Other circumstances gave additional impulse to the movement, such as the hope of securing relics of which Palestine and Constantinople were the chief storehouses; and the opportunity of starting a profitable trade in silk, paper, spices, and other products of the East.
These pilgrimages were not seriously interrupted by the Mohammedans after their conquest of Jerusalem by Omar in 637, until Syria and Palestine passed into the hands of the sultans of Egypt three centuries later. Under Hakim, 1010, a fierce persecution broke out against the Christian residents of Palestine and the pilgrims. It was, however, of short duration and was followed by a larger stream of pilgrims than before. The favorite route was through Rome and by the sea, a dangerous avenue, as it was infested by Saracen pirates. The conversion of the Hungarians in the tenth century opened up the route along the Danube. Barons, princes, bishops, monks followed one after the other, some of them leading large bodies of pious tourists. In 1035 Robert of Normandy went at the head of a great company of nobles. He found many waiting at the gates of Jerusalem, unable to pay the gold bezant demanded for admission, and paid it for them. In 1054 Luitbert, bishop of Cambray, is said to have led three thousand pilgrims. In 1064 Siegfried, archbishop of Mainz, was accompanied by the bishops of Utrecht, Bamberg, and Regensburg and twelve thousand pilgrims. 321 In 1092 Eric, king of the Danes, made the long journey. A sudden check was put upon the pilgrimages by the Seljukian Turks, who conquered the Holy Land in 1076. A rude and savage tribe, they heaped, with the intense fanaticism of new converts, all manner of insults and injuries upon the Christians. Many were imprisoned or sold into slavery. Those who returned to Europe carried with them a tale of woe which aroused the religious feelings of all classes.
The other appeal, coming from the Greek emperors, was of less weight. 322 The Eastern empire had been fast losing its hold on its Asiatic possessions. Romanus Diogenes was defeated in battle with the Turks and taken prisoner, 1071. During the rule of his successor, an emir established himself in Nicaea, the seat of the council called by the first Constantine, and extended his rule as far as the shores of the sea of Marmora. Alexius Comnenus, coming to the throne 1081, was less able to resist the advance of Islam and lost Antioch and Edessa in 1086. Thus pressed by his Asiatic foes, and seeing the very existence of his throne threatened, he applied for help to the west. He dwelt, it is true, on the desolations of Jerusalem; but it is in accordance with his imperial character to surmise that he was more concerned for the defence of his own empire than for the honor of religion.
This dual appeal met a response, not only in the religious spirit of Europe, but in the warlike instincts of chivalry; and when the time came for the chief figure in Christendom, Urban II., to lift up his voice, his words acted upon the sensitive emotions as sparks upon dry leaves. 323
Three routes were chosen by the Crusaders to reach the Holy Land. The first was the overland route by way of the Danube, Constantinople, and Asia Minor. The second, adopted by Philip and Richard in the Third Crusade, was by the Mediterranean to Acre. The route of the last two Crusades, under Louis IX., was across the Mediterranean to Egypt, which was to be made the base of operations from which to reach Jerusalem.
§ 49. The Call to the Crusades. "the romance
Of many colored Life that Fortune pours
Round the Crusaders."
Wordsworth, Ecclesiastical Sonnets.
The call which resulted in the first expedition for the recovery of Jerusalem was made by Pope Urban II. at the Council of Clermont, 1095. Its chief popular advocate was Peter the Hermit.
The idea of such a movement was not born at the close of the eleventh century. Gregory VII., appealed to by Michael VII. of Constantinople, had, in two encyclicals, 1074,4urged the cause upon all Christians, and summoned them to go to the rescue of the Byzantine capital. He reminded them that the pagans had forced their way almost up to the walls of the city and killed many thousands of their brethren like cattle. 325 He also repeatedly called attention to the project in letters to the counts of Burgundy and Poitiers and to Henry IV. His ulterior hope was the subjection of the Eastern churches to the dominion of the Apostolic see. In the year 1074 he was able to announce to Henry IV. that fifty thousand Christian soldiers stood ready to take up arms and follow him to the East, but Gregory was prevented from executing his design by his quarrel with the emperor.
