Home DH-Debate

2. The Original Kingdoms

4. The French Revolution

Sacred Values as the Foundation of Society

3. The Christian Kingdoms

1. Scandinavian Kingdoms 2. Religion Shift
3. Military Technology 4. Village Churches
5. Reconquista 6. Sicily
7. Crusades 8. Literature

1. The Creation of the Scandinavian Kingdoms

At the end of the Germanic Iron Age and in periods of early Viking age, Scandinavia was composed by numerous small kingdoms, of which, however, we have only fragmentary knowledge. It would not have been easy to see that in this myriad of small kingdoms, the three modern nations Norway, Sweden and Denmark should be created.

Denmark's county tings in the Middle Ages

In Middle Age Denmark was divided into county tings, which, among other things, had the function of electing and hailing the kings. Therefore, they must reflect the original small kingdoms that existed in Scandinavia before the Christian kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden emerged from history. Foto Vesconte2 Wikipedia.

The emergence of a united Danish kingdom, first under the Godfred sons, around 825, and later under Harald Bluetooth around 960, was certainly motivated by the threat from the south.

The Frankish emperor, Charlemagne, who ruled all of present-day France, Switzerland, Austria, most of Germany and parts of Italy, defeated in 802 finally the Saxons after many and bitter battles, after beheading 4,500 men in 782 at the city of Verden southeast of Bremen. He deported 10,000 Saxons to other parts of his great empire and gave their land to the Slaw tribe the Abodrits. He demolished their shrine, the Pillar Irminsul, and imposed death penalty on those who failed to observe fasting, the use of pagan cremation practices, and attempted to avoid baptism. Many Saxons fled to Denmark, and the Danes were able to follow the war from first parquet.


The Saxons lived in present northern Germany, north of the mighty Frankish Empire. That was before Charlemagne subjugated the Lombards. Foto Wikipedia.

This motivated the local small Danish kingdoms to hail the Godfred sons in a unified Danish kingdom, which probably included both Scania and the Viken area around modern Oslo. The Danes attacked the emperor's new Slaw subjects and reinforced he defense rampart Danevirke. But when the danger had passed, the new unity in all probability more or less disintegrated again.

But in 973 the threat reemerged. It became known that Emperor Otto 1. had plans to attack and Christianize the Danes, which plans, however, had to be abandoned at his death. Probably motivated by the new threat, the King of Jutland, Harald Bluetooth, was elected king also of eastern Denmark. A new emperor, Otto 2. actually attacked Denmark, broke through Danevirke and ravaged Jutland all the way up to the Limfjord. Harald Bluetoond saved the situation by becoming a Christian and thereby pulling out the teeth of the idea of a crusade. He strengthened the defense rampart Danevirke and had Trelleborg type castles built all over the country.

In Norway, many of the small kingdoms were united by Harald Fairhair around 872. It must be believed that his unification of the small Norwegian kingdoms was a reaction to the new political unity in Denmark - a chain reaction: the Franks expanded by defeating and subduing the other migration peoples, Goths, Lombards, Burgundians, Thuringians and Saxons, putting pressure on their eastern neighbors, Hungary, Bohemia, Poland and Denmark, forcing these peoples to unite under one king. And a united Denmark again fueled the idea of a united Norway.

Some original small kingdoms on the Scandinavian peninsula

Some original small kingdoms on the Scandinavian peninsula. Snorre Sturlason tells in Heimskringla that Harald Fairhair subjugated the small kingdoms: Namdal, Nordmøre, Romsdal, Sunnmøre, Fjordane, Hordaland, Rogaland, Agder, Vingulmark and Alvheim. Olav the Holy further subjugated Hedmark and Oppland and he thought of subjugating Haalogaland. Snorre tells many times about the famous original Swedish kingdom around Mälern, Svitjod, where Odin ruled. Saxo tells about Western and Eastern Gøtaland or just Gautland.

Snorre writes that Harald Fairhair had dominion in Western Norway as well as in Viken and Telemark, but the most widespread view is that Harald's kingdom was limited to western and northern Norway, while the Viken area was the Danish king's sphere of interest. Snorre wrote several hundred years after the events and he may have been wrong.

Norway is a large and desolate country filled with rugged mountains and deep fjords, but the western and northern parts of the country enjoy the benefit of excellent maritime communication from north to south along a long protected coastline, where the sea rarely freezes. Moreover, no part of the country along this coast was easier to defend than other parts, and therefore, once united, it would thus remain without much effort. Therefore, it is likely that it was this part of the country that Harald Fairhair united.

However, when such a united Norwegian kingdom was first established, it became able to compete with the Danish kings for control of the Oslo Fjord area. The result was uncertain for a long time. The Danes were still trying to gain control of the area under Valdemar the Great.

There are hardly any geopolitical or geographical inevitability that indicate that the Oslo Fjord area should naturally belong to Norway or Denmark. But the final affiliation with Norway can be explained by the fact that the King of Norway tended to give higher priority to the problem than the King of Denmark, who had other areas where the Danes wanted to expand.

Gyda svarer Harald H�rfager

Snorre's saga about the Norwegian kings tells that Harald Fairhair sent men to fetch a woman named Gyda Eriksdaughter, whom he wanted as a lover. She replied to the men that she would not sacrifice her virginity on such a petty king: "But it seems strange to me that there is no king who will take power in Norway so that he rules alone, as King Gorm does in Denmark and Erik in Uppsala", and she sent the men out the door with the message that she would never marry Harald, before he had subjugated the whole of Norway and ruled the kingdom just as freely "as King Erik ruled the Svea kingdom or King Gorm Denmark" - "for only then does he seem to me to be able to be called king of tjod". Foto Haralds Fairhairs Saga in Heimskringla drawing by Halvdan Egidius.

In Magnus Erlingsøn's Saga is told that Valdemar the Great leads a raid against Norway. When Erling Skakke and his followers fled to some distant mountains, Valdemar decided to return home saying: "It is easy to judge the people in this country that everyone is against us. Now we have two things to choose from; either we can sail with army shields over the land and spare no one, neither people nor sheep, or we can sail south again without any result of the voyage. And I have a greater desire to go to the pagan lands of the Eastern Counties, of which there are enough, than to kill Christian people here, even though they may well have deserved it."

For the Danes, the war against the Slaws was a "necessary war," as Churchill would have called it. The invasions and looting by the Slaws were a deadly threat to Denmark and it was necessary to wage war against them until they were no longer able to attack the country.

In relation to both Denmark and Norway, the Svea kingdom was remote - protected by long distances over deserted mountains and big forests - in relation to both Norway and Denmark. For natural geographical reasons, Sweden was therefore destined to become a kingdom for itself.

Title Decoration in Snorri's Ynglinge Saga

Title Decoration in Snorri's Ynglinge Saga i Heimskringla Nationaludgaven by Gerhard Munthe.

The Swedes have in all probability also been made up by several indigenous peoples - as Jordanes actually describes. But the Swedes had no Snorre or Saxo to tell how they got together in one kingdom, and therefore the details of Sweden's early history are rather unknown.

However, Snorre tells about the line of kings, the Ynglings, who descended from Odin and settled by lake Mälern and became the ancestors of the Swedish kings.

One can have imagined that similar circumstances - as described above with Norway - may have applied in relation to the border between Sweden and Denmark - as to understand that the reason why the border came to be precisely along the transition from the cultivated land in Halland, Scania and Blekinge to the large forests - and not for example in the middle of the large forests - was that the Swedish kings prioritized the desolate areas higher than the Danes.

