The Crusading Motivation of the Italian City Republics in the Latin East, c. 1096-1104

CrusadesThe Crusading Motivation of the Italian City Republics in the Latin East, c. 1096-1104

Christopher J. Marshall

Rivista di Bizantinistica v.1 (1991)

Throughout the 200 years of its existence, the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem was heavily reliant upon the Italian city republics for the import and export of goods; in the formative years of the kingdom’s history, this dependence extended to the military sphere. In the absence of a fleet of its own, the Italian ships were essential for the successful besieging of such coastal cities as Caesarea, Arsuf and Acre, without which the continued existence of the kingdom would have been placed in some jeopardy. Their importance in this respect was noted by one of the early accounts of this period of the kingdom’s history; the role of the Venetians at Haifa in 1100 would be “in order that, blockaded and oppressed from both the sea and land, the town should be captured.”1  As an acknowledgement of the key role which the Italians played, they were granted major commercial privileges in the cities and ports of the kingdom; in the case of the Genoese, these were as much as total exemption on the usual entrance, exit, buying and selling duties at the chaine and the fonde, although such extensive rights became increasingly rare in the course of the twelfth century.2  It has recently been shown that in spite of the remarkable privileges which were granted to the Italians, the structure of trade was such as to ensure that there was little loss of revenue for the kingdom,3 but it still seems that historians, tending to concentrate on the commercial angle of the Italians’ role in the Latin East, have assumed that from the time of the kingdom’s establishment, the priorities of the city republics lay, to the exclusion of all else, with the gaining of commercial privileges. One historian of Genoese trade, for example, remarked that “it would almost seem to them (…) the crusade was a matter of indifference except as it affected their material prosperity.”4

For the Italian republics which sent their ships to the Holy Land in the course of the First Crusade and the earliest period of the Latin Kingdom, military commitment produced commercial privileges, but it would be wrong to conclude that concern for the latter was the only reason for the presence of the Italians in the Latin East. It would be unreasonable to argue that commercial prospects played no part in the military involvement of the Italians, just as it would be to believe that all crusaders were motivated by purely religious factors, but the sources for this period of the kingdom’s history reveal that there was a religious element in the reasons for Italian expeditions to the Holy Land. So military involvement of the Italians in the Latin East at this time was a product of, on the one hand, the search for a stake in the commercial prospects of the new kingdom, and on the other, an awareness of the spiritual value pertaining to the crusade and the subsequent defence and expansion of the Latin Kingdom. It is with the latter that we are concerned, although the two elements should by no means be regarded as contradictory. When the Venetians came to the Holy Land in 1100 for instance, they “said that they had came for the honour of God and the help and aid of the Christians, and for these they required a part (of the land conquered to be granted to them) as a gift (…). Thus a pact was agreed between them.”5  So in this case, no contradiction was seen in the fact that religious devotion and commercial interest went together in producing commitment to the defence of the kingdom; it is highly unlikely that this defence would been so forthcoming if the commercial privileges had not been granted. Similarly, Fulcher or Chartres stated that commercial privileges were granted to the Genoese who were present in the Latin East from 1100-1101, “as long as they wished to remain in the Holy Land on account of the love of God.”6  Military commitment, explained in terms expressive of religious devotion, as a result of privileges in the commercial sphere which were to be gained. The materials used have been largely restricted to narrative accounts and, as nearly contemporary ones as possible; recent work has shown these to be a good means of considering the motivation of crusaders in general,7 and the same is true for the Italians specifically. These vary from a one line reference to the presence of Italians in the East during this period, to a major account which deals particularly with the role which the Italians played in the kingdom, such as Caffaro’s De Liberatione Civitatum Orientis,8 which is a useful source for analysing how the Genoese saw their function in the East and what motivated them to take part in the crusade and its aftermath. Caffaro was an eyewitness to much of what is contained in his account, although it is probable that the work was not written until the middle of the twelfth century. Through such sources, we are able to examine a number of aspects of the Italians’ spiritual motivation and religious devotion, including whether they can be considered as crusaders, the terms in which they were recruited for such journeys, their inspiration when on crusade through exhortations to them by both clergy and laity, and more specific examples of their religious devotion, such as the pilgrimage element of the journey and their concern with relics. A consideration of this side of the Italians’ involvement in the Holy Land may help to place them more appropriately in the context of the First Crusade and the immediate needs of the Latin East with which they were undoubtedly intimately concerned.


