Pope Urban II Orders First Crusade

Pope Urban II Orders First Crusade


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On November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II makes perhaps the most influential speech of the Middle Ages, giving rise to the Crusades by calling all Christians in Europe to war against Muslims in order to reclaim the Holy Land, with a cry of “Deus vult!” or “God wills it!”

Born Odo of Lagery in 1042, Urban was a protege of the great reformer Pope Gregory VII. Like Gregory, he made internal reform his main focus, railing against simony (the selling of church offices) and other clerical abuses prevalent during the Middle Ages. Urban showed himself to be an adept and powerful cleric, and when he was elected pope in 1088, he applied his statecraft to weakening support for his rivals, notably Clement III.

DISCOVER MORE: HISTORY at Home: The Middle Ages and the Crusades

By the end of the 11th century, the Holy Land—the area now commonly referred to as the Middle East—had become a point of conflict for European Christians. Since the 6th century, Christians frequently made pilgrimages to the birthplace of their religion, but when the Seljuk Turks took control of Jerusalem, Christians were barred from the Holy City. When the Turks then threatened to invade the Byzantine Empire and take Constantinople, Byzantine Emperor Alexius I made a special appeal to Urban for help. This was not the first appeal of its kind, but it came at an important time for Urban. Wanting to reinforce the power of the papacy, Urban seized the opportunity to unite Christian Europe under him as he fought to take back the Holy Land from the Turks.

At the Council of Clermont, in France, at which several hundred clerics and noblemen gathered, Urban delivered a rousing speech summoning rich and poor alike to stop their in-fighting and embark on a righteous war to help their fellow Christians in the East and take back Jerusalem. Urban denigrated the Muslims, exaggerating stories of their anti-Christian acts, and promised absolution and remission of sins for all who died in the service of Christ.

Urban’s war cry caught fire, mobilizing clerics to drum up support throughout Europe for the crusade against the Muslims. All told, between 60,000 and 100,000 people responded to Urban’s call to march on Jerusalem. Not all who responded did so out of piety: European nobles were tempted by the prospect of increased land holdings and riches to be gained from the conquest. These nobles were responsible for the death of a great many innocents both on the way to and in the Holy Land, absorbing the riches and estates of those they conveniently deemed opponents to their cause. Adding to the death toll was the inexperience and lack of discipline of the Christian peasants against the trained, professional armies of the Muslims. As a result, the Christians were initially beaten back, and only through sheer force of numbers were they eventually able to triumph.

Urban died in 1099, two weeks after the fall of Jerusalem but before news of the Christian victory made it back to Europe. His was the first of seven major military campaigns fought over the next two centuries known as the Crusades, the bloody repercussions of which are still felt today. Urban was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 1881.

READ MORE: Why Muslims See the Crusades So Differently from Christians


1095 Pope Urban II Launches the First Crusade

AT THE BATTLE OF MANZIKERT, in 1071, the Seljuk Turks massacred the Byzantine Empire’s armies. The feared Turks overran Asia Minor and began to threaten even the capital of Constantinople. Meanwhile, they had also conquered Jerusalem, preventing Christian pilgrimages to the holy sites.

In 1074, Pope Gregory VII proposed leading fifty thousand volunteers to help the Christians in the East and possibly liberate the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Finally, in 1095, in response to desperate appeals from Eastern Emperor Alexius Comnenus, the new pope, Urban II, preached a stirring sermon at Clermont:

“A horrible tale has gone forth,” he said. “An accursed race utterly alienated from God . . . has invaded the lands of the Christians and depopulated them by the sword, plundering, and fire.” Toward the end, he made his appeal: “Tear that land from the wicked race and subject it to yourselves.” The people were riled. They began shouting, “Deus vult! Deus vult!” ("God wills it!") Urban II made “Deus vult” the battle cry of the Crusades.

Why the Crusaders Went

The pope’s representatives then traversed Europe, recruiting people to go to Palestine. The list of the First Crusade’s leaders read like a medieval “Who’s Who,” including the fabled Godfrey of Bouillon. Soon waves of people—probably over one hundred thousand, including about ten thousand—knights were headed for the Holy Land. Thus began over three hundred years of similar expeditions and pilgrimages, which gradually became known as crusades, because of the cross worn on the clothing of the crusaders. Why did so many respond?

A spirit of adventure, for one thing. Pilgrimages to the Holy Land had become a feature of medieval piety, and now the pilgrimage was coupled with the prospect of fighting to recapture the pilgrimage sites, to avenge the dishonor their Lord Jesus had suffered.

The crusaders also took on an arduous journey in dismal conditions for spiritual reward. This was a holy undertaking, so participants could receive an indulgence remission of sins allowing for direct entry to heaven or reduced time in purgatory. Finally laypeople could do something that was nearly as spiritually noble as entering the monastery.

