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The Background to the First Crusade, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 341

Essay

The public objective for the First Crusade was to reclaim Jerusalem and the Holy Lands from Muslim rule. However, other political and religious motives existed in promoting this holy war. At the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban II was able to use theses motivations to inspire support for the First Crusade from not only clerics and nobility, but from common men and criminals as well.

Struggles between the Christians and Turks for domination of land and territory were constant. When Pope Urban II received word from the Byzantine emperor that the Turks had taken control of Asia Minor and were committing atrocities against Christians, he presented this information at the Council of Clermont to generate support for the First Crusade.  He claimed it was their duty to take back the Holy Lands and expand the Christian empire.

The Pope also promised to grant plenary indulgence, or complete forgiveness of sins for soldiers who died in battle. This offer was attractive to men of all classes; even after performing penance, sinners still owed time in Purgatory before being able to ascend to Heaven. When a pope granted an indulgence, time spent in Purgatory was reduced or eliminated. Because indulgences could only be granted by the Pope and usually required monetary compensation, this offer was attractive to commoners who struggled financially.

Violence, while present in all societies, was especially rampant in Western Europe at the end of the 11th century. By encouraging criminals to enlist in the First Crusade, it was an opportunity to remove them from proximity. At the council, Pope Urban II specifically addressed violent criminals, such as robbers and mercenaries. The opportunity for these men to commit blood-thirsty acts, receive material gains, and have complete forgiveness encouraged criminals to support the First Crusade.

By appealing to the desires of many, Pope Urban II was able to inspire a vast number of men to join the First Crusade. He used the underlying political and religious motivations of clerics, aristocrats, common men, and criminals to unite them in the quest for conquering the Holy Lands.

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