Bishop Alexander, servant of the servants of God, sends greetings and apostolic blessing to his beloved sons the noble men, dukes and princes, counts, barons, and all others who have faith in God, who might receive this letter.
Sinister rumours, which have reached us by the common relation of those returning from the region of Jerusalem, disturb our heart and the hearts of all our brothers with great pain, since hardly anyone, who is considered Christian in name, is ever worthy to hear without tears and sighs what is said about the miserable state of that land. Indeed it has been crushed by the invasion of the infidels, which we mention with sadness, and has now become so devoid of the power of strong men and the counsel of honest men, that unless it obtains the quick and powerful support of the Christian kings and princes of the world, we fear, God forbid, for its imminent desolation, in disgrace of God, and in contempt of the Christian faith. For there is no king who can rule that land, since the one who governs the kingdom, namely Baldwin, is so gravely scourged by the judgement of God, as we are sure you know, that he can hardly tolerate the continuous tortures of his body. How grave indeed is the loss, and how miserable the death in regards to its men and its affairs, that that land, for which our forefathers spilled their own blood in the conflict which it once held with the Gentiles, has endured because its sins were evident, and we do not remember it without great disturbance of the heart, nor is anyone who is zealous for the law of God able to tolerate such slaughter of the faithful with a patient soul: especially since that most terrible nation of pagans is said to have taken up such boldness from the inconveniences and dangers that they have inflicted upon the Christian nation, that they, God forbid, shamelessly launch themselves into invasions of that land.
Therefore let your zeal for the Lord move you, and let the Christian religion not rest on account of the great sadness which threatens that land: but bravely watch over all those places, which our Saviour and Redeemer consecrated with his corporal presence: and condemn the Gentiles who cast the Lord aside, and who try to erase the Christian name from the earth. Certainly there is no Christian who is not moved by the calamities of that aforementioned land, and who is not prepared to defend from the invasions of the infidels that same land which, God forbid, they try to occupy, and to profane with their filth. Let those of you, however, who are strong, and worthy to wage war, endowed no less with the shield of faith and the armour of justice than with material arms, take up the struggle and labour of this pilgrimage, which is both pious and necessary, and defend with strong virtue those places in which the Redeemer of mankind desired to be born for us, and suffered a temporal death, so that he may not sustain the defeat of Christianity in those places in our own time. For because Christ sustained much disgrace, and finally the yoke of the cross, for our salvation, so that he might offer us to God, we who are mortified in the flesh, but living in the spirit, thus it is quite expedient for the salvation of the faithful that we expose our body to dangers and labours for the same reason, so that we do not seem to have forgotten the price of the blood which he spilled for us. Turn therefore, beloved sons in Christ, and see how shameful, and how worthy of sadness it would be for the Christians, if the enemies of the cross of Christ should once more prevail against the inhabitants of that land: and we greatly fear that they are about to prevail, unless help quickly comes to those inhabitants from all parts of Christendom.
Therefore, so that Christianity does not succumb to Gentility, make provision for all endeavours; because it is better to rush beforehand towards an evil about to occur, than to seek help after the damage has been done: to those, however, who would take up the labour of this journey for Christ, we concede and confirm by apostolic authority the indulgence of sins, which our Fathers and predecessors the Roman pontiffs Urban and Eugenius established. We decree that their wives and their children, and their goods and possessions, will also remain under our protection and the protection of St. Peter, and also of the archbishops and bishops and other prelates of the church: and we attentively prohibit that any complaint be lodged against them, after they have taken the cross, about these things which they possess in peace, until they return, or there is certain knowledge about their death. Let it be permitted, however, for them to freely pledge as a debtor their lands or other possessions to the churches, or ecclesiastics, or other faithful men, and without any claim, for the expenses of this journey, after their relatives or even their lords (of whose fief the possessions are a part) either do not want or are unable to exchange money for the same lands. Moreover, whoever of these warriors, worthy of defending that land, goes to those holy places with the fervour of devotion, and fights there for two years against the Saracens for the defense of the Christian name, having confessed the piety of Jesus Christ, and the authority of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, to them we make absolution for all their sins, which they have confessed with a humble and contrite heart: unless perhaps they seize another's goods, or extort usury, or commit thefts, all of which should be emended fully. But if these delinquents do not have the means to emend their crimes, nevertheless they will obtain forgiveness for the things they have committed, just as we have said. Those, however, who remain there for one year, just as we have said, may obtain an indulgence of half the penance enjoined upon them, and remission of their sins. Upon all those, however, wishing to visit the sepulchre of the Lord out of immediate necessity, whether they die on the journey, or arrive at that place, we enjoin the labour of the journey as penitence, and obedience, and remission of all their sins, so that from the prison of the present life they may reach that blessedness, with the Lord's help, "that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him."
Issued at Tusculum, on the seventeenth day before the Kalends of February.
- Baldwin IV of Jerusalem
- He was a leper, which in the Middle Ages was considered a sign of God's punishment.
- In medieval Christian usage, "Gentile" meant "non-Christian", referring especially to Muslims.
- Urban II, for the First Crusade.
- Eugenius III, for the Second Crusade.
- 1 Corinthians 2:9, Douay-Rheims version.
- January 16, 1181.