Decrees of Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont, 1095.

No official text of the decrees of this council survives, and for our knowledge of them we depend on selections made by anonymous scribes. Fortunately, there are several of these, but in most cases they record only a summary or title of the decree concerning the crusade, whose full text (assuming that it was ever formalised) is now lost, unless indeed it is echoed in some of Urban's letters.

The following texts include all the material now preserved in the recorded decree of Clermont. They are translated from Robert Somerville, The Councils of Urban II. vol 1, DECRETA CLAROMONTENSIA, Amsterdam 1972. This contains a discussion of the nature of the records and the value of the various manuscripts.


From Liber Lamberti (p. 74) :

The document known as 'Liber Lamberti' was kept, probably from the time of its composition, at the Cathedral Library in Arras. It was a record book for aspects of Bishop Lambert's episcopate : the Gesta regarding the separation of Arras from Cambrai, decrees from councils attended by Lambert, privileges granted, letters etc.... The original is lost; but the Bibliotheque municipale at Arras has two seventeenth-century copies... Lambert, bishop of Arras, attended the Council of Clermont. The surviving evidence suggests that Lambert of Arras returned from Clermont with an extensive account of the proceedings... Once back at Arras the bishop or someone delegated by him... would have sorted and classified the notes...

This material was available for copying just before 1100 (Somerville, pp. 46, 59, 60).

1. It was decreed that on every day monks and clergy and women and those who are with them shall be in peace. On three days however (that is, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) an injury offered by someone to another shall not be held as an infraction of the peace; but on the four remaining days if anyone shall inflict an injury on another he shall be considered guilty of an infraction of the holy peace and be punished as shall be adjudged.

2. Whoever for devotion alone, not to obtain honour or money, shall set out to free the church of God at Jerusalem, that shall be counted to him for all penance (pro omni penitentia).

From the Codex Laurentianus at Florence (p. 108) :

This synopsis of Clermont decrees survives in a 12th-century manuscript. It probably derives from notes carried from the council. Speculatively, the compiler may have known a copy of the agenda of the council, "such as Lambert of Arras may have possessed" (Somerville, p. 108).

These are the precepts of pope Urban, given in the Council of Clermont.

1. The truce of God shall be kept as it was sworn.

2. The people shall be admonished about the journey to Jerusalem and whoever shall go there in the name of penance (per nomen penitentie) shall both he and his property, always be in the truce of God.

From the Cencius-Baluze text (p. 124) :

This version of the Clermont decrees was discovered in the 17th century when it was said to be drawn from a manuscript volume of the Chamberlain Cencius. This is to be identified with an official record known as the Liber Censuum compiled by Cencio Savelli, a papal chamberlain who became Pope Honorius III in 1216. The same version was published by Baluze in the 17th century from a manuscript belonging to a monastery in Montpellier "written in the 12th century either in southern France or northern Spain". (Somerville, p. 119).

9. Then also an expedition was made and constituted of cavalry and footmen to deliver Jerusalem and the other churches of Asia from the power of the Saracens. And for their property unbroken peace was proclaimed until their return.

10. And because several regions of Gaul laboured under a shortage of food, it was decreed that there should be a truce : to be continuous for up to 3 years for peasants and villains and merchants; but for knights to be observed every week from the 5th day of the week to Sunday; but for clergy and monks at all times equally and also for pilgrims on the way to holy places.

In a Historia peregrinorum at Monte Cassino is contained an amplified version of the Cencius-Baluze text (p. 124n.) :

He established and decreed that knights and footmen, that is whoever were able to go to deliver Jerusalem and the other churches of Asia from the power of the pagans, for the love of God and to obtain remission of all their sins, should set forth with one soul, bearing arms, and he decreed that in their property until their return unbroken peace and security should be observed. At the same time he provided that all who went there should bear the sign of the cross marked on the garments on their shoulders or on their forehead, whereby they would show the piety and pilgrimage of so great a journey and be impeded by no one. All those who were present, hearing such a good and desirable edict, lifted their voices to the heaven in ovation, shouting altogether again and again : God wills it, God wills it, God wills it.

