THE COUNCIL OF CLERMONT.
Epochs of Modern History: The CrusadesG.W. Cox
Influence of Roman Imperialism on the Early Popes
THE pope is the bishop of Rome, and the traditions of the papacy delight in recalling the humble origin of his vast monarchy, at once spiritual and temporal, ecclesiastical and secular. If the poor Galiæan fisherman ever entered the Eternal City, it was as a stranger who had come to be the guide and friend of a small knot of men who saw and hated and wished to keep themselves aloof from the abominable corruption of Roman society.
But if Christianity itself, as we have seen, was, when it had once taken root in the West, modified by the popular feelings and old associations of the converts, the constitution of the church was in like manner insensibly modified by the political forms of the state with which it had at first to wage a terrible conflict.
Rome was not as other cities: and the bishop of Rome could not long remain like the presidents of other churches. He was dealing with the subjects, and he lived in the heart, of the empire. It was inevitable that the imperial tradition should fasten on the object of their worship; nor was it long before the exulting cry went up to heaven, Christ lives, Christ rules, Christ is emperor (Christus vivit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat).
As the vicars of this invisible emperor, the popes gradually acquired a power which overshadowed that of mightiest sovereigns. It was exercised with monastic austerity by Gregory the Great; it was wielded with the ability of a consummate general by Gregory VII Hildebrand.
The first Gregory was a monk, therefore also a Manichean; in other words, one who believed in the essential impurity of all matter; but this philosophy, if it had any attractions for Gregory VII, was wholly subordinate to the one absorbing passion of ecclesiastical dominion. His aim was to subdue the world by a spiritual army: but the issue of his conquest was not to be confined to spiritual influence. It was to give him power over kingdoms, dictation over princes, the command of their weapons and their wealth. It was to humble civil polity under priestly autocracy; it was to prove, what Hildebrand scrupled not to assert, that the civil rule was in itself the mere development and working of the evil principle. The foundations had long been laid; but Hildebrand left to his successors not much to do towards completing the fabric of papal empire. His predecessors had learnt to avail themselves dexterously of popular feeling or the ambition of princes, to direct wide-spread movements, if not to create them.
It was the papal sanction which had aided to depose the degenerate Merovingian; it was the papal chrism which had anointed the first Carolingian king. It was the diadem of the ancient Cæsars, bestowed by the hand of Leo III., which rested on the head of Charles the Great. It was Hildebrand himself who, by the hands of his instrument, Alexander II., had transferred the crown of England from the son of Godwine to William the Bastard of Normandy. It has been well remarked, that although the name had not yet been heard, yet in truth it was now that the first crusade was preached, and it was preached by the voice of Rome against the liberties of England.
We may note further that the preacher was a pontiff who, when he found it convenient to thank the Sultan of Morocco for some indulgences granted to Christians in his territories, could assure that infidel ruler that both worshipped the same God and held the same faith, though their modes of worship and their expressions of devotion might be different.
Schemes and motives of Gregory VII
The popes had become capable of setting vast armies in motion, and of raising to a white heat the fire of a popular sentiment which had already been kindled. These two conditions were needed before the power of Europe could be precipitated on the infidel conquerors of Syria; and the inability of the pope’s to accomplish this end if they were not in accord with the prevalent feeling of the people is strikingly shown in the history of Gregory VII.
A. D. 1074. His circular letter to the faithful.
Eight years after he had helped to slay Harold at Hastings, Hildebrand addressed a letter to all who loved and cared to defend the Catholic faith, beseeching them to put aside all other tasks in favour of the great work of chasing the hordes of the Seljukian Turks beyond the bounds of the Eastern empire.
