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"Deus lo vult" is the motto of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre (1824).

Deus vult translates to "God wills it".[1] Variants include Deus le volt, Dieux el volt; Deus id vult, Deus hoc vult, etc.[2] The saying is a Catholic motto that is associated with the Crusades, more specifically with the First Crusade of 1096–1099. The phrase appears in the Vulgate translation of the Christian Bible.[3]

First CrusadeEdit

The battle cry of the First Crusade is reported in the Gesta Francorum, which was written by an anonymous author who was associated with Bohemond I of Antioch shortly after the successful campaign, in 1100 or 1101. According to this description, as the Princes Crusade gathered in Amalfi in the late summer of 1096, there assembled a large number of crusaders, armed and bearing the sign of the cross on their right shoulders or on their backs, crying in unison "Deus le volt, Deus le volt, Deus le volt".[4] The Historia belli sacri, written somewhat later, c. 1131, also cites the battle cry.

The battle cry is again mentioned in the context of the capture of Antioch on 3 June 1098. The anonymous author of the Gesta was himself among the soldiers capturing the wall towers, and recounts that "seeing that they were already in the towers, they began to shout Deus le volt with glad voices; so indeed did we shout".[5]

Robert the Monk in c. 1120 re-wrote the Gesta Francorum because it was considered too "rustic". He added an account of the speech of Urban II at the Council of Clermont, of which he was an eyewitness. The speech climaxes in Urban's call for orthodoxy, reform, and submission to the Church. Robert records that the pope asked western Christians, poor and rich, to come to the aid of the Greeks in the east:

When Pope Urban had said these and very many similar things in his urbane discourse, he so influenced to one purpose the desires of all who were present, that they cried out, 'It is the will of God! It is the will of God!' When the venerable Roman pontiff heard that, with eyes uplifted to heaven he gave thanks to God and, with his hand commanding silence, said: Most beloved brethren, today is manifest in you what the Lord says in the Gospel, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them." Unless the Lord God had been present in your spirits, all of you would not have uttered the same cry. For, although the cry issued from numerous mouths, yet the origin of the cry was one. Therefore I say to you that God, who implanted this in your breasts, has drawn it forth from you. Let this then be your war-cry in combats, because this word is given to you by God. When an armed attack is made upon the enemy, let this one cry be raised by all the soldiers of God: It is the will of God! It is the will of God![6]

Robert also reports that the cry of Deus lo vult was at first shouted in jest by the soldiers of Bohemund during their combat exercises, and later turned into an actual battle cry, which Bohemund interpreted as a divine sign.[7]

Other usesEdit

Latin expressions which contain the phrase Deus vult [...] ("God wills [...]") include Deus vult omnes homines salvos fieri ("God wants all men to be saved", a paraphrase of 1 Timothy 2:3–4), [8] and Quos deus vult perdere dementat prius ("Those whom a god wishes to destroy, he strikes with madness first").

Deus lo vult is the motto of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a Roman Catholic order of chivalry (restored 1824).[9]

George Flahiff CSB in 1947 used Deus Non Vult as the title of an examination of the gradual loss of enthusiasm for the crusades at the end of the 12th century, specifically of the early criticism of the crusades by Ralph Niger, writing in 1189.[10]

Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, a Protestant Episcopalian, used the expression for his argument of "the dominion of Christ" as "essentially imperial" and that "Christianity and warfare" had a great deal in common: "'Deus vult!' say I. It was the cry of the Crusaders and of the Puritans and I doubt if man ever uttered a nobler [one]."[11]