It is worth noting that the Italian cities were important in the formation of the crusade idea during the eleventh century. The concept of the crusade, as envisaged by Urban II, was a synthesis of the old idea of pilgrimage with the emergent theories of holy war, which had particularly developed, in terms of a positive role played by the church, from about the year 1000.9 During the course of the eleventh century, besides the acceptance of the need for church involvement in warfare and the desire to influence the ethics of knighthood, ideas developed concerning an aggressive defence with regard to the heathen and sometimes, fellow Christians. In this, the Italian cities played a large part. Pisa, for example, first took the offensive in 1005, fighting down the Italian coast and then into Africa, whilst the Venetians were given a vexillum by the clergy for a compaign against Dalmatia in 1000 which was used again with regard to Bari in 1003. But the ideas expressed in these campaigns were still a long way from the concept of the crusade; they were not seen as a general Christian advance, nor was there any concern with the ethics of knighthood.10

The campaign against the African city of Mahdia by the Pisans and Genoese in 1087 is far more expressive of such ideas; the main account of this campaign, the Carmen in victoriam Pisanorum 11 is important not only for the fact that it indicates how ideas relating to holy war were developing, but also because it shows elements of motivation on a spiritual level which would influence the Italians on the First Crusade and immediately afterwards. The poem, probably written within months of the events it describes, is almost certainly the work of a Pisan clerk, who may well have been aware of the ideas relating to Christian warfare which were being expressed by Anselm of Lucca and his circle around this time.12  Cowdrey has noted a number of links between the poem and ideas which are expressed in the Gesta Francorum;13 another idea which is also apparent in works relating to the First Crusade is that of love, and this is expressed in the Carmen, in the common form of love of God at the expense of selfish love; “The Genoese (…) join themselves to the Pisans with great love (amor); they do not care about earthly life, or about their sons; they give themselves to the dangers for love of the Redeemer.14  At the time of the First Crusade, Urban II, writing to the Italian city of Bologna, was to state that men “have risked their belongings and lives for the love of God and their neighbour.”15  The presence of Benedict of Modena on the journey to Mahdia and his exhortation to the soldiers, mirrors the presence of Daimbert of Pisa, Maurice of Porto and Henry of Castello on later expeditions involving the Italians, and his demand to them that “you must forget everything of the world for Christ …”16 is an appeal typical of many later ones.  Similarly, the statement that “with devoted hearts they offer penance to God, and share the Eucharist of Christ in turn…”,17  indicates that the soldiers themselves also felt spiritual factors to be important. The Carmen indicates that already, before the First Crusade, the Italians were influenced by spiritual considerations.

The major commitment of the Italians in the Latin Kingdom at the turn of the eleventh century came from the city republics of Venice, Pisa and Genoa; of these, Genoa was unquestionably the most involved in the period c.1096-1104, sending out five fleets. The first of these, consisting of 13 vessels, left Genoa in July 1097; in November, they arrived at the port of S. Symeon, and they were heavily involved in the siege of Antioch.18  In June1099, news came to the crusaders besieging Jerusalem of a Genoese fleet at Jaffa, and they were invited to help with the siege of the city.19  In August 1100, what was perhaps the most significant expedition sent out by the Italians in this period left Genoa, consisting of 26 galleys and 4 ships, and accompanied by the papal legate, Maurice of Porto.20  It also had with it Caffaro, which means that his accounts of the events of the journey, in the Liberatio and the Annales, are particularly valuable. The fleet wintered at Laodicea, and then went on to Haifa, thence to Jaffa, before celebrating Easter at Jerusalem. Arsuf and Caesarea were taken, but following the death of Godfrey and the capture of Bohemond of Antioch, this was a time of crisis for the Latin settlement and Caffaro testifies to the value which the Latins attached to the Genoese presence in the east “all the (Latin) easterners were seized with fear, believing that the area and the land were lost, so at the arrival of the Genoese ships (…) the people of the land were absolutely delighted (…) and the Genoese, by remaining through all the winter, did much for the honour of the Lord around these parts.”21  On the way back to Genoa, at Corfu, Caffaro relates that another Genoese fleet going east was encountered; later, in February 1102, this fleet of 18 vessels was involved in the siege of Tortosa.22 Finally, another Genoese fleet of 40 vessels, after wintering 1103-1104 at Laodicea, helped Baldwin I with the siege of Gibelet and then, from April to May, with the siege of Acre.23  With the fall of this city the initial crisis which faced the kingdom was overcome, and the Genoese were not involved again in large numbers for six years.

