The First Crusade: A Stepping Stone of Centralization
A. Dallin Grimm
University of Utah Member ΦΑΘ-AP Read at the Utah Regional ΦΑΘ Conference at Utah State University
Published in Utah Historical Review, Vol III.
In the midst of struggles between the Church and noble lords over the political and spiritual wellbeing of Western Europe, Pope Urban II preached the First Crusade to install an essential foundation that allowed papal authority to gradually expand beyond the walls of Rome. Taking advantage of events external to Western Europe, as well as the existing religious and political framework, he successfully harnessed vast measures of military force and believers, allowing him to help establish, for the first time, spiritual and political control over the Church and its flock. Based on works of Thomas Asbridge and Thomas Madden, as well as a variety of accounts of Urban’s speech at Clermont, this paper describes Urban’s methodology for successfully preaching and launching the First Crusade within the context of the power struggles between the papacy and Christendom’s kings. Building upon the crucial reforms of Pope Gregory VII, Urban’s methodology included masterfully integrating crusading ideology into existing societal systems, using feudal familiarities to connect with members of the ruling class, as well as with lesser members of society. At the core of these teachings was a powerful principle that linked righteous warfare to obtaining salvation. Such a pursuit appealed to the knightly class, which centered largely on warfare and violence. Describing the development of the First Crusade illustrates the genius of Urban to act, thereby placing a critical stepping-stone that critically shifted the balance of centralized power to the Church’s side of the scale, a shift that gradually continued over the next several centuries and resulted in the Church’s dominant position in the Christian world.