Urban II's big claim to fame is that he authorized the First Crusade, a call for European Christians to take back the Holy Land from the Seljuk Turks.* At the time, the Seljuk Empire was apparently making a lot of trouble for the Eastern church, based in Byzantium. Wikipedia asserts that one of his speeches cajoling the West was the SINGLE MOST EFFECTIVE SPEECH IN EUROPEAN HISTORY
, which sounds like there should be statues and gold medals involved. Here's his big quote:
I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ's heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends. I say this to those who are present, it meant also for those who are absent. Moreover, Christ commands it.
Not bad, huh? It worked, too - Urban II oversaw most of the First Crusade, dying just after Jerusalem had been captured in 1099. (That's another 12-year reign, for those of you keeping score).*By the way, can anybody recommend a good book about the Seljuk Empire? I've been looking for histories about the Middle East from say, 500-1500AD**, but can't seem anything that looks promising.
**I know, I know! I'm such a dork.