Sixth crusade

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Sixth crusade
The crusaders under Louis IX.  attack the saint Damiette.  Depiction from the Chroniques de Saint-Denis, 14th century.
The crusaders under Louis IX. attack the saint Damiette. Depiction from the Chroniques de Saint-Denis , 14th century.
date August 1248 to April 1254
place Egypt
output Crusade failed
consequences Status quo ante bellum
Peace treaty May 6, 1250
Parties to the conflict

Cross of the Knights Templar.svgCrusader Kingdom of Jerusalem Kingdom of Cyprus Principality of Achaia Templar Order Hospitaller Order German Order Lazarus Order
Armoiries de Jérusalem.svg
Armoiries Lusignan Chypre.svg
Armoiries Achaïe.svg
Blason Friborg 57.svg
Armoiries d'Aspremont.svg
D'argent croix de sable.svg
Kruis van de Orde van Sint-Lazarus.jpg

Flag of Ayyubid Dynasty.svg Sultanate of the Ayyubids of Egypt and Syria


Louis IX from France

as-Salih Ayyub
al-Mu'azzam Turan Shah
Shajar ad-Durr

Troop strength
approx.15,000 men unknown

The sixth crusade was a great "armed pilgrimage" by the French King Louis IX. of France , which began in August 1248 and failed in April 1254.

The aim of the crusade was to relieve the Christian crusader states and to regain Jerusalem , which fell back to the Muslims in 1244. The attack took place on the Ayyubid Sultanate in Egypt , the center of the greatest Muslim power, under whose rule Jerusalem was also located. Essentially, the sixth crusade followed the strategic concept of the Damiette crusade, which, however, failed after initial successes in 1221. Nevertheless, for a successful recovery of Jerusalem a victorious blow against Egypt was considered to be no alternative.

The way in which this crusade is counted is different in historiography. Since the crusade of Damiette (1218–1221) and the crusade of Emperor Frederick II (1228–1229) are added together in the so-called “fifth crusade”, especially in Germany , the crusade of Louis IX. counted here as the "sixth" after Egypt. In France and England, on the other hand, the crusades of Damiette and Frederick II are counted separately as fifth and sixth, whereby Louis IX. when the "seventh crusade" is being waged.


The Khorezmian empire in Persia was smashed by the Mongols of Genghis Khan in 1220 , the last Khorezm Shah, Jalal ad-Din , fell in 1231. As a result, a remnant of the Khorezmian army, a cavalry called Chwarezmiya , who had escaped to Syria, became patriotic. was recruited as a mercenary by the Ayyubid Sultan al-Salih Ayyub in 1244 . On the way to unite with the Ayyubid army near Gaza, they occupied and sacked Jerusalem in the late summer of 1244 , drove the Christians out of the city and took possession of them for the sultan.

The town, unfortified since 1219 and militarily insignificant, fell to the Christians without a fight in 1229 through a treaty between Emperor Friedrich II and Sultan al-Kamil Muhammad . Their ownership was confirmed once again by Sultan al-Salih Ayyub after the end of the barons' crusade in 1241. The peace between Acre and Cairo had recently proven to be fragile, especially after the Barons Outremers had expelled the emperor's governor from Tire in 1243 ( Lombard war ). Through his diplomatic contacts with the court of Cairo, the emperor represented a guarantee for the continued existence of Christian rule. After the imperial influence in Outremer ceased to exist, Sultan al-Salih Ayyub regarded his agreements with the Christians as invalid, especially since they were with him hostile cousins, the rulers of Damascus and Kerak . The now final loss of Jerusalem in 1244 for the Christians was the direct result of this denunciation.

Faced with the new threat posed by the Sultan of Egypt, the Crusader states had allied themselves with the Muslim rulers of Damascus, Kerak, Aleppo and Homs . This Christian-Muslim coalition gathered its army at Ashkelon . First of all, the main Egyptian-Khorezmian army was to be defeated, then Jerusalem to be reoccupied by Christianity. On October 17, 1244, the allies suffered a crushing defeat at the battle of La Forbie against the sultan's army, which was led by the Mamluk Rukn ad-Din Baibars . The high blood toll among the Christians led to an acute threat to their ability to defend themselves, although the Egyptian sultan initially concentrated on the conquest of Syria and the subjugation of his Ayyubid cousins, which bought the Christians some time.

Crusade call

Immediately after the Battle of La Forbie, the surviving Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Robert von Nantes , wrote to Pope Innocent IV to inform him of the deterioration in the situation for the Christian Outremer. Shortly afterwards he traveled personally to Europe, where in June 1245 at the Council of Lyon he called for a new crusade to recapture Jerusalem. The council approved the plan and the Pope had the crusade preached through his legates in France, England, Italy, Germany and Scandinavia.

Lying on the sick bed and with his hands on the true cross, Louis IX affirmed. his crusade vow. Matthew Paris, Historia Anglorum , 13th century.

