The Crusades: Peter the Hermit

In the year 1072, some twenty years after the conquest of Jerusalem by the Turks.  Peter Gautier better known as Peter the Hermit, would receive penance for one’s sins, to receive absolution.

A toll paid by Peter at the gate to the Holy City of Jerusalem, was a heavy one; a single gold coin, equal to five Spanish dollars.

He wore a simple cloak, that of a hermit, made of coarse dark cloth.  As a pilgrim was forced to take vows of poverty, and exist on the alms of charitable gifts on their long route.

Peter had been a soldier in his youth, under Eustace de Bouillon, the father of Godfrey de Bouillon, one of the heroes of the Crusades.

Christianity spread westwards, pilgrimages were frequent to the Holy Land, as they desired to see the tomb of their Redeemer.  To tread upon the land of Mount Calvary, where their redeemer had been crucified.

The pilgrims to Jerusalem, were called the “Armies of the Lord.”

In 1035, a troop of pilgrims arrived from France, their destination the Holy City of Jerusalem, led by Robert the 6th Duke of Normandy, sometimes called “Robert the Devil.”  According to history, he poisoned, he murdered his own brother; Richard III of Normandy in 1028.  His son was William the Conqueror, King William I of England.

Robert the 6th Duke of Normandy, left his illegitimate son William and his heir, under the protection of the then French King whilst he headed for Jerusalem in the Holy Land.  Little did he know, that he would never return to see William grow up and become Duke William and King of England, for he died of fever in Bithynia.

The Saracens did not expel the Christians, for their expeditions became a constant source of revenue, but they thought nothing of showering the priests with abuse.  The Persians sacked Jerusalem in AD614, then they attempted to destroy the Holy Sepulchre, but all they managed, burning down the temple erected over it.  In 637, Jerusalem fell into Saracen hands.

As Peter the Hermit neared Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives would rise up above the city wall.  Mount Calvary, upon which a temple to Jupiter and Bethlehem, where upon an altar to the heathen Adonis, had been placed on the very spot.  What lay around him, brought tears to his eyes; desolation, horror and misery.  Peter spoke out; “Jerusalem shall be set free by western warriors.”  As penance I will cross Europe, and speak out of the state of the church, urging them to rescue the grave of our Lord.

Peter with tears of joy spoke out, “God will look down on our afflictions!  He will soften the hearts of Europe’s princes towards us!  He will send them to rescue this Holy City.”  Peter’s zeal knew no bounds; and persuaded that heaven had charged him to avenge Christians, and vowed to return to the west, enlisting the sympathy of Europe for their eastern Brethren.

He left Palestine, crossing the sea bound for Italy, where upon he hastened to Rome and Pope Urban II.

The Holy Father, Pope Urban II welcomed him as a prophet, and sent him out to preach of the first Crusade to the people.  Wherever he went, whether it be a castle, wealthy land owners or even the village square, describing the hardship felt by these Christians in far off lands, the crowds listened.

In 1094, Peter the Hermit was one of those summoned by Pope Urban II to attend the council meeting at Clermont, France.  Peter described to those present, what he had witnessed with his own eyes, describing outrages committed by its infidel possessors against the faithful in Jerusalem.  How they were enslaved and degraded, and seen Christians in the Holy Land forced to purchase permission to worship at their Redeemer’s Tomb.  Peter’s gloomy face said it all, his difficulty in speaking, tears in his eyes, influenced those present.

Then the Pope rose to his feet and addressed those present… which included “Christians, hasten to help your brothers in the East, for they are being attacked.  Arm for the rescue of Jerusalem under your captain; Christ.  Wear his cross as your badge.  If you are killed your sins will be pardoned.”  Enthusiastic feelings were aroused by the Pope’s address and Peter’s eloquence did not fade away.

Thousand’s answered the call to take up arms.  Many were true Christians, who believed it was right to reclaim Jerusalem for the Christian World.  Other’s had committed sin in the past, and believed God might forgive them if they took part.  They had been told if they died in battle doing God’s work, they would go to heaven.  Other’s saw it as a way of getting rich quick, hoping to find treasures.  Before many months had passed, the ardour for war against the Saracens spread throughout Europe.

Departure of the First Crusade, took place in 1096, on the “Feast of the Assumption.”  The first force of Crusader’s was led by Peter the Hermit.  His army was known as the “Peoples Crusade” they who wore the emblem of a cross upon their shoulders.  They had no provisions, expecting to receive food, as they crossed one country to the next, or live off the land.

They left a wake of destruction in their path, as they crossed the Byzantine Empire.

