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  Home >> The Crusades >> The First Crusade >> Introduction

 

The Crusades Begin - Click to see a larger image.The Crusades began formally on Tuesday, November 27, 1095, in a field just outside the walls of the French city of Clermont-Ferrand. On that day Pope Urban II preached a sermon to crowds of laypeople and clergy attending a church council at Clermont. In his sermon, the pope outlined a plan for a Crusade and called on his listeners to join its ranks. The response was positive and overwhelming. Pope Urban then commissioned the bishops at the council to return to their homes and to enlist others in the Crusade. He also outlined a basic strategy in which individual groups of Crusaders would begin the journey in August 1096. Each group would be self-financing and responsible to its own leader. The groups would make their separate ways to the Byzantine capital, Constantinople, where they would meet. From there, they would launch a counterattack against the Seljuk conquerors of Anatolia together with the Byzantine emperor and his army. Once that region was under Christian control, the Crusaders would campaign against the Muslims in Syria and Palestine, with Jerusalem as their ultimate goal.

The Crusading Armies

In its broad outline the First Crusade conformed to the scheme envisioned by the pope. Recruitment proceeded apace during the remainder of 1095 and the early months of 1096. Five major armies of noblemen assembled in late summer, 1096, to set out on the Crusade. The majority was from France, but significant numbers also came from southern Italy and the regions of Lorraine, Burgundy, and Flanders.

Crusading CavalryThe pope had not foreseen the popular enthusiasm that his Crusade would arouse among ordinary townspeople and peasantry. Alongside the Crusade of the nobility another one materialised among the common people. The largest and most important group of popular Crusaders was recruited and led by a preacher known as Peter the Hermit, a native of Amiens, France. Although the participants in the popular Crusade were numerous, only a tiny fraction of them ever succeeded in reaching the Middle East; even fewer survived to see the Christian capture of Jerusalem in 1099.

The Council of Clermont -->

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