The Crusades were a series of religious wars initiated, supported, and sometimes directed by the Christian Latin Church in the medieval period. The best known of these military expeditions are those to the Holy Land in the period between 1095 and 1291 that were intended to reconquer Jerusalem and its surrounding area from Muslim rule. Beginning with the First Crusade, which resulted in the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099, dozens of military campaigns were organised, providing a focal point of European history for centuries. Crusading declined rapidly after the 15th century. In 1095, Pope Urban II proclaimed the first expedition at the Council of Clermont. He encouraged military support for Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos and called for an armed pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Across all social strata in western Europe there was an enthusiastic response. Participants came from all over Europe and had a variety of motivations, including religious salvation, satisfying feudal obligations, opportunities for renown, and economic or political advantage.