The First Crusade

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When Pope Urban II rose to his feet to address the multitudes gathered before him at the Council of Clermont in 1095, his appeal was simple: letWestern Christendom march to the aid of their brethren in the East. Whether the Crusades are regarded as the most tremendous and romantic of Christian expeditions or the last of the barbarian invasions, they remain one of the most exciting and colorful adventure stories in history. The reasons for joining the Crusade varied widely ?remittance from penance, a desire to see the Holy Places, greed for the power and booty that might be captured. But the prize at the end of it all, be it spiritual or temporal, was the Holy City of Jerusalem. The journey鎶?spectacular culmination was the long siege of Jerusalem, at the end of which the Crusaders, by a brilliant tactical maneuver, broke down its defenses and poured into the city, which erupted in a bloody massacre. Steven Runicman鎶?History of the Crusades is justly acclaimed as the most complete and fascinating account of the historic journey to save the Holy Land from the infidel. This abridgment makes accessible to a wider readership one of the most compelling historical narratives

Pope Urban II鎶?Preaching of the First Crusade:

It is doubtful whether the precise terms in which Urban II preached the First Crusade at the conclusion of the Council of Clermont, on 27 November 1095, will ever be known with certainty. Some altogether new evidence would have to be discovered regarding his actual words. In the chronicles of the Crusade, there are, it is true, five quite early versions of his preaching: in Fulcher of Chartres (written in 1101), Robert the Monk (1107), Baldric of Dol (c.1108?0), Guibert of Nogent (c.1109), and William of Malmesbury (who wrote some thirty years after the Crusade). Of these writers, the four earliest wrote as though they had been present at Clermont; Fulcher, and perhaps the other three, may well have been. Where they exhibit a measure of agreement regarding a theme of Urban鎶?preaching, there is some likelihood of a genuine recollection or transmission of it. But Robert, Baldric, and Guibert all said that they gave the gist of Urban鎶?words, not an accurate report of them; and there are considerable differences amongst the five versions. It is more than likely that the chroniclers availed themselves of the customary licence by which medieval writers put into the mouths of their characters such discourses as the writers themselves deemed to be appropriate. If they did so, their departures from Urban鎶?own words may well have been considerable. There can be no doubt that the response to Urban鎶?preaching greatly exceeded his expectations. The chroniclers?versions may have been to some extent influenced by the character of this response, so that they misrepresent what Urban said to elicit it. Historians have found no sure criteria for determining what were the Pope鎶?original themes, in so far as they may have been preserved by the chroniclers; and they have differed in their attempts to reconstruct them or to define what they may have been.

All of the chroniclers?accounts, with the exception of Fulcher鎶? represent the Pope as this website making much of the call to deliver the Holy City of Jerusalem from pagan domination. But it is an attractive hypothesis that, in November 1095, Urban was not primarily concerned with Jerusalem, if indeed he mentioned it at all. Ever since he had become Pope in 1088, he had been anxious to improve relations with the Byzantine Emperor, Alexius Comnenus, and to promote the union of the Eastern and Western Churches. In March 1095, at the Council of Piacenza, Alexius鎶?envoys had moved Urban to call upon western warriors to go to Byzantium and help Alexius to defend the Church against the pagans.3 May it not have been that, in France, Urban intended to publish a further and wider statement of this call? If so, his summons was to help the Eastern Christians in general. If Jerusalem came into the picture, it did so secondarily and not necessarily as a military objective. Perhaps, even, it did not come in at all, but was introduced later by an upsurge of popular enthusiasm and religious zeal.

