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The Middle Ages

5th - 15th century



The Crusades




The Crusades Map


1 The First Crusade to "rescue" the holy lands began
on command of Pope Urban II in 1095.

The Crusader movement, which began in the eleventh century, was in its causes and effects a multilayered phenomenon. The 1 Crusades to the Orient led to the expansion of European trade with the Orient. They had a lasting effect on the development of Europe, particularly on its intellectual life. The Crusades in Europe itself, which were directed against the Muslims of the Iberian Peninsula and against heretics and pagans, were also of long-lasting political importance. The consequences of the Crusader idea were fatal for many European Jews, who also fell victim to the crusading armies and the fanaticized population.


Background and Causes

Religious, material, and political reasons motivated aristocratic crusaders as well as poorer members of the population to set off for the Holy Land.


The religious life of the Christian West underwent revitalization in the tenth and eleventh centuries. Expressions of this included the reform movements within the Church, such as the Cluniac and Gregorian reforms, as well as the emergence of new religious orders such as the Cistercians.

This sense of piousness also resulted in an increase in the number of 2 pilgrimages to sites in Palestine, which had been under Muslim rule since the seventh century.

Into this situation came the 5 Seljuks, whose advance into the Near East in the mid-eleventh century had been noticed in Europe.

By 1074 Pope Gregory VII was already planning a Crusade to "liberate" the holy sites and overcome the Great Schism. When the Byzantine emperor Alexius I Comnenus turned to Pope Urban II with a request for aid against the Seljuks in 1095—the same year as the Synod of Clermont—the pope won over the knights and princes of the West for a Crusade in support of the Byzantine emperor.

2 The patriarch of Jerusalem shows pilgrims a relic,
book illustration, 14th с

5 Muslims hold a banquet after their victory over the Byzantines,
Byzantine book illustration, 13th century

Pope Gregory VII



Gregory VII

Saint Gregory VII, original name Hildebrand, Italian Ildebrando (born c. 1025, near Sovana, Papal States—died May 25, 1085, Salerno, Principality of Salerno; canonized 1606; feast day, May 25), one of the greatest popes of the medieval church, who lent his name to the 11th-century movement now known as the Gregorian Reform or Investiture Controversy. Gregory VII was the first pope to depose a crowned ruler, Emperor Henry IV (1056–1105/06). With this revolutionary act, Gregory translated his personal religious and mystical convictions regarding the role of the papacy into direct action in the world at large. He was canonized by Pope Paul V in 1606, but until 1728 his feast was limited to Sovana, his most likely place of birth, and Salerno, where the 900th anniversary of his death was celebrated in the presence of Pope John Paul II in 1985.

Early life
He was born Hildebrand in about 1025, probably in southern Tuscany, to an upper-middle-class family with possible connections to Rome. In one of the few personal recollections in his papal letters—preserved in the original register in the Archivio Segreto (“Secret Archives”) of the Vatican—he recalled growing up in the Roman church under the special protection of St. Peter, “Prince of the Apostles.” He attended the palace school at the Lateran with Roman nobles before continuing his education among the canons of San Giovanni a Porta Latina, a collegiate church next to the Lateran basilica and palace. One of his teachers there was Archbishop Lawrence (Laurentius) of Amalfi, who was famed for his knowledge of both Greek and Latin, and the head of the community was the archpriest John Gratian, the future Pope Gregory VI (1045–46). Hildebrand served as one of his chaplains (acolytes) and accompanied him into exile at Cologne (now in Germany) after the pope had been deposed for simony (paying money for ecclesiastical office) at the Council of Sutri in December 1046. (Gratian or, more likely, his supporters allegedly had used bribes to secure his election.) Hildebrand completed his studies at Cologne’s famous cathedral school and among its canons (clergy and priests associated with an archbishop or bishop) before returning to Rome in early 1049 after the death of Gregory VI, in the company of Bruno of Toul, the future Pope Leo IX (1049–54).

Traditionally, historians have assumed that Hildebrand was a monk. The only question seemed to be whether he became a monk in Rome or later, during his exile on a possible visit to the famous abbey of Cluny in Burgundy (region of present-day France). The latter theory, based on the writings of a younger contemporary and enthusiastic supporter, Bonizo of Sutri, has been shown to be completely untenable, as has the notion that the young Hildebrand became a monk in Rome at the monastery of St. Mary on the Aventine, where an uncle was supposedly abbot. This theory also rests on a single source, the hagiographic vita by Paul of Bernried, a later admirer of Gregory. Writing in the 1120s, a generation after Gregory’s death, Paul set out to edify his audience rather than to report facts, and the vita is riddled with very obvious errors. Gregory VII himself wrote that he was a canon at both the Lateran basilica and at Cologne. St. Mary’s is never mentioned by him. It seems unlikely that Hildebrand was a monk, and the distinction between canon and monk is significant because the reform undertaken by the regular canons was in the vanguard of the ecclesiastical revival that sought to restore the glory and austerity of the early Christian church as pictured by churchmen in the 11th century. These ideas deeply influenced Gregory’s worldview.

