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§ 56. Frederick II. and the Fifth Crusade. 1229.


Röhricht: Studien zur Gesch. d. V. Kreuzzuges, Innsbruck, 1891.—Hauck, IV. 752–764, and the lit., §§ 42, 49.


Innocent III.’s ardor for the reconquest of Palestine continued unabated till his death. A fresh crusade constituted one of the main objects for which the Fourth Lateran Council was called. The date set for it to start was June 1, 1217, and it is known as the Fifth Crusade. The pope promised £30,000 from his private funds, and a ship to convey the Crusaders going from Rome and its vicinity. The cardinals joined him in promising to contribute one-tenth of their incomes and the clergy were called upon to set apart one-twentieth of their revenues for three years for the holy cause. To the penitent contributing money to the crusade, as well as to those participating in it, full indulgence for sins was offered.461461    Plenam suorum peccaminum veniam indulgemus. See Mansi, XXII. 1067; Mirbt, Quellen, 126, Gottlob, 137 sq. of all merchandise and munitions of war to the Saracens for four years, was ordered read every Sabbath and fast day in Christian ports.

Innocent died without seeing the expedition start. For his successor Honorius III., its promotion was a ruling passion, but he also died without seeing it realized.

In 1217 Andreas of Hungary led an army to Syria, but accomplished nothing. In 1219 William of Holland with his Germans, Norwegians, and Danes helped John of Brienne, titular king of Jerusalem, to take Damietta. This city, situated on one of the mouths of the Nile, was a place of prime commercial importance and regarded as the key of Egypt. Egypt had come to be regarded as the proper way of military approach to Palestine. Malik-al-Kameel, who in 1218 had succeeded to power in Egypt, offered the Christians Jerusalem and all Palestine, except Kerak, together with the release of all Christian prisoners, on condition of the surrender of Damietta. It was a grand opportunity of securing the objects for which the Crusaders had been fighting, but, elated by victory and looking for help from the emperor, Frederick II., they rejected the offer. In 1221 Damietta fell back into the hands of Mohammedans.462462    For the text of Frederick’s summons to his crusade of 1221, see Mathews, Select Med. Documents, 120 sq.

The Fifth Crusade reached its results by diplomacy more than by the sword. Its leader, Frederick II., had little of the crusading spirit, and certainly the experiences of his ancestors Konrad and Barbarossa were not adapted to encourage him. His vow, made at his coronation in Aachen and repeated at his coronation in Rome, seems to have had little binding force for him. His marriage with Iolanthe, granddaughter of Conrad of Montferrat and heiress of the crown of Jerusalem, did not accelerate his preparations to which he was urged by Honorius III. In 1227 he sailed from Brindisi; but, as has already been said, he returned to port after three days on account of sickness among his men.463463    Funk, in Wetzer-Welte, VII. 1166, says that in view of contemporary testimony, Frederick’s sickness cannot be doubted. Roger Wendover, an. 1227, however, doubted it. Funk is wrong in saying that it was not till 1239 that Gregory, aggravated by the emperor’s conduct, impeached Frederick’s plea of sickness. In his sentence of excommunication of 1228, Gregory asserted that Frederick II "was enticed away to the usual pleasures of his kingdom and made a frivolous pretext of bodily infirmity." In 1235, at a time when emperor and pope were reconciled, Gregory spoke of Jerusalem, "as being restored to our well-beloved son in Christ, Frederick."

At last the emperor set forth with forty galleys and six hundred knights, and arrived in Acre, Sept. 7,1228. The sultans of Egypt and Damascus were at the time in bitter conflict. Taking advantage of the situation, Frederick concluded with Malik-al-Kameel a treaty which was to remain in force ten years and delivered up to the Christians Jerusalem with the exception of the mosque of Omar and the Temple area, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and the pilgrim route from Acre to Jerusalem.464464    See Röhricht, Regesta regni Hier., 262, and Bréholles, III. 86-90.iarch of Jerusalem, the interdict over the city.465465    Geroldus was patriarch of Jerusalem and notified Gregory IX. of Frederick’s "fraudulent pact with the Egyptian sultan." Röhricht, 263.

Recalled probably by the dangers threatening his kingdom, Frederick arrived in Europe in the spring of 1229, but only to find himself for the fourth time put under the ban by his implacable antagonist, Gregory. In 1235 Gregory was again appealing to Christendom to make preparations for another expedition, and in his letter of 1239, excommunicating the emperor for the fifth time, he pronounced him the chief impediment in the way of a crusade.466466    In 1240 a petition signed by German bishops and princes and addressed to Gregory urged him to cease from strife with Frederick as it interfered with a crusade. Bréholles, V. 985.

It was certainly a singular spectacle that the Holy City should be gained by a diplomatic compact and not by hardship, heroic struggle, and the intervention of miracle, whether real or imagined. It was still more singular that the sacred goal should be reached without the aid of ecclesiastical sanction, nay in the face of solemn papal denunciation.

Frederick II. has been called by Freeman an unwilling Crusader and the conquest of Jerusalem a grotesque episode in his life.467467    Hist. Essays, I. 283-313.t living on terms of amity with Mohammedans in his kingdom, and he probably saw no wisdom in endangering his relations with them at home by unsheathing the sword against them abroad.468468    Bréholles, V. 327-340.rusalem without making any protest against its ritual. Perhaps, with his freedom of thought, he did not regard the possession of Palestine after all as of much value. In any case, Frederick’s religion—whatever he had of religion—was not of a kind to flame forth in enthusiasm for a pious scheme in which sentiment formed a prevailing element.

Gregory’s continued appeals in 1235 and the succeeding years called for some minor expeditions, one of them led by Richard of Cornwall, afterwards German emperor-elect. The condition of the Christians in Palestine grew more and more deplorable and, in a battle with the Chorasmians, Oct. 14, 1244, they met with a disastrous defeat, and thenceforth Jerusalem was closed to them.



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