The Cause of the Second Crusade - The Fall and Massacre at Edessa
In the year 1146, the city of Edessa, the bulwark of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem on the side towards Mesopotamia, was taken by the Turks, and the entire population was slaughtered, or sold into slavery. This disaster threw the entire West into a state of the greatest alarm, lest the little Christian state, established at such cost of tears and suffering, should be completely overwhelmed, and all the holy places should again fall into the hands of the infidels.
The Second Crusade - The Preaching of St. Bernard
The apostle of the Second Crusade was the great abbot of Clairvaux, St. Bernard. Scenes of the wildest enthusiasm marked his preaching. The scenes that marked the opening of the First Crusade were now repeated in all the countries of the West. St. Bernard, an eloquent monk, was the second Peter the Hermit, who went everywhere, arousing the warriors of the Cross to the defence of the birthplace of their religion. When the churches were not large enough to hold the crowds which flocked to hear him, he spoke from platforms erected in the fields.
The Second Crusade & King Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany
The contagion of the holy enthusiasm seized not only barons, knights, and the common people, which classes alone participated in the First Crusade, but kings and emperors were now infected with the sacred frenzy. St. Bernard's eloquence induced two monarchs, Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany, to take the blood-red cross of a crusader. Conrad III., emperor of Germany, was persuaded to leave the affairs of his distracted empire in the hands of God, and consecrate himself to the defence of the sepulchre of Christ. Louis VII., king of France, was led to undertake the crusade through remorse for an act of great cruelty that he had perpetrated upon some of his revolted subjects.
The Failure of the Second Crusade
The Second Crusade, though begun under the most favorable auspices, had an unhappy ending. Of the great host that set out from Europe, only a few thousands escaped annihilation in Asia Minor at the hands of the Turks. Louis and Conrad, with the remnants of their armies, made a joint attack on Damascus, but had to raise the siege after a few days. This closed the crusade. As a chronicler of the expedition remarked, "having practically accomplished nothing, the inglorious ones returned home." The strength of both the French and the German division of the expedition was wasted in Asia Minor, and the crusade accomplished nothing.