Saturday, September 24, 2011
Pope Urban II (ca. 1035 – 1099)
It’s undeniable that Otho de Lagery, who became Pope Urban II in 1088, was a talented diplomat and successful leader, responsible for establishing the modern Roman Curia and supporting reforms of the clergy. What he is most often remembered for, however, is his unfortunate role in launching a bloody holy war against Muslims that has since come to be known as The First Crusade.
In 1095, Byzantine Emperor Alexios I requested Urban’s aid in fighting off the Turks, who had conquered most of Anatolia. Urban responded favorably by using his remarkable rhetorical skills to preach “Just War” – a holy, God-ordained crusade to liberate the eastern churches and the Holy Land from Muslim rule. By appealing to Catholic anger over the rumored (and often unfairly trumped-up) atrocities committed by the invading Turks, and by guaranteeing remission of sins to those who would participate in the fight, Urban was able to organize a large-scale uprising of piously outraged soldiers of Christ.
The religiously-sanctioned First Crusade, while successful in defeating Muslim forces in Anatolia and the Holy Land, was very costly in terms of casualties. Not only was there a huge loss of lives on both sides, but the horrible offenses committed by enraged Christians against Jews, Muslims, and even members of the “schismatic” Eastern church will always be a bloody stain on the pages of church history.