Excavation of burial mound in Gamla Upsala

Excavation of burial mound in Gamla Upsala. Photo Pinterest.

From ancient times, the border between Denmark and Sweden had always been the large forests north of the Scania lands without anybody worrying about where exactly the border was.

But an old Swedish document called "Older Vestgötalagen" describes a summit between Denmark and Sweden, where the border was determined. The meeting was held on Danaholm, an island off Gothenburg. According to the document, Emund Slemme from Sweden and King Svend from Denmark met here with six officers each and a Norwegian representative was also present. They confirmed that the border should run largely along Halland, Scania and Blekinge, as we know it from history. It was to be marked with six boundary stones, one of which still exists, namely the one at Brömsebro.

Sweden gained access to the sea of Kattegat at the mouth of the Göta River. The Danish possession of Blekinge was confirmed and apparently the Danes have approved that Småland and the Göta lands, where Magnus the Strong had been king, should belong to Sweden, as the border was drawn along the Scania lands, where the cultivated land bordered the large forests.

Claus Deluran on the demarcation between Denmark and Sweden

Claus Deluran's thought it would have been more naturel that the the demarcation between Denmark and Sweden had been in the middle of the big forests. Deluran believed that the king Svend mentioned in the old document was Swein Estridson.

It is uncertain when the meeting took place and who the Danish King Svend was. It may have been Sweyn Forkbeard, Sweyn Estridson or Svend Grathe.

Saxo describes Svend Grathe's failed winter campaign against Sweden. To him, the Göta Lands were only some desolate and poor areas that one had to pass through to attack Sweden itself around Mälern. He had chosen a winter campaign as he believed it would be easier to pass bogs, swamps and rivers when they were covered with ice. But the cold turned out to be a far bigger problem than he had imagined, and the campaign came to a standstill alone because of the cold, and he had to turn around. Here it seemed clear that Svend Grathe, if it was he, who negotiated the demarcation, did not prioritize Småland and the Göta lands very highly.

2. The Shift of Religion

Christianity that came to the Scandinavian countries around the year 1000, was very different from the old faith.

The Christian Church was a centralized organization led by a hiraki of priests, abbots, bishops, and archbishops, who ultimately referred to the pope in Rome, while the ancient faith was decentralized and local, so as to understand that it was the most important task of local kings to maintain a good relationship with the gods for good year and good harvest.

Olav Tryggvason arrives in Norway

Olav Tryggvasson's arrival in Norway with English priests and monks. The historian Niels Lund is convinced that he was supported by the English king Æthelreth with the aim of weakening his worst enemies, namely the Danes. Drawing by Peter Nicolai Arbo - wikipedia.

The missionary kings, especially Olav Trygvesson and Olav the Holy, have certainly taken advantage of this circumstance in their eagerness to take over the small kingdoms. For when the subjects of the local kings professed to Christianity, the local community no longer needed his religious function, and the carpet was thereby pulled away from under him.

The Christian kings also understood to exploit the symmetry between the ecclesiastical organization, which had an archbishop for the whole country, and the secular organization also with a king for the whole country. It is mentioned in the king's mirror from around 1250: "The explanation is that God arranged two houses on Earth, which he chose for the performance of his office; one is the church, and both can be called so, if you will, for the name "church" means the same as a courthouse because of the meeting of the assembled people. But these two houses are the halls of God, and he has appointed two men to govern these houses; in one hall he has placed his table, and it is called "feeding house," for the people of God gather there for the purpose of taking spiritual food there. But in the other hall God has placed his holy court, and the people gather to hear the explanation of God's holy judgments. In these two houses He has placed two guardians, one is the king, the other the bishop. The king is set to guard the holy house, in which the holy seat is placed, and where the holy judgments of God are to be watched; he must, together with all those who since oversee the judgments that are rightly passed, judge so fair between peoples that he therefore receives eternal happiness."

Hakon Jarl sacrifices his son Erling to victory

The old beliefs may differ from region to region. In Jomsvikinge Saga and Olav Tryggvason's Saga, Håkon Jarl sacrifices his seven-year-old son, Erling, in the middle of the battle of Hjørungavaag to his special protector, Thorgerd Hølgabrud, for victory. She did not let him down but sent a hailstorm, which stood right in the faces of the Jomsvikings. Drawing by Lorenz Frølich.

Rituals and the very perception of the ancient gods were in all probability different from place to place, and the myths about the gods exist in different versions, in which the same gods may have different roles. The new faith, on the other hand, was characterized by systematic doctrines and rituals, which were performed in almost the same way throughout the Christian world.

For example, the long Olav Tryggvason's Saga tells that Håkon Jarl sacrificed his seven-year-old son Erling to his special goddess and protector, Thorgerd Hølgabrud, for victory in the battle of Hjørungevaag against the Jomsvikings. And she did not fail him, but sent the hailstorm that turned the battle.

The Christian God created the first humans, Adam and Eve. But the ancient gods did not create the first humans, Ask and Embla. They found them lying on the beach without soul, life and thoughts, which became the gifts of the Gods to man.

The Christian God created the world in seven days by uttering words. In the Genesis he said on the first day "Become light", and then became light. The second day he created the heaven by saying: "Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water ". On the third day He created the Earth and the plants and thus He continued to the sixth day where He created land animals and humans. The world ocean seemed to have been there before.

God created the animals on land on the sixth day

Fresco in Vittskøvle Church in Skåne, which depicts God creating the animals on land on the sixth day. Foto Gunnar Bach Pedersen Wikipedia.

But the ancient gods did not create the World - at least not in the first place. It created itself by the hot air of Muspelheim meeting the cold air of Nifelheim in the middle of the original void called Ginnungagap. In this warm climate, the primeval giant Ymer and the primordial cow Audhumbla emerged. The giant was nourished by the cow's udder. Ymer was bisexual, and from his sleeping body arose the lineage of the Jats.

Audhumbla licked the salt-frozen salty stones to get food, and in doing so, the man Buri emerged from a salt stone, and he became the ancestor of the Aesirs lineage. He had a son Borr, who - with the jat-women Bestla - had three sons. Who were Odin, Vile and Ve, who together killed Ymer and created the World of his body. His flesh became earth, his bones the mountains, his blood became the sea, his head made the heaven and his brain the clouds. Of the worms in Ymer's flesh, they created the dwarves.

The Christian God is omnipotent and good and elevated above death. But the ancient gods were not immortal as they were all destined to perish in the battle of Ragnarok, and only their children were to survive them and create a new World.

Although the ancient gods represented a higher level than humans, especially in terms of intellectual capacity, they were neither morally perfect nor omnipotent. For example, Frey had to give his good sword to the messenger Skirner to be able to marry the Jat-girl Gerd, whom he loved. It came to cost him dearly in the Battle of Ragnarok.

The three brothers Odin Vile and Ve kill Ymer

The three brothers Odin, Vile and Ve kill Ymer. Drawing Lorenz Frølich.

Odin was more powerful than the other gods, but by no means omnipotent. He too had to endure deprivation and suffering to achieve his goals. He sacrificed one eye to drink from Mimer's well, thereby gaining immense wisdom. He hung in the tree for nine days and nights, marked by spear, without either food or drink. Actually very similar to Jesus, who hung in the symbolic tree.

