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Siege of Jerusalem (1099)

The Siege of Jerusalem took place from June 7 to July 15, 1099 during the First Crusade.



After the successful siege of Antioch in June of 1098, the crusaders remained in the area for the rest of the year. The papal legate Adhemar of Le Puy had died, and Bohemund of Taranto had claimed Antioch for himself. Baldwin of Boulogne remained in Edessa, captured earlier in 1098. There was dissent among the princes over what to do next; Raymond of Toulouse, frustrated, left Antioch to capture the fortress at Ma'arrat al-Numan . By the end of the year the minor knights and infantry were threatening to march to Jerusalem without them.

The siege of Arqa

At the end of December or early in January, Robert of Normandy and Bohemund's nephew Tancred agreed to become vassals of Raymond, who was wealthy enough to compensate them for their service. Godfrey of Bouillon, however, who now had revenue from his brother's territory in Edessa, refused to do the same. On January 5, Raymond dismantled the walls of Ma'arrat, and on January 13 began the march south, barefoot and dressed as a pilgrim, followed by Robert and Tancred. Proceeding down the coast of the Mediterranean, they encountered little resistance, as local Muslim rulers preferred to make peace and give supplies rather than fight. The local Sunnis may have also preferred Crusader control to Shi'ite Fatimid rule.

Raymond planned to take Tripoli for himself to set up a state equivalent to Bohemund's Antioch. First however, he besieged nearby Arqa. Meanwhile, Godfrey, along with Robert of Flanders, who had also refused to become Raymond's vassal, joined together with the remaining crusaders at Latakia and marched south in February. Bohemund marched out with them but quickly returned to Antioch. At this time Tancred left Raymond's service and joined with Godfrey, due to some unknown quarrel. Another separate force, though linked to Godfrey's, was led by Gaston IV of Béarn.

Godfrey, Robert, Tancred, and Gaston arrived at Arqa in March, but the siege continued. The situation was tense not only among the military leaders, but also among the clergy; since Adhemar's death there had been no real leader, and ever since the discovery of the Holy Lance by Peter Bartholomew in Antioch, there had been accusations of fraud among different clerical factions. Finally, in April, Arnulf of Chocques challenged Peter to an ordeal by fire. Peter underwent the ordeal and died of his wounds, thus discrediting the holy lance as a fake and one of Raymonds holds on his ultimate authority over the Crusade.

The siege of Jerusalem

The siege of Arqa lasted until May 13 when the crusaders left, having captured nothing. The Fatimids had attempted to make peace, on the condition that the crusaders not continue towards Jerusalem, but this was of course ignored; the Fatimid governor of Jerusalem apparently did not understand why the crusaders were there at all. On the 13th they came to Tripoli where the ruler of the city gave them money and horses. According to the anonymous chronicle Gesta Francorum, he also vowed to convert to Christianity if the crusaders succeeded in capturing Jerusalem from his Fatimid enemies. Continuing south along the coast, the crusaders passed Beirut on May 19, Tyre on May 23, and turning inland at Jaffa, reached Ramlah on June 3, which had already been abandoned by its inhabitants. The bishopric of Ramlah-Lydda was established there at the church of St. George (a popular crusader hero) before they continued on to Jerusalem. On June 6, Godfrey sent Tancred and Gaston to capture Bethlehem, where Tancred flew his banner from the Church of the Nativity. On June 7 the crusaders reached Jerusalem itself. Many cried upon seeing the city they had journeyed so long to reach.

As with Antioch the crusaders put the city to a siege, in which the crusaders themselves probably suffered more than the citizens of the city, due to the lack of food and water around Jerusalem. The city was well-prepared for the siege, and the Fatimid governor had expelled most of the Christians. Of the estimated 7,000 knights who took part in the Princes' Crusade, only about 1,500 remained, along with another 12,000 healthy foot-soldiers (out of perhaps as many as 20,000). Godfrey, Robert of Flanders, and Robert of Normandy (who had now also left Raymond to join Godfrey) besieged the north walls as far south as the Tower of David, while Raymond set up his camp on the western side, from the Tower of David to Mount Zion. A direct assault on the walls on June 13 was a failure. Without water or food, both men and animals were quickly dying of thirst and starvation and the crusaders knew time was not on their side. Coincidentally, soon after the first assault, a number of Christian ships sailed into the port at Jaffa, and the crusaders were able to re-supply themselves for a short time. The crusaders also began to gather wood from Samaria in order to build siege engines. They were still short on food and water, and by the end of June there was news that a Fatimid army was marching north from Egypt.

The barefoot procession

Faced with a seemingly impossible task, their spirits were raised when a priest by the name of Peter Desiderius claimed to have a divine vision in which the ghost of Adhemar instructed them to fast for three days and then march in a barefoot procession around the city walls, after which the city would fall in nine days, following the Biblical example of Joshua at the siege of Jericho. Although they were already starving, they fasted, and on July 8 they made the procession, with the clergy blowing trumpets and singing psalms, being mocked by the defenders of Jerusalem all the while. The procession stopped on the Mount of Olives and sermons were delivered by Peter the Hermit, Arnulf of Chocques, and Raymond of Aguilers.

The final assault and massacre

Throughout the siege, attacks were made on the walls, but each one was repulsed. Meanwhile, three siege engines were completed and were rolled up to the walls on the night of July 14 much to the surprise and concern of the garrison. On the morning of July 15, Godfrey's tower reached his section of the walls near the northeast corner gate, and according to the Gesta a Flemish knight named Lethold was the first to cross into the city, followed by Godfrey, his brother Eustace, Tancred, and their men. Raymond's tower was at first stopped by a ditch, but as the other crusaders had already entered, the Muslim guarding the gate surrendered to Raymond.

Once the Crusaders had breached the outer walls and entered the city almost every inhabitant of Jerusalem was killed over the course of that afternoon, evening and next morning. Muslims, Jews, and even any remaining Christians were all massacred with indiscriminate violence. Many Muslims sought shelter in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where, according to one famous account in Gesta, "...the slaughter was so great that our men waded in blood up to their ankles..." According to Raymond of Aguilers "men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins." Tancred claimed the Temple quarter for himself and offered protection to some of the Muslims there, but he could not prevent their deaths at the hands of his fellow crusaders. The Fatimid governor withdrew to the Tower of David, which he soon surrendered to Raymond in return for safe passage for himself and bodyguards to Ascalon. They were the only ones to escape alive.


Following the massacre, Godfrey of Bouillon was made Advocatus Sancti Sepulchri (Protector of the Holy Sepulchre) on July 22, refusing to be named king in the city where Christ had died. Raymond had refused any title at all, and Godfrey convinced him to give up the Tower of David as well. Raymond then went on a pilgrimage, and in his absence Arnulf of Chocques, whom Raymond had opposed due to his own support for Peter Bartholomew, was elected the first Latin Patriarch on August 1 (the claims of the Greek Patriarch were ignored). On August 5, Arnulf, after consulting the surviving inhabitants of the city, discovered the relic of the True Cross.

On August 12, Godfrey led an army, with the True Cross carried in the vanguard, against the Fatimid army at the Battle of Ascalon on August 12. The crusaders were successful, but following the victory, the majority of them considered their crusading vows to have been fulfilled, and all but a few hundred knights returned home. Nevertheless, their victory paved the way for the establishment of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.


Last updated: 05-17-2005 18:04:31