« Prev The Call to the Crusades Next »

§ 49. The Call to the Crusades.


"the romance

Of many colored Life that Fortune pours

Round the Crusaders."

Wordsworth, Ecclesiastical Sonnets.


The call which resulted in the first expedition for the recovery of Jerusalem was made by Pope Urban II. at the Council of Clermont, 1095. Its chief popular advocate was Peter the Hermit.

The idea of such a movement was not born at the close of the eleventh century. Gregory VII., appealed to by Michael VII. of Constantinople, had, in two encyclicals, 1074,325325    Reg., I. 49; II. 37, Migne, 148, 329, 390.ren like cattle.326326    multa millia Christianorum quasi pecudes occidisse, Reg., I. 49 was able to announce to Henry IV. that fifty thousand Christian soldiers stood ready to take up arms and follow him to the East, but Gregory was prevented from executing his design by his quarrel with the emperor.

There is some evidence that more than half a century earlier Sergius IV., d. 1012, suggested the idea of an armed expedition against the Mohammedans who had "defiled Jerusalem and destroyed the church of the Holy Sepulchre." Earlier still, Sylvester II., d. 1003, may have urged the same project.327327    See Jules Lair, Études crit. sur divers textes des Xeet XIesiècles. Bulle du pape Sergius IV., etc., Paris, 1899. Lair, in opposition to Riant, Pflugk-Harttung, etc., gives reasons for accepting as genuine Sergius’s letter, found 1857. For Sylvester’s letter see Havet, Lettres de Gerbert, Paris, 1889. Röhricht, Gesch. d. ersten Kreuzzuges, 8, pronounces Sylvester’s letter a forgery, dating from 1095. Lair tries to prove it was written by Sergius IV.

Peter the Hermit, an otherwise unknown monk of Amiens, France, on returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, spread its tale of woes and horrors.328328    The date of the pilgrimage is not given, but may be accepted as having fallen between 1092-1094. Peter is called "the Hermit" by all the accounts, begining with the earliest, the Gesta Francorum. There is no good ground for doubting that he was from Amiens, as Albert of Aachen distinctly states. William of Tyre says from the "bishopric of Amiens." Hagenmeyer, p. 39, accepts the latter as within the truth.nst the indignities to which the Christians were subjected. While asleep in the church of the Holy Sepulchre and after prayer and fasting, Peter had a dream in which Christ appeared to him and bade him go and quickly spread the appeal that the holy place might be purged.329329    William of Tyre, Bk. I. 12, Rec., I. 35, gives only a few lines to the visions and the words spoken by the Lord. His account of the meeting with Urban is equally simple and scarcely less brief. Peter found, so he writes, "the Lord Pope Urban in the vicinity of Rome and presented the letters from the patriarch and Christians of Jerusalem and showed their misery and the abominations which the unclean races wrought in the holy places. Thus prudently and faithfully he performed the commission intrusted to him."sade, and it is altogether likely that many a pilgrim, looking upon the desolation of Jerusalem, heard within himself the same call which Peter in imagination or in a real dream heard the Lord making to him.

Urban listened to Peter’s account as he had listened to the accounts of other returning pilgrims. He had seen citizens of Jerusalem itself with his own eyes, and exiles from Antioch, bewailing the plight of those places and begging for alms.330330    At the Council of Clermont Urban made reference to the "very many reports" which had come of the desolation of Jerusalem, Fulcher, Rec., III. 324. Robert the Monk, I. 1, Rec., III. 727, says relatio gravis saepissime jam ad aures nostras pervenit. According to Baldric he appealed to the many among his hearers who could vouch for the desolate condition of the holy places from their own experience, Rec., IV. 14. See Hagenmeyer, 74-77.331331    So William of Tyre, Bk. I. 13. Later writers extend the journey of Peter inordinately. proclaimed the same message. The time for action had come.

At the Council of Piacenza, in the spring of 1095, envoys were present from the emperor Alexius Comnenus and made addresses, invoking aid against the advancing Turks.332332    William of Tyre does not mention this embassy. It may be because of the low opinion he had of Alexius, whom (II. 5) he pronounces scheming and perfidious. the famous Council of Clermont, Southern France, was held, which decreed the First Crusade.333333    There is no statement that the council formally decreed the Crusade. For the acts we are dependent upon scattered statements of chroniclers and several other unofficial documents.ounted fourteen archbishops, two hundred and fifty bishops, and four hundred abbots. Thousands of tents were pitched outside the walls. On the ninth day, the pope addressed the multitude from a platform erected in the open air. It was a fortunate moment for Urban, and has been compared to Christmas Day, 800, when Charlemagne was crowned.334334    Ranke, Weltgeschichte. According to William of Tyre, Peter the Hermit was present at Clermont. The contemporary writers do not mention his presence.ope.335335    Gregorovius, IV. 287, is right when he says, "the Importance of Urban’s speech in universal history outweighs the orations of Demosthenes and Cicero."

