Updated on the 1st and 15th of every month
An Upside-Down History of the World [Japanese]
[Chapter 3] The Origins of Monotheism

Part 1: A Human Hypothesis
35 The Greatest Failure of the Crusades and an Emboldened Islamic Force

Jerusalem. In Clermont, France, Pope Urban II called on Christians to recapture the Holy Land of Jerusalem.

You won’t find any transcripts of Pope Urban II’s call at Clermont to recapture the Holy Land. Yet the content of the speech lives on today as a history-changing moment. Simply, it would become known as the spark that would ignite the First Crusade—the movement, the world knows, that embroiled the whole of Europe.

The pope’s goal was, in essence, military action: rouse Europe’s chivalric orders, and reclaim Christian control of the Holy Land of Jerusalem.

The immediate response, however, was a surprisingly enthusiastic populace, without of course, the help of mass media like television, radio, newspapers or even propaganda leaflets. Printing technology, after all, hadn’t yet been invented, and the general population was largely illiterate. Nevertheless, the peasants and townspeople came to the pope’s call en masse.

Keep in mind that the “People’s Crusade” was different from what is officially known as the First Crusade. And while the “people” certainly had their own weapons in hand, the arms in their possession were certainly different from those used by a fully equipped society of knights. Rather than members of a full-fledged army, these crusade fighters were more like armed pilgrims.

Their first leader was Peter the Hermit (1050-1115), a relatively unknown French priest from the countryside who, evidently, had once attempted to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem but was waylaid by Muslim believers.

Though some sources claim he was present during Pope Urban II’s speech, Peter is known to have been an altruistic soul admired and respected by many. Wandering from village to village barefooted and shabbily clothed, he had no need for material goods. Instead, he donated to the poor what people gave him, along with what little he did have.

What we do know for certain, however, is that he knew of the pope’s speech, and that he called on many Christian believers to recapture the Holy Land. And in true French fashion, an almost instantaneous gathering of one hundred thousand supporters materialized.

Not surprisingly, among the masses were certain extraordinary citizens. There was, for example, Walter Sans-Avoir the “Penniless”, an exceptional soldier who would become the military leader of the People's Crusade.

The mass of fighters traveled from the Kingdom of France and through the Holy Roman Empire (circa present-day Germany) and the Kingdom of Hungary to eventually arrive at Constantinople in the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire), but not before losing thirty thousand troops in the process. The troops had embarked on their journey without adequate food supplies since the campaign was not purely militaristic.

Of course, there were those who, moved by the fighter’s noble cause, supplied provisions to the soldiers. But it wasn’t enough. And some of these soldiers pillaged. And some who killed those of Jewish faith, calling them “Christ killers”.

The People’s Crusade—Defeat on Arrival

The Byzantine empire may have been Christian, but it was also Eastern Orthodox. That is, its people were not Roman Catholics. The Byzantine Emperor Alexios I’s original request of Pope Urban II in Rome was not to retake the Holy Land, but to receive aid to push back the Seljuk Empire.

Much to his disappointment, Alexios I was greeted instead by thirty thousand starving pilgrims, and he wasn’t about to let them die.

Meanwhile, Peter the Hermit had requested from the Byzantine emperor Alexios I ships to cross the Bosporus on his journey to Jerusalem. Thinking he could rid himself of Peter, the emperor provided the boats and sent the priest and his troops on his way. But the band of peasant crusaders never made it to Jerusalem. The Seljuks quickly wiped out the People’s Crusade.

Walter Sans Avoir didn’t survive the war with the Seljuks either. Only Peter the Hermit escaped back to Constantinople with his life, and just barely. But Peter would continue his efforts and would go on to plan his second invasion of Jerusalem, but this time with a proper army.

Needless to say, this chain of events was extremely influential. It was through these incidents that, even after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and well into the eleventh century, the people of Western Europe developed a collective consciousness under the religious entity of Christianity (Roman Catholicism).

In the summer of the following year, in 1096, chivalric orders from all over Europe set out for the Holy Land.

And so began the First Crusade (1096-1099), a movement made up of a dynamic group of fighters and holy men including bishop Adhemar de Monteil, the chosen representative of the pope from France, Frenchman Raymond de Saint-Gilles, leader of the chivalric order, the Norman Bohemond I of Antioch (1058-1111) from Italy, and Godfrey of Bouillon from Lothringen (1060-1100) (present-day Germany).

Of course, the Crusades themselves have a long and rich history that could fill volumes. So it should come as no surprise that my goal here is to simplify and to home in on the most essential, most pivotal points that influenced our history that followed.