Damiette crusade

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Damiette crusade
Part of: Fifth Crusade
Siege of Damiette (manuscript of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge)
Siege of Damiette (manuscript of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge )
date June 1217 to September 1221
place Palestine , Egypt
output Crusade failed
Parties to the conflict

Cross of the Knights Templar.svgCrusaders Kingdom of Jerusalem Principality of Antioch County Tripoli Kingdom of Cyprus
Armoiries de Jérusalem.svg
Blason Vide 3D.svg
Armoiries Tripoli.svg
Armoiries Lusignan Chypre.svg

Flag of Ayyubid Dynasty.svg Ayyubids


Johann von Brienne
Pelagius of Albano

al-Adil I.

Troop strength
unknown unknown

The Damiette Crusade from 1217 to 1221 was a Church sponsored crusade to recapture Jerusalem from the Muslim Ayyubids . The campaign led the crusaders to Egypt , where they were able to conquer the city of Damiette after a long siege , but had to give it up again after a defeat in the Nile Delta.

This crusade is usually counted together with the crusade of Frederick II as the Fifth Crusade . According to another calculation, Damiette's crusade is treated as the Fifth Crusade and the Staufer Friedrich II's crusade is treated separately as the Sixth Crusade .



Since the conquest of Jerusalem in 1187, the "holy city" was again in the hands of the Muslims. The previous attempts by Christians to retake Jerusalem had failed. The Kingdom of Jerusalem had moved its capital to Acre and was confined to a narrow stretch of coast from Jaffa to the southern border of County Tripoli . Since the Muslim Ayyubids were weakened by internal power struggles, they repeatedly consented to temporary ceasefire agreements with the crusader states, after which there was new fighting and then a new ceasefire agreement.

The last armistice, concluded in 1211 between the regent of Jerusalem, John of Brienne , and the Ayyubid Sultan al-Adil I , would have ended in 1215/1216. This time served as an opportunity to attempt a new crusade to recapture Jerusalem for the Christians.

Call to the crusade

Pope Innocent III had already called for another crusade in the spring of 1213 in his bull Quia maior . A general crusade was decided at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215.

Innocent III. tried to avoid the mistakes of the crusades that had failed in the past and to repeat the successes of the First Crusade : Since the Second and Third Crusades, led by kings, had failed, he let the simple population as well as lower nobles and sermons through processions , prayers and sermons Talk to knights . Pope Innocent III appointed the leader of the crusade. the papal legate Cardinal Pelagius von Albano , in order to avoid the mistakes of the Fourth Crusade , which Venice had badly damaged with selfish actions.

According to the plan of Innocent III. the crusaders should gather in Brindisi in 1216 and cross over to Outremer . He banned trade with Muslim states to ensure that enough ships would be available to transport the crusaders. An indulgence was promised not only to the active participants in the crusade , but also to all those who participated in the costs of the crusade without going themselves.

After Innocent died, the new Pope Honorius III. marked the beginning of the crusade on June 1, 1217.

Response and departure to Acre

In contrast to the other Orient Crusades, this time there were only relatively few knights for the crusade in France, especially since many of them were already on the Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229).

On the occasion of his coronation in 1215, the Roman-German King (and later Emperor) Friedrich II vowed to participate, but then postponed it several times, which led to tension with the Pope.

On June 1, 1217, the crusaders, led by King Andrew II of Hungary and Duke Leopold VI , stabbed . from Austria from Split to Palestine by sea. After a short stay in Cyprus they finally reached Acre , the capital of the remaining Kingdom of Jerusalem.


In Acre the crusader army united with the armies of the crusader states under John of Brienne , regent of Jerusalem , Bohemond IV of Antioch and Tripoli and Hugo I of Cyprus . Johann von Brienne placed himself at the head of the crusaders.

Sultan al-Adil, brother of Saladin and ruler of the Ayyubid Empire at the time, awaited an attack on Jerusalem. In order to make it more difficult for the crusaders to defend the city in the event of a possible conquest, the city walls and fortifications were therefore destroyed. Many Muslims left Jerusalem for fear of a repetition of the First Crusade massacre in 1099.

The Ayyubid troops avoided open battle with the Crusaders. During November 1217 unsuccessful attempts were made in the area around the Sea of ​​Galilee to provide al-Adil's main army, which repeatedly evaded a fight. Damascus was already preparing for a siege when the crusaders retreated towards Acre. At the beginning of December, they unsuccessfully besieged the castle, which was built by the Muslims on Mount Tabor in 1213 and secured the road between Acre and Jerusalem.

After months of lack of progress, Andrew II and Bohemond IV returned home with their troops in January 1218. Hugo I also died on January 10, 1218, which also prompted his contingent to return home.

Johann von Brienne used the remaining crusaders to repair or strengthen the existing castles and city fortresses. B. Château Pèlerin and Caesarea .

Departure to Damiette

In April and May 1218 Thomas Olivier from Cologne and Count Wilhelm I of Holland arrived in Acre with Dutch, Flemish, Frisian and German crusaders. These had already set sail from Holland in the summer of 1217, but in Portugal had been persuaded by King Alfonso the Fat to spend the winter in Portugal . During the winter they had conquered the Moorish cities of Al-Qasr , Setúbal and Rabeta Ruta for the Portuguese crown.

