Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Middle Ages

5th - 15th century


The upheaval that accompanied the migration of European peoples of late antiquity shattered the power of the Roman Empire and consequently the entire political order of Europe. Although Germanic kingdoms replaced Rome, the culture of late antiquity, especially Christianity, continued to have an effect and defined the early Middle Ages. Concurrent to the developments in the Christian West, in Arabia the Prophet Muhammad in the seventh century founded Islam, a new religion with immense political and military effectiveness. Within a very short time, great Islamic empires developed from the Iberian Peninsula and the Maghreb to India and Central Asia, with centers such as Cordoba, Cairo, Baghdad, and Samarkand.

The Cathedral Notre Dame de Reims, built in the 1 3th—14th century in the Gothic style; the cathedral served for many centuries as the location for the ceremonial coronation of the French king.

The Cathedral of Reims, by Domenico Quaglio



The Crusades



The Crusades Map


The Third and Fourth Crusades

Led by Ayyubid Sultan Saladin, the Muslims retook large parts of the Near East, including Jerusalem, although it was then granted to Richard I of England.


The Second Crusade was unsuccessful in the Near East, but it had initiated the Reconquista on the Iberian Peninsula, where the Christians were advancing into the Muslim south.
In the Near East, the Ayyubids had supplanted the Seljuks as the dominant Muslim power.

Sultan 3 Saladin defeated the European crusaders in 1187 at 2 Mount Hattin and 1 recaptured Jerusalem, leading Pope Gregory VIII to call for a third Crusade.

3 Monument to Saladin in front of the medieval citadel of Damascus, present-day Syria

2 Mount Hattin

1 Saladin conquers Jerusalem, illumination,
ca. 1400

The rulers of the leading European countries—the Holy Roman emperor, Frederick I (Barbarossa); the heir to the English throne, Richard I (the Lion-Hearted); and King Philip II Augustus of France—answered his call.

Frederick won a victory in May 1189 at Iconium in Asia Minor but 5 drowned in the Saleph River the next year.

His son, Frederick VI of Hohenstaufen, led the German contingent to the Holy Land, from which a majority of them sailed home at once; the rest of the Germans, including Frederick VI, died of malaria.

4 Richard and Philip were able to recapture the important port city of 6 Acre in 1191.

5 Frederick I (Barbarossa) drowns in the
Saleph River, wood engraving, ca. 1900

4 Philip II Augustus of France and Richard the
Lion-Hearted of England take the cross,
book illustration, 14th century



Richard the Lion-Heart massacres captives
6 Gustave Dore 

Richard the Lion-Heart savagely massacres all the
Muslim prisoners when Saladin does not pay
his ransom promptly.

see also:

The History of the Crusades

illustrations by

Gustave Dore 

The French king then sailed home to France with his knights following a personal argument between the two monarchs. Alone, Richard was unable to recapture Jerusalem, but he did gain the secession of the coastal regions of Palestine and Syria through negotiations. Saladin also guaranteed Christian pilgrims access to the holy sites.
The Fourth Crusade, initiated by Pope Innocent III in 1202, showed the corruption of the Crusade idea.

The crusaders were redirected by the Venetian doge, Enrico Dandolo, to 7 Constantinople, where they deposed the Byzantine emperor and established the Latin Empire that existed from 1204 to 1261.

The Children's Crusade of 1212 was a further low point. Thousands of boys and girls were led by religious fanatics to southern France where they were sold into slavery.

7 Conquest of Constantinople, 1204, painting by Eugene Delacroix, 19th century


see also:

The History of the Crusades

illustrations by

Gustave Dore 

From Annales Marbacenses, 1238:

The Children's Crusade

"Many of them [boys andgirls] were kept back by the inhabitants of the land as farm hands and maidservants.

Others were to go to the seaside, where boatmen and sailors would deceive them and ship them off to distant regions of the world."


The Childrens’ Crusade
Gustave Dore 

50,000 French and German children launch their own crusade, singing “Lord Jesus, restore to us your holy cross!”


see also:

The History of the Crusades

illustrations by

Gustave Dore 


The Last Crusades and the End of the Crusader States

The Mamelukes drove the crusaders out of the Holy Land for good.


Emperor 9 Frederick II had sworn a crusader's vow and set off in 1228 on the Sixth Crusade.

He negotiated the return of Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem from the Ayyubid Sultan al-Kamil in 1229. He achieved this through diplomatic negotiations with the Sultan, as a result of which he became popular in the Arab world. Jerusalem was handed over on the condition that Muslims would be allowed to go on pilgrimage to their holy sites.

After the Muslims retook Jerusalem in 1244, King Louis IX of France started out in 1248 on the Seventh Crusade to attack Egypt, the seat of Ayyubid power.

Although he occupied Damietta in the Nile Delta in 1249, he suffered a defeat at Mansura and his army was 10 captured.

Louis was freed only after the payment of a ransom. Years later, Louis organized the last great Crusade, the Eighth. The king and many of his knights died of an epidemic outside the walls of Tunis in 1270. Louis was canonized in 1297.

In the meantime, the 12 Mamelukes, slaves recruited for the Ayyubids' military, had overthrown their former lords.

By virtue of their centralist military regime, they were able to overcome the Mongols who invaded Syria in 1260. After that, they concentrated fully on subjugating the crusader states.

9 Emperor Frederick II crowns himself king of Jerusalem, wood engraving,
19th century

10 An imprisoned Louis IX,
book illustration, 14th century

12 Mamelukes on horseback,
Arabic book illustration,
15th century

In 1291, with the capture of 13 Acre, the last important bastion of the Christians, the Mamelukes had reconquered Palestine and Syria.

The Christians were forced to withdraw from the Holy Land among them were the orders of Christian knights that had formed during the two centuries of the Crusades.

The 11 Knights Templar concentrated on the administration of their territories in France, which constituted a threat to the crown, and they were disbanded in 1312.

The Teutonic Knights had already sought a new field of activity in the Baltic with the mission of converting non-Christian peoples. Only the Knights Hospitaller continued to fight against the Muslims.

13 Fortification in Acre dating from the times of the Crusades

11 A Knight Templar, wood engraving


In 1309, they moved their headquarters to 14 Rhodes, where they held off the Ottomans until 1522.

Emperor Charles V allocated 8 Malta to them, and it was not conquered until 1798 by Napoleon.

14 Knights of the order of St. John in Rhodes,
illustration, 15th century.

8 Knight of St. John of Malta,
a Maltese knight, painting by Caravaggio,
beginning of 17th century



Orders of the Knights

The knightly orders founded in the course of the twelfth century combined monkish and chivalrous ideals. Sworn to personal poverty, chastity, and obedience, the members initially dedicated themselves to the protection of pilgrims and caring for the sick.

In addition, they increasingly took part in the fighting against the Muslims. The orders quickly developed into significant powers by virtue of their wealthy properties captured in the Holy Land and bequeathed to them in Western Europe.

Castle of the Knights of St. John in Syria, built ca. 1142





religious military order
also called Knight Templar
member of the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, a religious military order of knighthood established at the time of the Crusades that became a model and inspiration for other military orders. Originally founded to protect Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, the order assumed greater military duties during the 12th century. Its prominence and growing wealth, however, provoked opposition from rival orders. Falsely accused of blasphemy and blamed for Crusader failures in the Holy Land, the order was destroyed by King Philip IV of France.

Following the success of the First Crusade (1095–99), a number of Crusader states were established in the Holy Land, but these kingdoms lacked the necessary military force to maintain more than a tenuous hold over their territories. Most Crusaders returned home after fulfilling their vows, and Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem suffered attacks from Muslim raiders. Pitying the plight of these Christians, eight or nine French knights led by Hugh de Payns vowed in late 1119 or early 1120 to devote themselves to the pilgrims’ protection and to form a religious community for that purpose. Baldwin II, king of Jerusalem, gave them quarters in a wing of the royal palace in the area of the former Temple of Solomon, and from this they derived their name.

Although the Templars were opposed by those who rejected the idea of a religious military order and later by those who criticized their wealth and influence, they were supported by many secular and religious leaders. Beginning in 1127, Hugh undertook a tour of Europe and was well received by many nobles, who made significant donations to the knights. The Templars obtained further sanction at the Council of Troyes in 1128, which may have requested that Bernard of Clairvaux compose the new rule. Bernard also wrote In Praise of the New Knighthood (c. 1136), which defended the order against its critics and contributed to its growth. In 1139 Pope Innocent II issued a bull that granted the order special privileges: the Templars were allowed to build their own oratories and were not required to pay the tithe; they were also exempt from episcopal jurisdiction, being subject to the pope alone.

The rule of the order was modeled after the Benedictine Rule, especially as understood and implemented by the Cistercians. The Knights Templar swore an oath of poverty, chastity, and obedience and renounced the world, just as the Cistercians and other monks did. Like the monks, the Templars heard the divine office during each of the canonical hours of the day and were expected to honour the fasts and vigils of the monastic calendar. They were frequently found in prayer and expressed particular veneration to the Virgin Mary. They were not allowed to gamble, swear, or become drunk and were required to live in community, sleeping in a common dormitory and eating meals together. They were not, however, strictly cloistered, as were the monks, nor were they expected to perform devotional reading (most Templars were uneducated and unable to read Latin). The knights’ primary duty was to fight. The Templars gradually expanded their duties from protecting pilgrims to mounting a broader defense of the Crusader states in the Holy Land. They built castles, garrisoned important towns, and participated in battles, fielding significant contingents against Muslim armies until the fall of Acre, the last remaining Crusader stronghold in the Holy Land, in 1291. Their great effectiveness was attested by the sultan Saladin following the devastating defeat of Crusader forces at the Battle of Ḥaṭṭīn; he bought the Templars who were taken prisoner and later had each of them executed.

By the mid-12th century the constitution of the order and its basic structure were established. It was headed by a grand master, who was elected for life and served in Jerusalem. Templar territories were divided into provinces, which were governed by provincial commanders, and each individual house, called a preceptory, was headed by a preceptor. General chapter meetings of all members of the order were held to address important matters affecting the Templars and to elect a new master when necessary. Similar meetings were held at the provincial level and on a weekly basis in each house.

The Templars were originally divided into two classes: knights and sergeants. The knight-brothers came from the military aristocracy and were trained in the arts of war. They assumed elite leadership positions in the order and served at royal and papal courts. Only the knights wore the Templars’ distinctive regalia, a white surcoat marked with a red cross. The sergeants, or serving-brothers, who were usually from lower social classes, made up the majority of members. They dressed in black habits and served as both warriors and servants. The Templars eventually added a third class, the chaplains, who were responsible for holding religious services, administering the sacraments, and addressing the spiritual needs of the other members. Although women were not allowed to join the order, there seems to have been at least one Templar nunnery.

The Templars eventually acquired great wealth. The kings and great nobles of Spain, France, and England gave lordships, castles, seigniories, and estates to the order, so that by the mid-12th century the Templars owned properties scattered throughout western Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Holy Land. The Templars’ military strength enabled them to safely collect, store, and transport bullion to and from Europe and the Holy Land, and their network of treasure storehouses and their efficient transport organization made them attractive as bankers to kings as well as to pilgrims to the Holy Land.

The Templars were not without enemies, however. They had long engaged in a bitter rivalry with the other great military order of Europe, the Hospitallers, and, by the late 13th century, proposals were being made to merge the two contentious orders into one. The fall of Acre to the Muslims in 1291 removed much of the Templars’ reason for being, and their great wealth, extensive landholdings in Europe, and power inspired resentment toward them. Although an ex-Templar had accused the order of blasphemy and immorality as early as 1304 (though more likely 1305), it was only later—after Philip IV ordered the arrest on October 13, 1307, of every Templar in France and sequestered all the Templars’ property in the country—that most of the people of Europe became aware of the extent of the alleged crimes of the order. Philip accused the Templars of heresy and immorality; specific charges against them included idol worship (of a bearded male head said to have great powers), worship of a cat, homosexuality, and numerous other errors of belief and practice. At the order’s secret initiation rite, it was claimed, the new member denied Christ three times, spat on the crucifix, and was kissed on the base of the spine, on the navel, and on the mouth by the knight presiding over the ceremony. The charges, now recognized to be without foundation, were calculated to stoke contemporary fears of heretics, witches, and demons and were similar to allegations Philip had used against Pope Boniface VIII.

