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Pope Urban II

Blessed Pope
Urban II
19th-century illustration
Papacy began 12 March 1088
Papacy ended 29 July 1099
Predecessor Victor III
Successor Paschal II
Ordination C. 1068
Consecration 20 July 1085
Created Cardinal 1073
by Gregory VII
Personal details
Birth name Otho de Lagery
Born ca.1042
Lagery, County of Champagne, Kingdom of France
Died 29 July 1099(1099-07-29)
Rome, Papal States, Holy Roman Empire
Previous post
  • Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia (1078-1088)
  • Cardinal-Bishop of Velletri (1080-1088)
  • Legate in Germany (1084-1085)
Feast day 29 July
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 14 July 1881
by Pope Leo XIII
Other popes named Urban
Papal styles of
Pope Urban II
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style Blessed

Pope Urban II (Latin: Urbanus II; ca. 1042 – 29 July 1099), born Otho de Lagery[1] (alternatively Otto, Odo, or Eudes), was Pope from 12 March 1088 to his death in 1099. He is best known for initiating the First Crusade (1096–1099) and setting up the modern-day Roman Curia in the manner of a royal ecclesiastical court to help run the Church.[2]

Pope Gregory VII named him cardinal-bishop of Ostia ca. 1080. He was one of the most prominent and active supporters of the Gregorian reforms, especially as legate in Germany in 1084 and was among the few whom Gregory VII nominated as papabile (possible successors). Desiderius, abbot of Monte Cassino was first chosen pope as Victor III when Gregory VII died in 1085, but after Victor's short reign, Otho was elected Pope Urban II by acclamation (March 1088) at a small meeting of cardinals and other prelates held in Terracina in March 1088. He took up the policies of Pope Gregory VII, and while pursuing them with determination, showed greater flexibility and diplomatic finesse. At the outset, he had to reckon with the presence of the powerful antipope Clement III in Rome, but a series of well-attended synods held in Rome, Amalfi, Benevento, and Troia supported him in renewed declarations against simony, lay investitures, clerical marriages (partly via the cullagium tax), and continued opposition to Emperor Henry IV.

In accordance with this last policy, the marriage of the Countess Matilda of Tuscany with Guelph of Bavaria was promoted; Prince Conrad of Italy was assisted in his rebellion against his father and crowned King of the Romans at Milan in 1093; and Henry IV's wife, the Empress (Adelaide), was encouraged in her charges of sexual coercion against her husband. In a protracted struggle with King Philip I of France, whom he had excommunicated for his adulterous marriage to Bertrade de Montfort, Urban II finally proved victorious.

Urban II exchanged much correspondence with Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury, to whom he extended an order to come urgently to Rome just after the archbishop's first flight from England, and earlier gave his approval to Anselm's work Epistola de Incarnatione Verbi (On The Incarnation of the Word).


  • Crusades 1
  • Urban II and Sicily 2
  • Beatification 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • External links 6


During the time of Pope Urban II, and the First Crusade, there began a significant struggle for power to appoint secular rulers and churchmen. The origins of the investiture controversy, according to Jay Rubenstein started with Pope Urban II whose central problem was a war against Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor (1056-1106). At stake was the question of who had the right to invest bishops with their offices- secular rulers or churchmen, kings or popes. Hence the common name for this struggle was the “Investiture Controversy”.[3]

"Urban II's problems included war with Germany,conflict in France, a rival pope and Christians in the East under siege. Perhaps a massive pilgrimage (the word 'crusade' had not yet been invented) may solve these problems."[4]

The Pope's movement took its first public shape at the Council of Piacenza, where, in March 1095, Urban II received an ambassador from the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos asking for help against Muslim (Seljuk) Turks who had taken over most of formerly Byzantine Anatolia. A great council met, attended by numerous Italian, Burgundian, and French bishops in such vast numbers it had to be held in the open air outside the city of Clermont. At the Council of Clermont held in November of the same year, Urban II's sermon proved highly effective, as he summoned the attending nobility and the people to wrest the Holy Land, and the eastern churches generally from the control of the Seljuk Turks.

