The First Crusade
Pope Urban II’s Preaching of the First Crusade:
All of the chroniclers’ accounts, with the exception of Fulcher’s, represent the Pope as 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’s 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 ‘Crusades’ of the eleventh century, the notion of the holy war against the infidel gained currency. In due course, Pope Gregory VII (1073–85) 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 ‘militia Christi’, or ‘militia sancti Petri’, in which they placed themselves at the service of the vicar of St Peter. His ‘Crusading’ 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 sepulcher. Urban built upon Gregory’s 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 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’s summons at Clermont might make their journey armed, and yet still enjoy the spiritual benefits of a pilgrimage.
Erdmann believed that, when Urban first preached this unprecedented phenomenon, an armed pilgrimage, he referred to Jerusalem; but that he did so without emphasis. In line with what had happened at Piacenza, the overbiding purpose of the Crusade, as Urban envisaged it, was the freeing of the Eastern Churches; there was no special reference to any one locality as being the primary military concern of the Crusaders. Urban mentioned Jerusalem briefly and almost incidentally, as a means of recruiting men for the Crusade. In Erdmann’s terminology, the goal of the holy war (Kriegsziel) was the freeing from the Turkish yoke of the Eastern Churches in general. Jerusalem was merely the goal of the journey (Marschziel); it was a secondary, devotional destination, to be attained in strict subordination to the real business of the expedition. Urban believed that these two goals of the Crusade were compatible; and, in a sense, events proved him right. But as the Crusaders responded to his call, they themselves quickly distorted his intention, by making the liberation of the Holy sepulcher itself the goal of the holy war. This distortion was the result of the Crusaders’ enthusiasm. What Urban had intended to be a means of recruiting became, in the minds of the Crusaders, the military end of their journey.
Such is Erdmann’s powerfully argued thesis. It has sometimes impressed itself so strongly upon the minds of his critics that, even when the logic of their own arguments has pointed towards the centrality of Jerusalem in Urban’s preaching at Clermont, they have been markedly reluctant to follow it. Two of the most important discussions, since Erdmann’s, of the origins of Crusading ideas may serve as examples of this.6 M. Villey has convincingly criticized Erdmann for his too ready identification of the Crusade with the already existing phenomenon of the holy war.7 In Villey’s view, Crusade and holy war should not be used as near-synonyms. The holy war was a much broader conception than the Crusade: although the eleventh century showed various manifestations of the holy war, there was nothing before 1095, even in Spain, which should be called a Crusade. Historians should reserve this term for campaigns that broadly satisfied the juridical categories 18 H. which later canonists were to devise: there should, that is to say, be a preaching of the cross; clear and express spiritual privileges should be attached to participation; and special obligations should be laid upon those who took part by reason of their having taken the cross.
Villey’s criticism of Erdmann’s view of Crusading would appear to carry further implications. Erdmann insisted upon Urban’s having assigned a general goal to the Crusade – the liberation of the Eastern Churches – because he identified the Crusade with a holy war, which itself had the generalized end of defending Christian peoples against the heathen or of recovering the Christians’ land that the heathen unjustly detained. But the more the Crusade is seen as (in Villey’s phrase) a ‘new synthesis’, which carried the promise of specific spiritual benefits and which imposed upon the participants a number of special obligations, the more likely it becomes that the Pope should have laid emphasis upon a particular goal, whose attainment represented the discharge of the obligations and won the enjoyment of the benefits. Villey, however, pursued no such line of argument; partly, perhaps, because he gave but little attention to the Crusade in its aspect as a ‘peregrinatio’ or pilgrimage. He was content to express general agreement with Erdmann’s distinction between the Kriegsziel and the Marschziel of the First Crusade. He also agreed with Erdmann that it was the hearers of Urban’s preaching, not the Pope himself, who focused attention upon Jerusalem as the prime object of the journey, and who intended to capture it rather than merely to win spiritual benefits.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher
That it was has been proposed by another historian who has contributed to the debate that Erdmann started – P. Rousset. In support of his case, Rousset drew attention to evidence which historians have too seldom pondered – the incidental references to the First Crusade which occur in sources strictly contemporary with its summoning and assembly. He makes clear the value of this evidence. But his treatment of it is brief, and he did not suf- ficiently consider whether it genuinely harks back to the Pope’s preaching. It is, therefore, worth while surveying more fully the available material. It falls into five categories: (i) chronicles providing contemporary evidence for 1096, (ii) charters of 1096, (iii) contemporary letters, (iv) the excitatoria by which men were urged to rally to the Crusade, and (v) the letters and other rulings of Urban himself. The first four categories come from sources which, in general, probably knew Urban’s intentions well. They speak of the military liberation of Jerusalem as the purpose of the Crusade with a clearness
that is no less apparent in Urban’s own writings.
(i) So far as chronicles are concerned, the earliest source of information is the Fragmentum historiae Andegavensis. It was written in Anjou in 1096, and so within a few months of Urban’s prolonged stay there to preach the Crusade. The author was almost certainly Count Fulk le Réchin (1060–1109) himself. This gives it particular value, for not only did Urban assiduously cultivate the Count as a possible recruit for the Crusade, as the Fragmentum bears witness, but Fulk resisted all his blandishments. Fulk’s account is not likely to be coloured by enthusiasm for an enterprise in which he did not allow himself to become actively involved. It describes how, towards the beginning of Lent 1096, ‘the Roman Pope came to Anjou and urged its people to go to Jerusalem and subdue the race of the heathen who had seized that city and all the land of the Christians up to Constantinople’. Fulk provides clear and early testimony that Urban made Jerusalem the goal of the Crusade and that he called for its military deliverance. Other chronicles tend to confirm this. The chronicle of Saint-Maixent, a monastery where Urban is known from his letters to have been on 31 March after he left Anjou, records how ‘by the Pope’s order, many men, noble and base, rich and poor, from all lands, . . . went on the journey to the Holy sepulcher’. Again, Bernold of St. Blasien’s account of Urban’s French journey speaks of an expeditio of which the Pope was the true architect; Jerusalem was its goal and its purpose was to deliver the Christians from the pagans.
These chronicles indicate that from as early as thirteen weeks after the Council of Clermont, Urban was certainly speaking of an expedition which had Jerusalem as its goal, and which was to liberate the Christians of the East from a pagan subjection which extended from Jerusalem up to Constantinople.
A similar picture emerges from a small number of charters that survive in which, before the Crusaders left, some of them gave lands to, or made other arrangements with, French monasteries. Such charters are of especial value because they were usually drafted, not by the donors, but by the monks themselves. Thus, they express ideas which had the approval of monks who, if they obeyed Urban’s directives, were not themselves involved in the Crusade. If the monks were thus somewhat detached from the Crusaders’ enthusiasms, they were in an excellent position to know Urban’s mind. His French journey of 1095–6 and his organization of the Crusade were largely undertaken with the assistance of the monasteries. Thus, the language of the small number of monastic charters which refer to the Crusade, provides significant if indirect evidence of the Pope’s intentions.
Some particularly early evidence occurs in the charters of Cluny, of which Urban was a sometime Grand Prior. He stayed there just before he went to Clermont, and Abbot Hugh of Cluny was himself present at the Council. Cluny’s understanding of the Crusade was formed in the closest touch with Urban, and it emerges as early as a charter of 12 April 1096. In it, a prospective Crusader was said to be involved ‘in this manifold and great awakening and campaign of Christian people who are contending to go to Jerusalem, to fight on God’s behalf against the heathen and the Saracens’; he was further said to be going on the pilgrimage (peregrinatio) to Jerusalem. A further, but undated, charter of 1096 refers to the impending departure of two brothers for Jerusalem ‘in expeditione’. Cluny’s intimate connections with Urban make it likely that its charters were faithful to his own intentions when they referred to Jerusalem in these terms.
Other monastic charters spoke of the Crusade in a similar way. After Urban turned south on leaving the Touraine and Poitou in the spring of 1096, he did not visit the great abbey of Saint-Victor, Marseilles; but he passed within its well-organized sphere of influence. A charter of Saint- Victor, dated August 1096, defined the intention of two Crusader brothers much as the Cluniac charters had done. They were going to Jerusalem, and for two reasons: to undertake a pilgrimage, and to help with the deliverance of innumerable Christian peoples from the fury of their oppressors. A similar combination of motives occurs in a charter of Saint-Père, Chartres, which, although undated, clearly looks forward to the First Crusade. It also illustrates how the Crusade served Urban’s purpose as expressed in his speech at Clermont, by leading men to desist from violence at home in order to seek the deliverance of Jerusalem:
The remaining, and much earlier, sources for Urban’s own view of the Crusade indicate that, in intending to bring help to all the Eastern Churches, he had Jerusalem and its liberation particularly and constantly in mind. As early as 1089, he was beginning to think of Jerusalem in relation to Christian action on the frontiers with Islam. Once again, the context is a Spanish one. Urban wrote to encourage the ecclesiastical and lay magnates of Tarragona and Barcelona to help the material rehabilitation of the Church and city of Tarragona. He promised them the same spiritual benefits as would accrue from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. His letter foreshadows such an amalgamation of the ideas of pilgrimage to Jerusalem and of the vindication of Christendom against Islam, as the charter evidence points to in his preaching at Clermont and after.
