*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 28th of July. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I’m Adam Francisco in for Dan van Voorhis.

Today on Christian History Almanac, we look at the second crusade, for it was on this day that German king Conrad III and Louis the VII of France laid siege to the city of Damascus, only to retreat and eventually, completely disgraced, return to Europe.

Ever since the first crusade, the eastern Mediterranean—from Armenia in the north all the way to Jerusalem and farther south—was ruled by European Christians, who had divided the region up into four separate jurisdictions—the county of Edessa in the north, principality of Antioch in Asia Minor, county of Tripoli on the coast, and of course the kingdom of Jerusalem.

This would all prove to be short-lived, though, for all of them would be conquered by Muslim armies in what contemporaneous Arabic chronicles referred to as a jihad or obligatory struggle to regain land that once belonged to the house of Islam. Edessa was the first to fall. In 1144 a Turkish warlord from Mosul named Imad al-Din Zengi began a four-month-long siege until it finally caved on the 24th of December. For his victory, he was given the title Defender of the Faith (of Islam).

News of Zengi’s victory reached Europe shortly thereafter when pilgrims who had returned from the holy land reported it to the pope. The pope, cardinals, bishops, kings, and princes were shocked. And the thirst for vengeance set in. It took a while, but about a year later, the Pope issued a decree (or bull) calling Christians to prepare for a second crusade, which was largely ignored until Conrad and Louis committed to leading it and Bernard of Clairvaux, who was the most influential cleric in France and Germany, was asked to preach and encourage Christians to join them. “I ask you and advise you not to want to put your own business before the business of Christ,” he preached. The business of Christ and his followers was the business of the crusade.

The pope’s call to crusade was renewed again in March of 1145. Indulgences were offered, and Bernard promised victory to the faithful. And so, after a lengthy period of preparation, about 35,000 crusaders began the long march toward the holy land in 1147. They were meant to go to Edessa, but they decided to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem first. After seeing the holy sites in the holy city, rather than a march toward Edessa, the crusaders decided to attack Damascus first. Damascus never fell during the first crusade and had remained in Muslim hands since it was ruled by the Umayyads in the 7th century.

Despite protests and knowing this was not part of the plan (nor was it sanctioned by the pope), the order to march on Damascus was given. The crusaders attacked July 28th, and in less than 24 hours, they fell back in retreat, going back to Jerusalem. Accusations of poor leadership, suspicion of half-hearted commitment in various ranks, and talk of betrayal all followed. Though there was talk and some half-hearted planning for a march to Edessa and elsewhere, nothing ever came to fruition. And the second crusade, like others that would follow, was a total failure.

A reading from Psalm 75.

We give thanks to you, O God;
we give thanks, for your name is near.
We[a] recount your wondrous deeds.

2 “At the set time that I appoint
I will judge with equity.
3 When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants,
it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah
4 I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’
and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn;
5 do not lift up your horn on high,
or speak with haughty neck.’”

6 For not from the east or from the west
and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
7 but it is God who executes judgment,
putting down one and lifting up another.
8 For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup
with foaming wine, well mixed,
and he pours out from it,
and all the wicked of the earth
shall drain it down to the dregs.

9 But I will declare it forever;
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
10 All the horns of the wicked I will cut off,
but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 28th of July brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by Christopher Gillespie and written by Adam Francisco.

You can catch us here every day. And remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. In the end, everything is going to be ok.