Seventh crusade

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Seventh crusade
Part of: Crusades
The siege of Tunis depicted in the Grandes Chroniques de France, 14th century.
The siege of Tunis depicted in the Grandes Chroniques de France , 14th century.
date July 1270 to November 1270
place Tunisia
output Crusade failed
consequences Status quo ante bellum
Parties to the conflict

Cross of the Knights Templar.svg Crusaders

Hafsid Flag - Tunisia.svg Sultanate of Tunis


Louis IX of France
Philip III. of France
Charles of Anjou

Muhammad al-Mustansir

Troop strength
unknown unknown

The Seventh Crusade was an "armed pilgrimage" in 1270, which took place after only a few months after an unsuccessful siege of Tunis and the death of its leader, King Louis IX. of France , ended.

The original aim of the crusade was to relieve the distressed crusader states , which had been exposed to incessant attacks by the Egyptian-Syrian Mameluke sultan al-Zahir Baibars since 1263 and had already lost several castles and cities, especially Antioch (1268) . Baibars was about to remove the last remnants of the Christian rule established in the Holy Land as a result of the First Crusade (1099) . For reasons that have never been clearly clarified, however, the crusade was first led against Tunis in North Africa, where it ended abruptly.

This crusade is counted as the “seventh”, especially in the historiography of the German-speaking countries, since the crusade of Damiette (1217–1221) and the crusade of Emperor Frederick II (1228–1229) are counted together as the “fifth” . King Louis IX of France itself led the Sixth Crusade between 1248 and 1250 . In French and English literature, however, the “seventh” is referred to as the “eighth crusade”, since there the crusades of Damiette and that of the emperor are counted separately from one another.

History and occasion

Since the failure of the first crusade of Louis IX. In 1250 a lot had changed in the Middle East: After the Mamluks had taken power in Egypt in 1250 , after their decisive victory over the Mongols in the Battle of ʿAin Jālūt (1260) they were also able to seize control in Syria and thus in fact take over the entire former kingdom of the Ayyubids . As a result, the Mameluks became the greatest threat to the last Christian princes in Outremer, who also weakened each other in the war of Saint-Sabas between Venice and Genoa .

In the years that followed, one crusader fortress after another fell into the hands of the Mameluks. The militarily gifted Sultan Baibars had most of the cities and fortresses razed, the population was killed or enslaved. The crusaders appealed to the rulers of Europe for help, but were reluctant to receive support. In 1268 he finally conquered and destroyed the once rich Antioch , the capital of the Principality of Antioch , and now threatened the county of Tripoli . King Hugo III of Cyprus , who was nominally also King of Jerusalem , meanwhile tried to reorganize the defense of the remnants of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.



The papal legate and Cardinal Simon de Brie (later Pope Martin IV ) preaches to King Louis IX. for the seventh crusade. Representation from denn Chroniques de Saint-Denis , 14th century.

Ever since the Mameluks attacked the Christian properties in the Levant, Pope Clement IV had had the crusade preached across Europe. After the Templar castle of Safed fell in 1266 and the crusade advertisements had received little response, he intensified them and addressed the monarchs of France and England directly. In the late year 1266 King Ludwig IX. of France expressed his willingness to participate in the crusade against the Pope and finally took the cross with his sons on March 24, 1267 in Paris. Ever since his first failed crusade, the French king had envisaged another crusade. To this end, he had already stationed a permanent regiment of French knights in Acre during his first stay in the Holy Land , which he regularly supplied with personnel and weapons. Overall, however, there was not a particularly high level of enthusiasm among the French nobility for another lavish and above all costly war campaign to the Holy Land, especially in memory of the loss-making crusade against Egypt (sixth crusade) twenty years earlier. For this reason, the bulk of the French crusader army this time came mainly from the closest personal and courtly circle of the king, while the majority of the feudal nobility refused to take the cross. But for this Ludwig IX. Promises of his brother Karl von Anjou , who meanwhile ruled as king in Sicily, the Catalan King James I and the English Crown Prince Eduard Plantagenet for personal participation, including his own contingents.

In August 1269, Ludwig IX received in Paris met Prince Edward to plan the organization of the crusade with him. The port of Aigues-Mortes was set as the collection point for the fleet and August 15, 1270 as the date for the departure to the Levant. On the occasion of this crusade, the French king had his own ships built for the first time, while ships from Genoa and Marseille had taken over the transport of the army twenty years earlier . While Louis IX. was still busy with the construction of his fleet on September 1st, 1269, King James I of Aragón set sail with his ships from Barcelona . But still near the coast he got caught in a storm and his fleet was pushed back to the coast, whereupon he ended his crusade again. Only one squadron, led by two of the Catalan's bastard sons, reached the open sea and reached Acre in December 1269, where they immediately took part in successfully repelling an attack by the Mameluks.

