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Pope Urban II had called the Christians to join him in a Holy War to reclaim the Holy

Lands as an act of Christianity, but there were many activities that took place that

weren?t characteristics of Christianity. The Crusades were a smokescreen for Pope?s

craving for power and control.

The Crusades were the idea of Pope Urban II, a wise Frenchman. On November

18, 1095 AD, Pope Urban II opened the Council of Clermont. Nine days later, the Pope

made a very important speech just outside the French city of Clermont-Ferrand. In his

speech, he asked the people to help the Christians? effort to restore peace to the East.

The Crusades had originally been to help the Churches in the East, but the now it was to

reclaim the Holy Land, especially Jerusalem from the Muslims.

Pope Urban II stayed in France until September 1096 in hopes of providing

leadership for the First Crusaders. Urban had originally hoped for the crusading army to

be composed of mostly knights and other warriors, but his speech had already began

spreading throughout the west, and many people of different social classes started joining

the crusading army. (Foss, Michael. pg. 23)

Because of this Urban lost all control of the army, which led to the slaughter of

Jews in northern France. These poor people also caused strain on the armies supplies and

discipline. They were never trained and they were poor, so they couldn?t bring anything

and were poorly disciplined(Foss, Michael. pg. 24). The entire crusading army had

planned on reaching the city of Constantinople, but because of their lack of supplies and

training the vast majority of them were slaughtered before they got there. The few troops

that did reach Constantinople split up into two groups. One group tried to capture

Nicaea, a key city that blocked the road of their supply routes. This group was

unsuccessful. The other group was attacked near the city of Civetot in October. The

few survivors retreated to Constantinople and joined the second wave of Crusaders.

(Phillips, Jonathan. pg. 59)

Religious beliefs were a major motive of the crusaders. In Urban?s speech to the

people of Clermont-Ferrand, Urban guaranteed the complete forgiveness of all sins to any

crusader that lost his life in the name of the Crusades. Urban also proclaimed

?It is necessary that you bring to your brothers in the East the help so often

promised and so urgently needed. They have been attacked, as many of you

know, by Turks and Arabs… Churches have been destroyed and the countryside

laid waste. If you do not make a stand against the enemy now, the tide of their

advance will overwhelm many more faithful servants of God.? (Phillips,

Jonathan. pg. 43)

In this way, Urban had convinced the knights and peasants who joined the Crusades that

they were leading the way to crush the Muslims and reclaim the Holy Lands that had

been stolen . The Crusaders justified their slaughtering to themselves and the world and

often the battle cry that was heard was ?Deus lo Volt!?, or ?God Wills It?.(Maaoulf,

Amin. pg. 134) This reason is probably the most holy of reasons. It is understandable

how the people were easily persuaded that this was a needed war, not just wanted,

because their fellow Christians in the East were being slaughtered by the Turks and


For the most part, any Christian who desired residence in Jerusalem was met with

great difficulty, and this in itself was a major factor for the knights and peasants to join

the Crusade. On the same note, the popular ideas and cultural interest that linked the

religious aspect to a Crusade motivated many poorer people to join the crusading army.

Also among the crusaders there was a large group of knights and warriors desiring a way

to become closer to God(Foss, Michael. pg. 26). In short, almost everyone can be

motivated to do almost anything if they?re persuaded that it is an idealistic, even holy


But not all of the Pope?s reasons for the Crusades were as holy as that one.

The struggle wasn?t for power in Western Europe, but more towards the east. They

weren?t in conflict with the Byzantine church, but more so with the emperors and kings

in the West. At this time the Pope hardly had any power over Christianity. To some

extent, Urban was hoping that the Crusades would help strengthen his power and

possibly help religious beliefs become more a part of daily life among the general

population in Europe. In General, the Crusades were seen as a way for the Pope to gain

political power over the uncontrolled warrior class.(Ereira, Alan. pg. 87)

Urban felt that the best way to unite your followers is a war, and even better, a

Holy War. Looking at the actions and motives, it is hard to assume that Urban had only

good intentions for the Crusades, but to use peoples? bloodlust and general unrest to

obtain more power.(Phillips, Jonathan. pg. 72)

The motive of greed remains a large factor that cannot be ignored. Many joined

the war on the rumors of the riches of the East. This was a major factor for most every

class, but mainly for people who were living in poor conditions. This is probably one of

the main reasons that the lower classes joined the crusading army. Under the class

system, many younger sons never got the opportunity to become anything but poor, and

the idea of joining the crusading army was fueled both by the thoughts of war and

obtaining riches involved with it.(Foss, Michael. pg. 90)

On a different note, the major European countries, including Italy and several of

its cities (Genoa, Venice and Pisa), looked at the crusades as an opportunity to open and

extend trade routes. Due to this course of actions they acquired a lot of new

land.(Sellman, R.R. pg. 62)

Greed is a harsh word to use, but it could be considered more of as economic

opportunity, although considering the way people of this time were living, it?s easier to

understand why they would join the crusading army. Many of them had no home and

little or no food, and despite the wretched conditions of the crusades, their lives were not

any better and were probably worse. Looking at the common man?s life, it?s almost

seems to be an acceptable incentive.( Treece, Henry. pg. 64 )

As for the Christian cities with rising power, as expected they became power

hungry and wanted to become even more powerful. During this period it is reasonable

to say that the Crusades were an inevitable action, because no one was satisfied with their


Political factors were yet another aspect of the Crusades. As mentioned before,

the Byzantine Empire had been appealing to Western Christians for help since almost