The reasons why Philip sought to destroy the Templars are unclear; he may have genuinely feared their power and been motivated by his own piety to destroy a heretical group, or he may have simply seen an opportunity to seize their immense wealth, being chronically short of money himself. At any rate, Philip mercilessly pursued the order and had many of its members tortured to secure false confessions. Although Pope Clement V, himself a Frenchman, ordered the arrest of all the Templars in November 1307, a church council in 1311 voted overwhelmingly against suppression, and Templars in countries other than France were found innocent of the charges. Clement, however, under strong pressure from Philip, suppressed the order on March 22, 1312, and the Templars’ property throughout Europe was transferred to the Hospitallers or confiscated by secular rulers. Knights who confessed and were reconciled to the church were sent into retirement in the order’s former houses or in monasteries, but those who failed to confess or who relapsed were put on trial. Among those judged guilty was the order’s last grand master, Jacques de Molay. Brought before a commission established by the pope, de Molay and other leaders were judged relapsed heretics and sentenced to life in prison. The master protested and repudiated his confession and was burned at the stake, the last victim of a highly unjust and opportunistic persecution.

At the time of its destruction, the order was an important institution in both Europe and the Holy Land and already an object of myth and legend. The Templars were associated with the Grail legend and were identified as defenders of the Grail castle through the remainder of the Middle Ages. In the 18th century the Freemasons claimed to have received in a secret line of succession esoteric knowledge that the Templars had possessed. The Templars were also identified as Gnostics and were accused of involvement in a number of conspiracies, including one that was allegedly behind the French Revolution. In the 20th century the image of Christ on the Shroud of Turin was identified as the head allegedly worshipped by the Templars. Resurrecting a vein of pseudohistory and Grail legends, authors in the 20th century, claiming to assert historical fact but writing what most scholars regard as fantasy, implicated the Templars in a vast conspiracy dedicated to preserving the blood line of Jesus. Similar occult conspiracy theories were also used by writers of fiction in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Encyclopaedia Britannica


Teutonic Order

religious order
also called Teutonic Knights, formally House of the Hospitalers of Saint Mary of the Teutons in Jerusalem, German Deutscher Orden, or Deutscher Ritter-Orden, or Haus der Ritter des Hospitals Sankt Marien der Deutschen zu Jerusalem, Latin Domus Sanctae Mariae Theutonicorum in Jerusalem
religious order that played a major role in eastern Europe in the late Middle Ages and that underwent various changes in organization and residence from its founding in 1189/90 to the present. Its major residences, marking its major states of development, were: (1) Acre, Palestine (modern ʿAkko, Israel), its original home beginning with the Third Crusade (1189/90–c. 1291); (2) Marienburg, Prussia (modern Malbork, Pol.), the centre of its role as a military principality (1309–1525); (3) Mergentheim, Württemberg, Ger., to which it moved after its loss of Prussia (1525–1809); and (4) Vienna, where the order gathered the remains of its revenues and survives as a purely hospital order (from 1834).

In 1189–90, when crusading forces were besieging Acre, some German merchants from Bremen and Lübeck formed a fraternity to nurse the sick there. After the capture of Acre (1191), this fraternity took over a hospital in the town and began to describe itself as the Hospital of St. Mary of the German House in Jerusalem. Pope Clement III approved it, and it adopted a rule like that of the original Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (i.e., the Knights of Malta).

The death of the Hohenstaufen emperor Henry VI in 1197, when he was planning a great expedition to Palestine, caused an important change: a number of German crusaders who had arrived in Palestine decided to return home. In order to fill the gap, the German princes and bishops, together with King Amalric II of Jerusalem, in 1198 militarized the fraternity, making it a religious order of knights. The new order was put under a monastic and military rule like that of the Templars. It received privileges from Popes Celestine III and Innocent III and extensive grants of land, not only in the kingdom of Jerusalem but also in Germany and elsewhere. Innocent III in 1205 granted the Teutonic knights the use of the white habit with a black cross.

The knights left Palestine forever toward the end of the Crusades, with the final fall of the country to Islām (1291).

Eastern Europe and Prussia.
Meanwhile, under the leadership of the grand master Hermann von Salza (reigned 1210–39), the Teutonic knights had already begun transferring their main centre of activity from the Middle East to eastern Europe. The order’s first European enterprise started in Hungary in 1211, when King Andrew II invited a group of the Teutonic Knights to protect his Transylvanian borderland against the Cumans by colonizing it and by converting its people to Christianity. The order was then granted extensive rights of autonomy; but the knights’ demands became so excessive that they were expelled from Hungary in 1225. By that time, however, a new opportunity was opening: a Polish duke, Conrad of Mazovia, with lands on the lower reaches of the Vistula River, needed help against the pagan Prussians.

Hermann von Salza proceeded carefully, in order to avoid a repetition of what the order had experienced in Transylvania. He already enjoyed the confidence of the Hohenstaufen emperor Frederick II, whom he had served as a diplomat. So, when Conrad made his offer, Hermann in 1226 obtained from Frederick the so-called Golden Bull of Rimini as a legal basis for the settlement. By this charter, Frederick confirmed to Hermann and to the order not only the lands to be granted by Conrad but also those that the knights were to conquer from the Prussians. Later (1234), Hermann also secured privileges from Pope Gregory IX, which can be regarded as the second foundation charter of the order’s Prussian state: the papacy was ready to accept the order’s current and future conquests as the property of the Holy See and to grant them back to the order in perpetual tenure.

In 1233, led by the Landmeister (provincial leader) Hermann Balk and using an army of volunteer laymen recruited mainly from central Germany, the Teutonic Knights began the conquest of Prussia. During the next 50 years, having advanced from the lower Vistula River to the lower Neman (Niemen, Nemunas) River and having exterminated most of the native Prussian population (especially during the major rebellion of 1261–83), the order firmly established its control over Prussia.

Although the order gave one-third of the conquered territory to the church and granted a large degree of autonomy to the newly developing towns in the area, it easily became the dominant power in Prussia. It worked to develop the region by building castles, by importing German peasants to settle in depopulated areas, by bestowing substantial estates on German and Polish nobles who became vassals of the order, and by monopolizing the lucrative Prussian grain trade, particularly after 1263, when the pope allowed the knights, who had previously been bound by a vow of poverty, to engage directly in trading activities.

In 1237, less than two years before Hermann von Salza’s death, the Order of the Brothers of the Sword (Schwertbrüderorden), also known as the Knights of the Sword, or the Livonian Order (founded 1202), was made a branch of the Teutonic Order, its head becoming Landmeister of Livonia. The Teutonic Order, however, never established such effective control over these northern provinces as it did over Prussia.

By 1309, when the order’s grand master established his residence at Marienburg, the order had created a strong feudal state that governed not only Prussia but also the eastern Baltic lands of the Livonian Knights (i.e., Courland, Livonia, and, after 1346, Estonia); Pomerelia, or Eastern Pomerania, including the city of Danzig (Gdańsk); and lands in central and southern Germany. During the following century the order demonstrated its power by continually, although unsuccessfully, trying to conquer and convert Lithuania; by actively protecting the merchant cities of the Hanseatic League; and by expanding its territories through purchase and conquest.

The order’s expansion and increasing power, however, aroused the hostility of both Poland, whose access to the Baltic Sea had been cut off, and Lithuania, whose territory the knights continued to menace despite Lithuania’s conversion to Christianity in 1387. Consequently, when a rebellion broke out against the order in Samogitia (1408), Poland and Lithuania joined forces and decisively defeated the knights at Grunwald (1410). Although the order was compelled to give up only Samogitia and the Dobrzyń land (Treaty of Toruń, 1411), its military might was broken. Subsequently, its authority and financial position also rapidly declined; it was unable to withstand the wars that Poland continued to wage, and when its own vassals joined the Poles in the Thirteen Years’ War (1454–66), the order was finally defeated. In 1466 it ceded Pomerelia, both banks of the Vistula, and the bishopric of Warmia (Ermland) to Poland (Treaty of Torún, 1466). The order retained the rest of Prussia, but its grand master became a vassal of the Polish king for that territory. Furthermore, the formerly exclusively German order was obliged to accept Polish members.

Decline and fall of the knights.
The Teutonic Order’s rule in Prussia came to an end in 1525, when the grand master Albert, under Protestant influence, dissolved the order there and accepted its territory as a secular duchy for himself under Polish suzerainty. In 1526 a new grand master, Walter of Cronenberg (Kronenberg), fixed his residence at Mergentheim in Franconia (Württemberg). After the loss of Prussia the order still retained in Europe several territories. But in 1558 the Livonian territory was lost, partitioned between Russia, Sweden, and Poland-Lithuania. In 1580 the secession of Utrecht meant the loss of territory in the Low Countries. In the late 17th century Louis XIV secularized its possessions in France. In 1801 the Treaty of Luneville stripped the order of its German possession on the left bank of the Rhine. In 1809 the emperor Napoleon, at war with Austria, declared the order to be dissolved and distributed most of its remaining lands among other principalities.

The Austrian revival.
By the end of the Napoleonic wars the Teutonic Order retained only small territories in the Austrian domains and the Tyrol. In 1834 the Austrian emperor reestablished the order in Vienna, as an ecclesiastical institution, reserving the dignity of grand master for an archduke of his house. New statutes in 1839–40 limited the knights to charitable and pastoral activities and limited the order’s sisters to nursing. In 1871 Pope Pius IX approved new rules for the priests of the order. When the Habsburg empire collapsed in 1918, the last imperial grand master, Archduke Maximilian, gave way to a priest as grand master for the first time. A new rule of Nov. 27, 1929, emphasized religious discipline.

Currently the headquarters of the order are in Vienna (Singerstrasse 7), where it maintains a church and an archives of the order. Branch houses also exist in Bavaria, Hesse, and the Italian Tyrol.

Encyclopaedia Britannica




religious order
also spelled Hospitalers, also called Order of Malta or Knights of Malta, formally (since 1961) Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, and of Malta, previously (1113–1309) Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, (1309–1522) Order of the Knights of Rhodes, (1530–1798) Sovereign and Military Order of the Knights of Malta, or (1834–1961) Knights Hospitaller of St. John of Jerusalem
a religious military order that was founded at Jerusalem in the 11th century and that, headquartered in Rome, continues its humanitarian tasks in most parts of the modern world under several slightly different names and jurisdictions.

The origin of the Hospitallers was an 11th-century hospital founded in Jerusalem by Italian merchants from Amalfi to care for sick and poor pilgrims. After the Christian conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade, the hospital’s superior, a monk named Gerard, intensified his work in Jerusalem and founded hostels in Provençal and Italian cities on the route to the Holy Land. The order was formally named and recognized on February 15, 1113, in a papal bull issued by Pope Paschal II. Raymond de Puy, who succeeded Gerard in 1120, substituted the Augustinian rule for the Benedictine and began building the power of the organization. It acquired wealth and lands and combined the task of tending the sick with defending the Crusader kingdom. Along with the Templars, the Hospitallers became the most formidable military order in the Holy Land.

When the Muslims recaptured Jerusalem in 1187, the Hospitallers removed their headquarters first to Margat and then, in 1197, to Acre. When the Crusader principalities came to an end after the fall of Acre in 1291, the Hospitallers moved to Limassol in Cyprus. In 1309 they acquired Rhodes, which they came to rule as an independent state, with right of coinage and other attributes of sovereignty. Under the order’s rule, the master (grand master from c. 1430) was elected for life (subject to papal confirmation) and ruled a celibate brotherhood of knights, chaplains, and serving brothers. For more than two centuries these Knights of Rhodes were the scourge of Muslim shipping on the eastern Mediterranean. They constituted the last Christian outpost in the East.