Contrary to his self-determined date, Ludwig IX stabbed. already on July 2, 1270 at sea with his fleet, without waiting any further for Prince Edward, who, incidentally, was supposed to march late. Initially, Louis IX steered. the Sardinian port of Cagliari , where he announced the first target to his followers. As with his first crusade, he had kept the official announcement of the crusade's goal a secret until the end in order to deprive the Muslim opponent of the opportunity to plan an adequate defense and to have the advantage of the element of surprise on his side. What was unusual this time, however, was the very early time for the revelation as well as the location of the goal. Because instead of against Egypt or Syria, i.e. the Mamluk territory, the attack on the Sultanate of Tunis in North Africa should take place.

Tunis as a destination

Even contemporary historiography was unclear about the reasons for which Louis IX. of all places, Tunis had chosen as the target of his second crusade. Even the crusade companion of Egypt and biographer of the king, Jean de Joinville , did not want to give any details about the crusade to Tunis in his later written Vita ( Vie de Saint Louis ) because he did not personally take part in it. Joinville had personal contacts to the veterans of Tunis, who could have given him information about the king's motives in the thirty years that followed until his work was written. In the absence of a personal statement by the king that has survived, as well as more detailed evidence of the crusade, historical research can only speculate about the reasons for the attack on Tunis. The only thing that is largely agreed is that Tunis should only be an intermediate stage on the way to Outremer.

Perhaps Louis IX was. convinced that the Muslim ruler of North Africa from the Hafsid dynasty , Muhammad I al-Mustansir, would convert to Christianity through his military might . The Sultan actually had his will to change faith beforehand by means of a diplomatic embassy both at the court of Charles of Anjou in Naples and before Louis IX. made known even in Paris. His good diplomatic and, above all, economic relations with Christian powers such as Aragón and, most recently, with Staufer Sicily seemed to give his declarations of intent a credible character. However, it was primarily a diplomatic confusion by the sultan, who was actually an enemy of Charles of Anjou, because he offered supporters of the Hohenstaufen ( Ghibellines ) at his court in exile and had continued to terminate his tributary relationship with Sicily since Anjou there prevailed. In order to avoid the constant threat from Anjou, Sultan Muhammad could have suggested to the French king that he would be open to Christianity in order to be able to use him against his brother. Because as long as Louis IX. Karl von Anjou had based his actions as much as possible on his specifications, but his participation in the crusade was solely out of a sense of duty to his older brother, instead of real conviction. With a French king of his own accord, Sultan Muhammad could feel relatively safe from the King of Sicily. That Louis IX. but then actually appeared with a large army in front of Tunis, should be seen as a diplomatic miscalculation by the Sultan.

On the other hand, Karl von Anjou is also said to have had a decisive influence on the "diversion" of the crusade to Tunis in the historical literature. After he had destroyed the Hohenstaufen in 1268 and took control of Sicily, he made it possible for Louis IX. completely new perspectives for carrying out a crusade. Sicily, with its favorable geographical position, was, along with Cyprus, an ideal starting point for an attack on the Muslims in the Levant. It is possible that Ludwig IX. had felt obliged to owe his younger brother a debt after he had committed himself to the crusade with his strong Sicilian fleet and even made his new kingdom available as a base of operations. A submission of the apostate vassal of Sicily, who was also a militarily weak infidel, would have for Louis IX. did not represent a particularly heavy burden on his way to the Holy Land.

Only the thesis that was put forward in the Middle Ages that Ludwig IX. Out of geographical ignorance, he attacked Tunis, mistakenly assuming that this city was in the immediate vicinity of Cairo and thus represented an ideal point of attack on the center of the Mameluke Sultanate.

Louis IX the saint dies before Tunis. His brother Charles of Anjou, King of Sicily, stands at his deathbed. Grandes Chroniques de France, 14th century. Musée Condé , Chantilly.

Death of the king

On July 17, 1270, the crusader fleet reached the coast of Africa just off Tunis. Sultan Muhammad immediately concentrated his forces in his capital, where he barricaded himself. On the same day, Ludwig sent out a reconnaissance team under Admiral Florent de Varennes to explore the port entrance of Tunis. Contrary to his orders, the admiral landed on a promontory in front of the port, brought the port entrance under his control in a flick of the wrist and thus gained a favorable starting position for the final conquest of the city. To the incomprehension of his immediate entourage, Louis IX ordered. but the admiral immediately cleared the position and returned to the fleet. The following day the entire army finally went ashore unhindered by the enemy, on the same headland on which the admiral had landed the day before.