Further, many of the crusaders hoped to acquire land in the East, to plunder and grow rich.

Progress of the First Crusade

The first crusaders ventured for Constantinople, slaughtering Jews throughout Germany and occasionally skirmishing with local peoples over food and foraging rights. By late 1096, Emperor Alexius found his city of Constantinople overrun with fifty thousand unruly visitors. In exchange for the crusaders’ oaths of fealty, he provided them with supplies and sent them on. The Muslims were divided into rival factions at this time, so the crusaders advanced fairly rapidly, capturing Antioch in 1098 and Jerusalem by the following July. The crusaders followed a “take no prisoners” line an observer at the time wrote that the soldiers “rode in blood up to their bridle reins.” Following their conquest, the crusaders set up four Latin states, including the Kingdom of Jerusalem under the rule of Godfrey of Bouillon. They built numerous structures, especially at the holy sites, and some still stand.

The First Crusade was the most successful. The Second, preached by Bernard of Clairvaux, was a stunning failure, and later ones did little to regain territory. The infamous Children’s Crusade disintegrated before it reached the Holy Land, with most of the children dying or being sold into slavery. The last Christian stronghold in Syria fell in 1291 when the Muslims captured the city of Acre. The major waves of the Crusades had ended.

Crusades’ Consequences

We find it hard to sympathize with the crusaders. Their holy wars seem like an incredibly unchristian waste of energy and time. The medieval mind, however, easily accepted the idea of fighting for—and dying for—a holy cause. Some crusaders were truly pious, while admittedly, others were just violently adventurous.

The Crusades deeply damaged Western Christians’ relations with others. When, in 1204, the knights of the Fourth Crusade sacked Constantinople, the breach between Eastern and Western Christians became wide and lasting. The major calls to crusade invariably sparked pogroms against the Jews. And the crusaders’ brutality worked only to make the Muslims more militant.

On an economic level, however, the Crusades increased trade and stepped up Europe’s economic growth. They also led to a greater interest in travel, map making, and exploration.

Modern cynics point to the Crusades as an example of Christians’ fanaticism and intolerance. In the 1990s Christians are still living down a reputation created by bands of medieval pilgrims and soldiers intent on liberating the Holy Land. CH

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #28 in 1990]


This Day in History

On November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II makes perhaps the
most influential speech of the Middle Ages, giving
rise to the Crusades by calling all Christians in
Europe to war against Muslims in order to reclaim the
Holy Land, with a cry of "Deus volt!" or "God wills
it!"

Born Odo of Lagery in 1042, Urban was a protege of the
great reformer Pope Gregory VII. Like Gregory, he made
internal reform his main focus, railing against simony
(the selling of church offices) and other clerical
abuses prevalent during the Middle Ages. Urban showed
himself to be an adept and powerful cleric, and when
he was elected pope in 1088, he applied his statecraft
to weakening support for his rivals, notably Clement
III.

By the end of the 11th century, the Holy Land--the
area now commonly referred to as the Middle East--had
become a point of conflict for European Christians.
Since the 6th century, Christians frequently made
pilgrimages to the birthplace of their religion, but
when the Seljuk Turks took control of Jerusalem,
Christians were barred from the Holy City. When the
Turks then threatened to invade the Byzantine Empire
and take Constantinople, Byzantine Emperor Alexius I
made a special appeal to Urban for help. This was not
the first appeal of its kind, but it came at an
important time for Urban. Wanting to reinforce the
power of the papacy, Urban seized the opportunity to
unite Christian Europe under him as he fought to take
back the Holy Land from the Turks.

At the Council of Clermont, in France, at which
several hundred clerics and noblemen gathered, Urban
delivered a rousing speech summoning rich and poor
alike to stop their in-fighting and embark on a
righteous war to help their fellow Christians in the
East and take back Jerusalem. Urban denigrated the
Muslims, exaggerating stories of their anti-Christian
acts, and promised absolution and remission of sins
for all who died in the service of Christ.

Urban's war cry caught fire, mobilizing clerics to
drum up support throughout Europe for the crusade
against the Muslims. All told, between 60,000 and
100,000 people responded to Urban's call to march on
Jerusalem. Not all who responded did so out of piety:
European nobles were tempted by the prospect of
increased land holdings and riches to be gained from
the conquest. These nobles were responsible for the
death of a great many innocents both on the way to and
in the Holy Land, absorbing the riches and estates of
those they conveniently deemed opponents to their
cause. Adding to the death toll was the inexperience
and lack of discipline of the Christian peasants
against the trained, professional armies of the
Muslims. As a result, the Christians were initially
beaten back, and only through sheer force of numbers
were they eventually able to triumph.

