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The Barons' Crusade

A Call to Arms and Its Consequences

By Michael Lower

Publication Year: 2011

In December 1235, Pope Gregory IX altered the mission of a crusade he had begun to preach the year before. Instead of calling for Christian magnates to go on to fight the infidel in Jerusalem, he now urged them to combat the spread of Christian heresy in Latin Greece and to defend the Latin empire of Constantinople. The Barons' Crusade, as it was named by a fourteenth-century chronicler impressed by the great number of barons who participated, would last until 1241 and would represent in many ways the high point of papal efforts to make crusading a universal Christian undertaking. This book, the first full-length treatment of the Barons' Crusade, examines the call for holy war and its consequences in Hungary, France, England, Constantinople, and the Holy Land.

In the end, Michael Lower reveals, the pope's call for unified action resulted in a range of locally determined initiatives and accommodations. In some places in Europe, the crusade unleashed violence against Jews that the pope had not sought; in others, it unleashed no violence at all. In the Levant, it even ended in peaceful negotiation between Christian and Muslim forces. Virtually everywhere, but in different ways, it altered the relations between Christians and non-Christians. By emphasizing comparative local history, The Barons' Crusade: A Call to Arms and Its Consequences brings into question the idea that crusading embodies the religious unity of medieval society and demonstrates how thoroughly crusading had been affected by the new strategic and political demands of the papacy.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Page

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p. 5-5

Dedication Page

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pp. 6-7

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xi

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pp. 1-12

Medieval and modern writers alike cite crusading as a model of common Christian endeavor in the Middle Ages.1 In many ways, this characterization makes sense. Crusades were preached by the pope, the acknowledged head of Christendom. They attracted recruits across the Latin West, who put aside differences of background and language to join together in a ...

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1. The Preaching of the Holy Land Crusade: The Plan

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pp. 13-36

DURING THE FALL OF 1234 Pope Gregory IX turned his full attention to launching an expedition in aid of the Holy Land, devising a preaching campaign that was ambitious in scope and novel in conception. The campaign was an unprecedented attempt to transform crusading into a universal Christian activity. It tried for the first time to make taking the ...

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2. The Preaching of the Holy Land Crusade: The Response

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pp. 37-57

GREGORY IX's OPTIMISTIC MEASURES to make crusading a universal Christian activity were matched by Matthew Paris's pessimistic assessment that the papacy would destroy crusading entirely. In the event, neither vision proved correct. There was an enthusiastic response, but it was regional, not universal. French and English magnates took the cross ...

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3. The Diversion to Constantinople

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pp. 58-73

IF CRUSADING WAS AN EMBLEM of Christian unity, it is necessary to posit a way such unity was achieved. In a sense, the answer appears simple: it was achieved through the pope, the head of Christendom. As we saw, the response to his call for a crusade against Muslims in the Holy Land was enthusiastic in places but not universal. The idea of Christians ...

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4. The Appeal to King Bela: Crusaders, Muslims, and Jews in Hungary

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pp. 74-92

WHEN GREGORY IX CALLED UPON King Bela IV of Hungary to crusade to Constantinople, he invoked Bela's duty as a Christian: as the Latin empire's closest Catholic neighbor, the king was expected to take up arms. In Hungary we see the first response to the papal call to crusade against the enemies of Latin Greece. Bela was generally disinclined ...

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5. The Appeal to Count Thibaut: Crusaders, Jews, and Heretics in Champagne

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pp. 93-115

THE LATIN EMPIRE's CLOSEST Catholic neighbor was Hungary. Yet the kingdom with which it enjoyed the closest relations was France, thousands of miles farther west. It was an expedition of French Holy Land crusaders that had founded the empire in 1204, and it was an expedition of French Holy Land crusaders that Gregory called upon to save it in the late winter of 1235. On 16 December he ordered William of .....

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6. The Appeal to Peter of Brittany: Crusaders and Jews in Western France

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pp. 116-128

GREGORY IX's ATTEMPTS TO PERSUADE Bela of Hungary and Thibaut of Champagne to defend Constantinople had met with no success, but for a time it looked as if his luck was changing with Peter of Brittany. Peter not only agreed to fight schismatics and heretics threatening the Latin empire, he agreed on terms so ambitious that Gregory's main problem was procuring sufficient funds for his army. As we have seen, vow redemption and commutation were designed to allow ...

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7. The Appeal to Earl Richard: Crusaders and Jews in England

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pp. 129-148

GREGORY IX CLEARLY SAW ENGLAND, like Hungary and France, as a potential source of support for the Latin empire. In 1237 he preached the cross against Vatatzes and Asen in England and also called upon the English clergy to pay a subsidy in aid of Constantinople. Less clear, though, is the role he envisioned for the kingdom's Holy Land crusaders in his plans to save John of Brienne's tottering regime. ...

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8. The Constantinople Crusade

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pp. 149-157

IN THE PRECEDING CHAPTERS we have examined the widespread consequences of Gregory's crusade appeal. It is now time to focus in upon the expeditions to which the appeal actually led. As one by one Bela of Hungary, Thibaut of Champagne, Peter of Brittany, and Richard of Cornwall declined invitations to aid the Latin empire, it became clear ...

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9. The Barons' Crusaders in the Holy Land

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pp. 158-177

THE EXPEDITION TO AID CONSTANTINOPLE that Gregory IX supported so vigorously met with little success. The Holy Land crusade he tried to divert presents a different picture. The Holy Land crusaders, as we have seen, rejected the pope's appeal to crusade in Latin Greece or to commute or redeem their vows. Although they did not fight those the pope wanted them to fight, their expedition was nevertheless another ...

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pp. 178-183

In March 1239 Pope Gregory IX sent a letter to the leaders of the Barons' Crusade that was, in one sense, a pointless instruction.1 He ordered the duke of Burgundy and the counts of Bar, Champagne, Montfort, and Vendome to be prepared to depart for the Holy Land by 24 June 1239. Since they had no intention of doing otherwise, all having declared their ...


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pp. 185-199


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pp. 187-231

Works Cited

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pp. 233-248


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pp. 249-254

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pp. 255-256

It is a pleasure to acknowledge all the help I have received while writing this book. I am grateful for research support from Victoria College in the University of Toronto, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals of the United Kingdom, the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust, Peterhouse, and the Newberry Library. The University of Minnesota generously provided me with a single semester ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812202670
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812238730

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 3 maps
Publication Year: 2011