The presence of Pisan and Venetian fleets in the Latin East during this period was somewhat less regular than that of the Genoese. Probably in the summer of 1099, a Pisan fleet said to have numbered 120 vessels and led by Daimbert Archbishop of Pisa, set off for the east and helped with the capture of Laodicea and Gibelet. They remained at Jerusalem for a considerable time, possibly because of the ambitions of Daimbert for the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and, having assisted Godfrey with the rebuilding of Jaffa, returned home.24  Albert of Aachen also reported that there was a Pisan element in the force which captured Acre in 1104.25  As far as the Venetians were concerned, only one expedition took place in this period. In 1099-1100, this force wintered at Rhodes, went on to Myra, and thence to Palestine, were it agreed to aid the kingdom for the period from 24 June to 15 August. Although it was originally intended to besiege Acre, this idea was abandoned after the death of Godfrey and thus the Venetians instead helped at the siege of Haifa, after which they returned home.26  Although this contribution to the development of the kingdom appears relatively limited, its importance for us is increased in that the most detailed account of the events, that of the Monachus Littorensis, is extremely valuable as a source of ideas related to the motivation of the Italians. The work was composed around 1116, by an anonymous monk of Lido; as far as the crusade is concerned it appears to be an accurate account, but much of the work is a polemical description of the translation of the body of S. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, to Venice, which since it adheres so closely to the typical form of such translationes has to be regarded as historically suspect.27

The Italians were therefore energetically committed to the cause of the crusade and the defence of the Holy Land. It is worth noting that these two commitments are not in fact the same, but the distinction, at least for the period with which we are concerned, appears to have been lost to contemporaries. Fulcher of Chartres, for example, continued even after the capture of Jerusalem to write in terms which belonged particularly to the crusade.28  The dividing-line was further blurred by the departure for the east in 1101 of another crusade, although the effects of this expedition on the Latin Kingdom were negligible. So we are dealing with a period in which terminology may appear at times rather confused; and this should be borne in mind in considering the different forms of spiritual motivation and religious devotion which can be noted in the Italians’ actions with regard to the Holy Land.

What was the ideological position of the Italians, in the context of the crusade army and the expeditions which went out to the east soon after the capture of Jerusalem? It is considered that the Italians, when established in the Latin East, were able to obtain a large degree of autonomy from the government of the kingdom and as a result of this independence, their power grew in the course of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.29 Possibly handicapped by this view, historians have tended to consider the Italians at the time of the First Crusade as similarly independent and as a force which was largely unconnected with the crusade army as a whole. Contemporary accounts make it clear that this view is untenable. First, the image of the Christian Republic, which was particularly important to the crusades,30 included the Italians. The point is illustrated in the Historia of Raymond d’Aguilers and the Gesta Francorum. In the former, “A message came to us, that six of our ships (naves nostris) had anchored at Jaffa ….”31  And, “after the messenger from our ships came, our leaders took counsel and sent knights who should faithfully look after the men and ships in the port of Jaffa.”32  This expresses the unity of the army, in spite of its diversity; the Genoese referred to in this case were an integral part of the force which aimed to capture Jerusalem and their importance to the army is further demonstrated by the decision to send men to protect them at Jaffa.

But the link goes further than this. The Italians were not merely regarded as part of a force organised on behalf of the Christian Republic, of which some were crusaders; they were undoubtedly crusaders themselves, who took the cross and would receive the spiritual and temporal privileges which resulted from such an act.33  This point is important, because the fact that they were crusaders increases the likelihood that their role would be seen in religious terms. This is not to suggest that simply because they were crusaders, religious devotion was uppermost in the minds of all of them; but the nature of the crusade, a war fought on behalf of God for which participants could earn the remission of their sins, clearly produced a huge response on these terms from western Christendom at the end of the eleventh century. The Italians were caught up in this fervour and their reaction in taking the cross is a clear indication of this. Nor is it right to believe that they held back to see whether the movement would be a success before committing themselves to it. For the Genoese at least, their devotion to the crusade was apparent from the time of its inception.