With Johann von Brienne and Leopold VI. it was decided to attack the Ayyubids in Egypt. An alliance with the Muslim Rum Seljuks under Sultan Kai Kaus I provided that they should attack the Ayyubid Empire at the same time in Syria .

Siege of Damiette

In April 1218 the crusader fleet under Johann von Brienne reached the Egyptian port city of Damiette and began the siege. Damiette was strategically important because one could block the only navigable arm of the Nile with a heavy chain from the fortification in front of it, which was on a small island . The capture of this fortification succeeded after bitter fighting at the end of August 1218.

Sultan al-Adil I died three days later. After the death of his father, the new Sultan al-Kamil first had to consolidate his claim to rule over his brothers. According to his father's will, he had received Egypt, his brother al-Ashraf Upper Mesopotamia and his brother al-Mu'azzam Syria. During these days Cardinal Pelagius von Albano arrived with troops from Italy in the camp of the crusaders and, as papal legate , claimed the leadership of the crusade. Rather than seizing the opportunities presented by the sultan's weakened position, the leaders of the crusade fell into a crippling argument about who should lead the crusade and who should own Damiette, the Pope or the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In October 1218 further reinforcements arrived from France.

Al-Kamil was ready to negotiate with the crusaders and from February 1219 on several times offered the return of Jerusalem, including all areas of the former Kingdom of Jerusalem, except the areas around Kerak and Montreal , as well as the return of the relic of the true cross , which Saladin contributed to in 1187 Hattin had captured, as well as the release of all prisoners of war found alive in the kingdoms of Cairo and Damascus. He also offered to pay for the rebuilding of Jerusalem's city walls.

Cardinal Pelagius, however, refused to negotiate with the Saracens. Francis of Assisi , who was later canonized , had also joined the crusader army and went to Damiette's camp of the Muslim army to preach to Sultan al-Kamil. The sultan listened patiently to the monk's words to demonstrate his willingness to talk, but was completely unaffected by his attempt at conversion .

On May 5, 1219 Leopold VI left. the crusade and returned to Europe. Damiette was not captured until the night of November 4th to 5th, 1219 after bitter fighting. Most of the city's residents had died of starvation and disease during the siege; those who remained were now killed or enslaved. In 1220, Johann von Brienne returned to Acre with his troops because of a disagreement with Cardinal Pelagius.

In the following year, the remaining crusaders under Cardinal Pelagius waited for reinforcements from Frederick II, who however never arrived due to delays. During this time the city fortifications of Damiette were massively expanded.

Onward march into the Nile Delta and defeat

It was not until July 1221 that the crusaders decided to advance into the Nile Delta towards Cairo . The difficult terrain, which was marshy due to flooding, bothered them. Thomas Olivier reports of the poor discipline and disorientation of many crusaders.

In August 1221 fresh Muslim troops from al-Adil's brother al-Muazzam, who had just repulsed the attack by the Rum Seljuks in Syria, approached. In the following battle, the Crusaders' army, which had been pushed into unfavorable terrain because of the flood of the Nile, suffered a heavy defeat. Damiette was evacuated after negotiations in September, so that the remaining crusaders had to leave without having achieved anything.


The failure was partly blamed on Frederick II, who had promised his support but had been prevented from doing so by affairs in Sicily . In the Treaty of San Germano in 1225 he made a binding promise to undertake his own crusade no later than 1227. However, on the part of Pope Honorius III. Serious allegations were also raised against Cardinal Pelagius for not accepting the Sultan al-Kamil's offer to negotiate.

Siege of Damiette (1249)

Crusade of Louis IX.

Damiette was also the target of the French King Louis IX. guided Sixth Crusade . His fleet arrived there in 1249 and captured the fortress by surprise . Also on the way to Cairo, the crusaders were defeated in 1250 and Ludwig captured, so that they were forced to return the city, among other things, in exchange for their king. The Mamluk Sultan Baibars destroyed the city because of its importance for the crusaders and rebuilt it a few kilometers away from the river with stronger fortifications.


  • Megan Cassidy-Welch: War and Memory at the Time of the Fifth Crusade. Pennsylvania State University, University Park 2019, ISBN 0-271-08352-2 .
  • Jonathan Riley-Smith (Ed.): Illustrated History of the Crusades . Frankfurt and New York 1999, p. 478 (Index, sv Damiette).
  • Barbara Watterson: The Egyptians . Blackwell Publishing, 1998, p. 260.
  • James M. Powell: Anatomy of a Crusade, 1213-1221 . University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia 1986 (The Middle Ages Series). ISBN 978-0-8122-1323-2 .
  • RL Wolff and HW Hazard (eds.): The later Crusades, 1189-1311 (A History of the Crusades, volume II) . University of Wisconsin Press, Madison / Wisconsin 1969, pp. 377ff., Here online .
  • Heinrich Ritter von ZeißbergLeopold VI. In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 18, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1883, pp. 388-391.

Individual evidence

  1. Hans Eberhard Mayer : History of the Crusades. 5th edition, Stuttgart 1980, pp. 199f