1095 - Council of Clermont


         In November 1095 Pope Urban II convened the Council of Clermont and, in the final hours of the conference of prelates, called for the First Crusade.   Click here for more on the First Crusade

         The pope painted a picture of the oppression of the Christian church in the Holy Lands and challenged the knights of Christendom to throw off the yoke of the saracen (Muslim) oppression.  Urban was calculating that such a war against the Muslim infidels would put an end to the fratricidal wars in feudal Europe and stop the threats made against the holy orders by rapacious nobility.  The cheers that greeted Urban II's call ushered in two centuries of crusades whose troublesome legacy is with us to this day.

Council Of Clermont

      The pope's xenophobic references to 'saracen foreigners' became the central idea within the colonial discourse that dominated the papacy throughout the crusades - the assertion that spiritual grace made possible and legitimated lordship in the secular sphere, and the notion that heathens and infidels lacked rights to property.  This latter idea, first applied by the church against Muslims in the Holy Lands, would have enormous consequences centuries later when agents of European monarchs began laying claim to foreign lands during the Discovery Era in the 15th century.

       By all accounts, crusading knights were murderous, superstitious, and notoriously adulterous.  Their main source of power came from ecclesiastical centers of power, such as the Vatican.

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         A young knight was literally bathed in 'holy water', dressed in a pure white garb including a chastity belt, and required to pray throughout the night prior to his official welcoming while laying his weapons before the alter.  After making his confession, a priest would dedicate the knight's skill and weapons to the service of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The new warrior would then be eager to take part in tournaments to test his mettle and build his reputation.   Great valor shown in a crusade was one of a knight's means of securing a place in heaven.