MEMC: “Following in Christ’s Footsteps? Pope Urban II and the Origins of the Crusading Cross”
“Following in Christ’s Footsteps? Pope Urban II and the Origins of the Crusading Cross”
The mass adoption of cloth crosses by the thousands of crusaders who left Europe to ‘liberate’ Jerusalem at the end of the eleventh century was a milestone in the history of Christianity. Most historians agree that this innovation was the brainchild of Pope Urban II (r. 1088–1099) at the Council of Clermont in November 1095, but few have sought to explain in detail the pontiff’s choice of the cross or his reasons for promoting it at that particular point in time. This talk re-examines the origins of the crusading cross in the light of Urban’s background as a Cluniac monk and situates the symbol within the broader eleventh-century context of political tension, spiritual reform, and Christian expansion against Islam. Despite a dearth of evidence for the use of anything like the personal cloth cross in military contexts prior to the First Crusade, Urban evidently felt—rightly, as it turned out—that prospective crusaders would prove responsive to the symbol. The aim of the talk is not only to explore the factors that influenced Urban to introduce the cross as the crusading badge, but also to interrogate how he might have understood the meaning of this cross within the framework of Christian society.
Rogers Room, John Woolley Building
The University of Sydney