Of the first Genoese fleet, which set out in July 1097, Caffaro reports that “with the sermon having been completed and the apostolic message heard, many of the better Genoese that day took up the cross ….”34  The suggestion that the higher ranks of the Genoese became crusaders seems to indicate the importance which the city attached to the cause of the crusade. Similarly, when in conflict in the east, the Genoese at the siege of Caesarea in 1101 are portrayed in terms that make it perfectly clear they were crusaders: “The Genoese, bearing the cross on their right shoulder (…) and by summoning Christ to their aid….”35  The force of Genoese which contributed to the capture of Acre was “moved to the service of the Lord.”36  Such an expression is typical of crusade terminology. The evidence for the Pisans is limited, but the fact that their journey was considered to have been undertaken “by order of the Lord Pope Urban II” 37 seems to indicate that they took up the cross. There is plenty of information on the Venetians, however, and this makes it quite clear that they were regarded as crusaders too. The Venetian expedition of 1100 was led by the Doge’s son John Michael and by Henry, Bishop of Castello. It is stated that the latter “took up the sign of the cross in the way of the Lord.”38The Bishop, imploring God to aid the Venetians concerning the relic of S. Nicholas, referred to them as “we who bear your cross, we who follow you ….”39 When encouraging the rest of the Venetians at a sermon at Jerusalem, Henry is again reported as stressing their role as an element in the crusade: “You were redeemed by his death, you carry the sign of his cross, you long for his glorious Sepulchre ….”40  At the siege of Haifa, all the crusaders, both Franks and Venetians, are described as “knights of Christ.”41  It is interesting that it is not only the Venetian sources that describe the Venetians as crusaders. Albert of Aachen, referring to the siege of Haifa, stated: “It was determined that the Venetian pilgrims (peregrini) should surround the castle (…) with a naval blockade,”42 peregrinus being one of words used by contemporaries to describe crusaders. And a later source indicates that the Venetians accepted the moral side of their role as crusaders. After a conflict with the Pisans at Rhodes, the Venetians were said to have released most of the former, “in order, to show that they carried the Cross of the Lord more in the spirit than on the shoulders.”43

The Italians were a part of the crusade army and thus deserving of consideration as a part of that force on a practical and ideological level, rather than as a group which whilst unque–stionably important to the achievements of the crusade was not otherwise connected with it. It is also interesting that the accounts of the Italians’ involvement in the crusade express many ideas which may be found in contemporary crusading thought. The authority, omnipotence and interventiary nature of God is con–stantly referred to in accounts of the First Crusade.44  For example, in a letter of March 1099 written by Stephen of Blois to his wife, “we fought with the fiercest courage, with Christ leading (…) by the aid of the Lord God we overcame and killed vast numbers (of the enemy).”45 When the Christians, including the Genoese, were besieged in Antioch by the Turks, the bishops told them, “that they should remain through all that day in prayers, and by entreating God, that he would listen to their prayers, and through mercy he would show them a secure road to war against the enemies”; in conflict with Kerbogha, the bishops of the army cried, “Rise up, oh Lord, and come to judge your cause!”46  When the Venetians defeated the Pisans when the former were on their way to the east on the expedition of 1099-1100, “they wished to attribute the victory which had been given, (…) not to any man but only to God”47; and Haifa was “overcome by the power of Christ and the ability of men ….”48  At the siege of Tortosa in 1102, “the gate of the city was opened (…) but after they knew it to have been a miracle of the Lord.”49  It is interesting to find the Pisans referred to in similar terms. The crusade is “what all-powerful God consi–dered worthy to bring about through the Pisan people.”50

The act of love was a powerful motive to crusade; Christ’s commandment to ‘love thy neighbour’ had produced diverse forms of charity in the course of the eleventh century, and in certain circumstances violence could be seen to express love, an idea which had been somewhat loosely adapted from the writings of S. Augustine.51  The image of love in this context has already been noted in the Carmen and with reference to the preaching of the First Crusade: “May God excite in your hearts a love of your brothers.”52  In the case of the Italians it is expressed as love of God, through denial of self, in the speech purportedly made by Tancred to the Venetians: “we serve for the desire of the Celestial King and out of love (…) let us fulfil the labour of beneficial warfare more studiously and devotedly.”53  The meritorious nature of the crusade was taken to extremes in the idea of the martyrdom of crusaders. Caffaro portrays the Genoese as martyrs when he states that “the Turkish soldiers, rejoicing at killing many Genoese martyrs, hurried to return to Antioch.”54

Another idea of contemporary crusading thought which was adopted with reference to the Italians was that of analogies pertaining to the Old Testament; “as soldiers of Christ and fresh and strong athletes, you must strive as your brothers (…) (and) you shall obtain precisely what was written of the blessed Maccabees ….”55  This says much about the outward role which was played by the Italians of the First Crusade; as soldiers of Christ they were as much crusaders as were the Franks. The reference to athletes reflects the transference of a term which, previously limited to the warfare of the soul, had in the course of the eleventh century become imbued with an increased military significance; and the reference to brothers and to the Maccabees indicates ideas which were very common in contemporary crusade writings. On a factual level, there is no doubt that the Italians were crusaders and deserve to be considered far more as an integral part of the movement than they appear to have been. Further, the contemporary accounts which deal particularly with the Italians are, especially in the cases of such major accounts as those of Caffaro and the Monachus Littorensis, worthy of far more consideration as works pertaining to the crusade.

