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The Role of the Papacy in the Development of the First Crusade

The Role of the Papacy in the Development of the First Crusade

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Published by Gregg
This paper explores the role of the Papacy in the formation and organization of the First Crusade.
This paper explores the role of the Papacy in the formation and organization of the First Crusade.

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Published by: Gregg on Oct 22, 2008
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12/25/2012

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The Role of the Papacy in the Development of the First Crusade
HST 20111/21/07
 
On November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II stood before the Council of Clermont anddelivered a speech calling for the First Crusade. This speech was the culmination of agrowing development of the Western Church over the previous half century toward areligious war which would solidify and expand the presence of Christendom on theworld’s stage. The years leading up to the call for Crusade at Clermont were shaped bymany ideas, from the encroachment of Islam into Christian lands, Leo IX’s concept of themoral military action for Christendom, Norman notions of expansionism, Spanish growthof Holy War ideology, the Crusade designs of Gregory VII, and the combining of Christian militarism and pilgrimage by Urban II. Together these changing developmentsof the Western world would build on each other until the inevitable display of fervor andspiritual power that was the First Crusade.The development of the crusades and the role of the papacy within thatdevelopment began around the year 1000 A.D. when various small conflicts betweenChristians and Islamic forces took shape. In 1009, the Fatamid Caliph Hakim destroyedthe Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem creating mass outrage in the Christian world.
1
In the past some sources have cited the letter of Pope Sergius IV’s reaction to this injustice tocertain coastal cities, urging them to assemble a fleet and retake the city; however,Cowdrey presents that it was fabricated as propaganda for the First Crusade at theCluniac monastery of Moissac and that it originated in connection with Urban II’s staythere in May 1096.
2
So while there was no large scale campaign orienting Christian power toward pagan enemies in the East during the beginning of the century, there wasthe encroachment of pagan forces onto the frontiers of Christian lands such as the Moors
1
C Morris, ‘Papal Monarchy: The Western Church from 1050 to 1250’, Oxford University Press, NewYork, 1989, pp. 146
2
H.E.J. Cowdrey, ‘Pope Urban II’s Preaching in the First Crusade’, in The Crusades: The EssentialReadings, Thomas F. Madden, Blackwell Publishers, Cornwall, 2002, pp. 25.
 
in Spain and the Saracen’s increasing presence near Constantinople and Southern Italy.This proximity began to cause the inevitable small skirmishes between Christian andIslamic forces. In 1016, Pope Benedict VIII is known to have asked the maritimerepublics of Pisa and Venice for aid in the retaking of Christian land in Corsica andSardinia.
3
For the first time war was taken to Muslim lands when Pisan and Venetianfleets attacked the Algerian City of Bone in 1034.
4
These battles were just the beginningin the lineage of what would become the First Crusade. While being the first of their kind in terms of Christian war against Islamic forces, they were not in very many wayswars based on religion, but instead more defensive battles between rival cities, as thesame papal support had been granted to the Venetians for a war against the ChristianCroats and Narantani.
5
The battles with the Muslims were meant mainly to deter futureincursions of Saracen armies and to solidify the presence of the cities merchant fleetstrading in the Mediterranean. The role of religion within these battles was yet to emergeas it was in need of the right kind of Church leaders to find a place for warfare within thetheology of the Western Church.The development of the first crusade and the role of the papacy within thatdevelopment can most easily be traced through the rise of the reform popes. Pope Leo IXwas the first of the reform popes and he was also one of the first to take advantage of themilitary capabilities of his position. Erdmann explains that while he was not the first pope to make war, “Leo IX was the first pope to derive the basis of his wars fromreligion, harmonizing them with the commands of the church and infusing religious
3
C Morris, pp. 147
4
A Jamieson, ‘Faith and Sword: A Short History of Christian-Muslim Conlfict’, Reaktion Books Ltd.,London, 2006, pp. 44
5
C Erdmann, The Origin of the Idea of Crusade, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1977 pp. 111

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