Constantinople, the new city of the Seven Hills, was even now threatened by these barbarians; nor could any say how soon the danger might not menace Rome itself. It could not be doubted that the faith, the energy, the warlike skill of Christendom would sweep away these undisciplined unbelievers; and the victory of the faithful would be followed by very solid gain to the popes. The price to be paid by the emperor for his deliverance from the Turks was his submission as a vassal to the see of Rome; in other words, the pope was to become absolute lorá both of East and West, and the claims of the Byzantine patriarch to a coordinate dignity with the successor of St. Peter should no longer be made with impunity. But although the scheme thus carefully drawn out was to promote the interests of a spiritual power, for the great mass of Latin Christians it was purely a political enterprise. The fears and die tresses of the Eastern emperor could excite no sympathy; the Cæsar of Constantinople was not a being who had exhibited the image of superhuman love or shed his blood for those who had taken delight in torturing him; and the excommunication which Hildebrand had imprudently hurled against the emperor Nicephorus (Nikephoros) III., had left behind it in the East a feeling not favourable to the designs of the Roman pontiff. The letter of Hildebrand appealed to no religious associations; it said nothing of abominations committed in the holy places, of terrible crimes wrought on the persons of faithful pilgrims; it was silent about the eternal reward which the bare act of pilgrimage would win for the believer. It was of little use to say in passing that more than 50,000 warriors longed to rise up under his guidance against the enemies of God and reach the sepulchre of their Lord. He had not struck the right chord, and Hildebrand failed to see the West gird itself for the great conflict with the enemies of the faith.
A.D. 1081. The Normans in Italy.
For a time he may have supposed that the great fire was already kindled, when with a fleet of 150 ships and an army of 30,000 men Robert Guiscard set sail from Brundusium (Brindisi). But the conqueror who had done so much in Italy was to do but little to the east of the Adriatic. While his army put forth its whole strength before the walls of Dyrrhachium (Durazzo), his fleet under the command of his son Bobemond was miserably defeated; and nothing but the wretched jealousy felt by the emperor Alexios for his general Paleologos saved the army of Guiscard from ruin and turned the threatened disaster into victory.
When, being compelled to return to Italy, he left Bohemond to carry on his enterprise, the latter overran Epeiros and had well nigh succeeded in reducing the Thessalian Larissa, when he too was compelled to hasten to Italy for reinforcements both in men and money.
A. D. 1083
In his absence his deputy, Brienne, the constable of Apulia, was constrained to abandon the siege of Kastoria and to bind himself not to invade again the territories of the Byzantine emperor.
Not many months later Robert Guiscard gathered an other armament for the conquest of the East. He raised the siege of Corfu (Korkyra), and had reached Cefalonia (Kephallenia), when his career was cut short by death and his scheme for the time seemed utterly brought to nought. The war which Hildebrand sought to stir up against the Mahometan powers was not less vigorously preached by his successor Victor III., who promised remission of sins to all who might engage in it; but his words called forth no bands of warriors for the recovery of Jerusalem
The fleets of Genoa and Pisa swept the African coasts, and gained in the shape of booty a harvest which was to fall to the lot of few among the myriads who were soon to leave their homes for the Holy Land.
Ten years after the death of Hildebrand three or four thousand of the clergy and thirty thousand laymen were gathered to meet pope Urban II. at the council of Piacenza (Placentia). So vast a Council of throng could find standing ground in no Piacenza building, and the business of the council was transacted in the plain outside the city.
The envoys of the Eastern emperor, Alexios Comnenos, were there to plead his distresses and beseech the strenuous aid of the faithful. The policy of checking the progress of the Turks while they were still at a good distance from Italy may have influenced the more statesmanlike of their hearers; the more vehement and enthusiastic among them were moved to tears by the pathetic recital of the Byzantine ambassadors, and demanded loudly to be led against the enemy.
But Urban, with his heart more determinately set upon the enterprise than any man present, felt that the hour for the supreme decision had not yet come. He was in a country torn by intestine divisions, where his own claim to the papacy was disputed by an antipope whom with his adherents it was here his especial business to excommunicate. He had to deal with other matters also.
Some of the clergy still refused to abandon their wives; and the wife of the emperor Henry IV. was present to complain of treatment unimaginably monstrous, if her tale was true, on the part of her husband. Both emperor and clergy must be condemned, and brought into obedience; and Urban felt that after such business as this it would be well to reserve his eloquence for another scene. He therefore dismissed the envoys of Alexios with the assurance that when the hosts of Western Christendom advanced to the rescue of the Holy Sepulchre they would not forget that they had work to do near Constantinople.
