It’s the 6th of June of the year 1099. Three long, tough years had passed, since the crusaders left their homes, answering the Pope’s call. But finally, their extraordinary journey frequently struck by famine, plagues and desertions was over. Many disbelieved and wept, seeing the rich domes and high towers of the Holy City of Jerusalem, appearing on the horizon. The ensuing siege, full of both bravery, and atrocity that heavily influenced the history of medieval Europe is about to commence. It’s been some weeks since the miraculous crusader victory over the Turkish relief force on the fields near Antioch, which saved them from impending failure. The capture of the city temporarily eased provisioning problems, yet the Europeans lingered around Antioch for several months after the siege. There were many viable reasons for such a state of affairs. Firstly, marching through the arid lands lying south of Antioch during the hot summer wasn’t considered a good idea, especially by the poor participants, who would likely suffer the most. Secondly, plague descended on the city, which weakened Count Raymond’s health and took life of the Papal legate Adhemar le Puy. It was a significant loss for the latin army, as the coolheaded bishop, Adhemar, often served as conciliator in endless quarrels between the Frankish lords. His death essentially undermined the already fragile cooperation between the leaders, particularly Raymond and Bohemond, who still quarrelled over the fate of the recently conquered city. The latter already titled himself as the Prince of Antioch within the safety of the occupied citadel and refused to participate any further in the expedition. Raymond had obviously made efforts to convince the Norman leader to give up his personal ambitions, and even messaged Emperor Alexios to join the crusaders and reclaim the city, but to no avail. Thus, the crusade stalled for months, with the only notable exception being the nearby city of Maarat, which was captured in December. Eventually, the unrest among the lower ranked knights and officers, who threated their leaders with tearing down the walls of Antioch if they did not resume the crusade, forced Raymond and Godfrey to march out. While the bulk of the latin army departed Antioch in the middle of January 1099, the now unhindered Bohemond could lay the groundwork for his new domain. Meanwhile, the crusaders marched south along the coast and soon found that many petty emirs who, rather than fight the invaders, opted to pay tribute to keep their towns unharmed. Seljuk Turks already realised, that the goal of the Crusade was not total conquest, well, at least not directly, but in specifically reclaiming the Holy City from Muslim hands. It’s worth noting, that when the latin army besieged Antioch in 1098, the Fatimid Caliphate of Egypt captured Jerusalem and its surroundings, thus the Seljuk Turks, who were at war with the Fatimid had little interest in actually stopping the Crusaders. Consequently, after five months of relatively easy travel through Palestine, the Europeans reached the port city of Jaffa, where their route turned inland, straight to Jerusalem. But as soon as they started to move East towards the Holy City, the news about Fatimid army assembling in Egypt arrived. Additionally, the wells on their way were either buried or poisoned, and many of the trees were cut down. Some uncertainty arose within the Crusader ranks, as the area was inhospitable, the enemies were gathering and it was again the middle of blistering summer. But the final goal was so close, that even such major concerns couldn’t stop them. On the 7th of June, about two years since departing Constantinople, the Prince’s Crusade eventually reached its final goal, the Holy City of Jerusalem, and set camps around its walls. Just like Antioch the year before, the city was too big to perform a full-fledged siege, so the besiegers divided their forces. Raymond set a camp on the south section of the wall, while Godfrey and the Normans occupied the northern part. Even though many died or left the crusade throughout the last two years, the latin army still counted around 1300 knights and 12,000 infantry, a serious threat to even such a well-defended fortress like Jerusalem. The Fatimid governor Iftikhar ad-Dawla was well aware of their impending arrival months before, and made his best effort to sufficiently prepare for the upcoming siege. The city was well supplied and well defended, ad-Dawla even had a few hundred skilled light horsemen at his command to harass the invaders. He also expelled all Christians from the city, just to make sure Jerusalem wouldn’t suffer the same fate as Antioch, which had fallen due to treachery. Moreover, as mentioned before, the Fatimids made many food and water sources in the area unusable, forcing the Crusaders to travel considerable distances to forage supplies. It was not only tiresome, but also risky, as ad-Dawla’s cavalrymen often sallied outside the walls and attacked separated groups of foragers. All these Fatimid counter-measures put pressure on the crusaders to act quickly, as their supplies dwindled day by day and they feared the arrival of a Muslim relief force from Egypt at any time. The leaders decided to storm the walls on the 13th of June, a week into the siege, even though they badly lacked siege equipment. It is said that crusaders had just one scaling ladder at this point, so the attack was essentially doomed to fail. The crusaders believed that God was with them but this was not the time for a miracle, as the defenders easily repulsed them. Many were killed and the storm attempt failed miserably. Speaking of miracles, one of Raymond’s priests reportedly had a vision of the deceased bishop Adhemar, who rebuked the Crusade leaders for their quarrels and gave instructions how to conquer Jerusalem. The crusaders had to fast, do a penance and lead a barefoot procession around the walls, for the city to fall in a matter of days. And that is exactly what they did. Either as an act of desperation or extreme piety it must have been a puzzling sight for the Muslim defenders. Anyway, around that time, several Genoese galleys under merchant Guglielmo Embriaco sailed into Jafa’s harbour, some 70 kilometres away. They brought much needed building materials and skilled woodworkers. The ships were soon dismantled, as the Fatimid fleet surrounded the harbour and forced sailors to join the siege. Praising God for this unexpected aid, the crusaders constructed two siege towers and positioned them near the northern and southern parts of the wall. On the 13th of July another assault commenced. Raymond led the attack on the southern part of the wall, while Godfrey and the Normans tried to break the Fatimid defence on the northern perimeter. A relentless storm raged throughout the day. Both sides lost many men, but the city stood strong. During the night, Godfrey decided to secretly dismantle the northern siege tower and move it to the less defended part of the wall around the Flowers Gate. The next day was again full of atrocities, as the crusaders didn’t cease their storming of the walls. In the afternoon, the Fatimids managed to burn down Raymond’s siege tower and repel the enemy. While the situation looked dire on the southern perimeter, as Raymond’s attack collapsed, Godfrey still pushed on the northern part of the wall. Eventually, after a full day and night of fighting he broke the defence and opened the gate. Crusaders flooded into the city which saw fierce fighting break out among its streets and alleys. The defenders of the southern part of the walls also joined the fray, which allowed Raymond’s troops to break through the gates. In a matter of minutes the city’s defence collapsed under the dominant crusader force, and the indiscriminate slaughter of the Jewish and Muslim population occurred, as many of the princes made little effort to restrain their subordinates from looting and killing. Some of the citizens sought refuge in the Al-Aqsa mosque and for a time were guarded by Bohemond’s nephew, Tancred. But while he was busy in another part of the city, the bloodbath spilled into the mosque as well. The Fatimid governor ad-Dawla surrendered to Raymond with his retinue, and was granted safe passage south. Yet not many had the opportunity to surrender directly to the noble Frankish lord. It’s hard to tell exactly how many people were killed in taking the city, but the streets of Jerusalem were awash in blood. Many chroniclers later noted the sheer of brutality committed that day, even by medieval standards. Almost four years had passed since Pope Urban ignited the idea of a Crusade to reclaim the Holy Land, and finally their ultimate goal was accomplished. Yet the story doesn’t end there. A formidable army commanded by Fatimid vizier Al-Afdal was already marching through Sinai to challenge the army of the West and win back Jerusalem. The final battle of the Crusade is yet to be fought.