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:
- The Byzantine emperor, Alexios Comnenos, wanted the Franks to help get rid of the Turks who were invading from Asia Minor.
- 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.
- 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.
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.