With King Ludwig IX. of France , the crusade had its most important supporter and thus also a leader from the start. The king had already made a vow of crusade while suffering a serious illness in Pontoise in 1244 , even before news of the loss of Jerusalem and the defeat of La Forbie had reached France. Louis IX had already financially and logistically supported the crusade of the barons, but was only able to implement a personal crusade after defending against an English attack in April 1242 ( Battle of Taillebourg ) and defeating the last nests of resistance in Languedoc in 1244 ( Montségur ). Supported by the sermons of the legate Odo von Châteauroux , there was a general enthusiasm for a crusade among the French nobility and knighthood. In the other kingdoms of Europe the reactions to the crusade call were more subdued. In England some nobles agreed to participate, but King Henry III. declined personal involvement as he faced growing opposition from his barons. King Håkon IV of Norway declared several times that he was willing to take part in the crusade with a larger contingent, but his promises turned out to be diplomatic maneuvers. The Hungarian King Béla IV even protested to the Pope against the crusade sermons in his country, which had been depopulated only a few years earlier by the Mongol storm and was now unable to defend, whereupon the Pope recognized the fight against the Mongols both in Hungary and in Poland as having a crusade character of its own .

The lack of enthusiasm for crusades among the European knighthood was due not least to the ambivalent attitude of the Pope to this undertaking and the current political situation in the Holy Roman Empire : Since 1239, the Pope and Emperor have been in conflict with each other again, which determined the situation for years and resulted in the formal removal of the emperor in July 1245. Louis IX mediated several times unsuccessfully between the two parties in view of the crusade in the hope of being able to win over the emperor in particular, whose deposition he did not recognize, for the company. The Pope, in turn, subordinated everything else to the fight against the Hohenstaufen and instead called for a crusade against the emperor in the Holy Roman Empire. In order to tie military forces to his cause, he also sabotaged the crusade organization of the French king, for example by advising legate Odo von Châteauroux in a confidential letter in 1246 to stop the crusade sermons in Germany, in order to cease the sermons there for the anti-Staufer crusade not to hinder. Several German crusaders, such as Duke Heinrich II of Brabant , then rejected the French king in order to join the German rival king Wilhelm of Holland against the Hohenstaufen (siege of Aachen 1248). In a long absence of Louis IX. In Outremer the Pope first recognized a threat to his own position vis-à-vis the emperor, as he had in 1244 mainly because of the guarantees of protection from Louis IX. the papal residence moved to Lyon . For this reason, the Pope later did not attach particular importance to the realization of the crusade vow of the English king, which was taken in March 1250, in order to keep him as a possible ally against the emperor in Europe.

The crusade received considerably more support from Emperor Friedrich II himself. Although he also saw himself unable to join the company in view of his own situation, he secured in a letter to Louis IX. in the spring of 1247 material and logistical assistance. The emperor ordered his officials in Italy and Sicily to provide weapons, provisions and horses for crusaders passing through; He also allowed the use of Italian ports for sea transport to the Levant. Despite this concession, the crusade was also hindered by the imperial side when in 1248 Frederick II encouraged Pisa, allied with him, to take part in military activities against the papal-minded Genoa , behind whose naval armaments he claimed to have recognized an impending attack on Sicily. In fact, Genoa equipped a fleet to transport the French crusaders. Aside from this incident, the emperor generally maintained his support for the crusade. In the course of the company in July 1249 he contributed fifty war horses and two letters to Prince Alfons of Poitiers , who was moving to Egypt , in which he spoke to Louis IX. promised to take the cross himself as soon as possible in order to support him in the Orient. After the capture of Louis IX. became known in Europe in April 1250, the emperor sent an embassy to the Sultan in Cairo to negotiate the release of the French monarch.

Current historical research does not consider the rumor that often occurs that Emperor Friedrich II betrayed the crusade to the Sultan of Egypt. There are only two Muslim reports available, of which the personal conversation written down by Qaratay around 1330, in which Louis IX. revealed his plans to the emperor is purely fictional. The two rulers never met in person. The contemporary author Ibn Wasil , to whom a Sicilian knight revealed in 1261 during a legation trip to the court of King Manfred of Sicily , that he had been involved in a mission to Cairo in 1248, which the Sultan had before the imminent attack by Louis IX , becomes somewhat more specific . have warned. However, no other source, particularly papal propaganda, supports this claim. French authors have not been accused of treason against the emperor either.


Louis the Saint sets out on the crusade in 1248; French illustration from the 14th century.


On Whitsun Friday, June 12, 1248, Louis IX. in Saint-Denis the oriflamme from the hands of the legate Odo von Châteauroux and then set off with his entourage towards Aigues-Mortes. In Sens he immediately stopped to attend the General Chapter of the Franciscans that was being held there . On the further way along the right, French bank of the Rhône , he made another stopover in Lyon , only to act in vain with Pope Innocent IV as mediator for Emperor Frederick II. Shortly after Lyon, he stormed the castle on the rock of Glun, whose lord had dared to extort tolls from pilgrims and crusaders passing through.


On August 25, 1248, Ludwig IX. with the bulk of his crusade army in the port of Aigues-Mortes to Cyprus a. His closest entourage included his wife Margaret of Provence , his brothers Robert von Artois and Karl von Anjou and numerous bishops and aristocrats of his country. The fourth brother, Alfons von Poitiers , stayed behind for the time being and was only to leave later with contingents that followed. The ships and their crews were mainly provided by Genoa.

The king landed in the port of Limassol on September 17 , where further contingents and stragglers joined him in the coming weeks. The royal chamberlain Jean de Beaumont put the total number of ships contracted near Cyprus at 120 large galleys and 800 other smaller transport ships (the knight Gui named a total of 1,500 and Joinville 1,800 ships). The core of the crusade army was mainly made up of French knights, including contingents from England, Lorraine and Friesland. In Cyprus, the knights of the crusader states of the Levant and Greece, as well as troops of the knight orders of the Templars , the Hospitallers , the Germans and the Lazarenes joined the army. Contemporary sources indicate the strength of the army with up to 50,000 men, which is probably an exaggeration. The royal secretary Jean Sarrasin put the number of noble knights at around 2,500 and 5,000 specially trained and paid bow and crossbowmen. The chamberlain Beaumont counted 1,900 knights from Europe and 900 knights from the Crusader states, including the orders of knights, Joinville estimated a total of 2,800 knights. Modern historians assume, based on the maintenance costs incurred, that the army has a total size of around 15,000 men.

