Speech at Council of Clermont, 1095, according to Fulcher of Chartres
[adapted from Thatcher] In 1094 or 1095, Alexios I Komnenos,
the Byzantine emperor, sent to the pope, Urban II, and asked for
aid from the west against the Seljuq Turks, who taken nearly all
of Asia Minor from him. At the council of Clermont Urban addressed
a great crowd and urged all to go to the aid of the Greeks and
to recover Palestine from the rule of the Muslims. The acts of
the council have not been preserved, but we have four accounts
of the speech of Urban which were written by men who were present
and heard him. Here is the one by the chronicler Fulcher of Chartres.
Not how the traditions of the peace and truce of God - aimed at
bringing about peace in Christendom - ties in directly with the
call for a Crusade. Does this amount to the export of violence?
Most beloved brethren: Urged by necessity, I, Urban, by the permission
of God chief bishop and prelate over the whole world, have come
into these parts as an ambassador with a divine admonition to
you, the servants of God. I hoped to find you as faithful and
as zealous in the service of God as I had supposed you to be.
But if there is in you any deformity or crookedness contrary to
God's law, with divine help I will do my best to remove it. For
God has put you as stewards over his family to minister to it.
Happy indeed will you be if he finds you faithful in your stewardship.
You are called shepherds; see that you do not act as hirelings.
But be true shepherds, with your crooks always in your hands.
Do not go to sleep, but guard on all sides the flock committed
to you. For if through your carelessness or negligence a wolf
carries away one of your sheep, you will surely lose the reward
laid up for you with God. And after you have been bitterly scourged
with remorse for your faults-, you will be fiercely overwhelmed
in hell, the abode of death. For according to the gospel you are
the salt of the earth [Matt. 5:13]. But if you fall short in your
duty, how, it may be asked, can it be salted? O how great the
need of salting! It is indeed necessary for you to correct with
the salt of wisdom this foolish people which is so devoted to
the pleasures of this -world, lest the Lord, when He may wish
to speak to them, find them putrefied by their sins unsalted and
stinking. For if He, shall find worms, that is, sins, In them,
because you have been negligent in your duty, He will command
them as worthless to be thrown into the abyss of unclean things.
And because you cannot restore to Him His great loss, He will
surely condemn you and drive you from His loving presence. But
the man who applies this salt should be prudent, provident, modest,
learned, peaceable, watchful, pious, just, equitable, and pure.
For how can the ignorant teach others? How can the licentious
make others modest>? And how can the impure make others pure?
If anyone hates peace, how can he make others peaceable ? Or if
anyone has soiled his hands with baseness, how can he cleanse
the impurities of another? We read also that if the blind lead
the blind, both will fall into the ditch [Matt. 15:14]. But first
correct yourselves, in order that, free from blame , you may be
able to correct those who are subject to you. If you wish to be
the friends of God, gladly do the things which you know will please
Him. You must especially let all matters that pertain to the church
be controlled by the law of the church. And be careful that simony
does not take root among you, lest both those who buy and those
who sell [church offices] be beaten with the scourges of the Lord
through narrow streets and driven into the place of destruction
and confusion. Keep the church and the clergy in all its grades
entirely free from the secular power. See that the tithes that
belong to God are faithfully paid from all the produce of the
land; let them not be sold or withheld. If anyone seizes a bishop
let him be treated as an outlaw. If anyone seizes or robs monks,
or clergymen, or nuns, or their servants, or pilgrims, or merchants,
let him be anathema [that is, cursed]. Let robbers and incendiaries
and all their accomplices be expelled from the church and anthematized.
If a man who does not give a part of his goods as alms is punished
with the damnation of hell, how should he be punished who robs
another of his goods? For thus it happened to the rich man in
the gospel [Luke 16:19]; he was not punished because he had stolen
the goods of another, but because he had not used well the things
which were his.
"You have seen for a long time the great disorder in the
world caused by these crimes. It is so bad in some of your provinces,
I am told, and you are so weak in the administration of justice,
that one can hardly go along the road by day or night without
being attacked by robbers; and whether at home or abroad one is
in danger of being despoiled either by force or fraud. Therefore
it is necessary to reenact the truce, as it is commonly called,
which was proclaimed a long time ago by our holy fathers. I exhort
and demand that you, each, try hard to have the truce kept in
your diocese. And if anyone shall be led by his cupidity or arrogance
to break this truce, by the authority of God and with the sanction
of this council he shall be anathematized."
After these and various other matters had been attended to, all
who were present, clergy and people, gave thanks to God and agreed
to the pope's proposition. They all faithfully promised to keep
the decrees. Then the pope said that in another part of the world
Christianity was suffering from a state of affairs that was worse
than the one just mentioned. He continued:
"Although, O sons of God, you have promised more firmly than
ever to keep the peace among yourselves and to preserve the rights
of the church, there remains still an important work for you to
do. Freshly quickened by the divine correction, you must apply
the strength of your righteousness to another matter which concerns
you as well as God. For your brethren who live in the east are
in urgent need of your help, and you must hasten to give them
the aid which has often been promised them. For, as the most of
you have heard, the Turks and Arabs have attacked them and have
conquered the territory of Romania [the Greek empire] as far west
as the shore of the Mediterranean and the Hellespont, which is
called the Arm of St. George. They have occupied more and more
of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven
battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed
the churches and devastated the empire. If you permit them to
continue thus for awhile with impurity, the faithful of God will
be much more widely attacked by them. On this account I, or rather
the Lord, beseech you as Christ's heralds to publish this everywhere
and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and
knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians
and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends. I
say this to those who are present, it meant also for those who
are absent. Moreover, Christ commands it.
"All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in
battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins.
This I grant them through the power of God with which I am invested.
O what a disgrace if such a despised and base race, which worships
demons, should conquer a people which has the faith of omnipotent
God and is made glorious with the name of Christ! With what reproaches
will the Lord overwhelm us if you do not aid those who, with us,
profess the Christian religion! Let those who have been accustomed
unjustly to wage private warfare against the faithful now go against
the infidels and end with victory this war which should have been
begun long ago. Let those who for a long time, have been robbers,
now become knights. Let those who have been fighting against their
brothers and relatives now fight in a proper way against the barbarians.
Let those who have been serving as mercenaries for small pay now
obtain the eternal reward. Let those who have been wearing themselves
out in both body and soul now work for a double honor. Behold!
on this side will be the sorrowful and poor, on that, the rich;
on this side, the enemies of the Lord, on that, his friends. Let
those who go not put off the journey, but rent their lands and
collect money for their expenses; and as soon as winter is over
and spring comes, let hem eagerly set out on the way with God
as their guide."
From 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
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(c)Paul Halsall Mar 1996