In November 1095, not far from the French city of Clermont, Pope Urban II addressed a huge crowd of people gathered - peasants, artisans, knights and monks. In a fiery speech, he called on everyone to take up arms and go to the East in order to win back the tomb of the Lord from the infidels and cleanse the Holy Land from them. The Pope promised forgiveness of sins to all participants in the campaign. People met his call with shouts of approval. Shouts of "God wants it!" the speech of Urban P. was interrupted more than once. Many already knew that the Byzantine emperor Alexei I Komnenos turned to the Pope and the European kings with a request to help him repel the onslaught of the Muslims. Helping the Byzantine Christians to defeat the "infidels" will, of course, be a charitable deed. The liberation of Christian shrines will be a real feat, bringing not only salvation, but also the mercy of the Almighty, who will reward his army. Many of those who listened to the speech of Urban II immediately took a vow to go on a campaign and, as a sign of this, attached a cross to their clothes.
The news of the upcoming campaign in the Holy Land quickly spread throughout Western Europe. Priests in churches and holy fools on the streets called for participation in it. Under the influence of these sermons, as well as at the call of their hearts, thousands of the poor rose up in the holy campaign. In the spring of 1096, from France and Rhineland Germany, they moved in discordant crowds along roads that have long been known to pilgrims: along the Rhine, Danube and further to Constantinople. The peasants went with their families and all their meager belongings, which fit in a small cart. They were poorly armed and suffered from food shortages. It was a rather wild procession, since on the way the crusaders mercilessly robbed the Bulgarians and Hungarians, through whose lands they passed: they took away cattle, horses, food, killed those who tried to protect their property. Being hardly aware of the final destination of their journey, the poor, approaching some large city, asked, “Is this really the Jerusalem where they are going?”. With grief in half, putting many in skirmishes with local residents, in the summer of 1096 the peasants reached Constantinople.
The appearance of this disorganized, hungry crowd did not at all please Emperor Alexei Komnenos. The ruler of Byzantium hurried to get rid of the poor crusaders by ferrying them across the Bosphorus to Asia Minor. The end of the campaign of the peasants was sad: in the autumn of the same year, the Seljuk Turks met their army near the city of Nicaea and almost completely killed them or, capturing them, sold them into slavery. Of the 25,000 “hosts of Christ,” only about 3,000 survived. The unfortunate poor crusaders who survived returned to Constantinople, from where some of them began to return home, and some remained to wait for the arrival of the crusaders-knights, hoping to fulfill this vow to the end - to free shrines, or at least find a quiet life in a new place.
The crusader knights set out on their first campaign when the peasants began their sad journey through the lands of Asia Minor - in the summer of 1096. Unlike the latter, the seniors were well prepared for the upcoming battles and the difficulties of the path - they were professional warriors, and they were used to prepare for battle. History has preserved the names of the leaders of this army: the Duke of Bouillon, the Duke of Bouillon, led the first Lorraine, the Normans of Southern Italy were led by Prince Bohemond of Tarentum, and the knights of Southern France were led by Raymond, Count of Toulouse. Their troops were not a single cohesive army. Each feudal lord who went on a campaign led his squad, and after his seigneur, the peasants who had escaped from their homes again dragged along with their belongings. The knights on the way, like the poor who passed before them, were engaged in robbery. The ruler of Hungary, taught by bitter experience, demanded hostages from the crusaders, which guaranteed a rather “decent” behavior of the knights towards the Hungarians. However, this was an isolated case. The Balkan Peninsula was plundered by the "Christ warriors" who marched across it.
In December 1096 - January 1097. The crusaders arrived at Constantinople. They behaved with those whom they were actually going to protect, to put it mildly, unfriendly: there were even several military skirmishes with the Byzantines. Emperor Alexei put into play all the unsurpassed diplomatic art that glorified the Greeks so much - just to protect himself and his subjects from unbridled "pilgrims". But even then, that mutual hostility between the Western European lords and the Byzantines, which later would bring death to the great Constantinople, was clearly manifested. For the crusaders who came, the Orthodox inhabitants of the empire, although they were Christians, were (after the church schism in 1054) not brothers in faith, but heretics, which is not much better than infidels. In addition, the ancient majestic culture, traditions and customs of the Byzantines seemed incomprehensible and deserving of contempt to the European feudal lords - the near-distant descendants of the barbarian tribes. The knights were infuriated by the grandiloquent style of their speeches, and wealth caused simply wild envy. Realizing the danger of such "guests", seeking to use their military zeal for their own purposes, Alexei Komnenos, by cunning, bribery and flattery, obtained from most of the knights a vassal oath and an obligation to return to the empire those lands that would be conquered from the Turks. After that, he sent "Christ's army" to Asia Minor.