Urban died in 1099, two weeks after the fall of
Jerusalem but before news of the Christian victory
made it back to Europe. His was the first of seven
major military campaigns fought over the next two
centuries known as the Crusades, the bloody
repercussions of which are still felt today. Urban was
beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 1881.


Pope Urban II orders first Crusade: This Day in History — 11/27/1095

On November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II makes perhaps the most influential speech of the Middle Ages, giving rise to the Crusades by calling all Christians in Europe to war against Muslims in order to reclaim the Holy Land, with a cry of “Deus volt!” or “God wills it!”

Born Odo of Lagery in 1042, Urban was a protege of the great reformer Pope Gregory VII. Like Gregory, he made internal reform his main focus, railing against simony (the selling of church offices) and other clerical abuses prevalent during the Middle Ages. Urban showed himself to be an adept and powerful cleric, and when he was elected pope in 1088, he applied his statecraft to weakening support for his rivals, notably Clement III.

By the end of the 11th century, the Holy Land—the area now commonly referred to as the Middle East—had become a point of conflict for European Christians. Since the 6th century, Christians frequently made pilgrimages to the birthplace of their religion, but when the Seljuk Turks took control of Jerusalem, Christians were barred from the Holy City. When the Turks then threatened to invade the Byzantine Empire and take Constantinople, Byzantine Emperor Alexius I made a special appeal to Urban for help. This was not the first appeal of its kind, but it came at an important time for Urban. Wanting to reinforce the power of the papacy, Urban seized the opportunity to unite Christian Europe under him as he fought to take back the Holy Land from the Turks.

At the Council of Clermont, in France, at which several hundred clerics and noblemen gathered, Urban delivered a rousing speech summoning rich and poor alike to stop their in-fighting and embark on a righteous war to help their fellow Christians in the East and take back Jerusalem. Urban denigrated the Muslims, exaggerating stories of their anti-Christian acts, and promised absolution and remission of sins for all who died in the service of Christ.

Urban’s war cry caught fire, mobilizing clerics to drum up support throughout Europe for the crusade against the Muslims. All told, between 60,000 and 100,000 people responded to Urban’s call to march on Jerusalem. Not all who responded did so out of piety: European nobles were tempted by the prospect of increased land holdings and riches to be gained from the conquest. These nobles were responsible for the death of a great many innocents both on the way to and in the Holy Land, absorbing the riches and estates of those they conveniently deemed opponents to their cause. Adding to the death toll was the inexperience and lack of discipline of the Christian peasants against the trained, professional armies of the Muslims. As a result, the Christians were initially beaten back, and only through sheer force of numbers were they eventually able to triumph.

Urban died in 1099, two weeks after the fall of Jerusalem but before news of the Christian victory made it back to Europe. His was the first of seven major military campaigns fought over the next two centuries known as the Crusades, the bloody repercussions of which are still felt today. Urban was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 1881.


This Day in History: Nov 27, 1095: Pope Urban II orders first Crusade

On November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II makes perhaps the most influential speech of the Middle Ages, giving rise to the Crusades by calling all Christians in Europe to war against Muslims in order to reclaim the Holy Land, with a cry of "Deus vult!" or "God wills it!"

Born Odo of Lagery in 1042, Urban was a protege of the great reformer Pope Gregory VII. Like Gregory, he made internal reform his main focus, railing against simony (the selling of church offices) and other clerical abuses prevalent during the Middle Ages. Urban showed himself to be an adept and powerful cleric, and when he was elected pope in 1088, he applied his statecraft to weakening support for his rivals, notably Clement III.

By the end of the 11th century, the Holy Land—the area now commonly referred to as the Middle East—had become a point of conflict for European Christians. Since the 6th century, Christians frequently made pilgrimages to the birthplace of their religion, but when the Seljuk Turks took control of Jerusalem, Christians were barred from the Holy City. When the Turks then threatened to invade the Byzantine Empire and take Constantinople, Byzantine Emperor Alexius I made a special appeal to Urban for help. This was not the first appeal of its kind, but it came at an important time for Urban. Wanting to reinforce the power of the papacy, Urban seized the opportunity to unite Christian Europe under him as he fought to take back the Holy Land from the Turks.

At the Council of Clermont, in France, at which several hundred clerics and noblemen gathered, Urban delivered a rousing speech summoning rich and poor alike to stop their in-fighting and embark on a righteous war to help their fellow Christians in the East and take back Jerusalem. Urban denigrated the Muslims, exaggerating stories of their anti-Christian acts, and promised absolution and remission of sins for all who died in the service of Christ.

