History of France

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5. The First Crusade (1095--1100).--Pilgrimage to the Holy Land had now become one great means by which the men of the West sought pardon for their sins. Jerusalem had long been held by the Arabs, who had treated the pilgrims well; but these had been conquered by a fierce Turcoman tribe, who robbed and oppressed the pilgrims. Peter the Hermit, returning from a pilgrimage, persuaded Pope Urban II. that it would be well to stir up Christendom to drive back the Moslem power, and deliver Jerusalem and the holy places. Urban II. accordingly, when holding a council at Clermont, in Auvergne, permitted Peter to describe in glowing words the miseries of pilgrims and the profanation of the holy places. Cries broke out, "God wills it!" and multitudes thronged to receive crosses cut out in cloth, which were fastened to the shoulder, and pledged the wearer to the holy war or crusade, as it was called. Philip I. took no interest in the cause, but his brother Hugh, Count of Vermandois, Stephen, Count of Blois, Robert, Duke of Normandy, and Raymond, Count of Toulouse, joined the expedition, which was made under Godfrey of Bouillon, Duke of Lower Lorraine, or what we now call the Netherlands. The crusade proved successful; Jerusalem was gained, and a kingdom of detached cities and forts was founded in Palestine, of which Godfrey became the first king. The whole of the West was supposed to keep up the defence of the Holy Land, but, in fact, most of those who went as armed pilgrims were either French, Normans, or Aquitanians; and the men of the East called all alike Franks. Two orders of monks, who were also knights, became the permanent defenders of the kingdom--the Knights of St. John, also called Hospitallers, because they also lodged pilgrims and tended the sick; and the Knights Templars. Both had establishments in different countries in Europe, where youths were trained to the rules of their order. The old custom of solemnly girding a young warrior with his sword was developing into a system by which the nobly born man was trained through the ranks of page and squire to full knighthood, and made to take vows which bound him to honourable customs to equals, though, unhappily, no account was taken of his inferiors.

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