Famous Men of the Middle Ages
Peter the Hermit
During the Middle Ages the Christians of Europe used to go to the Holy Land for the
purpose of visiting the tomb of Christ and other sacred places. Those who made such a
journey were called "pilgrims."
Every year thousands of pilgrims--kings, nobles and people of humbler rank--went to the
While Jerusalem was in the hands of the Arabian caliphs who reigned at Bagdad, the
Christian pilgrims were generally well treated. After about 1070, when the Turks took
possession of the city, outrages became so frequent that it seemed as if it would not be
safe for Christians to visit the Savior's tomb at all.
About the year 1095 there lived at Amiens (a-me-an') France, a monk named Peter the
Peter was present at a council of clergy and people held at Clermont in France when his
Holiness, Pope Urban II, made a stirring speech. He begged the people to rescue the Holy
Sepulchre and other sacred sites from the Mohammedans.
The council was so roused by his words that they broke forth into loud cries, "God wills
it! God wills it!"
"It is, indeed, His will," said the Pope, "and let these words be your war-cry when you
meet the enemy."
Peter listened with deep attention. Immediately after the council he began to preach in
favor of a war against the Turks. With head and feet bare, and clothed in a long, coarse
robe tied at the waist with a rope, he went through Italy from city to city, riding on a
donkey. He preached in churches, on the streets--wherever he could secure an audience.
When Peter had gone over Italy he crossed the Alps and preached to the people of
France, Germany, and neighboring countries. Everywhere he kindled the zeal of the
people, and multitudes enlisted as champions of the cross.
Thus began the first of seven wars known as the "Crusades" or "Wars of the Cross,"
waged to rescue the Holy Land from the Mohammedans.
It is said that more than 100,000 men, women and children went on the first Crusade.
Each wore on the right shoulder the emblem of the cross.