At Clermont, Urban was on his native soil and probably spoke in the Provençal tongue, though we have only Latin reports. When we recall the general character of the age and the listening throng, with its mingled feelings of love of adventure and credulous faith, we cannot wonder at the response made to the impassioned appeals of the head of Christendom. Urban reminded his hearers that they, as the elect of God, must carry to their brethren in the East the succor for which they had so often cried out. The Turks, a "Persian people, an accursed race,"336336    Robert the Monk, I. 1, Rec., III. 727. The contemporary writers, giving an account of Urban’s speech, are Baldric, Guibert, Fulcher, and Robert the Monk. All of them were present at Clermont. William of Tyre greatly elaborates the address, and Röhricht calls William’s account an invention which is a masterpiece of its kind,—eine Erdichtung die ein Meisterstück seiner Art, etc., Gesch. des ersten Kreuzzuges, p. 20. Röhricht, pp. 235-239, and Munro, "Am. Hist. Rev.," 1906, pp. 231-243, make interesting attempts to reconstruct Urban’s address. The different accounts are not to be regarded as contradictory, but as supplementary one of the other. Röhricht, p. 20, expresses the opinion that none of the accounts of the address is "accurate." No doubt the spirit and essential contents are preserved. Urban made prominent the appeals for aid from the East, the desolations of Jerusalem, and the sufferings of Christians in the East. See Munro.ke. As the knights loved their souls, so they should fight against the barbarians who had fought against their brothers and kindred.337337    Fulcher, Rec., III. 324. I follow chiefly the accounts of Fulcher and Robert. Robert represents the appeals for aid as coming from Jerusalem and Constantinople. land fruitful above all others, a paradise of delights, awaited them.338338    Robert the Monk, I. 2 Rec., III. 729. The expression "navel of the earth,"umbilicus terrarum, used by Robert, was a common one for Jerusalem.339339    Baldric, Rec., IV. 15, via brevis est, labor permodicus est qui tamen immarcescibilem vobis rependet coronam. Gregory VII., Reg., II. 37, Migne, 148, 390, had made the same promise, quoting 2 Cor. iv. 17, that for the toils of a moment the Crusaders would secure an eternal reward.

A Frenchman himself, Urban appealed to his hearers as Frenchmen, distinguished above all other nations by remarkable glory in arms, courage, and bodily prowess. He appealed to the deeds of Charlemagne and his son Lewis, who had destroyed pagan kingdoms and extended the territory of the Church.

To this moving appeal the answer came back from the whole throng, "God will sit, God will sit."340340    Deus vult, Deos lo volt, Diex el volt. These are the different forms in which the response is reported. For this response in its Latin form, Robert the Monk is our earliest authority, I. 2, Rec., III. 729. He says una vociferatio "Deus vult, Deus vult."en that His help will never fail you, as the pledge of a vow never to be recalled."341341    In the First Crusade all the crosses were red. Afterwards green and white colors came into use. Urban himself distributed crosses. Guibert, II. 5, Rec., IV. 140, and Fulcher, I. 4, state that Urban had the Crusaders wear the cross as a badge.n to go, and was appointed papal legate. The next day envoys came announcing that Raymund of Toulouse had taken the vow. The spring of 1096 was set for the expedition to start. Urban discreetly declined to lead the army in person.342342    Urban’s letters, following up his speech at Clermont, are given by Hagenmeyer, Epistulae, p. 136 sqq.

The example set at Clermont was followed by thousands throughout Europe. Fiery preachers carried Urban’s message. The foremost among them, Peter the Hermit, traversed Southern France to the confines of Spain and Lorraine and went along the Rhine. Judged by results, he was one of the most successful of evangelists. His appearance was well suited to strike the popular imagination. He rode on an ass, his face emaciated and haggard, his feet bare, a slouched cowl on his head,343343    Petrum more heremi vilissima cappa tegebat, Radulf of Caen. The above description is taken from strictly contemporary accounts. a great cross. In stature he was short.344344    The statura brevis of Radulf becomes in William of Tyre’s account pusillus, persona contemptibilis.345345    I have thus translated Radulf’s spiritus acer.346346    Albert of Aachen: neminem invenerunt qui tam ferocissimo et superbo loqui auderet quousque Petrus.347347    So Guibert speaks of the crowds listening to him as tanta populorum multitudo. Hagenmeyer, p. 114, accepting Guibert’s statement, refers to immense throngs, ungeheure Zahl.348348    Guibert: quidquid agebat namque seu loquebatur quasi quiddam subdivinum videbatur.y hairs from his ass’ tail to be preserved as relics. A more potent effect was wrought than mere temporary wonder. Reconciliations between husbands and wives and persons living out of wedlock were effected, and peace and concord established where there were feud and litigation. Large gifts were made to the preacher. None of the other preachers of the Crusade, Volkmar, Gottschalk, and Emich,349349    So Ekkehard, XII., Rec., V. 20 sq. who has something derogatory to say of all of these preachers and also of Peter’s subsequent career. Quem postea multi hypocritam esse dicebant. esteem than prelates and abbots.350350    Robert the Monk, I. 5, Rec., III. 731. Super ipsos praesules et abbates apice religionis efferebatur.351351    Guibert: neminem meminerim similem honore haberi. Baldric speaks of him as Petrus quidam magnus heremita, or as we would say, "that great hermit, Peter."

In a few months large companies were ready to march against the enemies of the cross.

A new era in European history was begun.352352    Hegel, Philosophie der Gesch., p. 444, calls the Crusades "the culminating point of the Middle Ages." Contemporaries like Guibert of Nogent, 123, could think of no movement equal in glory with the Crusades. Ordericus Vitalis, III. 458, praised the union of peoples of different tongues in a project so praiseworthy.ew passion had taken hold of its people. A new arena of conquest was opened for the warlike feudal lord, a tempting field of adventure and release for knight and debtor, an opportunity of freedom for serf and villein. All classes, lay and clerical, saw in the expedition to the cradle of their faith a solace for sin, a satisfaction of Christian fancy, a heaven appointed mission. The struggle of states with the papacy was for the moment at an end. All Europe was suddenly united in a common and holy cause, of which the supreme pontiff was beyond dispute the appointed leader.



« Prev The Call to the Crusades Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |