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27 Jul

Consequences and Legacy of the Crusades

The original goal of the Crusades – capturing Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the Muslims failed but the Crusades greatly influenced life in medieval Europe. Contact with different nationalities, cultures and religions resulted in the interchange of ideas and customs as well as in progress of science, techniques, medicine, literature, architecture, invention and geography. The Crusades greatly stimulated European economy, while the Italian cities of Venice, Genoa and Pisa which took over the transport and supply to the Crusaders as well as the import of luxurious products such as spices, precious and semi-precious stones, ivory and many other products from the Middle East reached their height during the period of the Crusades. Increased trade and transportation needs also resulted in the development of roads and traffic infrastructure as well as in the emergence of first modern financial institutions. The middle class (bourgeoisie) grew stronger, while many nobles got into debts to participate the Crusades. Such circumstances were taken advantage by many serfs who greatly improved their position as well as by many medieval cities which managed to free themselves from the authority of feudal lords. Thus the Crusades also played an important role in the decline of medieval feudal system.

The Crusades resulted in major political changes. The Crusades were launched against the Muslims to recapture Jerusalem and the Holy Land as well as against the non-Christian peoples in Europe, Albigenses and Hussites and even against political enemies. However, the leadership of the Church in the Crusades was eventually taken over by the secular leaders. Thus the Crusades also played an important role in the development of national monarchies, while the establishment of the Crusader states in the Middle East resulted in the first European expansion out of Europe. The Crusades also resulted in the first conflicts based on nationality and deepened the breach between the Western Europe and the Byzantine Empire which reached its height with the fall of Constantinople in 1204.

The Crusades led to the emergence of military/religious orders which were founded during the First and the Second Crusades. The Teutonic Knights were founded during the Third Crusade as a hospice brotherhood but like the Knights Hospitaller, Knights Templar and other military orders, the Teutonic Knights transformed into a military order with great influence in the Holy Land.

All military orders withdrew to Europe after the fall of the last Crusader state in the Middle East. The Knights Templar predominantly consisting of the French returned to France. In 1307, Pope Clement V issued a Papal Bull ordering all monarchs to arrest the Knights Templar and to seize their properties. Knights Templar were officially dissolved in 1312 by Pope Clement V. After the fall of Acre in 1291, the Knights Hospitaller first withdrew to Cyprus and then to Rhodes until they finally moved to Malta in the 16th century. The Teutonic Knights were forced to leave the Holy Land as well. In 1226, they responded to the call of the Polish Duke Conrad of Mazovia for a Crusade against the pagan Prussians which led to the establishment of the Monastic state of the Teutonic Knights. The Monastic state of the Teutonic Knights survived until 1466 when the second Treaty of Torun forced them to cede West Prussia and Pomerelia to Poland, while East Prussia became a Polish fief.

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