We are now concerned with the far less tangible questions of why the Italians became crusaders and what motivated them, from the spiritual point of view, when they were on the crusade. The main sources used are Caffaro’s Liberatio and Annales, the latter containing a detailed account of the Genoese fleet which set off for the East in 1100, and the account of theMonachus Littorensis. The first aspects considered are what, spiritually, prompted the Italians to go on crusade and how they were recruited.

There are a number of recorded instances in which the Italians seem to have needed encouragement to go on crusade; these all suggest that spiritual motivation played a large part in persuading them to take the cross. In 1099, it is briefly noted, the Pisans set out, “in 120 ships, for the liberating of Jerusalem from the hands of the pagans” 56 and this was “by order of the Lord Pope Urban II.”57  These statements indicate two facts concerning the recruitment of the Pisans. First, it was in response to a specific papal appeal; secondly, the reference to the need to free Jerusalem accords well with Urban’s known statements regarding the need to liberate the eastern churches. The point is reinforced by a letter of August 1100 from Pascal II to the Pisan consuls, in which he praises the piety and devotion of the Pisan people and their achievements in the East.58 In a letter to Bishop Anselm of Milan, dated the first half of 1099, the text of which has not survived, Urban II entreated him to gather an army for the freeing of the Holy Land.59  We may only speculate on the contents of this letter, but Urban was accustomed in his entreaties to inspire people to take the cross through their religious devotion. This appeal too was successful; it persuaded the Milanese to journey, to the East. “Archbishop Anselm (…) having been admonished by apostolic authority (…) strove to gather an army from different nations, which should attack the Kingdom of Egypt (…) he advised the young Milanese to take up crosses ….”60  In a letter of September 1096 to his partisans at Bologna, Urban is pleased to find that many have already decided to take the cross; yet he gives a powerful exhortation that this should be for religious devotion, not for material gain; “if any men among you set out for there not for desire of earthly profit but only for the salvation of their souls and the liberation of the Church, we (…) believe them of all penance imposed for their sins.”61

The Genoese fleet of 1097 was also sent in response to a papal request. The event is recorded by Caffaro, who noted that a sermon was preached to the Genoese by the bishops of Grenoble and Orange, who had been sent by the Pope to Genoa “and there they made known the apostolic message concerning the service of God and the Holy Sepulchre, just as the Pope had preached, for the remission of all sins.”62  Obviously, this was a sermon in highly religious terms, disregarding the material element in the crusade. “With the sermon having been completed and the apostolic message heard, many of the better Genoese that day took up the cross ….” As a result of this decision, the two bishops “confirmed them to have the reward of eternal life.”63  So this Genoese fleet took up the cross ostensibly in response to the offer of spiritual rewards.

Other recorded instances of decisions being reached to go on crusade always seem to be in a ferment of enthusiasm, and against a background of religious awareness. A good example is the departure of the Venetians for the East in the autumn of 1099. Their decision to join the crusade seems to have been largely prompted by their own yearnings; “with one voice the clergy and people demanded that Henry, Bishop of Castello, be guide and teacher, and they appointed John Michael (…) as leader of the army and fleet.” The Bishop was “overcome by the entreaty of the clergy and people.”64 So it was the Venetians themselves who, “taking the cross, decide to send help in the acquisition of the Holy Land…”65  The religious overtones of the accounts which describe the send-off accorded the fleet, appear to confirm that religious inspiration was an important factor in their departure. The Venetians who were actually going to the East set off “with the sound preaching of the Patriarch and other bishops having been heard, and the sacred blessing confirmed to all the individuals” whilst the religious element is further stressed by the presence of the clergy and monks of the city who “urge the ships on with prayers.”66  Thus the initial desire to go on crusade in order to gain the indulgence, the entreating of the Bishop of Castello to join them, and the manner in which the fleet set out for the East are all expressed as being dominated by motivation on a spiritual level.

