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The Third Crusade

This map is part of a series of 12 animated maps showing the history of Crusades.

In October 1187, the sultan Saladin seized Jerusalem, after a lightning campaign that saw him crush the armies of the Crusader states. The news soon reached the West and Pope Gregory VIII immediately called for a third crusade.

This call for a crusade spread throughout Western Christendom via papal legates and letters. By the end of December, word had reached as far north as the King of Denmark.

The Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa was the first to set off. He left Regensburg in May 1189 at the head of a formidable army of 100,000 men.

After crossing the Bosphorus, Frederick won several important victories over the Turkish armies in the region. His progress worried Saladin, who was conscious of the size of the German army, but in June 1190 the German emperor drowned while bathing in a river and his army quickly disbanded.

In July 1190, after playing for time, Philip Augustus and Richard the Lionheart, the kings of France and England, set off from Vézelay. One sailed from Marseilles, the other from Genoa, and they met up in Sicily where they spent the winter.

In the spring of 1191, Philip Augustus took to the sea for the East. Richard the Lionheart was driven off course by a storm to the island of Cyprus, an independent Byzantine province which he conquered in a few weeks. He proceeded to sell the island to the Knights Templar.

The two monarchs then helped the King of Jerusalem retake the heavily fortified city of Acre. Despite the arrival of Saladin’s troops, the crusaders captured the city on 12 July 1191.

Philip Augustus left almost immediately for the West, reluctant to leave his kingdom unattended any longer.

Richard remained in the East, where he set about reconquering the coast. In December 1191, and again in May 1192, Richard came very close to Jerusalem, but he abandoned the idea of attacking the Holy City; it was too well defended and would be too difficult to hold once recaptured.

The King of England initiated diplomatic negotiations with Saladin, in a climate marked by constant small-scale battles and political divisions between the crusaders and the nobles of the Crusader states. A truce was finalised on 2 September: Jerusalem remained in Muslim hands but Christian pilgrims were guaranteed access to the city.

Richard himself refused to visit the Holy City and set sail for the West in early October. Captured on the way by the Duke of Austria, he would not make it back to his kingdom until two years later...