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The Fourth Crusade (1202 to 1204)

After the Third Crusade, Richard the Lionheart and Saladin established a treaty that stated Jerusalem would remain under Muslim control, but Christian pilgrims bearing no arms could visit the city. However, six years later, the Crusaders were unhappy with the outcome and wanted to recapture Jerusalem once again. In this article, you will learn more about the events and outcome of the Fourth Crusade.

The original goal of the Fourth Crusade was to conquer the Muslim-controlled Jerusalem by invading Egypt. However, the Crusaders invaded and conquered the Christian city of Constantinople, which was the capital of the Byzantine Empire. It was this act that contributed to the Great Schism between the Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church. The Fourth Crusade took place in the Balkans.

How It Began

After the failure of the Third Crusade, there was little interest in Europe to launch another crusade against the Muslims. Jerusalem was then controlled by the Ayyubid dynasty, which ruled all of Syria and Egypt with the exception of a couple of cities along the coast. It was also with the Third Crusade that a kingdom on Cyprus had been established.

In 1198, Pope Innocent III succeeded to the papacy, and he decided to preach of a new crusade. In most European monarch circles, his call to arms was ignored. At that time, the Germans were struggling against Papal power. England and France were still fighting with one another. It wasn’t until preaching of Fulk of Neuilly that a crusading army was eventually created. 4,500 knights with their own horses, 9,000 squires, and 20,000 foot soldiers were expected to participate.

Commander Spotlight: Boniface I

The Marquess of Montferrat, Boniface I, played a significant role as a leader of the Fourth Crusade. His father had participated in the Second Crusade. It was after his father’s return that Boniface was born.

When the original leader of the Fourth Crusade, Count Theobald III of Champagne, died in 1201, Boniface was given the position as its new leader. Because he had proven himself as an experienced soldier, it was believed that he would be able to bring honor to his home and family. In the east, Boniface belonged to a well-known bloodline, as his nephew and brother had both been Kings of Jerusalem. His niece Maria was actually the heiress of the kingdom.

However, Boniface did not have an easy time with the Crusades, as the army was in debt to the doge of Venice, who had provided them with their fleet. Because of this, Boniface felt obligated to listen to the doge’s request to attack the rebellious cities of Trieste, Moglie, and Zara. It was his wish that they were ‘beat into submission.’ However, these actions angered the Pope, who did not like the attack of Christian cities. It seemed that the doge, Enrico Dandolo, had been pulling the strings of the Crusader army, causing Boniface to become only a figurehead.

Highlights of the Fourth Crusade

·    The Crusaders were comprised of 10,000 men with 10,000 Venetians fighting for the cause. The Venetians also contributed 210 ships.

·    The Byzantines fought with 30,000 men and sailed on 20 ships.

·    One of the most significant events of the Fourth Crusade with the sack of the Orthodox Christian city of Constantinople.

·    During this Crusade, nearly none of the crusaders ever reached the Holy Land.

In the End

The Fourth Crusade led to the Great Schism. In the Balkans, Crusader states were formed. The Latin Empire was established by the crusaders, who also created other ‘Latin’ states in the Byzantine lands they conquered.