By the 15th century the Turks had succeeded the Arabs as the protagonists of militant Islam, and in 1522 Süleyman the Magnificent laid final siege to Rhodes. After six months the Knights capitulated and on January 1, 1523, sailed away with as many of the citizens as chose to follow them. For seven years the wandering Knights were without a base, but in 1530 the Holy Roman emperor Charles V gave them the Maltese archipelago in return, among other things, for the annual presentation of a falcon to his viceroy of Sicily. The superb leadership of the grand master Jean Parisot de la Valette prevented Süleyman the Magnificent from dislodging the Knights from Malta in 1565 in one of the most famous sieges in history, which ended in a Turkish disaster. What was left of the Turkish navy was permanently crippled in 1571 at the Battle of Lepanto by the combined fleets of several European powers that included the Knights of Malta. The Knights then proceeded to build a new Maltese capital, Valletta, named after la Valette. In it they built great defense works and a hospital of grand dimensions that attracted many physically and mentally ill patients from outside Malta.

Thereafter the Knights continued as a territorial sovereign state in Malta but gradually gave up warfare and turned wholly to territorial administration and to medical care. In 1798, however, their reign in Malta came to an end, when Napoleon, on his way to Egypt, occupied the island. The order’s return to Malta was provided for in the Treaty of Amiens (1802) but eliminated by the Treaty of Paris (1814), which assigned Malta to Great Britain. In 1834 the Knights of Malta became permanently established in Rome. From 1805 they were ruled by lieutenants until Pope Leo XIII revived the office of grand master in 1879. A new constitution containing a more precise definition of both the religious and the sovereign status of the order was adopted in 1961, and a code was issued in 1966.

Although the order no longer exercises territorial rule, it issues passports, and its sovereign status is recognized by the Holy See and some other Roman Catholic states. Membership is confined to Roman Catholics, and the central organization is essentially aristocratic, being ruled chiefly by a primary class of “professed” knights of justice and chaplains who can prove the nobility of their four grandparents for two centuries.

Encyclopaedia Britannica




Illustrations: The Real History of the Crusades by Thomas F. Madden


Frederick II

Holy Roman emperor

born Dec. 26, 1194, Jesi, Ancona, Papal States
died Dec. 13, 1250, Castel Fiorentino, Apulia, Kingdom of Sicily

king of Sicily (1197–1250), duke of Swabia (as Frederick VI, 1228–35), German king (1212–50), and Holy Roman emperor (1220–50). A Hohenstaufen and grandson of Frederick I Barbarossa, he pursued his dynasty’s imperial policies against the papacy and the Italian city states; and he also joined in the Sixth Crusade (1228–29), conquering several areas of the Holy Land and crowning himself king of Jerusalem (reigning 1229–43).

Early years.
In 1196, Frederick, at the age of two, was elected king by the German princes at Frankfort. His father, however, failed in his attempt to gain the princes’ support to make Frederick’s succession hereditary. Just before embarking on a crusade to the Holy Land, Emperor Henry died in September 1197 after a brief illness, only 32 years old. Though the medieval Roman Empire was at the height of its strength, the Emperor’s death brought it close to dissolution.

After the death of her husband, Empress Constance had young Frederick brought to Sicily, where in May 1198 he was crowned king of Sicily. Before her death later that year, Constance loosened the bonds that joined Sicily to the empire and to Germany by appointing Pope Innocent III her son’s guardian as well as regent of the Kingdom of Sicily, which was already under papal suzerainty. In Germany two rival kings were elected, Frederick’s uncle Philip of Swabia and Otto of Brunswick, as Otto IV.

Even the Pope, however, did not succeed in protecting Sicily from many years of anarchy. German and papal captains, local barons, and Sicilian Saracens, as well as the cities of Genoa and Pisa, fought for mastery of the country. The situation was not stabilized until the imperial chancellor conquered Palermo in November 1206 and governed in Frederick’s name. In December 1208 Frederick, then 14, was declared of age.

In 1209 he married the much older Constance of Aragon, who brought him an urgently needed troop of knights with whose help he gained control of Sicily, defeated a conspiracy of the barons, and was partially successful in regaining the crown properties that had been lost during his minority. At this time his relations with the Pope began to show signs of strain.

Frederick’s Sicilian efforts were seriously endangered when at the end of 1210 Otto IV invaded the realm on the mainland and in 1211 even threatened Sicily itself. Otto withdrew, however, when in September 1211 a number of German princes deposed him and elected Frederick king.

Before leaving for Germany in March 1212, Frederick had his one-year-old son Henry VII crowned king of Sicily and granted various privileges to the Holy See. Having rapidly conquered south Germany, where he met almost no opposition, Frederick was elected once again king of Germany by a large majority of princes at Frankfurt in December 1212 and crowned a few days later. In the same year he concluded an alliance with France against Otto, who was decisively defeated at the Battle of Bouvines in July 1214.

Consolidation of the empire.
In April 1220 Frederick’s nine-year-old son Henry VII was elected king by the German princes, thus negating Frederick’s promise to Pope Innocent that he would relinquish control of Sicily in favour of Henry, for it meant that Sicily and Germany would eventually be united under one ruler. Although Frederick sought to exonerate himself with Pope Honorius III by claiming that the election had been held without his knowledge, he had to pay for it by surrendering extensive royal prerogatives to the German ecclesiastical princes.

Crowned emperor by the Pope in St. Peter’s Church, in Rome, on Nov. 22, 1220, Frederick confirmed on the same day the legal separation of the empire from the Kingdom of Sicily while continuing the existing personal union. In addition, he granted important privileges to the Italian ecclesiastics and issued laws against heretics, and it seemed indeed that harmony had been reestablished between the Emperor and the Pope for some years to come. Frederick spent the following years consolidating his rule in Sicily. He broke the resistance of the barons to revocation of certain of their privileges and defeated the rebellious Saracens (1222–24), whom he later resettled in Apulia where they became his most faithful subjects, providing him with a loyal bodyguard immune against papal influence.

In addition to erecting a chain of castles and border fortifications, he had enlarged the harbours of his kingdom and established a navy and a fleet of merchant vessels. He instituted measures designed to bring trade under state control and make the manufacture of certain products the monopoly of the state. Finally, he created a civil service for which candidates were trained at the first European state university, in Naples, which he himself founded in 1224.

Years as a crusader.
In the meantime, the Pope was reminding the Emperor of the crusading vows he had taken at his coronations in 1212 and 1220. Frederick, however, was inclined to postpone such a venture until the Italian problems had been resolved. He claimed the Kingdom of Jerusalem for himself through his marriage to Isabella (Yolande) of Brienne, the heiress of the titular king of Jerusalem, who had become his wife in 1225 after Constance had died in 1222. Before embarking for the Holy Land, Frederick convened an imperial diet for Easter 1226 in Cremona, in northern Italy, in order to reinforce certain imperial rights in Italy and to prepare for the crusade. The cities of Lombardy, however, reconstituted themselves, under the leadership of Milan, as the Lombard League, and not only sabotaged the diet at Cremona but effectively opposed Frederick’s reorganization of northern Italy.

In September 1227, when Frederick was at last ready to embark from Brindisi for the Holy Land, an epidemic broke out among the crusaders. The new pope, Gregory IX, a passionate man who belonged to the intellectual world of Francis of Assisi—his personal friend whom he canonized as early as 1228—brushed aside Frederick’s justification and excommunicated him for his failure to carry out the crusade.

In June 1228, ignoring the excommunication, Frederick set sail from Brindisi. In the Holy Land, following complex negotiations, he obtained Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth from the Sultan al-Kāmil of Egypt. It was certainly the impact of Frederick’s personality on the Arab world, and not armed might, that made this treaty possible. On March 18, 1229, the excommunicated emperor crowned himself king of Jerusalem in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This was the high point as well as the turning point of Frederick’s conception of sovereignty. Eschatological prophecies concerning his rule were now made, and the Emperor considered himself to be a messiah, a new David. His entry into Jerusalem was compared with that of Christ on Palm Sunday, and, indeed, in a manifesto the Emperor, too, compared himself to Christ.

In the meantime, however, papal troops had penetrated into the Kingdom of Sicily. Frederick returned at once and reconquered the lost areas but did not in turn attack the Papal States. His diplomacy was rewarded: after the Treaty of San Germano (July 1230) he was absolved from excommunication the following month at Ceprano.

In August 1231, at Melfi, the Emperor issued his new constitutions for the Kingdom of Sicily. Not since the reign of the Byzantine emperor Justinian in the 6th century had the administrative law of a European state been codified. Frederick’s codes contained many ideas that anticipated enlightened absolutism and the centralization of the state. During the same time, however, Frederick could not prevent his son, the German king Henry VII, from making a number of important concessions to the German princes. These concessions, confirmed by Frederick in 1232 at the diet of Cividale, strengthened the rule of the princes at the expense of the central power of the empire. These and other steps set back the development of communal self-government in Germany and furthered the independence of the principalities. In the meantime, relations between Frederick and Henry VII deteriorated steadily. Henry had been ruling independently in Germany since 1228, when in December 1234 he entered into an alliance with the Lombard League. This action amounted to high treason in the eyes of the Emperor. On Frederick’s arrival in Germany, his son’s rebellion collapsed; he died in a prison in Calabria in 1242.

His second wife having died in 1228, Frederick in July 1235 married Isabella of England. Shortly thereafter, he issued an edict of imperial peace, which also called for the appointment of a chief justice of the imperial court in order to protect the sovereign rights of the emperor from further erosion.

After some military successes in Lombardy against the Lombard League, the Emperor returned to Germany in 1236 to remove the rebellious duke Frederick of Austria and Styria from rule. In February 1237 he had his nine-year-old son Conrad IV elected king of Germany in Vienna. After several more months in Germany—it was to be his last visit—he descended into northern Italy. He defeated the Lombard League at Cortenuova, but, misjudging his strength, he rejected all Milanese peace overtures and insisted on unconditional surrender. It was a moment of grave historic importance when Frederick’s hatred coloured his judgment and blocked all possibilities of a peaceful settlement.

Struggle with the papacy.
Milan and five other cities held out, and in October 1238 he had to raise the siege of Brescia. In the same year the marriage of Frederick’s natural son Enzio with the Sardinian princess Adelasia and the designation of Enzio as king of Sardinia, in which the papacy claimed suzerainty, led to the final break with the Pope. Gregory IX deeply distrusted Frederick both in religious and political matters: Frederick was supposed to have jested that Moses, Christ, and Muḥammad were three impostors who had themselves been hoodwinked; and in the political arena the Pope was fearful that the Papal States were about to be isolated and encircled, particularly because a pro-imperial party had been formed in Rome. Under the pretext that the Emperor intended to drive him from Rome, Gregory excommunicated Frederick for the second time on Palm Sunday, March 20, 1239. This was the beginning of the last phase of the gigantic struggle between the papacy and the empire; it ended with the death of the Emperor and the downfall of his house.

Frederick countered the excommunication with a number of important manifestos, most of them composed by Pietro della Vigna, a member of the imperial chancery, who had outstanding literary gifts. The manifesto emphasized that the cardinals were meant to participate in the leadership of the church, and Frederick even tried to evoke solidarity among the secular princes. He also, however, intensified his military activities in northern Italy. In order to finance his constantly growing need for arms, he instituted a thorough administrative reorganization of imperial Italy (among others, the formation of 10 vice regencies) and of the Kingdom of Sicily. In addition, he decreed the rigorous surveillance of the population. In central Italy he took the offensive, occupying the March of Ancona and the Duchy of Spoleto, and in February 1240 his army marched into the Papal States and threatened Rome. At the last moment, however, the Pope won the support of the Romans.

Following the defeat of a Genoese fleet bringing delegates for a papal council to Rome, more than 100 high-ranking ecclesiastics—cardinals and bishops among them—were taken as Frederick’s prisoners to Apulia. This military victory proved, however, to be a political disadvantage: it provided material for propaganda depicting Frederick as an oppressor of the church.