From Piacenza Urban made his way across the Alps to the realm of the great Charles, whose intercourse with the ambassadors of the Caliph Harun-al Reschid may have laid the foundation for the myth, expanded into a systematic fiction in the lying Chronicle of Turpin, that he had himself smitten down the unbelievers under the shadow of the church of Constantine. On the northern side of the Alps, Urban could breathe more freely. The sentence of excommunication was impending, it is true, over Philip the First, who called himself or was called King of France; but the great-grandson of Hugh Capet, powerful though he might be within his own dominion of Paris and Orleans, was little more than nominal lord of the vast throng of feudal chiefs who lay beyond its borders.
A.D. 1995 The Council of Clermont
From his old home in the great monastery of Clugny, Urban set off in the autumn for Clermont in the territories of the Count of Auvergne. Before he could reach the city, thousands of tents were pitched without the walls for those who could find no shelter within them; and the eight days during which the council held its sessions were spent in regulating the enterprise about which the pope had spoken with so much reserve at Piacenza, and in prescribing the measures to be taken for the safety of those who might remain at home during the absence of their natural protectors.
Pilgrimage of the hermit Peter to Jerusalem.
There was now no more need for hesitation. Popular feeling to the north of the Alps was far more deeply moved by the woes of the pilgrims and the conquests of the infidels than on the southern side of the great mountain barriers; and the wrath of the people had been fanned into an ungovernable flame by the preaching of the hermit Peter. This man, born at Amiens in Picardy, had forsaken his wife and laid aside the sword which he wielded in the service of the Counts of Boulogne, to follow the counsel of perfection in silence and solitude.
Like others, he felt himself drawn by an irresistible attraction to the Holy Land; but if his passionate yearnings were rewarded by the privilege of offering up his prayers before the tomb of the Redeemer, his very heart was stirred by the sight of things the mere recital of which had awakened his wrath at a distance. The Sanctuary was in the hands of the infidels; the patriarch was reduced practically to the state of a slave, and the pilgrim was happy who returned from the Holy City without undergoing humiliations and buffetings scarcely deserved by the worst of criminals.
The murder of many Christian men, the deadly wrongs done to many Christian women, called aloud for vengeance, and the hermit made his vow that, with the help of God, these things should cease. His conversations with the patriarch Simeon brought out only confessions of the incapacity of the Greek emperor and the weakness of his empire. The nations of the West shall take up arms in your cause,’ said the hermit; and with the patriarchal benediction Peter hastened to obtain for the mission which he now saw before him the sanction of the man who claimed to be at the head of Eastern and Western Christendom alike.
A.D. 1094 The mission and preaching of the hermit.
Before the Roman pontiff, Peter poured forth his story of the wrongs which called for immediate redress; but no eloquence was needed to stir the heart of Urban. The zeal of the pope was probably as sincere as that of any others who engaged in the enterprise; but it could not fail to derive strength from the consciousness that, whatever might be the result to the warriors of the cross, his own power would rest henceforth on more solid foundations. His blessing was therefore eagerly bestowed on the fervent enthusiast who undertook to go through the length and breadth of the land, stirring up the people to the great work for the love of God and of their own souls. His eloquence may have been as rude as it was ready; but its deficiencies were more than made up by the earnestness which gave even to the glance of his eye a force more powerful than speech.
Dwarfish in stature and mean in person, he was yet filled with a fire which would not stay, and the horrors which were burnt in upon his soul were those which would most surely stir the conscience and rouse the wrath of his hearers. His fiery appeals carried everything before them. Wherever he went, rich and poor, aged and young, the knight and the peasant, thronged round the emaciated stranger, who with his head and feet bare rode on his ass, carrying a huge crucifix.
That form, of which they beheld the bleeding sign, he had himself seen; nay, he had received from the Saviour a letter which had fallen down from heaven. He appealed to every feeling which may stir the heart of mankind generally, to every motive which should have especial power with all faithful Christians.
