Boniface I (Montferrat)

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Boniface I of Montferrat (* around 1150; † September 4, 1207 ) was a margrave of Montferrat (1191-1207) and a king of Thessaloniki (1204-1207) from the noble family of Aleramides . He was the leader of the Fourth Crusade .

The coat of arms of the Marquis of Montferrat.


Boniface was the third son of Margrave Wilhelm V of Montferrat and Judith, a daughter of Duke Leopold III. von Austria ( Babenberger ) and the Salian Agnes von Waiblingen. He was thus on the maternal side, great-grandson of the Roman-German Emperor Heinrich IV . His brothers were Wilhelm Langschwert , Konrad and Rainer , who also achieved historical importance.

Bonifatius gained his first military experience at the end of the 1170s when he and his father took part in his cousin, the Roman-German Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa , in his war against the Lombards League. His trobador Raimbaut de Vaqueiras made famous him of some of his heroics. With his brother Konrad he took over the reign in Montferrat in 1183 after the father had moved to the holy land. Boniface strengthened his good relations with the emperor through the engagement of his eldest son to a daughter of the emperor. After the death of Count Humbert III. of Savoy in 1189 he was a member of the Regency Council for his underage son Thomas I until he came of age in 1191.

In 1191 the new Roman-German King Heinrich VI enfeoffed him . with the county of Incisa , with which he aroused the hostility of the Lombard towns of Asti and Alessandria , against which he waged war with varying success from 1191 to 1193 and 1197 to 1199 and to which he was ultimately defeated. After the death of his brother Konrad in 1192, he took over the Margraviate of Montferrat. In 1194, Boniface took part as a fleet commander in the successful invasion of Sicily by the emperor, in whose coronation he also took part in Palermo . After the emperor's death in 1197, Bonifatius supported his Staufer cousin Philip of Swabia against the Guelphs in the erupting German throne dispute . In 1202 he was forced to join the Lombard League.

The many wars did not prevent Boniface from promoting the knightly culture and minstrelsong in Piedmontese at his court . In addition to Raimbaut de Vaqueiras, the Provencal trobadors Peire Vidal , Gaucelm Faidit and Arnaut de Mareuil , who had exiled to Montferrat because of the unrest surrounding the Albigensians, also frequented his court .

Fourth crusade

Election to leader

In the summer of 1200 Boniface hosted an embassy of French barons in Montferrat for several weeks under the leadership of Marshal of the Champagne Gottfried von Villehardouin , who was on their journey from Venice back to their French homeland. Villehardouin and his companions had negotiated with the Doge Enrico Dandolo the ship transport of the army for the fourth crusade, which was already in 1198 by Pope Innocent III. had been called out. Boniface had made friends with his guest and probably also signaled his readiness to participate in the crusade. In May 1201, Count Theobald III died in France . of Champagne , who had been the leader of the crusade enterprise. The Council of Crusaders, convened in Soissons , offered leadership to the Duke of Burgundy and then to the Count of Bar, both of whom, however, refused. Now Villehardouin proposed the Margrave of Montferrat as the new leader, who was then elected to head the crusade in June 1201.

The reasons why the French barons chose an Italian margrave as their leader are not well known. Probably Boniface's personal background played a role, as his family was already involved in Outremer in a variety of ways . His brother Conrad played an important role during the third crusade and was briefly the nominal king of Jerusalem. Boniface, as an Italian, was also likely to have been accepted as a neutral authority by the French, who were often in competition with one another. Furthermore, the reputation of an experienced military leader attached to him was also known in France. It is very likely that the influence of the French King Philip II August was decisive for his appointment, because after the death of the Count of Champagne, the Count Baldwin IX was. of Flanders was the most powerful and probably also the most promising candidate for the supreme command. However, he had already feuded with the French king and thus made himself unacceptable for command of a large army of knights that was to be drawn together on French soil. The Gesta Innocentii Papae III was next, ultimately King Philip II. Augustus the actual initiator behind the choice in favor of the Marquis of Monferrato.

