The first crusade was the first of several crusades that took place in order to re-capture Jerusalem. Prior to this, Jerusalem had been taken by Muslim rule in the year 1076. Muslim soldiers made life difficult for Christian residents of Jerusalem and the region during that time. One of these Christians was Alexius I of Constantinople, the location of modern day Turkey. Alexius I turned to Pope Urban II, requesting his help in the matter. In 1095, Pope Urban II spoke to a large crowd in Clermont, France, calling for war against the Muslims and the re-capture of Jerusalem for Christians.
Men who volunteered for this war wore red crosses and sewed them on to their tunics. The French word “croix” (cross) was later changed to croisades, or crusades. This marked the beginning of the 'Holy War'.
There were three groups of men who joined these crusades: The first group fought for their Christian faith; the second for forgiveness of their sins; the third group consisted of those who expect to get rich by collecting the wealth and spoils of this war.
Those who chose to join the Crusaders were named Pilgrims of God. As pilgrims, they were exempted from paying taxes. In addition, these pilgrims enjoyed the protection of the Church. It was in June 7, 1099, when the siege of Jerusalem commenced. This siege became notorious due to the mass slaughter of Jerusalem’s population.
Almost 10,000 people were gathered in Constantinople, ready to take the journey to the Holy Land. Pope Urban II appointed Bishop Adbenar as the leader, but he rejected the offer and appointed others in his place. The Crusaders' first target was the fortress of Nicaea, as its leader was an enemy of the Church. The Crusaders easily captured the fortress of Nicaea, now modern day Iznik, Turkey. Present day Nicaea was made famous by a former church built during the time of Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century. It was in this same site where the Second Council of Nicaea was held by Roman Catholics in a bid to restore the honoring of holy images. The Crusaders then went after Antioch. It took about seven months before the city fell to the ground. Antioch is located in current day Syria.
The next target was Jerusalem. A monk name Fulcher retold the story about the siege of Jerusalem. Fulcher said that the Crusaders cut down anybody in sight on the streets of Jerusalem. Some Muslims were spared, but they were forced to collect the bodies of those who died in the siege. According to Muslims, about 70,000 of their kinsman were killed, and the Crusaders captured the treasures found in the Dome of the Rock, located on Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount), where God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.
After the success of these crusades, Jerusalem was rebuilt under its first king Godfrey of Bouillon. He was elected to rule by the Crusaders.