If the past five Crusades were violent and the results were often disappointing, then the Sixth Crusade was downright strange. It was pulled off with great timing and without bloodshed by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II between 1228 and 1229. He received Jerusalem after signing a treaty with the Ayyubid Sultan al-Kamil, but neither Muslims nor Christians were happy with the turn of events. He returned to Europe in the same year, but not before he earned the ridicule of the people of the Holy Land and Europe. The Fifth Crusade is recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during 1248 AD.
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Although it was not as violent as the previous ones, the Fifth Crusade also ended in disappointment and humiliation. One of those who shouldered the blame was the papal legate Pelagius because he convinced the Crusaders to attack Cairo even though they were not prepared. Pope Honorius III’s popularity also took a beating when the Fifth Crusade ended. But then he shifted the blame to the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II after he failed to follow through on his promise to go to the Holy Land and lead the Crusader army.
Two years after the end of the Fifth Crusade, Frederick once again promised Pope Honorius that he would lead an army to recover Jerusalem. He set the year of his voyage in 1225, but he postponed it once again when it was time for him to leave. He promised that he would go in 1227 after the exasperated Pope finally threatened him with excommunication.
Meanwhile, Frederick agreed to marry Isabelle II (Yolande of Brienne), the teenage queen of Jerusalem. This union was also backed by Pope Honorius III and the bride’s father King John in hopes that it would force Frederick to commit himself to the Crusade. Since Isabelle was still young, her father became her regent, and he hoped that Frederick would give him the troops he needed to take back Jerusalem. It did not happen as Frederick wanted the title of the King of Jerusalem himself.
John was angry with Frederick, but there was nothing that he could do. Pope Honorius died in March of 1227 so that the German emperor once again postponed the voyage until August of that year. When August came, he conveniently fell ill after boarding the ship, and they returned to Italy after just three days at sea. No one believed that Frederick was sick. Many thought it was just another reason for him to postpone the Crusade. Pope Gregory IX, Honorius’ successor, was angry and impatient. He immediately excommunicated the Holy Roman Emperor, and the two became bitter enemies afterwards. They hated each other so much that the Pope even labelled Frederick as the Antichrist. Meanwhile, Frederick also did not have one good word to say about the Pope.
In the Holy Land
Isabelle II, Frederick’s wife, died after giving birth to their son Conrad in spring of 1228. Eager to claim Jerusalem for his son (or for his own), Frederick finally took the voyage to the Holy Land with a small number of knights. The Sixth Crusade started when his ship docked in the Holy Land in September of the same year. Pope Gregory was unhappy with Frederick’s initiative since he had been excommunicated before. The Pope issued a second excommunication since Frederick left Europe without the Church’s blessing.
As expected, Frederick showed that craftiness and a great sense of timing worked in his favor in the Holy Land. He made an alliance with the Ayyubid Sultan al-Kamil who, at that time, was struggling with his brother and ruler of Syria al-Mu’azzam Isa. The Syrians under Al-Mu’azzam Isa had rebelled against al-Kamil, so he was eager to put it down with the help of Frederick and his German troops. In exchange, al-Kamil would hand over Jerusalem to the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick.
But Al-Mu’azzam Isa had already died when Frederick arrived in Acre. Sultan al-Kamil did not need Frederick’s help anymore, but he was not also looking forward to a new war with him. Instead, he honored their earlier treaty and simply gave Jerusalem to Frederick. But the Sultan made it clear that he wanted the Muslim inhabitants of the city to stay even though Jerusalem was back in Christian hands. He also told Frederick not to rebuild the walls of the city. A ten-year peace between them sweetened the deal.
Frederick took back Jerusalem without bloodshed—something that past Crusader Kings did not accomplish. But this strategy did not sit well with the Pope as he had excommunicated the emperor twice. The Muslims and Christians of the Holy Land were also displeased with this.
Their opinions did not matter for Frederick as he and his troops marched in victory in Jerusalem in 1229. He also crowned himself the King of Jerusalem instead of his son Conrad. The Patriarch of the holy city, however, did not support him as he had been excommunicated by the Pope. He never stayed in the city for long. He appointed two Frankish noblemen as his representatives in the city and left it in the same year to face Pope Gregory who, by then, had invaded Sicily.
Picture By Muir’s Historical Atlas (1911), at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbookmap.html, Public Domain, Link
Abulafia, David. Frederick II: A Medieval Emperor. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Edbury, Peter. The New Cambridge Medieval History C. 1198-1300. Edited by David Abulafia. Vol. V. Cambridge: University Press, 1995.
Madden, Thomas F. Crusades: The Illustrated History. Ann Arbor, MI: Univ. of Michigan Press, 2004.
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