1070. In 1071, Jerusalem had been captured by the Seljuk Turks, and the Byzantine army

had been defeated at Miniskirt. This created an immense fear of Turkish invasion even

farther west, and it was one of the points in Urban?s speech. In addition, the nobility?s

desire for land was accentuated by the recent failure of crops. The west was incredibly

overpopulated, and many feared there would be a war at home if the problems there

weren?t solved.(Ereira, Alan. pg. 146)

Another factor that caused the widespread acceptance of the Crusades was the

increased military power of the Western Europeans. The Normans and the French had

grown extremely powerful, and eager military leaders urged a war so they could put these

factors to their own use. Along the same lines, the Christians? increased naval strength

throughout the Mediterranean led to the naval cities? desire to use the crusades as a

means to further increase their trading capabilities.(Ereira, Alan. pg. 173)

Social factors, most of which were already mentioned, were a great part of the

people?s will to join the crusading army. The church itself was in unrest, because the

people were too poor to do anything but work, and faith was lacking. Urban?s speech

seemed to instill religious awakening into those it reached, and of course the poor man?s

dreams of a better life was enough to spark their ambition for joining the crusading army.

The people?s fear of Turkish advancement lingered over them, and the constant

lack of space and food caused many people to dream of a better life. It can be related to

the Great Depression that struck America in the early 1900?s. It left many people

hopeless and starving, and it took World War II to pull us out of it. Of course the

European?s struggle was far different from ours, but still, it seems that the Crusades were

a good way of raising moral. Perhaps if they had followed the original plan, life and faith

would have improved, rather than been destroyed.(Phillips, Jonathan. pg. 221)

Overall, the Crusades were triggered by many things. Of course, the first thing

we think of when we hear ?The Crusades? is a Holy War, a quest to reclaim the Holy

Lands that had been wrenched from the Christians? hands. That was not the only reason,

but more of the smoke screen for some less religious reasons. Yet, when dissected, the

times and their justifications seem that it really was intended to be a Holy War, designed

for the betterment of all the Christians. The fault lies in how it was carried out. If there

had been more control over the crusading army, rather than having it turn into something

resembling a massacre, the slaughtering of thousands of innocent people might have

been prevented. In summary, the Crusades were justified, even inevitable, but they were

very poorly executed.(Phillips, Jonathan. pg. 148)

In recent years, many Christians have shown their regret for the things that

happened during the Crusades. A statement from a Christian on the crusades sums up the

injustice of the Crusades…

?An initially eager troop, believing that they would prepare the way for the

Messiah by liberating Jerusalem, set off from Cologne. The crusading armies

soon became a pack of brutal plunderers destroying everything in their path.

When they took Jerusalem on July 15th, 1099, they viciously murdered all the

Jews and Moslems, carrying a cross in one hand and a sword in the other – and

Satan celebrated one of his greatest triumphs: he had made the church sin in

God?s name.?

The Reconciliation Walk was founded to help express the Christians? regret to the

Moslem people, who still feel the crusades are an open wound




I. Thesis Statement and Introduction

A. Crusades were a smokescreen

II. Idea of the Pope

A. Council of Clermont

B. Speech

C. Plans changed

III. Wants to provide leadership to the army

A. Finds out that army consists of mainly poor people

IV. Looses control of his army

A. Majority is slaughtered before they reach Constantionple

B. Tried to capture Nicaea, were unsuccessful

C. Attended near the city of Civetot

V. Religious beliefs major motive

A. Guaranteed the complete forgiveness to all sins

B. Moving speech

C. Crusaders justify their actions

D. Easily persuaded

VI. Christians have resistance when moving to Jerusalem

A. Ideas and cultural interests motivated many poor people

B. Knights and warriors wanted to become closer to God

C. Most everyone can be persuaded

VII. Most reasons weren?t Holy

A. Pope wanted more power

VIII. Urban felt that a war would unite his people

A. Used bloodlust and general unrest to obtain power

IX. Greed is a big motivator

A. Poor wanted to find riches

X. Italy uses the crusades to improve trade

XI. Poor conditions, Greed

XII. Cities got power hungry

XIII. Fear of a Turkish invasion

A. Crop failures

XIV. French and Normans grow extremely powerful

A. Naval strength increases

XV. Church in unrest

XVI. Fear of Turkish Invasion

A. Lack of food

XVII. Ending

A. Intended to be a Holy war

B. Inevitable, but poorly executed

XVIII. Ending

A. Christians regret

Ereira, Alan. The Crusades. New York: Random House. 1995

Foss, Michael. People of the First Crusades. Boston: Houghton Miffilin Publishing.


Maalouf, Amin. The Crusades: Through Arab Eyes. Garden City: Garden City

Publishing. 1989

[Online] Available http://server21.scasd.k12.pa.us/developers/dxk11/History%20Day/


[Online] Available http://www.math.gatech.edu/jkatz/Islam/crusades.html

[Online] Available http://www.mrdowling.com/606islam.html

Phillips, Jonathan. First Crusades: Origins and Impacts. Washington: Viking Penguin

Inc. 1997

Sellman, R.R. The Crusades. New York: Roy Publishers. 1955

Treece, Henry. The Crusades. New York: Random House. 1962

[Online] Available http://server21.scasd.k12.pa.us/developers/dxk11/History%20Day/


Works Consulted

Coolidge, Olivia. Tales of The Crusade. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1970

Lamb, Harold. The Crusades: The Flame of Islam. New York: Garden City Publishing.


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