Pope Blessed Urban II
(ca.1035 – 29 July 1099),
born Otho de Lagery
), was Pope
from 12 March
1088 until his death. He is most known for starting the First Crusade
(1095–99) and setting up the
modern day Roman Curia
, in the manner of
a royal court, to help run the Church.
Pope Gregory VII
named him cardinal-bishop of Ostia
He was one of the most prominent and active supporters of the
, especially as
in Germany in 1084, and was
among the few whom Gregory VII nominated as possible successors to be Pope
. Desiderius, abbot of
Cassino, who became Pope Victor
III (1086–87), was chosen Pope initially, but, after his short
reign, Otho was elected Pope Urban II by acclamation (March 1088)
at a small meeting of cardinals and other prelates held in Terracina.
He took up the policies of Pope Gregory
VII, and while pursuing them with determination, showed greater
flexibility, and diplomatic finesse. At the outset, he had
to reckon with the presence of the powerful antipope Clement III (1080, 1084–1100)
in Rome; but a series of well-attended synods
held in Rome, Amalfi, Benevento, and Troia supported
him in renewed declarations against simony,
Investiture Controversy, and
clerical marriages, and a
continued opposition to Emperor Henry
accordance with this last policy, the marriage of the countess
Matilda of Tuscany with Guelph of Bavaria was promoted,
Prince Conrad was helped in his
rebellion against his father and crowned King of the Romans at Milan in 1093, and
the Empress (Adelaide or Praxedes)
encouraged in her charges against her husband.
protracted struggle also with Philip
I of France
(1060–1108), whom he had excommunicated
for his adulterous marriage
to Bertrade de Montfort
II finally proved victorious.
Urban II had much correspondence with Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury
, to whom he
extended an order to come urgently to Rome just after the
Archbishop's first flight from England, and earlier gave his
approval to Anselm's work De Incarnatione Verbi
Incarnation of the Word).
Urban II's crusading
movement took its
first public shape at the Council of
, where, in March 1095, Urban II received an ambassador
from the Byzantine Emperor
Alexios I Komnenos
asking for help against Muslim Turks, who had taken over most of
formerly Byzantine Anatolia. A great council met, attended by
numerous Italian, Burgundian, and French bishops
in such vast numbers it had
to be held in the open air outside the city. At the Council of Clermont
held in November of
the same year, Urban II's sermon proved highly effective, as he
summoned the attending nobility and the people to wrestle the
and the eastern churches
generally from the Seljuk Turks
There exists no exact transcription of Urban II's speech. The five
extant versions of the speech were written down quite a bit later,
and they differ widely from one another. All versions of the speech
except that by Fulcher of Chartres were probably influenced by the
chronicle account of the First Crusade called the Gesta Francorum
(dated c. 1102), whose author also gives a version of the speech.
Fulcher of Chartres was present at the Council, but his version of
Urban's speech was written 1100-1106; Robert the Monk may have been
present, but his version dates about 1106. The two remaining
versions are even later, and written by authors who did not attend
the speech. The five versions of Urban's speech reflect much more
clearly what later authors thought Urban II should have said about
the First Crusade, than what Urban II himself actually did say to
launch the First Crusade. In contrast, there are four extant
letters written by Pope Urban II himself about crusading, to the
Flemish (dated December 1095); to the Bolognese (dated September
1096); to Vallembrosa (dated October 1096); to Catalonian counts
(dated either 1089 or 1096-1099). It is Urban II's own letters,
rather than the paraphrased versions of his speech, that reveal his
actual thinking about crusading. Nevertheless, the versions of the
speech have had a great influence on popular conceptions and
misconceptions about the Crusades, so it is worth comparing the
five composed speeches to Urban's actual words. First, some
selections from the speeches: Fulcher of Chartres has Urban
The chronicler Robert the Monk
put into the mouth of Urban II:
[...] this land which you inhabit, shut in on all sides
by the seas and surrounded by the mountain peaks, is too narrow for
your large population; nor does it abound in wealth; and it
furnishes scarcely food enough for its cultivators.
Hence it is that you murder one another, that you wage
war, and that frequently you perish by mutual wounds.
Let therefore hatred depart from among you, let your
quarrels end, let wars cease, and let all dissensions and
Enter upon the road to the Holy
Sepulchre; wrest that land from the wicked race, and subject
it to yourselves.
[...] God has conferred upon you above all
nations great glory in arms.
Accordingly undertake this journey for the remission of
your sins, with the assurance of the imperishable glory of the
Kingdom of Heaven.
Robert further claims:
When Pope Urban had said these [...] things in
his urbane discourse, he so influenced to one purpose the desires
of all who were present, that they cried out 'It is the will of
It is the will of God!'.
