Jesus Christ Savior |  “Undertake this journey for the remission of your sins, with the assurance of the imperishable glory of the Kingdom of Heaven!”

Pope Urban II, in one of history’s most powerful speeches, launched 200 years of the Crusades at the Council of Clermont, France on November 27, 1095 with this impassioned plea. In a rare public session in an open field, he urged the knights and noblemen to win back the Holy Land, to face their sins, and called upon those present to save their souls and become Soldiers of Christ. Those who took the vow for the pilgrimage were to wear the sign of the cross (croix in French): and so evolved the word croisade or Crusade. By the time his speech ended, the captivated audience began shouting Deus le volt! – God wills it! The expression became the battle-cry of the crusades.

Why did Pope Urban II call for the recapture of the Holy Land? Three reasons are primarily given for the beginning of the Crusades: (1) to free Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; (2) to defend the Christian East, hopefully healing the rift between Roman and Orthodox Christianity; and (3) to marshal the energy of the constantly warring feudal lords and knights into the one cause of penitential warfare.

Led by the papal legate Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy, the First Crusade (of eight major efforts) freed Jerusalem on July 15, 1099. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was once again in Christian hands and restored. The four Crusader states of Jerusalem, Tripoli, Antioch, and Edessa were established. The Kingdom of Jerusalem lasted 88 years, until Saladin recaptured the city October 2, 1187. King Richard the Lionheart of England negotiated the Peace Treaty of Jaffa with Saladin during the Third Crusade whereby Christian pilgrims were given free access to Jerusalem.

The four Crusader states eventually collapsed; the surrender of Acre in 1291 ended 192 years of formal Christian rule in the Holy Land.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

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