Because they began as a quest by “pious” Christians to liberate the Holy Land from Muslim “infidels,” the Crusades are often imagined as a series of conflicts between two clear and well-defined antagonists—Christianity vs. Islam. In actuality, the battle lines were more complex. The Franks who came from Western Europe at the behest of the Pope were often at odds with the Byzantines. That the two camps were Christian—one Latin, one Orthodox—did not stop the Western Crusaders from sacking Constantinople in 1204. Similarly, the rift between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims in the East was exploited by the Franks during the First Crusade, enabling them to re-take and hold Jerusalem. Through two centuries of fighting, Christians allied with Muslims, and Muslims with Christians, when the need arose.
The silver coins in this collection represent six of the disparate peoples who joined the fray during the 200 years of warfare we know as the Crusades: