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To begin to answer the question, "Why did Urban's appeal to the Christian nobles at Clermont command an overwhelmingly positive response?" one must first consider the political and social situation in Europe and the Middle East in the millenium before 1095. Firstly, European society had survived the raids of the Magyars, Vikings, and Saracens, and its economy and society were recovering quickly. There was a new spirit of adventure apparent in the art, literature, an actions of the western Europeans. This was manifested at least partly in an increased popularity of pilgrimages - journeys to visit distant holy places to worship there and view the relics of the saints. This was a religious activity, but the many of the pilgrims clearly enjoyed themselves like tourists in any age. Also Europe was already in a period of expansion, and its capacity for war and conquest had grown during the years of fending off raiders from all direction.
The spirit of religious reform that had led to the Investiture Controversy had been accompanied by an increase in popular spirituality. People were no longer to accept their religion passively; many wanted to participate actively and to do something positive in honor of their god. European society and economy were also in a state of transition, and were unstable. As Lynn Harry Nelson notes, 1. The aristocracy found themselves at relative peace, and were losing the importance they had enjoyed when they stood between Europe and its attackers. They needed more land with which to endow their children and were beginning to fight with each other over the land that was available to them. 2. The kings were now working to reverse the decentralization that had been characteristic of the feudal age.
They, and many who now looked to them for protection and leadership, wanted to reduce the privileges enjoyed by the aristocracy and transfer that power to the central governments of the kingdoms, and they wanted to ends the civil wars caused by the aristocracy and establish a greater measure of law and order. 3. The Church had split into eastern and western organizations in 1054, and the pope's wanted somehow to heal that split. They were involved in the Investiture Controversy and were looking for allies, such as the still-prestigious eastern Roman emperor. 4. Churchmen generally recognized the new spirituality of the age and wished that there were some way that the Church could build upon this and assume the moral leadership of Europe and the Europeans. 5.
The middle classes were now aware of the profits of the eastern trade, and were searching for some way to bypass the middlemen of the eastern empire and to trade directly with the Muslims. They knew that they could become rich by cutting out the Byzantines and taking for themselves the profits that the Byzantine merchants had been making on trade with them. 6. The economic system was in a state of transition, with some districts specializing in some "industrial" crops to the point that they did not raise enough grain to feed themselves, and were doing so before the transportation and internal trading system had advanced enough to distribute consumer goods efficiently. So there were frequent local famines. At the same time, agriculture was improving so greatly in productivity that many people no longer had work. The peasants needed more food and more land to cultivate.
In 1095, a famine and epidemic in northern France and the Lowlands was causing widespread misery and the lower classes were some miracle to deliver them. 7. Pilgrims returning from the Holy Land were bring home stories of the atrocities being committed by the Seljuk Turks, masters of the Levant, against pilgrims, and of the way in which they were desecrating the places holy to Christians. This caused great outrage, in part because the average western European was better acquainted with the Bible lands than any place other than their own villages and towns. The Holy Land was the Christians "other home." Also since their victory at the Battle of Manzikert (1071), the Seljuk Turks had been pressing towards Constantinople and were now actually within sight of the city. Alexius Comnenus, the eastern emperor, needed reinforcement. He sent his request to Pope Urban II.
Urban was pleased, since the Holy Roman Emperor had set up a rival "pope" as a manoeuver in the Investiture Controversy, but the eastern emperor had asked for help from him. On November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II gave an important speech at the end of a church council in Clermont, France. In it he called upon the nobility of Western Europe, the Franks, to go to the East and assist their Christian brothers, the Byzantines, against the attacks of the Muslim Turks. He also apparently encouraged them to liberate Jerusalem, the most sacred and beloved city in Christendom, from the domination of Muslims who had ruled it since taking it from the Christian Byzantines in A.D. 638. He said little about helping Alexius - since the westerners did not like the Byzantines all that much -and concentrated on the mission to free the Holy Land.
