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  • Chapter 8 Was It an Embarrassment of Rewards?Possible Relationships between Religious Devotion among Participants in the Second Crusade, 1145–1149, and Their Losses in the Field
  • Jilana Ordman

According to the chroniclers who recorded the events of the Second Crusade (1145–1149) and the bulls, letters, and sermons of its organizers, this expedition was conceived with the goal of replicating the First Crusade of 1095–1099. But these were very different undertakings with very different outcomes.1 Unlike the 1095 expedition, that of 1145 initially focused on the East but expanded during recruitment to include additional missions to Iberia and the Baltic.2 While the 1095 crusade had achieved a dramatic victory in the East, only the 1147 Siege of Lisbon, part of the Iberian mission undertaken to aid Alfonso VII of Castile and Leon (1105–1157), was entirely successful. Military efforts in the Baltic resulted in slight territorial gains, while those undertaken in the East failed entirely.

This article examines two elements shared by the First and Second Crusades: the rewards for service offered to participants, and the expressions of religious devotion among them during their recruitment and in the field. Spiritual rewards in the form of papal grants of forgiveness of sin and penance were offered both to those who set out in 1146 and to those who did so in 1095. In 1146 these rewards were in fact presented as based on those that had been promised in 1095. But in 1146 to these rewards was also added the protection of participants’ families and possessions during their absence, as well as limited permission for looting. This expansion suggests that the Second Crusade’s organizers recognized and sought to appeal to a wider range of motives among participants. Given the success of the First Crusade, and the purely spiritual motives that clerical chroniclers and secular epistolary authors presented in the expression of religious devotion by its participants, it must be asked whether the Second Crusade’s chroniclers and epistolary authors presented evidence of similar levels of devotion as evidence of participants’ motives. Or could chroniclers have presented the material rewards offered to participants as lessening the spiritual purity of their motives, thus suggesting an explanation for their defeat? [End Page 113]

Historians have long examined the spiritual rewards offered to the First Crusaders. The 1095 expedition was not the first military expedition for which the papacy had granted spiritual rewards to participants.3 But many agree that Pope Urban II’s (1088–1099) grant of remission of penance and/or sin to those who participated in the First Crusade was a culmination of this practice, successfully combining the ideas of holy war and pilgrimage.4 The pope’s influential call for knights to travel to the East occurred at the Council of Clermont in November 1095. This stop was halfway through his tour of Frankish territories, a journey he initially undertook to garner lay aristocrats’ support for his papacy during a period of unrest in Rome.5 Clerics and prominent laymen attended the meeting at Clermont, an event similar to others at which bishops and abbots had sought aristocrats’ and their vassals’ participation in the Peace or Truce of God movements.6 The pope’s recruitment sermon for the expedition to the East was delivered at the end of the council. Segments of this sermon survive in the works of secular and regular clerical crusade chroniclers. Whether authors reported this sermon from their own memory or wrote according to others’ texts, their accounts provide the details that they sought to portray as having resonated most strongly among the pope’s audience.7

Chroniclers described Pope Urban II presenting the motives that he wanted to drive Christians’ participation in the expedition, as well as the rewards they would be granted. They were to be motivated to action by personal ties to one another, by the desire to defend all members of the faith throughout greater Christendom, and by their devotion to God and Christ. Speaking to an audience familiar with organized military action, the pope fit these human relationships into a secular framework of duty to superiors and fellow knights, as well as of responsibility to the weak...


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