When the venerable Roman pontiff heard that,
[he] said: Most beloved brethren, today is manifest in you
what the Lord says in the Gospel, 'Where two or three are gathered
together in my name there am I in the midst of them.'
Unless the Lord God had been present in your spirits,
all of you would not have uttered the same cry.
For, although the cry issued from numerous mouths, yet
the origin of the cry was one.
Therefore I say to you that God, who implanted this in
your breasts, has drawn it forth from you.
Let this then be your war-cry in combats, because this
word is given to you by God.
When an armed attack is made upon the enemy, let this
one cry be raised by all the soldiers of God: It is the will of
It is the will of God!
Within Fulcher of Chartres
account of pope Urban’s speech, there was a promise of remission of
sins for who ever took part in the crusade.
All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or
in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of
This I grant them through the power of God with which I
O what a disgrace if such a despised and base race,
which worships demons, should conquer a people which has the faith
of omnipotent God and is made glorious with the name of
With what reproaches will the Lord overwhelm us if you
do not aid those who, with us, profess the Christian
Let those who have been accustomed unjustly to wage
private warfare against the faithful now go against the infidels
and end with victory this war which should have been begun long
Let those who for a long time, have been robbers, now
Let those who have been fighting against their brothers
and relatives now fight in a proper way against the
Let those who have been serving as mercenaries for
small pay now obtain the eternal reward.
Let those who have been wearing themselves out in both
body and soul now work for a double honor.
Behold! on this side will be the sorrowful and poor, on
that, the rich; on this side, the enemies of the Lord, on that, his
Let those who go not put off the journey, but rent
their lands and collect money for their expenses; and as soon as
winter is over and spring comes, let them eagerly set out on the
way with God as their guide.
It is disputed whether the famous slogan "God wills it"
or "It is the will of God"
in Latin, Dieu le veut
in French) in
fact was established as a rallying cry during the council. While
Robert the Monk says so, it is also possible that the slogan was
created as a catchy propaganda
Urban II's own letter to the Flemish confirms that he granted
"remission of all their sins" to those undertaking a "military
enterprise" to "liberate the eastern churches." One notable
contrast with the speeches of Robert the Monk, Guibert of Nogent
and Baldric of Dol is the lesser emphasis on Jerusalem itself,
which Urban only once mentions as his own focus of concern: in the
letter to the Flemish he writes "they (the Turks) have seized the
Holy City of Christ, embellished by his passion and resurrection,
and blasphemy to say---have sold her and her churches into
abominable slavery." In the letters to Bologna and Vallembrosa he
refers to the crusaders' desire to set out for Jerusalem rather
than to his own desire that Jerusalem be freed from Muslim rule.
Urban II refers to liberating the church as a whole or the eastern
churches generally rather than to reconquering Jerusalem itself.
The phrases used are "churches of God in the eastern region" and
"the eastern churches" (to the Flemish), "liberation of the Church"
(to Bologna), "liberating Christianity [Lat. Christianitatis]" (to
Vallembrosa), and "the Asian church" (to Catalonian counts).
Coincidentally or not, Fulcher of Chartres' version of Urban's
speech makes no explicit reference to Jerusalem. Rather it more
generally refers to aiding the crusaders' Christian "brothers of
the eastern shore," and to their loss of Asia Minor to the
died on July 29, 1099, fourteen days after the fall of Jerusalem to the Crusaders, but before news of the event had
reached Italy; his successor was Pope
Paschal II (1099–1118).
Urban II and Sicily
Far more subtle than the Crusades, but far more successful over the
long run, was Urban II's program of bringing Campania
into the Catholic sphere, after generations of control from the
and the Aghlabid
in Sicily. His agent in the Sicilian
was the Norman
ruler Roger I
(1091–1101). In 1098, after a
meeting at the Siege of Capua
II bestowed on Roger I extraordinary prerogatives, some of the very
same rights that were being withheld from temporal sovereigns
elsewhere in Europe. Roger I was to be free to appoint bishops
), free to collect Church revenues and forward them
to the papacy (always a lucrative middle position), and free to sit
in judgment on ecclesiastical questions. Roger I was to be
virtually a legate
of the Pope within
Sicily. In re-Christianizing Sicily, seats of new dioceses
needed to be established, and the
boundaries of see
established, with a
church hierarchy re-established after centuries of Muslim
consort Adelaide brought settlers
from the valley of the Po to colonize
Roger I as secular ruler seemed a safe
proposition, as he was merely a vassal
kinsman the Count of Apulia
, himself a
vassal of Rome, so as a well-tested military commander it seemed
safe to give him these extraordinary powers, which were later to
come to terminal confrontations between Roger I's Hohenstaufen
Pope Urban was beatified
in 1881 with his