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The First Crusade

Council of Clermont

Council of Clermont, 1095

In August of the year 1095, Pope Urban II arrived in southern France. Urban was a pope strongly committed to Church reform and he intended to see to it personally. He sent letters from Le Puy calling for a general Church council in November at the town of Clermont. He spent September and October visiting various towns, interviewing bishops and abbots, meting out praise or punishment as he saw fit. He arrived in Clermont in mid-November.

The Council sat from the 18th through the 28th of November. It was a large Council with over three hundred clerics attending. The Council passed reforming decrees in keeping with the Cluniac reform movement, including ones concerning simony and clerical marriage. At this Council, too, King Philip of France was excommunicated for adultery.

The pope also made an announcement that a public session would be held Tuesday 27 November at which the pope would make an important speech to the general public. This created a good deal of interest, and many people from the surrounding areas came to Clermont to hear the pope's words.

On the day of Urban's speech, the assembled crowd was so large that they could not fit everyone into the cathedral, so the papal throne was set up in an empty field outside the eastern gate of the town. Those in attendance included many commoners in addition to local nobility. The great nobles of Europe, however, the kings and dukes and so on, were not there. Urban's invitation had only gone out locally.

In the 19thc illustration below you can see how romanticized all this became. For one thing, that's Peter the Hermit in front, and he wasn't even at Clermont—Pope Urban is over his left shoulder. The artist has put nobles in the picture who did not attend: I'm pretty sure that's Godfrey with the sword and Raymond behind Pope Urban. And who's the clown who rode his warhorse right into the middle of the throng? Yeesh. At least the rendering of the cathedral isn't bad.

Pope Urban speaks to the crowd,
Illustration from Francois Guizot, "History of France...", 1883
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