The Bible distinguishes fairly closely between evil and goodness. In the Bible, the Devil is always evil, and Jesus is always good. But the ancient Scandinavian gods can not be categorized so easily. Even Loki had his good sides and many times helped the gods out of difficult situations with his ingenuity. Only Balder was completely good, but he did not fare so well, as he was killed by an arrow made of mistletoe shot by his blind brother Høder.

In Christianity, Jesus will judge every single human being after death. The Gospel of Matthew chapter 25 says: "But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will tell those on his right hand, come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you."

In the ancient culture, every man was also judged after his death, not by the heavenly powers, but by other men. In the poem Havamal stands:

A verse from Havamal

A verse from Havamal. Drawing Groenfell Meabery - Pinterest.

Cattle die and kinsmen die,
thyself too soon must die,
but one thing never, I ween, will die,
the doom on each one dead.

Translated by Olive Bray and edited by D. L. Ashliman.

The new Christian religion had far-reaching ethical consequences. The believers were to live according to the will of God and thereby the earthly life became filled with sin. Sexuality was thus fundamentally sinful and could only be accepted if the purpose was to raise children. Pride became a sin and humility a virtue. Violence could only be tolerated in defense of one's own interests and in defense of Christianity.

The skjalds praised the ancient kings for their power and fame, their generosity towards their men and their ability to feed ravens and wolves with the corpses of fallen enemies. But the Christian religion brought the ethical level to new selfless heights. Now the kings won prominence by generosity against the poor, monasteries and churches, and by defending Christianity against its enemies.

The ancient pagan festivals three times a year, namely spring, autumn and midwinter, were transformed into Christian holidays, including Easter and Christmas, and they were celebrated in the same way, namely by eating and drinking and making toasts - now to the Christian God and the saints.

Jesus judges the living and the dead on the last day

Jesus judges the living and the dead on the last day. Painting by Hieronymus Bosch Wikipedia.

The old small kingdoms were election-kingdoms - a new king should be elected and hailed at the thing. A candidate for the throne should be of royal descent - only these could have the necessary kings-luck.

The eldest son of the deceased king was usually chosen, if such existed. Only three times in Denmark's history has the eldest son been ignored. These are Erik Emune's eldest son, Svend Grathe, who was initially rejected by the Jutlanders, and Abel's eldest son, Valdemar, who was rejected by the whole country - in both cases probably because the people did not want sons of brother-murderers as kings. Valdemar Atterdag's older brother Otto was ignored, perhaps because it was believed that only Valdemar had the personal qualities needed to re-bulid and re-unite Denmark.

There can be no doubt that Valdemar the Great wanted to abolish the ancient electoral monarchy - following the European trend of the time - perhaps he believed that it was this system that was to blame for 25 years of disastrous civil war. He made his little son to be anointed putting him on the throne by God's representative on Earth, namely the Archbishop of Lund. It is quite clear that Valdemar's ambition was that the kings should not be kings by the will of the people - but by the grace of God.

One might think that the ancient religion was mostly for men. Only men could come to Odin in Valhal after they had honorably fallen in battle. As far as is known in the present, there was not really anything for women - other than that they could gain fame through their sons. Some believe that it was therefore that it were the women who were most positive to Christianity's message of eternal life in Paradise, goodness and tolerance.

Thjodhilde's church at Brattahlid, present Qassiarsuk

The reconstructed Thjodhilde's church at Brattahlid, present Qassiarsuk in Greenland. Foto Hamish Laird Wikipedia.

Erik the Red was a convinced pagan, but his wife, Thjodhild, became a Christian and built the first church in Greenland constructed of peat and wood at Brattahlid around the year 1000. Her son Leif the Lucky became a Christian.

However, there is at least one example of women who stubbornly rejected Christianity, which is Sweyn Forlbeard's wife and the ancestor of the Danish kings, Sigrid the Haughty.

3. Military Technology

The medieval aristocracy was primarily a military aristocracy and all nobles were skilled in the use of weapons. They were exempted from tax to the king in return for meeting fully equipped with their men in case of war.

The King's Mirror recommends the young man to practice use of weapons at least once a day - preferably twice if possible: "If you are in places where you can ride and you yourself have a horse, so mount your horse with heavy weapons and practice sitting on horseback so that you sit on it as beautifully and firmly as possible." - "Train your horse to be easy to turn to the side in gallop and make sure it is in good condition and clean; cover it well and strong and give it all strong and beautiful horse equipment as neccessary." - "But let no day pass without you practicing this game once, unless it is a public holiday; for this art is appropriate for any noble to know, and moreover necessary, if one needs it." It is recommended that a nobleman practice fighting both on horseback, on foot, in the swein-formation and on a ship with many different weapons including spear, bow, sling and "weapon stones". He must also have an understanding of the art of siege and how to defend a fortress.

Scene from the movie Braveheart

Scene from the movie Braveheart, showing Scottish warriors defending themselves against English armored knights with pointed poles. In fact, at the Battle of Crecy, the English archers effectively defended themselves against the French heavy cavalry with buried pointed poles. Foto Cinema.

The weapons of the Christian kingdoms were heavy cavalry, archers and crossbowmen, castles and siege machines. Some nations, including Denmark and Norway, still used traditional infantry brought forward by ships - as in Viking times.

For hundreds of years, European battlefields were dominated by heavy cavalry. The attack of the heavy cavalry very often became decisive for the outcome of the battle. Nothing could withstand an attack by armored knights. Bartlett cites a Muslim source from Damascus in 1148: "The infidel cavalry was waiting to carry out the attack for which it is famous." The Crusader poet Ambroise describes a Muslim emir, who tells the story of the European knights during the Third Crusade: "Nothing can resist them because they have armor so strong, solid and secure."

There are accounts of armored knights who were defeated by infantry and archers, but these are exceptions and not the rule.

The Battle of Crecy

The English longbow-archers became the decisive factor in the Battle of Crecy north of Abbeville in France. Foto Alchetron

Two battles in the Scottish wars against England are exceptions. Led by Robert Bruce, the Scots defeated an English army of armored knights at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1286, and the same happened at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, where the Scots were led by William Wallace. One must believe that these victories provided inspiration for the film Braveheart, which shows Scottish warriors defeating armored English knights with pointed poles.

Another exception is the Battle of Crecy in 1346, where Edward 3. of England defeated a numerically superior French knight army led by Philip 6. The English army included a large contingent of longbowmen, while the French army numbered Genovese crossbowmen. The English first came to the battlefield and established themselves on a hilltop. They were rested and had good supplies. The French, on the other hand, were tired after marching in days leading up to the battle in order to get contact with the enemy. Edward was an experienced army commander and knew the benefit of softening the enemy before the actual battle. He let his longbowmen overwhelm the enemy with a rain of arrows.

During the battle, it rained heavily. The English archers could take off their bowstrings and protect them, but it was not possible for the Genovese to take the strings off their crossbows, which therefore became wet and useless. Philip let his armored knights attack, but it was uphill in a terrain that had been made very muddy by the heavy rain.

A knight's armor could weigh up to 40 kg and in addition came the weight of the knight himself and his weapon as well as possible armor protection of the horse itself. It became too much for the horses, which got stuck in the mud and collapsed during a rain of arrows, which was especially directed at the horses, being less protected than the knights themselves. The French cavalry made repeated attempts to attack up the hill, but with each attack their losses only increased as the slope gradually became more muddy and filled with dead and dying horses and knights. The English victory was complete and they conquered the famous French banner, Oriflamme.

