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Philip de Novare: Les Gestes des Ciprois, The Crusade of Frederick II, 1228-29

[Adapted from Brundage] After the failure of the Fifth crusade in 1221, hope for Christian success in the East was centered upon Frederick II, the new Holy Roman Emperor. This was ironic since Frederick was, in religious terms, closer to his Muslim enemies than to orthodox Christianity. He was far from pious and seemed to have an odd understanding of the crusade. He had vowed to go Crusade as early as 1215, but the Crusader's vow for him seems to have been principally a method his precarious hold upon Germany and Sicily papal protection which was extended to Crusaders. Frederick's concern was primarily to consolidate his own position as Emperor. To this end, he postponed the fulfillment of his Crusading vow time and time again. When finally pressed Pope Honorius III in 1225, Frederick solemnly promised to depart for the East within two years. Meanwhile, he prepared to use his Crusade to extend his Empire into the East. In 1225 he married Yolanda, the young heiress of the Latin Kingdom. Shortly thereafter, Frederick claimed the title of the Latin King for himself. After seducing one of Yolanda's cousins, Frederick banished his fourteen­year­old bride to the harem which he kept at Palermo, where she bore the Emperor a son, Conrad, in 1228. Yolanda died less than week later, but formally the title to the Latin Kingdom had already passed to her infant son, and Frederick was forced to be content with the position of regent for his son ­ if, according to the customs of the Kingdom, the Latin barons could be persuaded to accept his regency.

A Crusading army, meanwhile, was raised and on September 8, 1227 the Emperor and his army embarked for East, just before the expiration of the time limit set by the Pope. Almost immediately after the fleet set sail, Frederick fell ill. His physician advised him in strong terms that he must return to Sicily to recover before attempting to make the arduous voyage to Palestine. Frederick forthwith landed to recuperate.

In view of Frederick's repeated postponements of the Crusade during the past twelve years, it is not surprising that Pope Gregory IX took this situation to be another attempt to delay the Crusade. In anger, the Pontiff solemnly excommunicated Frederick. The Emperor replied with a manifesto in which be attacked the pretensions of the Papacy and then proceeded, once he had recovered his health, with his preparations for the expedition. On June 28, 1228 Frederick sailed once again for the East.

The Emperor was now determined to gain such power and prestige as he could in the East, to add the remnants of the Crusaders' states to his Empire." He stopped first at Cyprus, whose infant king, Henry, was nominally Frederick's vassal.

Frederick in Cyprus

In the year 1229 [note: this is a mistake: Frederick left on June 28, 1228] the Emperor Frederick, at the command of pope Gregory, [Gregory IX had in fact excommunicated Frederick before he left Sicily the second time] crossed the sea to Cyprus. He first landed at the city of Limassol [July 21 1228], where he had with him seventy galleys, transports and other ships. Most of his army and his household, together with his marshall and the horses, had already landed at Acre....

The Lord of Beirut [John d'Ibelin, Lord of Beirut 1197-1226] . . . went to the Emperor with his children, all his friends, and the whole of the Cypriot army, both knights and sergeants. They brought their little lord, King Henry, [Henry the Fat, King of Cyprus 1218-52] to the Emperor and put themselves completely at his disposal. The Emperor received them with a great feast and with the semblance of great joy and it appeared that their enemies had been mistaken. The Emperor immediately asked of them a favor, namely that they would put off the black robes which they were still wearing in mourning for the death of Philip d'Ibelin, the Lord of Beirut's brother. For, the Emperor said, the joy of his arrival should be greater than their sorrow for the loss of their friend, the Lord of Beirut's brother, who had died, even though he bad been a most brave and noble man. They acceded most cheerfully to his command and willingly thanked him. They offered to place their bodies, hearts, and goods wholly at his service. The Emperor joyfully thanked them, saying that he would repay them amply and richly. The Emperor then sent scarlet gowns to those who had worn black and to others he sent jewelry and he gave all of them a verbal invitation to dine with him on the following day. They hastily fixed up their gowns and on the following morning they all appeared, clad in scarlet, before the Emperor.

