Dying in the Crusades

Is it true that a pope during the time of the crusades told Christians that if they died honorably in the crusades that they were guaranteed to go to heaven? I had a Protestant friend bring that up to me, and not knowing how to answer I told him that I would get back to him in the topic. If it is true, was it considered an infallible teaching? How do you defend that? Or was it another common crusades myth?

I think she was mistaken about an indulgence that was granted to those who died in the Crusades. Indulgences don’t grant salvation. They only remit the temporal punishment and purification that we experience before entering Heaven. If someone is damned to hell, any indulgences they earned or might have earned are worthless.

Hard it to believe that - in an era where few were educated and many illiterate - that such wouldn’t in fact have been a common belief at the time, though. I may even have heard this from the nuns years ago.

To be fair, Our Lord did say that the greatest love is to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). Likewise, love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). So dying justly trying to defend your neighbors would certainly help one get to Heaven, but this is not something a Pope could guarantee or promise. As has been mentioned, the Pope did grant indulgences in this regard.


Urban II. All we have are versions of the speech, without knowing if what they say he said, is actually what he said. Some versions do say that in undertaking the journey, would constitute a remission of sins. Here are the versions of the speech: legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/source/urban2-5vers.html#robert

The book History of the Catholic Church Volume 4 by Mourret-Thompson comments on this promise of remission: This was not a sacramental absolution, given to the hundred thousand who were present, for all their sins, without previous confession; it was the remission of the temporal penalty which was promised to repentant and pardoned sinners who should undertake the holy war. The Council of Clermont had just declared in clear terms: “Whoever, simply in the spirit of faith, without vain desires of avarice and ambition, will set out for the deliverance of the Church of God at Jerusalem, for him that journey will take the place of penance” (PL, CLXII, 717). A few months later, Urban II himself, undoubtedly to forestall misunderstandings, explained this point in a discourse to the faithful of Bologna: “Know that all who undertake the holy journey, not from motives of earthly ambition, but solely for the salvation of their souls and the deliverance of the Church, will obtain the full remission of the penance after a true and perfect confession of their sins” {PL, CLI, 483). (Cf. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils, p. 436. Tr.)

During the Crusades, the Latin clergy regarded as real martyrs, and consequently as thereby saved, the crusaders who had fallen in arms while fighting against the infidels. … Probably we should see an allusion to this belief in the words which Robert the Monk (Albert of Aachen) puts on the lips of Urban II: [note: Latin text removed here; it’s similar to the promise of remission mentioned earlier]]. At a period when a great faith was associated with great passions, the hope of these spiritual favors must have exercised a powerful influence on great criminals, who entered on the Crusade to redeem their past life.

source To me, the takeaway is that the pope clarified: remission of sins only goes to those who meet the usual conditions, including confessing your sins to a priest. Sometimes a person has no ability to do that, like if he dies in the midst of battle. In such cases the Church teaches that faith and the desire for confession is enough.

Yup. I have no doubt that the usual conditions were met. I just gave a link to the versions of the speech to the OP.

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