On November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II stood up at the Council of Clermont in central France to make an important announcement. Persians (by whom he meant the Turks), “a people rejected by God,” had risen up against the Christians in the East, he said. It was imperative for the knighthood of Europe to rush to defend their brethren. Take up arms, he urged, and defend the faithful who were suffering unspeakable deeds at the hands of the oppressors.
The story of the First Crusade has remained largely the same ever since. The expedition that eventually reached and captured Jerusalem in 1099 was conceived by the pope, who seized the chance to encourage men in Western Europe (above all France) to march to drive the Turks back from major Christian sites. It is a story that was commemorated in chronicles, poems and songs almost as soon as the Crusaders reached the Holy City; and it is a story that has been told for generations ever since.
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