Urban's war cry caught fire, mobilizing clerics to drum up support throughout Europe for the crusade against the Muslims. All told, between 60,000 and 100,000 people responded to Urban's call to march on Jerusalem. Not all who responded did so out of piety: European nobles were tempted by the prospect of increased land holdings and riches to be gained from the conquest. These nobles were responsible for the death of a great many innocents both on the way to and in the Holy Land, absorbing the riches and estates of those they conveniently deemed opponents to their cause. Adding to the death toll was the inexperience and lack of discipline of the Christian peasants against the trained, professional armies of the Muslims. As a result, the Christians were initially beaten back, and only through sheer force of numbers were they eventually able to triumph.

Urban died in 1099, two weeks after the fall of Jerusalem but before news of the Christian victory made it back to Europe. His was the first of seven major military campaigns fought over the next two centuries known as the Crusades, the bloody repercussions of which are still felt today. Urban was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 1881.


Pope Urban II declares the First Crusade, 1095 CE

Today on the 27th of November in 1095 CE, Pope Urban II declared the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont. Pope Urban seeing an opportunity to reunite the Eastern and Western churches, called for a Truce of God among the rulers of Europe and urged them to take the Holy Land (Jerusalem) from the Muslims.

One of the key reasons that the Crusade took place was the rise of the Seljuqs in Anatolia. Previously in the Battle of Manzikert, Seljuq Sultan Alp Arsalan crushed the Byzantines in 1071 CE. Soon after, major Byzantine cities including Nicaea were also taken by the Seljuqs of Rum.

The Byzantines could not stop Seljuqs to establish their power in Anatolia. Therefore, Emperor Alexios I Komnenos appealed to the west in the spring of 1095 CE to help kick the Seljuqs out of not just the Holy Land but also all those parts of the Byzantine Empire they had conquered.

Pope Urban II | Photo: Wikimedia

Eventually, Pope Urban II (r. 1088-1099 CE) received Alexios’ appeal in 1095 CE. On 27 November 1095 CE, Urban II called for a crusade in a speech during the Council of Clermont, France. The message was loud and clear:

Those who defended Christendom would be embarking on a pilgrimage, all their sins would be washed away and their souls would reap untold rewards in the next life.

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This Day In History: The First Crusader Army begins to be Formed (1095)

On this day in history, in 1095, a Crusader army begins to be formed in Europe. Nobles, peasants, farmers, and townsmen begin to swear an oath that they would go on Crusade and fight for their religion. On November the 27th, Pope Urban II, had given a sermon that changes the history of Europe and the Middle East. During his sermon, the Pope calls on all Christians to go on a crusade and to reclaim the Holy Land for Christ and the Church. He urged Christian Europe to wage war on the Muslim world in order to reclaim the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem.

Pope Urban was born Odo of Legery in 1042 and he was a member of the great reformer Pope Gregory VIIs inner circle. He had helped this great Pope to make many reforms in the Church and did much to end corrupt practices such as simony (selling offices). Urban was later to become a Cardinal and then Pope. He was an able diplomat and a shrewd statesman.

Crusader graffiti in a Church in Jerusalem

By the end of the 11 th century, the Holy Land, (modern Israel) was under the control of Muslims. This had been the case since the 7 th century. Many Christians wanted to go on a journey or pilgrimage to the Holy Land as they saw it as their religious duty. The Muslim rulers of the Holy Land despite their differences with the Christian Kingdoms permitted pilgrims to visit the Holy Places such as Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. In the 10 th century Seljuk Turks, who originated from Central Asia conquered much of the Muslim world. They were recent converts to Islam and like many recent converts they were zealous in their new religion. They forbade any Christians to visit the Holy Sites. This angered the Christians in Europe. The Seljuk Turks had defeated the Byzantine Empire in the great battle of Manzikert and were threatening the very existence of that Empire. The Emperor asked the Pope for help in defending his remaining territories from the invading Turks. The Byzantines probably only wanted mercenaries but Pope Urban believed that the Byzantines wanted a Christian army to deliver them from the Turks.

Pope Urban, at a Council of Clermont, in France, attended by nobles and senior clerics, gave a rousing sermon and called upon the faithful to go to the Holy Land and conquer it for Christ. Urban promised the remission of sins for all those who fought the Muslims, who were described as persecutors of Christians. Urban&rsquos message electrified Europe and many answered his call. Some 70,000 men and women, led by nobles embarked on the Crusade. They were motivated by religion and also by the hope of spoils and land. Along the way, many of the Crusaders attacked Jewish communities and many Jews were murdered or forced to convert. Remarkably, the crusaders were able to travel through the Balkans, into Asia Minor and reach Jerusalem and they eventually captured the City. The First Crusade was considered a great victory for Christianity and it led to the creation of several Crusader kingdoms in the Middle East.

