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Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The impact of the Crusades on Europe

II: Crusade Propaganda,   pp. 39-97 PDF (23.6 MB)

Page 40

 What propaganda turned such men into crusaders? The Gibbonian 
— and, indeed, medieval— disillusion with the crusaders' greed
for land and booty has created a picture of them as rogues cynically exploiting
religious sentiment to their profit. For us the interesting question is the
reverse. How did the rogues come to be imbued with either the appearance
or the reality of religious motivation? This is a fruitful perspective from
which to examine again Urban's reported preaching at Clermont. Though Gregory
VII had canvassed the idea, it is evident that he did not conceive it in
just the same way as did his successor. He was more concerned about papal
rights in reconquered territory, more willing to envisage "coexistence" in
North Africa.3 He seems to have thought more in terms of papal functions
than of an embattled Christian commonwealth. That a reconquered area was
"restored" to Christendom was a legal concept at this stage not yet emotionally
charged. In Urban's preaching we find new notions, more especially new sentiments,
that correspond to ideas immediately and thenceforward in general use. From
this point of view it matters more what Urban was understood to have said
than what he actually did say. We shall say little to distinguish the propagandist
from the consumer of propaganda, because the one is usually, and simultaneously,
the other. We are concerned only to identify the main lines of persuasion
and self-persuasion which thenceforward men of all types accepted as defining
their official motivation. 
 It is tolerably certain that Urban stressed the idea of the recovery of
Christian lands, although this has reached us in a form likely to have appealed
primarily to the more literate, and even the literaryminded; history was
a branch of literature, and the appeal to history was strictly mythical,
and myth-creating. However, it was allied with an idea easily assimilated
by the feeblest-minded and the most ignorant: 
the notion of persecution, of the new wave of attacks against Christendom,
comes out very strongly in the "Letter of the emperor Alexis" faithfully
reproduced in Robert of Rheims' version of Clermont;4 and in some form or
another it is in all the accounts of the period. The legal and liturgical
notion that Christian lands, which by hypothesis included the Holy Land,
were to be "restored", and saved from a ruthless persecutor, acquired great
new emotional force. Like all powerful 
 3. Das Register Gregors VII., Erich Caspar, I, 22, 23 (MGH, Epistolae selectae,
I, 36—39); III, 21(1, 287—288). 
 4. Historia Hierosolimitana, I, 1—2 (RHC, 0cc., III, 727-730); cf.
Edmond Martène and Ursin Durand, eds., Thesaurus novus anecdotorum
(Paris, 1717), I, 267. For the Council of Clermont see Frederick Duncaif,
"The Councils of Piacenza and Clermont," in volume I of the present work,
chapter VII. 

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