Page 1311

1311 THE CRUSADES-THE UPRISING OF EUROPE.

and scallop shell of the pilgrim the emblems

and passport of a better life. He who had

sinned, he who had consumed his youth

in lawlessness and passion, he who had

in his manhood done some bloody deed

for which he was haunted by specters, he

who had forgotten the ties of kindred and

stopped his ears to the entreaties of the

weak, must ere the twilight faded into darkness find peace and reconciliation by throwing off the insignia of human power and

folly and going barefoot to the holy places

of the East. And what other spot so sacred,

so meritorious, as the scene of the crucifixion

and burial of Christ?

Pilgrimages abounded. The paths of

Asia Minor were thronged with those who

made their way to and from the Holy Sepulcher. Around that Tomb of tombs knelt

the devout believers from every state of

Christendom. Jerusalem was the Mecca of

Europe. What, therefore, was the horror

of the followers of Christ when the news

was borne abroad that the Seljuk dogs,

who had supplanted the Fatimites in the

Holy City, were spurning and spitting upon

the lowly at the very tomb of their Lord? Such was the condition of affairs in Palestine

as the eleventh gloomy century of our era

drew to its dreary close.

Great was the terror inspired in the

Byzantine emperors by the conquests of

the Turks. Alp Arslan had waved his defiant banners almost in sight of Constantinople. The degenerate successors of the

Caesars quaked in their capital. In their

agitation they looked abroad for help. Could

they induce the barbarous West to come

to their rescue? Would the successor of St.

Peter heed their cry? Perhaps if the Pope

were allured with the prospect of gaining

an unquestioned recognition as the head of

Christendom-even of Eastern Christendom-

he would call the Italians, the Franks, the

Germans, to the defense of the capital of

the East. Such were the sentiments which

moved the Greek Emperor to send an embassy to Gregory VII., and to implore that

ambitious potentate to rally the armies of

Europe against the Infidels.

Meanwhile the pious monk of Savona,

Peter of Picardy, came home from Palestine, reciting with fervid and pathetic

eloquence the story of the intolerable outrages to which the Christian pilgrims were

subjected. He himself had received brutal

insults at the hands of the savage Turks.

Into his ears the venerable patriarch of

Jerusalem had poured a tale of horror. Christ

was put to shame. His name was blasphemed. His lowly children were beaten,

mocked, trampled under foot by the base

and bloody-minded followers of the false

Prophet. Under this recital Europe began to quake with the premonitory shudder of the great upheaval. In this condition of affairs the Greek Emperor saw the

prospect of rescue and support. Urban

II. saw the way open by which he was to

confound his enemies and carry forward

the ambitious plans of his great predecessor.

The secular rulers of Europe saw an opportunity to recover from the feudal barons

the lost prerogatives of royalty. The priests

and bishops saw the promotion and glory

of the Church; and the ignorant zealot saw

in the gore of the Moslems smeared on sword blade and Cross the element of purification

and peace.

The council of Piacenza, held in the summer of 1095, was quickly followed by that

of Clermont. Meanwhile Peter the Hermit

had gone from town to town, from church

to church, preaching the holy war. France

took fire. The feudal settlements were all

ablaze. Lord, retainer, and peasant all

caught the spirit of the inflammatory appeal.

Crowds followed at the Hermit's heels.

They bowed down and kissed the hem of

his garment. They plucked hairs as precious

mementos from the mane of his mule! His

fame spread throughout the continent, and

even in insular England the barons of William

Rufus shared the excitement of their friends

in Normandy.

When the time came for the great council

convened by the Pope, Clermont was like a

vast camp. Three hundred bishops were present. Thousands of priests flocked to the assembly. Multitudes gathered from all the surrounding states. Pope Urban braved the cold

and fatigue of a journey across the Alps, and

came in person to preside over the council.

Princes, prelates, and ambassadors thronged to

the scene, and caught the common spirit. The

messages from Alexius, Emperor of the East,

were read to the multitude. The Pope was

warned of the peril to Constantinople, and of