At the time of the arrival of the Crusaders in Cyprus, the Sultan of Egypt, al-Salih Ayyub , was with his army in the region around Gaza and threatened Jaffa and Caesarea . He had already conquered Tiberias and Askalon the previous year . However, he did not turn against a Christian city, but against his cousin an-Nasir Yusuf , who had forcibly taken Homs . The masters of the order of knights had in October 1248 to Louis IX. made written contact and advised him to use the intra-dynastic conflicts of the Ayyubids in Syria to his own advantage. Ludwig, however, forbade the order of knights to have any further diplomatic contact with the Muslim rulers, whereupon the orders and their contingents translated to Cyprus to join the army. After the sultan learned of the arrival of the crusade in Cyprus, he broke off the siege of Homs in late 1248 in order to retreat to Egypt. Because of the bad weather conditions at this time of year, a safe transfer of the army to the mainland was not guaranteed, the knights set up on Cyprus for wintering. During the nine-month stay on the island, around 260 knights died of widespread diseases. During this time, Louis IX. diplomatically active in the Levant to remove any obstacles that might disrupt the crusade. He sent 600 archers to the Prince of Antioch to fight the Rum Seljuks , and he also mediated between Antioch and the Armenian King of Cilicia, who was at war with him .

As early as December 1248, Louis IX. two Christian envoys received from the Mongolian general Iltschikadai, who was active in the Persian region. As the legate Odo von Châteauroux reported, the ambassadors certified the king's benevolence towards Christianity on the part of the Mongols, whose Great Khan Güyük was a descendant of the priest king John . A letter from the Armenian king brother Sempad, who had been on a trip to the Great Khan, which arrived in Cyprus shortly afterwards, confirmed these claims. The Mongolian ambassadors had further informed the king of the military plans of the general Iltschikadai, who supposedly wanted to attack the caliph in Baghdad in the summer of 1249 . To this end, they advised a simultaneous attack on Cairo , which could threaten the two most important political centers of the Islamic world. Just like Châteauroux, Jean Sarrazin and later Jean de Joinville reported on offers of help from the Mongols for the fight against the Muslim rulers. To what extent these offers had an influence on the strategic planning of the crusade is unclear, especially what that of Louis IX. issued target of attack concerns Egypt. In January 1249, Ludwig sent a diplomatic mission to Central Asia under the Dominican André de Longjumeau , who was supposed to determine the real attitude of the Great Khan to Christianity and, if necessary, to negotiate alliances with him.

In the course of the spring of 1249 violent clashes broke out between the settlements of the maritime republics of Genoa and Pisa in Acre, which under pressure from Louis IX. ended quickly. A possible involvement of the Genoese crusade fleet in this conflict would have hindered further military planning, which had entered its decisive phase in April 1249 after the king had officially announced the target of attack with Egypt. Until then, he had maintained strict secrecy regarding the target in order to prevent the enemy from preparing an adequate defense. After bad weather delayed the departure of the fleet for another two weeks, the crusade set sail on May 19, 1249 with a course for the Egyptian coast.


The crusaders of St. Louis take Damiette; 14th century French miniature
Map of the Nile Delta in the 13th century

It was only on board their ships that the officers were told the exact target of the attack, the Egyptian city of Damiette . From this strategically important fortress city, the heartland of the Ayyubids, Egypt, was to be conquered. The crusaders reached the mouth of the Nile on June 4, 1249. On June 5, Ludwig landed on the west bank of the Nile near the city of Damiette on the opposite bank. There he defeated an Ayyubid army under the leadership of the Mamluks Fachr ad-Din Yusuf , which tried to prevent the landing. The Christians suffered little losses while two Muslim emirs fell in battle. The defeated retreated to the east bank of the Nile via a makeshift bridge made of ships tied together, but did not join the Damiette garrison. Instead, Fachr ad-Din Yusuf withdrew with his warriors upstream to the provincial capital Achmoum-Tanah, where Sultan al-Salih camped with the main army. This discouraged the Damiette garrison from the Arab tribe of the Banu-Kinānah so that they evacuated the city and also withdrew upstream to the main army. They failed to destroy the makeshift bridge over the Nile. The next day the crusaders noticed that Damiette had been evacuated and occupied the city almost without a fight on June 6, 1249.

With the capture of Damiette, Ludwig fell into the hands of a heavily fortified key fortress with rich supplies. This fortress had withstood the army of the Damiette Crusade (1218–1221) for over a year and now fell into the hands of the Crusaders in a flash. For the Muslims, the loss of the city was a devastating setback; actually they had hoped to be able to bind and weaken the crusaders as far as possible before Damiette in order to gain time to gather a sufficiently large relief army. The punishment of the sultan against the Banu-Kinānah was correspondingly harsh, of whom he had fifty tribal leaders strangled. Fachr ad-Din Yusuf was also to be executed for his failure, but an impending palace revolt by the Mamelukes dissuaded the sultan. Instead, he withdrew with his troops up the Nile to al-Mansura in order to reorganize the army there, while at the same time he became seriously ill.