While still encamped before Rome, Frederick received the news of Pope Gregory’s death and thereupon withdrew to Sicily. In the meantime, the Mongols had invaded Europe. They were temporarily halted in the extremely bloody Battle of Liegnitz in Silesia on April 9, 1241, but probably only the sudden death of their leader, the great khan Ögödei, prevented further Mongol advances at that time.

Celestine IV’s brief pontificate was followed by a long interregnum. When in 1243 Innocent IV was elected, Frederick, at the urging of the German princes and of King Louis IX of France, opened negotiations with the new pope. Agreement between the Pope and the Emperor seemed close on the evacuation of the Papal States, when in June 1244 Innocent fled the city. In Lyon he convened a council for 1245 and in July of that year deposed the Emperor, the obstacle to reconciliation apparently being the status of the Lombard communes.

The battle between the Emperor and the papacy then raged in full fury; on the papal side the Emperor was branded as the precursor of the anti-Christ; on the imperial side he was hailed as a messiah. The Emperor supported the contemporary demand that the church return to the poverty and saintliness of the early Christian community and again appealed to the princes of Europe to join in a defensive league against the power-hungry prelates. Most of the princes, however, remained neutral, and, although two successive German antikings received little support, the Emperor steadily lost ground in Germany.

In May 1247 Frederick’s planned journey to Lyon in order to plead his own case before the papal council was interrupted by the revolt of the strategically placed city of Parma. In the wake of this debacle much of central Italy and the Romagna was lost. The following year the Emperor was to suffer further blows of fate; Pietro della Vigna, for many years the Emperor’s confidant, was accused of treason and committed suicide in prison. In May 1249 King Enzio of Sardinia, Frederick’s favourite son, was captured by the Bolognese and was kept incarcerated until his death in 1272.

The Emperor’s position, both in Italy and—through the efforts of his son, Conrad IV—in Germany, was improving when he died unexpectedly in 1250. He was buried in the cathedral of Palermo near his first wife, his parents, and his Norman grandfather.

When the news of his death was published, all Europe was deeply shaken. Doubts arose that he was really dead; false Fredericks appeared everywhere; in Sicily a legend grew that he had been conveyed to the Aetna volcano; in Germany that he was encapsuled in a mountain and would return as the latter-day emperor to punish the worldly church and peacefully reestablish the Holy Roman Empire. Yet he was also thought to live on in his heirs. In fact, however, within 22 years after his death, all of them were dead: victims of the battle with the papacy that their father had begun.

Frederick’s character was marked by sharp contradictions, undoubtedly the result of his insecure and emotionally barren childhood. Enchanting amiability and gaiety were paired with cruelty; harshness and rigidity existed side by side with superior intelligence and a keen sense of reality; tolerance and intolerance went hand in hand; impulsive sensuality did not stand in the way of genuine piety; imbalance and inner discord pervaded his personality and his achievements.

Frederick cannot be considered the first modern man on the throne, nor a pioneer of the Renaissance, as some historians have maintained. Though his gifted personality heralded some of the intellectual trends of later times, he was, all in all, a man of the Middle Ages. He had indeed had the good fortune to have grown up in Sicily in a mixed culture that uniquely combined elements of antiquity, Arabic and Jewish wisdom, the Occidental spirit of the Middle Ages, and Norman realism. The intellectual life of his court reflected this heritage. A courtly “republic of scholars,” it nurtured and fostered the natural sciences as well as philosophy, poetry, and mathematics, and translations as well as original writing, both in Latin and in the vernacular. The pursuit of knowledge without special respect for traditional authorities was characteristic of Frederick and his court.

Witness to the intellectual vigour and distinction of Frederick himself and those around him are the content and style of his great legal codices and manifestos, many of them serving as examples to later generations; the edifices he erected, particularly the classic style of the Castello del Monte—a fusion of poetry and mathematics in stone; and, most outstanding, his own work De arte venandi cum avibus, a standard work on falconry based entirely on his own experimental research.

Frederick’s concept of the emperor’s function was rooted in the ideology of the late Greco-Roman period and the Judeo-Christian philosophy of the Middle Ages, emphasizing the sacredness and universal character of the office. In the light of it, Frederick claimed preeminence for the emperor over all other secular rulers—undoubtedly an ill-timed claim in an age when separate nation-states were developing. Thus, Frederick’s policies, full of intellectual and political promise, were in actuality dogged by tragedy.

Gunther Wolf

Encyclopaedia Britannica




(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

The History of the Crusades illustrations by Gustave Dore



Crusaders throwing heads into Nicaea
As a victorious gesture, severed heads from slaughtered
Turks are thrown into the city by the Crusaders.

The era of the Second and Third Crusades » The Third Crusade

The news of the fall of Jerusalem reached Europe even before the arrival there of Archbishop Josius of Tyre, whom the Crusaders had sent with urgent appeals for aid. Pope Urban III soon died, shocked, it was said, by the sad news. His successor, Gregory VIII, issued a Crusade bull and called for fasting and penitence.

Before a new Crusade could be organized, however, a modest recovery had begun in the East. Scarcely two weeks after Ḥaṭṭin, Conrad of Montferrat, Baldwin V’s uncle, had landed at Tyre with a small Italian fleet and a number of followers. He immediately established himself sufficiently to stave off an attack by Saladin. Conrad also refused to submit to King Guy when Saladin released the king at the end of 1188 as promised.

In a daring move to reestablish his authority, Guy suddenly gathered his few followers and besieged Acre, taking Saladin completely by surprise. When the Muslim leader finally moved his army toward the city, the Crusaders camped outside had begun to receive reinforcements from the West, many under the banner of Henry of Champagne. By the winter of 1190–91, neither side had made progress; Saladin could not relieve the city, but the Crusaders had suffered losses from disease and famine.

Among the victims of disease was Guy’s wife, Sibyl, the source of his claims to the throne. Many of the older barons who had thus far supported him now turned to Conrad. The marriage of Sibyl’s sister, Isabel, to Humphrey of Toron was forthwith annulled, and she was constrained to marry Conrad. But Guy refused to abandon his claim to the throne. Such was the situation in May 1191 when ships arrived off Acre bringing welcome supplies and news of the approach of the armies of the Third Crusade.

The first ruler to respond to the papal appeal was William II of Sicily, who immediately abandoned a conflict with Byzantium and equipped a fleet that soon left for the East, though William himself died in November 1189. English, Danish, and Flemish ships also departed. Meanwhile, Gregory VIII had sent a legation to the Holy Roman emperor and participant in the Second Crusade, Frederick Barbarossa, now nearly 70 years old and approaching the end of an eventful career. Although excommunicated by Pope Alexander III and a supporter of antipopes in the 1160s and ’70s, Frederick had made peace with the church in 1177 and for some time had been genuinely desirous of going on Crusade again.

He set out in May 1189 with the largest Crusade army so far assembled and crossed Hungary into Byzantine territory. The Byzantine emperor, Isaac II Angelus, had made a secret treaty with Saladin to impede Frederick’s progress through Greece, which he did quite effectively. Frederick responded by capturing the Byzantine city of Adrianople, returning it only when Isaac agreed to transport the Germans across the Hellespont into Turkey. In May 1190 Frederick reached Iconium after defeating a Seljuq army. His forces then crossed into Armenian territory. On June 10 Frederick, who had ridden ahead with his bodyguard, was drowned while attempting to swim a stream. His death broke the morale of the German army, and only a small remnant, under Frederick of Swabia and Leopold of Austria, finally reached Tyre. To Saladin and the Muslims, who had been seriously alarmed by Frederick’s approach, the emperor’s death seemed an act of God.

In Europe, Archbishop Josius had won over Philip II Augustus of France and Henry II of England, whose son and successor, Richard I (Richard the Lion-Heart), took up the cause when Henry died in 1189. The extensive holdings of the English Angevin kings in France and especially Philip’s desire to recover Normandy, however, posed problems that were difficult to lay aside even during a common enterprise. Thus, it was not until July 4, 1190, three years after Ḥaṭṭin, that the English and French rulers met at Vézelay and prepared to move with their armies.

The two kings who finally led the Third Crusade were very different persons. Richard had opposed his father and was distrustful of his brothers. He could be lavishly generous even to his adversaries but often violent to anyone who stood in his way. His abilities lay not in administration, for which he had no talent, but in war, at which he was a genius. The favourite son of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard epitomized the chivalrous Crusader and personified the contemporary troubadour’s view of war with all its aristocratic courtoisie. Richard could honour his noble Muslim opponents but be utterly ruthless to lowborn captives.

Unlike Richard, Philip II had been king for 10 years and was a skilled and unscrupulous politician. He had no love for ostentation. Though no warrior himself, he was adept at planning sieges and designing siege engines. But he was a reluctant Crusader whose real interests lay in the expansion of his own domains.

At the suggestion of King William II, Richard and Philip met at Messina, in Sicily, where they signed an agreement outlining their mutual obligations and rights on the Crusade. Philip arrived with the French fleet at Acre on April 20, 1191, and the siege was begun again in earnest.

After a stormy passage, Richard put in at Cyprus, where his sister Joan and his fiancée, Berengaria of Navarra, had been shipwrecked and held by the island’s Byzantine ruler, a rebel prince, Isaac Comnenus. Isaac underestimated Richard’s strength and attacked. Not only did Richard defeat and capture him, but he proceeded to conquer Cyprus, an important event in the history of the Crusades. The island would remain under direct Latin rule for the next four centuries and would be a vital source of supplies throughout the Third Crusade and beyond. Even after the fall of the Crusader states, Cyprus remained a Christian outpost in the East.

Richard left Cyprus and arrived on June 8 at Acre, where he reinvigorated the siege. A month later, after constant battering at the walls by siege engines and after Saladin’s nephew had failed to fight his way into the city, the garrison surrendered in violation of Saladin’s orders. The Muslim leader was shocked by the news but nevertheless ratified the surrender agreement. In exchange for the lives of the Muslim garrison, he agreed to return the True Cross, render 200,000 dinars, and release all his Christian prisoners—still more than 1,000 men.

As the Crusaders entered the city, disputes arose over the disposal of areas. Richard offended Leopold of Austria, and Philip, who felt that he had fulfilled his Crusader’s vow and who was unwell, left for home in August. Though the English and French troops resented Philip’s departure, it did leave Richard in control. When Saladin failed to pay the first installment of the ransom for the prisoners on schedule, Richard flew into a rage. He ordered that all 2,700 members of the Muslim garrison be marched outside the city and executed in view of Saladin and his army. Saladin responded by massacring most of his Christian hostages. Clearly, the deal was off.

The first and only pitched battle between the forces of Saladin and the Third Crusade occurred on September 7, 1191, at Arsuf. Richard’s military brilliance won the day, forcing Saladin to retreat with heavy losses, while the English king’s casualties were very light. After Arsuf, Saladin decided not to risk open battle with Richard again, who quickly recaptured Jaffa and established it as his base of operations. Richard next reestablished Christian control of the coast and refortified Ascalon to the south. Twice Richard led the Crusaders to Jerusalem, yet on both occasions he was forced to retreat after coming within sight of the holy city. Without control of the hinterland, the king knew that he could not hold Jerusalem for long. Although tactically sound, Richard’s refusal to lay siege to the city was bitterly unpopular among the rank and file. As a result, his suggestion that the Crusade attack Saladin’s power base in Egypt was rejected by most of the Crusaders.

After Philip returned to France, he preyed upon Richard’s lands; though forbidden by the church, these actions were lucrative nonetheless. Richard received urgent messages from home requesting his return. Meanwhile, he had been in constant communication with Saladin and his brother al-ʿĀdil, and various peace proposals were made, which included marriage alliances. In fact, there seemed to be warm cordiality and considerable mutual respect between Richard and Saladin. Finally, on September 2, 1192, the two signed a three-year peace treaty. The coast from Jaffa north remained in Christian hands, but Ascalon was to be restored to Saladin after Richard’s men demolished the fortifications that they had painstakingly built. Pilgrims were to have free access to the holy places. On October 9 Richard left. He was shipwrecked and finally fell into the hands of Leopold of Austria, who had not forgotten the slight at Acre.

