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Pope Urban Ii

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Pope Urban II

The Crusades were one of the most astonishing movements during the last thousand years. The Crusades spanned hundreds of years in total and took tens of thousands of Europeans miles from their homes to a far off foreign land. During the Crusades much blood was shed, many lives were lost, and a lasting legacy was left by the Crusaders, the effects of which can still be felt today. The man who is credited with starting the Crusades was Pope Urban II.

The Crusades were not a single event. Rather, the Crusades were comprised of many singular crusades that started, stopped, and spread over a time period of many years. The First Crusade officially started in the year 1096. The end of the Crusades did not occur until 13 June 1798 when Malta surrendered to Napoleon and the military orders were disbanded (Riley-Smith 364).

The call to arms came to the Europeans by Pope Urban II. Pope Urban II was born in a small city in Champagne, France called Chatillon-Sur-Marne around 1035 (Asbridge 3). He was born into a noble family and was baptized with the name Odo. During Odo's day, nearly every aspect of life was affected by Christianity. In the Middle Ages, they were preoccupied by one overwhelming fear, the danger of being a sinner (Riley-Smith 25). Asbridge states that "Urban's early life like that of his contemporaries was essentially a struggle to avoid sin and attain heavenly salvation," (7). Pope Urban II did not join the church in his early life. In fact, it was not until his mid thirties that he heeded the call and became a monk. He was educated in Riems at the tutelage of St. Bruno. He was Grand Prior of Cluno by 1074 (Carey). His fast ascent through the ranks the Catholic church did not stop there. By 1080 he had already been appointed as a cardinal-bishop at Ostia (Carey). It was there that he became involved with his predecessor Pope Gregory II who planted the seed that would start the crusades in the mind of Pope Urban II. Pope Gregory was deeply involved in a reform movement of the church known later as the Gregorian movement, which was a reform movement to clean up the church and return power to the papacy (Asbridge 13).

Pope Gregory died in the spring of 1085. The papacy was vacant for two years until Victor the III was consecrated. His papacy was a highly contested one, but it was short lived (Carey). Victor III died just four months into his reign as the leader of the church.

Urban became pope on 12 March 1088. His aim was to "reform the somewhat corrupt episcopate," (Pernoud). In the eleventh century, the office of the Pope was not as prestigious as it is today (Asbridge 12). Urban was able to "effectively demonstrate that he was, in fact, the head of Christendom," (Pernoud). He traveled extensively in his early years to many big cities and small towns throughout Europe. He made himself known to the people and in turn they developed a feeling like they knew him.

Pope Urban did not decide to begin the crusading movement overnight. Riley-Smith states "The summoning of an expedition to the aid of the Byzantine empire had probably been in his mind for several years ... (at Piacenza) he had heard an appeal from the Byzantine emperor for aid against the Turks," (1). Pope Urban II was not the only one preaching the idea of a crusade-like movement. Peter the Hermit, an evangelist, was promoting a similar idea throughout Europe before Urban (Riley-Smith 2). Riley-Smith states that Peter the Hermit met with Urban in Italy and "persuaded Urban to summon men to Jerusalem's



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