The First Crusade 1095-1099

Urban preaches

Pope Urban II preached at Clermont-Ferrand in November 1095. As a result of his words somewhere in the region of 100,000 men from all ranks of society took up his call to arms in order to recapture Jerusalem from the Saracens (Seljuk Turks) who since their capture of the city had forbidden Christians from making pilgrimages. In addition to suddenly wanting to make the Holy Land Christian there was also a wave of anti-Semitism across Western Europe.

Usually three political reasons are given for the Crusade:

  1. The Byzantine emperor, Alexios Comnenos, wanted the Franks to help get rid of the Turks who were invading from Asia Minor.
  2. Pope Urban II was not the only pope – there was an alternative in the form of Pope Clement III who was based in Rome whilst Urban held northern Italy and France. By calling for a holy war he was seeking to unite a faction ridden Christian world and take the spot as top Pope. It would become deeply un-Christian for Christian rulers to go to war against one another when they should be killing the infidel.
  3. Faith, land and religious violence go hand in hand at this time. Urban preached Crusade in Spain against the Muslims as well as preaching for the capture of Jerusalem from the Saracens.

But why did so many men take up the call to arms:

i) Urban promised that they would be forgiven their sins.

ii) There was the lure of land and loot.

iii) Adventure.

iv) Deus Vult “God Wills It” – a snappy piece of recruitment either used during the Clermont sermon by a very enthusiastic crowd or by a sharp thinking eleventh century spin doctor shortly after.

In Normandy a period of unrest came to an end – more or less as Urban must have hoped would happen across the Western Christian World. Robert Curthose took the cross having mortgaged his duchy to his brother William Rufus in order to pay for the adventure and set off in the direction of the Holy Land. William waved his brother goodbye and settled down to being regent in Normandy in his brother’s absence.

It had been pretty good timing on Robert’s part given that it would have been deeply unmannerly of William to conquer the duchy whilst Robert was on Crusade. Yet in 1094 William and set his sights on Normandy, come to terms with his brother Henry and taken castle after castle. By the time Robert decided to take the Cross, William already held 20 castle in Normandy. By going when he did Robert deferred defeat.

6 thoughts on “The First Crusade 1095-1099

  1. Thanks for the info Julia. So often there is not much made clear as to why suddenly all these men went off on Crusade, in many cases dragging their wives and children along for the ride too. The Pope has a lot to answer for and all done for his own benefits mostly!

    Actually I have several on my family tree who went off Crusading, one in particular died at the Battle of Antioch, one Arnulf de Hesdin. One day I shall visit Antalya (Antioch) to remember his bravery.

    • Well you learn something new every day! And I guess for the peasants of the first crusade it was a chance to get off the land that they were tied to.

  2. Good read again .Religion it was that brought the Christian Knights to slaughter the Arab ,he who had opened the gates of Jerusalem to all who would live in peace. Popes should all be hanged and hand back that said city to Palestine and Jordan. The Jew a wandering tribesman has no right to terrorize Arab Palestine .it all goes back to that 3rd Crusade and the crimes of Popes. Jesus never existed it is Pauls lies for riches. without that Popes have no place in front of God the Great Architect.No wonder war goes on long after the middle east a war zone .It was that crusade and its cruelty that did it and when will we forget and say sorry to those we gave no mercy too.

  3. Good basic information here, though somewhat lacking in depth. Further, as an history blog, perhaps more attention should be paid to proofing and editing.

    • It’s not supposed to be an in depth article. It is designed as an introduction. So far as the proofing and editing are concerned I would point out that I earn no money from the History Jar and that you have no idea at all as to whether I have just been careless or am dyslexic. It is actually the latter – so thank you for taking the time to comment but there’s not a great deal I can do about the proofing.

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