Gregory VII: Call for a "Crusade", 1074
[Thatcher] Gregory VII barely missed the honor of having begun
the crusading movement. His plan is clear from the following
letter. The situation in 1095 was not materially different from
that in 1074, and it is probable that Urban II, when he called
for a crusade, had nothing more in mind than Gregory VII had when
he wrote this letter. Gregory was unable to carry out his plans
because he became involved in the struggle with Henry IV.
Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to all who are
willing to defend the Christian faith, greeting and apostolic
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 has 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 inform us of what
God may inspire you to do in this matter.
In Migne, Patrologia Latina, 148:329
trans. Oliver J. Thatcher, and Edgar Holmes McNeal, eds., A
Source Book for Medieval History, (New York: Scribners, 1905),
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(c)Paul Halsall Mar 1996 [updated 11/23/96]