Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Seven Strikes and You're Out: Crusades the final chapter

The Fifth Crusade

After the loss of the Holy City of Jerusalem, the Christians couldn’t stomach the thought of not having a sacred place to call their own. Acre came to be known as ‘The Kingdom of Jerusalem’ until the true city was won back. In a way, this name was not too far from the truth. Acre was an important port in the Mediterranean Sea.

Pope Innocent’s cry for men to take back Jerusalem still stood unanswered. He made multiple attempts, held councils and set out decrees – at one point even telling men they no longer needed their wives’ permission. In 1215, Innocent held a great council. He changed many rules, not just of crusading, but of papal ruling as well. Some of the rules included mandatory clothing for Jews, powers for bishops, and the act of indulgence granted to any person who outfitted a crusader.

Finally, men were ready to act upon the late Pope’s call to arms only their target wasn’t Jerusalem. This crusade was lead by a French nobleman, John of Brienne – the Lord of Beirut -, in 1218. Participants included forces from Austria, Hungary, Templars, Hospitallers, and the Teutonic Knights. A representative of the Pope, Pelagius, rode with the army. John and Pelagius butted heads on more than one occasion. The first target was the city of Damietta in Egypt. The crusaders wanted Alexandria, another key port city, and to gain control of Egypt. The army successfully took Damietta after a long campaign, in November of 1219.

Al-Kamal offered to return the former Christian lands, except for Transjordan. The offer was rejected. St. Francis of Assisi arrived to try to negotiate a peaceful end to the violence. To the city’s credit, the citizens weren’t at their best when the crusaders rode through the gates; many succumbed to illness from the long siege. The next stop was Sharimshah. That city fell in 1221. Al-Kamal sent a second offer, he’d return the lands, re-build the wall around Jerusalem, and return the True Cross. The only lands he wanted to keep was Transjordan, which would allow him access to Syria. Pelagius didn’t want any part of the offer.

In-fighting among the crusaders combined with the annual rising of the Nile, caused a halt in the progress. The Muslims took advantage of the Crusaders confusion by opening flood gates, increasing the river levels. Harassed by the Muslims under Sultan al-Kamil, the Christian army gave up and sailed off in September 1221. Al-Kamal let the men leave under a five-year truce with the True Cross and their prisoners returned.

Politics in Outremer were heavily influenced by Western Europe. King Almaric had died in 1174, leaving Queen Isabella and their daughter, Maria as his heir. The vultures circled watching the girl carefully. Whoever married her would be King of Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Antioch’s King Bohemond IV legitimacy was in question by his nephew, Raymond. Raymond’s challenge was supported by Leo, an Armenian nobleman. Bohemond drew a line in the sand demanding men join him.  Tempers flared as noblemen & churchmen were forced to pick sides.  Standing with Bohemond were the Templar, the Seljuk Turks, and the Antiochene Greeks. Raymond had the Armenians, al-Adil, and the Hospitallers. The Pope wasn’t pleased by the fighting and excommunicated Bohemond and Antioch which resulted in the churches witching sides. Raymond’s forces took over Antioch in a coup. This action resulted in a subsequent revolt in Tripoli.

The Sixth Crusade

Frederick II dreamed of freeing Jerusalem from Muslim rule.  An educated man, he spoke six languages, including Arabic, French, and Greek. It was written that Frederick’s bodyguards were Saracens. He believed himself above every man, including the Pope. Frederick had been crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire by Pope Honorius III on November 2, 1220, which probably didn’t help his ego. During the ceremony, a promise was extracted by the Pope for Frederick to take up the cross.

After Honorius died, Gregory IX was elected as the new pope. Gregory insisted Frederick make good on his oath. Sultan al-Kamil also urged the Emperor to take up the cross. When Frederick kept putting it off, the pope excommunicated him.

Enter John of Brienne. He was seeking a husband for his daughter, Yolanda. To smooth over matters, Pope Gregory approved Frederick as a potential husband. The thinking was Frederick would then travel to Outremer to collect his bride. Frederick accepted, married the girl and sent her to Sicily. She died in Sicily after giving her husband a son, Conrad. The Emperor took off to Acre, with a stop at Cypress.

About the same time Sultan al-Kamal was dealing with the Mongols and the Khwarismian Turks. Kamal couldn’t afford to fight a third enemy. He came to terms with John,  returning Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth back to Christian control provided Muslim sites were still kept under Muslim hands and accessible to his people. The papers were sign on the 18th of February, 1229 without spilling a drop of blood. Both sides were criticized for giving in to the other. Gerold of Lausamme, the patriarch of the Roman Catholic Church, was furious that John hadn’t received the entire city of Jerusalem. For the insult, he placed an interdict on the Holy City, which banned any church ceremony or act to take place until further notice.

Frederick acted upon the contract made by John of Brienne, proclaiming himself King of Jerusalem. After arriving at the Holy City, Frederick took the crown. He even went as far as to declare any person entering a Muslim holy place without approval Muslim approval would be executed. The Emperor didn’t stay very long. Pope Gregory sent men to invade Frederick’s Italian holdings. Frederick had no choice but to try to leave in the night, no less. It didn’t work. The people gathered around along the route to the docks, throwing offal and excrement at the disgraced King.

