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Pope Urban II and the Crusades

Updated November 23, 2021
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Pope Urban II and the Crusades essay

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Christianity in its earliest stages of formation handled adversity and struggle with great poise because of a strong foundation of leaders. However, there were some examples of people who did not aid to the faith. Pope Urban II caused the setback and separation of Christianity to other faiths, and this mistake is known as the Crusades; this was a period of wars between the people of Christianity and Islam to gain back the Holy Land, as well as show military power. These wars lasted nearly 200 years and ended in nearly one to three million casualties. Through Pope Urban’s word and actions that brought about the Crusades and his early life growing up as a child in the faith, he was destined to become and infamous member of Church history.

Urban was born in 1042 C.E. at Châtillon-sur-Marne in the province of Champagne, France. His birth names were Otto, Otho, or Odo of Lagery. The family he was born into was knightly, wealthy, and powerful, and therefore gave him a strong foundation for his education as a child. From the beginning of his schooling, he was taught by leaders of the faith. For example, he was taught by St. Bruno, founder of the Carthusians, in Reims, France, where he took on the role of being an archdeacon and a cannon.

Around the year 1070 C.E., he retired to Cluny and was taught by the admirable abbot St. Hugh. From there, Urban went to Rome, directed by Pope Gregory VII and aided in the reformation of the Church along with other monks commissioned. During his time in Rome, he served as a papal legate to Gregory throughout his last five years as pope. Gregory commissioned him to be Cardinal Bishop of Ostia. By working beside the pope, he gained much experience and recognition. After the death of Pope Gregory VII, there were two people claiming to be pope, which upset the leaders of the faith. These leaders came together and voted Urban to be pope in the coastal town of Terracina in 1088 C.E., and he took the name Pope Urban II.

Urban was well-known for his speeches, especially as they pertained to the Crusades. The Crusades were a series of seven “Holy Wars” between Islam and Christianity to see who could control the area of Jerusalem and the surrounding regions. Although the name “Holy War” sounds peaceful, these battles were destructive unlike any other, claiming the lives of innocent people in sudden outbursts of violent, ruthless murders.

These were all caused by the words said by Pope Urban II. His most famous discourse that caused these events was the speech at Clermont, which addressed the Crusades. Here at Clermont was where he changed the path of Christianity by lashing out on the religions he saw as enemies and not counterparts. In Clermont, Pope Urban held a meeting rallying all the Franks, a nation of Germanic-speaking peoples who occupied present day France, Germany, and Belgium. He implied that these people were the chosen ones, “set apart from all nations by the situation of [their] country, as well as by [their] catholic faith and the honor of the holy church.”

The purpose of designating these people as “chosen” was to gain their trust and allyship. He hoped this recognition would bring assistance to his efforts in the Crusades. During his speech, “Urban denigrated the Muslims, exaggerating stories of their anti-Christian acts, and promised absolution and remission of sins for all who died in the service of Christ.” The men who would go and fight in these wars realized the power of this offer. They could steal, murder, rape, and commit many other horrific crimes and these sins would automatically be forgiven, and they would be granted admission into heaven.

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