In the summer of 1201 Boniface traveled personally to France after having been informed of his election by an embassy in Castagnole delle Lanze . His first visit was to King Philip II August in Paris , from whom he received a letter addressed to the Pope, in which the French king announced his support for the Staufer Philip of Swabia in the German throne contest against the Guelphs . Only then did Boniface travel to Soissons, where he met the French crusaders and was formally elected by them again in the Notre-Dame Benedictine abbey. After that, he left the crusade for the time being in order to undertake a pilgrimage to the Cistercian abbey of Cîteaux . From that time on, the crusade preacher Fulko von Neuilly belonged to his permanent entourage. He then traveled from Cîteaux to the Imperial Palatinate of Hagenau , where he stayed at the court of King Philip of Swabia from October 1201 at the turn of the year. It was here that Boniface first met the exiled Byzantine prince Alexios Angelos , who was related by marriage to the German king. The prince's father, Emperor Isaac II , was a few years earlier from his own brother Alexios III. was overthrown, but Prince Alexios was able to flee to his brother-in-law, from whom he hoped to help him regain the throne of Constantinople.

Apparently, at the meeting in Haguenau, the plan was first considered to turn the crusade against Constantinople in order to help Prince Alexios gain power there. The Byzantine Empire with an emperor committed to the Crusaders at its head would have been an invaluable asset in the struggle to recapture Jerusalem . To what extent personal motives also played a role in Boniface is unclear. His younger brother Rainer had once married a Byzantine princess and had been killed in the intrigued power struggles at the court of Constantinople. His older brother Konrad once served the prince's overthrown father. Prince Alexios traveled to Rome in the spring of 1202 to seek the support of the Pope. Boniface also met Pope Innocent III in March 1202 in Lerici , to whom he presented the Constantinople Plan, which the Pope immediately rejected. Boniface had to swear to the Pope to drop any thought of a diversion of the crusade against a Christian power, thus closing this subject for the time being.

On the crusade

After Boniface passed the rule in Montferrat to his son Wilhelm VI. had transferred, he reached Venice on August 19, 1202, from where the crusade fleet set sail in October of that year. His real influence on the company was quickly revealed after the crusaders, under pressure from Venice, agreed to conquer the Hungarian cities of Trieste , Moglie and Zara ( Siege of Zara (1202) ), which clearly ran counter to the will of the Pope. Since Venice provided the fleet for the crusade, but the crusaders were unable to provide the required financial compensation, the company was in fact committed to the participating Doge Enrico Dandolo. At most, the Margrave of Montferrat retained military-operational competencies, but his influence on the further course of the company remained minimal.

In December 1202, an embassy from King Philip of Swabia finally arrived in Zara with Prince Alexios Angelos, who presented the plan to divert the crusade to Constantinople directly to the crusaders. He won over the top leaders of the company by promising to pay them the debt they owed to Venice, as well as military support for the fight against the infidels. Boniface, too, does not seem to have done anything against the development of those events. According to a letter from Count Hugo IV of Saint-Pol , he was one of those who voted for a diversion of the crusade. The prince's promise to be endowed with the island of Crete as his own fief, in the event of a successful overthrow in Constantinople, should have made the decision easy for Boniface. However, the consequence of this violation of the original idea of ​​the crusade was the split off of a larger part of the troops under the leadership of Simon de Montfort , which wanted to move to the Levant on its own.

