The occupation of the Christian holy places in Palestine and the destruction of the Holy Sepulcher by Caliph Al Hakim led to a series of eight campaigns, known as the Crusades, undertaken by Christians of western Europe to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims. The first Crusade was proclaimed by Pope Urban II in 1095 at the Council of Clermont-Ferrand in France. After taking Jerusalem, the Crusaders turned their attention to the Lebanese coast. Tripoli capitulated in 1109; Beirut and Sidon, in 1110. Tyre stubbornly resisted but finally capitulated in 1124 after a long siege.
Although they failed to establish a permanent presence, the Crusaders left their imprint on Lebanon. Among the conspicuous results of the Crusades, which ended with the fall of Acre in 1291, are the remains of many towers along the coast, ruins of castles on hills and mountain slopes, and numerous churches.
Of all the contacts established by the Crusaders with the peoples of the Middle East, those with the Maronites of Lebanon were among the most enduring. They acquainted the Maronites with European influences and made them more receptive to friendly approaches from Westerners. During this period the Maronites were brought into a union with the Holy See, a union that survived in the late 1980s. France was a major participant in the Crusades, and French interest in the region and its Christian population dates to this period.
Bitter conflicts among the various regional and ethnic groups in Lebanon and Syria characterized the thirteenth century. The Crusaders, who came from Europe, the Mongols, who came from the steppes of Central Asia, and the Mamluks, who came from Egypt, all sought to be masters in the area. In this hard and confused struggle for supremacy, victory came to the Mamluks.
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