The 1074 call for Crusade by Pope Gregory VII

The 1095 speech by Pope Urban II delivered at Clermont Ferrand is well known. This speech aimed at arrousing the people to start a armed pilgrimage to deliver the Holy Land from the hands of the "pagans", that later became known as the First Crusade.

Less well known is the speech with a similar purpose delivered in 1074, so about 20 years earlier, by Pope Gregory VII. In this speech the Pope suggested a military expedition to assist the Byzantine empire against the Seljuk Turks, following the defeat of the Byzantine army under Emperor Romanos IV Diogene by the Seljuk Turks at Manzikert in 1071. The very first call to crusade?

In the same year Jerusalem was captured by the Turkish warlord Atsiz ibn Uvaq, who seized most of Syria and Palestine as part of the expansion of the Seljuk Turks throughout the Middle East. As the Turks were staunch Sunnis, they were opposed not only to the Fatimids, but also to the numerous Shia Muslims, who saw themselves removed by the Turks  from dominance after a century of Fatimid (Egyptian) rule. 

Gregory's call, that strikingly lacks any reference to Jerusalem but aims only at coming to the aid of the Byzantine emperor in general, goes as follows:

"Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to all who are willing to defend the Christian faith, greeting and apostolic benediction.

We hereby inform you that the bearer of this letter, on his recent return from across the sea [from Palestine], came to Rome to visit us. He repeated what we had heard from many others, that a pagan race had overcome the Christians and with horrible cruelty had devastated everything almost to the walls of Constantinople, and were now governing the conquered lands with tyrannical violence, and that they had slain many thousands of Christians as if they were but sheep.

If we love God and wish to be recognized as Christians, we should be filled with grief at the misfortune of this great empire [the Greek] and the murder of so many Christians. But simply to grieve is not our whole duty. The example of our Redeemer and the bond of fraternal love demand that we should lay down our lives to liberate them. "Because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" [1 John 3:16]. Know, therefore, that we are trusting in the mercy of God and in the power of his might and that we are striving in all possible ways and making preparations to render aid to the Christian empire [the Greek] as quickly as possible.

Therefore we beseech you by the faith in which you are united through Christ in the adoption of the sons of God, and by the authority of St. Peter, prince of apostles, we admonish you that you be moved to proper compassion by the wounds and blood of your brethren and the danger of the aforesaid empire and that, for the sake of Christ, you undertake the difficult task of bearing aid to your brethren [the Greeks]. Send messengers to us at once to inform us of what God may inspire you to do in this matter."

sources text www.gutenberg.org and Wikipedia

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