The Third Crusade had failed to attain its main objective, the retaking of Jerusalem, but in every other way it was a great success. Most of Saladin’s victories in the wake of Ḥaṭṭin were wiped away. Before he left, Richard consented to the request that Guy, who had lost the support of nearly all the barons, be deposed and Conrad immediately be accepted as king. No sooner was this done than Conrad was murdered by the Assassins, members of the Nazārī Ismāʿīlite sect of Islam. Isabel was persuaded to marry Henry of Champagne, and Guy was given the governorship of Cyprus, where his record was far more successful than his ill-starred career in Jerusalem. Although he had failed to recapture Jerusalem, Richard had put the Christians of the Levant back on their feet.


The battle of Nicaea
Godfrey, Tancred, and the two Roberts fight valiantly,
eventually defeating the Turks.

The era of the Second and Third Crusades » The Latin East after the Third Crusade

Saladin died on March 3, 1193, not long after the departure of the Third Crusade. One of the greatest Muslim leaders, a man devoutly religious and deeply committed to jihad against the infidel, he was, nevertheless, respected by his opponents. His death led once again to divisions in the Muslim world, and his Ayyūbid successors were willing to continue a state of truce with the Crusaders, which lasted into the early years of the 13th century. The truce was politically and economically advantageous for both sides, and the Italians were quick to make profitable trade connections in Egypt. The Franks were able to adjust to the new situation and to organize what in effect was a new titular kingdom of Jerusalem, centring on Acre and generally known as the Second Kingdom.

In 1194 Amalric of Lusignan succeeded his brother Guy as ruler of Cyprus, where he later accepted investiture as king from the chancellor of Emperor Henry VI. In 1197, following the death of Henry of Champagne, Amalric succeeded to the throne of Jerusalem-Acre, and in 1198 he married the thrice-widowed Isabel. He chose, however, to govern his two domains separately, and in Acre he proved to be an excellent administrator. The Livre au Roi (Book of the King), an important section of the Assizes of Jerusalem, dates from his reign. He also dealt wisely with Saladin’s brother, al-ʿĀdil of Egypt. On Amalric’s death in 1205, the kingdoms of Cyprus and Jerusalem-Acre were divided, and in 1210 the latter was given to John of Brienne, a French knight nominated by Philip, who went east and married Conrad’s daughter, Mary.

There were also adjustments in the two northern states. When Raymond III of Tripoli died (1187), his county passed to a son of Bohemond III of Antioch, which thus united the two principalities. In general, Antioch-Tripoli followed the relatively independent course laid down by Bohemond III.

Armenia was more closely involved in Latin politics, partly as a result of marriage alliances with the house of Antioch-Tripoli. King Leo II of Armenia joined the Crusaders at Cyprus and Acre. Desirous of a royal crown, he approached both pope and emperor, and in 1198, with papal approval, royal insignia were bestowed by Archbishop Conrad of Mainz, in the name of Henry VI. At the same time, the Armenian church officially accepted a union with Rome, which, however, was never popular with the lower clergy and the general populace.

The battle of Dorylaeum
Under the supreme leadership of Bohemond,
the Crusaders defeat the Turks in a lengthy battle.



The Fourth Crusade and the Latin empire of Constantinople

Pope Innocent III was the first pope since Urban II to be both eager and able to make the Crusade a major papal concern. In 1198 he called a new Crusade through legates and encyclical letters. In 1199 a tax was levied on all clerical incomes—later to become a precedent for systematic papal income taxes—and Fulk of Neuilly, a popular orator, was commissioned to preach. At a tournament held by Thibaut III of Champagne, several prominent French nobles took the cross. Among them was Geoffrey of Villehardouin, author of one of the principal accounts of the Crusade; other important nobles joined later, and contact was made with Venice to provide transport.

Unfortunately, Thibaut of Champagne died before the Crusaders departed for Venice, and the barons turned to Boniface of Montferrat, whose involvement as leader of the Crusade proved to be fateful. He had close family ties with both the Byzantine Empire and the Crusader states. His brother, Conrad of Montferrat, had received the crown of Jerusalem only to be murdered by the Assassins shortly thereafter. Before going to the Holy Land, Conrad had married the sister of Emperor Isaac II Angelus and received the title of Caesar. Boniface was also the vassal of Philip of Swabia, who was a contender for the German throne and the son-in-law of Isaac II. In 1195 Isaac was blinded and deposed by his brother, who took the throne as Alexius III. Several years later Isaac’s son, also named Alexius, escaped from Constantinople and fled to Philip’s court. At Christmas 1201 Boniface, Philip, and the young Alexius discussed the possibility of using the Crusade to depose Alexius III and place the young man on the throne. Boniface sought the approval of the pope for the diversion, but Innocent refused to allow it. The young Alexius also journeyed to Rome but had no better luck with Innocent III. Despite the papal prohibition, Boniface and the Byzantine prince still hoped to find a way to move the Crusade toward Constantinople on its way to the Holy Land.

When the Crusade army arrived in Venice in the summer of 1202, it was only one-third of its projected size. This was a serious problem, since the French had contracted with the Venetians for a fleet and provisions that they now realized they neither needed nor could afford. The Venetians had incurred enormous expense for the French and were understandably upset by their inability to pay. The leader of Venice, Doge Enrico Dandolo, was a man of great sagacity and prudence who was in his 90s and completely blind by the time of the Crusade. Dandolo proposed that if the French would assist the Venetians in capturing the rebellious city of Zadar (now in Croatia), he would be willing to suspend the outstanding debt until it could be paid in captured booty. With few options, the Crusaders agreed, even though Zadar was a Christian city under the control of the king of Hungary, who had taken the Crusader’s vow. Innocent was informed of the plan, but his veto was disregarded. In November 1202 the Crusaders captured Zadar and wintered there. Reluctant to jeopardize the Crusade, Innocent gave conditional absolution to the Crusaders, but not to the Venetians.

Meanwhile, envoys from Philip of Swabia arrived at Zadar with an offer from Alexius, the Byzantine prince. If the Crusaders would sail to Constantinople and topple the reigning emperor, Alexius would place the Byzantine church in submission to Rome, pay the Crusaders an enormous sum, and join the Crusade to Egypt (now the centre of Muslim power in the Levant) with a large army. It was a tempting offer for an enterprise that was short on funds. The Crusade leaders accepted it, but a great many of the rank and file wanted nothing to do with the proposal, and many deserted. The Crusade sailed to Corfu before arriving in Constantinople in late June 1203. After the Crusaders attacked the northeastern corner of the city and then set a destructive fire, the citizens of Constantinople turned against Alexius III, who then fled. The Byzantine prince was elevated to the throne as Alexius IV along with his blind father, Isaac II.

Although the new emperor tried to make good his promises to the Crusaders, he soon ran short of money. He also faced anti-Latin hatred in Constantinople, which had been endemic for decades and now reached a fever pitch. Alexius IV, who owed his throne to Latins, became bitterly unpopular and was finally toppled in a palace coup in late January 1204. The Crusaders, now cheated of their reward and disgusted at the treachery of the Byzantines, declared war on Constantinople, which fell to the Fourth Crusade on April 12, 1204. What followed was one of the most profitable and disgraceful sacks of a city in history. Despite their oaths and the threat of excommunication, the Crusaders ruthlessly and systematically violated the city’s holy sanctuaries, destroying, defiling, or stealing all they could lay hands on. Many also broke their vows to respect the women of Constantinople and assaulted them. When Innocent III heard of the conduct of his pilgrims, he was filled with shame and strongly rebuked them.

Before the capture of the city, the Crusaders had decided that 12 electors (6 Venetians and 6 Franks) should choose an emperor who would rule one-fourth of the imperial domain. The other three-fourths was to be divided. The clergy of the party that did not include the emperor-elect were to oversee Hagia Sophia and choose a patriarch. A small amount of property was specifically designated to support the clergy, and the rest was divided as booty.

Once order had been restored, the Franks and the Venetians implemented their agreement; Baldwin of Flanders was elected emperor, and the Venetian Thomas Morosini was chosen patriarch. Various Latin-French lordships throughout Greece—in particular, the duchy of Athens and the principality of the Morea—did provide cultural contacts with western Europe and promoted the study of Greek. There was also a French impact on Greece. Notably, a collection of laws, the Assises de Romanie (Assizes of Romania), was produced. The Chronicle of the Morea appeared in both French and Greek (and later Aragonese) versions. Impressive remains of Crusader castles and Gothic churches can still be seen in Greece. Nevertheless, the Latin empire always rested on shaky foundations. Indeed, not all the Byzantine Empire was conquered by the Crusade. The imperial government continued in Nicaea, and the offshoot empire of Trebizond, at the eastern end of the Black Sea, lasted until 1461. The Byzantine despotate of Epirus was also established, and the Bulgarians remained hostile to the Crusaders. Finally, in 1261 a sadly diminished Constantinople was reconquered by Michael VIII Palaeologus with the aid of Genoa, the traditional rival of Venice. The city, however, would never be the same. For the remainder of its Christian history, it would remain poor, dilapidated, and largely abandoned.

The belief that the conquest of Constantinople would help Crusading efforts was a mirage. Indeed, the opposite was true, for the unstable Latin empire siphoned off much of Europe’s Crusading energy. The legacy of the Fourth Crusade was the deep sense of betrayal the Latins had instilled in their Greek coreligionists. With the events of 1204, the schism between the Catholic West and Orthodox East was complete.


After the battle of Dorylaeum
Returning to the battlefield to bury the dead, the Crusaders strip Saracen corpses.

Crusades of the 13th century » The Albigensian Crusade

By the middle of the 12th century, control of Jerusalem and the Holy Land was no longer the only goal of the Crusades. Rather, Crusading became a special class of war called by the pope against the enemies of the faith, who were by no means confined to the Levant. Crusades continued in the Baltic region against pagans and in Spain against Muslims. Yet in the heart of Europe a more serious threat faced Christendom—heresy. In the medieval world, heresy did not represent benign religious diversity but was seen as a cancerous threat to the salvation of souls. It was held to be even more dangerous than the faraway Muslims, because it harmed the body of Christ from within.

The most vibrant heresy in Europe was Catharism, also known as Albigensianism for the Albi, a city in southern France where it flourished. A dualist belief, Catharism held that the universe was a battleground between good, which was spirit, and evil, which was matter. Human beings were believed to be spirits trapped in physical bodies. The leaders of the religion, the perfects, lived with great austerity, remaining chaste and avoiding all foods that came from sexual union.

The church had attempted for years to root out the heresy from southern France, where it remained popular, particularly among the nobility. St. Dominic, who was sent to the region to preach to the people and debate the Cathar leaders, formed his Order of Preachers (Dominicans) in response to the heresy. All efforts at eradication failed, however, largely because of the tolerance of the Cathari maintained by Raymond VI of Toulouse, the greatest baron of the area, and by most secular lords in the region. Shortly after his excommunication for abetting the heretics, Raymond was implicated in the murder of a papal legate sent to investigate the situation. For Pope Innocent III that was the final straw. In March 1208 he called for a Crusade against Raymond and the heretics of Languedoc, which began the following year.

The Albigensian Crusade was immensely popular in northern France because it gave pious warriors an opportunity to win a Crusade indulgence without traveling far from home or serving more than 40 days. During the first season the Crusaders captured Béziers in the heart of Cathar territory and—following the instructions of the papal legate who allegedly said, “Kill them all. God will know his own,” when asked how the Crusaders should distinguish the heretics from true Christians—massacred almost the entire population of the city. With the exception of Carcassonne, which held out for a few months, much of the territory of the Albigeois surrendered to the Crusaders. Command of the Crusade was then given to Simon, lord of Montfort and earl of Leicester, who had served during the Fourth Crusade. Abandoning the Crusade after it attacked the Christians at Zadar, Simon went to fight in the Holy Land.

