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The Fourth Crusade

Pope Innocent III

Pope Innocent III

Pope Innocent III, an enthusiastic and ambitious Pope, who had taken up his post in 1198.  Wanting to make a name for himself, he called for a new crusade on the 15th August 1198, to revive the plans of one of his predecessors; Pope Urban II, and reclaim Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

His call was ignored by European monarchs, for they had their own battles at home to contend with.  The English and French were at war, the other nations, weren’t interested after the failure of the third crusade.

However, all was not lost as many knights, mainly French picked up their arms and took the Crusader’s vow.

Marquis Boniface of Montferrat accepted the offer in June of 1201, to become its leader, replacing Count Theobald of Champagne who was the intended leader, and had recently died.  To many, the leader of the Fourth Crusade, was Doge of Venice; Henry Dandolo.  Even in his eighties, this semi-blind warrior showed his determination for success.

The Crusaders travelled overland to Venice, and were destined to travel by sea to Egypt.  Things weren’t as simple as planned, for the Venetian’s had their own agenda.

The Crusaders had a dilemma; they had insufficient money to pay for the Venetian fleet of ships, to transport them to the Holy Land.  Fortunately, an offer was put forward by the Venetian’s which would help both parties.  “You have an army, we are but ship builders, and our city of Zara has been captured.  Help us take back what is ours, and the debt will be postponed.”

These French knights and barons, had sworn an oath as crusaders to the Pope, to re-take Jerusalem and free Christianity.  Yet, they were stranded with insufficient funds, and would go against the Pope, taking on a Christian city.

The offer was put to the crusaders and venetian forces alike, as hostile debate broke out.  Finally, it was agreed both forces would capture Zara, a rival naval port on the eastern coast of the Adriatic.

In November 1202, as the attack was about to commence on Zara, the Abbot of Vaux brought a letter from the Pope, forbidding them to attack the Christian city of Zara.

Zara fell to the crusading army, and their soldiers pillaged the city.  They took over the fine houses, and saw out the winter there, before continuing on the crusade in the spring.

The love of the fight was in the blood of these French crusaders, and it didn’t take much to persuade them to take up arms, and take Constantinople.

Thus it took place, these crusading soldiers, pledged war against the Christian city of Constantinople.  They burned down large parts, slaughtered the people, and destroyed monuments, paintings and statues.  The city was pillaged, little was left, just ruins.  Most crusaders returned home, with their spoils of war.

What will be remembered about the Fourth crusade, the campaigns ultimate goal was to free Jerusalem and Christians.  The decision to capture Zara and then Constantinople, the jewel in the crown, pillaging the city and slaughtering its inhabitants, against the wishes of the Pope, was a bad move…

(Image) Pope Innocent III: Wikipedia

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