After Hildebrand’s return to Rome in 1049, although he had not yet reached the age of 30 required for the priesthood, he became a collaborator of Pope Leo IX, who ordained him subdeacon and named him rector (administrator) of the Benedictine abbey of San Paolo Fuori le Mura in 1050. Hildebrand revered Leo like a father, and Leo later distinguished his protégé by awarding him the unusual title of cardinal subdeacon, signifying Hildebrand’s closeness to the Holy See. Hildebrand served the papacy as legate in France (in 1054 at Tours and in 1056 at Chalon-sur-Saône), at the imperial court in Germany (1054/55 and 1057/58), and briefly in Italy at Milan (1057). Emperor Henry III held him in high esteem, and under Leo’s successor, Pope Victor II (1055–57), Hildebrand served in the papal chancery, as his signatures under papal privileges (grants of special favour) show. During the pontificates of Stephen IX (1057–58), Nicholas II (1059–61), and Alexander II (1061–73), Hildebrand developed into a leading figure at the papal court.

In the fall of 1058, Hildebrand was made archdeacon of the Roman church and was characterized by Peter Damian as an “unmovable column [support] of the apostolic see.” As archdeacon, he was a chief participant in the first papal coronation with a crown-mitre, which symbolized the papal claim to sovereignty over the church and the secular monarchies. The theory undergirding this aspect of the ceremony was that of the forged Donation of Constantine, an 8th-century document that figured prominently in the new canonical collections that were compiled at that time in Rome and elsewhere. The document claimed that Constantine granted to the pope spiritual authority over the church and temporal dominion over the Western Roman Empire. In his new position Hildebrand also actively furthered the papal alliance with the Normans of southern Italy and their principal leaders, including Robert Guiscard, who became a papal vassal. Hildebrand supported William the Conqueror’s invasion of England in 1066, and, because his obligations as archdeacon also included judicial and financial duties, he began to build up armed groups of papal supporters known as the militia of St. Peter (Latin: milites Petri). At the same time, he was most sympathetic toward the reform efforts of the Patarines, as one of the factions among the citizens of Milan was known. This group fought against simony and clerical marriage, two vices that reformers believed occurred frequently among the higher clergy of the city of Milan. Because the higher clergy of the city were closely related to the leading noble families governing Milan, the Patarines’ uprising took on social-revolutionary overtones as well. Hildebrand also took the side of the hermit-monks of Vallombrosa who had rioted against the bishop of Florence, whom they accused of simony.

Important information concerning Hildebrand’s time as archdeacon is provided by a manuscript fragment that records, at least partially, some of the discussions in Rome at the time of the great Lateran Council of April/May 1059. Much of the text comprises an address to the assembly in which Hildebrand harshly criticized the Aachen Rule for Canons ratified under Emperor Louis the Pious (814–840) at the Aachen council of 816. He pointed out in particular that this rule permitted canons to own private property and was thus in conflict with the declarations of the ancient Church Fathers and popes. Hildebrand asserted that canons should lead strictly regulated lives in common, imitating Christ’s Apostles (vita apostolica), and renounce all personal property when admitted to a community of regular canons. In short, the living arrangements of canons were to be scarcely distinguishable from those of monks. Contemporary manuscripts of the Aachen Rule, primarily from Rome and the vicinity, are evidence of Hildebrand’s success at the council, for they omit the objectionable passages concerning private property and add texts from the Benedictine Rule for monks.

The pope and the churchA tumultuous crowd of Roman citizens and clergy raised Hildebrand to the papacy during the funeral solemnities for Pope Alexander II on April 22, 1073. He was enthroned immediately in the basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli even though he was not ordained a priest until June 29, the feast day of the apostles Peter and Paul, the patron saints of the Apostolic See and the city of Rome. Hildebrand’s elevation by the combination of citizens and clergy was a hostile reaction to the reordering of the papal election ordo at the 1059 Lateran Council, which had given the cardinal-bishops the leading voice in papal elections. The Roman people and clergy had been disenfranchised by the ordo, which thus ended the domination of the papacy by various Roman factions. Hildebrand’s election, however, followed the ancient rules that had been prominently upheld in the canonical collection of Deusdedit, cardinal-priest of San Pietro in Vincoli.

