In calling the first crusade, Urban 2nd was primarily motivated by a desire to extend the power of the papacy. Discuss
“In calling the first crusade, Urban 2nd was primarily motivated by a desire to extend the power of the papacy”.
How far do you agree?
In the troubled times of the late eleventh century, there was likely many reason why the pope felt the need to launch a crusade. One of which may have been due to his wish to enhance papal authority in the West as part of the investiture contest with the German Emperor and the anti-pope Clermont 3rd. However smaller reasons may have also come into play such to ensure easier access for pilgrims to the Holy places. Another major reason may have been motivated by a desire to aid Byzantium thus reuniting the Latin and Greek churches of Rome and Constantinople, which were the only major religious places not taken over by the rule of Islam.
Pope Urban 2nd was handed the papacy at a very difficult time. The former glory of the papacy had fallen on dark times and the church was fragmented with barely a fraction of the power it had beforehand. However Urban wanted better than this and the Crusade was his cunning plan to once again extend the power of the papacy. The fragmentation of the church was due to a series of events before his time. As Pope Gregory the 7th had a major degeneration in relation with Henry 4th, Emperor of Germany. This was because Gregory was a very pious man and did not agree with many of the appointments which were sold in what amounted to little better than organised corruption. This arguing went to such extent that eventually Gregory excommunicated the Emperor. As of this causation Henry, still with many followers, decided to install his own pope, the anti-pope, Clermont 3rd. After the short stay of Victor the 3rd, Pope Urban the 2nd came into play. He found himself quickly inundated with problems, so much so that he could not even enter the holy city of Rome for a given amount of time. It seemed that the only way to reengage the power of the papacy was to unite behind a common enemy, Islam.
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Another reason that the pope may have launched the crusades is due to the feudal anarchy caused by knightly violence –Urban may have hoped to enhance the Peace of God movement and export such violence elsewhere. The eleventh century was a very morally corrupt time, where men both of high and low status had no choice but to go against the Ten Commandments and fight for many reasons. This made many heavy with guilt and fear of eternal damnation in Hell. However it was the Popes job to lift as many people to the divine land as possible, thus by uniting the knights in a common cause against the Muslims, he was solving two problems at once. Fixing relations and gaining authority in the east, as well as ridding Europe of all violent knights for a long while. Also by declaring the crusade a Holy war and making it forgive all sin, many knights were freed of heavy burdens and willing to fight and kill the Muslims infidels. Another reason the peoples of Europe may have been convinced to crusade was to ensure easier access for pilgrims to the Holy places. As pope Urban had spread many, probably false, tales of Christian Pilgrimages being massacred by Muslims. This was an easy way to anger the Europeans, even though many of which wouldn’t have strayed 50km from their own village.
However it is possible that he was also replying to an appeal for military aid made my Alexius Comnenus in March of the same year, thus explaining the timing of the speech and appeal made at Clermont. By doing this he would once again bind the two cities of Rome and Constantinople. This was the prime time to launch the campaign against the Turks who were invading the Byzantines at the time, however at that moment their leader had died and his two possible heirs were in dispute, Alexius saw this as a good time to attack so sent an envoy to Urban. On the other hand, Pope Urban never actually acknowledges Alexius’ plea for help in his speech at Clermont. This was probably because he did not want to put men off joining the Holy War due to their dislike of the Christians in Constantinople, as the western and eastern Christians disagreed on certain details of Christianity. By helping the Byzantines he was attempting to unite the two branches of the church hence extending the papacy Far East.
Per contra, Urbans call to crusade may have been a truly spiritual one as the liberation of Jerusalem may have been uppermost in his mind. As at this time, the Danes had seem to of stopped attacking Europe and after the Norman Conquest there was little in the sense of large wars. This stability meant that the real, religious enemy could now be faced, those whom had taken the holy land as well as much else. The religion of Islam took Jerusalem in 638 AD. However it was now the eleventh century, and there was not actually much uproar about the holy land not being Christian, it wasn’t very dear to many people as only the rich could afford to pilgrimage and even they often died on the journey. Pope Urban condemned the Muslims to be hated in the eyes of the Christians as so they would fulfil his wants to crusade thus extending the power of the papacy. Even though Christians fared relatively well in the East under Muslim rule and faced no major hardship, and nothing compared to the atrocities that Pope Urban 2nd described in his poorly sourced speech. So this likely was not the real reason for his speech but instead it was aid to cover up the real reason and enrage the Christians to hate the Muslims even though there misdeeds were over 400 years ago. In Hein site the Christians were a far more warring race than Islam and created most of the atrocities. For these reasons I believe the hatred of Islam was not Urbans real reason to call the first crusade.
In conclusion, I believe the reason for Urban calling the crusade was in fact to extend the power of the papacy. As Following Gregory’s disaster of a reign this was a perfect opportunity to regain Papal power; firstly it would show huge influence to be able to get such a large amount of men to rally behind the Christian cause. Secondly it could’ve been an opportunity to unite Eastern and Western Christians, thus ending the Great Schism of 1054. Another bonus would have been the return of the Holy land to Christian hands. All in all extending the power of the papacy over Eastern Europe and the Middle East.