There is some evidence that more than half a century earlier Sergius IV., d. 1012, suggested the idea of an armed expedition against the Mohammedans who had "defiled Jerusalem and destroyed the church of the Holy Sepulchre." Earlier still, Sylvester II., d. 1003, may have urged the same project. 326
Peter the Hermit, an otherwise unknown monk of Amiens, France, on returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, spread its tale of woes and horrors.7 In Jerusalem he had seen the archbishop, Simeon, who urged him to carry to Europe an appeal for help against the indignities to which the Christians were subjected. While asleep in the church of the Holy Sepulchre and after prayer and fasting, Peter had a dream in which Christ appeared to him and bade him go and quickly spread the appeal that the holy place might be purged. 328 He hurried westward, carrying a letter from Simeon, and secured the ear of Urban at Rome. This is the story as told by William of Tyre and by Albert of Aachen before him. Alleged dreams and visions were potent forces during the First Crusade, and it is altogether likely that many a pilgrim, looking upon the desolation of Jerusalem, heard within himself the same call which Peter in imagination or in a real dream heard the Lord making to him.
Urban listened to Peter’s account as he had listened to the accounts of other returning pilgrims. He had seen citizens of Jerusalem itself with his own eyes, and exiles from Antioch, bewailing the plight of those places and begging for alms. 329 Peter, as he journeyed through Italy and across the Alps, 330proclaimed the same message. The time for action had come.
At the Council of Piacenza, in the spring of 1095, envoys were present from the emperor Alexius Comnenus and made addresses, invoking aid against the advancing Turks. 331 In the following November the famous Council of Clermont, Southern France, was held, which decreed the First Crusade. 332 The council comprised a vast number of ecclesiastics and laymen, especially from France. Urban II. was present in person. On the day of the opening there were counted fourteen archbishops, two hundred and fifty bishops, and four hundred abbots. Thousands of tents were pitched outside the walls. On the ninth day, the pope addressed the multitude from a platform erected in the open air. It was a fortunate moment for Urban, and has been compared to Christmas Day, 800, when Charlemagne was crowned. 333 The address was the most effective sermon ever preached by a pope or any other mortal. It stirred the deepest feelings of the bearers and was repeated throughout all Europe. 334
At Clermont, Urban was on his native soil and probably spoke in the Provençal tongue, though we have only Latin reports. When we recall the general character of the age and the listening throng, with its mingled feelings of love of adventure and credulous faith, we cannot wonder at the response made to the impassioned appeals of the head of Christendom. Urban reminded his hearers that they, as the elect of God, must carry to their brethren in the East the succor for which they had so often cried out. The Turks, a "Persian people, an accursed race,"5had devastated the kingdom of God by fire, pillage, and sword and advanced as far as the Arm of St. George (the Hellespont). Jerusalem was laid waste. Antioch, once the city of Peter, was under their yoke. As the knights loved their souls, so they should fight against the barbarians who had fought against their brothers and kindred. 336 Christ himself would lead the advancing warriors across sea and mountains. Jerusalem, "the navel of the world," and the land fruitful above all others, a paradise of delights, awaited them. 337 "The way is short, the toil will be followed by an incorruptible crown." 338
A Frenchman himself, Urban appealed to his hearers as Frenchmen, distinguished above all other nations by remarkable glory in arms, courage, and bodily prowess. He appealed to the deeds of Charlemagne and his son Lewis, who had destroyed pagan kingdoms and extended the territory of the Church.