Urban died in 1099, some ten days after the fall of Jerusalem but he died before news of the victory reached Rome. The First Crusade was the be one of seven major military campaigns or Crusades over the next 200 years.


It is true that in the Ten Commandments we read that it is not permitted to kill. But we do have a duty to protect ourselves and our neighbors in times of war or persecution. The helpless needed to be defended in Palestine and the Holy Sites liberated from oppression.

We must not forget that the Greek Emperor Alexius Comnenus had sent letters to Pope Urban II asking for "aid against the against the infidels, representing that, unless assistance was extended immediately, the capital with all its holy relics must soon fall into the hands of the barbarians."

Causes of the crusades:

  • The reason and cause of the crusades was a war between Christians and Moslems which centered around the city of Jerusalem and the Holy places of Palestine. The City of Jerusalem held a Holy significance to the Christian religion. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem commemorated the hill of crucifixion and the tomb of Christ's burial. Pilgrims throughout the Middle Ages made sacred pilgrimages to the Holy city of Jerusalem and the church. Although the city of Jerusalem was held by the Saracens the Christian pilgrims had been granted safe passage to visit the Holy city.

  • Among the early Christians it was thought a pious and meritorious act to undertake a journey to some sacred place. Especially was it thought that a pilgrimage to the land that had been trod by the feet of the Saviour of the world, to the Holy City that had witnessed his martyrdom, was a peculiarly pious undertaking, and one which secured for the pilgrim the special favor and blessing of Heaven. The Saracen caliphs, for the four centuries and more that they held possession of Palestine, pursued usually an enlightened policy towards the pilgrims, even encouraging pilgrimages as a source of revenue. But in the eleventh century the Seljukian Turks, a prominent Tartar tribe and zealous followers of Islam, wrested from the caliphs almost all their Asiatic possessions. The Christians were not long in realizing that power had fallen into new hands. 3000 Christian Pilgrims were insulted and persecuted in every way. The churches in Jerusalem were destroyed or turned into stables.

  • The immediate cause of the First Crusade was the preaching of Peter the Hermit, a native of Picardy, in France. Having been commissioned by Pope Urban II to preach a crusade, the Hermit traversed all Italy and France, addressing everywhere, in the church, in the street, and in the open field, the crowds that flocked about him, moving all hearts with sympathy or firing them with indignation, as he recited the sufferings of their brethren at the hands of the infidels, or pictured the profanation of the holy places, polluted by the presence and insults of the unbelievers.

  • Whilst Peter the Hermit had been arousing the warriors of the West, the Turks had been making constant advances in the East, and were now threatening Constantinople itself. The Greek emperor (Alexius Comnenus) sent urgent letters to the Pope, asking for aid against the infidels, representing that, unless assistance was extended immediately, the capital with all its holy relics must soon fall into the hands of the barbarians.

  • Pope Urban II & the Council of Clermont: Pope Urban II called a great council of the Church at Placentia, in Italy, to consider the appeal (1095), but nothing was effected. Later in the same year a new council was convened at Clermont, in France, Pope Urban purposely fixing the place of meeting among the warm tempered and martial Franks. Pope Urban II himself was one of the chief speakers. He was naturally eloquent, so that the man, the cause, and the occasion all conspired to achieve one of the greatest triumphs of human oratory. Pope Urban II pictured the humiliation and misery of the provinces of Asia the profanation of the places made sacred by the presence and footsteps of the Son of God. Pope Urban II then detailed the conquests of the Turks, until now, with all Asia Minor in their possession, they were threatening Europe from the shores of the Hellespont. - Cause of the Crusades

In 1094 or 1095, Alexios I Komnenos, the Byzantine emperor, sent to the pope, Urban II, and asked for aid from the West against the Seljuq Turks, who taken nearly all of Asia Minor from him. At the Council of Clermont, Urban addressed a great crowd and urged all to go to the aid of the Greeks and to recover Palestine from the rule of the Muslims. The acts of the Council have not been preserved, but we have five accounts of the speech of Urban which were written by men who were present and heard him.

1. Fulcher of Chartres (notes):

"For, as the most of you have heard, the Turks and Arabs have attacked them and have conquered the territory of Romania [the Greek empire] as far west as the shore of the Mediterranean and the Hellespont, which is called the Arm of St. George. They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire. If you permit them to continue thus for awhile with impurity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them. On this account I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ's heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends. I say this to those who are present, it meant also for those who are absent."

