The Third Crusade

On this day in 1189, King Philip of France, Emperor Frederick I of the Holy Roman Empire, and King Henry II of England — soon to be succeeded by his son, Richard the Lionheart — began assembling armies for the Third Crusade. Their goal, backed by Pope Gregory VIII, was to reconquer Palestine from Saladin, the Muslim […]

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March 18: King of Jerusalem

Frederick II (1194-1250) declared himself King of Jerusalem on this date in 1229 while leading a nearly bloodless Sixth Crusade. The Holy Roman Emperor had four years earlier married Isabella II (Yolande of Brienne), the Italian-born Queen of Jerusalem (so-called because of Christian conquests made during the Third Crusade), but was so slow to launch […]

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October 11: Jews of Aleppo

A massive earthquake, one of the most destructive in history, struck Aleppo in northern Syria on this date in 1138, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths in a region already suffering through ongoing wars between Christian Crusader and Muslim forces. Aleppo had one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities; Jewish tradition dates it to […]

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February 13: A Blood Libel in Germany, 1195

In the wake of the Third Crusade, the Jews of Speyer, Germany were subjected to a blood libel (charges of ritual murder) and pogrom that took nine lives on this date in 1195. The first record of Jews in Speyer (from which the names “Shapiro” and its other variants derived) date to the 1070s, though […]

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July 15: Innocent Declares Jews Guilty

Pope Innocent III, who in the year 1200 declared “the Jews, by their own guilt,” to be “consigned to perpetual servitude because they crucified the Lord” and doomed to be “wanderers… upon the earth until their faces are filled with shame and they seek the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” died on this date […]

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July 15: Sacking Jerusalem

Christian crusaders under the Frankish knight Geoffrey de Boullion conquered Jerusalem after a five-week siege on this date in 1099. Reports by Muslims at the time claim that he drove the Jewish inhabitants into their synagogue and burned it down; more modern historians argue that he may actually have protected Jews and Muslims from some […]

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May 15: Jewish Slaves of Malta

A community of up to 1,000 Jewish slaves on the archipelago of Malta, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, established over the course of two centuries by the Knights of St. John, a Catholic order of pirates left over from the Crusades, was officially abolished on this date in 1800. The Knights would raid […]

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November 18: Launching the Crusades

The Council of Clermont, which launched the Crusades by declaring pilgrimage to Jerusalem to be the ultimate penance, convened in France on this date in 1095. More than 300 clerics and aristocrats attended in response to a call from Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus for military assistance against the Seljuk Turks who had occupied Palestine […]

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October 2: Saladin and the Jews

After nearly a century of Christian Crusader control of Jerusalem, Saladin conquered the city on this date in 1187, after a month of siege. Christian lives were spared; there was no mass killing.  Although the Third Crusade (1189–1192) would be inspired by European determination to reconquer the city, Jerusalem would remain in Moslem hands for […]

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January 21: Third Crusade

On this day in 1189, King Philip of France, Emperor Frederick I of the Holy Roman Empire, and King Henry II of England — soon to be succeeded by his son, Richard the Lionheart — began assembling armies for the Third Crusade. Their goal, backed by Pope Gregory VIII, was to reconquer Palestine from Saladin, […]

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