The Seventh Crusade

In 1230, Outremer was in disarray. Conrad, the infant King of Jerusalem was too young to rule. Frederick was back in Europe, leaving John of Ibelin (ruler of Beirut) as his representative. A group of men in Acre handled Frederick’s affairs as regent to Conrad. Another group of men took over the affairs of Antioch. King Bohemond V was a cowardly man who allowed the counsel to run over him. The various factions were soon to clash.

From the east, the Mongol hoard in the form of Khorezmian horsemen pressed further west. The truce signed between John and Kamal came to an end when Thibald of Champagne & the Duke of Burgundy set foot in Acre in 1239.  The biggest achievement by the men and their army was acquiring Ascalon. A feud was started between the Templars and the Hospitallers. The two religious orders took their dispute to the streets, often killing innocent residents during the fights.  Tyre and Acre warred against each other.

Ayub, an Egyptian leader, was desperate to save his people from the invading Khorezmians. He offered the Franks (Christians) a bargain. Come help them and Jerusalem would be theirs. The Franks jumped on the offer. Unfortunately, the various Christian factions were too divided and spread out to do much good. The Mongols steamrolled over every city they came across.

Christian and Muslim joined together at La Forbie. The Frankish (Christian) were hit harder. Later, the Turks turned on Ayubs’ men.  Reinforcements, in the form of King Louis X landed at Cypress. Louis started his aid in Egypt in 1249, easily capturing Damietta. A fierce battle occurred between the Mameluks (the equivalent of the Muslim’s Special Forces) and Louis’ army at al-Mansura. Ayub died after making an offer to the Christians: Damietta for Jerusalem. King Louis said “I don’t think so.” Louis and his men held their ground while Ayub’s son, Turanshah rushed to take command in place of his dead father. Ironically, many of the Mongols were Christians and spared the Frankish soldiers during sieges.

One last battle resulted in multiple Frankish prisoners. Poor King Louie was one of the captives. A huge ransom request was sent to the powers that be. After the ransom was paid, Louis returned to Outremer where he waited for his men who were still being held. The French king was lucky: Turanshah had been killed by his own Mameluks. Louie finally returned to France, giving up any further ideas for crusading.

The Mongols continued their push, allowing those who paid tribute to live and decimating those who didn’t until the horse reached Antioch. Christians gave in, some men joining the Mongols when they marched to Damascus in 1260. The Mongols’ final battle against the Muslims was at Ain Jahad (also known as Ain Julut). Amazingly enough, the Muslim triumphed under Sultan Qutuz. Qutuz didn’t have a lot of time to celebrate. His lieutenant, Baibars ibn-Abdullah, a Mameluk, assassinated him and assumed the title.

Baibars killed Sultan Qutuz after the Muslim leader denied his request to be appointed Governor of Aleppo.  Under Sultan Baibars (Rukn ad-Din Baibars Bundukdari ibn-Abdullah), the Mameluk army proceeded to take over the Middle East, starting with Caesarea.  With exception of Jaffa, no lands south of Acre belonged to Frankish lords. The following year, the Templars gave up the castle stronghold, Safed. In 1268, after John of Ibelin died, Jaffa fell in to the hands of Baibars. Then another Templar castle, this time Beaufort, was taken by Baibars. The Sultan set his eyes on Acre, killing or taking prisoner all of the men: he did allow the women and children to leave, which was more than King Richard had done in earlier years. The hardest hit was Krak des Chevaliers, supposedly unbreakable until Baibars attacked.

The Aftermath

What was the purpose of the crusades? Looking back, the Catholic Church initially called for men to ‘take up the cross’ to give trouble making knights & soldiers an outlet for their violent tendencies. Instead of having bands or men roaming the countries pillaging, raping, and causing general mayhem, wasn’t it better to set the ruffians on a course somewhere else? And while the Pope was at it, why not have those men do something productive at the same time?

Who benefited from the crusades? As with many other runs in history (gold rush, land rush), it is not the adventurers that profit, but the suppliers which come out ahead. Shopkeepers, blacksmiths, markets, innkeepers, etc., who outfitted the crusaders along the way earned their fortunes. A small percentage of those who wore the red cross earned the glory, titles, or lands in the end.

Would the lands be so turbulent had the Pope not called for men to take up the cross? One need only look at the life of the people living in the fertile crescent before the crusades. All faiths were tolerated, open trade was encouraged, and medicine & science were far advanced from their western fellows.

Was that so bad?

What happened to knight-societies as a result of the crusades? Multiple military-based knight societies developed. The big three are the Order of the Temple (the Templars), the Order of St. John’s Hospital (the Hospitallers), and the Teutonic Knights). The Templars were strong until their false accusations and death of their leaders in France in 1314. The Hospitallers left Outremer and moved to Cypress after the fall of Acre in 1291, eventually moving two additional times, from Rhodes to Malta. The Hospitallers still exist today, more as a ceremonial organization. The German Teutonic Knights left the Holy Lands to deal with converting pagan to Christianity in northern Europe.

Bad relations still reverberate to this day to a certain extent, even though all three religious faiths practice in the Holy City today, although part of this can be blamed on modern political foreign policies. Historical sites going back to the crusades, including castles, still stand to this day. With a chance of fighting out at any time, travelling in the Middle East is a risky venture.

For further reading:

The Crusades: History and Myth Revealed
By Paine, Michael
Fall River Press, New York, 2009
ISBN #978-1-4351-0820-2

Don’t forget the previous sources on my Crusades parts 1 and 2

Stay safe out there

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