2. Robert the Monk

From the confines of Jerusalem and the city of Constantinople a horrible tale has gone forth and very frequently has been brought to our ears, namely, that a race from the kingdom of the Persians, an accursed race, a race utterly alienated from God, a generation forsooth which has not directed its heart and has not entrusted its spirit to God, has invaded the lands of those Christians and has depopulated them by the sword, pillage and fire it has led away a part of the captives into its own country, and a part it has destroyed by cruel tortures it has either entirely destroyed the churches of God or appropriated them for the rites of its own religion. They destroy the altars, after having defiled them with their uncleanness. They circumcise the Christians, and the blood of the circumcision they either spread upon the altars or pour into the vases of the baptismal font. When they wish to torture people by a base death, they perforate their navels, and dragging forth the extremity of the intestines, bind it to a stake then with flogging they lead the victim around until the viscera having gushed forth the victim falls prostrate upon the ground. Others they bind to a post and pierce with arrows. Others they compel to extend their necks and then, attacking them with naked swords, attempt to cut through the neck with a single blow. What shall I say of the abominable rape of the women? To speak of it is worse than to be silent. The kingdom of the Greeks is now dismembered by them and deprived of territory so vast in extent that it can not be traversed in a march of two months. On whom therefore is the labor of avenging these wrongs and of recovering this territory incumbent, if not upon you? You, upon whom above other nations God has conferred remarkable glory in arms, great courage, bodily activity, and strength to humble the hairy scalp of those who resist you.

3. The Gesta Version

When now that time was at hand which the Lord Jesus daily points out to His faithful, especially in the Gospel, saying, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me," a mighty agitation was carried on throughout all the region of Gaul. (Its tenor was) that if anyone desired to follow the Lord zealously, with a pure heart and mind, and wished faithfully to bear the cross after Him, he would no longer hesitate to take up the way to the Holy Sepulchre.

And so Urban, Pope of the Roman see, with his archbishops, bishops, abbots, and priests, set out as quickly as possible beyond the mountains and began to deliver sermons and to preach eloquently, saying: "Whoever wishes to save his soul should not hesitate humbly to take up the way of the Lord, and if he lacks sufficient money, divine mercy will give him enough." Then the apostolic lord continued, "Brethren, we ought to endure much suffering for the name of Christ - misery, poverty, nakedness, persecution, want, illness, hunger, thirst, and other (ills) of this kind, just as the Lord saith to His disciples: 'Ye must suffer much in My name,' and 'Be not ashamed to confess Me before the faces of men verily I will give you mouth and wisdom,' and finally, 'Great is your reward in Heaven."' And when this speech had already begun to be noised abroad, little by little, through all the regions and countries of Gaul, the Franks, upon hearing such reports, forthwith caused crosses to be sewed on their right shoulders, saying that they followed with one accord the footsteps of Christ, by which they had been redeemed from the hand of hell.

3. Version of Balderic of Dol

And turning to the bishops, he said, "You, brothers and fellow bishops you, fellow priests and sharers with us in Christ, make this same announcement through the churches committed to you, and with your whole soul vigorously preach the journey to Jerusalem. When they have confessed the disgrace of their sins, do you, secure in Christ, grant them speedy pardon. Moreover, you who are to go shall have us praying for you we shall have you fighting for God's people. It is our duty to pray, yours to fight against the Amalekites. With Moses, we shall extend unwearied hands in prayer to Heaven, while you go forth and brandish the sword, like dauntless warriors, against Amalek."

4. Version of Guibert de Nogent

"If in olden times the Maccabees attained to the highest praise of piety because they fought for the ceremonies and the Temple, it is also justly granted you, Christian soldiers, to defend their liberty of your country by armed endeavor. If you, likewise, consider that the abode of the holy apostles and any other saints should be striven for with such effort, why do you refuse to rescue the Cross, the Blood, the Tomb? Why do you refuse to visit them, to spend the price of your lives in rescuing them? You have thus far waged unjust wars, at one time and another you have brandished mad weapons to your mutual destruction, for no other reason than covetousness and pride, as a result of which you have deserved eternal death and sure damnation. We now hold out to you wars which contain the glorious reward of martyrdom, which will retain that title of praise now and forever."

5. Urban II: Letter of Instruction to the Crusaders, December 1095

Urban, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to all the faithful, both princes and subjects, waiting in Flanders greeting, apostolic grace, and blessing.