The fleet reached Constantinople in June 1203, which was successfully taken the following month. Emperor Alexios III was expelled and the old blinded Emperor Isaac II was enthroned again, Prince Alexios was raised as Alexios IV to co-emperor of his father in August of that year . Because the two emperors were not able to keep the promises made by Alexios IV, the situation between “ Latins ” and Greeks became threatening. After attacks by both sides, there was another coup in Constantinople in January 1204, by a Byzantine reaction under the leadership of Alexios "Murtzouphlos" Dukas , who was a son-in-law of Alexios III. was, the two emperors overthrew and killed. Alexios "Murtzouphlos" was then raised to the rank of Emperor (Alexios V), who immediately put the city in readiness for defense against the crusaders. These now decided for their part to conquer Constantinople a second time in order to appropriate their promised money by force. In addition, in March 1204 the division of the Byzantine Empire was decided in the event of victory, which at the same time also decided the de facto end of the crusade to Outremer. After a week of siege , Alexios V "Murtzouphlos" fled on April 13th, whereupon the resistance of the defenders collapsed and the Latins invaded the "second Rome". During the fighting and looting, Bonifatius occupied the Bukoleon Palace and thus saved the lives of the empress widows Margarete (Maria) and Agnes (Anna) , who was a sister of the King of France.

King of Thessaloniki

The Latin Empire (in yellow) with the Kingdom of Thessaloniki.

After the successful conquest of Constantinople, the Latins set about founding a new state that should be based on the feudal structures of their Western European homeland. To this end, it was decided to elect a new emperor from among their ranks, who should be at the head of the new " Latin Empire of Constantinople ". As leader of the crusade, Boniface stood for election, but he was defeated in the ballot against Count Baldwin IX. of Flanders, who became the new emperor as Baldwin I. In the election, the votes of the Venetians were particularly decisive, who opted for Baldwin, who was not well established in the Greek East, while Boniface had good contacts in Byzantium even before the crusade and could therefore have acted more independently of the interests of the "Serenissima" . Soon after the conquest he had married the empress widow Margarete (Maria) and thus strengthened his position vis-à-vis the Greeks and also won a potential ally with her brother, King Emmerich . In the election, however, only two Lombards from the twelve-member electoral college voted for Boniface.

Emperor Baldwin I immediately tried to prevent an incipient split among the Latins by offering Boniface the greater part of the still-to-be-conquered western Asia Minor and ancient Greece as a fief, which would have made him the richest vassal of the empire. Boniface refused this offer, however, and instead claimed to be recognized as King of Thessaloniki , nonetheless as a vassal of the Empire. He felt legitimized for this step, since his younger brother Rainer had already been entrusted with the " Kingdom of Thessaloniki " by the former Byzantine emperor . Much more likely, however, the brother of the emperor would only have received the pronoia , i.e. his basic financial support through the taxes to be paid by the city. In the autumn of 1204 Thessaloniki was taken by Emperor Baldwin while Boniface conquered Didymotika , proclaimed his stepson Manuel Angelos as the opposing emperor and then took up the siege of Adrianople . By order of the emperor he had to break off the siege, which led to a temporary break between the two, which was ended after the surrender of Thessaloniki to Boniface by the emperor. Even with the Venetians under Enrico Dandolo, he reached an agreement by selling them his rights to Crete, which he had received from Alexios IV.

Then Boniface turned with some loyal followers such as Othon de la Roche , Guillaume de Champlitte , Jacques d'Avesnes , Oberto von Biandrate , Guido Pallavicini , Berthold von Katzenelnbogen and Geoffroi de Villehardouin (a nephew of the Marshal of the same name) to ancient Greece, that of Greece Leon Sgouros was held. While Corinth was attacked by Jacques d'Avesnes, Boniface besieged the strong castle of Nauplia . During this time he founded the dominions of Thebes-Athens and Negroponte , as well as the Principality of Achaia and the Margraviate of Boudonitza as fiefs of his kingdom. At the same time as these events, the Bulgarians under Kalojan (Johannitzes) went on the offensive against the Latins in Thrace and conquered Adrianople, among others. During the attempt to recapture this city, Emperor Baldwin was captured by the Bulgarians in the disastrous battle of Adrianople on April 14, 1205.

