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Brindisi during the Ages of the Crusaders
2th part

The Fifth Crusade:
During the fifth Crusade (1217-1221), Brindisi and Messina were the meeting places and starting harbours to the Holy Lands for the European Armies. Pope Innocent III, who planned for the crusaders to meet in Brindisi in 1216, promised an indulgence to every Crusader, including those who simply helped to pay the expenses but did not go on the Crusade themselves.

Saint Francis of Assisi probably arrived in Brindisi by ship after his pilgrimages to Egypt and the Holy Land during 1219 and 1220, where he tried to convert the sultan Melek-el-Kamel.
Legends say that "Saint Francis, after walking for the whole day through the Medieval small streets of Brindisi, praying and talking of peace, until the dusk of the evening; he had to rest his body and decided to stay in the 'Casale' area around the Bizantine Chapel. The morning after, he noted that a spider web was hiding the image of Our Lady on the wall, so Francis humbly talked with 'brother spider' so that it ate its web, unveiling back the holy image".
During 1215 the presence of the blessed franciscan monk Egidio of Assisi with a brother monk is certain and documented; the monks stayed in Brindisi for some time waiting for embarkation.

Crusaders embarked for Palestine. (XV century)

From the harbour of Brindisi, Peter II of Courtenay, consecrated emperor of the Latin Empire of Constantinople by the Pope, set sail in 1217 with his "weak army" and Venetian fleet, to conquer Durazzo, but after an "unlucky sail" he was defeated and was jailed on his eastward journey, and died in confinement.

During the month of September, 1218, a fleet of Crusaders, fitted out by the Pope Honorius III at a cost of 20 thousand "silver marks", after being in Brindisi for 12 months finally set sail and left for Cyprus by order of the papal legate Pelagius.
Frederick II, crowned as Holy Roman Emperor at his papal coronation in 1220, was in Brindisi in March 1221, from where he sent a fleet of forty well equipped ships to Damietta, but this Egyptian campaign failed pitifully because of the defeat of September 8th, 1221.

Frederick II and the sixth Crusade:
Frederick II with the sultan Malik al KamilIn January 1224 the marquis William VI of Montferrat came to Brindisi and here left his army to go and meet Frederick II in Sicily, in order to ask support before his departure to Thessaloniki that was under siege by Theodore Comnenus Ducas.
On November 9th, 1225, in Brindisi's Cathedral, Frederick II married Yolande (Isabel) of Brienne, heiress to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and immediately took steps to assume control of the Kingdom from his new father-in-law, John of Brienne.

After several postponements, the Emperor organized the Crusade which for a long time had been promised to the Pope. On 1227 Brindisi was the meeting point for thousands of Crusaders coming from all over Europe; it was the most important period for the Town during its participation to Crusades.
Fifty ships were laying ready in the harbour but they were not enough for all the soldiers; water and food were scarce and, together with the summer heat, an epidemic caused the death of many crusaders; tens of thousands of people escaped from the infected camps and scattered around Italy. In the cemetery near St. Martin hospital (photo) many crusaders, dead because of this plague, were buried.
The Emperor himself caught the plague, postponing the Crusade till after his complete recovery.
The Pope did not believe this information, and due to this the Emperor was excommunicated.

The actual beginning of sixth Crusade, the only one entirely embarked from Brindisi, happened on June 28th, 1228. The Crusade was ended with the pacific agreement on February 1229 with sultan Malik al-Kamil (Jaffa treaty): the Emperor negotiated with the Muslims to obtain a kingdom comprising Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and the adjoining littoral for a period of ten years.
On June 10th, 1229, Frederick II went back to Brindisi, and from here he took back command of the Kingdom of the South of Italy, defeating the Pope's troops who during that time took advantage of the emperor's absence by attacking his Italian colony.

The Knights Orders:
Templar Cross (Tourist's House)The Knights Hospitaller also known as Knights of Rhodes, Knights of Malta, and the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, were in Brindisi since 1156, at the home of St. John "de Hospitale" and afterwards at the Church of St. John of Greeks. Nowadays the building is named "Tourist's House" (photo).
The presence of Knights Templar appears to date from 1196. The location of their "Domus" (the Templar's residence), that enclosed St. George Temple church, is not yet well known; for some local historians, it was near the current placement of railway station, for others it was near the Temple of St. John Sepulchre (more info).

The Seventh Crusade
The last chapter in the times of the crusaders which involved the city of Brindisi was the landing of King Louis IX of France during the seventh Crusade (1248-1254), remembered by the local tradition with the festivity of "Adorned Horse" - the procession of Corpus Domini, with the Bishop riding an adorned white horse (more info).

Images (from the top):
Crusaders embarked for Palestine. (XV century)
- Frederick II with the sultan Malik al Kamil
- Templar Cross (portal of Tourist's House)

Use of reproductions in any form, be it text or photographs from this page, have to be authorized by the author

  • Rosanna Alaggio - Natura, santi e sovrani. Brindisi nel Medioevo, Tesi di dottorato di ricerca in Storia medievale, Università degli studi di Palermo, 2002 ( web)
  • Ernst Hartwig Kantorowicz, Federico II, imperatore, Milano 1978
  • Vittorio Stano – da Le Origini del Santuario di Jaddico. (web) Fulvio Bramato, Itinerari crociati in terra d'Otranto. Documenti, monumenti, tradizioni. La via Traiana, in Verso Gerusalemme (Atti del II Convegno internazionale nel IX centenario della prima crociata - Bari, 11-13 gennaio 1999), a cura di F. Cardini - M. Belloli - B. Vetere, Lecce 2001 - (web)
  • Giacomo Carito, Brindisi in età sveva, in Federico II e Terra d'Otranto (Atti del secondo convegno nazionale di ricerca storica, Brindisi 16-17 dicembre 1994) Brindisi 2000

Correlated documents:
» The Adorned Horse (procession of Corpus Domini)
» Temple of St. John Sepulchre

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