The Path to War: Internal Motivation and Societal Influences in the First Crusade, 1095-1099
On the 27th of November 1095, a large crowd watched and listened to the head of their Church. Prior to this moment, hundreds of Frankish nobles and ecclesiastical officials had gathered at the Council of Clermont in Auvergne, located in modern-day southern France. The ecumenical council was coming to a close after several days, and the crowd was waiting to hear a sermon from the pope who had called them together. When Pope Urban II addressed his audience, his sermon on maintaining peace as good “shepherds” swiftly turned into a speech on the threat of a great oppressive enemy. Far from their homes in Europe, the Muslim Seljuk Turks had invaded and captured territory from the Byzantine Empire, the Eastern vestiges of Christianity. With the city of Jerusalem and the rest of the Holy Land at peril, the duty to defend the holy Christian domains rested on this crowd’s shoulders. The audience had different reactions to the speech. Some were moved to tears, others trembled at the thought of the journey, and the rest discussed the words of the pope amongst themselves. Despite their doubts and concern, however, the audience heeded the message. Starting from the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban’s call to arms would soon spread across Europe and incite thousands of clergy, nobles, and peasants to embark on what would become the First Crusade (1095-1099).