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Medieval Sourcebook:
The German Crusade, 1197

[TR] This letter shows the German crusaders in the full course of victory, which was so soon to be checked by the death of EmperorHenry VI.


Annale Colonienses Maximi in Mon. Germ. Hist. SS., xvii, 805. Latin.

Since we know that you rejoice greatly in the increase of our honor and in the prosperity of all Christianity, we announce to your discretion and prudence that after I had been chosen as the chief of the whole army by the princes of the Roman empire [i.e. Germany] and the barons of the kingdom of Jerusalem and the common people, we directed our march toward Beyroot, by the advice of the princes and of the whole army. When we, were marching in most excellent order between Tyre and Sidon, on the night the festival of St. Severinus, Saphadin and all the armies of Babylon and Damascus with a great multitude of the Saracens appeared on the side of the mountain; they surrounded our army from the rear as far as the sea­coast, and made severe and continuous attack on our lines, and having drawn up their forces, the wicked people exercised against us all their strength. Their purpose indeed was to pour forth all their strength against us and make trial of all our strength.

But God, the Protector of those who trust in Him, and who frees the poor from the power of the mighty, snatched His poor from the hands of the impious, and not without great injury to the impious. For, forsooth, they left there the lord of Sidon and very many other Saracens dead, and since then they have never dared to attack us. Accordingly, on the same day we fixed our tents with delight above the river of Sidon. Since, moreover, our ships were going in advance of the army, and the Saracens who dwelt in the fortress of Beyroot saw our ships coming, terrified by fear, they left the very strongly fortified fortress of Beyroot. And on the next day following with the army we took the same fortress, which was very strongly fortified, without any difficulty.

And we found in the fortress so many weapons of arbalisters and bowmen that twenty wagons could scarcely carry them, and so many victuals that they were sufficient for 500 men for seven years. Moreover, after we had made a stay of twenty days in that place, other Saracens fearing our approach deserted the fortress which is called Gibel [Gibelin] and another very strong fortress which is called Lyeche [Laodicea]. Having heard of this, and having ascertained that all the fortresses on the coast as far as Antioch were in the hands of the Christians, we turned towards Sidon and devastated in every direction all the land which the Saracens held. Thus having routed the Saracens, by the aid of the Heavenly King, so that they never dare to appear, we hope very soon to capture the sacred city of Jerusalem. For the Saracens, having heard that our army is unanimous and strong, never dare to show themselves.

This is the reason that we strenuously exhort your reverence, as much as lies in your power, to keep the memory of us alive throughout your whole archbishopric, in behalf of our prosperity and that of all Christianity, and to compel all in your archbishopric who have taken the cross to fulfill their vows and to aid the cause of Christianity. Moreover, if any wish to remain in the land of promise, we will cause sufficient incomes to be assigned to them in the same land. Farewell.


Trans in Dana C. Munro, "Letters of the Crusaders", Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Vol 1:4, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1896), 22-23

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© Paul Halsall December 1997