The Sixth Crusade - Frederick II

1229. The sixth Crusade has elements of great interest because it was led by the highly intelligent western emperor, Frederick II of Germany. The papacy excommunicated him once for failing to go on the Crusade, and again for going on it. The Emperor had promised to go on a crusade, and evaded his vow, making a false start and then returning, he may have been bored. But the vow had been part of the bargain by which he secured the support of Pope Innocent III in his election as emperor. This was a Crusade bordering on absurdity.

Frederick, after much procrastination, set off for the Holy Land with a formidable army in 1228. His excommunication sentence was renewed because he ventured to sail without waiting for the papal orders. There was really no fighting involved for the Syrians would not support a ruler at odds with the Pope and Frederick was too smart to fight when he could get what he wanted by diplomacy. This noble monarch could secure more for the Christians by negotiation than any military commander since the first crusade could get by war, an act than won him only the scorn of his fellow men. By good fortune he found that the sultan Melek Kamel of Egypt was engaged in a war with his nephew, and therefore willing to make terms with the Franks. This Mussulman ruler granted them a considerable part of the Holy Land, . Frederick obtained a treaty by the Musselman ruler whereby Jaffa, Bethlehem and Nazareth were ceded to the Christians, including Jerusalem, except the site of the temple, and a 10 year truce was agreed upon. To add insult to injury, Frederick crowned himself king of Jerusalem, for no ecclesiastic would perform the ceremony. The title "King of Jerusalem" was held by all the German emperors, and afterward by the emperors of Austria until 1835.

But the gains were mourned by the Moslems and not welcomed by the Christians, who put Jerusalem under an interdict after Frederick visited it to crown himself king. Frederick was excommunicated [the 2nd time] in 1239, by Gregory, and this sentence was renewed by Innocent IV in 1245. The champion of the cross was exposed to the bitterest hostility of the church. Everywhere he went he was victorious, but the papal legates and priests harassed him by constant opposition, and even a crusade was preached against him in Italy. Frederick returned to Europe after having affected more for the Christians in Palestine than any of their former protectors. Gregory again hurled anathemas against a prince who had made a treaty with the infidels.

Finally there was tranquillity in the Holy Land for fifteen years, and the peace raised the Latins of Palestine to a prosperous condition. But through the quarrel between the pope and the emperor the results of the crusade were lost. Though Jerusalem was won back for a short time, the city was defenseless against the Moslems. It was just a matter of time before it would be reoccupied. A new and more formidable enemy, the Khorasmian Turks, driven from their native deserts by the Mongols, threw themselves on Palestine, stormed Jerusalem in 1244, and shortly thereafter thoroughly defeated the Latins in a great battle at Gaza. Jerusalem remained in Moslem hands until surrendered to the British in 1917.
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