As already noted, the Genoese were the most involved of the Italians in the early history of the Latin kingdom. The accounts of two other fleet departures indicate some spiritual inspiration. First, the major Genoese fleet of 1100-1101 was said to have been inspired by letters of reminder “for the purpose of aiding the Sepulchre of the Lord (…) (having been in a state of civil war for a year and a half) (…) they abandoned arms, and so many of them took up the cross the 26 galleys and 4 sailing ships vigorously carried (…) the pilgrims all the why to (…) Laodicea for the service of God and the Holy Sepulchre.”67 Their enthusiasm for the crusade had thus brought an end to civil strife in Genoa, and the size of the fleet as reported by Caffaro suggests that this was far more than merely a commercial exercise. The Genoese were genuinely committed to serving the Lord; this commitment is underlined by their attitude when in the East, which will be examined later. The Genoese fleet of 1103-1104 was similarly “moved to the service of the Lord.”68 The passion which undoubtedly gripped the West regarding the defence of the Holy Land equally influenced the Italians, and their decision to ‘serve the Lord’, as they saw it, was partly as a consequence of this prompting. And the spiritual element continued to loom large in their minds when they were actually in the East.

We can examine this continuing inspiration on a spiritual level through the exhortations to them, by both laity and clergy, which are contained in the accounts of their actions during this period. Although these speeches are what the chroniclers put into the mouths of the speakers, they remain a valuable means of examining the manner in which it was at least considered appropriate to portray the attitude of the Italians in the East. The exhortations frequently allude to the prospective spiritual rewards which could accrue to the Italians; and we are often able to gauge, from their recorded response, whether such an appeal was successful. Beginning with appeals to the Italians by the laity, normally the Latin princes, it is particularly interesting that these should be almost entirely in religious terms. At the siege of Antioch, two such appeals refer purely to the fact that by taking up the conflict, the Genoese would thus be serving the Lord, and would gain the spiritual rewards for such an act. Bohemond reminded the Genoese that “you came to these parts for the service of god, and then you wish to have the reward of your souls at rest ….”  In spite of the absence of any reference to a material reward, the Genoese accepted this entreaty.69  Similarly, the Genoese were told not to delay coming, “for God’s war (…). The Genoese, having heard the message of the prince, hurriedly came to Antioch ….”70  Tancred is reported to have entreated the Venetians to aid the kingdom in very similar terms, just after the death of Godfrey; he argued that the conflict was purely on behalf of God, and actually denied any responsibility to a temporal ruler. Because the conflict was for the Lord, it followed that any reward would similarly be on a spiritual level: “we do not serve by the command of an earthly ruler, nor out of fear, but for desire of the celestial King (…) let us fulfil the labour of beneficial warfare more zealously and devotedly.”  Responding to this admonition, the Venetians followed Tancred to the siege of Haifa.71  With reference to the siege of Acre, Baldwin I sent a message to the Pisans and Genoese, that “for the cause of God and Holy Jerusalem, they should besiege the city (…) of Acre, blockading with a naval force on the sea, whilst he with the aid of God and many of the faithful of Christ, would place a blockade on land.”72 This account is typical of contemporary crusade language; the appeal to the Italians is in the religious terns of a conflict to be fought on behalf of the Lord. And as the Italians played a major part in the capture of Acre, it is clear that appeals to them in terms of their motivation on a spiritual level were successful. They went to the Holy Land, as we have seen, to serve God; and when asked to fulfil this commitment, they responded appropriately.

The point is reinforced by evidence that the Italian laity encouraged one another by spiritual motivation. Caffaro, an eyewitness of the siege of Caesarea in 1101, reported a speech by the Genoese consul, William Caputmallus; “Oh citizens and warriors of the Lord, you heard the order of the Lord (…) therefore we entreat of you, under the debt of the sacrament, that in the morning, after mass, having made confession and received the body and blood of the Lord (…) you should make for the walls of the city without delay.”73  He thus motivated his fellow-Genoese purely in spiritual terms; there is no mention of the material rewards to be gained from the siege but rather it is their obligation to carry out this work, because the Lord wished it. It is also significant that he emphasized the need for the soldiers to be in the correct frame of mind, through confession and communion. The need for intentio recta in a just war had been acknowledged for centuries,74 but the emphasis here further stresses that this is especially a conflict for the Lord. In all these instances, we have thus found the laity encouraging the Italians, and the Italians encouraging one another in language which suggests the spiritual rather than the material elements of the enterprise. No doubt some of the Italians were rather more concerned with prospects of booty and commercial gain; but this does not detract from the fact that we find their inspiration considered by the chroniclers to be through the spiritual rather than the more tangible rewards of warfare.