The battle of Svendstrup

In the battle of Svenstrup south of Aalborg, the knights' horses got stuck in mud, making them easy victims for Skipper Klement's peasant army. Foto Libcom.org

In the battle at Svenstrup in 1534 between Skipper Clement's approximately 6000 men and the noble riders, Skipper Clement took up position on the heights north of Svenstrup. The nobles attacked, but their horses were weighed down by the heavy armor and stuck in the mud of the surrounding bogs. Here the noble army suffered a complete defeat, during which the army commanders Holger Holgersen Rosenkrantz, Niels Lavesen Brock and another 12 noble leaders as well as an unknown number of infantry were killed.

The medieval armies had three types of bows, namely the short bow, the long bow and the crossbow. The short bow was about 0,9 m long. It was very common in European warfare and was used by many peoples, including Scandinavians. The Normans used short bows in the battle of Hastings with great success. But in range and impact, it could not compete with the longbow.

Different ways to span a crossbow

Different ways to reload a crossbow. From left to right:
-The shooter puts his foot in the stirrup at the front of the crossbow, he bend down his knees and attaches a hook, which is connected to his belt, to the string. Then he straightens up thereby spanning the crossbow.
-The crossbow has a kind of windlass with handle.
-A kind of lever principle.
Photo BenjaminRose.com, Myarmoury.com og BenjaminRose.com.

The longbow is about 1.8 m long with much greater spanning force than the short bow. Originally, it was used only very locally in the south of Wales, but in the wars against the Welsh, the English kings discovered its qualities. They encouraged the English peasants to practice longbow shooting and banned all other sports, leading to many well-qualified English longbow shooters. In the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the longbow appears to have been the English main weapon. It is estimated that the English army consisted of 5,000 longbow archers and 900 armored infantry.

Skull of peasant warrior from Gotland

In the Battle of Visby on Gotland in 1361, a peasant army was massacred by Valdemar Atterdag's professional crossbowmen. Here the bolt is still in the victim's skull. Photo Ancient Origin.

During the Middle Ages, the crossbow became dominant on the battlefields of the European continent. It was preferred over the longbow because it requires less physical strength to operate, and the bolts - as the crossbow's arrows are called - have greater impact force, making it more lethal at short range. In addition, it was easier to aim with the crossbow. Archers had to be trained from a young age and their skills had to be maintained throughout their lives, while crossbowmen were easy to train and they did not need the same amount of training as archers. However, the crossbow has the disadvantage of being slower to load and shoot with. Modern experiments, however, have shown that a crossbow shooter can fire 4-6 bolts in 30 seconds, while a longbow shooter can fire 9-10 arrows at the same time.

In connection with the Crusades, the Europeans learned composite technology, which made it possible to make the crossbow smaller and more manageable, while at the same time being able to shoot even harder.

At the Battle of Visby in 1361, a Gotland peasant army was slaughtered by Valdemar Atterdag's professional crossbow shooters. The German Hanse merchants watched from the city wall and then surrendered and paid a monster fine to be spared looting the city.

Burg Eltz

Burg Eltz is a 12th-century medieval castle located on the hills of the River Moselle between Koblenz and Trier in western Germany. It is still owned by the same branch of the Eltz family who lived there 33 generations ago.

Castles and fortresses have been built in Europe for many hundreds of years before the emergence of the medieval Christian kingdoms. But the new castles were different, they are much smaller - but taller.

They are built of cut stone, which was far more expensive and time consuming than building of the old refuge castles, which were built of earth and timber.

The difference in built on area between the new and the old fortresses is striking. For example, Aggersborg near Løgstør measures 240 m in inside diameter, the Slavic ring forts in northern Germany maybe 100 m, and Istmantorp Castle on Gotland 125 m. But Burg Eltz and the other contemporary medieval castles' ground area is much smaller especially in relation to their height. Unfortunately, it has not been possible for the author to find the built on area for Burg Eltz. But visually it is easy to see that what they do not have in the ground area they have in height - Burg Eltz reportedly has 10 floors.

The Viking castle Trelleborg was built to house an entire army, and many of the other ring forts were refuge castles intended to protect all the area's residents and their cattle in emergencies.

The new medieval castles were not refuge castles. They were the permanent residence of nobleman, his family, and his men. They were to protect him from being surprised by an enemy one dark night. They were meant to be defended by only a few defenders, which is why they are so tall. Many of the castles are built on a mountain knoll or similar, which gave extra height and made them even more difficult to take.


Trebuchets. Photo Wikipedia.

But the development in fortress construction had to trigger a similar development in siege machines and methods.

The author of the Kings Mirror emphasizes to his readers that it is very important to know something about siege technique: "In addition, there are many other weapons. Anyone who wants to attack a fortification with the newly listed weapons needs certain "trebuchets", some of them strong, to sling large stones against the stone wall and try to make the stone wall fall with heavy shots. But weaker trebuchets slings are needed to sling (the projectile) over the stone wall and demolish the houses in the fortress. But if you cannot break down or knock down the stone wall with the strong Trebuchet slings, you can try to use the following machine: a ram with an iron-clad forehead, because against its impact only a few stone walls can withstand. However, if the stone wall does not collapse or break down with the help of this machine, you can also use a "grave pig" for this. A "castle", set on wheels, is excellent for overcoming another fortress, and this is so built that it is somewhat higher than the fortress which it fights, though the difference is only 7 alen; but it is always the better to defeat another fortress with, the higher it itself is. Ladders that are guided on wheels and that can be pulled both back and forth and at the bottom are provided with board floors and strong handrails on both sides, are also good for this war stratagem."

Principle drawing of Trebuchet

Principle drawing of Trebuchet. Foto Wikipedia.

A trebuchet is basically a large lever with a long and a short end, which is mounted in a pivot point at the top of a solid timber foundation. At the long end is a net or similar, in which the large stone to be thrown must be placed. Various mechanisms trigger the net to release at the moment of casting - as at a sling. At the short end hangs a very heavy counterweight. One "load" the trebuchet by pulling the long end down with hoists and thereby raising the counterweight. Raising the counterweight creates potential gravitational energy. The stone is placed in the net and the release mechanism is set at the tip of the long end of the lever so that the stone will leave the net with the correct trajectory. Thus, the trebuchet is ready to throw. At the throw, the gravitational energy is released.

4. The Medieval Village Churches

Stubberup Church on Hindsholm

Stubberup Church on Hindsholm north of Kerteminde is clearly visible in the landscape on a hilltop, like so many other village churches.

In the Danish landscape, there are almost 2000 village churches built in the Middle Ages.

It must have been a very large cost at this time. They testify that Danish farmers were deeply religious and made great sacrifices for their Christian conviction. The churches and their priests were the outermost members of an international church organization, with the pope in Rome as the head. The church followed everybody's life from cradle to grave. The sacred stories were brought to life with rituals, frescoes and small biblical plays such as nativity plays.

The vast majority of the village churches are built in Romanesque style, which was widespread in Europe from around 1000 to 1150. Romanesque style is also called round arch style, in contrast to the Gothic style called pointed arch style. The Romanesque churches are simple and sturdy with thick walls and small windows.

Ground plan of Romanesque church

Floor plan of Romanesque church. A: The nave B: The bema C: The apse. The first part, the square rectangular nave, is in Danish called a ship, because the church, like Noah's ark, saves people from perdition. The second part, which is narrower and lower, is called the bema, in Danish village churches it is calle kor. It was here that the monks choir stood singing. Finally, there is the apse - an even narrower and lower extension. the church form in which the nave has lower aisles along the sides is called Basilica. Photo Wikipedia.

