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Word Count: 2,490
After the death of Charlemagne king of the Franks in 814 and the following collapse of his empire Christian Europe was under attack and on the defensive The Magyars nomadic people from Asia ravaged eastern and central Europe until the 10th century Around 800 several centuries of Viking raids disrupted life in northern Europe and even threatened Mediterranean cities Nevertheless the greatest threat came from the forces of Islam very militant and victorious in the centuries following the death of their leader Muhammad in 632 By the eighth century Islamic forces had conquered North Africa the eastern shores of the Mediterranean and most of Spain Islamic armies established bases in Italy greatly reduced the size of the Byzantine Empire and besieged the capital Constantinople In the 11th century the balance of power began to swing toward the West For the first time in many years the popes were able to effectively unite European popular support behind them a factor that contributed greatly to the popular appeal to the first Crusades Moreover Europes population was growing its urban life was beginning to revive and both long distance and local trade were gradually increasing European human and economic resources could now support new ventures on the scale of the Crusades The crusades were military expeditions launched against the Muslims by the Christians in an attempt to regain the Holy Land They took place between 1095 AD and 1270 AD It was one of the most violent periods in the history of mankind The starting point of the crusades was on November 18 1095 AD when Pope Urban II opened the Council of Clermont On November 27 outside the French city of Clermont-Ferrand the Pope made an important speech He called upon everyone to help the Christians in the east to restore peace The crowds response was very positive Garments were cut into crosses which were attached to peoples shoulders in an imitation of Christ Matthew 10381
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