It is no surprise therefore that the clergy connected with the Italians in the Holy Land should be said to have encouraged them through the religious elements of their inspiration. The Italians came into contact with three major clerics in their expeditions to the Latin East; we have evidence for the attempts of each of them to inspire those engaged in conflict. At Antioch, Adhemar of Le Puy imbued all the crusaders, including the Genoese, with courage: “you began this journey and you came to these parts for the remission of sins, do not start to panic or be afraid ….”75  This was a time of great crisis for the crusade as a whole; it is significant that Adhemar should therefore be reported to have pointed out the spiritual prospects to the crusaders. The journey had not been made for temporal gain, but ‘for the remission of sins’; it was because of this that the crusaders should press on with their work. Daimbert of Pisa, outside Caesarea, addressed the Genoese as being totally responsible to the wishes of the Lord: “you came to these parts for the service of the Lord and the Holy Sepulchre (…) the Lord orders and entreats you (…) that (…) on the day of His Passion, on which he accepted temporal death for your redemption, you should receive the body and the blood of the Lord, and (…) you should begin to climb the walls of the city.”76  Once again, the Genoese are referred to as being in the East only to serve God, not for their own material ends. And in this case, the degree of religious inspiration is increased by the fact that the Genoese would be fighting on Good Friday. The peculiar significance of this to the crusaders is worth stressing. The importance of this day to those who wore the cross of Christ, the cross by which humanity was redeemed, must have been immense.

Later crusade propaganda, particularly after the loss of the True Cross at the battle of Hattin, placed considerable importance on the image of the cross. It is interesting therefore to find that the plea of Daimbert of Pisa was not the only occasion when the spiritual significance of the cross was stressed to the Italians. When the Venetians wintered at Rhodes in 1100, they were faced by threats from the Byzantine emperor, Alexius. In a sermon to give strength to the Venetians, Henry of Castello is said to have emphasized the importance to them of the cross and just as significantly, the need to be aware of the frailty and temporary nature of human life, which justified the dominance of spiritual over temporal concerns: “when Christ ordered us to take up his cross, not only did he entreat us to bear it, but also to follow him. For, with things being transitory, (…) so much more should we be obedient to the Lord, and unless we complete faithfully the vow that was undertaken (…) we clearly deny that we carry the burden of his sign.” Thus when the Venetians had taken the cross, they had accepted a total subjugation of material ends to the spiritual end of following the Lord. Because of this, “so much more should we obey the Lord”; unless the Venetians did this, they would suffer both temporal and, in this context more importantly, spiritual condemnation: “we shall face the wrath of God and the infamy of men.” The response of the Venetians indicates the effect that such spiritual advice had on them; they were prepared to face any even–tuality, with “all thus having been joined together and confirmed in the service of the Lord.”77  The Venetians had been admonished in a way which affected their spiritual motivation; their response was portrayed as indicating that such a method was appropriate.

When the Venetians arrived at Jerusalem, the Bishop of Castello was invited to give a sermon. It stressed the need for continued defence of the Latin East; already noted, this was regarded as a particularly sacred task, even if it should not be seen as truly a part of the crusade.  “For it would be of no benefit, rather it would hinder much if this Holy Land, having been freed from the enemies of the Lord should be occupied by them a second time.”78  As crusaders, of course, the Italians received various privileges, both temporal and spiritual, but it is the latter that the Bishop of Castello mentions, specifically referring to the indulgence; “you were redeemed by his death, you bear the sign of his cross, you long for his glorious Sepulchre, (…) and by deserving acts, prayers and all the other holy things he shall give you for past sins remission and indulgence, for those of the present absolution and forgiveness and for those of the future the protection of his grace….” Once more there is reference to the particular link of the crusaders with the Incarnate God, as they bore the sign of the cross, but it is even more significant that at the end of this sermon the Bishop should attempt to rouse the people by means of one of the major spiritual privileges which was granted to the crusaders. Nor was the indulgence limited to, those of the Venetians who were actually present at the Holy Sepulchre. “I grant absolution (to the rest of the Venetians) (…) just as to you who are present.”79Following this sermon, the Venetians returned to Jaffa and thence prepared to fight for a cause which was depicted as being seen very largely by them in religious terms; both lay and clerical elements chose to appeal to the Italians in such terms, and the Italians responded by fighting “for the cause of God and Holy Jerusalem.”80

The Italians were thus involved in the Holy Land as crusaders and they saw themselves, and were seen by others, as aware of the spiritual elements which were upper most in the taking of the crusade vow. When they took up the cross, they were described as doing so as a result of entreaties which were based largely on the spiritual side of crusading; when they were in the East, their services as crusaders were requested, and their courage was lifted, by similarly spiritually charged exhortations. There is a clear link between the conflict with the African city of Mahdia involving the Pisans and Genoese and the Italian participation in the crusade; in both, religious motivation is undeniably important. But the crusade was not simply an extension of the developing concept of holy war, in which the Italians had been involved throughout the eleventh century; the idea of the crusade also owed much to the notion of the pilgrimage. By temporarily separating the elements which had fused to become the unique concept of the crusade, we may further examine the religious motivation of the Italians in this period.

