Urban II - The call to the crusade of Clermont (1095)

Urban II - The call to the crusade of Clermont (1095)

It was on November 27, 1095 that the Pope Urban II holds a council in Clermont. This event and date is known to be the launch of the First crusade, religious and warlike epic which was to have many consequences during the next two centuries, with infinite consequences until today ... But who was this Pope, what was the purpose of this Council, and above all, can we really talk about beginning of " crusades » ?

Urban II and the Church in 1095

Urban II was born Eudes, it seems to a family of the Marne, in the surroundings of Châtillon, in 1042. He is a Cluniac monk in 1067 and becomes close to the great Pope Gregory VII, that of the reforms of the same name, who brought him to Rome in 1079-80. During this period, the Church is in flux; it first experienced the Cluniac reforms of the end of the 10th century, with in their wake the principles of "Peace of God" and "Truce of God" which will have their importance in the development of the framework of the "just war ( or holy) ”, the future crusade. Then, its power is contested by the Holy Germanic Empire of Henry IV, which appoints an antipope following the quarrel of the Investitures in the 1070s.

It is in this very troubled context that Eudes becomes Urban II: indeed, the death of Gregory VII in 1085 in no way resolves the conflict and the Church is so divided that it takes two years to elect another pontiff, in front of Antipope Clement III who holds Rome! But Victor III only lasted ten short months and it was therefore Eudes who succeeded him in 1088 by taking the name of Urban II. Its legitimacy is contested, but it immediately asserts itself as faithful to the Gregorian reform, which goes in the direction of a independence of the Church against the secular powers, and in particular the Empire. A clever politician, he won the support of the powerful Normans, and the "understanding" of France and England. He then manages to reconquer Rome in 1093, and can finally establish his authority.

The call of Clermont d'Urbain II

Reassured of his capacity to act, Urban II decides to resume the "gregorisation" of the Church. For this, he chose the kingdom of France, country of Cluny. The situation is somewhat funny because he supported the excommunication of the King of France Philippe I, proclaimed by the bishops because he had decided to remarry ... The Pope therefore unloads sure of his strength, but also to anchor a little more her reform in the mentalities of the "eldest daughter of the Church".

The international context also plays a role, as well as a certain revival of religious fervor around the image of Jerusalem. The situation of the Holy City at the end of the 11th century was this: the Seldjukids had taken it in 1071, but the Fatimids took it back in 1098, a year before the arrival of the Crusaders. But before this period, Jerusalem is the destination of a great Christian pilgrimage which saw its peak in the 11th century. This pilgrimage has always existed, and it was mostly tolerated by Muslims. The arrival of the Turks certainly made his journey by land more dangerous, but the pilgrimage was not forbidden by the conquerors. However, the difficulties of the pilgrims are one of the reasons given to explain Clermont's call, at least by the defenders of the Crusade.

Another possible reason is coming to the aid of Byzantines. Relations improved between Rome and Byzantium (let's not forget the schism of 1054) under the pontificate of Gregory VII, and it seems true that the Eastern Empire asked for occasional help to fight against Muslims but also to fight against Muslims. other threats. At the time, the Byzantine army used a number of mercenaries, and the emperor undoubtedly intended to use the services of the Crusaders as did the Christians of Spain; he doesn't expect to see thousands of armed pilgrims disembark with some of the greatest Western lords!

A strong Latin presence in the East would also allow Rome to claim its status as the first Christian power, to the detriment of Constantinople. Finally, a strong unitary religious movement within Europe could only benefit the papacy, even if it did not foresee its magnitude. For the knights, besides being well regarded by the Church, the conquest in the East is the possibility of finding other lands to own, to escape the feudal shackles.

The "crusade" for Jerusalem and for the salvation of souls

As we can see, the reasons which prompted Urbain II to make this appeal are both numerous and uncertain. It remains few traces of the call, only a few cannons. We know that among other things, he called for the liberation of Jerusalem, promised salvation to the soldiers of Christ, encouraged by the revival of the Reconquista in Spain. On the other hand, we know that he did not use the term "crusade", much later (at least 12th century). According to tradition, it is by answering "God wills" that the crowd gathered in Clermont Ferrand, on November 27, 1095, welcomed the preaching of Pope Urban II in favor of holy war intended to free the tomb of Christ guarded by the "Infidels".

Anyway, he probably couldn't imagine the success what would his call be! Behind Pierre l'Ermite and the legate Adhémar de Monteil will join together the great ones like Raymond of Toulouse, Godefroy de Bouillon or the Normans with Bohémond of Tarente, and tens of thousands of peasants who will surge on Europe and soon the 'Byzantine Empire and the Holy Land. However, no great European sovereign will be on the trip.

The First Crusade and the capture of Jerusalem are another story, and Urban II will die shortly after the fall of the Holy City on July 29, 1099, probably ignoring the success of this endeavor.


- M. Balard, Crusades and Latin Orient XIth-XIVth century, A. Colin, 2001.

- P. Jansen, A.L. Nef, C. Picard, The Mediterranean between countries of Islam and the Latin world (mid 10th to mid 13th century), Sedes, 2000.

- J. Flori, Holy War, jihad, crusade: violence and religion in Christianity and Islam, Points Seuil, 2002.

- A. Demurger, Crusades and Crusaders in the Middle Ages, Flammarion, 2006.

Video: The First Crusade Podcast - Episode 1: Byzantium in Peril and Pope Urbans Call, 1095-1096