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The Crusaders were those Europeans who undertook the call-to-arms by the Papacy to participate in the Crusades, a series of religious wars enacted against the enemies of the Latin Church. The first three, and most prominent, of these conflicts involved a declaration of war upon the Muslim rulers of the Holy Land, aiming to forcefully reclaim it in the name of Christianity. While a majority of Crusaders served personally in the armies of the kingdoms of Europe, the most iconic were members of a number of Christian military orders who worked in unison with these European kingdoms. These orders were largely founded in the Holy Land itself, ostensibly to protect Christian pilgrims. Amongst their number were counted knightly orders such as; the Knights Hospitalier, the Knights Teutonic, and Knights Templar.
In the late 12th century, the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I sent an ambassador to Pope Urban II, asking for help against the Seljuk Turks; in response, Pope Urban organised what would become known as the First Crusade. Pope Urban II called upon all Christians to serve, promising them material rewards and remission of their sins.
- Main article: Third Crusade
By the year 1191, the Crusaders were commanded by Richard I of England—better known as Richard the Lionheart—who sought to reclaimed Jerusalem during the Third Crusade. The Crusaders won a number of battles at Acre, Arsuf, and Jaffa, yet they ultimately failed to capture Jerusalem. Later, King Richard made peace with the Saracen ruler—Saladin—on the condition that Christians pilgrims be allowed to freely visit Jerusalem.
The first, in the year 1189, was led by the Templar Haras, who was a part of the Assassin Order until he betrayed them, hoping to locate the Apple of Eden. The second, in 1191, was led by the Templar Grand Master himself, Robert de Sablé. In all, both sieges were quelled due to the efforts of the Assassin Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad.
By the year 1191, the Crusaders had conquered the cities of Jaffa and Acre, and were on the march towards Jerusalem. During this time, Crusader troops could be found patrolling through the wilderness that divided the cities of Acre, Damascus and Jerusalem.
The same year, Altaïr set out to eliminate several corrupt men, who were secretly Templars. Several of these men were important Crusaders and Saracens, which almost led to the two factions uniting in an attempt to try and destroy their common enemy. In order to prevent this, Altaïr set out to assassinate the Templar Grand Master, Robert de Sablé, and succeeded in killing him after a long duel, during the Battle of Arsuf, to convince Richard that the Templars were traitors to his army.
In addition to Crusaders that served under the Kingdom of France, Holy Roman Empire, and the Kingdom of England—the last who were commonly called Lionheart Crusaders after the epithet of their king, Richard the Lionheart—there were a number of independent military orders founded in the Holy Land. Three of these, the Knights Templar, the Knights Hospitalier, and the Knights Teutonic became the iconic face of the Crusaders. The majority of Knights Hospitalier were themselves composed of Frenchmen and the Teutonic Knights, Germans.
- Main article: Templars
Throughout history, the Templars had existed in one form or another, and during the Crusades, they felt the need for support from the Catholic Church. With this, they turned into a monastic-military organisation, with the stated objective of protecting pilgrims in the Holy Land.
However, their actual objective was to look for the Pieces of Eden, one of which they had found in the Temple of Solomon in the year 1191, and to also eliminate the influence of their enemies, the Assassins.
In regards to leadership, by the year 1191, they were led by Robert de Sablé, who was responsible for finding the Apple of Eden. He planned to conquer the Holy Land from the Muslims and then drive out the other Crusaders as well, in order to end the war. Leaders of both the other major knightly factions, several important Saracen individuals, and even the leader of the Assassins, Al Mualim, were involved in this goal.
The Templars had well trained knights who were posted throughout the Holy Land, in Crusader and Saracen cities alike. They wore similar armor to Guard Captains, though their armor sported a Templar cross, instead of the prancing lion, which was the usual Crusader symbol.
They were highly skilled and aggressive fighters, often breaking their enemy's defense with ease. Templar Knights would never run away from a fight, and would also choose to fight to the death. In total, there were at least sixty such knights, all of whom were killed by the Assassin Altaïr.
- Main article: Knights Hospitalier
The Knights Hospitalier, also known as the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, the Order of St. John, the Knights of the Hospital, and the Chevaliers of Malta, were one of the Christian orders of the Crusades. Their emblem was a white cross, often on a black background.
The Knights Hospitalier were founded in the city of Jerusalem to provide care for poor, sick or injured pilgrims to the Holy Land, but became a much more militaristic organization with the onset of the Crusades.
By the year 1191, they were led by Garnier de Naplouse, secretly a Templar. After the Templars had lost the Apple of Eden to the Assassins, Garnier began experimenting on his sick patients with herbs, to try and replicate the mind-controlling effects of the Apple.
- Main article: Knights Teutonic
The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem, more commonly known as the Teutonic Knights, were a monastic-military order of German origin that participated in the Third Crusade. Their emblem was a black cross against a white background.
During the Crusade, the Teutonic Order aided King Richard I of England in the conquest of Acre, and were later positioned in the city's Middle District.
The Order's first Grand Master, Sibrand, was also secretly a member of the Templar Order, and he planned to use the Crusader fleet in Acre to blockade the city and prevent the European kingdoms from sending reinforcements, allowing the Templars to conquer the Holy Land.
- Main article: Guards
By 1191, the Crusaders controlled the city of Acre and had guards stationed throughout the Kingdom, the region between Acre, Jerusalem, Masyaf and Damascus.
Regular guards were the most commonly found Crusader guards throughout the Holy Land. They wore no helmets and had only padded armor, called a gambeson or aketon. Being the weakest Crusader guards, though their strength lay in numbers. They were also the most cowardly guards and would flee when their opponent began to triumph over them.
Guard sergeants were equipped with chainmail, tabards and wore a helmet, and were often found leading guard patrols, as well as having more combat experience than regular soldiers. They were also braver than the regular guards, but would still flee from an opponent if they killed several higher ranking guards.
Captains were the strongest guards, and wore chainmail armor with tabards, surcoats, splinted mail gauntlets and various knight helms. They would rarely run away from a fight and could present a challenge to even the toughest fighters.
- There were several flags spread throughout the Holy Land in Assassin's Creed, of which the following were related to the Crusaders:
- King Richard flags
- Teutonic flags
- Hospitalier flags
- Templar flags
- Jerusalem crosses