The Third Crusade: A Journey to Reclaim the Holy Land: 1189 – 1192

Third Crusades *Learn about the Conflicts between Richard the Lionheart & Saladin During the Third Crusade

The Third Crusade began in 1189. The Christian monarchs of Europe launched the Third Crusade after the Muslim commander Saladin captured the city of Jerusalem in 1187.

“The Third Crusade was a complex and multi-faceted conflict that defies easy categorization or explanation.”

Dr. Jonathan Phillips, Professor of Crusading History at Royal Holloway, University of London and author of “The Crusades, 1095-1204”

The main objective of the Third Crusade was to recapture the city from Saladin.

The third crusade was also known as the Kings’ Crusade or the Royal Crusade because of the number of royalty taking part!

Pope Gregory VIII was the instigator of the third Crusade, he taxed the poor heavily to fund an army to reclaim the holy city of Jerusalem from Muslim rule.

Muslim Leader Saladin

Some of the most notable European monarchs of the period participated in the Third crusade. These included Frederick Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Emperor, Richard I of England also known as Richard the Lionheart, and Philip II of France.

Pope Gregory VIII | Richard The Lionheart | Saladin the Great

The Third Crusade continued for more than three years and came to an end in 1192. Although the Crusaders achieved several successes in the Crusade, they failed to gain the all-important city of Jerusalem.

Third Crusade *Background

During the Second Crusade, the Crusader forces had been victorious and captured the city of Jerusalem, establishing the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

However, the Crusaders’ power and influence in the Holy land gradually waned. It was also marred by multiple claims to the thrones of the Crusader kingdoms of Acre and Jerusalem.

“The Third Crusade was a testament to the enduring appeal of the idea of crusading and the power of religious ideology to motivate people to undertake extraordinary acts of violence and sacrifice.”

Dr. Christopher Tyerman, Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Oxford and author of “God’s War: A New History of the Crusades”

In 1185, Saladin was the Muslim ruler of Egypt. A section of the Crusader forces attacked an Egyptian caravan in violation of the truce signed with Saladin. This caused Saladin to attack Jerusalem in 1187.


Saladin’s forces decisively defeated a Frankish army at the Battle of Hattin and were able to conquer Jerusalem. This was perceived as a colossal loss in Europe and propelled efforts to launch the Third Crusade.

“The Third Crusade marked a turning point in the fortunes of the Crusader states, and set the stage for the eventual collapse of the Christian presence in the Holy Land.”

Dr. Jonathan Riley-Smith, Emeritus Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Cambridge and author of “The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam”
Mamluk Soldiers Ayyubid Dynasty *Battle of Hattin

Leaders of the Third Crusade

Many leading European monarchs of the time participated in the Third Crusade. The first among them was Frederick Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Emperor.

Barbarossa set out in 1189 with one of the largest Crusader armies to date.

Frederick Barbarossa *Holy Roman Emperor

His German army was well equipped and organized. They travelled through Hungary into Byzantine lands before reaching Turkey.

However, Frederick accidentally drowned while crossing a river or a stream which effectively broke the morale of the German army and ended the campaign.

“The Third Crusade was a turning point in the history of the Crusades and a defining moment in the relationship between the East and the West.”

Dr. Helen Nicholson, Reader in History at Cardiff University and author of “The Crusades”
Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire Flag

Richard I of England and Philip II of France also set out to participate in the Third Crusade. Richard played a key role in the Crusade, defeating Saladin’s forces at the Battle of Arsuf.

Although he scored decisive victories, he couldn’t take Jerusalem and negotiated a suitable settlement with Saladin.

Christian Forces attack Saladin’s Forces in the Third Crusade

Third Crusades *Muslims Commanders

Salahuddin Ayyubi, known as Saladin in the West, was the chief commander of the Muslim forces during the Third Crusade.

He had previously ascended to the position of the Ayyubid ruler of Egypt.

Saladin initially concluded a truce with the Kingdom of Jerusalem which ensured the safe passage of Egyptian caravans to Syria.

Saladin in Full Military Dress Ready for Battle with the Crusaders
Saladin in Military Uniform

When Raynald of Chatillon broke this truce in 1187, Saladin attacked and captured Jerusalem. He came to be known as an able leader, a fearless warrior, and a chivalrous king.

Saladin had a cordial relationship with King Richard, his chief adversary, and the two would eventually resolve the conflict through negotiations.

Saladin the Great
Saladin & Richard I in Negotiations

Famous Battles *Third Crusade

The only pitched battle of the Third Crusade was the Battle of Arsuf. This was fought between the forces of Saladin and the crusaders.

The battle took place in 1191. Richard I was leading the Crusader forces and he led his army to victory. Saladin’s army suffered heavy losses.

Third Crusades Saladin attacks Jaffa crusades

This battle significantly strengthened the Christian’s hold on the Holy Lands. It enabled Richard and the crusaders to capture the coast as well as Ascalon in the south.

From these bases, Richard would continue to harass Saladin. However, no other battles took place.

“The Third Crusade was a remarkable feat of arms and diplomacy that cemented the reputation of Richard the Lionheart and his opponents alike.”

Dr. Andrew Jotischky, Professor of Medieval History at Lancaster University and author of “The Crusades: A Beginner’s Guide”

Result and Aftermath of Third Crusade

The Third Crusade resulted in a kind of a stalemate. Saladin was able to retain Jerusalem whereas the Crusaders were able to establish a strong state within the Holy Land.

This meant that the conflict was far from over and eventually paved the way for subsequent crusading attempts.

templar events crusades

Richard the Lionheart and Saladin were evenly matched and both forces were unable to carve out a decisive victory during the third Crusades this led to a truce being drawn up by the two sides.

Saladin would keep the religiously important city of Jerusalem, but he promised to allow Christians the right to make pilgrimages without being attacked.


This was a three-year agreement that was made in 1192, it was a short agreement because Richard the Lionheart wanted to return and attempt to retake the city of Jerusalem.

However, he never returned and Jerusalem remained under Muslim control.

knights templar crusades

5 Main Events of the Third Crusades

1. The Third Crusade was launched in 1189, three years after the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin.
The Crusade was led by three European monarchs: Richard I of England, Philip II of France, and Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I.

2. The Crusaders captured the coastal cities of Acre and Jaffa, but failed to retake Jerusalem.
Richard and Saladin engaged in a series of battles, including the famous Battle of Arsuf in 1191.

3. Despite their military successes, the Crusaders were plagued by political infighting and failed to achieve their ultimate goal of retaking Jerusalem.

4. Frederick I drowned while crossing a river on the way to the Holy Land.
Richard negotiated a treaty with Saladin in 1192 that allowed Christian pilgrims to visit Jerusalem without fear of persecution.

5. The Third Crusade marked the end of an era of large-scale Crusading and set the stage for later conflicts between Christian and Muslim powers in the Middle East.

knights templar crusades

5 Great Books About the Third Crusades

“The Third Crusade 1191: Richard the Lionheart, Saladin and the struggle for Jerusalem” by David Nicolle

“The Third Crusade: Richard the Lionheart, Saladin and the Battle for Jerusalem” by John D. Hosler

“The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land” by Thomas Asbridge

“The Third Crusade and its impact on Medieval Europe” by Peter W. Edbury

“The Crusades, Saladin and the Fall of Jerusalem” by David Nicolle

The Third Crusade 1191: Richard the Lionheart, Saladin and the struggle for Jerusalem (Campaign)