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Why Did Pope Urban Call For The First Crusade Essay


Papacy, as before they had had disagreements on the nature of Christianity and had evenbeen involved in conflict (Bohemund and the Normans). However Pope Urban did notmention the appeal from the Byzantine Emperor in his speech. There are two possiblereasons for this; he had no intention of giving aid to the Byzantine Empire or he didn’t wantto mention the Byzantines with whom Western Christians had an enmity with, as theydisagreed about some of the details of Christianity. I personally believe he wanted to aidByzantium and didn’t mention it so as to make sure that Christians from the West were notput off joining in the Holy War due to their dislike of the Christians in Constantinople.However I feel that Urban II’s real motive was his desire to increase Papal power andinfluence as the key concerns of an 11


century Pope, as well as representing the CatholicChurch, were to gain a greater role in the affairs of the world. This would’ve been trueespecially for Urban after the Pope before him had been so unsuccessful in some ways.When Urban was elected as Pope in March of 1088, the Papacy was far from infallible or unassailable; Far from being recognised as the leader of the Christian faith on Earth, thePope struggled to organise the affairs of central Italy, let alone all of Western Christendom.Bishops in France, England, Germany, Spain and even Northern Italy had no expectation or reliance on guidance from the Pope as they felt rewarded by having independent self-determination. These Bishops were often unresponsive, even resistant to the idea of centralisation or conformity. Kings in Europe were also often unhelpful, as they too felt thatthey were part of a long lineage of men chosen by God to choose their particular area. Thiscombined with the fact that virtually all Bishops wielded political authority themselves, havingland, wealth and in some cases military forces of their own, meant that the Latin Church wasin disarray and the limited efforts to control it were being offered by the Kings, not thePapacy. Following the Investiture Crisis, Urban also had to contend with Clement III, HenryIV’s own Pope. He also only recovered possession of the Lateran Palace in Rome in 1094through bribery, and even then his hold over the city was precarious. During his reign from1073-1085 Pope Gregory VII tried and failed to increase Papal power overall; as Pope hewas chief architect of the “Reform Movement”, which looked both towards Papalempowerment and clerical purification. As he struggled to unify and cleanse LatinChristendom under the banner of Rome the campaign, he decided to attack what hebelieved to be the root cause of the Church’s problems, the laity. These were all peopleinvolved in religion who were not members of the clergy, even if it included the current HolyRoman Emperor, Henry IV. In 1075 Gregory banned Henry IV, a King who could trace hislineage to office back to Charlemagne and beyond, from interfering with Church affairs.When Henry resisted, Gregory excommunicated the Holy Roman Emperor, the mostpowerful Latin Christian alive, in 1076. At first it seemed that this huge gamble that Gregoryhad taken was paying off as it initially prompted Henry to be more penitent, but Gregorysoon became too confident, enraging his enemies and alienating his supporters with hisradical vision of spiritual reform and his intensely autocratic notion of Papal authority. Thisincluded experimenting with having a Papal army, the “Militia sancti petri”, and cruciallyhelped develop the idea of Holy War. However after he had outstretched his power, Henrycreated an anti-Pope in the form of Clement III, who was declared Pope and moved intoRome. This attack came to be known as the Investiture Crisis.Following Gregory’s disaster I would argue that the crusade was a perfect opportunity toregain Papal power; firstly it would show huge influence to be able to get such a hugeamount of people to fight for your cause. Secondly it could’ve been an opportunity to uniteEastern and Western Christians, thus ending the Great Schism. Finally and most importantlyif he could be seen to have regained the Holy Land and the key cities such as Jerusalem, itwould greatly increase the Pope’s power and influence upon fellow Latin Christians.Therefore i would argue that it was his desire to increase Papal power that most influencedPope Urban II when he made his speech.Tom Gibbons

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 ...

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