He called upon them for the deliverance of the land which was the cradle of their faith, for the punishment of the barbarian who had dared to defile it, for the rescue of the brethren who were the victims of his tyranny. The vehemence which choked his own utterance became contagious: his sobs and groans called forth the tears and cries of the vast crowds who hung upon his words, and who greedily devoured the harrowing accounts of the pilgrims whom Peter brought forward as witnesses to the truth of his picture.
Motives more earthly may have mingled with his austere call in the minds of some who heard him. Of these motives the hermit said nothing: but there is no doubt that he made his last and most constraining appeal to that notion of mechanical religion which the prophet Micah puts into the mouth of Balak the king of Moab. The consciences of some amongst his hearers might be weighed down by the burden of sins too grievous almost for forgiveness. He besought them to remember that such fears were altogether misplaced, if only they made up their minds to take part in the redemption of the Holy Land. If they chose to become the soldiers of the cross, their salvation was at once achieved.
There was no sin, however fearful, which would not be cancelled by the mere taking of the vow; no sinful habits which would not be condoned in those who might fall in battle with the unbelievers. The excitement of the moment, the frenzy which, having first unsettled the mind of the hermit, was by him communicated to his hearers, threw, we cannot doubt, a specious colouring over a degrading morality and a hopelessly corrupting religion; but as little can we doubt that the whole temper which stirred up and kept alive the enterprise left behind it a poisoned atmosphere which could be cleared only by the storms and tempests of the Reformation.
Decrees of the Council of Clermont, prohibiting private wars, and confirming the Truce of God.
The preaching of the hermit predetermined the results of the Council of Clermont; but Urban and the throng of bishops and abbots who were gathered around him were well aware that something more was needed than the enlisting of an army of zealots for distant warfare. With our settled laws and orderly government it is almost impossible for us to realise the condition even of the most advanced states of Christian Europe in an age when the power of the king over his vassals meant simply that which the strength or the weakness of the vassals made it, and when the vassal, if he owed allegiance to his lord, was bound by no ties to his fellow vassals.
The system of feudalism could not fail to feed the worst passions of human nature; and the absence of an authority capable of constraining all alike involved for those who felt or fancied themselves aggrieved an irresistible temptation to take the law into their own hands. But the practice of private war thus set up would sooner or later assume the form of a trade, and in the words of William of Malmesbury things had now come to so wretched a pass that feudal chiefs would take each other captive on little or no pretence, and would set their prisoners free only on the payment of an enormous ransom. This military violence of the laity was accompanied by corruption on the part of the clergy, showing itself in a shameless traffic of benefices and dignities which, in brief phrase, fell to the lot of the highest bidder.
In such a condition of things to drain off to distant lands a large proportion of the men who at home might do something to check, if not to repress, the mischief, would be to leave those who remained behind defenceless. Decrees were therefore passed, condemning private wars, confirming the Truce of God which suspended all hostilities during four days of each week, and placing the women and the clergy under the protection of the Church, which in an especial manner was extended to merchants and husbandmen for three years.
Speech of Urban II. before the people.
When, the business of the council being ended, Urban ascended a lofty scaffold and began his address to the people, he spoke to hearers for whom arguments were no longer needed, but who were well pleased to hear from the chief of Christendom words which carried with them comfort and encouragement.
Three forms or versions of this speech have been preserved to us; one in the pages of William of Tyre, a second in those of William of Malmesbury, a third from a manuscript in the Vatican. It is possible that they may represent three different speeches: but the substance of all is the same, and we are left in no doubt of the general tenor of his words. With some inconsistency, he dwelt on the cowardice of the barbarians who had contrived to conquer Syria and whose tyranny called forth the appeal which he now made to them. The Turk, shrinking from close encounters, trusted to his bow and arrow; and the venom of his poisoned shaft, not the bra very of a valiant warrior, inflicted death on the man whom it struck.
Their fears, he added, were justified, for the blood which ran in the veins of men born in countries scorched with the heat of the sun was scanty in stream and poor in quality as compared with that which coursed through the bodies of men belonging to more temperate regions. In these temperate regions you were born,’ he pleaded, and you have therefore a title to victory which your enemies can never acquire. You have prudence, you have discipline, you have skill and valour, and you will go forth, through the gift of God and the privilege of St. Peter, absolved from all your sins.
