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King Louis VII
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  Home >> The Crusades >> The Second Crusade >> King Louis VII

In the spring of 1146, King Louis VII held a council at Vezelay in Burgundy, where St. Bernard was to preach. Bernard, now an old man, had enormous prestige by this time, was obviously frail, and yet there he was, called by God, giving a rousing sermon. Louis knelt before the holy abbot and received his benediction. Hundreds of knights followed his example. Old enemies reconciled on the spot and joined the sacred endeavor. Bernard tore up his own cloak for cloth for crosses.

The whole event was wildly emotional. Nothing like this had happened before. Urban had spoken only to a common assemblage, and the response of the nobility had come in the months following, but here we had the high nobility of France taking the cross on the spot. No king had ever led a crusade, which added to the excitement and lustre of the undertaking. The sermon had been an event at a royal council, with all the major nobility in attendance.

Even though the pope had enjoined only fighting men to go, many ladies at the court determined to travel upon the pilgrimage as well. Eleanor and some of her entourage appeared before the barons dressed as Amazons, declaring their willingness to fight for Christ. Or so says a legend that is at least not completely out of the realm of possibility. The story of the Amazons was a popular one among the troubadours, and Eleanor came from Aquitaine, where the troubadour tradition was strong.

So, as the First Crusade had its genesis at Clermont, the Second truly began at Vezelay. Louis wrote to Emperor Manuel, King Conrad of Germany, Geza of Hungary, and Roger of Sicily, to ensure help and cooperation, mindful of the misfortunes of the First Crusade. 

They had to have been thinking, this time we'll do it better. We're kings!

A growing crusade

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