Many of the oldest stone churches are built of travertine. It is soft and easy to process, but only available in limited quantities. In East Sjælland, a number of churches are made of chalk stone, which is also easy to work. But the vast majority of village churches are built of boulders, which means stones collected in the fields - mostly granite. Some later village churches are built of burned brick.

5. Reconquista

Reconquista denotes the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims.

After a failed invasion of the muslim Spain in 778, Charlemagne conquered Barcelona in 801 and established Frankish control of the Spanish Mark, the region between the Pyrenees and the Ebro River.
Political map of the Iberian Peninsula around 720

Political map of the Iberian Peninsula around the year 720. For three hundred years, the Western Goths had ruled the Iberian Peninsula. But in the year 711, the Muslim warriors arrived in this part of the world, which they conquered in just three years. Only a small area in the northwestern part of the peninsula the Christians managed to defend. The exact extension of the Christian part of the country - shown on the map in red - must be taken with the greatest reservation. But the Christians never forgot that they were descendants of the Gothic kings and the whole Iberian Peninsula had been Christian. Over the next 750 years, they recaptured the country piece by piece. The map shows the year of liberation for the most important cities.

The Asturian kings, who considered themselves descendants of the Gothic rulers, who had ruled Spain before the Muslim conquest, expanded their territory in the late 800's.

Sancho the Great expanded the territory of Navarre and created the Kingdom of Aragon in 1035.

The most dramatic victory of this period was Alfonso 6. of Castile and Leon's conquest of Toledo in 1085, as this city had been the capital of the Gothic Kingdom. Alfonso immediately converted the city's mosque into a church and appointed an archbishop, declaring "by God's hidden judgment": "This city was in the hands of the Moors for 376 years, blasphemers of the name of Christ - after many battles and countless slaughters of the enemy, I conquered populous cities and strong castles from them by the grace of God. Thus inspired by the grace of God, I led an army into this city, where my ancestors once reigned in power and wealth, considering it acceptable in the eyes of the Lord, if what this perfidious race under their unbelieving leader Muhammad took from the Christians, I, Emperor Alfonso, with Christ as my leader, were to recapture again to the followers of the faith." (Bartlett)

Alfonso 6.

Alfonso 6. of Castile and Leon (1047-1109) in medieval mural. It is part of Tumbo A in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Foto MaiDireLollo Wikipedia.

Alfonso 1. af Aragon erobrede den tidligere mauriske hovedstad Zaragoza i 1118.

Lisbon was conquered in 1147 with the help of North European crusaders.

In 1179, Alfonso 2. of Aragon and Alfonso 6. of Castile concluded the Cazorla Pact, which said that Aragon had the right to recapture the Moorish kingdom of Valencia and in return renounced all other claims to territory on the peninsula.

After a severe defeat at the Battle of Alarcos in 1195, Alfonso 8. and other Christian leaders appealed to Pope Innocent 3. who in 1212 called for a crusade against the Muslims on the Iberian Peninsula.

A united army from Aragon, Navarre, Portugal and Castile won a decisive victory at Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, paving the way to Andalusia.

Equestrian statue of King Ferdinand in Seville

Equestrian statue of King Ferdinand in Seville. Photo tripadvisor

Castile and Leon were united in 1230, and the new king attacked without hesitation Andalusia. Cordoba fell in 1236, and in 1248 - after a sixteen month siege - the Castillians marched into Seville and immediately transformed the main mosque into a cathedral in the newly established diocese: "When the noble king Don Ferdinand took over the city, and his heart was full of joy at the great reward he had received for his efforts, he then began, in honor and glory of God and Saint Mary, his mother, to revive the archbishopric that too early had been forsaken, neglected, and orphaned by its rightful pastor, and a worthy foundation was established in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose name this noble and holy church bore, neglected, and orphaned by his rightful priest, and a worthy foundation was established in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose name this noble and holy church bore." (Bartlett)

King Ferdinand initiated a mass expulsion of Muslims. Later, however, he allowed the Muslims to establish the Kingdom of Granada under Castilian rule, so that the Kingdom of Granada should pay a very significant annual amount to Castile.

In 1233, Algeciras and Gibraltar were invaded by Sultan Abu al-Hasan of Morocco with the aim of expelling the Christians from the Iberian Peninsula. But he suffered a crushing defeat to forces from Portugal and Castile at Rio Salado in 1340.

James 1. of Aragon completed his part of the Reconquesta, conquering Valencia in 1238.

The Muslims of Granada surrender to the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabelle in 1459. It was the last Muslim state on the Iberian Peninsula

The Muslims of Granada surrender to the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabelle in 1459. It was the last Muslim state on the Iberian Peninsula. Only seven years later, in 1499, they were all faced with the choice between being baptized into the Christian faith or being exiled. Foto Sutori.

The marriage between Ferdinand 2. of Aragon and Isabella of Castile in 1469 united the Iberian Peninsula under the Spanish crown. The Catholic monarchs finally ended Muslim rule on the peninsula with the conquest of Granada in 1492.

6. Reconquest of Sicily

Muslim Arabs first came to Sicily and Malta in 807 and completed the conquest of Sicily in 902. In southern Italy, the port city of Bari was in Muslim hands for a short period in 847. Their raids reached Naples, Rome and even as far as the northern province Piemonte on the border with Switzerland.

The Norman nobles in Normandy had many sons, and they could not all inherit the property of their fathers. Many younger sons went out into the world to pursue their luck in other ways. All Normans were vividly interested in everything to do with arms and war, and it was only natural for them to become mercenaries for princes who could pay.

Norman infantry on column head of the Benedictine monastery of Monreale in Palermo

Norman infantry on column head of the Benedictine monastery of Monreale in Palermo. Photo Best of Sicily Magazine.

Many traveled to southern Italy, which was nominally under the rule of the Eastern Roman emperor, but plagued by the constant revolts of the Lombard nobles and the attacks of Muslim pirates. Even the Pope of Rome waged war in this area.

Sicily had already been lost to the Muslims, and the Emperor did not seem to have been able to protect the rest of the country against their raids.

Amatus of Monte Cassino says that in the year 999 a group of about 40 Norman pilgrims were on their way back from Jerusalem and had reached Salerno, when the city was attacked by muslims. The pilgrims were amazed at the little resistance the local population gave. They managed to get weapons and horses from Prince Gaimar 4. of Salerno, and then they succeeded in driving away the invaders. Prince Gaimar urged them to remain in his service, but they refused the offer and returned to Normandy; however, along with an Italian envoy, who quite successfully recruited volunteers "to come to this land flowing with milk and honey and so many beautiful things".

Norman cavalry at Hastings

Norman cavalry at Hasting on the Bayeux Tapestry. The Norman knights in southern Italy must have been equipped in a very similar way. Photo Antikvariat Horsn�s.

The many younger sons of Norman nobles served as mercenaries on both sides in the battles of southern Italy. But they did not forget their Norman origin. If some were captured on the side of the losers, they were redeemed by their countrymen on the side of the victors with the booty from the victory. Their real goal was to win their own country.

As early as 1030, the first Norman county arose, when Prince Sergius of Naples rewarding the Norman, Ranulf, with the county of Aversa.

