The Fall of Jerusalem, 1187

Lead up to the Fall of Jerusalem, 1187

  • The battle for Jerusalem was the most significant event of the Second Crusade (1147-1149), which aimed to recapture the Crusader states lost to Muslim forces.
  • The Muslim world united under the dynamic leadership of Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria, who was determined to retake Jerusalem.
  • King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, who was a leper, died in 1185, and his sister, Sibylla, was chosen to succeed him. However, her husband, Guy of Lusignan, was not highly respected, creating internal political strife.

The Battle of Hattin

  • The crucial event before Jerusalem’s fall was the Battle of Hattin in July 1187, where Crusader forces suffered a catastrophic defeat against Saladin’s army.
  • Threatened by Saladin, Guy of Lusignan foolishly marched his troops into the desert without sufficient water supplies. They were trapped by Saladin’s troops and defeated.
  • Almost the entire military force of the Crusader states was eliminated in this battle, leaving Jerusalem virtually undefended.

Fall of Jerusalem

  • After the Battle of Hattin, Saladin moved towards Jerusalem and laid siege to the city in September 1187.
  • Balian of Ibelin, the holder of the city, confronted Saladin. He negotiated terms for the city’s surrender when it became clear that Jerusalem could not stand a prolonged siege.
  • Unlike the massacres after the First Crusade’s Siege of Jerusalem, Saladin took the city peacefully. He allowed Christian inhabitants to leave the city upon certain monetary payments, showing relative religious tolerance.

Impact of the Fall of Jerusalem

  • The fall of Jerusalem was a devastating blow to Christian Europe and led to the calling of the Third Crusade (1189-1192) to recapture the Holy Land.
  • This event significantly damaged the Crusader States’ political and military structure, which had relied heavily on Jerusalem as a spiritual and strategic centre.
  • The fall of Jerusalem to Saladin solidified his reputation in the Islamic World. He became a symbol of resistance against Crusader aggression in the centuries that followed.
  • Despite the fall of Jerusalem, some pockets of the Crusader States, such as the coastal city of Tyre, remained under the control of Christians. These proved crucial in the initial stages of the Third Crusade.