The Albigensian Crusade dragged on for several years, with new recruits arriving each spring to assist Simon. By the end of the summer, however, they would all return home, leaving him with a skeleton force to defend his gains. By 1215, when the fourth Lateran Council met to consider the state of the church, Simon had captured most of the region, including Toulouse. The council gave the lands to Simon and then rescinded the Crusade indulgence for the war so that a new Crusade to the East could be organized.

A few years later a rebellion against the northerners that crystallized around Raymond and his son, Raymond VII, recaptured much lost territory. Simon was killed during a siege of Toulouse. The Albigensian Crusade was finally brought to a close by the French King Louis VIII. Although he died soon after his victory in the south, Louis restored northern control over the region in 1226 and dashed the hopes of Raymond’s family for an independent Toulouse. In 1229 the younger Raymond accepted a peace through which all his ancestral lands would go to the royal house of the Capetians at his death. It was, therefore, the French crown, which came to the Crusade quite late, that was the ultimate victor.

For all of its violence and destruction, the Albigensian Crusade failed to remove the Cathar heresy from Languedoc. It did, however, provide a solid framework of new secular lords willing to work with the church against the heretics. Through the subsequent efforts of the Dominican inquisitors, Catharism was virtually eliminated in Languedoc within a century.


The battle of Antioch
The sight of Antioch, so celebrated in the annals of Christianity,
revives the enthusiasm of the Crusaders.

Crusades of the 13th century » The Children’s Crusade

The same strong feelings of piety and righteousness that led knights to take the cross and march to war also affected the common people, who lacked the wealth or training to do the same. The repeated failure of the organized Crusades to reclaim Jerusalem and the True Cross frustrated all Christians. This combination of frustration and strong religious enthusiasm led to frequent and sometimes bizarre manifestations of popular piety, such as the so-called Children’s Crusade in 1212.

The Children’s Crusade was neither a true Crusade nor made up of an army of children. The pope did not call for it—indeed, no one did. Instead, it was an unsanctioned popular movement, whose beginning and ending are hard to trace. It is known, however, that in early 1212 a young man named Nicholas from Cologne became the focal point for a popular movement that swept through the Rhineland. After having allegedly received divine instruction, Nicholas set out to rescue Jerusalem from the Muslims. He believed that when he reached the Mediterranean, God would dry up the waters so that he could walk across to Palestine. Hundreds and then thousands of children, adolescents, women, the elderly, the poor, parish clergy, and the occasional thief joined him in his march south. In every town the people hailed the “Crusaders” as heroes, although the educated clergy ridiculed them as deranged or deceived. In July 1212, despite the summer heat that had caused many to give up and return home, Nicholas and his followers crossed the Alps into Italy.

Word of Nicholas’s Crusade spread across Europe, sparking similar “miracles” and popular movements, although usually on a much smaller scale. One such movement, which may actually have preceded the Rhineland Crusade, occurred in Cloyes, a small town in France, where Stephen, a 12-year-old shepherd, had a vision of Jesus, who appeared dressed as a pilgrim and asked for bread. After receiving some bread from the boy, Jesus gave him a letter for the king of France. Stephen then left for Paris and attracted hundreds of followers from the same constituency that Nicholas of Cologne did. As they marched toward Paris, they sang, “Lord God, exalt Christianity! Lord God, restore to us the True Cross!” When they reached the city, Stephen delivered the letter to Philip Augustus. The king thanked the boy for the letter, and then everyone cheered and went home. The letter’s contents are not known with certainty, but it was probably an exhortation for the king to once again Crusade—something Philip had no intention of doing.

By late summer Nicholas’s multitudes had reached Lombardy and entered various port cities. Nicholas himself arrived with a large gathering at Genoa on August 25. To the great disappointment of the “Crusaders,” the sea did not open for them, nor did it allow them to walk across its waves. At this point many probably returned home, while others remained in Genoa. It was said that some marched to Rome, where Innocent III praised their zeal but released them from their “vows.” The fate of Nicholas is also unclear. Some claimed that he joined the Fifth Crusade, others that he died in Italy.


Florine of Burgundy
Florine, the daughter of the Duke of Burgundy,
courageously fights alongside her fiance, the son of the king of Denmark.

Crusades of the 13th century » The Teutonic Knights and the Baltic Crusades

Founded during the Third Crusade, the Teutonic Knights were a German military order modeled on the Hospitallers. By the 13th century the order had begun to shift its focus from the Holy Land to Europe. From 1211 to 1225 it waged war against pagans in Transylvania and effectively Christianized the region, but it was subsequently expelled by the king of Hungary. The grand master of the order, Hermann von Salza, then agreed to assist the Polish duke Conrad of Mazovia in his war against the pagan Prussians of the Baltic region. The emperor and the pope agreed that the Teutonic Knights should rule all pagan lands that they conquered, and during the 13th and 14th centuries the order conquered all of Prussia and the northern Baltic region, building a prosperous Christian state there. As rulers the Teutonic Knights played an important part in European history for many centuries.


Bohemond mounts the rampart of Antioch

Encountering reluctance among his soldiers, Bohemond scales the rampart himself,
unaccompanied by any of of his fearful followers.



Crusades of the 13th century » The Fifth Crusade

The Children’s Crusade revealed that, despite repeated failures, Europeans were still committed to recapturing Jerusalem and rescuing the True Cross. Almost immediately after the Fourth Crusade, Innocent III began planning for another expedition to the East. Although delayed by controversies involving the imperial succession and related matters, Innocent was ready to call the warriors of Christendom to fight for the restoration of Western rule in the Holy Land by 1213. Innocent learned from the mistakes of the Fourth Crusade and was determined that the new effort be controlled every step of the way by the church. He commissioned a new corps of Crusade preachers, who were specially trained and then dispatched strategically to garner warriors. Innocent also sent out legates to oversee recruitment and preparations. He wanted this new Crusade to be an inclusive effort. Those who could not physically march to the East were enjoined to help the Crusade through prayer and fasting. Those with sufficient funds could share in the Crusade indulgence by financing a Crusader who would otherwise be unable to go. At the fourth Lateran Council in 1215, the blueprints for the new campaign were drafted, and all of Europe was directed to take part. Innocent, however, died before the first Crusaders left, and his successor, Honorius III, would oversee the progress of the Fifth Crusade.

The first contingents of the Fifth Crusade, led by King Andrew of Hungary, reached Acre in the fall of 1217. Andrew accomplished little, however, before departing in January 1218. A large fleet of Frisian, German, and Italian Crusaders arrived in April and joined the remnants of Andrew’s force. In May the combined army set out for Egypt under the leadership of John of Brienne (the titular king of Jerusalem from 1210). The idea of capturing Egypt in order to break Muslim power in the region before turning to Jerusalem had been endorsed by Richard the Lion-Heart during the Third Crusade. Although controversial then, by the time of the Fifth Crusade it was the accepted strategy among Crusade leaders. By August the Crusaders had captured a strategic tower at Damietta. In September the expedition organized under papal auspices and consisting mainly of French Crusaders arrived under the legate Cardinal-Legate Pelagius. Since Pelagius maintained that the Crusaders were under the jurisdiction of the church, he declined to accept the leadership of John of Brienne and often interfered in military decisions.

By February 1219 the Muslims were seriously alarmed and offered peace terms that included the cession of the kingdom of Jerusalem, including the holy city, as well as the return of the True Cross. King John and many of the Crusaders were eager to accept, but Pelagius, supported by the military orders and the Italians, refused. Damietta was finally taken on November 5, 1219, and for more than a year no further progress was made. Pelagius remained optimistic, still expecting the arrival of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II—who had promised to go on Crusade in 1215—and convinced of the imminent approach of a legendary Asian Christian “King David.” In July 1221 he ordered an advance on Cairo, which King John opposed but joined. Unfortunately, Pelagius, who knew nothing about the hydrography of the Nile, chose a campsite susceptible to the river’s annual floods. Al-Malik al-Kāmil, the Egyptian sultan, opened the sluice gates, and the Crusade army was hopelessly bogged down and forced to surrender. In return for their lives, the Crusaders agreed to evacuate Damietta and leave Egypt. It was a bitter defeat, for, although Jerusalem had been at their fingertips throughout the Crusade, they were now forced to retreat with nothing.

Always on the verge of success, the Fifth Crusade failed largely because of divided leadership and the frequently unwise decisions of Pelagius. It might perhaps have succeeded if Frederick II had set out as promised, and it is significant that disillusioned critics blamed the emperor and the pope as well as Pelagius. All in all, it was a dreary episode, relieved only by the presence of Francis of Assisi, whom Pelagius reluctantly permitted to cross the lines, where he was courteously received by al-Malik al-Kāmil. However, despite Francis’s heartfelt plea, the Muslim leader declined his offer to convert to Christianity.


The massacre of Antioch
Gaining access to the Turkish garrison by treachery,
the Crusaders brutally massacre thousands of people.


Crusades of the 13th century » The Crusade of Frederick II

The failure of the Fifth Crusade placed a heavy responsibility on Frederick II, whose motives as a Crusader are difficult to assess. A controversial figure, he has been regarded by some as the archenemy of the popes and by others as the greatest of emperors. His intellectual interests included Islam, and his attitude might seem to be more akin to that of the Eastern barons than the typical Western Crusader. Through his marriage to John of Brienne’s daughter Isabella (Yolande), he established a claim first to the kingship and then, on Isabella’s death in 1228, to the regency of Jerusalem (Acre). As emperor, he could claim suzerainty over Cyprus because his father and predecessor, Henry VI, was paid homage by the Cypriot king and bestowed a crown on him.

After being allowed several postponements by the pope to settle affairs in the empire, Frederick finally agreed to terms that virtually placed his expedition under papal jurisdiction. Yet his entire Eastern policy was inextricably connected with his European concerns: Sicily, Italy and the papacy, and Germany. Cyprus-Jerusalem became, as a consequence, part of a greater imperial design.

Most of his Crusade fleet left Italy in the late summer of 1227, but Frederick was delayed by illness. During the delay he received envoys from al-Malik al-Kāmil of Egypt, who, threatened by the ambitions of his Ayyūbid brothers, was disposed to negotiate. Meanwhile, Pope Gregory IX, less patient than his predecessor, rejected Frederick’s plea that illness had hindered his departure and excommunicated the emperor. Thus, when Frederick departed in the summer of 1228 with the remainder of his forces, he was in the equivocal position of a Crusader under the ban of the church. He arrived in Cyprus on July 21.

In Cyprus, John of Ibelin, the leading member of the influential Ibelin family, had been named regent for the young Henry I. Along with most of the barons, he was willing to recognize the emperor’s rights as suzerain in Cyprus. But because news of Isabella’s death had arrived in Acre, the emperor could claim only a regency there for his infant son. John obeyed the emperor’s summons to meet him in Cyprus but, despite intimidation, refused to surrender his lordship of Beirut and insisted that his case be brought before the high court of barons. The matter was set aside, and Frederick left for Acre.

In Acre, Frederick met more opposition. News of his excommunication had arrived, and many refused to support him. Dependent, therefore, on the Teutonic Knights and his own small contingent of German Crusaders, he was forced to attempt what he could by diplomacy. Negotiations, accordingly, were reopened with al-Malik al-Kāmil.

The treaty of 1229 is unique in the history of the Crusades. By diplomacy alone and without major military confrontation, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and a corridor running to the sea were ceded to the kingdom of Jerusalem. Exception was made for the Temple area, the Dome of the Rock, and the Aqṣā Mosque, which the Muslims retained. Moreover, all current Muslim residents of the city would retain their homes and property. They would also have their own city officials to administer a separate justice system and safeguard their religious interests. The walls of Jerusalem, which had already been destroyed, were not rebuilt, and the peace was to last for 10 years.