A large group of Normans entered the service of the Lombard rebel Argyrus, and they defeated the imperial army several times. But then the imperial side changed strategy. They bribed the rebel leader Argyrus to change side, causing the original rebellion to collapse. The Normans met in the town of Matera in the autumn of 1042 and agreed to put everything on one board and continue the revolt on their own, as a purely Norman revolt. Their time as mercenaries was over, now they wanted to conquer the country themselves.

The Principality of Benevento, under Pope Leo 9. was severely affected, and he became so enraged that he formed an alliance with both the Eastern Roman emperor and the Lombard princes with the aim of eliminating the Normans once and for all all.

Norman infantrymen in a reconstruction of the Battle of Hastings

Norman infantrymen in a reconstruction of the Battle of Hastings. Photo Pinterest.

The pope advanced from the north with with an army that included some very professional Swabian mercenaries and he had also gathered some Lombard princes.

At the same time the emperor had landed a large army in the south, which was marching against the Norman army. Each of the enemy armies were several times more numerous than the Normans.

The Normans decided to strike against the supposedly strongest enemy first - namely the papal army - and then turn against the weaker enemy - namely the imperial army, which was still on the march.

Perhaps this battle inspired Count Schlieffen to his famous plan, which was launched by Germany in 1914.

The armies met at Civitate northwest of the city of Foggia in 1053 and the course of the battle is very reminiscent of the Schlieffen Plan. The right flank of the Normans completely smashed the papal troops they faced, pushed them back and after disengaging themselves from the remnants of these, they were able to attack the other papal troops from behind, thus settling the battle. When the Imperial troops heard of this, they turned around.

The Norman Conquests in Italy

The Norman Conquests in Italy:
- Aversa and Foggia became Norman possessions in the period 1030-1042.
- Capua and Calabria became Norman in the period 1057-1063.
- Amalfi, Benevento, Salerno, Bari and Brindisi were subjected in the period 1071-1080.
- Naples was conquered in the period 1090-1137.
- Sicily was conquered in the period 1060-1091.
Photo Norman Culture and Empire: 1050-1200 CE.

After some years, the Vatican recognized the Normans in southern Italy as vassals and their leader, Robert Guiscard, was appointed Duke of Puglia and Calabria and Sicily.

However, the islands of Sicily and Malta, which the Pope had envisioned Robert Guiscard, were occupied by Muslims, which they had been for 150 years. After some years of fighting against the surrounding Lombard principalities, the Normans began to consider how they could get these islands in their possession.

In the dead of night they implemented an ambitious amphibious assault on Muslim Sicily. Roger d'Hautville led a fleet of 13 ships that landed 270 knights on the beach near Messina while other Norman ships demonstratively sailed around to make the Muslim defenders believe they were still on the water and could not find landing sites. They landed knights easily took Messina in a surprise attack. Very quickly they were reinforced by another 170 knights led by Robert Guiscard, who were landed in the port of Messina.

It took 30 years for the Normans to subjugate all of Sicily

It took 30 years for the Normans to subjugate all of Sicily. The map shows the year of liberation for the various cities.

The Norman conquest of England was completed in a few years, but the Italian Normans were poor knights who did not have unlimited means to make costly campaigns. Therefore, the conquest Sicily and Malta lasted 30 years.

In 1071 the Normans succeeded in destroying an Arab rescue fleet, and later the Normans invaded the port of Palermo and destroyed the Arab merchant ships there, so that there could be no possibility of receiving supplies from the sea. In 1086, they besieged Syracuse and attacked the Arab fleet just outside Syracuse. The battle was fierce but the Normans' new weapon, the crossbow, caused heavy losses on board the Arab ships.

The island of Malta was a pirate nest creating serious inconvenience to shipping in the Mediterranean. In 1091, Roger arrived to the island at the head of a fleet, defeating the Muslims there. On that occasion, he freed hundreds of Christian sailors who were prisoners.

Roger encouraged Catholic Italians from the mainland to come to Sicily. He changed the Greek Catholic diocese of Palermo to a Roman Catholic archdiocese, and also created several new dioceses.

Roger 2's Africa Kingdom

Roger 2's Africa Kingdom. Foto Nuovopitagorico Wikipedia.

Robert Guiscard's son, Roger 2. united the Norman possessions in the Kingdom of Sicily, which included both their conquests on the Italian peninsula and Sicily. Between 1135 and 1155 he also established the Norman Kingdom of Africa, which consisted mainly of modern Tunis. He intended to unite this African empire with the Kingdom of Sicily, but his death in 1154 put an end to these plans. The Africans later seceded from Sicily in a coordinated uprising.

7. Crusade against the Holy Land

The Christian congregations in Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Asia Minor were the first Christians in the world after Jesus suffered death on the cross. The Egyptian Copts, the Iraqi Chaldean Catholics, the Lebanese Maronites, the Armenian Apostolic Church - all of these existed as Christian congregations hundreds of years before the Europeans became Christians. "The Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church in the East" counts its founding back to the year 37, when the apostles Peter and Paul came to Antioch.

The Eastern Roman Empire - with its capital in Constantinople - encompassed the entire eastern Mediterranean. It had been a Christian Empire ever since Constantine the Great declared Christianity a state religion throughout the Roman Empire in the year 333.

Spread of Christianity year 622 and 1096

Above: In the year 622 AD - before the Muslim attack - Christianity was widespread throughout the territory that had previously formed the Roman Empire, which still existed as the Christian Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire. In addition, Christianity had gained a foothold in Ireland, Scotland, Mesopotamia, Saxony, Ethiopia and parts of India. There were many different Christian denominations.

Below: All of North Africa, Spain, Asia Minor, and the Middle East were lost for Christianity by the muslim attack. Historians estimate that during the conquest the holy warriors killed many times more Christians than the Christians killed Muslims in their more limited attempt to reconquer the Holy Land. Apparently - like so many historical conquerors before them - Allah's holy warriors as a rule killed the men and made their own children on the women, and this is most likely the reason why the peoples of these countries have given up their own languages and switched to Arabic. As the Quean 8:58 says: "Arberry: How many a city We have destroyed that flourished in insolent ease! Those are their dwelling-places, undwelt in after them, except a little; Ourselves are the inheritors." Map from Youtube "The Spread of Christianity" by Ollie Bye.

But from 622 to about 750, the Muslim warriors swept across the Eastern Roman Empire, leaving the emperor as head of only Greece and some smaller areas on both sides of the Bosphorus Strait. Syria was lost around 636, Egypt 641, Mesopotamia and the Persian Empire fell in 650.

The initial Muslim conquest had a format and scope that far surpassed the later crusades against the Holy Land.

Pope Urban 2 calls for crusade in Clermont

Pope Urban 2 calls for crusades in Clermont, France. Photo The Middle Age Portefolio.

The Christian emperor in Constantinople repeatedly asked for help from his fellow believers in the West, and finally the pope, Urban 2. decided to come to the aid of the needy Christians in the East.

In 1095 he called Christianity to crusade in a speech to an assembly of barons and clergy in the French city of Clermont: "Oh, race of Franks, race from across the mountains, race chosen and beloved by God as shines forth in very many of your works set apart from all nations by the situation of your country, as well as by your catholic faith and the honor of the holy church! To you our discourse is addressed and for you our exhortation is intended. We wish you to know what a grievous cause has led us to Your country, what peril threatening you and all the faithful has brought us."