In one form or another, such questions have been widely asked, especially since they were canvassed by C. Erdmann in a study of the origin of Crusading ideas, which has dominated discussion during the past generation. Erdmann saw the First Crusade as the culmination of the long process by which there took shape, in Western Europe, the idea of a holy war against the heathen, sponsored by the Church. In Western Francia especially, after the waning of royal power under the later Carolingians, it was upon the knights that the task of defending Christian peoples by force of arms against their internal and external foes increasingly rested; in recognition of this, the Church began to bless their weapons of warfare. With the Spanish 鎱峳usades?of the eleventh century, the notion of the holy war against the infidel gained currency. In due course, Pope Gregory VII (1073?5) finally broke with the age-long reluctance of Christians fully to recognize the licitness of the procession of arms. He called upon the military classes to take part in a 鎲乮litia Christi? or 鎲乮litia sancti Petri? in which they placed themselves at the service of the vicar of St Peter. His 鎱峳usading?plan of 1074 was an abortive attempt to mobilize them to help the Eastern Churches in face of Seldjuk attacks; and he expressed the hope that those who took part might, perhaps, also go on and reach the Holy Sepulchre.5 Urban built upon Gregory鎶?work; but he did not repeat the mistake that led to its frustration. He appreciated that a call which was too straitly tied to the hierarchical claims of the Apostolic See was likely to find but little response. So he took the novel step electric kettle guide of associating his own summons to a military enterprise with the idea of a pilgrimage. Hitherto, it had normally been requisite for a pilgrim to travel unarmed; those who responded to Urban鎶?summons at Clermont might make their journey armed, and yet still enjoy the spiritual benefits of a pilgrimage.

In the meantime, four regular armies were being mustered to follow the old pilgrim routes to Constantinople for the official Crusade. A substantial vanguard of Lotharingians and Rhinelanders under Godfrey of Bouillon and his brother Baldwin arrived via Hungary and the Balkans at the walls of the Byzantine capital on December 23, 1096. They followed the apocryphal route of Charles the Great, by which the first Holy Roman Emperor was believed to have gone to fight the infidels, undoubtedly a legend circulated to enhance the enthusiasm of the Crusaders in their sacred quest. Anna Comnena estimated 10,000 knights and 70,000 infantry apart from a multitude of camp followers. In the meantime, the bombastic Hugh Vermandois, brother of Philip I of France, together with a Franco-Norman band, crossed the Alps, Italy, and a tempestuous Adriatic, where he was shipwrecked near Durazzo and was escorted by Byzantine legions to Constantinople. He was followed by Robert Curt-Hose, duke of Normandy, Stephen, count of Blois and Chartres, and finally Robert of Flanders. The Normans from South Italy, numbering 10,000 knights and 20,000 career infantry warriors, under Bohemond, son of Robert Guiscard, and Tancred, his nephew, attained the eastern shord of the Adriatic below Durazzo and proceeded to join the others in November 1096. The Provencals under Raymond of Saint-Gilles, count of Toulouse, accompanied by Adh&nar, the apostolic legate, traversed the Alps and North Italy to the shores of the Adriatic, where they suffered greatly until they also reached Durazzo and took the usual road (Via Egnatia) across the Balkan Peninsula to Constantinople via Thessalonica. The full array became complete in May 1097. Tne highest estimate is provided by Fulcher as 600,000, and the lowest by Raymond of Aguilers at 100,000, which is nearly the equivalent of the whole Byzantine army. Allowing for medieval exaggeration, even the lowest figure must have confronted the imperial household with a tremendous problem in the matter of logistics and of transportation to Anatolia.

After patching up a compromise on the application of the rule of international law regarding the position of the Western feudal magnates vis4-vis the Eastern Roman Empire, arrangements were made for conveyance of the Crusaders to Asia Minor without further delay. They were persuaded to swear an oath of fealty to the Emperor and to owe him allegiance for their future conquests, an oath which they did not mean to keep, at least in connection with the Holy Places. The campaign was inaugurated with the capture of Nicaea, which they ceded to an imperial garrison, on June 19, 1097. Then the discomfiture of the main Turkish forces under Qilij Arslan at Dorylaeum, in the hot summer days of July 1097, opened up the Anatolian route to Syria, and some of the leaders began to envision prospects of principalities of their own. Friction between them became evident in the race of Tancred and Baldwin to capture the love here Armenian Taurus in September. Baldwin foiled his protagonist by marrying an Armenian princess and succeeding to the throne of Edessa after the murder of King Thoros in a local uprising. More details at

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