The consciousness of this freedom shall soothe the toil of your journey, and death will bring to you the benefits of a blessed martyrdom. Sufferings and torments may perhaps await you. You may picture them to yourselves as the most exquisite tortures, and the picture may perhaps fall short of the agony which you may have to undergo; but your sufferings will redeem your souls at the expense of your bodies. Go then on your errand of love, of love for the Earthful who in the lands overcome by the infidel cannot defend themselves, of love which will put out of sight all the ties that bind you to the spots which you have called your homes. Your homes, in truth, they are not.
For the Christian all the world is exile, and all the world is at the same time his country. If you leave a rich patrimony bere, a better patrimony is promised to you in the Holy Land. They who die will enter the mansions of heaven, while the living shall behold the sepulchre of their Lord. Blessed are they who, taking this vow upon them, shall inherit such a recompense: happy they who are led to such a conflict, that they may share in such rewards.’
The Assent of the Multitude
It was no wonder that words thus striking chords of feeling already stretched to intensity should be interrupted with the passionate cry ‘It is the will of God! It is the will of God!’ which broke from the assembled multitude. “It is, in truth, his will, added the pontiff, and let these words be your war cry when you unsheath your swords against the Enemy. You are soldiers of the cross: wear, then, on your breasts or on your shoulders the blood-red sign of Him who died for the salvation of your souls. Wear it as a token that his help will never fail you: wear it as the pledge of a vow which can never be recalled.’
The Cross and the Vow of the Crusaders.
By these words, the war now proclaimed against the Turks received the name which has become a general title for all wars or hostile undertakings carried on in the name of religion. Thousands hastened at once to put on the badge and so to take their place among the ranks of the crusaders. The rival claims of the antipope withheld Urban himself from taking the pledge to which he was clamorously invited; and worldly prudence alone may have suggested the wisdom of standing aloof from a conflict in which disaster to a Roman pontiff would certainly be regarded as a visible sign of the divine displeasure.
Of the clergy, the first to assume the cross was Adhemar (Aymer), bishop of Puy, and as his reward he received the powers and dignity of papal legate. At the head of the laity Raymond, count of Toulouse, duke of Narbonne and marquis of Provence, promised through his ambassadors to be ready by the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, next following the council, the day fixed for the departure of the crusading hosts for Constantinople.
Motives of the Crusaders.
Thus was the die cast for a venture which in the eye of a keen-sighted general or a far-seeing statesman should have boded little good, but which held out irresistible attractions for the great mass of the people,-attractions which continued to draw hundreds and thousands still to the unknown and mysterious East, when a long series of disasters had proved that the journey to Jerusalem was in all likelihood a journey to the grave.
For the really sincere and devout, whose lives had been passed without reproach and who could await the future with a clear conscience, there was the deep sense of binding duty, the yearning to be brought nearer whether on earth or in heaven to the Master whom they loved. For the feudal chieftain there was the fierce pastime of war which formed the main occupation and perhaps the only delight of his life, with the wild excitement produced by the thought that the indulgence of his passions had now become a solemn act of religion.
There was also the prospect of vast and permanent conquest; and the duke or count who left a fair domain behind him might look forward to the chance of winning a realm as splendid as that which Robert Guiscard and his Normans had won in Apulia and Sicily. For the common herd and those whom gross living had rendered moral cowards, there was the offer of a method by which they might wipe away their guilt without changing their character and disposition. Not a few might be caught by the philosophy of the abbot Guibert, who boldly drew a parallel between the crusades and holy orders or monachism.
That height of perfection which ecclesiastics might reach in their own sphere was now attainable by laymen through an enterprise in which their usual license and habits of life would win them the favour of God not less than the most unsparing austerity of the monk or the priest. It was, in short, a new mode of salvation, and they who were hurrying along the broad road to destruction now found that the taking of a vow converted it into the narrow and rugged path to heaven. Nor was the number few of those for whom this convenient arrangement was combined with some solid temporal advantages.