On the previous night, however, the Emperor had secretly opened a door in the wall of a room which led into a gardenthis was in a gracious house in which my lord Philip had housed him in Limassol. The Emperor had three thousand or more armed men ­ sergeants, arbalesters, and sailors ­ enter secretly at night through this false postern, so that virtually all the men from his fleet were there. They were stationed throughout the stables and the rooms of the house, behind closed doors, until the dinner hour.

The tables were set and the water poured. The Emperor put the Lord of Beirut and the old Lord of Caesarea,[Gautier III, Count of Caesarea, and brother-in-law of John d'Ibelin] who was Constable of Cyprus, at his own table. He placed the King of Cyprus and the King of Salonika [Demetrius of Monterrat, titular king of Salonica] at the first place at another long table, together with the Marquis of Lancia [Manfred II, Marquis of Lancia, vicar-general of Lombardy] and the other barons of Germany and of the Kingdom. He ordered all the Cypriot knights to be seated in such a way that the Lord of Beirut and the others could hear and see him when he spoke. He also arranged for the two sons of the Lord of Beirut to serve him, one with the cup, the other with the bowl, and for the young Lord of Caesarea and the Lord Anceau de Brie to carve before him. The Emperor had the four of them don tunics and doublets over their mantles, for such, he said, was the law and custom of the Empire. The young men served him very willingly and nobly and there were many courses and a variety of food. During the last course the armed men emerged from the places where they had been waiting and they took charge of the palace, the rooms, and the great court and placed guards there and elsewhere. There were well­armed men in the palace where the Emperor was and he had them seated before him with their weapons in their hands ­ some held their swords by the pommel, others grasped their daggers. The Cypriots were well aware of what was going on, but they said not a word and tried to appear at ease.

The Emperor turned to the Lord of Beirut and said aloud: "Sir John, I ask two things of you. You will be wise if you do them agreeably and well." The Lord of Beirut replied: "Sire, say what is your pleasure and I shall willingly do what is right, so far as I understand it or as it is understood by honorable men." "One of the two things," said the Emperor, "is this: You will give me the city of Beirut, for you do not have it or hold it rightfully. The other thing is this: You will give me the income you have received as regent and ruler of Cyprus since the death of King Hugh, that is the income for the past ten years, for it is mine by right according to the custom of Germany." The Lord of Beirut replied: "Sire, I believe that you must be joking and making sport of me, as it may well be. Perchance some evil men who hate me have suggested that you demand these things of me and this is what has prompted you to do it. But, please God, you are such a good and wise lord that you know that we can and will serve you so willingly that you will not trust those evil men." The Emperor placed his hand upon his head and said: "By this head, which has many times worn a crown, I shall have my way in these two matters which I have mentioned or you will be taken prisoner." At this the Lord of Beirut rose up and his appearance was striking as he said loudly: "I have and hold Beirut as my fief by right. My lady, Queen Isabelle [lacuna] who was my sister on my mother's side and a daughter of King Amaury and who is thus the rightful heir of the Kingdom of Jerusalem ­ she and her lord, King Amaury [Amaury, or Amlaric II, King of Jerusalem, 1162-74] - together gave me Beirut in exchange for the constableship, when the Christians bad recovered the city all destroyed. The Templars and the Hospitallers and all the barons of Syria had refused the town. I have restored its walls and have maintained it by the alms of Christendom and by my own labors. In it I have invested the income I had from Cyprus and elsewhere. [note: John was Constable of Jerusalem, 1194-1200, and traded this post for Beirut, as stated. Beirut had been conquered by Saladin in 1187 and was restored to Christian hands in 1197] If you maintain that I hold it wrongfully, I will substantiate my reasons and my rights in the court of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. As for the income from the regency and governance of Cyprus which you demand of me, I never had it. My brother got from the regency only the headaches of governing and working for the Kingdom. But my niece, Queen Alice, had the income and did with it as she pleased, as the one who held the rights of regency according to our custom. If you demand this of me, I shall furnish you with proof according to the customs and the court of the Kingdom of Cyprus. And You may be certain that I shall do no more than this out of any fear of death or imprisonment, unless the judgment of the good and loyal court requires me so to do."