While the brother of the emperor, Heinrich , continued the fight against the Bulgarians, Boniface established himself in Thessaloniki. He rebuilt Serres Castle after it was destroyed by the Bulgarians in September 1205. Then he brought the region around Philippi under his control. The regent Heinrich was crowned the new emperor in August 1206 after Baldwin's death became known. Boniface regulated his relationship with the new emperor by marrying his daughter Agnes to him in the spring of 1207. In the autumn of that year he met the emperor in Cypsela near Adrianople and paid homage to him as his liege lord.


On the way back to Mosynopolis Boniface plundered the monastery Sweti Joan Prodrom , shortly afterwards he was ambushed by the Bulgarians. After he was wounded in the arm by an arrow in battle, the Bulgarians captured him and beheaded him, his head was sent to Kalojan (Johannitzes) as a trophy for victory. The death of Boniface von Montferrat was seen by his friend Gottfried von Villehardouin as one of the most serious losses that the Latins had to suffer in the Greek East. Apparently the loyal knight and trobador of the margrave, Raimbaut de Vaqueiras , also died in the battle against the Bulgarians, as no lamentation ( planh ) about the death of his patron has been passed down by him . In return , another trobador, Elias Cairel , mourned the margrave in the sirventes "Pois chai la fuoilla del garric" (Well, after the oak fell).

The Latin Kingdom of Thessaloniki proved short-lived. It was conquered as early as 1224 by the Byzantine despot of Epirus, Theodoros I Angelos .


Boniface von Montferrat was married to at least two, perhaps three women. His first wife was Elena di Bosco, with whom he had three children:

His second wife was probably Jeanne de Châtillon, a daughter of Rainald von Châtillon , with whom he had no children. The third wife was, since 1204, the widow of Emperor Isaac II, Margaret (Maria) of Hungary, a daughter of King Bélas III. of Hungary and the niece of Boniface's second wife Jeanne. (Her sister Agnes de Châtillon was Margarete's mother.) With Margarete he had a son, Demetrius († 1230), who succeeded him as King of Thessaloniki under his mother's reign.


  • David Brader: Bonifaz from Montferrat to the start of the cruise (1202) (= historical studies. Vol. 55, ZDB -ID 514152-7 ). Ebering, Berlin 1907.
  • Axel Goria:  Bonifacio I. In: Alberto M. Ghisalberti (Ed.): Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (DBI). Volume 12:  Bonfadini – Borrello. Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome 1970, pp. 118-124.
  • Otto Kresten: Boniface of Montferrat . In: Biographical Lexicon on the History of Southeast Europe . Volume 1. Munich 1974, p. 232 f.
  • Donald E. Queller, Thomas F. Madden: The Fourth Crusade. The conquest of Constantinople, 1201-1204. 2nd edition. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia PA 1997, ISBN 0-8122-3387-5 .
  • Steven Runciman : Thessalonica and the Montferrat inheritance. In: Γρηγόριος ο Παλαμάς. Vol. 42, 1959, ISSN  1011-3010 , pp. 27-34.
  • Alexios G. Savvides, Benjamin Hendrickx (Eds.): Encyclopaedic Prosopographical Lexicon of Byzantine History and Civilization . Vol. 2: Baanes-Eznik of Kolb . Brepols Publishers, Turnhout 2008, ISBN 978-2-503-52377-4 , pp. 134-135.
  • Şerban Marin: Boniface of Montferrat in the Venetian Chronicles , in: Roberto Maestri (Ed.): Atti del Convegno Internazionale, Acqui Terme, September 8, 2007 , 2009, pp. 34-57. ( )

Individual evidence

  1. Annales Colonienses maximi , ed. by Georg Heinrich Pertz in MGH SS 17 (1861), p. 812.
  2. Vincenzo de Bartholomaeis : Un Sirventés historique d'Élias Cairel , in: Annales du Midi 16 (1904), pp. 468-494
predecessor Office successor
Konrad Margrave of Montferrat
William VI.
--- King of Thessaloniki