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The First Crusade: A Success? Essay

2516 words - 10 pages

To what extent did the response to Urban II's call to Crusade in 1095 correspond to the pope's plans?"The remarkable success of Urban's crusade seemed to confirm his preaching theme that God was fighting with the crusaders"-Penny J. ColeThis view, that the First Crusade was a great success, is still generally accepted today, as it was by contemporaries. The crusaders themselves, convinced that their mission had been achieved, "entitled their chronicles Gesta Dei per Francos, God's work done by the hand of the Franks". But did the people of the First Crusade really fulfil all that Pope Urban II had been hoping for? If he had lived to hear of the capture of Jerusalem would he have agreed that the Crusade had been a "remarkable success"? This essay will examine the question of what Urban II was hoping for when he made call to Crusade at Clermont, and whether the people who responded to this call really achieved these aims.So what exactly did Urban appeal for at Clermont? Since even the eyewitness accounts of the council of Clermont differ as to what the Pope asked for, any list of his aims for the crusade can only be tentative. It is probably safe to assume, however, that a chronicler's difficulty to remember the Pope's words were more likely to result in the omission, rather than the addition, of some part of what Urban said, in a chronicler's account. Therefore, for the purpose of this essay, if one of Urban's aims is mentioned by any of the eyewitnesses at Clermont, it will be taken as valid.According to Robert of Reims, who had been at the council of Clermont, Urban had a very definite idea as to the type of people that he wanted to take part in the Crusade. "Those who were too old or feeble, those who were unskilled in the use of arms, and unaccompanied women were not to participate... [and all] laymen were to have the blessing of a priest before departing". Urban was probably envisaging disciplined groups of soldiers, under the command of experienced leaders. Yet the first body of people to leave on Crusade was far from this. Only a tiny number of knights took part in the "people's crusade". The description of this would be army by Albert of Aix gives the reader an idea of how unorganised and unfitted for war this "People's Crusade" really was: "Peter [the Hermit] urged the start of the journey as soon as possible. In response to this flood of noise, all the common people, sinful as well as chaste, adulterers, murderers, thieves, perjurers and robbers, every kind of person indeed called Christian, nay women and penitents also, all joyfully entered upon this expedition". He refers to them as "foolish and insanely wandering people". The result of the People's Crusade? "[A]fter a bloody massacre of Jews living in the Rhineland, [the People's Crusade] preceded the main army to Constantinople and was annihilated by the Turks in Asia Minor". Even in what is generally referred to as the "Knight's Crusade" which left Western Europe shortly after the...

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