Hildebrand took the name Gregory in memory of Gregory I, whose writings greatly influenced him. Gregory VII interpreted his election as a special call by God to continue unhesitatingly the fight for what he described as iustitia (“justice”), meaning the restoration of the church to what Gregory and his collaborators saw as its proper place in the world order. Indeed, they intended to revive the church’s ancient splendour and unquestioned leadership as instituted by Christ when he founded the church on the rock that was St. Peter (Matthew 16:18). Gregory was convinced that the pope was the living successor and representative of St. Peter. Because of this link, the pope, and he alone, would always remain a true Christian, never deviating from the faith and always cognizant of the will of God. Therefore, all Christians owed him absolute and unquestioned obedience. Disobedience was regarded as heresy, and obedience to God became obedience to the papacy.

Gregory linked the battle against simony and for clerical celibacy—chief characteristics of 11th-century ecclesiastical reform—with a marked emphasis on the papal primacy, a concept based on the primacy of the Roman church, which at the time of Leo IX in 1054 led to the break in diplomatic relations between Rome and Constantinople. Papal primacy included the subordination of all secular governments to papal authority as long as they were Christian, but it applied first of all to the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Gregory’s chancery revived and strengthened an oath of obedience that was required of all archbishops and bishops. Outranking every local authority, his legates intervened freely in internal diocesan affairs throughout Latin Christendom. Bishops had traditionally governed their dioceses more or less independently, and the changes introduced and systematized by Gregory VII were most unwelcome among all ranks of the clergy, including the highborn bishops, especially in Germany. The lower clergy in France and Germany also rebelled, but in this case against draconian decrees designed to enforce priestly celibacy.

On the basis of decisions by Leo IX and the Lateran synod of 1059, Gregory did not hesitate to call for popular rebellions against disobedient bishops that flew in the face of ancient canon law prohibiting inferiors (especially laymen but also clergy of a lower rank) from judging or accusing their superiors. Gregory created havoc in the French church when he established a new dignity, the primacy of Lyons, subjecting the prominent archbishops of Sens, Rouen, and Tours to its authority. Only the archbishop of Tours, a close friend of Gregory VII, willingly recognized the new “primate,” Hugh of Die. In general, Gregory insisted that canon law should be upheld, but he also ascribed to the pope alone the right to issue new laws if required by contemporary needs.

In the case of the primate of Lyons, Gregory was misled by a collection of canon law (Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals) that, unknown to him, had been forged in the 9th century. This forgery had introduced the concept of primate, with poorly defined functions designed to protect bishops from interference by their superiors, the archbishops. Gregory VII used it in an attempt to supervise the French bishops constantly and more closely, for the primate of Lyons also served as his standing legate. Not surprisingly, Gregory’s regimen aroused opposition and hostility among bishops in northern Italy and Germany especially, but also in France. On the other hand, a large extent of the English church was left to the government of William I and Archbishop Lanfranc of Canterbury.

Fortunately, Gregory’s pontificate can be evaluated not only on the basis of the often-polemical writings of his contemporaries but also in the light of a precious official source, his original register. It contains numerous letters and general notes as well as numerous excerpts from the councils that Gregory held regularly in Rome. In addition, there are charters for monasteries and bishoprics as well as his letters and conciliar decrees, which survived outside the register in the hands of their recipients or in canonical collections. Nonetheless, it is not easy to interpret this documentation because only a small percentage of his correspondence was included in the register and the selection criteria are unknown. Moreover, it was customary to supplement the most important points of a letter with oral messages.

The famous Dictatus papae (“Dictates of the Pope”), however, is part of the register. It consists of 27 brief and pointed declarations that extol papal primacy and even includes the radical claim that the pope had the right to depose emperors. Scholars agree that Gregory was the author of these assertions and that the Dictatus strikingly reveals his unflinching vision of papal primacy, even though the sources and purpose of the Dictatus are still in dispute.

PoliticsGregory VII had an astute grasp of political realities and was always willing to take them into account, provided they fit in with his own reform efforts. Papal territorial claims intensified markedly. He was the first pope to try to contact every ruler of his time, asserting the overlordship of the apostle Peter—that is, of the papacy—in several regions of Europe. The most successful example of the use of feudal arrangements by the papacy—Norman greed notwithstanding—was the alliance with the Norman leaders of southern Italy, concluded with Richard of Capua in 1073 and Robert Guiscard in 1059. Their obligations included fealty to the pope and his legitimate successors as well as military and financial aid. In return, the pope became their overlord and invested them with the imperial and Byzantine-Muslim territories that they had conquered or would conquer. In Spain, Croatia-Dalmatia, Denmark, Hungary, the kingdom of Kiev, Brittany, Poland, and Bohemia, as well as in England, Gregory tried to assert overlordship, mostly unsuccessfully. William I of England, whose invasion of 1066 Hildebrand had supported, refused outright the oath Gregory requested, although he resumed the Anglo-Saxon payment of Peter’s Pence (annual contribution to the pope). Except in southern Italy, areas of northern Spain, and the islands of Sicily, Corsica, and Sardinia, Gregory’s attempts to expand the role of the papacy met with little success.

