Pope Urban II Launches The First Holy Crusade

Today on November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade, ordering European Christians to take arms and reclaim the Holy Land — “God wills it!”

Pope Urban II made his famous speech to hundreds of high ranking nobles and clergy at the Council of Clermont in France. His proclamation and call for the beginning of the crusades was perhaps the most influential speech of the Middle Ages. The Pope called on all monarchs to abandon their old quarrels and internal disputes. Instead, he argued they should come together and fight to retake the Holy Land. The Pope was said to have proclaimed “Deus vult” or “God wills it!”

The Holy Land refers to the territory now encompassing the Middle East. These lands are sacred and important to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. Since the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th Century, Europeans had routinely made pilgrimages to the founding place of their religion and holy sites around Jerusalem. However, after the Seljuk Turks conquered Jerusalem, they immediately expelled and prevented Christians from entering the city.

The Pope exaggerated stories of the anti-Christian actions of the Muslims to create widespread animosity. He claimed any Christian that fought in the “holy war” would be forgiven of all their sins. As a result, more than 100,000 soldiers are estimated to have answered the Pope’s call for war. The Christian armies of the First Crusade would indeed capture Jerusalem, although only temporarily. War in the region lasted over two hundred years.

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