A list of decrees used by the Anglo-Norman historians William of Malmesbury and Ordericus Vitalis, belonging to the late-eleventh or early-twelfth century, edited by R. Somerville pp 83-98, under the title "the Angle-Norman group (AN)":

This collection does not include the 'crusade decree', but it has an important bearing on the way in which Fulcher of Chartres used information on the proceedings of this Council Statements which Fulcher presents as part of Urban's first sermon at Clermont addressed to the clergy on matters of church discipline, closely overlap clauses 1,7,16,17,18,26 in this collection. Somerville concludes that Fulcher had access to a written version of the collection and converted it into an appropriate speech which he put into Urban's mouth. The introductory headings in the surviving versions vary. But they all identify the decrees as determined at the Council of Clermont in 1095 in the presence of Pope Urban II.

1. The church shall be catholic, chaste and free: catholic in faith and the communion of saints, chaste from all contagion of evil, and free from all secular power.

2. Bishops, or abbots, or any member of the clergy, shall not receive any ecclesiastical dignity from the hand of princes or of any laymen.

3. Clerics shall not have office or prebends in two cities or churches.

4. No one shall be bishop and abbot at the same time.

5. A priest, deacon, subdeacon, or canon of whatever order, shall not engage in a carnal relationship.

6. A priest, deacon, subdeacon after lapsing shall not minister.

7. Ecclesiastical dignities or canonries shall not be sold or bought by anyone.

8. Those only who have bought canonries not knowing the authority of the canons, or that it had been prohibited, shall be pardoned.

9. From those, however, who are in possession of canonries knowingly bought by them or by their parents, they shall be taken away.

10-11. No layman shall eat meat after the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday until Easter. No cleric shall eat meat from Quinquagesima Sunday until Easter.

12. At all times the First Fast of the Four Seasons shall be celebrated in the first week of Lent.

13. Ordinations shall be celebrated at all times either on Saturday evening or, with the fast being continued, on Sunday.

14. On Easter Saturday the office shall not be finished except after sun-down.

15. The Second Fast shall always be celebrated at Pentecost.

16. A truce of God shall be kept from Septuagesima Sunday to the octaves of Epiphany, and from Septuagesima Sunday to the octaves of Easter, and from the first day day of Rogations to all the octaves of Pentecost, and at all times from Wednesday sundown to Monday sunrise.

17. He who has seized a bishop shall be altogether outlawed (Latin: exlex, which is the word also used by Fulcher of Chartres.)

18. He who has seized or despoiled monks or clerics or nuns, and their companions shall be anathema.

19. He who has snatched away the goods of a bishop or clerics as they lay dying shall be anathema.

20. He who has coupled with a relative up to the seventh degree of consanguinity shall be anathema.

21. No one shall be elected bishop unless either a priest, or a deacon, or a subdeacon, and one who has the support of worthy birth, except in very great need and with the permission of the pope.

22. Sons of priests, or of concubines, shall not be promoted to the priesthood, unless they have first gone over to religious life.

23. He who has taken refuge in a church or at a cross, if he is accused, shall be handed over to justice, given impunity of life and limb; if innocent, he shall be set free.

24. The body of the Lord and the blood of the Lord shall be received separately.

25. Any church whatsoever shall have its tithes and shall not by anyone's gift infringe the right of another church.

26. A layman shall neither sell nor retain tithes.

27. For the burial of the dead no negotiated price shall be exacted or given.

28. No lay prince shall have a chaplain except one given by a bishop; and if he has offended in any way, he shall be corrected by the bishop and replaced by another.

(This is followed by a brief note reporting the excommunication at the Council of Philip, King of the Franks and his wife and all who acknowledged them and associated with them; also of Guilbert, archbishop of Ravenna and Emperor Henry (IV).)

© Ernest Blake and Colin Morris