Direct papal intervention in the appointment of bishops created severe tensions in France and even more so in Germany, which, with Burgundy and much of Italy, constituted what would later be called the Holy Roman Empire (see Researcher’s Note). As early as December 1073, Gregory called King Philip I of France (reigned 1059/60–1108) the worst of all princely tyrants oppressing the church because the king refused to invest a canonically elected bishop with the secular properties and rights of the bishopric. This controversy was inspired by Gregory’s vision of proper canonical elections, which meant election by the clergy and populace of a diocese without any interference from secular rulers of any rank. Election was then a flexible term and should not be confused with the modern concept of democratic election. It was accepted as self-evident that the Holy Spirit should speak through the most influential members of a community, be it a diocese or abbey. This was a strong contrast to traditions that had prevailed for many centuries. Royal nominations to bishoprics and abbeys agreed to by representatives of the respective diocese had constituted an important part of royal authority at the time, and Gregory’s insistence on the elimination of secular influence threatened the very existence of the kingdoms. This, at least, was the conviction of Emperor Henry IV. Philip of France also turned a deaf ear to papal commands, even when the pope threatened excommunication and interdict in December 1073 and a year later announced that he would do everything in his power to depose Philip. But the French bishops refused to make common cause with Gregory, and Philip’s reign continued. His quarrels with the pope were smoothed over, and both parties were able to compromise without loss of face.

This was not the case with regard to Henry IV and the empire, even though there were no signs of the coming conflict at the outset of Gregory’s pontificate. Gregory recognized that Henry IV would soon be emperor and always thought very highly of Henry’s parents, Henry III and Agnes. The pope suggested in a letter of December 1074 that Henry protect Rome and the Roman church during a papal expedition to the Holy Land that he wished to lead in the company of Empress Agnes and Countess Matilda of Tuscany. He relied on Henry’s cooperation as well when he tried to bend the German bishops to his wishes and asked the king to order them to appear at his Roman synods. By December 1075, however, Gregory’s attitude had changed. By letter and messenger (who may have threatened excommunication orally), the pope harshly blamed Henry IV for not negotiating in good faith and for having made royal appointments to the Italian bishoprics of Milan, Fermo, and Spoleto in accordance with old customs, which Gregory abhorred and ordered abolished. He also reproached Henry for continued contact with five of his advisers who had been excommunicated earlier by the pope. Contact with excommunicated persons automatically entailed excommunication for the offender.

On January 24, 1076, at the imperial assembly of Worms, Henry IV and the vast majority of the German bishops replied in even harsher terms to Gregory’s letter and oral message. The bishops renounced their obedience to “Frater Hildebrand,” and the king called on Gregory to abdicate and on the Romans to elect a new pope. Northern Italian bishops immediately joined the action and renounced their support for Gregory. The letters reached Gregory during the customary Lenten synod (February 14–20, 1076), and the outraged pope reacted immediately, using a prayer to Peter to depose and excommunicate Henry. In the same prayer, Gregory also absolved all of Henry’s subjects of their oath of fealty to the king. The effect of the excommunication was tremendous. Never before had a pope deposed a king, even though Gregory, according to a later letter, believed that he had historical precedents on his side, an assumption that even contemporaries considered untenable and a distortion of historical truth. Then as now, the deposition of Henry IV was the most hotly debated action taken by Gregory VII, who pursued to its logical conclusion his conviction that papal primacy pertained not only to the spiritual sphere but to the secular sphere as well. Church reform now became a contest for dominance between the priestly and the royal powers as they struggled to replace the Carolingian vision of mutual collaboration in which the church was entrusted to the monarchy for safekeeping.

In Germany Gregory’s action strengthened princely as well as episcopal opposition to Henry in a civil war that raged intermittently throughout his reign. In order to save his crown, Henry IV submitted to the pope at the castle of Canossa on January 28, 1077. Countess Matilda of Tuscany and Abbot Hugh of Cluny, Henry’s godfather, had interceded for him. Gregory acted as a pastor of souls when he reconciled the king with the church, but Henry’s footfall nonetheless was an implicit recognition of papal claims. The encounter at Canossa had interrupted Gregory’s journey to Augsburg (now in Germany), where he was to meet German princes who had planned to elect a new ruler in opposition to Henry IV. Despite Gregory’s absolution of Henry and return to Rome, the princes proceeded with their plan. Their nominee, Rudolf of Rheinfelden, was elected (anti-)king on March 15, 1077.