To this moving appeal the answer came back from the whole throng, "God will sit, God will sit."9 "It is," added the pope, "it is the will of God. Let these words be your war-cry when you unsheathe the sword. You are soldiers of the cross. Wear on your breasts or shoulders the blood-red sign of the cross. Wear it as a token that His help will never fail you, as the pledge of a vow never to be recalled." 340 Thousands at once took the vow and sewed the cross on their garments or branded it upon their bare flesh. Adhemar, bishop of Puy, knelt at Urban’s feet, asking permission to go, and was appointed papal legate. The next day envoys came announcing that Raymund of Toulouse had taken the vow. The spring of 1096 was set for the expedition to start. Urban discreetly declined to lead the army in person. 341
The example set at Clermont was followed by thousands throughout Europe. Fiery preachers carried Urban’s message. The foremost among them, Peter the Hermit, traversed Southern France to the confines of Spain and Lorraine and went along the Rhine. Judged by results, he was one of the most successful of evangelists. His appearance was well suited to strike the popular imagination. He rode on an ass, his face emaciated and haggard, his feet bare, a slouched cowl on his head,2and a long mantle reaching to his ankles, and carrying a great cross. In stature he was short. 343 His keen wit, 344his fervid and ready, but rude and unpolished, eloquence, 345made a profound impression upon the throngs which gathered to hear him. 346 His messages seemed to them divine. 347 They plucked the very hairs from his ass’ tail to be preserved as relics. A more potent effect was wrought than mere temporary wonder. Reconciliations between husbands and wives and persons living out of wedlock were effected, and peace and concord established where there were feud and litigation. Large gifts were made to the preacher. None of the other preachers of the Crusade, Volkmar, Gottschalk, and Emich, 348could compare with Peter the Hermit for eloquence and the spell he exercised upon the masses. He was held in higher esteem than prelates and abbots. 349 And Guibert of Nogent says that he could recall no one who was held in like honor. 350
In a few months large companies were ready to march against the enemies of the cross.
A new era in European history was begun.1 A new passion had taken hold of its people. A new arena of conquest was opened for the warlike feudal lord, a tempting field of adventure and release for knight and debtor, an opportunity of freedom for serf and villein. All classes, lay and clerical, saw in the expedition to the cradle of their faith a solace for sin, a satisfaction of Christian fancy, a heaven appointed mission. The struggle of states with the papacy was for the moment at an end. All Europe was suddenly united in a common and holy cause, of which the supreme pontiff was beyond dispute the appointed leader.
§ 50. The First Crusade and the Capture of Jerusalem. "And what if my feet may not tread where He stood,
Nor my ears hear the dashing of Galilee’s flood,
Nor my eyes see the cross which He bowed Him to bear,
Nor my knees press Gethsemane’s garden of prayer,
Yet, Loved of the Father, Thy Spirit is near
To the meek and the lowly and penitent here;
And the voice of Thy Love is the same even now,
As at Bethany’s tomb or on Olivet’s brow."
The 15th of August, 1096, the Feast of the Assumption, fixed by the Council of Clermont for the departure of the Crusaders, was slow in coming. The excitement was too intense for the people to wait. As early as March throngs of both sexes and all ages began to gather in Lorraine and at Treves, and to demand of Peter the Hermit and other leaders to lead them immediately to Jerusalem. 352 It was a heterogeneous multitude of devout enthusiasts and idle adventurers, without proper preparation of any kind. The priest forsook his cell, the peasant left his plough and placed his wife and children on carts drawn by oxen, and thus went forth to make the journey and to fight the Turk. At the villages along the route the children cried out, "Is this Jerusalem, is this Jerusalem?" William of Malmesbury wrote (IV. 2), "The Welshman left his hunting, the Scot his fellowship with lice, the Dane his drinking party, the Norwegian his raw fish. Fields were deserted of their husbandmen; whole cities migrated .... God alone was placed before their eyes."
The unwieldy bands, or swarms, were held together loosely under enthusiastic but incompetent leaders. The first swarm, comprising from twelve thousand to twenty thousand under Walter the Penniless, 353marched safely through Hungary, but was cut to pieces at the storming of Belgrade or destroyed in the Bulgarian forests. The leader and a few stragglers were all that reached Constantinople.
