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Pope Urban II Calls for a Crusade in 1095

Pope Urban II gave a speech at the Council of Clermont, in 1095, which ended-up being one of the most significant of the medieval era.

He urged the people of Europe to mount a crusade, with the objective of "liberating the eastern churches" in territories which had been captured by the Turks.

Born in France, with the birth name “Odo of Châtillon,” Urban II became Pope of the Catholic church in 1088. He held that position until his death on the 29th of July, 1099.

Although a written record of Urban's actual speech does not survive, several accounts of it provide us with an overview of the event and the Pope's words. A Frenchman, Urban urges other Frenchmen to take up the cause, travel to Jerusalem and reclaim the city.

About a month after his speech at the Council of Clermont—which reportedly occurred (in Clermont, France) on November 27, 1095—Urban sent a letter (hereafter translated into English) encouraging those who wanted to participate in what we now call the First Crusade:

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 and laid waste the churches of God in the regions of the Orient. More than this, blasphemous to say, it has even grasped in intolerable servitude its churches and the Holy City of Christ, glorified be His passion and resurrection.

Grieving with pious concern at this calamity, we visited the regions of Gaul [today’s France] 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. (See Urban's "Letter of Instruction to the Crusaders," issued in December of 1095.)

Responding to the Pope’s directive, thousands of people participated in the First Crusade. Many of them died.

Nearly four centuries after Urban's speech, a French artist by the name of Jean Colombe created this illumination. It is the artist's interpretation of the Pope addressing the Council of Clermont.

The illumination is maintained by the Bibliothèque nationale de France, where the work is referenced as Fr.5594, f.19r.

Click on the image for a full-page view.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5183stories and lessons created

Original Release: Mar 13, 2016

Updated Last Revision: Sep 18, 2019


Media Credits

Bibliothèque nationale de France (Fr.5594, f.19r); Illumination by Jean Colombe, circa 1474.

 

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