Pope from 1088 to 1099
The pope who would become known as father of the Crusades was born about 1035 to a noble family in northern France. His name was Otto, Odo or Eudes de Lagery, probably depending on which country he was in. The young man was educated at the cathedral of Rheims. There he climbed the clerical ladder until he became canon and archdeacon. He moved on to the abbey of Cluny, where he became grand prior in 1074, and was then made bishop-cardinal of Ostia.
Odo was an assistant to Gregory VII during his church reforms, and also supported the pope in his struggle against the Holy Roman Emperor and his antipope, Guibert of Ravenna. After the short pontificate of Victor III, Odo was elected pope in 1088. He reigned in exile until he and his army managed to enter Rome in 1094, when the antipope was removed. Urban II followed up the reforms of Gregory. His great object was to make the clergy renounce worldly values and bring it back to the monastery life.
In March 1095, a delegation from Byzantine emperor Alexius I Comnenus requested help from the pope against the Turks. Pope Urban II offered more than that. At the Council of Clermont, he preached the First Crusade, the mission to reclaim Palestine from the Muslims. The crusade started in November of the same year.
Shortly before his death, the Crusaders managed to capture Jerusalem. In 1881, the pope was beatified by Leo XIII.
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Urban II is also an urban development project directed by the EU. The aim of the project is to regenerate problem areas in cities by developing human resources and strenghtening the economic, social and cultural infrastructure so as to raise the status of the area. The programme covers the period from 2000 to 2006 and takes place in 70 neighbourhoods throughout the European Union.