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Calling the First Crusade

In 1091 the Byzantine Empire with enormous efforts, both military force and diplomacy, somehow strayed from the Seljuks, but the Byzantines failed to recover the lost territory. Moreover, it was clear that this was a temporary success, and formidable enemy was still near Constantinople, and Byzantium could only wait for help from the West. In Europe it was known about the difficulties of Byzantium. Since 60-ies of the XI century Popes repeatedly advocated the idea of a campaign to help Byzantium, and that idea was spreading among Western Christians. A great role played the news of the excesses of the Seljuks in Jerusalem, brought by from the Holy Land by numerous pilgrims.

In the years 1088-1099 the Pope was Urban II, who actively took up the preparation of speeches against the Seljuks. In November 1095 in the city of Clermont was held a church council, which was attended by all prominent members of the Catholic Church: cardinals, archbishops, bishops, abbots. It was an event of high priority, to which came also many ordinary priests, monks and many lay people, both noble lords, knights, and commoners. Everyone wanted to listen to a sermon of the pope on the closing of the Council, there were all kinds of rumors about that speech, but the reality surpassed all expectations. (Halsall 2006)

It was there that Pope Urban II called for a march to the East to liberate the Holy Sepulchre and other holy sites, to help the Byzantine Empire. He depicted a horrible situation of Christians in that part of the Byzantine Empire, which was captured by invaders from the East wild Mohammedan tribes. He said that the Empire was invaded with the Persian tribe of Turks, who reached the Mediterranean; the Holy Land was also conquered by the Turks, and even the most sacred of Christians – Holy Sepulchre. (Halsall 2006)

Then Urban II called on listeners to take a holy cause, and promised to all who went to crusade an absolution, and to everyone who would die – a place in paradise. At the end of the sermon Urban II called for force to wrest Jerusalem from the infidel, and exclaimed: “I say this audience – it is the will of God”. (Munro, 1895)

In that way Urban II tried to influence the audience and convince people, with the use of inspiring words and wishes, beliefs. He sought to convince people that they were obliged to help to fight the enemies of Byzantium. In his speech the Pope not only convinced, but also inspired people. That is why at the end of his speech the audience cried: “It is the will of God! It is the will of God!” (Munro, 1895)

These words became a battle cry of Crusaders. Thousands of people then took a vow to participate in the war.


Works cited:

Munro Dana C. “Urban and the Crusaders”. Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Vol 1:2. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1895. Pp. 5-8. Web.
Halsall P. “Medieval Sourcebook: Urban II (1088-1099): Speech at Council of Clermont, 1095, Five versions of the Speech”. Web. www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook.html

Riley-Smith L. and Riley-Smith J. “Quotes from Urban II’s letters taken from “Crusades, Idea and Reality, 1095-1274”. Documents of Medieval History 4. London, 1981. Pp. 37-40.