CLIO mr brice - page 19

On a November morning in 1095, just outside the town of Clermont in Central
France, hundreds of people witnessed a sermon that would have consequences more
far reaching than anyone present could have imagined. They would set Christianity
and Islam on a collision course which some would argue that they have never left. The
deliverer of this fateful speech was Pope Urban II. He made a call to arms for the knights
of Christendom to recapture Jerusalem from the grip of the Seljuk Turkish Muslims,
calling them ‘A people alien to God’. This was the beginning of the First Crusade.
Jerusalem had been in Muslim hands since 638 almost four centuries earlier. So why
did Urban call for it’s reconquest and choose to demonise the Muslim world when he
did? Christians were still free to
go on pilgrimages to Jerusalem
without being harassed and
there had been no great acts of
violence against the Christian
populations in the Levant.
There wasn’t a great hatred
of Muslims in the Christian
world. Many states relied on
the Moors in Spain and North
Africa for trade. Even during the
Crusade a pact would be made
between the invading army
and Fatamid Egypt. It seems
that the Crusaders’ religious
intolerance was reserved for
those who stood in the way
The catalyst for Urban’s being
inspired to raise an army to
recapture Jerusalem was a request for help sent to him by the Byzantine emperor
Alexis I. He was worried about the threat of Turks bordering his empire in Asia Minor
so decided that employing Latin troops would help him regain lost territory with a
minimal loss of life for his soldiers. To persuade more people to ‘Take the cross’, Urban
employed propaganda to dehumanise Muslims, accusing them of torturing poor
pilgrims and raping local Christian women. This was by no means true but was vital
in persuading
between 60,000 and 100,000 people from across Western Europe
to march towards the Levant. A large proportion of these were women, children
and the elderly travelling with the army. Alexis had not expected so large a force
to be travelling through his domains, and felt the ‘barbarian’ Latins to be a
threat. He hurried them over the Bosphorus and into Asia as quickly as possible,
but not before getting the leaders of the Crusade to promise to give him the land
that they conquered in Asia Minor. (in exchange for large amounts of gold).
Terror in the name of Religion
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