There exists no exact transcription of the speech that Urban delivered at the Council of Clermont on 27 November 1095. The five extant versions of the speech were written down quite a bit later, and they differ widely from one another. All versions of the speech except that by Fulcher of Chartres were probably influenced by the chronicle account of the First Crusade called the Gesta Francorum (dated c. 1102), which includes a version of it. Fulcher of Chartres was present at the Council, but his version of the speech was written c. 1100–1106; Robert the Monk may have been present, but his version dates from about 1106. The two remaining versions were written even later by authors who certainly did not witness the speech. The five versions of Urban's speech reflect much more clearly what later authors thought Urban II should have said to launch the First Crusade than what Urban II himself actually did say. As a better means of evaluating Urban's true motivations in calling for a crusade to the Holy Lands, there are four extant letters written by Pope Urban II himself: one to the Flemish (dated December 1095); one to the Bolognese (dated September 1096); one to Vallombrosa (dated October 1096); and one to the counts of Catalonia (dated either 1089 or 1096–1099). It is Urban II's own letters, rather than the paraphrased versions of his speech at Clermont, that reveal his actual thinking about crusading. Nevertheless, the versions of the speech have had a great influence on popular conceptions and misconceptions about the Crusades, so it is worth comparing the five composed speeches to Urban's actual words. Fulcher of Chartres has Urban say this:

I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ's heralds to publish this everywhere and to pers­e all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends. I say this to those who are present, it is meant also for those who are absent. Moreover, Christ commands it.[5]
Pope Urban II preaches the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont.
The chronicler Robert the Monk put this into the mouth of Urban II:
... this land which you inhabit, shut in on all sides by the seas and surrounded by the mountain peaks, is too narrow for your large population; nor does it abound in wealth; and it furnishes scarcely food enough for its cultivators. Hence it is that you murder one another, that you wage war, and that frequently you perish by mutual wounds. Let therefore hatred depart from among you, let your quarrels end, let wars cease, and let all dissensions and controversies slumber. Enter upon the road to the Holy Sepulchre; wrest that land from the wicked race, and subject it to yourselves ... God has conferred upon you above all nations great glory in arms. Accordingly undertake this journey for the remission of your sins, with the assurance of the imperishable glory of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Robert continued:

When Pope Urban had said these ... things in his urbane discourse, he so influenced to one purpose the desires of all who were present, that they cried out "It is the will of God! It is the will of God!". When the venerable Roman pontiff heard that, [he] said: "Most beloved brethren, today is manifest in you what the Lord says in the Gospel, 'Where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.' Unless the Lord God had been present in your spirits, all of you would not have uttered the same cry. For, although the cry issued from numerous mouths, yet the origin of the cry was one. Therefore I say to you that God, who implanted this in your breasts, has drawn it forth from you. Let this then be your war-cry in combats, because this word is given to you by God. When an armed attack is made upon the enemy, let this one cry be raised by all the soldiers of God: It is the will of God! It is the will of God!"[6]
Within Fulcher of Chartres account of pope Urban’s speech there was a promise of remission of sins for whoever took part in the crusade.
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. O what a disgrace if such a despised and base race, which worships demons, should conquer a people which has the faith of omnipotent God and is made glorious with the name of Christ! With what reproaches will the Lord overwhelm us if you do not aid those who, with us, profess the Christian religion! Let those who have been accustomed unjustly to wage private warfare against the faithful now go against the infidels and end with victory this war which should have been begun long ago. Let those who for a long time, have been robbers, now become knights. Let those who have been fighting against their brothers and relatives now fight in a proper way against the barbarians. Let those who have been serving as mercenaries for small pay now obtain the eternal reward. Let those who have been wearing themselves out in both body and soul now work for a double honor. Behold! on this side will be the sorrowful and poor, on that, the rich; on this side, the enemies of the Lord, on that, his friends. Let those who go not put off the journey, but rent their lands and collect money for their expenses; and as soon as winter is over and spring comes, let them eagerly set out on the way with God as their guide.[5]

It is disputed whether the famous slogan "God wills it" or "It is the will of God" (deus vult in Latin, Dieu le veut in French) in fact was established as a rallying cry during the council. While Robert the Monk says so, it is also possible that the slogan was created as a catchy propaganda motto afterward.

