Byzantium's protection extended to the welfare of numerous Christian communities which survived in the Holy Land, and to the Christians who made pilgrimages there. Usually Muslims were tolerant of Christians, and Byzantium was able to maintain diplomatic balance.
In 1071, however, the Byzantine Empire faced a new Muslim threat, the Seljuk Turks, who occupied Jerusalem and took a repressive stance toward Christians. Incapable of defending itself against the Seljuks, Alexis I, Emperor of Byzantium, made an appeal in 1095 to Pope Urban II for mercenary soldiers to go to Constantinople and help the Empire hold back the advance of the Muslims: "Not only was the security of the pilgrimages to the Holy Land compromised, but the very existence of the Holy sepulchre and of the Latin establishments in Jerusalem again became questionable" (Brehier 28). Given its level of religious fervor, western Europe had no choice but to respond to the appeal of the Byzantine Empire.
Preparation for the Crusades began when Pope Urban gave a stirring speech about military activism before an enthusiastic crowd of mostly commoners in 1095 outside the town of Clermont in France. Pope Urban played down the Byzantine Emperor's request for mercenary soldiers. Instead, the Pope made an emotional religious appeal based on the suffering of Christians in the Holy Land and the abuse of the sacred places in Jerusalem. The Pope urged the people to launch huge armies from western Europe that would recover Jerusalem and destroy the Islamic presence. The Pope gave his assurance that Crusaders would go to Heaven if they died fighting the Muslim infidels and also promised forgiveness of sins for those who joined the Crusades: "never before had a holy war been proclaimed by a pope on Christ's behalf, the participants in which were treated as pilgrims, took vows and enjoyed indulgences. The war preached at Clermon really was the First Crusade" (Riley-Smith 30). ...
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