Long Twelfth Century

The Meaning of 1095: Continuity, Change, and the First Crusade

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Professor Matthew Grabriele of Virginia has published a wonderful article in Church History on “The Last Carolingian Exegete: Pope Urban II, the Weight of Tradition, and the Christian Reconquest.”

I mention this article here, at the roll-out of this blog, because it calls attention to a fundamental problem of periodization that is reflected in Europe’s Long Twelfth Century. The book uses 1095, the date of the calling of the First Crusade, as its starting point, since the Crusading movement played such an important role in twelfth-century politics and culture. Moreover, my first and final chapters make clear that the First Crusade was something novel and inchoate. But it is not clear that contemporaries would have seen it as such. Gabriele argues convincingly that Urban II drew on an old and well-know tradition of Biblical interpretation in exhorting Christians to fight for Jerusalem, and that thus he recounted a “narrative that would have been familiar to speaker and audience alike.”(p. 814) This reminds us that 1095, though striking to us as a point of departure for the historical development of the Crusades, is noteworthy for continuity as much as for change.


Author: johndcotts

I am a Professor of History at Whitman College. My research has focused on intellectual and spiritual life in twelfth-century Europe, and I am currently working on Crusading ideology between the Second and Fourth Crusades.

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