Disseminated in the form of hashtags and internet memes, Deus vult has enjoyed popularity with members of the alt-right because of its perceived representation of the clash of civilizations between the Christian West and the Islamic world.[12][13] However, historical analysis has suggested that Crusaders were more strongly influenced by the desire for salvation from sin than opposition to Muslims, as they were relatively unknown as a people, culture or identity to Westerners at the time.[14][15]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Manuscripts of Gesta Francorum variously have Deus le volt, Deus lo vult, as well as the "corrected" forms Deus hoc vult and Deus vult. Winter (1890) cites Barth: "Barbaro-latina vulgi exclamatio vel et tessera est. Videri autem hinc potest, tum idiotismum Francicum propiorem adhuc fuisse latine matrici". Winter (1890) comments that the presence of the Romance article (lo, le) was very likely part of the original motto as shouted in Amalfi, as both the author of Gesta Francorum and that of Historia Belli Sacri report it.
  2. ^ Mrs. William Busk, Mediaeval Popes, Emperors, Kings, and Crusaders, Or, Germany, Italy, and Palestine, from A.D. 1125 to A.D. 1268, Volume 1 (1854), 15, 396.
  3. ^ Jacobs, Henry Eyster; Schmauk, Theodore Emanuel (1888). The Lutheran Church Review, Volumes 7–8. Alumni Association of the Lutheran Theological Seminary. p. 266.
  4. ^ Deferunt arma ad bellum congrua; in dextra vel inter utrasque scapulas crucem Christi baiulant; sonum vero 'Deus le volt', 'Deus le volt', 'Deus le volt'! una voce conclamant. Gesta Francorum IV.1 (ed. C. Winter 1890, p. 151.)
  5. ^ Gesta Francorum 20.7, ed. C. Winter 1890, p. 304; some manuscripts also mention cries of kyrie eleison.
  6. ^ Robert the Monk: Historia Hierosolymitana. in [RHC, Occ III.] Dana C. Munro, "Urban and the Crusaders", Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Vol 1:2, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1895), 5-8 (Medieval Sourcebook).
  7. ^ C. Winter 1890, p. 151, note 10, citing Historia Regum Francorum mOnast. S. Dionysii (ed. Waitz in Mon. Germ. SS. IX p. 405), and for battle cries of the crusaders in general: Ekk. Hieros. p. 90, 234; Röhricht, Beiträge II, 47.
  8. ^ Vulgate: hoc enim bonum est et acceptum coram salutari nostro Deo qui omnes homines vult salvos fieri et ad agnitionem veritatis venire (KJV: "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth"); Saint Augustine, lib. De spiritu et littera 33: "Vult autem Dominus omnes homines salvos fieri"; Gilbert de la Porrée: "recte dictum est 'omnes vult Deus salvos fieri'" (Lauge Olaf Nielsen, Theology and Philosophy in the Twelfth Century: A Study of Gilbert Porreta's Thinking and the Theological Expositions of the Doctrine of the Incarnation During the Periode 1130-1180 (1982), p. 123); Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1a.19.6: "Deus vult omnes homines salvos fieri".
  9. ^ Luigi G. De Anna; Pauliina De Anna; Eero Kuparinen, eds. (November 29, 1997). Tuitio Europae: Chivalric Orders on the Spiritual Paths of Europe : Proceedings of the Conference "The Spiritual Paths of Europe--Crusades, Pilgrimages, and Chivalric Orders". Turku: University of Turku. p. 65. ISBN 9789512913008.
  10. ^ George B. Flahiff, "Deus Non Vult: A Critic of the Third Crusade", Mediaeval Studies 9 (1947), 162–188, doi: 10.1484/J.MS.2.306566.
  11. ^ Mahan, Alfred Thayer (1972). "Some Neglected Aspects of War". In Karsten, Peter; Hunt, Richard N. (eds.). Unilateral Force in International Relations. New York: Garland Publishing. p. 12. ISBN 9780824003487. OCLC 409536.
  12. ^ Kim, Dorothy. "The Alt-Right and Medieval Religions". Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. Georgetown University. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  13. ^ Ulaby, Neda. "Scholars Say White Supremacists Chanting 'Deus Vult' Got History Wrong". NPR. National Public Radio. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  14. ^ Gabriele, Matthew. "Islamophobes want to recreate the Crusades. But they don't understand them at all". The Washington Post. WP Company LLC. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  15. ^ Cartwright, Mark. "The Crusades: Causes & Goals". Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  • B. Lacroix, "Deus le volt!: la théologie d'un cri", Études de civilisation médiévale (IXe-XIIe siècles). Mélanges offerts à Edmond-René Labande, Poitiers (1974), 461–470.