Ludwig did not let the retreating Ayyubid army persecute, but stayed with his army in Damiette for five and a half months. In doing so, he gave away a promising opportunity to advance through the Nile Delta to Cairo before the summer floods of the Nile began. Instead, he waited for reinforcements from his brother, Count Alfons of Poitiers , who was expected every day. In the meantime, Sultan al-Salih had laboriously restored the morale of his troops in al-Mansura and had concentrated his main army. He exposed the crusaders encamped at Damiette to the attacks of his raiding parties.

Alfons finally arrived on October 24, 1249. He brought a large contingent of troops and a well-stocked war chest with him. After his arrival the crusaders discussed how to proceed. Essentially two alternatives were considered: one was to attack the important port city of Alexandria ; this was only relatively weakly defended and easy to reach for the crusaders' fleet - possibly faster than al-Salih's army of al-Mansura could have been there. The possession of Damiette and Alexandria would have put the Ayyubids under severe pressure and would have been a valuable diplomatic bargaining chip for a possible exchange for Jerusalem and Palestine. However, under pressure from Robert von Artois, the alternative was finally decided, which envisaged advancing up the Nile Delta to Cairo and en route to confront and destroy the main Ayyubid army. Because as long as the main armed forces of the Sultan were still intact, they remained a threat to the Crusader states and all conquests made.


Battle of al-Mansura
Robert von Artois is killed in the battle of al-Mansura, right next to him is his grieving brother, St. Louis.  Miniature from the 14th century.
Robert von Artois is killed in the battle of al-Mansura, right next to him is his grieving brother, St. Louis.
Miniature from the 14th century.
date December 1249 to April 1250
place al-Mansura , Egypt
output Retreat of the crusaders
Parties to the conflict

Cross of the Knights Templar.svg Crusaders

Flag of Ayyubid Dynasty.svg Sultanate of Cairo (Ayyubids)


Louis IX of France
Robert von Artois
Alfonso von Poitiers
Karl von Anjou
Guillaume de Sonnac
Jean de Ronay
William Longespée

Fachr ad-Din Yusuf
Rukn al-Din Baibars
Faris ad-Din Aktay

On November 20, 1249, the crusaders finally pushed inland. Like their predecessors in the Damiette (1218–1221) crusade, the crusaders suffered from the difficult, muddy flooded terrain of the Nile Delta and from diseases. The need to cross many different branches of the Nile slowed their progress. They were also repeatedly drawn into minor skirmishes. This time they maintained their discipline and on December 20th they reached the city of al-Mansura , in front of which the main Ayyubid army camped and from which they were only separated by the Nile arm Bahr as-Saghir.

On the night of November 22nd to 23rd, Sultan al-Salih died and the Ayyubid rule seemed shaken, especially since his young son and heir Turan Shah was in distant Syria and his takeover of power was in no way prepared. A favorite slave of the dead Sultan, Shajjar ad-Durr , who had some influence at the court in Cairo, hastily seized the reign of her stepson. Together with some loyal officials, she succeeded in keeping the Sultan's death a secret for the time being and in establishing an order in which the previously disgraced Mamlukenemir, Fachr ad-Din Yusuf , received supreme command of the army. The slow advance of the crusaders benefited her.

In the weeks that followed, the crusaders failed to cross the arm of the Nile to al-Mansura. All of their attempts to build temporary bridges or dams were repulsed by the defenders on the opposite bank. Finally, a local man showed the crusaders a ford nearby for rich payment, through which it was possible to cross the arm of the Nile. At dawn on February 8, 1250, the crusaders advanced across the ford. The vanguard consisted of their strongest cavalry units, including those of Robert von Artois , those of the Templars under their Grand Master Guillaume de Sonnac , the few Hospitallers under Jean de Ronay and an English contingent under William Longespée of Salisbury . Actually, they should wait there to meet the remaining army under Louis IX. To provide cover, which was vulnerable when crossing the river, especially since Duke Hugo IV of Burgundy stayed behind to protect the camp with a strong contingent of crossbowmen, a few horsemen and the German knights .

After Robert von Artois had led the vanguard to the other bank, he ignored the king's orders and took the chance for a surprise attack on the camp of the Muslims, who had not yet noticed the advance of the crusaders. The Ayyubids were completely taken by surprise by the savage attack of the heavily armored knights. Their commander, Fachr ad-Din Yusuf, was killed before he had a chance to put on his armor. A large part of the Ayyubid army stayed in the fortress city of al-Mansura, to which the defeated now fled. Encouraged by his success, Robert let himself be tempted to pursue the enemies into the city again, against the orders of the king, who still led the main army across the river, and also against the advice of the Templar Grand Master. There they got caught in a trap by the Mamluk warriors led by Rukn ad-Din Baibars . In the narrow streets of the city, the heavy riders could hardly form properly, while their enemies always found protection behind house walls or could fire at them unhindered from roofs. The knights were surrounded and only a few of them, according to the severely wounded Temple Grand Master, were able to escape alive.

The king crossed the river with the main army and was soon attacked by the mounted archers of the Muslims. Since the majority of his crossbowmen were still in the Christian camp, Ludwig had little to counter these attacks. Nevertheless, he held the formation together and marched along the arm of the Nile to the point opposite his encampment, from where his crossbowmen were now crossing into boats, whereupon the enemy retreated into the city. There he set up his new camp in the ruins of the Ayyubid field camp and began the siege of al-Mansura.