Pope Urban continued: "From the confines of Jerusalem and the city of Constantinople a horrible tale has gone forth and very frequently has been brought to our ears, namely, that a race from the kingdom of the Persians, an accursed race, a race utterly alienated from God, a generation forsooth which has not directed its heart and has not entrusted its spirit to God, has invaded the lands of those Christians and has depopulated them by the sword, pillage and fire; it has led away a part of the captives into its own country, and a part it has destroyed by cruel tortures; it has either entirely destroyed the churches of God or appropriated them for the rites of its own religion. They destroy the altars, after having defiled them with their uncleanness. They circumcise the Christians, and the blood of the circumcision they either spread upon the altars or pour into the vases of the baptismal font." - "What shall I say of the abominable rape of the women?" - "Let the deeds of your ancestors move you and incite your minds to manly achievements; the glory and greatness of king Charles the Great, and of his son Louis, and of your other kings, who have destroyed the kingdoms of the pagans, and have extended in these lands the territory of the holy church. Let the holy sepulcher of the Lord our Savior, which is possessed by unclean nations, especially incite you, and the holy places which are now treated with ignominy and irreverently polluted with their filthiness. Oh, most valiant soldiers and descendants of invincible ancestors, be not degenerate, but recall the valor of your progenitors."

"It is the will of God! It is the will of God!" shouted the assembly. Then they parted and went home to prepare the crusades separately.

Crusader states from around 1099 to the fall of Edessa in 1135

Crusader states from around 1099 to the fall of Edessa in 1135. Photo mapmaster Wikipedia.

Already two years later, in 1097, a considerable army had been brought to the part of Asia Minor, which the Turks had deprived the Eastern Roman Empire.

The first crusader state was created in 1098 by Balduin of Boulogne and named Edessa. It covered mostly parts of modern Turkey, but also part of modern Syria with a southern border just north of Aleppo. The Duchy of Edessa was not connected to the sea. It was the northernmost, weakest and least populated of the Crusader states, and therefore it was subject to frequent attacks from the surrounding Muslim states.

In 1144, Count Joscelin of Edessa entered into an alliance with a local emir named Kara Arslan. To support his ally against a common enemy, Joscelin marched out of Edessa with almost his entire army to a place on the Tigris River called Diyarbakir. Zengi of Mosul heard of his absence and hurried north with an army to occupy the city before Count Joscelin returned. The city was only defended by the local Armenian Christians, who had no military experience. After a month of siege, part of the city wall collapsed and Zengi's troops poured in and massacred the Armenians. A rescue force from the Kingdom of Jerusalem arrived just a few days late.

The news that the county of Edessa had been conquered by Muslims sent a shock wave through Europe and became the triggering cause of the Second Crusade. Both Louis 8. of France and Emperor Conrad 3. of Germany took the Cross in 1146 to recapture Edessa.

The second crusader state was the Principality of Antioch. While Baldwin of Boulogne went east to establish the county of Edessa, the main crusade of the First Crusade continued south and began a siege of the city of Antioch. The Norman Bohemund of Taranto led the siege, which began in October 1097.

With over four hundred towers, the city's defense was formidable. The siege lasted all winter and was the cause of much exhaustion in the Crusaders' army, where the knights had to eat their own horses.

The knight Adhemar de Monteil carries the Holy Lance at the forefront of the battle

The knight Adhemar de Monteil carries the Holy Lance at the forefront of the battle. Photo medieval illustration.

Bohemond persuaded a guard in one of the towers, an Armenian and former christian named Firouz, to give the Crusaders access to the city. Only four days later, a Muslim army arrived from Mosul to rescue the city. Now the Crusaders themselves became the besieged.

The Crusaders resisted the siege with the help of a mysterious man named Peter Bartholomew, who claimed to have been visited by the Apostle Andrew, who told him that the sacred lance that pierced the side of Christ, when he hung on the cross, could be found in Antioch. Skt. Peter's Cathedral was excavated and the lance was found by Peter himself. With this sacred relic at the head of the army, they set out to meet the besieging muslim force, which was miraculously defeated - according to the Crusaders, an army of saints appeared over the battlefield to give them victory.

The main army of the Crusaders advanced towards their goal, Jerusalem. But Bohemund of Taranto remained and proclaimed the principality of Antioch in 1099. He installed a Catholic archbishop with the blessing of the pope and sent the Greek Orthodox archbishop into exile in Constantinople.

Antioch included the southernmost part of modern Turkey along the Mediterranean and part of modern Syria west of Aleppo - including Idlib. Led by Bohemund's descendants, the Principality had a relatively long history in fierce battles against Muslims and Eastern Roman armies. But in the showdown between the Mongols and the Egyptian Mameluks in 1260, Antioch chose to stand on the side of the Mongols and it came to cost them dearly. After the Mongols withdrew to Asia, the city and the principality in 1268 were plundered and burned by Sultan Baybar of the Mamelukes.

The Crusader castle Crac des Chevaliers in present-day Syria

The crusader castle Crac des Chevaliers in present-day Syria just north of modern Lebanon.

South of Antioch, the Crusaders established the County of Tripoli, led by Raymond of Toulouse, backed by local Christians and Druze. The county encompassed the northern part of modern Lebanon as far as Beirut and the modern Syrian coastline towards the Mediterranean. The Crusader fortress, Crac des Chevaliers, was one of the county's most important military bases.

The county of Tripoli later shared the fate of the Principality of Antioch in 1268 after the Mongols withdrew to Asia.

On June 7, 1099, the Crusaders stood in front of the walls of Jerusalem. They attacked immediately, but the attack failed. But then some Genoese ships arrived in Jaffa with craftsmen and materials for the construction of siege machines. They built two large siege machines - some say attack towers. The one, which was under the command of Godfrey of Bouillon, created a breach in the city wall.

Crusaders streamed into the city and for two days they massacred all the Muslims and Jews that they could find. Tancred hoisted his purple banner over the Aqsa Mosque.

The Conquest of Jerusalem - painting by Emile Signol

The conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 - oil painting on canvas by Emile Signol 1847. Photo Wikipedia.

William of Tyre's description of the massacre, written in the 12. century, became a standard description of the slaughter (Although he was not born until 30 years after the event): "It was impossible to look upon the vast numbers of the slain without horror; everywhere lay fragments of human bodies, and the very ground was covered with the blood of the slain. It was not alone the spectacle of headless bodies and mutilated limbs strewn in all directions that roused horror in all who looked upon them. Still more dreadful was it to gaze upon the victors themselves, dripping with blood from head to foot."

Within a month, a large Egyptian army of about 20,000 men arrived to retake the city. The Egyptians sent scouts in advance, but these were captured by the Crusaders and motivated to tell that the enemy had encamped at Ascalon. There the enemy army was completely surprised by the Crusaders' attack at the Battle of Ascalon, and most of the enemies perished in various ways - some drowned in the sea, it is said.

Mural in St. John Co Cathedral in Valetta, Malta

Mural in St. John Co Cathedral in Valetta, Malta, the church was built by the Order of St. John between 1572 and 1577. Photo Venice Tours.

Godfrey of Bouillon became the first prince of Jerusalem, however, he died already the year after the conquest of the city. Then his brother, Baldwin, was crowned King of Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem, two knightly orders were established, which should become very important in the fight against the Muslims.

The Order of Saint John is named after John the Baptist. They existed even before the Crusades as a band of knights with the dual purpose of protecting pilgrims in the Holy Land against robbers and running hospitals to care for the sick. It was a kind of monastic order, where the monks also served Christ with weapons.