The quarrel between Henry and Gregory intensified after the pope formally prohibited lay investiture at the council of November 1078. Investiture was the customary ceremony in which the emperor or king bestowed upon the bishops the ring and staff, the symbols of their office as well as of royal authority in and protection of the church. Nevertheless, Gregory at first tried to arbitrate between Henry and Rudolf, but he excommunicated Henry for a second time at the Lenten synod of 1080 and formally recognized Rudolf as king. However, after the absolution of Canossa, Henry had reasserted himself. The new excommunication had little effect, and the king was victorious in the civil war. Following the formal deposition of Gregory VII under the aegis of Henry IV by the synod of Brixen in June 1080 and the nomination of Archbishop Wibert of Ravenna as pope, Henry marched on Rome, supported by German and, especially, Italian troops. The Eternal City was finally captured in March 1084, when the Romans, including many cardinals and other clergy, opened the gates to Henry and his army. They had deserted the papal cause in response to Gregory’s inflexibility. Wibert was enthroned as antipope Clement III, and Henry IV was crowned emperor. Gregory VII had at first sought refuge in the Castel Sant’Angelo but in July fled with his Norman liberators to Salerno, where he died on May 25, 1085. According to tradition, his last words were a paraphrase of a passage from Psalm 44, “I have loved righteousness and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile.”

It might appear that Gregory was less successful as pope than he had been as a papal adviser, for, in the course of his bitter conflict with Emperor Henry IV, he was defeated. Apart from the court of Matilda of Tuscany, where his legend lived on, Gregory was soon forgotten, and he was not canonized until 1606. The history of the papacy and of the church, however, was profoundly influenced by him. His staunch advocacy of clerical celibacy and repudiation of simony reshaped the church and helped establish the ideals of the reformers as the standard for the church. Moreover, papal primacy cannot be imagined without Gregory. In his lifetime he attempted to translate his own religious experience with its mystical core into historical reality. Concepts that he grasped intuitively were elaborated on legally and theoretically in the 12th and 13th centuries and resulted in what is known as the papal monarchy.

Uta-Renate Blumenthal

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Soon, however, the main aim of the war became to liberate 4 Jerusalem from Muslim rule.

3 Crusaders were promised a remission of their sins in the hereafter, which motivated many of the poorer participants.

For most of the aristocratic crusaders involved, however, the possibility of material and political gains were also important motivating factors. Many of the younger sons of the aristocracy, who were excluded from hereditary succession in their homeland, saw the Crusades as an opportunity for an activity befitting their station that could lead to military glory, booty, and perhaps even a dominion of their own. At the same time, kings and princes used the Crusades to ideologically legitimize their reigns in their own countries by presenting themselves as truly Christian-minded rulers. Merchants, particularly in the Italian commercial cities, were lured by profits from outfitting and transporting troops, as well as the expansion of their trade interests.

4 The world as a disc with Jerusalem at its center,
illustration, ca. 1250

3 Knight on horseback, bronze sculpture,
13th century


Pope Urban II preaches the First
Crusade at the Council of Clermont.

Pope Urban II's

Sermon Promoting the Crusade,
Clermont, 1095

"They [the Seljuks] have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire.

If you permit them to continue thus for awhile with impunity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them."

Pope Urban II
by Antoine Rivalz



Urban II

Urban II, original name Odo of Châtillon-sur-Marne, or Odo of Lagery, or of Lagny, French Odon, or Eudes, de Châtillon-sur-Marne, or de Lagery, or de Lagny (born c. 1035, Châtillon-sur-Marne, or Lagery, or Lagny, Champagne, France—died July 29, 1099, Rome [Italy]), head of the Roman Catholic church (1088–99) who developed ecclesiastical reforms begun by Pope Gregory VII, launched the Crusade movement, and strengthened the papacy as a political entity.

Early life and career.
Odo was born of noble parents about 1035 in the Champagne region of France. After studies in Soissons and Reims, he took the position of archdeacon in the diocese of Reims, at that time the most important metropolis in France. An archdeacon was an ordained cleric appointed by the bishop to assist him in administration; in the Middle Ages it was an office of considerable power. Odo held the position probably from 1055 to 1067. Subsequently he became a monk and then (c. 1070–74) prior superior at Cluny, the most important centre of reform monasticism in Europe in the 11th century. At Reims and Cluny, Odo gained experience in ecclesiastical policy and administration and made contacts with two important reform groups of his time: the canons regular—clergymen dedicated to the active service of the church, who live a strict life in community—and the monks of Cluny. In 1079 he went to Rome on a mission for his abbot, Hugh of Cluny.

