Front Matter Gauls Defeat Romans Vercingetorix Saints of France Attila, Scourge of God Story of Clovis Sons of Clovis Mayors of the Palace Charles the Hammer Pepin the Short Charlemagne in Lombardy Defeat at Roncesvalles Emperor of the West Louis the Pious War of Three Brothers Louis the Stammerer Paris defies the Sea Kings Rollo the Viking Hugh Capet Becomes King Bishop Betrays the Duke Robert the Pious The Peace of God Harold Visits Duke William William Sails to England The Battle of Hastings Peter the Hermit First War of the Cross Louis the Fat and Laon King Fights his Vassal Second War of the Cross French Queen of England How Normandy Was Lost Albigenses War Battle of Bouvines Story of Hugh de La Marche Reign of St. Louis St. Louis's last Crusade Peter the Barber Knights vs. Weavers Pope vs. Philip the Fair Sons of Philip the Fair Philip VI vs. Flanders Battle and Plague King vs. Charles the Bad The Jacquerie Stephen Marcel Betrays Paris Charles V and du Guesclin Du Guesclin Fights for France The Madness of Charles VI The Battle of Agincourt The Maid of Orleans End of Hundred Years' War King vs. Charles the Bold Troubles of Duchess Mary Charles the Affable Knight Without Reproach Battle of the Spurs Francis I, Gentleman King King Taken Prisoner Duke of Guise Defends Metz Calais Returns to France The Riot of Amboise Huguenot and Catholic St. Bartholomew Massacre War of the Three Henries The Protestant King Edict of Nantes Reign of Favorites Taking of La Rochelle Power of the Cardinal-King Reign of Louis XIV The Man in the Iron Mask The Height of Power Edict of Nantes Revoked War of Spanish Succession

History of France - H. E. Marshall

How Peter the Hermit Preached God's War
Philip I [1060-1108]

Philip the First was still only a boy when his great vassal became King of England. He was a grown man when thirty years later another great war took place. This was the First Crusade, or War of the Cross.

In that far country called Palestine Jesus Christ was born, lived, and died. And when the story of Christ was spread abroad in Europe the thoughts of the people turned lovingly to that far-off land. Many longed to see the holy places, and from very early times Christians began to make journeys to Palestine. These people were called pilgrims, from the Latin word peregrinum, meaning one that comes from a far land, and their journeys were called pilgrimages.

As years went on, more and more pilgrims went to the Holy Land, although the journey was difficult and dangerous, and many of them were robbed of all they had long before they reached the end of it. Many others were killed upon the way. But even if pilgrims reached Palestine in safety their troubles were not over. For the country was in the hands of Turks and Mohammedans, who hated the Christians. So when after many perils the pilgrims arrived at Jerusalem they found the gates of the holy city shut against them. They were not allowed to enter until they had paid a large sum of money. As many were penniless, having been robbed of all they possessed on the way, they were obliged to remain without. Hungry and in rags they wandered round the city walls, vainly awaiting leave to enter. Many of them died there without ever seeing the Holy Sepulchre and other sacred places they had come to visit.

The pilgrims found all this hard to bear. But even harder to bear were the insults to their religion. The churches which they built were again and again destroyed. They were again and again robbed of their treasures. Even while mass was being said, wild mobs would rush in, scattering the terrified congregation. With rude laughter and insults they would hurl the sacred vessels and candlesticks to the ground, sit on the altar, beat the priests, and tear their vestments.

Pilgrims who returned home told of all that they had seen and suffered until, throughout all Europe, people grieved at the sorrows of the pilgrims, and the desolation of the holy places.

At length a Frenchman named Peter the Hermit went upon a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He was an almost mean-looking, thin little man, but in his lean face his piercing eyes shone with courage and zeal. They were the eyes of a dreamer and a martyr; they burned with the light of the great soul which lived in his mean little body.

When Peter saw all the misery which had fallen upon the Holy Land, his heart was filled with sorrow and anger. He longed to do something to save the City of his Lord from degradation. Then one night as he prayed in the church he fell asleep. And as he slept it seemed to him that Christ appeared standing before him.

"Rise, Peter," He said, "and haste thee. It is time to cleanse the holy places and to help my servants. I shall be with thee."

Full of the glory of his vision Peter rose and made haste to depart. Taking with him a letter from the head of the Church of Jerusalem to the Pope, he set forth on his long and dangerous journey and landed safely in Italy.

The Pope received Peter gladly and gladly promised to help him. So to preach the Holy War to all Europe Peter set forth. From town to town he went, from province to province. He rode upon a mule, and carried a crucifix in his hand. He was clad in a rough woolen shirt tied about his waist with a cord. Over it hung a coarse cloak which fell to his heels. His head, arms, and feet were bare.

In every town and village through which he passed, Peter called the people together and preached to them. Sometimes he spoke by the wayside, sometimes in the market places, sometimes in the churches. The place mattered not to him so that the people heard.

Peter the Hermit told of all the cruelties he had seen, of the desecrations of the holy places, of the sorrows of God's people. He spoke with such fire that every heart was touched. Sobs and groans burst from the crowd, and the people pressed eagerly round him, offering him gold and silver and all manner of gifts to help the great cause.

But it was not until Peter reached France that the wildest enthusiasm burst forth. At the town of Clermont so many people gathered to hear him that the country round was covered with tents, for there was no room in the town for the crowds who came. The Pope, too, came to the meeting. Peter spoke first and as he spoke his voice shook, and tears ran down his cheeks. When he ceased the Pope spoke.

"Hath not Christ said," he cried, "that whoso forsaketh houses, or brethren, or sister, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or land, for My name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold and shall inherit everlasting life?' Then forget your quarrels among yourselves. Take the road to the Holy Sepulchre, and wrest the land from the hands of the enemies of God."

As the Pope spoke, all the people cried, "God wills it! God wills it!" Again and again the cry rang out mingled with sobs. At length the Pope held up his hand as if to ask for silence. Then again he spoke.

"Christ Himself hath said," he cried, "'Where two or three are gathered together in My name there am I in the midst of them.' Truly He hath been in our midst this day and hath put into your mouths these words. Then let them be your battle cry, and when you march against the foe shout, 'God wills it! God wills it!'"

Once again the air was rent with the cry, "God wills it! God wills it!" Then hundreds and thousands crowded round Peter eager to receive the red cross which was to mark them as soldiers of Christ. And thus France, which had seen God's Peace and God's Truce, now saw God's War declared.