A Forgotten Crusade: Alfonso VII of Leon-Castile and the Campaign for Jaen (1148)

Alfonso VII of Leon-CastileA Forgotten Crusade: Alfonso VII of Leon-Castile and the Campaign for Jaen (1148)

Simon Barton

Historical Research: v.73 (2000)


Between 114-7 and 1149 the rulers of the realms of Christian Iberia conducted a series of victorious campaigns against the Muslims of the peninsula. Although it has been widely assumed that Alfonso VII of Leon-Castile remained militarily inactive during 1148, Christian and Muslim sources, notably the Anales Toledanos and the ‘[bar of Ibn-Khaldtln, indicate that the emperor led an unsuccessful expedition to capture Jaen in that year; and that he sought papal encouragement for his efforts. The Jaen crusade should be viewed in the context of a general Christian offensive backed by the papacy to destroy the power of Islam.


On 25 October 1147, near Dorylaeum in Central Anatolia, a crusading army under the leadership of Conrad III of Germany was annihilated by a fotce of Seljuk Turks. The catastrophic defeat marked but the first in a series of embarrassing military reverses, culminating in the aborted siege of Damascus in the summer of 1148, which ensured that the Second Crusade, in which so many people-not least Pope Eugenius III and Bernard of Clairvaux-had invested such great hopes, was to end in depressing and humiliating failure. Yet, in the aftermath of ┬Ěthe crusade, as both propagandists and critics of the expedition sought to explain the failure of the campaign in the Near East, men could at least console themselves with the fact that on the other side of Europe, in the Iberian peninsula, the struggle against Islam had recently yielded a number of signal victories.

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