for the first time, against the Latin intruders in their midst, while the Latins, for their part, were strongly divided among themselves. (p.124) Thus, although the new crusaders set out with high hopes, their ambitions fell short of their achievements and they returned home in disgrace. However, according to Runciman (1952, p. 288), no medieval enterprise had begun with such splendid hope. What had caused this unfortunate result?

In 1145, news of the fall of Edessa, the oldest Christian state in the east, sent shock waves through western Christian society. There was an immediate call for a new crusade. However, surprisingly, there was no overwhelming response. Eugene first appealed to the young King Louis of France. In December of that same year he addressed a papal bull to the king, proclaiming a new crusade:

…Therefore we beg, admonish and command all of you, and command it for the remission of sins, that those who are on God’s side, especially the most powerful and noble men, manfully gird themselves and attack the pagan crowds. .. liberate the Eastern church, and endeavor to snatch from their hands many thousands of our captive brethren… (Brundage, 1962, p.87)

Eugenius summoned the abbot of Clairvaux, Bernard, to preach and inspire the French nobility. At the head were perhaps two of the most powerful kings in the Western world, King Louis VII of France and King Conrad III of Germany. The march east was mainly due to the fall of Edessa, but there were other factors as well. Pope Eugene had recently taken office from him and immediately a communal government barred him from entering the city. He had not yet been able to enter Rome and there was little he could do himself to help Edessa, but. it was likely that the way he treated the unbelieving Muslim was noticeable. Although he had the support of Louis VII and Conrad, he needed Conrad’s help to take back the city of Rome. (Runciman, p.256) So the Pope sent a bull, Quantum praedecessors, to Louis, who responded enthusiastically, but when he called a council to discuss the matter, the response was not so encouraging. The king was needed at home and could not easily leave to engage in a crusade. When Eugene learned of this affair, he sent Saint Bernard to Vézelay, where the King and his court spent Easter. Bernard had great success at Vézelay. ‘The men began to shout for the crosses “Crosses, give us crosses!”‘ (Runciman, 1952, p.253) The material prepared for the crosses soon ran out and Bernard tore his own cloak to make more. Bernardo wrote to the Pope a few days later: You ordained; I obeyed; and the authority of the one who gave the order has made my obedience fruitful. I opened my mouth; I spoke and immediately the crusaders have multiplied to infinity. Towns and cities are now deserted. You will hardly find one man for every seven women. Everywhere you see widows whose husbands are still alive. (Saint Bernard, letter no. 247)

But Bernardo did not stop there. He continued to preach the crusade in Burgundy, Lorraine, Flamders, and finally Germany, where he again had great success with the common people. It was not until two days after Christmas 1146 that Bernard appeared before Coonrad and addressed the king in the role of Christ himself: ‘man,’ he exclaimed, ‘what should I have done for you that I have not done?’ (Runciman, 1952) After this not-so-subtle persuasion, Conrad took up the cross. The Pope was not happy when he learned of the involvement of the German kings, because he was concerned about the problem of a divided command. Besides, he needed Conrad’s help in Italy. However, although he was not pleased with the news, he was too fed up.

Although there were a few minor armies from England, Belgium and Sicily, the two main armies came from Germany and France and were led by kings. The second crusade seemed to be off to a good start, although Pope Eugene had reservations from him about a crusading army divided by two different leaders. It was that kind of power struggle that nearly cost them the First Crusade. However, despite the Pope’s misgivings, the Second Crusade was already underway and there was no going back.

International politics was already affecting the crusade. Roger of Sicily offered to transport the French and German armies by sea, but neither agreed to accept. Conrado refused for personal reasons and Luis because the Pope did not support Rogers’s participation in the Russade. Both kings plan to travel overland More articles on Crusader movement in Medieval Crusades

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