While in Rome he was created cardinal and bishop of Ostia (the seaport for Rome) by Gregory VII. In 1084 Gregory VII sent him as papal legate to Germany. During the crisis of Gregory VII’s struggle with Henry IV, the Holy Roman emperor, Odo remained loyal to the legitimate papacy. After Gregory VII’s death in 1085, he also served his successor, Victor III, who died in September 1087. After a long delay, during which the reform cardinals tried unsuccessfully to regain control of Rome from Guibert of Ravenna, who had been named Pope Clement III by Henry IV in 1080, Odo was elected pope in Terracina, south of Rome, on March 12, 1088.

As pope, Urban II found active support for his policies and reforms among several groups: the nobility, whose mentality and interests he knew; the monks; the canons regular, for whom he became patron and legislator; and also, increasingly, the bishops.

Urban felt that his most urgent task was to secure his position against the antipope Clement III and to establish his authority as legitimate pope throughout Christendom. He attempted, with moderation and tolerance, to reconcile the church-state traditions of his age with ecclesiastical notions of reform. In practice he pushed the controversial question of lay investiture—the act whereby a temporal ruler granted title and possession to a church office—more into the background while at the same time retaining reform legislation. He thus softened the conflict and permitted a more peaceful discussion of the problems at issue. At the Council of Clermont (France), in 1095, during which he eloquently called the First Crusade, Urban attempted, however, to prevent a further and complete feudalization of church-state relationships by prohibiting the clergy from taking oaths of fealty to laymen.

Despite Urban’s attempts at reconciliation, it did not prove possible to come to terms with Henry IV or with a large part of the church within the empire. England also remained closed to papal policies of reform and centralization, although Urban had been recognized there since 1095; a conflict between Anselm, the theologian who was named archbishop of Canterbury, and King William II particularly strained the relations between Urban and the king. On the other hand, despite a long-standing conflict between Philip I of France and Urban (brought about by the king’s scandalous marriage), France began under this French pope to become the most important support of the medieval papacy. Urban obtained special support in southern Europe: his particularly faithful allies were the Normans of southern Italy and Sicily. In Spain, Urban supported the Christian reconquest of the country from the Moors and carried out the ecclesiastical reorganization of the country. In southern Italy, southern France, and Spain, kings and princes became vassals of the Roman see and concluded treaties and concordats in feudal form with the pope: by this the temporal rulers sought to secure their independence from more powerful lords, and the pope for his part was able to carry out his reform aims in these territories.

From 1095 Urban was at the height of his success. From this time several important church councils took place: in 1095 at Piacenza, Italy, at which reform legislation was enacted; also in 1095 at Clermont, where Urban preached the First Crusade; in 1098 at Bari, Italy, where he worked for a reunion between Greek Christians and Rome; and in 1099 at Rome, where again reform legislation was passed. Urban’s idea for a crusade and his attempt to reconcile the Latin and Greek churches sprang from his idea of the unity of all Christendom and from his experiences with the struggles against the Muslims in Spain and Sicily. He was, for a while, able to attract the Byzantine emperor Alexius I to his plans but never the Greek church. Whereas the First Crusade led to military success with the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099, the project for union failed. Urban’s pontificate not only led to a further centralization of the Roman Catholic church but also to the expansion of papal administration; it contributed to the development of the Roman Curia, the administrative body of the papacy, and to the gradual formation of the College of Cardinals. The term Curia Romana first appeared in a bull written by Urban in 1089.

Urban died in Rome in 1099. Despite many problems that were still unsolved, the victory of medieval reform papacy was secured. Urban was beatified in 1881 by Pope Leo XIII.

Alfons Becker

Encyclopaedia Britannica



The First and Second Crusades

The First Crusade resulted in the establishment of crusader states in the Near East. These were soon on the defensive, however. A subsequent Crusade in their defense remained unsuccessful.


The pope's appeal was first answered in 1096 by relatively disordered bands of adventurers and social outsiders led by the monk 6 Peter of Amiens.

6 Peter of Amiens calls for the Crusade,
wood engraving, 19th century

After being decimated by the Bulgars, the rest of the People's Crusade was wiped out by the Seljuks in Asia Minor. Around the same time, an army of German crusaders carried out pogroms against the Jews while still in Europe.