On February 11th, the Mamluks counterattacked the crusader army. The crusaders were able to repel the attack, but suffered heavy losses. Among the dead was the Templar Grand Master Guillaume de Sonnac . The crusaders were further weakened by hunger and disease as the siege continued. Although conditions worsened for the crusaders, they held out before al-Mansura. They may have been speculating on a civil war that would soon break out over the succession to the sultan's throne. These hopes were not fulfilled. On February 28, 1250, Turan Shah arrived in al-Mansura and a few days later the Muslims succeeded in blocking the Nile as the only supply route for the crusaders with boats, which they loaded onto camels and transported the crusaders immediately downstream. In March Ludwig withdrew with his army to his old camp on the other side of the arm of the Nile Bahr as-Saghir and sent messengers to the Sultan to negotiate a peace. B. propose an exchange of Damiette for Jerusalem.

Withdrawal and capture

The Mameluks murder Sultan Turan Shah, right next to him the captured St. Louis. French miniature from the 14th century.

The sultan was aware of the weakened situation of the crusaders and rejected peace negotiations. Further attempts at negotiations by Count Philipp von Montfort did not get any further. The crusaders saw themselves forced to give up their camp in front of al-Mansura on April 5 and retreat in the direction of Damiette . In order to keep the retreat as swift as necessary, they set fire to their difficult-to-transport siege equipment. The wounded and those weakened by disease were driven down the Nile in galleys, while the king marched along the bank with the fighting part of the army. The Ayyubid army under Rukn ad-Din Baibars took up the pursuit and overpowered the now defeated crusaders on April 6, 1250 at Fariskur. King Louis IX, his brothers and most of his army were captured.

This sealed the failure of the crusade. Sultan Turan Shah ordered the beheading of most of the prisoners, the number of whom is said to have been so high that the massacre was unique even by medieval standards. Later al-Maqrīzī wrote , albeit clearly exaggerated, that the number of decapitated “slaves” amounted to one hundred thousand. Only the high barons and princes were spared, as they promised a correspondingly high ransom for the sultan's treasury. King Louis IX was brought in chains to al-Mansura, where he was quartered in the rooms of a former secretary of the late Sultan al-Salih. While in captivity, he negotiated a ten-year armistice with Turan Shah, and for his release the Sultan demanded a ransom of 1,000,000 gold bezanten. Louis IX was able to negotiate the sultan down to 500,000 gold bezanten for the release of his closest entourage and the abandonment of Damiette for his own release. The simple prisoners who had escaped the executions were, according to the will of the Sultan, to be brought into slavery to "Babylon" (probably to the caliph in Baghdad). The murder of the sultan by his own elite guard, the Mameluks , which followed immediately afterwards , favored a faster release of the crusaders and increased room for negotiation. In view of the threat posed by the Ayyubids of Syria, the Mameluks were interested in a good understanding with the Christians Outremers. In addition to handing over Damiette, the Mameluks were satisfied with the payment of 200,000 gold bezanten for the king and his immediate entourage. And even the common crusaders should be spared from slavery as soon as Louis IX. I transferred another 200,000 gold bezant from Acre to Egypt.

Louis IX in the holy land

After 31 days in captivity, Ludwig IX came. on May 8, 1250 in the crusader bastion of Acre in Palestine. Here he took over the de facto government for the Kingdom of Jerusalem , which the rightful regent, King Henry I of Cyprus , willingly left to him. Contrary to the advice of some confidants, he decided to stay in Outremer for a longer period of time in order to sort out the affairs of the Christian possessions after the failed crusade. On August 10th he only sent his brothers Alfons and Karl back to France, who were supposed to support their mother in the government of the kingdom there. Above all, Ludwig wanted to release the remaining crusaders captured in Egypt in Acre and therefore entered into diplomatic contacts with the Mameluks. Out of consideration for them, he turned down an offer of alliance by the ruling Ayyubid an-Nasir Yusuf in Damascus , especially since he had also owned Jerusalem since 1250. When an embassy from the emperor arrived in Acre, which had originally set out for Egypt to redeem him, Ludwig had hopes that the emperor would be taken on the cross, with whose help he still wanted to conquer Jerusalem. But Emperor Friedrich II died in December 1250.

After repairing the defenses of Acre, Ludwig set out on a pilgrimage. He spent the night in Sepphoris on March 24, 1251, and on the following day, traveling over Mount Tabor , he entered Nazareth , where he attended a mass in the Basilica of the Annunciation . From there he moved to Caesarea , where he led the reconstruction of the city walls in the coming months. Here in April he received the Mongolian traveler André de Longjumeau and then sent Wilhelm von Rubruk to the court of the Great Khan in Asia. Again, Ludwig rejected an alliance with an-Nasir of Damascus, although he had promised him a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Instead, Ludwig established an alliance with the Mameluks against an-Nasir, who was defeated in the battle of al-Kura in February 1251 and was therefore decisively weakened. With the help of the Mameluks, the conquest of Jerusalem now seemed possible, but when Ludwig moved with his army towards Gaza in the spring of 1252 , he learned that Sultan Izz ad-Din Aybak had rejected his offer of an alliance .

Saint Louis collects the bones from Sidon. Illustration from the Grandes Chroniques de France , 14th century.