He promised them the Church's blessing, the aid of god, and the certainly of being taking immediately into heaven for those who fell in the attempt. The crowd was swept up in the call, and the cry of Deus vult! ("Gods wills it!") spread far and wide. Almost all classes and nationalities of Europeans responded in a movement far greater and more varied than Urban may have expected. It is unlikely that anyone realized how well this call suited the needs and predisposition of the Europeans of the time. Urban was, by all reports, a powerful and gifted speaker, and he brought all his rhetorical skills to bear. His speech is recorded in at least four sources.
Lynn Harry Nelson gives a conglomerate summary of them: The noble race of the Franks must aid their co-religionists in the East. The infidel Turks are advancing into the heart of eastern Christendom (which they were: Byzantines had lost Asia Minor at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071; these were the Seljuk Turks - new converts to Islam and full of militant zeal). Christians are being oppressed and attacked; the holy places are being defiled; and Jerusalem itself is groaning under the Saracen yoke. The Holy Sepulchre is in Muslim hands. The West must march in defense of the Holy Land. All should go, rich and poor alike.
God himself will lead them, for they will be doing His work. As a whole, answering the question, now we may indicate the most important factors influencing the positive answer of Christian nobles and masses to Urbans speech. According to John Sloan hey can be listed as follows: unprecedented difficulty for Christians to fulfill their desires for pilgrimage directly to Jerusalem; extraordinary weakness in Byzantine empire and losses to Turks; increased military power of western Europeans, especially Normans and French; and restless eagerness on the part of military leaders to put it to their own use; increased Christian naval strength throughout the Mediterranean, and heightened desire by the naval cities to exploit this for their commercial advantage; Papal interest in an expedition to Asia Minor and Palestine as well as in asserting more control over the internal affairs of western Europe; popular ideological and cultural interest linking religious fervor to concept of crusade; a period of increased local famine and disease which encouraged the masses to consider undertaking dangerous treks in search of a better life. The primary force, which thus transformed an appeal for reinforcements into a holy war for the conquest of Palestine, was the Church. The creative thought of the middle ages is clerical thought. It is the Church which creates the Carolingian empire, because the clergy think in terms of empire.
It is the Church which creates the First Crusade, because the clergy believe in penitentiary pilgrimages, and the war against the Seljuks can be turned into a pilgrimage to the Sepulchre; because again it wishes to direct the fighting instinct of the laity, and the consecrating name of Jerusalem provides an unimpeachable channel. Above all, because the Papacy desires a perfect and universal church, and perfect and universal church must rule in the Holy Land. These motivations were latent and ready when Pope Urban convened a church synod at Piacenza in March of 1095, at which the Emperor's appeals were again presented, and then went on to Clermont to deliver his powerful speech on November 26th as it was above-mentioned. In his speech the Pope appealed to most of these motives all wrapped together. The First Crusade was called by Pope Urban II in 1095. The first armed pilgrimage to the Holy Land was successful, and the Christians captured Jerusalem in 1099.
They benefitted from the disunity among the Muslims and set up the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. A heightened sense of confidence animated the Europeans and, with new influences from the East, culture and intellectual life flourished. Western Europe, so some historians hold, came of age. Works Cited: Crawford, Paul. Crusades: ORB Online Encyclopedia. 1997. < http://www.the-orb.net/encyclop/religion/crusades. html> Halsall, Paul.
Medieval Sourcebook: Urban II: Speech at Clermont 1095 (Robert the Monk version). Jan 1996. < http://www.veling.nl/anne/templars/urban2a.html> Hallam, Elizabeth. Chronicles of the Crusades, New York, 1989, p. 19. Nelson, Lynn Harry.
The First Crusade. http://www.ukans.edu/kansas/medieval/108/lectures/ first_crusade.html Sloan, John. The Crusades in the Levant (1097-1291). 8 September 2000. .
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