The first organized army of crusaders, the "Princes' Crusade," was led by Godfrey of Bouillon, his brother Baldwin of Boulogne, Raymond of Toulouse, and Bohemond of Taranto and was composed of French, Flemish, and southern Italian soldiers. When these crusaders reached Constantinople in 1097, Emperor Alexius I insisted that they swear an oath of allegiance to him, although this oath would not last long. Once the Christian army had beaten the Seljuks in 1097 at Dorylaeum, they were able to take Antioch in Syria in 1098. Meanwhile, Baldwin of Boulogne had been accepted as heir by Thoros, the king of Edessa on the other side of the Euphrates. When Thoros was assassinated, Baldwin erected the first of the crusader states there. Bohemond of Taranto then created the first principality in Antioch, and Raymond of Toulouse founded the county of Tripoli.

In 1099, they conquered 9 Jerusalem; Jews and Muslims alike were slaughtered in a 7 massacre.


9 Jerusalem is captured by crusaders, 1099 book illustration, 14th century

7 Muslims are massacred by crusaders in a mosque,
Gustave Dore  , wood engraving

Godfrey was elected "Protector of the 8 Holy Sepulchre," refusing to be named king in the city where Christ had died.

When he died in 1110, his brother Baldwin succeeded him and assumed the title of king.

By 1144, Edessa had been retaken by the Seljuks, whereupon the Cistercian abbot 10 Bernhard of Clairvaux called for a second Crusade.

Another army set off in 1147 under Louis VII of France and the German king, Conrad III. After a journey involving heavy losses and unsuccessful sieges of Damascus and other cities, the crusaders returned home in 1149.

8 The Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem

10 Bernhard of Clairvaux calls for the Second Crusade, painting, 19th с



Bernard de Clairvaux

Saint Bernard de Clairvaux, (born 1090, probably Fontaine-les-Dijon, near Dijon, Burgundy—died Aug. 20, 1153, Clairvaux, Champagne; canonized Jan. 18, 1174; feast day August 20), Cistercian monk and mystic, the founder and abbot of the abbey of Clairvaux and one of the most influential churchmen of his time.

Early life and career.
Born of Burgundian landowning aristocracy, Bernard grew up in a family of five brothers and one sister. The familial atmosphere engendered in him a deep respect for mercy, justice, and loyal affection for others. Faith and morals were taken seriously, but without priggishness. Both his parents were exceptional models of virtue. It is said that his mother, Aleth, exerted a virtuous influence upon Bernard only second to what Monica had done for Augustine of Hippo in the 5th century. Her death, in 1107, so affected Bernard that he claimed that this is when his “long path to complete conversion” began. He turned away from his literary education, begun at the school at Châtillon-sur-Seine, and from ecclesiastical advancement, toward a life of renunciation and solitude.

Bernard sought the counsel of the abbot of Cîteaux, Stephen Harding, and decided to enter this struggling, small, new community that had been established by Robert of Molesmes in 1098 as an effort to restore Benedictinism to a more primitive and austere pattern of life. Bernard took his time in terminating his domestic affairs and in persuading his brothers and some 25 companions to join him. He entered the Cîteaux community in 1112, and from then until 1115 he cultivated his spiritual and theological studies.

Bernard’s struggles with the flesh during this period may account for his early and rather consistent penchant for physical austerities. He was plagued most of his life by impaired health, which took the form of anemia, migraine, gastritis, hypertension, and an atrophied sense of taste.

Founder and abbot of Clairvaux.
In 1115 Stephen Harding appointed him to lead a small group of monks to establish a monastery at Clairvaux, on the borders of Burgundy and Champagne. Four brothers, an uncle, two cousins, an architect, and two seasoned monks under the leadership of Bernard endured extreme deprivations for well over a decade before Clairvaux was self-sufficient. Meanwhile, as Bernard’s health worsened, his spirituality deepened. Under pressure from his ecclesiastical superiors and his friends, notably the bishop and scholar William of Champeaux, he retired to a hut near the monastery and to the discipline of a quack physician. It was here that his first writings evolved. They are characterized by repetition of references to the Church Fathers and by the use of analogues, etymologies, alliterations, and biblical symbols, and they are imbued with resonance and poetic genius. It was here, also, that he produced a small but complete treatise on Mariology (study of doctrines and dogmas concerning the Virgin Mary), “Praises of the Virgin Mother.” Bernard was to become a major champion of a moderate cult of the Virgin, though he did not support the notion of Mary’s immaculate conception.

By 1119 the Cistercians had a charter approved by Pope Calixtus II for nine abbeys under the primacy of the abbot of Cîteaux. Bernard struggled and learned to live with the inevitable tension created by his desire to serve others in charity through obedience and his desire to cultivate his inner life by remaining in his monastic enclosure. His more than 300 letters and sermons manifest his quest to combine a mystical life of absorption in God with his friendship for those in misery and his concern for the faithful execution of responsibilities as a guardian of the life of the church.

