The Crusades were a series of Holy Wars that were started to gain control of the Holy Lands from the Turks and to allow Christian access to holy areas in and around Jerusalem. This is the main and most known reason that is known for starting the Crusades. It is universally accepted that Pope Urban II had called the Christians to join him in a Holy War as an act of Christianity. However, many attributes of the motivations of the Crusades were not characteristic to that of Christianity. When Pope Urban delivered his speech on beginning the Crusades he did so with ulterior motives. The Pope may have had some other reasons for beginning these terrible wars. While the main motivations for the Crusades were primarily religious, Pope Urban’s speech and other social factors instilled the general unrest of the people to fight in the Holy Wars, so that in turn he could gain more power and control over his lands and followers.
The primary reason for most crusaders for joining in the fight to free Jerusalem was spiritually based. Pope Urban declared in his speech to the people of Clermont-Ferrand, “All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins. This I grant them through the power of God with which I am invested” (Pope Urban II). He promised them amnesty in the eyes of God if they fought and died in these wars. He went on to urge the people to fight to prevent any more Christian lives from being lost. In this way, Urban had convinced the knights and peasants who joined the Crusades that they were fighting not only for themselves and the forgiveness of their sins, but for the protection of others and to reclaim the Holy Lands. They justified their slaughtering to themselves by believing that it was the will of God. Their battle-cry was often, “ ‘Deus lo Volt!’, or ‘God Wills It’ ”(Maaoulf 134). Many people were convinced to join the Crusades because of some religious reason. Most people joined solely because of the reason that fellow Christians were being killed in the East. Many knights of the Crusades were just, “desiring a way to become closer to God” (Foss 26). Also, it was near impossible for any one of the Christian faith to live or even get near inside the city of Jerusalem to some very sacred sites. This in itself was a major religious factor that convinced people to fight. Pope Urban II found a way to motivate a large sum of people through religious and idealistic reasoning.
While the Pope may have had primary religious concerns for starting the Crusades, some actions he took have suggested deeper motives of more power and control over his lands. On November 18, 1095 AD, Pope Urban II opened the Council of Clermont. The Pope then made a very important speech just outside the French city of Clermont-Ferrand a couple of days later. Originally the Crusades were about helping the churches in the East. In his speech, he asked the people to help the Christians’ effort to restore peace to the East. He stated, “For your brethren who live in the East are in urgent need of your help, and you must hasten to give them the aid which has often been promised them” (Pope Urban II). He instilled a need to help fellow Christians from dying. Now the primary goal of the Crusades was to reclaim the Holy Land. The main focus of this campaign was the city of Jerusalem and claiming it from the Muslims. But not all of the Pope’s reasons for the Crusades were as holy as that one. This struggle would gain more power for the Pope in the East, where he had virtually none. Even in the West, at this time, the Pope had hardly any power over Christianity. In Urban’s mind, the best way to unite his followers was a war of epic proportions, a Holy War. United followers would strengthen Urban’s power and his influence in the world. He had hoped that he could make his religious traditions a more daily practice in his lands. Pope Urban II