Many a prince embraced the cause; Godfrey de Bouillon, Robert of Normandy, Edgar Atheling, Robert Earl of Flanders, Stephen de Blois, Raymond Count de Toulouse and Hugh of Vermandois.

Difficulties were seen in moving such a large number of foot soldiers as a single force; thus, they broke it down into separate forces, and all would meet up at Constantinople.  This great multitude assembled in Lorraine in spring 1096.  An army composed of thousands of foot soldiers, and a handful of knights.

Four armies departed for Byzantium in the August of 1096, led by Raymond of saint-Giles, Godfrey of Bouillon, Hugh of Vermandois and Bohemond of Taranto.

The feeling for this war was strong, and only the infirmed remained behind.  Warriors arrived from the Tiber to the Rhine, from the oceans to the Alps, and one cry alone was to be heard; Jerusalem! Jerusalem!

Along France’s main high roads, scarcely any armed bands were to be seen, except those bound for the Holy Land.  Camps were erected, prayers and hymns heard, altars erected for warriors to ask for a blessing on this military expedition.

Walter the Penniless, also known as Walter Sans Avoir, took part of Peter the Hermits army, whilst Peter and the bulk of his army took advantage of foods supplies on offer at Cologne.

The King of Hungary, gave the first force permission to cross his lands, he never expected that this so-called religious army, would disgrace the Pope.  As they passed through Semlin, they stole food.  They went on to cause havoc in Belgrade, plundering the peasantry, and the Hungarians were forced to pick up arms and destroy them.  A force of sixty took shelter in the chapel and were burnt alive, others escaped death, through the Hungarian forests and onto Constantinople.

Peter the Hermit with his army of 40,000 men, women and children came upon the town, where fallen Christians had perished, witnessing a battlefield of flags and crosses.  Out of revenge every inhabitant was killed.

Peter the Hermit, a French Monk from Amiens preached upon the Mount of Olives, and shortly thereafter returned to Europe.  He founded the Augustinian Monastery; Church of the Holy Sepulchre in France.  Peter the Hermit died as their Prior in 1131.

First Crusade: French Crusader’s

Saint-Michel at Le Puy Chapel in France.jpg

Chapel of Saint-Michel

The Romanesque designed chapel of Saint-Michel, located 275 feet above the valley floor at Le Puy in the Auvergne region of France.  Access was by way of a staircase, set amongst a collection of medieval houses, at the foot of the rock.

Le Puy was one of many recruiting centres across Europe, where would be crusaders would step forward, take the cross and make their vows before Bishop Adhemar.  He who had been appointed the spiritual leader of the crusade by Pope Urban II.

The crusade attracted powerful princes from the Christian world:

Hugh, Count of Vermandois, youngest son of Henry I of France, departed for Italy in August 1096 with a small army.

godfrey-of-bouillon

Godfrey of Bouillon

Godfrey of Bouillon, Duke of Lower Lorraine, mortgaged his entire estate to the Bishops of Liege and Verdun and with younger brother Baldwin raised a sizeable army.  Eustace III, Count of Boulogne, their other brother joined the crusade at a later date, bringing with him a small army.

Stephen of Blois, married to Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror, joined up with Duke Robert of Normandy, eldest son of William the Conqueror and Count Robert of Flanders.

Crusaders drew up agreements with the church; many mortgaged their estates, for the duration they fought in the Holy Land.  Failure to return saw many estates fall into the hands of the church.

Godfrey of Bouillon, headed towards Jerusalem by passing through Hungary, and King Colman held Baldwin and his family as hostages, on the promise they would pass through without incident.

Robert of Normandy, Robert of Flanders and Stephen of Blois forces marched across France, crossing into Southern Italy.  Pope Urban II met these crusaders at Lucca, giving them his blessing.

Pope Urban II

Pope Urban II

Nicaea with its ancient churches and palaces had been captured by the Turks at the “Battle of Manzikert” in 1071.  French Crusaders caught the Sultan off guard, as he was away putting down another Muslim force.  When the Sultan’s force returned, they were greeted by a besieged city.

Crusader’s crossed the Anatolian plateau and onto Palestine, where the army split into two forces.

By now Crusader’s were considered serious warriors by the Turk’s and Sultan’s.  On the 1st July, Sultan Kilij Arslan and Turks attacked the crusader camp near Dorylaeum.  What had hoped to be a decisive win turned to disaster as the other half of the crusader army, attacked from high up in the mountain ridges, located behind them.

Crusader’s reached Heraclea (Eregli), where upon Turkish forces attacked, but victory was achieved swiftly as crusaders sent the Turks packing.