The second swarm, comprising more than forty thousand, was led by the Hermit himself. There were knights not a few, and among the ecclesiastics were the archbishop of Salzburg and the bishops of Chur and Strassburg. On their march through Hungary they were protected by the Hungarian king; but when they reached the Bulgarian frontier, they found one continuous track of blood and fire, robbery and massacre, marking the route of their predecessors. Only a remnant of seven thousand reached Constantinople, and they in the most pitiful condition, July, 1096. Here they were well treated by the Emperor Alexius, who transported them across the Bosphorus to Asia, where they were to await the arrival of the regular army. But they preferred to rove, marauding and plundering, through the rich provinces. Finally, a false rumor that the vanguard had captured Nicaea, the capital of the Turks in Asia Minor, allured the main body into the plain of Nicaea, where large numbers were surrounded and massacred by the Turkish cavalry. Their bones were piled into a ghastly pyramid, the first monument of the Crusade. Walter fell in the battle; Peter the Hermit had fled back to Constantinople before the battle began, unable to control his followers. The defeat of Nicaea no doubt largely destroyed Peter’s reputation. 354
Another band, under count Emich of Leiningen, began its career, May, 1096, by massacring and robbing the Jews in Mainz and other cities along the Rhine. Albert of Aachan,5who describes these scenes, does not sympathize with this lawlessness, but saw a divine judgment in its almost complete annihilation in Hungary. This band was probably a part of the swarm, estimated at the incredible number of two hundred thousand, 356led by banners bearing the likeness of a goose and a goat, which were considered as bearers of the divine Spirit. 357 Three thousand horsemen, headed by some noblemen, attended them, and shared the spoils taken from the Jews. 358 When they arrived at the Hungarian frontier they had to encounter a regular army. A panic seized them, and a frightful carnage took place.
These preliminary expeditions of the first Crusade may have cost three hundred thousand lives.
The regular army consisted, according to the lowest statements, of more than three hundred thousand. It proceeded through Europe in sections which met at Constantinople and Nicaea. Godfrey, starting from lower Lorraine, had under him thirty thousand men on foot and ten thousand horse. He proceeded along the Danube and by way of Sofia and Philipoppolis, Hugh of Vermandois went by way of Rome, where he received the golden banner, and then, taking ship from Bari to Durazzo, made a junction with Godfrey in November, 1096, under the walls of Constantinople. Bohemund, with a splendid following of one hundred thousand horse and thirty thousand on foot, 359took the same route from Bari across the Adriatic. Raymund of Toulouse, accompanied by his countess, Elvira, and the papal legate, bishop Adhemar, 360traversed Northern Italy on his way eastward. The last of the main armies to start was led by Robert, duke of Normandy, and Stephen of Blois, who crossed the Alps, received the pope’s blessing at Lucca, and, passing through Rome, transported their men across the Adriatic from Bari and Brindisi.
Godfrey of Bouillon 361was accompanied by his brothers, Baldwin and Eustace. Hugh, count of Vermandois, was a brother of Philip I. of France. Robert of Normandy was the eldest son of William the Conqueror, and had made provision for his expedition by pledging Normandy to his brother, William Rufus, for ten thousand marks silver. Raymund, count of Toulouse, was a veteran warrior, who had a hundred thousand horse and foot at his command, and enjoyed a mingled reputation for wealth, wisdom, pride, and greed. Bohemund, prince of Tarentum, was the son of Robert Guiscard. His cousin, Tancred, was the model cavalier. Robert, count of Flanders, was surnamed, "the Sword and Lance of the Christians." Stephen, count of Chartres, Troyes, and Blois, was the owner of three hundred and sixty-five castles. These and many other noblemen constituted the flower of the French, Norman, and Italian nobility.
The moral hero of the First Crusade is Godfrey of Bouillon, a descendant of Charlemagne in the female line, but he had no definite command. He had fought in the war of emperor Henry IV. against the rebel king, Rudolf of Swabia, whom he slew in the battle of Mölsen, 1080. He had prodigious physical strength. With one blow of his sword he clove asunder a horseman from head to saddle. He was as pious as he was brave, and took the cross for the single purpose of rescuing Jerusalem from the hands of the infidel. He used his prowess and bent his ancestral pride to the general aim. Contemporary historians call him a holy monk in military armor and ducal ornament. His purity and disinterestedness were acknowledged by his rivals.
Tancred, his intimate friend, likewise engaged in the enterprise from pure motives. He is the poetic hero of the First Crusade, and nearly approached the standard of "the parfite gentil knyght" of Chaucer. He distinguished himself at Nicaea, Dorylaeum, Antioch, and was one of the first to climb the walls of Jerusalem. He died in Antioch, 1112. His deeds were celebrated by Raoul de Caen and Torquato Tasso. 362
The emperor Alexius, who had so urgently solicited the aid of Western Europe, became alarmed when he saw the hosts arriving in his city. They threatened to bring famine into the land and to disturb the order of his realm. He had wished to reap the benefit of the Crusade, but now was alarmed lest he should be overwhelmed by it. His subtle policy and precautions were felt as an insult by the Western chieftains. In diplomacy he was more than their match. They expected fair dealing and they were met by duplicity. He held Hugh of Vermandois in easy custody till he promised him fealty. Even Godfrey and Tancred, the latter after delay, made the same pledge. Godfrey declined to receive the emperor’s presents for fear of receiving poison with his munificence.