Instead of immediately besieging the poorly defended Tunis, Louis IX moved. with the army to nearby Carthage , which he captured after a short battle. Here he had the camp built from where the attack on Tunis was to start. Before the army could start the siege, however, it was attacked by a dysentery disease (dysentery), which was evidently caused by drinking water that had become bad. The entire military leadership was affected by the disease, the king himself as well as his sons and brother Alfonso of Poitiers . Although his surroundings tried to keep it secret, Louis IX found out. from the death of his son Johann Tristan , before he died himself on August 25, 1270. According to legend, his last words were: “ We will move into Jerusalem. "

According to the tradition of the Muslim chronicler Al-Maqrīzī , the residents of Tunis mocked their opponents with songs of mockery from the walls during the days of the crusade. He quoted a verse known to him:

“French, didn't you know that Tunis is Cairo's sister? Think of the fate that awaits you here! Before the walls of this city you will find your grave instead of the house of Lokman, and the two terrible angels Nakir and Munkar will take the place of the eunuch Sahil. "

- Al-Maqrīzī : Essulouk li Mariset il Muluk , I, p. 462

Demolition and journey home

Philip III of France makes peace with Sultan Muhammad al-Mustansir. Miniature from the Grandes chroniques de France , 15th century. (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France)

Charles of Anjou and his troops had reached the camp on the same day and stood on his brother's deathbed. Although his nephew and now French King Philip III. took over the nominal supreme command of the army, Anjou took over the command due to his stronger personal authority. After most of the army had recovered from the disease, he started the siege of Tunis, which he tackled only half-heartedly. Anjou did not seem to have seriously considered conquering the city. After Sultan Muhammad had signaled his willingness to negotiate, an agreement was reached on October 30, 1270 on the written seal of peace. The sultan committed himself to granting free trade for Christians and the residence of Christian priests and monks in his kingdom, so that the crusade could be ascribed a partial success. For Charles of Anjou, the sultan's return to his tributary relationship with the Kingdom of Sicily was likely to have been of greater importance. There was no conversion of the sultan to the Christian faith, to which neither Philip III. Charles of Anjou still existed. On November 10th, Prince Edward arrived with his English crusaders in Carthage, just one day later the crusade left the African continent.

The army wintered in the Kingdom of Sicily until 1271. The French were no longer interested in continuing the crusade and began the march home, while Prince Edward of England intended to continue his crusade to the Holy Land. The march of the French through Italy turned out to be a funeral procession of a very special kind. On the one hand, the bones of Louis IX, who was preceded by holiness during his lifetime, received great veneration from the Italian population and allegedly took place in several places who they were worn, the first miracles. On the other hand, other close family members of the king died on the train in the aftermath of the epidemic off Tunis. Among the lamentable dead were the uncrowned Queen Isabella , the king brother Alfonso of Poitiers, his wife Johanna of Toulouse , the king's daughter Isabella and her husband, King Theobald II of Navarre . The journey home interrupted Philip III. in March 1271 to attend the election of Pope Gregory X in Viterbo together with Karl von Anjou .

After the French had crossed the Alps passing Mont Cenis and entered Paris on May 21, 1271, Philip III organized. the funeral of his father the very next day. Only on August 15, 1271, one year after taking office, was he able to be crowned king in Reims .

Edward's crusade

Prince Edward of England sailed from Sicily with a contingent of crusaders to Palestine in the spring of 1271 to fight the Mamluk there. From this point on, his company is usually run as a separate company. Edward's crusade ended in April 1272 with the conclusion of a 10-year armistice with as-Zahir Baibars.


The new Pope Gregory X convened the 2nd Council of Lyon in 1274 to organize a new crusade. Despite the promises of the kings of England, France and Sicily, however, he was unable to spark enough enthusiasm or gain sufficient financial support that this crusade did not materialize.

In the peace phase negotiated with Baibars, Karl von Anjou used a dispute between Hugo III. as well as the Templars and Venetians to unite the remnants of the Crusader states under his leadership and to create a power base for themselves. He bought the rights to the Kingdom of Jerusalem from Princess Mary of Antioch and attacked Hugo, who also claimed the title of King of Jerusalem. In 1277, Roger of San Severino conquered Acre, the capital of the kingdom, for Charles of Anjou. The allied Venetians moved him to direct a crusade against Constantinople , where Michael VIII had re-established the Byzantine empire. In 1281 Pope Martin IV granted permission; the French took the land route via Durazzo (now Durrës in Albania ), the Venetians the sea route. However, due to the Sicilian Vespers on March 31, 1282, Charles of Anjou was forced to abandon this project.

These were the last undertakings against Byzantium or the Saracens in the Middle East . In 1291 the last crusaders were expelled from the Holy Land.


Web links

Commons : Seventh Crusade  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. For the known participants see also: Category: Crusaders (Seventh Crusade)
  2. ^ J. Le Goff: Ludwig the saint. I, § 4 - Guillaume de Saint-Pathus confirmed this legend in his Vita
  3. Lokman was the secretary of the Egyptian sultan in his house in al-Mansura Louis IX. after the failure of the sixth crusade in 1250 had spent his captivity. Sahil was the eunuch who guarded him. According to Muslim belief, the angels Munkar and Nakir test the dead in their graves for their faithfulness.