Ludwig then retired to Jaffa , the walls of which he renewed and a church for the Franciscans built in the city. In the spring of 1253, King Henry I of Cyprus died, whereupon Plaisance of Antioch succeeded him as nominal regent of Jerusalem. Like its predecessor, it recognized the government of Ludwig without reservation. The situation for the Christians in Outremer deteriorated in April 1253 after the Ayyubids of Syria had contractually reconciled with the Mamluks of Egypt after the mediation of the Caliph al-Mustasim . An-Nasir then carried out an attack against Acre and attacked the poorly fortified Sidon , where he had 2,000 residents massacred. Ludwig responded with a counterattack on the Ayyubid banyas , which he could not conquer, but instead persuaded an-Nasir to retreat to Damascus.

Ludwig then moved to Sidon in June 1253, where he was personally involved in the recovery of the bodies from the massacre and supervised the complete reconstruction of the city walls. In Sidon he received news of the death of his mother, Blanka of Castile († November 1252), as well as disturbing reports of the flaring up Flemish War of Succession and suspicious movements by King Henry III in the summer of 1253 . of England against France. A few years ago the English king himself took a vow of crusade, on which Louis in Palestine had as much hopes as he had once placed on the help of the emperor. But after it had become obvious that Heinrich III. of England would not fulfill his vows, Ludwig decided to return home. In February 1254 he returned to Acre and prepared to leave. To defend Acre and to prepare for a future crusade, he raised a force of one hundred knights, which he entrusted to the command of his paladin Geoffroy de Sergines . For the Christian Outremer, he negotiated an armistice with an-Nasir of Damascus for two years, six months and forty days.

Return journey

Louis IX set sail with his crusade army from Acre on April 24 or 25, 1254, and the following night his ship (La Monnaie) hit a sandbar off the coast of Cyprus in a storm, which necessitated an extended stopover. On the further trip, he only stopped on the island of Lampedusa in order to head straight for France. Instead of sailing into the port of Aigues-Mortes as intended, he decided to go ashore near Hyères on July 3 , to attend a sermon by the Franciscan spiritualist Hugo von Digne . So he set foot on occidental soil in the county of Provence , which was part of the Holy Roman Empire , but where his brother Charles of Anjou ruled. In Aix-en-Provence , he paid a pilgrimage to the alleged tomb of Mary Magdalene and visited the cave in the Massif de la Sainte-Baume , in which, according to legend, the purified sinner had lived a hermit existence for seventeen years. At Beaucaire , Louis IX entered his french kingdom. By land he reached Aigues-Mortes, where the crusade fleet had now landed and was disarming. Via Saint-Gilles , Nîmes , Le Puy-en-Velay , Clermont and Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire , he moved north and into his preferred residence in Vincennes Castle . From there he first moved on to Saint-Denis to solemnly lay down the oriflamme, on July 17, 1254 the king finally arrived in Paris.

Louis IX should never return to the holy land ; he died in 1270 on his Second Crusade ( Seventh Crusade ) in Carthage .


For Christians, the Sixth Crusade was a huge failure. Despite years of preparation, a high level of material expenditure and diplomatic activity in Europe and Asia, the last great attempt to win Jerusalem back to Christianity ended in a military defeat. Besides the missed target, there was only a great loss of life. The Christian side only favored the crusade insofar as it indirectly brought about the overthrow of Ayyubid rule in Egypt and thus ended the connection between Cairo and Damascus once established by Saladin and thus the Muslim grip on Christian territories. While the Mamluks took power in Egypt, the Ayyubids were able to stay in Syria, and the resulting internal Muslim turmoil brought temporary relief to the remaining crusader states. However, this only lasted until 1260, when the Mamelukes conquered Syria and were able to reunite the entire Ayyubid Empire under their rule. The growing threat from the Mameluks was to lead to the French king being taken for the second time on the cross in 1270. The balance of the reign of Louis IX is more positive than the actual crusade. in the Holy Land from 1250 to 1254. Although he was unable to use the diplomatic and military conflicts between Damascus and Cairo to gain his own territories, his construction activities restored the defensive readiness of the Christian rulers, which had been depressed since the defeat of La Forbie. Also, he did not leave the crusaders who were captured with him to their fate, but managed to release them at great expense.

The failure of the crusade and the personal imprisonment had a comparatively minor impact on the reputation of Louis IX. low. As the first and only cruising monarch, he was captured by the Muslim enemy, which, however, did not have a disadvantageous effect in his later canonization process. Indeed, this strengthened his nimbus as a king deeply committed to the Christian faith, one of whose primary tasks was the fight against the unbelievers. His imprisonment among them was viewed as a particularly self-sacrificing walking through the Passion of Christ and his swift release as a miracle.

The medieval authors generally appreciated the efforts and personal commitment of Louis IX. for the recovery of Jerusalem, did not primarily blame him for the failure of the crusade and if so only covertly criticized him. In the opinion of the Benedictine monk Matthew Paris, the crusade did not have the necessary support from God, since the main burden of financing this armed pilgrimage was placed mainly on the church and the clergy. The Pope and the legate Odo von Châteauroux saw the failure of the majority of the Crusaders as the reason for the failure. In a letter to the King of Castile written in the summer of 1250, however, Emperor Frederick II blamed the Pope's policies against him for the fact that he could not personally move to the Holy Land to protect Louis IX. to support. In another letter to the Byzantine Emperor of Nikaia, dated around the same time, Frederick II blamed the defeat of the Crusaders on the Nile directly on the Pope. This attitude was particularly widespread among secular authors, who denounced the pope's secular power politics and the associated moral decline of the clergy as the cause of the defeat.

