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Interpreting Speech at Council of Clermont Essay

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Updated: Jul 15th, 2021

Pope Urban II is known as a person who contributed to the first crusade by providing his convincing speech. He appealed to the pontiff for Christian compassion, emphasizing that Jerusalem is seized by the infidels, the Holy Sepulcher is in their hands, and Christian pilgrims are persecuted. Due to the fact that there are several version of the identified speech, historians interpreted this speech differently and presented arguments in support of them. It is critical to analyze the way they positioned their interpretations and identify the most relevant ones.

While some historians wrote their versions of the speech by Pope Urban II based on their presence during it, others focused on other people’s evidence or being in Clermont at that time. In particular, Fulcher of Chartres is one of the most trustable historians who presumably documented the speech before 1100.1 In turn, Historia Iherosolymitana may be found among the works of Robert the Monk, who reproduced it several years after the speech as he was at Clermont.

According to Munro, Baldric of Bourgueli provided the speech version after 1107, yet he was present at the Council during the speech. One may note that both Gilbert and William of Malmesbury used Fulcher’s work as a source of their own versions. The reconstruction of the documents created by the mentioned historians allows considering and evaluating their content in order to reveal the most appropriate speech documentation. The historians support their arguments by referring to other authors or stressing that they were at the event. Some historians left unanswered the topics regarding Turks and praise of Franks. Compared to other historians, Gilbert misses the majority of points.

A range of topics composes the versions of the identified authors, while their comparison is essential for understanding their value. For instance, the appeals for assistance from the East may be found in Robert, Baldric, and Fulcher, while Gilbert and William did not mention it. Accordingly, the sufferings of Christians are presented by all historians in a varying degree except Gilbert who noted only torments of pilgrims. As claimed by Robert Monk and Fulcher, Pope Urban II is called the knights to conquer the East: he demanded that they subjugate the land of Jerusalem.2

In other words, the pope appealed not only to religious feelings but also to the greed of those of his listeners who were surrounded by the sword, so that they would seize the treasures of their enemies. The point was to withdraw a torrent of knightly freemen from Europe, which was detrimental to the most feudal landownership, as well as satisfy the aggressiveness of knighthood at the expense of the infidel in remote countries.

In my point of view, the interpretations of Fulcher and Robert present a magnificent hymn in honor of the crusading actions. The seizure of Jerusalem, which crowned the crusading epic, was described by Fulcher, who praised it as one of the greatest events in the history of Christianity. Gilbert emphasizing his historical education in search of the best way to glorify the crusading actions of the Franks compared them with the famous wars of antiquity and cited other holy wars.3

The historian focused on Philip’s bloody victories and the frenzy of Alexander, who rushed to conquer the whole East. In my opinion, an ideal image of a knight was as follows: religious and heroic persons, who acted supposedly solely on ideological motives, were morally impeccable, practiced Christian virtues, highly disciplined, devoted, and unanimous.

Speaking of ethical, intellectual, and professional issues, it should be stressed that many facts witnessed in the chronicles of the First Crusade essentially contradict the idea of a crusade. Even though it is assumed that the assistance to Christians on the East was the pivotal goal, the evidence shows that several other factors also existed. The intellectual issues are largely associated with the critical appraisal of the existing documents. In order to be fair and accurate in interpretations, the historians should have tried to present facts as they are, avoiding misunderstanding. However, one may suggest that the time of their works might affect them.

The fear of the pope’s reaction might serve as the driver impacting truthfulness. In addition, contrary to the intentions of the historians, the material presented in their writings often shows that the basis of the crusading aspirations of the knighthood was l mercenary, aggressive motives. As professionals, the authors should have mentioned that the Crusaders were an internally weakly welded and torn apart by sharp social contradictions.


Bull, Marcus. “History 7, no. 254 (1993): 353-372. Web.

Cowdrey, Herbert EJ. “History 55, no. 184 (1970): 177-188. Web.

Munro, Dana Carleton. “The American Historical Review 11, no. 2 (1906): 231-242. Web.


  1. Dana Carleton Munro, “The Speech of Pope Urban II. At Clermont, 1095,” The American Historical Review 11, no. 2 (1906): 232. Web.
  2. Herbert EJ Cowdrey, “Pope Urban II’s preaching of the first crusade,” History 55, no. 184 (1970): 180-88. Web.
  3. Marcus Bull, “The roots of lay enthusiasm for the first crusade,” History 7, no. 254 (1993): 363. Web.
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