It was a time when Bernard was experiencing what he apprehended as the divine in a mystical and intuitive manner. He could claim a form of higher knowledge that is the complement and fruition of faith and that reaches completion in prayer and contemplation. He could also commune with nature and say:

Believe me, for I know, you will find something far greater in the woods than in books. Stones and trees will teach you that which you cannot learn from the masters.

After writing a eulogy for the new military order of the Knights Templar he would write about the fundamentals of the Christian’s spiritual life, namely, the contemplation and imitation of Christ, which he expressed in his sermons “The Steps of Humility” and “The Love of God.”

Pillar of the church.
The mature and most active phase of Bernard’s career occurred between 1130 and 1145. In these years both Clairvaux and Rome, the centre of gravity of medieval Christendom, focussed upon Bernard. Mediator and counsellor for several civil and ecclesiastical councils and for theological debates during seven years of papal disunity, he nevertheless found time to produce an extensive number of sermons on the Song of Solomon. As the confidant of five popes, he considered it his role to assist in healing the church of wounds inflicted by the antipopes (those elected pope contrary to prevailing clerical procedures), to oppose the rationalistic influence of the greatest and most popular dialectician of the age, Peter Abelard, and to cultivate the friendship of the greatest churchmen of the time. He could also rebuke a pope, as he did in his letter to Innocent II:

There is but one opinion among all the faithful shepherds among us, namely, that justice is vanishing in the Church, that the power of the keys is gone, that episcopal authority is altogether turning rotten while not a bishop is able to avenge the wrongs done to God, nor is allowed to punish any misdeeds whatever, not even in his own diocese (parochia). And the cause of this they put down to you and the Roman Court.

Bernard’s confrontations with Abelard ended in inevitable opposition because of their significant differences of temperament and attitudes. In contrast with the tradition of “silent opposition” by those of the school of monastic spirituality, Bernard vigorously denounced dialectical Scholasticism as degrading God’s mysteries, as one technique among others, though tending to exalt itself above the alleged limits of faith. One seeks God by learning to live in a school of charity and not through “scandalous curiosity,” he held. “We search in a worthier manner, we discover with greater facility through prayer than through disputation.” Possession of love is the first condition of the knowledge of God. However, Bernard finally claimed a victory over Abelard, not because of skill or cogency in argument but because of his homiletical denunciation and his favoured position with the bishops and the papacy.

Pope Eugenius III and King Louis VII of France induced Bernard to promote the cause of a Second Crusade (1147–49) to quell the prospect of a great Muslim surge engulfing both Latin and Greek Orthodox Christians. The crusade ended in failure because of Bernard’s inability to account for the quarrelsome nature of politics, peoples, dynasties, and adventurers. He was an idealist with the ascetic ideals of Cîteaux grafted upon those of his father’s knightly tradition and his mother’s piety, who read into the hearts of the crusaders—many of whom were bloodthirsty fanatics—his own integrity of motive.

In his remaining years he participated in the condemnation of Gilbert de La Porrée—a scholarly dialectician and bishop of Poitiers who held that Christ’s divine nature was only a human concept. He exhorted Pope Eugenius to stress his role as spiritual leader of the church over his role as leader of a great temporal power, and he was a major figure in church councils. His greatest literary endeavour, “Sermons on the Canticle of Canticles,” was written during this active time. It revealed his teaching, often described as “sweet as honey,” as in his later title doctor mellifluus. It was a love song supreme: “The Father is never fully known if He is not loved perfectly.” Add to this one of Bernard’s favourite prayers, “Whence arises the love of God? From God. And what is the measure of this love? To love without measure,” and one has a key to his doctrine.

St. Bernard was declared a doctor of the church in 1830 and was extolled in 1953 as doctor mellifluus in an encyclical of Pius XII.

John Richard Meyer

Encyclopaedia Britannica


Crusader States

The crusaders established several feudal states in Cyprus, Prussia, the Levant, Greece and Israel, along Western European lines.

As few colonists from Europe were forthcoming, however, the small group of conquerors, after a wave of persecution and expulsions, adapted to the predominantly higher civilization of the Jews and Muslims and lived, if not with, then alongside them.

In addition to warring with the Muslim states, the Christians also often fought among themselves, weakening each other's positions. After two centuries, in 1291, the last crusader state on the mainland fell.

The Near East in 1135,
with the Crusader states in green hues


The Siege of Antioch,
from a medieval miniature painting,
during the First Crusade.