Friday, June 27, 2014

The (Disastrous) 4th Crusade, Part 2

[see Part 1 here]
From Venice to Zara, and later to Constantinople
Those members of the 4th Crusade who went to Venice were lodged on the island called St. Nicholas. When it was discovered that they did not have enough money to fulfill their part of the contract with Venice, they were stuck on St. Nicholas until some agreement was reached. According to the chronicle of Geoffrey de Villehardouin, Doge Enrico Dandolo said to his people:
"The King of Hungary has taken from us Zara in Sclavonia [...]; and never shall we recover it with all the power that we possess, save with the help of these people. Let us therefore ask them to help us to reconquer it, and we will remit the payment of the debt of 34,000 marks of silver, until such time as it shall please God to allow us to gain the moneys by conquest, we and they together." [source]
There was a great deal of disagreement over this among the Crusaders—Simon de Montfort was one voice in opposition—although it was finally ratified. There were two major objections against it: 1) it was a distraction from the crucial major goal, and 2) Zara was a Christian city; to attack it when your purpose was to fight heretics was outrageous!

The Doge then increased the stakes. At a Mass at St. Mark with Venetians and Crusaders present, Enrico Dandolo (who was at least in his 80s, and blind) swore to join them and take up the Cross if they consented to let him be their leader. The Crusaders accepted gladly, and more Venetians joined the Crusade.

The Crusading force sailed to Zara, and set up a siege. Certain leaders of Zara came to the Doge and said they would hand over the city if their lives were spared. Dandolo said he would discuss these terms with the rest of the Crusade; while he did, Villehardouin tells us that the Crusading faction that was opposed to fighting Christians told the Zarans that the Crusade would never attack a Christian city, and they could resist in safety. Also, the Abbot of Vaux (a Crusader) forbade the army from attacking Zara.

But attack they did. Dandolo was enraged that he had a deal with Zara that was foiled by others.  The siege brought up mangonels and other weapons. They pelted the walls and towers with stones for five days, and had sappers start on one wall and a tower.* This was enough to motivate Zara to surrender.

By this time winter was approaching, and the Doge decided they should stay in Zara until spring. There were troubles in Zara, between the different nationalities, but that is not part of our narrative. What must be mentioned is that Pope Innocent III excommunicated the Crusaders for attacking a Christian city.

The worst is yet to come. To understand it, however, we must turn aside to a case of royal family strife in Constantinople. [to be continued]

*Sappers would dig under a structure to cause it to collapse; sometimes they employed explosives.

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