Sixth Crusade


The Sixth Crusade started in 1228 as an attempt to reconquer Jerusalem. It began only seven years after the failure of the Fifth Crusade.

Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, had involved himself broadly in the Fifth crusade, sending troops from Germany, but he failed to accompany the army directly, despite the encouragement of Honorius III and later Gregory IX, as he need to consolidate his position in Germany and Italy before embarking on a crusade. However, Frederick again promised to go on a crusade after his coronation as emperor in 1220 by Pope Honorius III.

In 1225 Frederick married Yolande of Jerusalem (also known as Isabella), daughter of John of Brienne, nominal ruler of the kingdom of Jerusalem, and Maria of Montferrat. Frederick now had a claim to the truncated kingdom, and reason to attempt to restore it. In 1227, after Gregory IX became pope, Frederick and his army set sail from Brindisi for Syria, but an epidemic forced Frederick to return to Italy. Gregory took this opportunity to excommunicate Frederick for breaking his crusader vow, though this was just an excuse, as Frederick had for years been trying to consolidate imperial power in Italy at the expense of the papacy. Further to this, Gregory had stated that the reason for the excommunication was Frederick's repeated delays to going on crusade, which had started as far back as the Fifth crusade. Frederick attempted to negotiate with the pope, but eventually decided to ignore him, and sailed to Syria in 1228 despite the excommunication, arriving at Acre in September.

Acre, as the nominal capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the seat of the Latin Patriarchate, was split in its support for Frederick. Frederick's own army and many of the nobles supported him, but Patriarch Gerald of Lausanne, many of the citizenry, the Knights Hospitaller, and the Knights Templar did not. They resented Frederick's attempts to impose imperial authority, and were quickly caught up in the European struggle between supporters of the papacy (the Guelphs) and the supporters of the Holy Roman Empire (the Ghibellines).

Although Frederick was able to unite the two sides in Acre, he had little opportunity to wage war before he was caught up in Ayyubid politics. Al-Kamil, the sultan of Egypt who had defeated the Fifth Crusade, quickly divided Ayyubid territory with a brother in Syria, although his nephew al-Nasir wanted Palestine for himself. On February 18, 1229, al-Kamil signed a ten-year truce with Frederick, allying with him against al-Nasir in return for handing over Nazareth, Sidon, Jaffa, Bethlehem, and all of Jerusalem except the Dome of the Rock, which was sacred to Islam (although Christians were permitted to pray near the site of Solomon's Temple). Frederick was not permitted to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, destroyed by Al-Mu'azzam, nephew of Saladin, in 1217, but he was allowed to enter the city as king. Also, because both Gregory IX and Gerald of Lausanne condemned the treaty, Frederick crowned himself king on March 18. Legally, however, he was actually regent for his son Conrad II of Jerusalem, only child of Yolande and the grandson of Maria of Montferrat and John of Brienne, who had been born shortly before Frederick left in 1228.

As Frederick had other matters to attend to at home, he left Jerusalem in May. It took a defeat in battle later in 1229 for the Pope to lift the excommunication, but by now Frederick had shown that a crusade could be successful with neither military engagements nor support from the papacy. The truce expired in 1239 and Jerusalem was taken by the Mamluks in 1244, but now that Frederick had set the precedent, further crusades would be launched by individual kings such as Louis IX of France (the Seventh and Eighth Crusades) and Edward I of England (the Ninth Crusade) without papal involvement.

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