After the conquest of Jerusalem, they became a real military elite force, fully equipped with all the weapons of the time. After the fall of Jerusalem and the expulsion of the Christians from Palestine, they operated first from Rhodes and then from Malta, which last island gave them the name Maltese Knights.

The Knights Templar Order was founded in 1119. They had their headquarters on the Temple Mountain in Jerusalem, which gave them their name. Like the Knights of John, they were a kind of monastic order that also served Christ with weapons. They were dressed in white robes with a red cross. They became among the most skilled and feared combat units in the Holy Land.

A mounted Knight Templar in battle in s detail of a mural in the Templar Chapel in Cressac, France

A mounted Knight Templar in battle in s detail of a mural in the Templar Chapel in Cressac, France. Photo Pinterest.

They developed a comprehensive international organization for financial support for their military operations, which included hundreds of forts and offices across Europe. They ran a kind of early banking business. This international economic network later aroused the anger of Philip 4 of France, and in 1307 he had the order dissolved and the leaders arrested.

Around 1175, the Kurd Saladin succeeded in uniting almost all the Muslim states around the Kingdom of Jerusalem, including Damascus, Aleppo and Egypt - then it looked bleak for the Crusaders.

King Guy of Jerusalem responded in 1187 by raising the largest army that Jerusalem had ever led in the field. Saladin lured the force out into difficult terrain without water supply, surrounded the Crusaders with a numerically superior force, and defeated them in the Battle of Hattin.

After the defeat, the city of Jerusalem was lost, but the kingdom of Jerusalem survived and moved the capital to Acre. But the Crusader states never became the same again.

The fall of city triggered the third crusade, led by, among others, Richard Lionheart of England, Philip 2. of France and the German Roman Emperor Frederick 1. Despite the high-ranking leaders it was without decisive success.

Historians speak of seven crusades, but none of the subsequent ones had the same success as the first crusade.

After the fall of the city of Jerusalem the crusader kingdoms were mainly reduced to a relatively narrow strip of land along the shores of the Mediterranean, which could be supplied from the sea side.

A Mameluk trains with lance

A Mameluk trains with lance in document from around 1500. Photo Pinterest.

The Arab countries of that time used slave soldiers, who were called mameluks. Boy children were abducted or bought, mainly from Turkish, Christian, Armenian, Coptic or Georgian families. The boys were trained from childhood as warriors and soldiers - probably much like Islamic State did with Yazidi Kurdish boys. The Mamluks became dreaded military units.

But around 1250, the Mamluks in Egypt revolted and seized the power for themselves.

At the same time, the Mongols under Genghis Khan's grandson Hülegü arrived in the Middle East, conquered in quick succession Baghdad, Aleppo and Damascus and massacred the inhabitants. Some crusader states found it wisest to make alliances with the Mongols against the supposed common enemy, which treaties, however, did not prevent the Mongols from plundering and destroying Sidon - and presumably massacring the inhabitants, as was their custom - which city was one of the few remaining remnants of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

However, Hülegü was informed that the great Khan, Möngke, had died in Mongolia. He withdrew his main force to Persia near Azerbaijan, leaving only 20,000 men in Syria, which he considered sufficient. Hülegü then traveled personally to Mongolia to take part in the power struggle caused by Möngke's death.

This news caused the Egyptian Mamluks to advance and defeat the remaining Mongols at the Battle of Ayn Jalut in 1260 in present-day Israel. Then it looked even more bleak for the Crusaders.

The city of Acre was then the most important Christian port in the Crusader kingdoms and the only remaining Christian area in 1291. The siege and conquest of this city represents the end of the Crusade period.

After the fall of Jerusalem, Acre had become the home of the headquarters of the Knights of the Johanites. In addition, the city had a large force of the other two orders of knights, the Teutonic Knights and Knights Templar.

Johanite knights defend the city wall of Acre

The Johanite knight Mathieu de Clermont defends the city wall of Acre in 1291. Painting by Dominique Papety from around 1840. Foto Wikipedia.

The Sultan of the Mamluks, Khalil, was firmly determined to expel the Christians completely - once and for all. He marched towards Acre with great force and many siege machines - perhaps about 100 catapults. One of these, which was taken from the Crac des Chevaliers - which fell as early as 1271 - bore the name "Victorious". It was so big that it had to be dismantled, but even then it took a month and 100 carts to tow it to Acre and it is said that the journey cost the lives of countless oxen, which died of sheer exhaustion along the way.

It is said that the Mamluks began the siege on April 4, 1291. They attacked Acre and its city wall with alarming regularity - both with stones and ceramic containers containing a flammable or explosive substance.

By the beginning of May, the defenders were already in such reduced circumstances - there were barely enough men to man the entire length of the wall - that all sorties were stopped. King Henry of Jerusalem and Cyprus offered to negotiate with Khalil, but the sultan demanded unconditional surrender. By the second week of May, the attackers had undermined parts of the walls, causing several towers to partially collapse.

When Acre finally fell on May 18, 1291, the survivors were able to flee to Cyprus by sea, which option was still open, never to return to the Holy Land.

Louis the Holy took the cross

The French king Louis the Holy took the cross. He became the leader of the Fifth Crusade.

Thus ended the crusades. By then, Christian armies had been present in present-day Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon for nearly two hundred years. That is three times as long as the modern state of Israel has existed until now.

The descendants of the Crusaders, however, retained dominion over Cyprus until 1570, when the island was conquered by the Turks.

For 192 years, countless Europeans had traveled to the Holy Land - but also returned home. And the latter was precisely the problem. The Europeans in the Holy Land never became numerous enough to permanently take possession of the land and make their mark on it.

The Middle Ages in Europe were a time of prosperity. There is no doubt that it was characterized by a very strong population growth. On the basis of the slightly better known development in England, one can guess that there was something in the direction of a tripling of Denmark's population until around 1300.

Danish village names with suffixes -rup, -drup, -trup and -strup have developed linguistically from Torp, which is the term for a new settlement. The prefix often include personal names, for example Torkilstrup, Ebberup and Torup, where we recognize the personal names Torkil, Ebbe and Thor. This type of place name dates from the late Viking Age and High Middle Ages to around 1250. There are around 2000 of these place names, and they testify to population growth and cultivation of new land.

Medieval Europeans preferred to cultivate new land in their own land or as close to their own land as possible. Germans, Dutch and Flemings emigrated to modern Mecklenburg, Pomerania, Prussia and East Prussia, where they cultivated new land to feed their families. Swedes went to Finland.

Very few have felt tempted to settle in the Holy Land, which was already densely populated and full of enemies who wanted to kill Christian Europeans. There were so many other options.

8. Litteratur

Five surviving versions of Urban II's speech in Clermont Fordham - Medieval Sourcebook
The Battle of Crecy Wikipedia
Kongespejlet Heimskringla
Havamal Fornsidr
Havamal (eng) Pitt.edu
Trebuchet Wikipedia
Det Byzantinske Rige Wikipedia
Normanniske erobring af SyditalienWikipedia
Siege of Edessa (1144) Wikipedia
The Capture of Jerusalem Ancient History
The Siege of Acre Ancient History
Crossbow Wikipedia
William of Tyre, The Capture of Jerusalem Historimuse.net
The Capture of Jerusalem Ancient History
"The Making of Europe" by Robert Bartlett - Allen Lane the Penguin Press.
"From Viking Stronghold to Christian Kingdom" by Sverre Bagge - Museum Tusculanum Press.
Til start
Passed W3C Validation