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Medieval Sourcebook:
Evolution of Crusader Privileges, 1095-1270

The "Crusade" did not spring into being fully formed. Many of the characteristic sof the Crusade - the vow, taking the cross, etc. - evolved over time. This selection of texts shows the evolution of the religious legal status of the Crusader between 1095 and 1270.

See James A. Brundage, Medieval Canon Law and the Crusader, (Madison, WI: 1969).


If any one through devotion alone, and not for the sake of honor or gain, goes to Jerusalem to free the church of God, the journey itself shall take the place of all penance.


Dana C. Munro, "Urban and the Crusaders", Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Vol 1:2, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1895), 12


Moreover, by the authority vested by God in us, we who with paternal care provide for your safety and the needs of the church, have promised and granted to those who from a spirit of devotion have decided to enter upon and accomplish such a holy and necessary undertaking and task, that remission of sins which our predecessor Pope Urban instituted. We have also commanded that their wives and children, their property and possessions, shall be under the protection of the holy church, of ourselves, of the archbishops, bishops and other prelates of the church of God. Moreover, we ordain by our apostolic authority that until their return or death is fully proven, no law suit shall be instituted hereafter in regard to any property of which they were in peaceful possession when they took the cross.

Those who with pure hearts enter upon such a sacred journey and who are in debt shall pay no interest. And if they or others for them are bound by oath or promise to pay interest, we free them by our apostolic authority. And after they have sought aid of their relatives or lords of whom they hold their fiefs, and the latter are unable or unwilling to advance them money, we allow them freely to mortgage their lands and other possessions to churches, ecclesiastics or other Christians, and their lords shall have no redress.

Following the institution of our predecessor, and through the authority of omnipotent God and of St. Peter, prince of the Apostles - which is vested in us by God - we grant absolution and remission of sins, so that those who devoutly undertake and accomplish such a holy journey, or who die by the way, shall obtain absolution for all their sins which they confess with humble and contrite heart, and shall receive from the Remunerator of all the reward of eternal life.

Granted at Vetralle on the Kalends of December.


Dana C. Munro, "Urban and the Crusaders", Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Vol 1:2, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1895), 15 [Latin text in Otto of Freising, Gesta Frederici, MGH, Scrip. XX.p.371]


In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity, Amen. It has been decided by lord Philip, king of the Franks, by the advice of the archbishops, bishops and barons of his land:

1. That bishops, prelates, and clerks of the conventual churches, and knights who have taken the cross, shall have a respite of two years - dating from the first feast of All Saints after the departure of the king - in paying the debts which they owed to Jews or Christians before the king took the cross; that is, on the first feast of All Saints the creditors shall have a third of the debt, and on the following feast of All Saints a second third of the debt, and on the third feast of All Saints the last third of the debt. Also, for each one, from the day on which he takes the cross, interest on debts previously contracted shall cease.

2. If a knight, who is the legitimate heir, son, or son-in-law of a knight not taking the cross, or of a widow, and who is under the jurisdiction of his father or mother, takes the cross, his father or mother shall have a respite from their debts, in accordance with the above ordinance.

3. If, however, their son or son-in-law, who has taken the cross, is no longer under their jurisdiction, or, if he is not a knight, or, if he has not taken the cross, they shall not enjoy a respite through this decree.

4. Also, within a fortnight after the next feast of St. John the Baptist, those debtors who have lands and revenues, shall through the lords in whose territory the lands are, assign the lands and revenues to their creditors; in order that from these the creditors may collect their debts at the aforesaid times and according to the aforesaid form. The lords shall not be able to prevent those assignments, unless they themselves settle with the creditor for the debt.

5. Those who do not have sufficient lands or revenues to make an assignment for their debts, shall give their creditors sureties or bail that they will pay their debts at the dates fixed. And unless they give security, as has been arranged, through assignment of lands, or sureties, or bail if they have no lands, within a fortnight after the next feast of St. John the Baptist, they shall not have the respite which is granted to others.

6. If any crusader, who is a clerk or knight, is in debt to a crusader, who is a clerk or knight, he shall have a respite from is debt until the next feast of All Saints - provided, however, that he furnishes good security for paying his debt at the time indicated.

7. If any one of those, who have taken the cross, shall have assigned to any one gold, silver, grain, or any other personal property, a week before the Purification of the Blessed Mary or after that time, the creditor shall not be compelled to give him a respite on that account.