The cross on the breast or shoulder set free from the clutches of his lord the burgher or the peasant attached to the soil, opened the prison doors for malefactors of every kind, released the debtor from the obligation of paying interest on his debts while he wore the sacred badge, and placed him beyond the reach of his creditors. Lastly, the episode of a crusade might be for the priest a pleasant interruption to the dull routine of parochial work, to the monk an agreeable change from the wearisome monotony of his conventual life.
Financial Effect of the Crusade.
The usurer and the creditor might fancy themselves to be somewhat harshly treated. Yet they were amongst the few to whom the crazy enterprise (crazy not from the impracticability of its objects, but from the way in which these were followed), brought a solid benefit.
The unthinking throng might rush off to Palestine without making the least preparation for their journey or their maintenance, in the blind faith that they would be fed and clothed like the fowls of the air or the lilies of the field. But for those who could judge more soberly, and for those who were not willing to forego their luxuries or their pleasures, there was the need of providing a store of the precious metals by means of which alone their wishes could be gratified.
The duke, who had to maintain a vast and brilliant retinue, was compelled to mortgage his dominions; and thus for the sum of ten thousand marks, wrung from the lower orders in the English state, William Rufus obtained from his brother Robert the government of his dukedom for five years, and took care that the prize so won should not slip again from his grasp. Nobles and knights, setting off on the crusade, all wished to sell land, all wished to buy arms and horses. The arms and horses therefore became ruinously dear, the lands ridiculously cheap. It is easy to see that the prudent trader, the cautious merchant, the landowner whose eye was fixed on the main chance, would stand at an enormous advantage.
Effects of the crusades on the power of the pope and the clergy.
But if these were gainers, the gains of the pope and the sacerdotal army of which he was the chief were greater still. If the proclamation of the crusader rendered all private warfare a treason against Christendom, if it set free even the noble from the power of the overlord, and made the latter incapable of summoning his vassal to his standard, if the crusader, as the soldier of the Church, was released from every other obligation, these tremendous changes had been wrought wholly by the power of the pope and his hierarchy.
Dispensing Power of the Pope.
In placing the dominions of all crusading princes under the protection of the Church, the council of Clermont may have provided for those chiefs a most inadequate defence; but it placed the pope on a height above all earthly princes, and the power which withheld the arm of the creditor from falling upon his debtor became a vast dispensing authority, the possession of which would have delighted the heart and realised the highest longings of Hildebrand. Urban did not go to Palestine: but even there he was present in the person of his legate Adhemar, and thus claimed the guidance of a war sanctified by his blessing and undertaken in the cause of the Church.
The vows of the crusader were taken, again, by many who had no present intention of fulfilling them. Sickness, or misfortune, or qualms of conscience might lead them to assume the fatal sign; but from that moment until they set off on their journey they put themselves in the power of the pope, who sometimes used with cruel effect the hold thus obtained over emperors and kings.
Tendency of the Crusades to break up the Feudal System.
Kings, it is true, reaped no small benefit from the impulse which drove their vassals to the Holy Sepulchre; and the absorption of the smaller into larger fiefs, and of these again into royal domain, tended to that extension of the sovereign power which ultimately broke up the feudal system. But these results were far distant; the immediate harvest was gathered by the pope.
Increasing wealth of the pope and the clergy
Thus far he had appeared by his representatives in general or local councils; by these he had interfered in the settlement of disputes, through these he had negotiated with princes. But the preaching of the crusades furnished a reason or a pretext for sending his legates into every land. Their primary business was to stir up the hearts of the faithful or to keep them up to fever heat: but scarcely less important was the task of collecting money for the support of the crusading armies.
On the clergy, whether secular or regular, and on the monastic orders, the pope had a claim which they dared not to call into question, and the subsidies exacted or enjoined for this purpose were paid with a real or a feigned cheerfulness.
To the laity the prayer for voluntary alms assumed practically the form of a demand. Refusal would imply lukewarmness in the faith, if not positive heresy; and the imputation could not be incurred without peril of temporal and even of eternal ruin. Both for the clergy and the laity the charge for a special and temporary purpose became a permanent tax, the proceeds of which the pope might expend on any objects, and in the theory of the time he could spend them on none which were not good.