The Crusaders had their successes. Nicaea was taken June 19, 1097, and the Turks were routed a few weeks later in a disastrous action at Dorylaeum in Phrygia, which turned into a more disastrous flight. But a long year elapsed till they could master Antioch, and still another year came to an end before Jerusalem yielded to their arms. The success of the enterprise was retarded and its glory diminished by the selfish jealousies and alienation of the leaders which culminated in disgraceful conflicts at Antioch. The hardships and privations of the way were terrible, almost beyond description. The Crusaders were forced to eat horse flesh, camels, dogs, and mice, and even worse.3 The sufferings from thirst exceeded, if possible, the sufferings from hunger. To these discouragements was added the manifest treachery of the Greek emperor at the capture of Nicaea. 364
During the siege of Antioch, which had fallen to the Seljuks, 1084, the ranks were decimated by famine, pestilence, and desertion, among the deserters being Stephen of Chartres and his followers. Peter the Hermit and William of Carpentarius were among those who attempted flight, but were caught in the act of fleeing and severely reprimanded by Bohemund.5 Immediately after the first recapture of the city, through the treachery of Phirouz, an Armenian, the Crusaders were themselves besieged by an army of two hundred thousand under Kerboga of Mosul. Their languishing energies were revived by the miraculous discovery of the holy lance, which pierced the Saviour’s side. This famous instrument was hidden under the altar of St. Peter’s church. The hiding place was revealed in a dream to Peter Barthelemy, the chaplain of Raymund of Toulouse. 366 The sacred weapon was carried in front of the ranks by Raymund of Agiles, one of the historians of the Crusade, and it aroused great enthusiasm. Kerboga withdrew and the city fell into the Crusaders’ hands, June 28, 1098. 367 Bohemund appropriated it to himself as his prize. Baldwin, after the fall of Nicaea, had done the same with Edessa, which became the easternmost citadel of the Crusaders. Others followed the examples of these leaders and went on independent expeditions of conquest. Of those who died at Antioch was Adhemar.
The culmination of the First Crusade was the fall of Jerusalem, July 15, 1099. It was not till the spring following the capture of Antioch, that the leaders were able to compose their quarrels and the main army was able again to begin the march. The route was along the coast to Caesarea and thence southeastward to Ramleh. Jerusalem was reached early in June. The army was then reduced to twenty thousand fighting men. 368 In one of his frescos in the museum at Berlin, representing the six chief epochs in human history, Kaulbach has depicted with great effect the moment when the Crusaders first caught sight of the Holy City from the western hills. For the religious imagination it was among the most picturesque moments in history as it was indeed one of the most solemn in the history of the Middle Ages. The later narratives may well have the essence of truth in them, which represent the warriors falling upon their knees and kissing the sacred earth. Laying aside their armor, in bare feet and amid tears, penitential prayers, and chants, they approached the sacred precincts. 369
A desperate but futile assault was made on the fifth day. Boiling pitch and oil were used, with showers of stones and other missiles, to keep the Crusaders at bay. The siege then took the usual course in such cases. Ladders, scaling towers, and other engines of war were constructed, but the wood had to be procured at a distance, from Shechem. The trees around Jerusalem, cut down by Titus twelve centuries before, had never been replaced. The city was invested on three sides by Raymund of Toulouse, Godfrey, Tancred, Robert of Normandy, and other chiefs. The suffering due to the summer heat and the lack of water was intense. The valley and the hills were strewn with dead horses, whose putrefying carcasses made life in the camp almost unbearable. In vain did the Crusaders with bare feet, the priests at their head, march in procession around the walls, hoping to see them fall as the walls of Jericho had fallen before Joshua.0 Help at last came with the arrival of a Genoese fleet in the harbor of Joppa, which brought workmen and supplies of tools and food.