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Previous to the speech, Pope Urban II had received a message from the Byzantine emperor asking for help to fight off the Arab invaders. So in this speech, the pope urged everybody in Christendom to carry out their duties as Christians, and go to fight for God. The pope claimed to all of his followers that anybody could have their sins and mistakes forgiven, and they could be in the good graces of God.
The focus of the speech was to encourage the Roman Christian people to fight under the pope’s orders. According to the Coffin/Stacey textbook, the Crusades were seen as a means to; “bring the Orthodox church back into communion with the papacy […], to embarrass Pope Urban’s greatest enemy, Henry IV […], and, by sending a large contingent of fighters overseas, Urban hoped to achieve peace at home.” So basically the pope used the peoples’ religious and somewhat superstitious fears to persuade them to fight for a few causes that the people didn’t know about. They believed that they were fighting for God, and for the good of Christianity, but really they were fighting to make the pope and Christianity even more powerful.
This document helped me to understand the subject by connecting the material that was covered in class and in the textbook with a major moment that caused an important event in history. In class, we briefly touched on the first crusade, because, although it was technically successful, the success only lasted for about 50 years. Despite the short lived victory, however, the first crusade was an important event in western history, and this speech was what established it. Without this speech, the first crusades may not have happened, and history since that point in time would have been completely different.
I chose this text because I though it was interesting how one man could make a speech that would move hundreds of thousands of people to feel obligated to make a long journey to fight somewhere, and most likely would be going to their death.
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I also find it intriguing reading something that was written or said such a long time ago. The fact that we currently have records of actual events from so long ago is pretty impressive to me. It’s a good thing that people recorded what they heard at the speech, because this was a particularly important event.
Bongars, Gesta Dei per Francos, 1, pp. 382 f., trans in Oliver J. Thatcher, and Edgar Holmes McNeal, eds., A Source Book for Medieval History, (New York: Scribners, 1905), 513-17