8. If any one buys from another, who has not taken the cross, the usufruct of his lands for one year at a fixed price, the bargain shall stand.

9. If any knight or clerk shall have mortgaged his lands or revenues to a citizen, who is also a crusader, or to a clerk or knight, who is not a crusader, or shall have assigned them for a period of years, the debtor this year shall receive the produce of the lands or the revenues; and the creditors, as a recompense for this year, shall hold the property for one year after the completion of the years for which the mortgage or assignment ought to continue. However, if the creditor shall have cultivated the mortgaged lands or vineyards, be shall have one-half the grain this year for his labor.

10. All bargains made a week before the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, or after that date, shall hold good.

11. For all debts on which he obtains a respite, the debtor must give as good security as, or better than, he had previously given. If a dispute arises about the security, the council of the lord of the creditor shall demand as good security as, or better than, before. And if the security is not fixed by that lord, it shall be fixed by he council of the prince of the land.

12. If any lord or prince under whose jurisdiction the said creditors or debtors shall be, shall not wish to observe, or shall not cause to be observed, this decree concerning the respite for debts or the assignments, he shall be warned by his metropolitan or bishop; if be shall not make amends within forty days, he may be placed by the same under a sentence of excommunication. Nevertheless, as long as the lord or prince shall be willing to prove, in the presence of his metropolitan or bishop, that in this respect he has not failed in his duty to either creditor or debtor, and that be is prepared to comply with the decree, the metropolitan or bishop shall not have the power to excommunicate him.

13. No crusader, whether clerk, knight, or any one else, shall be obliged to defend himself in a law suit, concerning the land of which he was tenant, from the day on which he takes the cross until be returns from his undertaking, unless the suit had been brought against him before he had taken the cross.


Dana C. Munro, "Urban and the Crusaders", Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Vol 1:2, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1895), 15 [Latin text in Rigord, Gesta Philippi Augusti, in M. Bouquet, ed., Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France, Vol. 17 (Paris, 18061904).]


Moreover, we grant to the clergy that they may retain their fiefs intact for three years as if they were resident in their churches; and if necessary, they may mortgage them for the same length of time.

In order that nothing relating to Christ's business may be neglected, we wish and command patriarchs, archbishops, abbots and others who have charge of souls, to set forth zealously to those committed to their care the word of the cross, exhorting in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,one only, true and eternal God, kings, dukes, princes, marquises, counts, barons and other magnates, also the communities of cities, towns and villages, who do not go in person to the aid of the Holy Land, to send a suitable number of warriors, with the necessary expenses for three years, according to their individual means, for the remission of their own sins - as is stated in our general letters, and as is also stated below, for the greater surety.

Of this remission we wish to be partakers, not only those who furnish their own vessels, but also those who may have striven to build ships for this purpose. Moreover, let it be sternly announced by apostolic authority to those who refuse - if perchance any shall be so ungrateful to our Lord God - that they are to understand that for this they will have to answer to us on the last day of the strict judgment, before an awful judge. Nevertheless, let them first consider with what conscience or what security they will be able to appear before the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, into whose hands the Father gave all things, if they shall refuse in this matter, which is peculiarly fitting for them, to aid Him who was crucified for sinners, by whose bounty they live, by whose kindness they are maintained, nay, more, by whose blood they have been redeemed.

Since it is certainly right that those who give their allegiance to the heavenly Emperor should enjoy a special privilege: when the time of the expedition shall exceed one year in length, the crusaders shall be free from collections, tallages and other taxes. And we have taken their persons and property, after the assumption of the cross, under St. Peter's and our own protection, and we have decided that their defence shall be entrusted to the archbishops, bishops and all the prelates of the church. We have also appointed officers of our own especially for their protection, in order that their property may be kept intact and uninjured, until their death or return is known with certainty. And if any one attempts any attack upon their property he shall be restrained by ecclesiastical censure.

If any of those setting out thither are bound by oath to pay interest, we command that their creditors shall be compelled by the same means to release them from their oaths and to desist from the exaction of interest. But if any creditor shall compel them to pay interest, we order that he shall be forced by a similar chastisement to pay it back.