The Emperor grew very angry and swore and threatened him. Finally the Emperor said: "I heard and learned a long time ago across the sea that your words were handsome and polite and that You were very discreet and subtle with words, but I shall show You that your wit, your subtlety, and your words are worth nothing against my power."

The Lord of Beirut replied in such a way that those who were present were astounded and all of his friends were much afraid. His reply was: "Sire, you heard tell long ago of my polite words: I too, have heard often and for long of your deeds. When I planned to come here, my whole council, with one voice, warned me that you would do what you are now doing and worse, and that I was not to trust you in any way. I came under no illusions; I had good advice and I understood it. But I would much rather suffer death or imprisonment than to allow anyone to speak evil of us or to allow the help due to Our Lord, the help due to the conquest of the Holy Land, and your service to be hindered by me, my family, or my compatriots. . . ." He suddenly stopped and sat down.

The Emperor was very angry and changed color often. People stared at the Lord of Beirut and there were many words and threats. Religious men and other good people intervened to try to reach agreement, but no one could get the Lord of Beirut to alter what he had said he would do. The Emperor made many strange and sinister requests. At last they agreed to do what the Lord of Beirut had earlier proposed and he could now be forced to concede no more than this: that he would furnish the Emperor with twenty of the most noble vassals of Cyprus as hostages. These men would pledge by their bodies, their belongings, and their estates that the Lord of Beirut would serve the Emperor, would go to the Court of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and would there prove his rights, and that, when he had appeared in court, the hostages would be freed and released.


Philip de Novare: Les Gestes des Ciprois, No. 126-28, ed. Gaston Reynaud, (Geneva: Jules-Guillaumefick, 1887), 37-43, translated by James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 227-30

Copyright note: Professor Brundage informed the Medieval Sourcebook that copyright was not renewed on this work. Moreover he gave permission for use of his translations

Frederick II in the Holy Land

From Cyprus Frederick sailed quickly to Acre to begin his Crusade. The Crusade in Frederick's hands, however, was to be a far different kind of affair from his predecessors. Instead of using his army against the Moslems, it was Frederick's intention to negotiate with the Egyptian Sultan for a peaceful territorial settlement in the Holy Land. Frederick proposed to use his army principally against the Latins in the East, to try to force them to acknowledge his position as regent and de facto ruler of the Latin states in the East. In short, Frederick's objective was the conquest, not of the Moslem­beld territories of Palestine, but rather of the Crusading states.

In the year 1229 [actually 1228] the Emperor came to Syria with his whole navy. The King [the infant Conrad IV, titular King of Jerusalem] and all the Cypriots, together with the Lord of Beirut, [John D'Ibelin] accompanied him. The Lord of Beirut went to Beirut, Where be was joyfully received, for never was a lord more warmly loved by his men. He remained there but one day and then followed the Emperor to Tyre. The Emperor was very well received in Syria where all did homage to him as regent, because he bad a little son called King Conrad, who was the rightful heir of the Kingdom of Jerusalem through his mother who was dead. The Emperor and his men and all the Syrians left Acre to go to Jaffa. There they held truce conferences with al­Kamil, who was then Sultan of Babylon and Damascus, [Al-Kamal was, in fact, Sultan of Egypt, and not at this time ruling in Damascus, which was under his nephew, an-Nasir Dawud] and who held Jerusalem and the whole country. As a result of their agreement Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Lydda were thereby turned over to the Emperor.

In this same year, [Really the following year, 1229] amidst these events, the Emperor ordered Count Stephen of Gotron and other Longobards [i.e. his troops from Southern Italy] as well, to come to Cyprus. He had all the fortresses and the royal revenues seized for his use. He claimed that he was regent and that this was his right. The Cypriots were much perplexed and bad their wives and children placed in religious houses wherever they could. Some of them ­ namely Sir John d'Ibelin, later Count of Jaffa, who was then a child, his sister, and other gentle-folk ­ fled in the midst of the winter. It was a bad season and they barely escaped drowning, but, as it so pleased God, they finally arrived at Tortosa. The Emperor held Cyprus. The Cypriots who were in his army were very uncomfortable and, had the Lord of Beirut sanctioned it, they would have carried off and kidnapped the young King Henry and would have fled from the Emperor's camp.

