Third Crusade Begins, 12th & 13th Century, A History of the Christian Church, Lesson 11, 2-4

We learned previously that a Tartar prince was converted by the Nestorian Christians and took the name of Prester John. During the 12th Century, about the beginning, the principal king of Asiatic Tartary died. Prester John invaded his territory and set up a kingdom which was very beneficial to the Christian cause. Prester John wrote many letters to the European kings bragging about his conquests and about his immense riches so that he gained the reputation of living in a second Paradise. Prester John was followed on the throne by either his son or his brother, David in the latter part of the 12th Century and David was also called Prester John. However, David was not destined to live in peace, for toward the end of the century Genghis Kahn invaded his country and took away both his life and his country.

Genghis Kahn and his descendants in the 13th Century over ran most of Asia, India and Persia, and even made inroads into Hungary and Poland inflicting great damage on these countries. In the course of these wars, the Christians suffered much as did the other native inhabitants. In spite of this, we are told that the Nestorian Christians had a flourishing church with many members. The Tartar princes apparently had no aversion to Christianity as a religion, and it appears that some of them even were converted to Christianity. However, during the 13th Century, Mohammedanism, with its appeal to man’s basic nature, made such inroads among these people who by the end of the century, there was not a vestige of Christianity left in this great area of the world.

At the end of the first Crusade, which was at the end of the 13th Century, three Christian kingdoms were set up in the Holy Land, each ruled by one of the leaders of the conquering army. However, when the Moslems began to see that the Christians were more interested in advancing their private affairs than in ruling the Holy Land, they took heart and began to attack the Christians, retaking the city of Edessa and threatening Antioch. So many Christian soldiers had returned to Europe that the Christian nations appealed to the Pope to send another Crusade to help them. The Pope, Eugenius III, appointed a monk named Bernard to arouse Europe. This monk made such a powerful speech before the King of France that he immediately put on the cross and prepared to lead an army to the Holy Land. The king of the Germans was harder to convince, but finally in the following year, 1147 AD, he too set out for the Holy Land. These two kings arrived in the Holy Land with few of their men left, having lost most through the various hardships encountered on the way. In 1148, they returned to Europe with the handful of men remaining, having accomplished nothing due principally to the petty jealousies of the petty princes ruling the Holy Land.

In 1187 AD, Saladin, the foremost of Moslem Sultans, completed the capture of Jerusalem and reduced the Christians to such a deplorable condition that the Third Crusade was started. This crusade was led by the German King, Frederic Barbarossa. This crusade met with great success, until Frederic lost his life in crossing a river, and the crusade was taken over by his son. However, his son and most of the men were taken by a pestilence that swept the country, and those few who escaped returned to Europe. Those who have watched Robinhood know that Prince John was able to carry on as the villain only because Richard the Lionhearted was absent on a Crusade.

Richard, the King of England, and the King of France each went on a crusade in the year 1190 AD, and both arrived in the Holy Land in good shape. The King of France left soon after, but he left most of his army. Richard retook much of the Holy Land from Saladin. Pressed by other considerations, mainly Price John, Richard concluded a three-year peach with Saladin and returned to England. These were the principal crusades, although there were several others of less importance, including one crusade of children that set out in the 13th Century. The last crusade was led by the King of France in 1270 AD, and the Christian kingdoms in the Holy Land were finally overthrown in 1291 AD. Although there were many reasons leading to the downfall of the Christian kingdoms, the principle one was the inability of the Christians themselves, leaders and common people to get along together.

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