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A Growing Crusade
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  Home >> The Crusades >> The Second Crusade >> A Growing Crusade

Bernard, meantime, was rallying Europe. A brilliant speaker, Bernard was entering upon his last great work. He went north and calmed passions aroused by anti-Jewish preacher Radulf. He followed Radulf to Mainz, where he muzzled him. At Mainz, Bernard tries to persuade Conrad, who was attended a German Diet, to join him. Conrad was unenthusiastic and prevaricated.

Conrad was deep in conflict with the pope, and his barons were unruly. He temporized, delayed, made excuses. Not until Christmas of 1146, at Speyer, did Conrad finally agree to take the cross. There, Bernard preached a powerful sermon in which he spoke directly to Conrad. He portrayed the king as standing before Christ. "O man, what is there that I should have done for you and did not do?" The king yielded at last, and, as at Vezelay, a Christian king was joined by many of his nobles in an outburst of religious and martial enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm was not universal, however. A number of his northern barons declared they were unwilling to leave their homes for so long because of a danger much closer to home. The Slavs who lived across the Elbe River had long been a threat, breaking into rebellion numerous times and invading German lands. Since the Slavs were also pagan, the German barons were able to present their case in religious terms. Rather than fight Christ's enemies in distant lands, could they not fight similar enemies close to home?

At Frankfurt, Conrad authorized the Wendish Crusade. Bernard wrote to the pope in support of the project, and Eugenius approved it. Thus, in 1147, there was a crusade, with full crusader privileges, in what is today eastern Germany.

By a similar logic, the Pope gave crusading privileges to the reconquistadores in Spain. Here, he was merely giving indulgences for an activity that was already under way.

The whole movement was emotionally charged, for this time the crusaders knew what they were doing. They had the precedent of the First Crusade, with all its heroes and legends, before them. They knew, too, that the risks were real, as the crusades of 1101 had taught. These crusaders were fully conscious of their task to rescue Edessa.

For two years reports and letters had come from Outremer stressing the wider danger. Louis and Conrad were going to save the Holy Land generally defined, and the ultimate goal really wasn't defined more clearly than that.

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