Nevertheless, the benefits of the treaty of 1229 were more apparent than real. The areas ceded were not easily defensible, and Jerusalem soon fell into disorder. Furthermore, the treaty was denounced by the devout of both faiths. When the excommunicated Frederick entered Jerusalem, the patriarch placed the city under interdict. No priest was present, and Frederick placed a crown on his own head while one of the Teutonic Knights read the ceremony. Leaving agents in charge, he hastily returned to Europe and at San Germano made peace with the pope (July 23, 1230). Thereafter his legal position was secure, and the pope ordered the patriarch to lift the interdict.

Jerusalem and Cyprus, however, were now plagued by civil war because Frederick’s imperial concept of government was contrary to the well-established preeminence of the Jerusalem baronage. The barons of both Jerusalem and Cyprus, in alliance with the Genoese and a commune formed in Acre that elected John of Ibelin mayor, resisted the imperial deputies, who were supported by the Pisans, the Teutonic Knights, Bohemond of Antioch, and a few nobles. The clergy, the other military orders, and the Venetians stood aloof.

The barons were successful in Cyprus, and in 1233 Henry I was recognized as king. Even after John of Ibelin, the “Old Lord of Beirut,” died in 1236, resistance continued. In 1243 a parliament at Acre refused homage to Frederick’s son Conrad, unless he appeared in person, and named Alice, queen dowager of Cyprus, regent.

Thus it was that baronial rule triumphed over imperial administration in the Levant. But the victory of the barons brought to the kingdom not strength but continued division, which was made more serious by the appearance of new forces in the Muslim world. The Khwārezmian Turks, pushed south and west by the Mongols, had upset the power balance and gained the support of Egypt. After the 10 years’ peace had expired in 1239, the Muslims easily took back the defenseless Jerusalem. The Crusades of 1239 to 1241, under Thibaut IV of Champagne and Richard of Cornwall, brought about the return of the city as well as other lost territories through negotiation. However, in 1244 an alliance of Jerusalem and Damascus failed to prevent the capture and sack of Jerusalem by Khwārezmians with Egyptian aid. All the diplomatic gains of the preceding years were lost. Once again the Christians were confined to a thin strip of ports along the Mediterranean coast.


Barthélemi’s ordeal by fire

Carrying the holy lance, Barthélemi, priest of Marseilles,
prepares to walk through fire to prove his integrity.

Crusades of the 13th century » The Crusades of St. Louis

In June 1245, a year after the final loss of Jerusalem, Pope Innocent IV opened a great ecclesiastical council at Lyons. Although urgent appeals for help had come from the East, it is unlikely that the Crusade was uppermost in the pope’s mind, for a combination of crises confronted the church: numerous complaints of clerical abuses, increasing troubles with Frederick II in Italy, and the advance of the Mongols into eastern Europe. Nevertheless, when King Louis IX of France announced his intention to lead a new Crusade, the pope gave it his support and authorized the customary levy on clerical incomes.

As a Crusader, Louis (who would be canonized in 1297) was the antithesis of Frederick. Possessed of a rare combination of religious devotion, firmness as a ruler, and bravery as a warrior, he seemed the very ideal of the Crusader. He was beloved by his subjects and respected abroad. He ardently believed the Crusade to be God’s work, and he was far from sympathetic to the pope’s use of Crusade propaganda against the emperor.

It was three years before Louis was ready to embark. Peace had to be arranged with England, transport had to be provided by Genoa and Marseilles, and funds had to be raised. When the king embarked in August 1248, he was accompanied by his queen; his brothers Robert of Artois and Charles of Anjou; many distinguished French nobles, including Jean, sire de Joinville, author of The Life of St. Louis (1309); and a small English contingent. His army was a formidable one, numbering perhaps 15,000. France was left in the experienced hands of the queen mother, Blanche of Castile.

The Crusade arrived at Cyprus in September, and it was again decided to attack Egypt. Since a winter campaign was not feasible and Louis rejected the suggestion that he attempt negotiations, it was not until May 1249 that an expedition of some 120 large and many smaller vessels got under way. Fortune favoured them at first, and Damietta was again in Christian hands by June. Shortly afterward the army was strengthened by the arrival of Louis’s third brother, Alphonse of Poitiers. Sultan al-Ṣāliḥ Ayyūb’s death was followed by confusion in Cairo, which, after some argument, had become the Crusaders’ objective. In February 1250 Robert of Artois led a surprise attack on the Egyptian camp 2 miles (3 km) from Al-Manṣūrah, but, rejecting the advice of more-experienced campaigners and acting impetuously, he was trapped within the city. Many knights lost their lives. Louis soon arrived with the main army and won another victory, albeit a costly one, near Al-Manṣūrah. It was the last Crusader success.

Meanwhile, Tūrān-Shāh, the sultan’s son, had returned from Diyarbakır (now in Turkey) to Cairo and temporarily dominated dissident factions there. Frankish supply ships from Damietta were intercepted, and before long the Crusaders were suffering from famine and disease. Louis, reluctant to abandon a work to which he had dedicated his very kingdom, perhaps delayed too long before ordering a retreat. Refusing the pleas of others to protect himself by fleeing, he remained to lead his soldiers and was captured with many of them as the Muslim forces closed in.

The king and nobles were held for ransom, but many nonnoble captives were killed. The queen, who had just given birth to a son sorrowfully named John Tristan, managed with great courage to secure sufficient food and to persuade the Genoese and Pisans not to evacuate Damietta until it could be ceded formally by treaty and the king’s ransom arranged. On May 6, 1250, the king was released, and Damietta surrendered.

Despite the pleadings of his advisers, Louis did not return home immediately. He felt bound in conscience to negotiate the release of as many prisoners as possible, and he also improved the defenses of the kingdom by strengthening a number of fortifications before he left in April 1254. Thus, he atoned in some small measure for the failure of the Crusade and returned to France, determined to lead a life as a Christian king worthy of rescuing Jerusalem one day.

During these same years a group of Mongols under Hülegü overran Mesopotamia and in 1258 took Baghdad, thus ending the venerable ʿAbbāsid caliphate. In 1260 the Mamlūks of Egypt, a new dynasty that had arisen from the leaders of former slave bodyguards of the sultan, defeated the Mongols at ʿAyn Jālūd in Syria and halted their southward advance. The Muslim states of Syria were caught in the middle, and the Latin states were in grave danger. King Hayton of Armenia and his son-in-law Bohemond VI of Antioch-Tripoli allied themselves with the Mongols. But the barons at Acre were still more disposed to dealing with the Muslims, whom they knew, than with the terrifying and unknown Mongols.

In 1260, after murdering his predecessor, Baybars became sultan of Egypt. Though this famous Mamlūk sultan did not live to see the fall of the Latin states (he died in 1277), he had reduced them to a few coastal outposts. Baybars was ruthless, utterly lacking the generous chivalry that the Crusaders had admired in Saladin. Most of his conquests were followed by a general massacre of the inhabitants, often including the native Christians, especially when they had been in league with the Mongols. In 1265 he took Caesarea, Haifa, and Arsuf. The following year he conquered Galilee and devastated Cilician Armenia. In 1268 Antioch was taken and all the inhabitants slaughtered. The great Hospitaller fortress of Krak des Chevaliers fell three years later.

These disasters again brought pleas for aid from the West. King Louis once again took up the cross, but his second venture, the Eighth Crusade, never reached the East. The expedition instead went to Tunis, probably because of the influence of Louis’s brother Charles of Anjou, who had recently been named by the papacy as the successor to the Hohenstaufens in Sicily. In 1268 he defeated Conradin, the last of the Hohenstaufen line, and he was soon involved in grandiose Mediterranean projects, which ultimately included even Byzantium.

Louis’s new Crusade embarked from southern France in July 1270. Soon after the French landed in North Africa, disease struck the troops and claimed the lives of both Louis and his son John Tristan. Charles arrived with the Sicilian fleet in time to bargain for an indemnity to evacuate the remnants of the army. Thus, the Crusade ended in tragedy and brought no help to the East. Nevertheless, despite two failures, Louis IX became for all Christians the model of the selfless warrior of Christ. Although the expansion of Muslim power seemed increasingly unstoppable, Europeans continued to embrace the idea of the Crusades and to pray for their success.


The road to Jerusalem
A luminous angel guides the Crusaders marching at night.


Crusades of the 13th century » The final loss of the Crusader states

By the end of the 13th century, Crusading had become more expensive. The time had passed when a Crusade army was made up of knights who served under a lord and paid their own way. Economic pressures caused many nobles to seek royal service. Royal armies, therefore, became more professional, and many knights as well as foot soldiers served for pay. Moreover, the rise of royal authority meant that great Crusades could no longer be cobbled together by feudal lords but were increasingly reliant on kings, who were by their nature easily distracted by events at home.

In the East chronic divisions, similar to those in Europe, were a major cause of the Crusader kingdom’s downfall. From the time of Frederick II, the kingdom had been governed by absentee rulers; the Hohenstaufens were represented in the East at first by agents, after 1243 by regents of the Jerusalem dynasty chosen by the high court of barons. In 1268, on the death of the last Hohenstaufen, the crown was given to Hugh III of Cyprus, who returned to the island in 1276 thoroughly frustrated. Then in 1277 Charles of Anjou, as part of his attempt to create a Mediterranean-wide empire and with papal approval, bought the rights of the nearest claimant and sent his representative. Finally, after Charles’s death in 1285, the barons once again chose a native ruler, Henry II of Cyprus.

Successive regents had failed to control the Jerusalem baronage, and this ultimately resulted in the disintegration of the entire structure of Outremer into separate parts. Antioch-Tripoli before its fall had been increasingly aloof and through intermarriage closely tied to Armenia. In Acre, the seat of government of the kingdom, there was a commune of barons and bourgeois. Immigration had ceased, and the barons were now reduced in numbers as old families had died out. Some resided in Cyprus, and others were nominal lords in Palestine of fiefs actually under Muslim control. The military orders, habitually in conflict, were virtually distinct entities with extensive connections in Europe. The bourgeois population had also considerably altered in composition during the 13th century. Many criminals and other undesirables had found their way to Acre. More important, the earlier French predominance in the region had given way to an Italian one. But the Italians of Outremer were as divided as they were in Italy. The Genoese-Venetian rivalry extended to the Levant and occasionally, as in Acre in 1256, resulted in outright war.

The papacy’s concern for Outremer was not confined to efforts to enlist military aid. Papal financial support was continuous, and the popes exchanged diplomatic envoys with Eastern rulers, both Muslim and Mongol. Furthermore, the 13th-century patriarchs of Jerusalem, commonly named by the pope, were also papal legates. But no absentee king, pope, or patriarch-legate could bring to the Latin East the unity necessary for its survival.

The death of Baybars in 1277, therefore, brought only temporary respite for the Crusaders, who remained divided and isolated. In 1280 they again failed to join the Mongols, whom Sultan Qalāʾūn defeated in 1281. The ineffectiveness of the Jerusalem administration was becoming apparent even to Easterners, and the Il-Khan Abagha, the Mongol leader in Iran, sent his deputy Rabban Sauma to the kings of Europe and the pope to seek an alliance. The effort was fruitless. Tripoli fell in 1289, and Acre, the last Crusader stronghold on the mainland, was besieged in 1291. After a desperate and heroic defense, the city was taken by the Mamlūks, and the inhabitants who survived the massacres were enslaved. Acre and all the castles along the Mediterranean coast were systematically destroyed.

A growing sense of their isolation may have been the reason that the Franks of the 13th century did not develop further the distinctive culture of their predecessors. The remarkable palace of the Ibelins in Beirut, built early in the century, boasted Byzantine mosaics. But, partly because of King Louis’s four-year stay in the kingdom, remains of churches and castles indicate a close following of adherence to French Gothic architectural style. Literary tastes were also distinctly French, and the production of manuscripts followed French traditions. At the coronation festivities for Henry II in 1286, in total disregard—or perhaps in chivalrous defiance—of the ruin surrounding them, the nobles amused themselves by acting out the romances of Lancelot and Tristan.

