18 The Crusaders Were Here 1095 THE 200-YEAR Christian campaign to reclaim Jerusalem from Muslim rule brought Europe's greatest military and commercial expansion since the fall of Rome. It inspired a wealth of art and literature--most notably Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. It was also a bloody episode, a portent of ethnic strife to come.
Purported relics from the era of Jesus, unearthed in Jerusalem (the Holy Lance, John the Baptist's remains), proved to Western Christians that the city belonged to them. Almost from the moment Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade in 1095, zealots plundered their way toward Palestine, slaughtering unbelievers--including thousands of European Jews.
In 1099 the Christians took Jerusalem. But battles continued there and throughout the Middle East, and in 1244 the Muslims regained the city. Still, Europe won much from the Crusades. They helped revive mining and manufacturing. New trade routes opened, conduits for Eastern imports that enriched the West: silk, spices, gunpowder, algebra. A less popular novelty was the income tax--instituted to help pay for the holy wars.