The Emperor was now disliked by all the people of Acre. He was the object of the Templars' special disfavor. There was at that time a very brave Templar, Brother Peter de Montagu, a most valiant and noble man, as was also the master of the Teutonic Knights. The people of the lowlands­39 also had little use for the Emperor. The Emperor seemed to be delaying. [conjectural reading of "de lais"] Every day, even in winter, be kept his galleys armed, with the oars in the locks. Many people said that he wished to seize the Lord of Beirut and his children, Sir Anceau de Bries and his other friends, the Master of the Temple and other persons and have them shipped to Apulia. Another said that he wished to have them killed at a council to which he had called and summoned them but that they had been aware of this and went to the council with such forces that he dared not do it.

He made his truce with the Saracens in all particulars as they wished it. He went to Jerusalem and then to Acre. The Lord of Beirut never left him and, though he was often advised to leave, he did not wish to do so. The Emperor assembled his people at Acre and had all the people of the city come and there were many who thought well of him....

The Emperor secretly prepared to depart. At daybreak on the first of May, he boarded a galley before the Butchers' Street, without notifying anyone. Thus it happened that the butchers and the old people who lived on the street and who were very unfriendly saw his party and pelted him most abusively with tripe and scraps of meat....

Thus the Emperor left Acre, cursed, bated, and despised.

[Adapted from Brundage] By diplomacy and without spilling a drop of blood, Frederick won the goals for which the Crusade had been launched. Jerusalem and Bethlehem were restored to Christian hands and a corridor linking the cities with the sea was also ceded to the Latins. Moreover, a ten­year truce was arranged and trading rights were guaranteed to Christians and Moslems alike. But the Emperor, who had won so much, lost what he had come to gain. The Latin Kingdom was not to be a part of Frederick's Empire. The barons and clergy unanimously rejected him as regent and Frederick was forced to return to the West almost immediately to meet an attack which had been launched against his Sicilian Kingdom during his absence by his father­in­law and the Pope . Frederick's departure left the Latin states reconstituted but devoid of strong leadership. The barons of the Latin Kingdom cherished dearly their feudal independence, even though, in the final analysis, it might cost them the possession of the Kingdom itself. The decade of comparative peace which followed Frederick's departure saw nothing done to assure the permanence of the Latin states. At the expiration of the treaty period, small Crusading armies journeyed to the East, one in 1239, led by King Thibaud of Navarre, and another one in 1240, led by Richard of Cornwall. Neither of these expeditions accomplished anything important, and meanwhile the feudal families of the Latin Kingdom fought among themselves and with various Moslem foes. In July 1244 Jerusalem was again attacked, this time by wild Khwarismian Turks in the employ of the Egyptians. The Khwarismian attack came as a surprise to the garrison of the city and, after a short defense, the Turks broke into the town. The garrison fled to the Tower of David and held out there for nearly six weeks. Then, on August 23, they surrendered. Thus began six hundred and fifty years of uninterrupted Moslem control of the Holy City. The fall of Jerusalem presaged further disasters for the Latins in the Levant. In October 1244, a major Latin army was destroyed by the Egyptians and their allies at La Forbie, near Gaza. Egyptian attacks continued during the next three years and in 1247 the major city of Ascalon was also lost by the Latins. The need for renewed assistance from the West was obvious. The attention turned to Louis IX, King of France.


Philip de Novare: Les Gestes des Ciprois, No. 135-37, ed. Gaston Reynaud, (Geneva: Jules-Guillaumefick, 1887), 48-50, translated by James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 231-32
Copyright note: Professor Brundage informed the Medieval Sourcebook that copyright was not renewed on this work. Moreover he gave permission for use of his translations.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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© Paul Halsall December 1997
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