The greatest cultural achievement of the Second Kingdom was the collection of legal treatises, the Assizes of Jerusalem. The sections that were compiled in the middle years of the century and, therefore, in the atmosphere of the wars against the agents of Frederick II constitute a veritable charter of baronial rights. In fact, two of the authors were members of the Ibelin family, and a third, Philip of Novara, was a close associate. These sections indicate a shift from the earlier Book of the King, which more nearly reflects the attitudes of the 12th century. Nevertheless, the Assizes belong to medieval Europe’s legal renaissance.


The first view of Jerusalem
At the sight of Jerusalem on June 10, 1099,
the Crusaders shout out their battle cry triumphantly.


8. Crusades of the 13th century » The later Crusades

Europe was dismayed by the disaster of 1291. Pope Nicholas IV had tried to organize aid beforehand, and he and his successors continued to do so afterward, but without success. France, which had always been the main bulwark of the Crusades, was in serious conflict with England, which led to the outbreak of the Hundred Years’ War in 1337. Moreover, the continued decline of papal authority and rise of royal power meant that most of Europe’s warriors were busy at home. The best that the church could do was to organize smaller Crusade expeditions with very limited goals.

In the East the military orders could no longer offer a standing nucleus of troops. In 1308 the Hospitallers took Rhodes and established their headquarters there. In 1344, with some assistance, they occupied Smyrna, which they held until 1402. Meanwhile, the Teutonic Knights had moved their operations to the Baltic area. The Templars were less fortunate. In 1308 the French Templars were arrested by Philip IV, and in 1312 the order was suppressed by Pope Clement V. Finally, in 1314, Jacques de Molay, the order’s last grand master, was burned at the stake.

It is not surprising, therefore, that papal calls to Crusade were answered largely in the form of Crusade theories. For some years after 1291, various projects were proposed, all designed to avoid previous mistakes and explore new tactics. In 1305 the Franciscan missionary Ramon Llull, for example, in his Liber de fine (“Book of the End”), suggested a campaign of informed preaching as well as military force. At the beginning of the 14th century, Pierre Dubois submitted a detailed scheme for a Crusade to be directed by Philip IV of France, and in 1321 Marino Sanudo, in his Secreta fidelium crucis (“Secrets of the Faithful of the Cross”), produced an elaborate plan for an economic blockade of Egypt. But none of these or any other such schemes was put into effect.

King Peter I of Cyprus finally organized an expedition that in 1365 succeeded in the temporary occupation of Alexandria. After a horrible sack and massacre, the unruly Crusaders returned to Cyprus with immense booty. Peter planned to return, but no European aid was forthcoming, and after his murder in 1369 a peace treaty was signed.

With the failure of all attempts to regain a foothold on the mainland, Cyprus remained the sole Crusader outpost, and after 1291 it was faced with a serious refugee problem. It was in Cyprus that many of the institutions established by the Franks survived. Although Jerusalem and Cyprus normally had separate governments, through intermarriage and the exigencies of diplomacy, the histories of the two had become interwoven. Regents of one were often chosen from among relatives in the other. It has been noted that many Jerusalem barons resided in Cyprus. With suitable modifications, the Assizes of Jerusalem applied on the island, and on the mainland the French character of the Cypriot Latins is evident in the remains of Gothic structures.

In one respect Cyprus did differ from the mainland. Whereas the First Kingdom had established a modus vivendi with its native population, such was not the case in the island kingdom. Many Greek landholders had fled, and those who remained suffered a loss of status. All Greeks resisted the Latinizing efforts of the early 13th-century popes and their representatives. Innocent IV was more flexible, but tension persisted until the Turkish conquest in the 16th century.

As the Ottoman Turks expanded their power in the Levant, they took an increasingly larger role in Byzantine politics. During a civil war in 1348, Emperor John Cantacuzenus allowed the Turks to cross the Dardanelles into Greece. The gates to Europe, so long defended by Constantinople, were now opened to a powerful Muslim empire, and waves of Turks crossed over. By the end of the 14th century, they had conquered all of Bulgaria and most of Greece and had surrounded Constantinople. The rapid expansion of the Turks into Christian Europe changed the nature of the Eastern Crusades. No longer aimed at conquering faraway Palestine, they became desperate attempts to defend Europe itself.

One of the greatest efforts to repulse the Turkish advance was the Crusade of Nicopolis. Prompted by a plea from King Sigismund of Hungary in 1395, the Crusade was joined by powerful Burgundian and German armies who rendezvoused at Buda the following year. Although it was one of the largest Crusading forces ever assembled, it was crushed utterly by the army of Sultan Bayezid I. Hungary was left virtually defenseless, and the smashing defeat of the Crusade of Nicopolis led many to fear that all of Europe would soon succumb to the Muslim advance.

Shorn of its empire, Constantinople continued to hold out against the Turks, but it could not do so for long without aid. Emperor John VIII, the patriarch of Constantinople, and members of the Greek clergy traveled to the West in 1437 to attend the Council of Florence. The disputes that had separated the Latin and Greek churches were frankly debated at the council. The Latin side won out, however, because the Greeks desperately needed Western help to save Constantinople. Even though the emperor and patriarch accepted papal primacy and the reunification of the churches was solemnly declared, the Greek people refused to accept submission to Rome.

Shortly after the Council of Florence, Pope Eugenius IV organized a Crusade to relieve Constantinople. Recruits mainly from Poland, Walachia, and Hungary joined the so-called Crusade of Varna, which was led by Hunyadi János, the ruler of Transylvania, and King Władysław III of Poland and Hungary. In 1444 the force of some 20,000 men entered Serbia and captured Niš. Sultan Murad II offered Hungary a 10-year truce, which was ultimately refused. He then led his forces to Varna in Bulgaria, which the Crusaders were in the process of besieging, and destroyed the Christian army. The king of Hungary and the papal legate were killed in the carnage. Nine years later Constantinople at last fell to the Ottoman Turks. Riding triumphantly into the city, Sultan Mehmed II made it clear that he was determined to conquer Rome as well.

Mehmed almost made good on that threat. In 1480 he launched two major offensives against the Christians. The first, a massive siege of the Hospitallers on Rhodes, failed. The second, an invasion of Italy, met with more success. The city of Otranto was captured, which provided the Turks with a strategic beachhead on the peninsula. Panic broke out in Rome as people packed their bags and prepared to flee the city. Pope Sixtus IV issued a call for a Crusade to defend Italy, but only Italians took an interest. Fate stepped in, however, when the sultan died on May 3, 1481. Turkish attention shifted to a power struggle for the throne, and thus allowed a papal fleet to recapture Otranto.

Only in Spain did Crusades meet with regular success. The unification of Aragon and Castile under Ferdinand and Isabella in 1479 gave Christian knights the opportunity to take up the cross against the remaining Muslims in Iberia. The campaigns continued throughout the 1480s and led to the surrender of Grenada, the last Muslim stronghold, on January 12, 1492. Nearly 800 years after the first effort to expel the Muslims, the Reconquista was completed, and Christians across Europe rang church bells and marched in processions of thanksgiving.

Crusading came to an end in the 16th century, mainly because of changes in Europe brought on by the Protestant Reformation and not because the Muslim threat had diminished. Martin Luther and other Protestants had no use for Crusades, which they believed were cynical ploys by the papacy to grab power from secular lords. Protestants also rejected the doctrine of indulgence, central to the idea of Crusade. Despite the decline in the appeal of Crusading, the popes continued to call for peace in Europe so that Crusades could be launched against the Turks, and they often financed such wars in holy leagues with various states such as Venice or Spain. One holy league won a dramatic victory against the Ottoman fleet at Lepanto in 1571. The Battle of Lepanto, although not militarily decisive, did give new hope to Europeans, who saw for the first time that it was indeed possible to defeat the Turks.

A few last vestiges of the Crusading movement, however, survived its demise. The Hospitallers, ejected from Rhodes by Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent in 1522, moved to the island of Malta, where they continued to take part in holy leagues. They also remained true to their mission to care for the poor and sick and built a great hospital at Valletta on Malta that attracted patients from across Europe. The Hospitallers retained the island until 1798, when Napoleon expelled them. They then moved to Rome, where they became a government-in-exile. Known today as the Knights of Malta, they still issue passports and are recognized as a sovereign state by some countries. More important, around the world they continue to devote themselves to the care of the poor and sick.

The Teutonic Knights declined after they were defeated by Poland and Lithuania in 1410. In 1525 the grand master, under Protestant influence, dissolved the order in Prussia and took personal control of its lands as a vassal of the king of Poland. The order was officially dissolved in 1809. The Austrian emperor reestablished the Teutonic Order as a religious institution in 1834, headquartering it in Vienna, where it remains today doing charitable work and caring for the sick.


The second assault on Jerusalem
The Crusaders leave the battlefield disappointed after twelve hours of fighting 

The results of the Crusades

The entire structure of European society changed during the 12th and 13th centuries, and there was a time when this change was attributed largely to the Crusades. Historians now, however, tend to view the Crusades as only one, albeit significant, factor in Europe’s development. It is likely that the disappearance of old families and the appearance of new ones can be traced in part to the Crusades, but generalizations must be made with caution. It should, moreover, be remembered that, while some Crusaders sold or mortgaged their property, usually to ecclesiastical foundations, others bequeathed it to relatives. The loss of life was without doubt considerable; many Crusaders, however, did return to their homes.

The sectors acquired by burgeoning Italian cities in the Crusader states enabled them to extend their trade with the Muslim world and led to the establishment of trade depots beyond the Crusade frontiers, some of which lasted long after 1291. The transportation they provided was significant in the development of shipbuilding techniques. Italian banking facilities became indispensable to popes and kings. Catalans and Provençals also profited, and, indirectly, so did all of Europe. Moreover, returning Crusaders brought new tastes and increased the demand for spices, Oriental textiles, and other exotic fare. But such demands can also be attributed to changing lifestyles and commercial growth in Europe itself.

The establishment of the Franciscan and Dominican friars in the East during the 13th century made possible the promotion of missions within the Crusade area and beyond. Papal bulls granted special facilities to missionary friars, and popes sent letters to Asian rulers soliciting permission for the friars to carry on their work. Often the friars accompanied or followed Italian merchants, and, since the Mongols were generally tolerant of religious propaganda, missions were established in Iran, the Asian interior, and even China. But, since Islamic law rigidly prohibited propaganda and punished apostasy with death, conversions from Islam were few. The Dominican William of Tripoli had some success, presumably within the Crusaders’ area; he and his colleague Riccoldo di Monte Croce both wrote perceptive treatises on Islamic faith and law. Other missionaries usually failed, and many suffered martyrdom. In the 14th century the Franciscans were finally permitted to reside in Palestine as caretakers for the holy places but not as missionaries.

The Crusades, especially the Fourth, so embittered the Greeks that any real reunion of the Eastern and Western churches was, as a result, out of the question. Nonetheless, certain groups of Eastern Christians came to recognize the authority of the pope, and they were usually permitted to retain the use of their own liturgies. Although the majority of the missions that grew out of the Crusades collapsed with the advance of the Ottoman Turks in the Middle East in the mid-14th century, some of the contacts that the Western church had made with its Eastern brethren remained.

Unlike Sicily and Spain, the Latin East did not, it seems, provide an avenue for the transmission of Arabic science and philosophy to the West. But the Crusades did have a marked impact on the development of Western historical literature. From the beginning there was a proliferation of chronicles, eyewitness accounts, and later more ambitious histories, in verse and in prose, in the vernacular as well as in Latin.

There can be little doubt that the Crusades slowed the advance of Islamic power, although how much is an open question. At the very least, they bought Europe some much-needed time. Without centuries of Crusading effort, it is difficult to see how western Europe could have escaped conquest by Muslim armies, which had already captured the rest of the Mediterranean world.

Thomas F. Madden
Marshall W. Baldwin



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