While all the action around Nicaea and Antioch was taking place, a major event in the Moslem word was also occurring. An Arab Moslem group known as the Fatimids arose out of Egypt, and took Jerusalem from the Turkish Moslems by force. This was an important development for the Crusaders as they made their way to Jerusalem, though they may not have know it.
With Jerusalem now out of Turkish hands, the Turkish cities along the Crusader’s path did not have the same motivation to attack and slow the Crusader’s advance. The Arab Fatamids had just taken the city from the Turks and they saw little reason to stop the Crusaders from marching down and smacking them. If the Crusaders agreed not to attack their cities, the Turkish Moslems would provide them a few supplies and allow them to pass unimpeded.
So with little resistance, the Crusaders marched to Jerusalem and on June 1099 they put the city under siege. But once again, things were looking rough for this group. Just as it was at Antioch, their supplies were low and with the water supply failing, the summer heat took its toll on the army.
Also like Antioch, Jerusalem was a well-fortified city with large walls. The Crusaders at one point made an attempt to attack and breech the city’s walls but failed miserably. And just when things couldn’t get any worse, news came that the Fatamids had raised a massive army and it was marching their way.
And just when it looked the darkest, a preacher came forward to deliver an amazingly strange yet effective sermon. Who was that preacher you ask? None other than our pal Peter the Hermit. I’m not sure if the fact that they listened to the guy who led a group of peasants to their suicidal death a couple years before speaks more of his skill in communication, or their desperate situation, but listen to him they did.
Peter, on the Mount of Olives (always a fan of the dramatic), told the Crusaders that God told him that to take the city of Jerusalem they must prepare themselves by performing penance. And after that, to march around the walls of Jerusalem three times while singing. If they would have only gone around four more times they would have taken care of the walls.
The Crusaders did what Peter had recommended, along with adding some new siege engines to their arsenal, and were able to breech the walls on July 15th. While there were civilians killed while taking the city, the numbers usually quoted are ridiculously inflated. But now, after thousands of miles and many years, Jerusalem was once again under Christian control, and would remain tat way for the next two hundred years.
And this is where the First Crusade ends.
But what about the huge Fatamid army moving towards Jerusalem? Well it seems that the Crusaders were able to find the camp and stage an ambush. The battle that took place there is known as the Battle of Ascalon. And though the Fatamid army was larger, they were not terribly effective fighters. The Crusaders were able to route the Moslem army and send them into a full-blown retreat. Who knows, maybe the cry of “God wills it!” had some truth to it after all.