Baldwin rode one-hundred and fifty miles with eighty knights across the Euphrates River, to the city of Edessa in the east.  Baldwin was received by Prince Thoros, but very quickly Thoros was murdered and Baldwin installed as Count Baldwin of Edessa.

Antioch, Alexandra, Constantinople and Rome, were fabled cities adorned with luxurious palaces and villas.

Antioch; enclosed by an eighteen mile wall with 450 towers stood between the crusaders and victory.  The crusader’s set up camp, waiting for the order to attack.  In 1098, as supplies got low, an English fleet commanded by Edgar Atheling arrived.  With fresh manpower and supplies, two fortresses were constructed, outside the wall, thus tightening the blockade.

On the 2nd June 1098, word was received as a traitor in the city, lowered a rope ladder from the Tower of the Two sisters, allowing sixty crusader’s to reach the ramparts.  Christians assisted the crusaders and the large gates were opened, as the crusader army burst through killing the Turks.  Antioch had finally been captured and restored as a Christian city.

A few days later Kerbogha’s forces arrived to take back the city… those crusaders within were doomed, or were they?

One Peter Bartholomew, a peasant told of his vision to Adhemar, Bishop of Le Puy, and the hiding place of the Holy Lance, used to pierce Jesus Christ upon the cross.

Peter Bartholomew dug up the Holy Lance from the floor of the Cathedral of St.Peter.

Against overwhelming odds, crusaders withstood famine and siege for eight and a half months, against a mighty Muslim army, only to be saved from death, by barefooted priests carrying the Holy Lance… Kerbogha’s army fled…

Wikipedia Images

The First Crusade

First Crusade

The First Crusade

In 1095, Emperor Alexius I of the Byzantine Empire called upon the West for help against Muslim forces in the Holy Land.  He sent envoys, pleading for mercenary troops from the West to confront these Seljuk Turks.

In November of 1095, Pope Urban II called for a Crusade, for Western Christians to take up arms and recapture the Holy Land, from these Muslims at the Council of Clermont in Southern France.

We had the Pope and Normans, wanting to safeguard pilgrim routes to Jerusalem, saving holy places of interest for the Christian World.  Protecting it, against invasion and destruction by these Seljuk Turks.  By offering assistance to the Byzantine Empire, they believed they could unite both the Christian Churches of the East and West into one.

Words spoken by Pope Urban II, when he called for a crusade, included:

“Christians, hasten to help your brothers in the East, for they are being attacked.  Arm for the rescue of Jerusalem under your captain Christ.  Wear his cross as your badge.  If you are killed your sins will be pardoned.”

Thousand’s answered the call to take up arms.  Many were true Christians, who believed it was right to reclaim Jerusalem for the Christian World.  Others had committed sin in the past, and believed God might forgive them if they took part.  They had been told if they died in battle doing God’s work, they would go to heaven.  Others saw it as a way of getting rich, hoping to find treasures.

An early group of Crusader’s consisting of knights and commoners led by Peter the Hermit, known as the “People’s Crusade” left a wake of destruction in their path, as they crossed the Byzantine Empire.  They met Turkish forces at Cibotus where they were crushed.

Four armies departed for Byzantium in the August of 1096, led by ; Raymond of Saint-Gilles, Godfrey of Bouillon, Hugh of Vermandois and Bohemond of Taranto.

In 1097 some 10,000 knights, nobles and churchmen gathered at Constantinople for the journey to the Holy Land… to push the Turks out.

The Norman’s were highly enthusiastic supporters of this Holy War.  Of the eight leaders, five were Norman or had Norman connections, like Robert, the Duke of Normandy, son of William the Conqueror.

The first target for these crusaders, eager for battle was the fortress city of Nicea, which was taken with ease.

The second target was Antioch, a strongly protected Turkish city, which took seven months to crack.  The city of Antioch was developed into a Norman State within the Holy Land.

In the summer of 1099, the campaign to re-take Jerusalem commenced, with its well defended and high walls surrounding the city.

It is believed some 70,000 people died during a massacre of Jews and Muslims after the city had been taken by the Crusader’s.  The streets of Jerusalem, were said to run red with blood.  The city was ransacked for treasure.

After the success of the Crusader’s regaining the city of Jerusalem, many knights returned home, having achieved their goal, by saving Jerusalem.

The Kingdom of Jerusalem was created with Godfrey of Bouillon as its first King.  Upon his death, he was succeeded by his brother; Baldwin of Boulogne in 1100.

Four large settlements; Jerusalem, Edessa, Antioch and Tripoli were established, each guarded by castles, giving the Crusader’s the upper hand in the region.  This lasted until the fall of Edessa in 1144.

(Image) The First Crusade: Wikipedia