Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume VI: The impact of the Crusades on Europe
II: Crusade propaganda, pp. 39-97 PDF (14.2 MB)
40 A HISTORY OF THE CRUSADES VI 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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