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.460 A brief, forbidding the sale 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.461
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.462
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.463 On March 19, 1229, the emperor crowned himself with his own hand in the church of the Holy Sepulchre. The same day the archbishop of Caesarea pronounced, in the name of the patriarch of Jerusalem, the interdict over the city.464
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.465
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.466 Frederick certainly had no compunction about 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.467 Much to the disgust of Gregory IX. he visited the mosque of Omar in Jerusalem 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.
§ 57. St. Louis and the Last Crusades. 1248, 1270.
One more great Crusader, one in whom genuine piety was a leading trait, was yet to set his face towards the East and, by the abrupt termination of his career through sickness, to furnish one of the most memorable scenes in the long drama of the Crusades. The Sixth and Seventh Crusades owe their origin to the devotion of Louis IX., king of France, usually known as St. Louis. Louis combined the piety of the monk with the chivalry of the knight, and stands in the front rank of Christian sovereigns of all times.468 His religious zeal showed itself not only in devotion to the confessional and the mass, but in steadfast refusal, in the face of threatened torture, to deviate from his faith and in patient resignation under the most trying adversity. A considerate regard for the poor and the just treatment of his subjects were among his traits. He washed the feet of beggars and, when a Dominican warned him against carrying his humility too far, he replied, "If I spent twice as much time in gaming and at the chase as in such services, no man would rise up to find fault with me."
On one occasion, when he asked Joinville if he were called upon to choose between being a leper and committing mortal sin, which his choice would be, the seneschal replied, "he would rather commit thirty mortal sins than be a leper." The next day the king said to him, "How could you say what you did? There is no leper so hideous as he who is in a state of mortal sin. The leprosy of the body will pass away at death, but the leprosy of the soul may cling to it forever."
The sack of Jerusalem by the Chorasmians,469 who were being pushed on from behind by the Mongols, was followed by the fall of Gaza and Ascalon. It was just one hundred years since the news of the fall of Edessa had stirred Europe, but the temper of men’s minds was no longer the same. The news of disasters in Palestine was a familiar thing. There was now no Bernard to arouse the conscience and give directions to the feelings of princes and people. The Council of Lyons in 1245 had for one of its four objects the relief of the holy places. A summons was sent forth by pope and council for a new expedition, and the usual gracious offers were made to those who should participate in the movement. St. Louis responded. During a sickness in 1245 and at the moment when the attendants were about to put a cloth on his face thinking he was dead, the king had the cross bound upon his breast.
On June 12, 1248, Louis received at St. Denis from the hand of the papal legate the oriflamme, and the pilgrim’s wallet and staff. He was joined by his three brothers, Robert, count of Artois, Alphonso, count of Poitiers, and Charles of Anjou. Among others to accompany the king were Jean de Joinville, seneschal of Champagne, whose graphic chronicle has preserved the annals of the Crusade.470 The number of the troops is given at thirty-two thousand. Venetian and Genoese fleets carried them to Cyprus, where preparations had been made on a large scale for their maintenance. Thence they sailed to Egypt. Damietta fell, but after this first success, the campaign was a dismal disaster. Louis’ benevolence and ingenuousness were not combined with the force of the leader. He was ready to share suffering with his troops but had not the ability to organize them.471 His piety could not prevent the usual vices from being practised in the camps.472
Leaving Alexandria to one side, and following the advice of the count of Artois, who argued that whoso wanted to kill a snake should first strike its head, Louis marched in the direction of the capital, Cairo, or Babylon, as it was called. The army was harassed by a sleepless foe, and reduced by fevers and dysentery. The Nile became polluted with the bodies of the dead.473 At Mansourah the Turks dealt a crushing defeat. On the retreat which followed, the king and the count of Poitiers were taken prisoners. The count of Artois had been killed. The humiliation of the Crusaders had never been so deep.
The king’s patient fortitude shone brightly in these misfortunes. Threatened with torture and death, he declined to deviate from his faith or to yield up any of the places in Palestine. For the ransom of his troops, he agreed to pay 500,000 livres, and for his own freedom to give up Damietta and abandon Egypt. The sultan remitted a fifth part of the ransom money on hearing of the readiness with which the king had accepted the terms.
Clad in garments which were a gift from the sultan, and in a ship meagrely furnished with comforts, the king sailed for Acre. On board ship, hearing that his brother, the count of Anjou, and Walter de Nemours were playing for money, he staggered from his bed of sickness and throwing the dice, tables, and money into the sea, reprimanded the count that he should be so soon forgetful of his brother’s death and the other disasters in Egypt, as to game.474 At Acre, Louis remained three years, spending large sums upon the fortifications of Jaffa, Sidon, and other places. The death of Blanche, his mother, who had been acting as queen-regent during his absence, induced him to return to his realm.
Like Richard the Lion-hearted, Louis did not look upon Jerusalem. The sultan of Damascus offered him the opportunity and Louis would have accepted it but for the advice of his councillors,475 who argued that his separation from the army would endanger it, and pointing to the example of Richard, persuaded the king that it would be beneath his dignity to enter a city he could not conquer. He set sail from Acre in the spring of 1254. His queen, Margaret, and the three children born to them in the East, were with him. It was a pitiful conclusion to an expedition which once had given promise of a splendid consummation.
So complete a failure might have been expected to destroy all hope of ever recovering Palestine. But the hold of the crusading idea upon the mind of Europe was still great. Urban IV. and Clement III. made renewed appeals to Christendom, and Louis did not forget the Holy Land. In 1267, with his hand upon the crown of thorns, he announced to his assembled prelates and barons his purpose to go forth a second time in holy crusade.
In the meantime the news from the East had been of continuous disaster at the hand of the enemy and of discord among the Christians themselves. In 1258 forty Venetian vessels engaged in conflict with a Genoese fleet of fifty ships off Acre with a loss of seventeen hundred men. A year later the Templars and Hospitallers had a pitched battle. In 1263 Bibars, the founder of the Mameluke rule in Egypt, appeared before Acre. In 1268 Antioch fell.
In spite of bodily weakness and the protest of his nobles, Louis sailed in 1270.476 The fleet steered for Tunis,477 probably out of deference to Charles of Anjou, now king of Naples, who was bent upon forcing the sultan to meet his tributary obligations to Sicily.478 Sixty thousand men constituted the expedition, but disaster was its predestined portion. The camp was scarcely pitched on the site of Carthage when the plague broke out. Among the victims was the king’s son, John Tristan, born at Damietta, and the king himself. Louis died with a resignation accordant with the piety which had marked his life. He ordered his body placed on a bed of ashes; and again and again repeated the prayer, "Make us, we beseech thee, O Lord, to despise the prosperity of this world and not to fear any of its adversities." The night of August 24 his mind was upon Jerusalem, and starting up from his fevered sleep, he exclaimed, "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! we will go." His last words, according to the report of an attendant, were, "I will enter into thy house, O Lord, I will worship in thy holy sanctuary, I will glorify Thy name, O Lord."479 The next day the royal sufferer passed to the Jerusalem above. His body was taken to France and laid away in St. Denis.480 In 1297 the good king was canonized, the only one of the prominent participants in the Crusades to attain to that distinction, unless we except St. Bernard.