The news of the defeat triggered the so-called Shepherd's Crusade in France in 1251 , whose followers supposedly intended to move to the holy land to support their king. In fact, the movement caused some serious unrest in the country, whereupon it had to be violently suppressed.

The failure of the crusade in the Nile Delta in 1250, despite its high level of organization and material equipment, is considered to have had a significant impact on the decline in crusade enthusiasm in France in the second half of the 13th century. The king's second crusade in 1270 did not arouse as much sympathy among his knighthood as it did in 1248.


Statue of Jean de Joinville made by Jean Marcellin around 1853. Paris, Louvre.
Christian authors

Jean de Joinville wrote the most extensive eyewitness account of the crusade to Egypt in his royal vita ( Vie de Saint Louis ). Since the beginning of the crusade it belonged to King Louis IX's entourage. and described, peppered with numerous anecdotes, the complete course of the crusade from the perspective of the inner leadership circle around the king and his court. At the same time, he also vividly recorded personal experiences and impressions. It should be noted that Joinville wrote his report from a long time lag, which is why he refrained from giving detailed numbers and dates. He recorded only the dates of the most important events that he remembered, primarily decisive battles.

Therefore the traditional letters of the court secretary Jean Sarrasin and the royal chamberlain Jean de Beaumont are particularly suitable as a corrective supplement to Joinville's report. Both belonged to the king's court administration and had an insight into the organization of the crusade. After the capture of Damiette in June 1249, they wrote their reports on the course of the crusade so far, with more precise times and figures, such as the strength of the troop contingents.

Also worth mentioning is the description of the crusade in his Chronica majora , written by the English chronicler Matthäus Paris . Paris herself was not a participant in the crusade, but tried as much as possible to base the information he used on reports from eyewitnesses. In some places, he added the written evidence they had received to his chronicle, such as the complete letter from the simple knight Gui de Melun . Without even having belonged to the leadership and command level of the crusade, this described the landing on the Egyptian coast and the subsequent capture of Damiette from the point of view of the common fighter. In addition, Matthäus Paris transcribed other letters, such as the one from the Count of Artois to his mother, the Templar Grand Master Guillaume de Sonnac to the Order's Preceptor of England or the Blanka of Castile to King Henry III. from England. All were written after the capture of Damiette (June 1249) and before the battle of al-Mansura (spring 1250). Only the letter from an anonymous Templar dated the summer of 1250 and a letter from the Bishop of Marseille, Benoît d'Alignan , to the Pope from June 1250 described the failure of the crusade.

King Louis IX himself wrote a detailed letter in Acre at the beginning of August 1250, which he addressed to his subjects in France. In it he described the course of the crusade, its failure and the ransom negotiations. He also explained his motives for extending his stay in the Holy Land. He gave the letter to his brothers Alfons and Karl, who traveled home from Acre to France on August 10, 1250.

Muslim authors

On the Egyptian side, eyewitness accounts of the Christian (Syrian Orthodox) scholars Bar Hebraeus and Ibn Wasil have been preserved. While that of the Bar Hebraeus is only brief in its content, Ibn Wasil submitted a more detailed report. He himself was a member of the court administration of the last Ayyubids and first Mameluke sultans at the time and therefore had direct access to witnesses and documents.

Later, among other things, Abu l-Fida described the crusade in his universal history (Muchtasar ta'rich al-baschar) . The historian Al-Maqrīzī offers a very extensive report on the struggle of the Egyptians against the Crusaders , who, however, was not a contemporary witness, but tries to reproduce the events from a distance of over 150 years. However, he belonged to learned circles in Egypt and apparently had insight into historical documents and reports of deeds that could provide him with rich and precise information for his history of the Ayyubids and Mameluks ( Essulouk li Mariset il Muluk ) and thus also for the crusade. A large part of his descriptions coincides with the traditions of Christian authors.


  • Joseph R. Strayer: The Crusades of Louis IX. In: Robert L. Wolff, Harry W. Hazard: The later Crusades, 1189-1311. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison 1969. p. 486 ff. (English)
  • Peter Jackson: The Seventh Crusade, 1244-1254. Sources and documents. Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot 2007. (English)
  • Dirk Reitz: The crusades of Ludwig IX. of France 1248/1270 . Lit, Münster 2005, ISBN 3-8258-7068-5 (also dissertation, TU Darmstadt 2004).

Web links

Commons : Sixth Crusade  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Notes and individual references