Your brotherhood, we believe, has long since learned from many accounts that a barbaric fury has deplorably afflicted an laid waste the churches of God in the regions of the Orient. More than this, blasphemous to say, it has even grasped in intolerabe servitude its churches and the Holy City of Christ, glorified b His passion and resurrection. Grieving with pious concern at this calamity, we visited the regions of Gaul and devoted ourselves largely to urging the princes of the land and their subjects to free the churches of the East. We solemnly enjoined upon them at the council of Auvergne (the accomplishment of) such an undertaking, as a preparation for the remission of all their sins. And we have constituted our most beloved son, Adhemar, Bishop of Puy, leader of this expedition and undertaking in our stead, so that those who, perchance, may wish to undertake this journey should comply With his commands, as if they were our own, and submit fully to his loosings or bindings, as far as shall seem to belong to such an office. If, moreover, there are any of your people whom God has inspired to this vow, let them know that he (Adhemar) will set out with the aid of God on the day of the Assumption of the Blessed Mary, and that they can then attach themselves to his following. - Pope Urban II's Speech Calling for the First Crusade

Pope Urban II also issued a "Crusader's Indulgence" for those partaking in the Crusades.

The earliest record of a plenary indulgence was Pope Urban II's declaration at the Council of Clermont (1095) that he remitted all penance incurred by crusaders who had confessed their sins in the Sacrament of Penance, considering participation in the crusade equivalent to a complete penance.


Pope Urban II calls for a Crusade

Islamic forces, by the 11th century CE, occupied the Levant, birthplace of Christianity.

In 1095, for a variety of political, religious, and economic reasons, Pope Urban II called for a Crusade, or Holy War, against the Islamic rulers of the “Holy Land.” It is important to remember that the area, particularly the city of Jerusalem, was considered holy to Muslims as well.

Below is an excerpt from Urban’s speech calling for this holy war, given at a conference in Clermont, France.

Most beloved brethren: Urged by necessity, I, Urban, by the permission of God chief bishop and prelate over the whole world, have come into these parts as an ambassador with a divine admonition to you, the servants of God. I hoped to find you as faithful and as zealous in the service of God as I had supposed you to be. But if there is in you any deformity or crookedness contrary to God’s law, with divine help I will do my best to remove it. For God has put you as stewards over his family to minister to it. Happy indeed will you be if he finds you faithful in your stewardship. You are called shepherds see that you do not act as hirelings. But be true shepherds, with your crooks always in your hands. Do not go to sleep, but guard on all sides the flock committed to you. For if through your carelessness or negligence a wolf carries away one of your sheep, you will surely lose the reward laid up for you with God. And after you have been bitterly scourged with remorse for your faults-, you will be fiercely overwhelmed in hell, the abode of death. For according to the gospel you are the salt of the earth [Matt. 5:13]. But if you fall short in your duty, how, it may be asked, can it be salted? O how great the need of salting! It is indeed necessary for you to correct with the salt of wisdom this foolish people which is so devoted to the pleasures of this -world, lest the Lord, when He may wish to speak to them, find them putrefied by their sins unsalted and stinking. For if He, shall find worms, that is, sins, In them, because you have been negligent in your duty, He will command them as worthless to be thrown into the abyss of unclean things. And because you cannot restore to Him His great loss, He will surely condemn you and drive you from His loving presence. But the man who applies this salt should be prudent, provident, modest, learned, peaceable, watchful, pious, just, equitable, and pure. For how can the ignorant teach others? How can the licentious make others modest>? And how can the impure make others pure? If anyone hates peace, how can he make others peaceable ? Or if anyone has soiled his hands with baseness, how can he cleanse the impurities of another? We read also that if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the ditch [Matt. 15:14]. But first correct yourselves, in order that, free from blame , you may be able to correct those who are subject to you. If you wish to be the friends of God, gladly do the things which you know will please Him. You must especially let all matters that pertain to the church be controlled by the law of the church. And be careful that simony does not take root among you, lest both those who buy and those who sell [church offices] be beaten with the scourges of the Lord through narrow streets and driven into the place of destruction and confusion. Keep the church and the clergy in all its grades entirely free from the secular power. See that the tithes that belong to God are faithfully paid from all the produce of the land let them not be sold or withheld. If anyone seizes a bishop let him be treated as an outlaw. If anyone seizes or robs monks, or clergymen, or nuns, or their servants, or pilgrims, or merchants, let him be anathema [that is, cursed]. Let robbers and incendiaries and all their accomplices be expelled from the church and anthematized. If a man who does not give a part of his goods as alms is punished with the damnation of hell, how should he be punished who robs another of his goods? For thus it happened to the rich man in the gospel [Luke 16:19] he was not punished because he had stolen the goods of another, but because he had not used well the things which were his.

“You have seen for a long time the great disorder in the world caused by these crimes. It is so bad in some of your provinces, I am told, and you are so weak in the administration of justice, that one can hardly go along the road by day or night without being attacked by robbers and whether at home or abroad one is in danger of being despoiled either by force or fraud. Therefore it is necessary to reenact the truce, as it is commonly called, which was proclaimed a long time ago by our holy fathers. I exhort and demand that you, each, try hard to have the truce kept in your diocese. And if anyone shall be led by his cupidity or arrogance to break this truce, by the authority of God and with the sanction of this council he shall be anathematized.”