His own pronouncements of 1095–6 tend to confirm that this was how his mind developed. They strongly suggest that he named Jerusalem as the goal of the Crusade; that he did so in terms of its military liberation; and that he also attached to the expedition the spiritual benefits of a pilgrimage. Thus, on 22 July 1096, when Urban received from Count Raymond of Provence the renewed subjection to the Roman Church of the monastery of Saint- Gilles, Urban’s charter referred to the Count as ‘in Hierosolimitanam expeditionem iturus’. Again, the well-known letters which Urban wrote concerning the Crusade to all the faithful in Flanders and to the clergy and people of Bologna, testify, although with some difference of emphasis, to his concern to deliver the city of Jerusalem from the pagan yoke. The undated letter to the Flemings, usually assigned to late December 1095, first refers, in general, to the oppression of the Churches of God in eastern parts. But it
was this oppression and that of the Holy City of Christ together that constituted the ‘calamitas’ which moved him to initiate the Crusade:
We believe that you are already well informed about the barbaric fury which, by its attacks which move us to compassion, has laid waste the Churches of God in eastern parts and, moreover, what is shocking to mention, has delivered the Holy City of Christ, made illustrious by his passion and resurrection, together with its churches, into an intolerable servitude. Grieving as was due in face of such a calamity, we journeyed in France and in large measure stirred up the rulers and subjects of that land to seek the liberation of the Eastern Churches. Urban’s letter to the Bolognese, written from Pavia on 19 September 1096, contains no such reference to the liberation of all the Eastern Churches. Jerusalem comes right to the fore, so that Urban was concerned only with it and its liberation:
We have heard that some of you have formed a desire to journey to Jerusalem, and you are aware that this pleases us greatly. Know that we remit the whole penance due for their sins to all who set out, not from greed of this world’s goods, but simply for the salvation of their souls and for the liberation of the Church (ecclesiae liberatione).
His preoccupation with the Holy City is readily explicable, and does not point to a subsequent change in his thought. For he wrote to confirm the spiritual benefits of the Crusade, and to insist upon his rules about who might and who might not go on it; he had no need to refer to any wider objective than Jerusalem.
However, he reverted to the Eastern Christians as a whole as well as to Jerusalem in another, seldom noticed letter which he sent on 7 October 1096 from Cremona to the monks of Vallombrosa. He wrote to repeat his prohibition, of which he also reminded the Bolognese, of the departure to the Crusade of clerks and monks without the leave of their bishops and abbots. He also restated his intention for the Crusade. As he envisaged it, it was essentially the self-dedication (oblatio) of the knights who had set out for Jerusalem in order to liberate the enslaved part of Christendom. He had stirred up their hearts to take part in such an ‘expeditio’ with a view to restoring the former liberty of Christians. This letter may well be taken as embodying the most balanced statement that survives of Urban’s own view of the Crusade. Not only does it recapitulate the points made in his two earlier letters, but it tends to confirm the other evidence that he preached a Crusade having Jerusalem as its goal, by which he intended to effect the liberation of it as of all the Eastern Churches.
That Jerusalem and its liberation were central to Urban’s plan for the Crusade from its very inception is, finally, suggested by a piece of evidence from the Council of Clermont itself. Its canons survive in a version preserved by one of the participants, Bishop Lambert of Arras. Of his thirty-two canons, the second alone directly concerns the Crusade. It refers in the clearest terms to Jerusalem as being its goal, and the spiritual benefits to be gained from reaching Jerusalem are attached to an intention to liberate it, not merely to journey there: ‘If any man sets out from pure devotion, not for reputation or monetary gain, to liberate the Church of God at Jerusalem, his journey shall be reckoned in place of all penance.’