We command that the Jews, however, shall be compelled by the secular power to remit interest; and until they remit it all association of any kind with them shall be refused by all faithful Christians, under penalty of excommunication. For those, moreover, unable at present to pay their debt to the Jews, the secular princes shall provide by a useful delay, so that after they begin their journey they shall suffer no inconvenience from interest, until their death or return is known with certainty. The Jews shall be compelled, after deducting the necessary expenses, to count the income which they receive in the meantime from the mortgaged property toward the payment of the principal; since a favor of this kind which defers the payment and does not cancel the debt does not seem to cause much loss. Moreover, let the prelates of the church, who are proven to be negligent in doing justice to the crusaders and their families, understand that they shall be severely punished.

Therefore, trusting in the mercy of omnipotent God, and in the authority of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, by that power of binding and loosing which God has conferred on us, although unworthy, we grant to all, who undergo the labor in their own person and at their own expense, full remission of the sins of which they have truly repented with contrite hearts, and which they have confessed with their months; and at the retribution of the just we promise an increase of eternal salvation. To those also who do not go thither in person, but yet according to their ability and means send suitable men at their expense, and to those likewise who go in person, although at the expense of others, we promise full remission of their sins. We also will and grant that, according to the kind of their aid, and the depth of their devotion, all shall partake of this remission who minister fitly from their property to the aid of that land or furnish opportune counsel and assistance. Also on all who piously proceed in this task the universal Synod bestows in common the aid of all its benefits that it may worthily conduce to their salvation. Amen.


Dana C. Munro, "Urban and the Crusaders", Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Vol 1:2, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1895), 16-18


Since those who fight for liberty of the church ought to be fostered by the protection of the church, we, by our apostolic authority, have decided that our beloved, who in obedience to Christ are signed or are about to be signed against the provincial heretics, from the time that they, according to the ordinance of our legates, place on their breasts the sign of the quickening cross, to fight against the heretics, shall be under the protection of the apostolic seat and of ourselves, with their persons and lands, their possessions and men, and also all of their other property; and until full proof is obtained of their return or death all the above shall remain as they were, free and undisturbed.


Dana C. Munro, "Urban and the Crusaders", Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Vol 1:2, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1895), 18 [Latin text: in Regesta Innocentii III, Lib. X, Ep. XI, Ep. 156-159, in Patrologia Latina, Vol. 215.]


Wherefore we advise that publicly in Rome, Campania, and Maratima, you preach a crusade against the aforesaid Frederic; and that you also cause suitable men to preach the crusade frequently and solemnly. And by our authority grant the remission of sins, which was granted in the General Council to those who went to the succor of the Holy Land - to all those who with fervent zeal choose to undertake a crusade against the same Frederic, in order to aid the church in rooting out, from the aforesaid kingdom, the perfidy which flows from its diseased head to the adjacent members, and in restoring there the faith formerly cherished. And also publish solemnly, and cause others to publish, that the same Frederic and all who aid him by counsel, succor or favor, in person or property, openly or secretly, are excommunicated by us; and also that the whole kingdom of Sicily is placed under an ecclesiastical interdict, as long as it shall adhere to him.


Dana C. Munro, "Urban and the Crusaders", Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Vol 1:2, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1895), 18-19 [Latin text in J. Huillard-Bréholles, Historia Diplomatica Frederici Secundi (Paris, 1852-1861) Vol. VI, pt. 11, 647-648.]


If the king, or a count, or a baron, or any lord who has the right of jurisdiction in his land, arrests a clerk, or crusader, or any man of religion, even if he is a layman, the lord ought to deliver him to the holy church, whatever may be his crime. And if the clerk has committed a crime for which the penalty is death by hanging, and is not tonsured, the secular justice ought to try him. But if be is tonsured and wears the habit of a clerk, even if he is a thief, no confession, no answer that he may make, can injure him, for he is not before his regular judges; and any confession made by one who is not before his regular judges has no value, according to the law written in the Decretals.


Dana C. Munro, "Urban and the Crusaders", Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Vol 1:2, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1895), 19. [French Text in Les Etablissmens de St. Louis, Bk. 1, 84, printed in J. Isambert, Les Anciennes Lois de France (Paris, 1882-1883), Vol. 11, 465.]

Source for whole document:

Dana C. Munro, "Urban and the Crusaders", Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Vol 1:2, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1895), 12-18

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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© Paul Halsall December 1997


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