After these and various other matters had been attended to, all who were present, clergy and people, gave thanks to God and agreed to the pope’s proposition. They all faithfully promised to keep the decrees. Then the pope said that in another part of the world Christianity was suffering from a state of affairs that was worse than the one just mentioned. He continued:

“Although, O sons of God, you have promised more firmly than ever to keep the peace among yourselves and to preserve the rights of the church, there remains still an important work for you to do. Freshly quickened by the divine correction, you must apply the strength of your righteousness to another matter which concerns you as well as God. For your brethren who live in the east are in urgent need of your help, and you must hasten to give them the aid which has often been promised them. For, as the most of you have heard, the Turks and Arabs have attacked them and have conquered the territory of Romania [the Greek empire] as far west as the shore of the Mediterranean and the Hellespont, which is called the Arm of St. George. They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire. If you permit them to continue thus for awhile with impurity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them. On this account I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ’s heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends. I say this to those who are present, it meant also for those who are absent. Moreover, Christ commands it.

“All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins. This I grant them through the power of God with which I am invested. O what a disgrace if such a despised and base race, which worships demons, should conquer a people which has the faith of omnipotent God and is made glorious with the name of Christ! With what reproaches will the Lord overwhelm us if you do not aid those who, with us, profess the Christian religion! Let those who have been accustomed unjustly to wage private warfare against the faithful now go against the infidels and end with victory this war which should have been begun long ago. Let those who for a long time, have been robbers, now become knights. Let those who have been fighting against their brothers and relatives now fight in a proper way against the barbarians. Let those who have been serving as mercenaries for small pay now obtain the eternal reward. Let those who have been wearing themselves out in both body and soul now work for a double honor. Behold! on this side will be the sorrowful and poor, on that, the rich on this side, the enemies of the Lord, on that, his friends. Let those who go not put off the journey, but rent their lands and collect money for their expenses and as soon as winter is over and spring comes, let hem eagerly set out on the way with God as their guide.”


Military Campaigns: The Crusades

Eventually, the Franks made a promise that if the Muslims surrendered the city, they would spare them their lives. The Muslims agreed and the Franks kept their promise and let each and every one of them go. However, in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Franks didn 't let the people go that easily and "slaughtered more than 70,000 people". Men were killed viciously, women and children were taken as prisoners, and homes were destroyed. No mercy was given.&hellip


The First Crusade 1095-1099

Urban preaches

Pope Urban II preached at Clermont-Ferrand in November 1095. As a result of his words somewhere in the region of 100,000 men from all ranks of society took up his call to arms in order to recapture Jerusalem from the Saracens (Seljuk Turks) who since their capture of the city had forbidden Christians from making pilgrimages. In addition to suddenly wanting to make the Holy Land Christian there was also a wave of anti-Semitism across Western Europe.

Usually three political reasons are given for the Crusade:

  1. The Byzantine emperor, Alexios Comnenos, wanted the Franks to help get rid of the Turks who were invading from Asia Minor.
  2. Pope Urban II was not the only pope – there was an alternative in the form of Pope Clement III who was based in Rome whilst Urban held northern Italy and France. By calling for a holy war he was seeking to unite a faction ridden Christian world and take the spot as top Pope. It would become deeply un-Christian for Christian rulers to go to war against one another when they should be killing the infidel.
  3. Faith, land and religious violence go hand in hand at this time. Urban preached Crusade in Spain against the Muslims as well as preaching for the capture of Jerusalem from the Saracens.

But why did so many men take up the call to arms:

i) Urban promised that they would be forgiven their sins.

ii) There was the lure of land and loot.

iv) Deus Vult “God Wills It” – a snappy piece of recruitment either used during the Clermont sermon by a very enthusiastic crowd or by a sharp thinking eleventh century spin doctor shortly after.

In Normandy a period of unrest came to an end – more or less as Urban must have hoped would happen across the Western Christian World. Robert Curthose took the cross having mortgaged his duchy to his brother William Rufus in order to pay for the adventure and set off in the direction of the Holy Land. William waved his brother goodbye and settled down to being regent in Normandy in his brother’s absence.

It had been pretty good timing on Robert’s part given that it would have been deeply unmannerly of William to conquer the duchy whilst Robert was on Crusade. Yet in 1094 William and set his sights on Normandy, come to terms with his brother Henry and taken castle after castle. By the time Robert decided to take the Cross, William already held 20 castle in Normandy. By going when he did Robert deferred defeat.


Watch the video: Pope Urban II orders the First Crusade 1095