Peter the Hermit
The First Crusade was preceded by the Peasants' Crusade, an inglorious prelude to the Holy War with which the problematic and somewhat dubious personality of Peter the Hermit is traditionally credited. His chief assistant, a poor knight known as Walter the Penniless, led a company of 12,000 disqualified irregulars, moved by faith and famine, while a German priest named Gottschalk headed an equal band from Franconia, Swabia, and Lotharingia. A veritable exodus took place, in which the whole population of villages enrolled in the battle of the Cross, with little armor beyond staff and sickle and wooden swords, and in expectation of miraculous triumph against the miscreants with the help of a host of angels. William, viscount of Melun, Count Emich from the Rhineland, and Folkmar in Germany all led columns of recruits for the divine cause, and, after disgracefully molesting the Jews of Central Europe (Jews of the Rhineland - Metz Germany, Trier Germany, ...), proceeded the trip along the Danube river, where they suffered and inflicted suffering in travel in Hungary and Bulgaria. Finally they descended on Constantinople like a cloud of locusts, hardly what Alexius had requested in his appeal. The bewildered Byzantine Emperor had no choice but to acquiesce in their wish to be transported to Anatolia, where Turkish sabers cut them down at Nicaea in August 1096. A few who apostatized to save their lives were sent east in captivity, and only some, including Peter, escaped back to European shores and awaited the forthcoming feudal militias.
The Parons Crusade:
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 Empire 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 Adhemar, 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 roman roads like the roman 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 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.
Once within the confines of northern Syria, the Crusaders aimed at seizing Antioch, the fair and fortified "City of God" on the Orontes, where the followers of Jesus were called Christians for the first time in history. Bohemond coveted it for himself. After a protracted and agonizing siege of about eight months, the city fell into their hands on June 3, 1098, only four days before the arrival of Kerbogha, the Turkish governor of Mosul, with a substantial army for its relief, and almost one year after Nicaea. The morale of the host, weakened by heat and hunger, was revived by the miracle of the discovery of the sacred lance with which a Roman legionary had pierced the Lord's side during the Passion, hidden in a chapel at Antioch. They were able to repel Kerbogha's mighty army in defeat, and Bohemond stayed at the head of the new acquisition; while the others pressed on to Jerusalem by devious ways for another year. Raymond, who had also wanted Antioch for himself and was ousted from it by Bohemond, had as his consolation prize the county of Tripoli.
In ecstasy the remaining Crusaders finally perceived the domes, turrets, and towers of the Holy City in the early days of June 1099. By the seventh of the month they managed to complete siege operations and started the construction of a tremendous wooden tower with a drawbridge in readiness for storming the walls. Battering rams, ladders, catapults, wheels, and all manner of engines were made and used in the successive daily attacks on the city fortifications. Jerusalem had recently been recovered from the Turks by the Fatimid Caliphate of Egypt, and a garrison of proved fighters was left on guard. In spite of the valiant defense of the city, it became evident that its downfall was only a matter of time, and the arrival of Christian reinforcements of men and material from Genoese galleys at Jaffa sealed the doom of the Muslims. On July 15 the Christians began to pour over the walls from the tower bridge, with Duke Godfrey always in the lead. The chroniclers of the event say that the storming of the city took place at the ninth hour, which was the hour of the Passion on a Friday. Some descended swiftly and opened the city gates for the others to enter, and the rest of the story was simply a war of systematic extermination and fierce massacre. The anonymous author of the "Gesta Francorum," an eyewitness of the horrors of the assault, says: "Our men followed, killing and slaying even to the Temple of Solomon, where the slaughter was so great that our men waded in blood to their ankles."
Archbishop William of Tyre calls the capture of the Holy City the "End of the Pilgrimage" and says that "it was not alone the spectacle of headless bodies and mutilated limbs strewn in all directions that roused horror in all who looked upon them. Still more dreadful was it to gaze upon the victors themselves, dripping with blood from head to foot, an ominous sight which brought terror to all who met them." ** The vivid picture painted by the twelfth-century archbishop continues thus.
Each marauder claimed as his own in perpetuity the particular house which he had entered, together with all it contained. For before the capture of the city the pilgrims had agreed that, after it had been taken by force, whatever each man might win for himself should be his forever by right of possession, without molestation. Consequently the pilgrims reached the city most carefully and boldly killed the citizens. They penetrated into the most retired and out-of-the-way places and broke open the most private apartments of the foe. At the entrance of each house, as it was taken, the victor hung up his shield and his arms, as a sign to all who approached not to pause there by that place as already in possession of another.
This appears to be one of the earliest references to the use of coats of arms for identification, a custom which became more general among the Crusaders at a later date under the influence of Muslim heraldry. As the city became quieter and the tumult subsided, the bloodthirsty and bloodstained pilgrims laid aside their arms and, with tearful sighs and heartfelt emotion, proceeded to pray in the Church of the Holy sepulcher.
William of Newburgh
Council of Clermont (November 1095)
Middle Aged Dating