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Source Exercise 2: The First Crusade: 2

The extract is from a letter, written by Pope Urban II to his followers in Bologna, on the 19th September 1096. It is one of four written by Pope Urban II while the First Crusade was being prepared and repeats some of the decisions of the Council of Clermont in November 1095. It is a call to crusade promising those who go that they will be cleansed of all their sins; in other words, crusaders would go to heaven. If a crusade was to happen and stand a chance of success, there needed to be large numbers of people prepared to go East, so the reward had to be a very good one if they were to be induced to go. We can tell then that the writer was directly connected with events because he is writing directly to those who are thinking of joining the crusade: ‘we have heard’, he says, ‘that many of you have felt the longing to go’. We should therefore read this extract as the pope’s perspective on the crusade; perhaps people were longing to go, but Urban obviously felt the need to bolster numbers by offering a pardon of all sins as an additional incentive. Would people have gone anyway, or did this offer make a great difference to the numbers of people who eventually went East? We will probably never know.

Now consider the content of the extract in more detail and consider the following questions:

  • Under what circumstances exactly will full remission of sins be granted to crusaders?
  • Why might clerics or monks need to have the permission of their bishops and abbots to go on Crusade?
  • Why do you think that young married men needed to have the agreement of their wives before they undertook the journey?


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