Alienation and pledging mortgagees of lands
But for the impost thus laid upon them the clergy had a compensation which by the nature of the case could not be enjoyed by the laity. If a bishop put on the cross he might lay a burden on his estates, but he could not alienate them, as his right over them ceased with his death; but in point of fact it was chiefly the prelates and the monastic houses that became guardians or mortgaging of lands belonging to men who had betaken themselves to the Holy Land.
The Jews, who amassed immense profits on their loans to needy crusaders, had nothing to do with the cultivation of the soil, and in most countries could not be owners of it. But the Church was everywhere ready with its protection and its money; nor were there wanting enthusiasts who, as they fixed the blood-red cross on their garment, gave up all their lands and worldly goods to the spiritual body whose prayers they regarded as a more than sufficient recompense.
Even they who left the Church merely the guardian of their estates in their absence might die in the East; and if they died without heirs the guardians became absolute owners. If they came back, toil and disappointment had often so worn them down that they took refuge in a cloister and handed over to the fraternity whatever of their property might still remain to them.
The vast gains thus accruing were all over and beyond the accumulations amassed from the bequests of ordinary or extraordinary penitents on their death-beds or the gifts of enthusiastic devotees during their lifetime; and all the land so gained to the Church was withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the sovereign who professed to rule the country, and thus formed a kingdom within a kingdom, the spiritual domain threatening constantly to absorb that of the secular monarch.
A collision, followed by violent and iniquitous spoliation, became inevitable; and when the time was come the great fabric of ecclesiastical wealth was plundered and demolished.
The Crusades not National Enterprises.
In the enterprise to which Latin Christendom thus stood committed, the several nations or countries of Europe took very unequal parts; or, rather, no nation, as such, took any part in it at all; and in this fact we have the explanation of that want of coherent action, and even decent or average generalship, which is commonly seen in national undertakings.
For the crusade there was no attempt at a commissariat, no care for a base of supplies; and the crusading hosts were a collection of individual adventurers who either went without making any provision for their journey or provided for their own needs and those of their followers from their own resources.
The number of these adventurers was naturally determined by the political conditions of the country from which they came. In Italy the struggle between the pope and the antipope went far towards chilling enthusiasm; and the recruits for the crusading army came chiefly from the Normans who had followed Robert Guiscard to the sunny southern lands.
The Spaniards were busied with a crusade nearer home, and were already pushing back to the south the Mahomedan dominion which had once threatened to pass the barriers of the Pyrenees and carry the Crescent to the shores of the Baltic Sea.
A.D. 1085. Condition of Europe in the time of Urban II
About ten years before the council of Clermont the Moslem dynasty of Toledo had been expelled by Alfonso king of Gallicia: the Kingdom of Cordova had fallen twenty years earlier (1065), and while Peter the Hermit was hurrying hither and thither through the countries of northern Europe, the Christians of Spain were winning victories in Murcia, and the land was ringing with the exploits of the dauntless Cid, Ruy Diaz de Bivar.
By the Germans the summons to the rescue of the Holy Sepulchre was received with comparative coldness: the partisans of emperors, who had been humbled to the dust by the predecessors of Urban, if not by himself, were not vehemently eager to obey it. The bishops of Salzburg, Passau, and Strasburg, the aged duke Guelf of Bavaria, had undertaken the toilsome and perilous journey: not one of them saw their homes again, and their death in the distant East was not regarded by their countrymen as an encouragement to follow their example.
In England the English were too much weighed down by the miseries of the Conquest, the Normans too much occupied in strengthening their position, and the king, William the Red, more ready to take advantage of the needs of his brother Robert than to incur any risks of his own. The great movement came from the lands extending from the Scheldt to the Pyrenees. Franks and Normans alike made ready with impetuous haste for the great adventure; and tens of thousands, who could not wait for the formation of something like a regular army, hurried away, under leaders as frantic as themselves, to their inevitable doom.
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