Urban II's own letter to the Flemish confirms that he granted "remission of all their sins" to those undertaking a "military enterprise" to "liberate the eastern churches." One notable contrast with the speeches recorded by Robert the Monk, Guibert of Nogent and Baldric of Dol is the lesser emphasis on Jerusalem itself, which Urban only once mentions as his own focus of concern: in the letter to the Flemish he writes, "they [the Turks] have seized the Holy City of Christ, embellished by his passion and resurrection, and blasphemy to say—have sold her and her churches into abominable slavery." In the letters to Bologna and Vallombrosa he refers to the crusaders' desire to set out for Jerusalem rather than to his own desire that Jerusalem be freed from Muslim rule. Urban II refers to liberating the church as a whole or the eastern churches generally rather than to reconquering Jerusalem itself. The phrases used are "churches of God in the eastern region" and "the eastern churches" (to the Flemish), "liberation of the Church" (to Bologna), "liberating Christianity [Lat. Christianitatis]" (to Vallombrosa), and "the Asian church" (to the Catalonian counts). Coincidentally or not, Fulcher of Chartres's version of Urban's speech makes no explicit reference to Jerusalem. Rather it more generally refers to aiding the crusaders' Christian "brothers of the eastern shore," and to their loss of Asia Minor to the Turks.[7]

Urban II died on July 29 1099, fourteen days after the fall of Jerusalem to the Crusaders, but before news of the event had reached Italy; his successor was Pope Paschal II.

Urban II and Sicily

Statue of Urban II in Clermont-Ferrand

Far more subtle than the Crusades, but far more successful over the long run, was Urban II's program of bringing Campania and Sicily firmly into the Catholic sphere after generations of control under the Byzantine Empire and the Aghlabid and Fatimid emirs. His agent in the Sicilian borderlands was the Norman ruler Roger I. In 1098, after a meeting at the Siege of Capua, Urban II bestowed extraordinary prerogatives on Roger, some of the very same rights that were being withheld from temporal sovereigns elsewhere in Europe. Roger was to be free to appoint bishops as a right of ("lay investiture"), free to collect Church revenues and forward them to the papacy, and free to sit in judgment on ecclesiastical questions.[8] Roger I was to be virtually a legate of the Pope within Sicily.[9] In re-Christianizing Sicily, seats of new dioceses needed to be established, and the boundaries of sees established, with a church hierarchy re-established after centuries of Muslim domination.

Roger's consort Adelaide brought settlers from the valley of the Po River to colonize eastern Sicily. Roger as a secular ruler seemed a reliable ally, since he was merely a vassal of his kinsman the Count of Apulia, himself a vassal of Rome, so it seemed safe at the time for Urban to give him these extraordinary powers, which were later to lead to bitter confrontations with Roger I's Hohenstaufen heirs.


Pope Urban was beatified in 1881 by Pope Leo XIII with his feast day on 29 July.[10][11]

See also


  1. ^ Contemporary Reports on the Mediaeval Roman Climate, Anna Celli-Fraentzel, Speculum, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Jan., 1932), 97.
  2. ^ Robert P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes, (HarperCollins, 2000), 182.
  3. ^ Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse. P. 18. Basic Books. 2011. Page 18. ISBN 0-465-01929-3.
  4. ^ Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse. P. 21. Basic Books. 2011. Page 18. ISBN 0-465-01929-3.
  5. ^ a b Fulcher of Chartres' account of Urban's speech, Urban II: Speech at Council of Clermont, 1095, Five versions of the Speech (available as part of the Internet Medieval Sourcebook).
  6. ^ Robert the Monk's account of Urban's speech, Urban II: Speech at Council of Clermont, 1095, Five versions of the Speech (available as part of the Internet Medieval Sourcebook).
  7. ^ Quotes from Urban II's letters taken from "Crusades, Idea and Reality, 1095–1274"; Documents of Medieval History 4; eds. Louise and Johnathan Riley-Smith, London 1981, 37–40.
  8. ^ Graham Loud, The Age of Robert Guiscard: Southern Italy and the Northern Conquest, (Routledge, 2013), 231-232.
  9. ^ Donald Matthew, The Norman Kingdom of Sicily, (Cambridge University Press, 1992), 28.
  10. ^ Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes, (HarperCollins, 2000), 192.
  11. ^

External links

  • Five versions of his speech for the First Crusade from Medieval Sourcebook.
  • Medieval Lands Project on Eudes de Châtillon, Bishop of Ostia, Pope Urban II, the son of Milon the seigneur of Châtillon in the 11th century
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Victor III
Succeeded by
Paschal II
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