  1. a b See Strayer, p. 493 f.
  2. a b See Jackson, p. 63.
  3. ^ The Patriarch's letter was transcribed by Salimbene of Parma in his Chronica . See, G. Scalia: Scrittori d'Italia (Bari, 1966)
  4. Baudouin d'Avesnes , Chronicon Hanoniense In: Monumenta Germaniae Historica (MGH), Scriptores , Volume 25, p. 453.
  5. ^ Elie Berger: Les registres d'Innocent IV. No. 4000; Letter from the Pope to the Master of the Hospitallers in Hungary dated June 24, 1248.
  6. Elis Berger: Les registres d'Innocent IV. No. 2935; Letter from the Pope to Odo von Châteauroux dated July 5, 1246.
  7. Thomas Rymer, Foedera , vol. 1/1, p. 159; Letter from the Pope to Henry III. of England 11 April 1250.
  8. JLA Huillard-Bréholles , Historia Diplomatica Friderici Secundi , vol. 6/1, pp. 501-2.
  9. JLA Huillard-Bréholles, Historia Diplomatica Friderici Secundi , vol. 6/1, pp. 745-6 and 748-50.
  10. Qaratay al-'Izzi al-Khazandari, Ta'rikh majmu 'al-nawadir , Gotha Research and State Library, ms. Orient. A 1655, slide 39-40; see also Claude Chaen: Saint Louis at l'Islam In: Journal Asiatique , 275 (1970)
  11. Ibn Wasil, Mufarrig al-kurub fi ahbar bani Ayyub , ed. by Jamal al-Din Shayyal, Hasanein Rabie, and Sa'id al-Fath 'Ashur (Cairo, 1953–1977), vol. 3, pp. 247-8.
  12. Joinville , II, §4, ed. by Ethel Wedgewood (1906); La Roche-de-Glun in the Drôme department
  13. For the known participants see also: Category: Crusaders (Sixth Crusade)
  14. On the presence of the Teutonic Order at al-Mansura see Matthäus Paris, Chronica Majora Liber Additamentorum , ed. by Henry R. Luard in Rolls Series 57.6 (1882), pp. 191-197; Transcription of an anonymous Templar's letter from 1250.
  15. On the participation of the Order of Lazarus in the sixth crusade see Matthäus Paris, Chronica Majora , ed. Henry R. Luard in: Rolls Series , 57.5 (1880), p. 196.
  16. Joinville , II, §6, ed. by Ethel Wedgwood (1906)
  17. See also Louis de Mas Latrie: Histoire de l'île de Chypre sous le règne des princes de la maison de Lusignan . (1852-1861) Volume 1, p. 350.
  18. See also Henri-Alexandre Wallon: Saint Louis et son temps. (1871) Volume 1, p. 284.
  19. For the figures, see also Recueil des Historiens des Gaules et de la France 21 (1738–1776), pp. 404, 513, 530.
  20. Alternatively also Eljigidei, called Erchalchai.
  21. Great Khan Güyük actually died in April 1248, several months before Iltschikadai made contact with Louis IX. had recorded.
  22. For the time of the Crusade's stay in Cyprus, see the letter from the legate Odo von Châteauroux to Pope Innocent IV on March 31, 1249 in: Spicilegium , ed. by Luc d'Achery , 1723, volume 3
  23. Because of Damiette's strategic importance for the Crusaders, the later Mameluke Sultan Baibars I had the city destroyed and rebuilt a few kilometers away from the river with stronger fortifications.
  24. Shams al-Din Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Dhahabi († 1348) wrote, referring to a contemporary source, of 7,000 executed crusaders. Ta'rikh al-Islam. P. 51; ed. by Umar Abd al-Salam Tadmuri, Volume 5 (Beirut, 1998)
  25. On the ransom negotiations with Sultan Turan Shah, see Joinville , II, §14, ed. by Ethel Wedgwood (1906); According to Joinville, 1,000,000 gold bezanten would have corresponded to 500,000 French livre.
  26. On the ransom negotiations with the Mameluks see Joinville , II, §15, ed. by Ethel Wedgwood (1906)
  27. An anonymous Templar reported that Ludwig IX. I paid a total of 100,000 silver marks in ransom. Matthäus Paris, Chronica Majora Liber Additamentorum , ed. by Henry R. Luard in: Rolls Series 57.6 (1882), pp. 191-197.
  28. Henry III. von England took the cross on March 6, 1250, exactly one month to the day before Louis IX. was captured in Egypt. Louis IX found out about the taking of the cross by Henry III. after his release in May 1250 and remained in the Holy Land during his four years in the hope that the English king would follow suit with a large army to support him. But on April 14, 1252, Henry III declared that he did not want to start his crusade until June 24, 1256, which in the end never happened. See: T. Saint-Bris: Lettre addressée en Égypte à Alphonse, comte de Poitiers, fère de Saint Louis. In: Bibliothèque de l'École des Chartes (BÉC) , I (1839–1840), p. 400 and Rolls of the reign of Henry III: 1247–1258. ed. by HC Maxwell Lyte in: Patent Rolls of the Reign of Henry III: Preserved in the Public Record Office. (1901), Volume 4, pp. 157-8.
  29. ^ Joinville. III, §14; ed. Ethel Wedgwood (1906)
  30. Jean de Garlande (approx. 1252): De triumphis ecclesiae libri octo. ed. by Thomas Wright. London 1856.
  31. JLA Huillard-Bréholles: Historia Diplomatica Friderici Secundi. vol. 6/2, pp. 769-771.
  32. JLA Huillard-Bréholles: Historia Diplomatica Friderici Secundi. vol. 6/2, p. 774.
  33. ^ Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora Liber Additamentorum. In: Henry R. Luard (Ed.): Rolls Series. 57.6 (1882), p. 155.
  34. ^ Matthew Paris: Chronica Majora Liber Additamentorum. In: Henry R. Luard (Ed.): Rolls Series. 57.6 (1882), pp. 152-176.
  35. ^ Matthew Paris: Chronica Majora Liber Additamentorum. In: Henry R. Luard (Ed.): Rolls Series. 57.6 (1882), pp. 191-197 and pp. 168-169; The Bishop of Marseille did not personally take part in the crusade, he took his information from a letter addressed to him from the Preceptor of the Hospitallers of Marseille.
  36. To the letter of Louis IX. see: Historiae Francorum Scriptores from Ipsius Gentis Origine. ed. by André Du Chesne (Paris, 1649)