The Pilgrimage Origins of the First Crusade

To be a pilgrim - a choice that led not to contemplation but to holy war in the climate of 11th century Europe. Marcus Bull asks why.

Pope Urban II preaches the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont.
Pope Urban II preaches the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont.

On November 27th, 1095, at Clermont in central France, Pope Urban II delivered the sermon which launched the expedition now known as the First Crusade. He called on the faithful, in particular the lords and knights who formed society's military élites, to relieve the oppression of Eastern Christians and to liberate the Holy Places by means of an armed pilgrimage, participation in which would earn remission of one's penances because of the great hardships which would be faced. The pope's message was bold and challenging, and it received an enthusiastic response; according to Robert the Monk, one of the chroniclers who described the scene, everyone shouted 'God wills it!' once Urban stopped speaking.

To read this article in full you need to be either a print + archive subscriber, or else have purchased access to the online archive.

If you are already a subscriber, please ensure you are logged in. 

Buy Subscription | Buy Online Access | Log In

Get Miscellanies, our free weekly long read, in your inbox every week

The world's finest history magazine 3 for £5