Since the Roman period, Jerusalem had been one of the great pilgrimage centres of the world. The crusade embodied not only devotion in the sense of fighting God’s war to win and protect the Latin East from the infidel; it also included devotion through worshipping at Jerusalem and the other holy sites, and a general awareness of the religious, besides the military function, that the crusader had to fulfil as a peregrinus. The religious devotion of the Italians is heightened by the stress which is placed, in the sources, on the pilgrimage aspect of the crusade.

The first detailed account of the religious devotion of the Italians in the Holy Land during this period concerns the Genoese fleet which was in the East 1100-1101, and with which Caffaro sailed; his presence as an eyewitness makes his statement particularly important. The culmination of the Genoese devotions came at Easter 1101, at Haifa on Palm Sunday, “they celebrated the office of the Lord with devotion” 81 before going on to the climax of their pilgrimage, at Jerusalem. That they should be at Jerusalem at Easter must have been especially pertinent to the crusaders; as milites Christi, who had abandoned their homes and taken up his cross largely as a result of devotion to him, they who wore the sign of the cross by which he had redeemed humanity now found themselves celebrating this event at the very place of His Passion. Caffaro’s account of the presence of the Genoese at Jerusalem expresses perfectly the extent of the devotion which they felt for the pilgrimage element of their role in the East, and their joy when their prayers and entreaties to the Lord were answered. With Baldwin I, the Genoese “went to the Sepulchre of the Lord, and fasted through day and night, watching that the light of Christ should come. And through day and night it did not come; and standing in this way in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre without light, again and again all with one voice were crying Kyrie Eleeson Kyrie Eleeson (…) (after a sermon from Daimbert) (…) with bare feet and great devotion, they came to the Temple of the Lord and at the entrance of the Temple all begged God humbly (…) that He would show the light through his mercy to his faithful today, on the day of His Resurrection.”82  When the holy fire was finally ignited, the delighted people sang the Te Deum and listened to mass. This eyewitness account gives us a considerable insight into the religious devotion of the Italians, in their desire to see the holy fire lit; the penitential aspect of the pilgrimage, as they fasted in the Sepulchre; their dismay as the holy fire remained dead; their appeal to the Lord to intervene, particularly on the day of the Resurrection, which was especially significant to the crusaders; and their unrestrained joy as the fire was finally ignited. The practice of secretly lighting the holy fire for the benefit of pilgrims at Jerusalem was later prohibited; but here we have a wonderful illustration of the effect of the fulfillment of a vow to pilgrimage.

This was not the end of the pilgrimage for Caffaro and the rest of the Genoese; “they came to the River Jordan, and after they returned to Jaffa with the king, and there they made a plan.”83  It is interesting to find here a very distinct division being drawn beteween the two elements of the crusade. The Genoese had now completed their pilgrimage and they could turn to the question of warfare on behalf of the Kingdom – but the two are very clearly divided. This was also the case during the Genoese expeditions of 1097 and 1101-1102. In the former Bohemond, in persuading the Genoese to fight at Antioch, is said to have pointed out that “you came to these parts for the service of God, and then you wish to have the reward of your souls at rest ….”84  On the 1101-1102 expedition, the Genoese “came to Jerusalem and visited the Sepulchre of the Lord. And with the visits completed they continued to Tor–tosa….”85  The Genoese roles, as peregrini and as milities Christi, seem to have been kept well apart. The same point can be seen in the account of the Venetian crusaders in the Holy Land in 1100.  Just like the Genoese, they showed a remarkable degree of religious devotion, with which, apparently, the other Europeans were particularly impressed – but ideas relating to their pilgrimage and to their function in the kingdom as warriors are not intermingled “pilgrims are accustomed and under obligation to seek all the holy places (…) (the Venetians) visited inside and outside the city, with great devotion and tearful remorse with the Lord’s pilgrimage having been completed suitably and religiously enough” the Venetians turned their attention to warfare. The same distinction is apparent in the case of the other Venetians, who had remained protecting the fleet at Jaffa. “The comrades who had remained behind, went up to Jerusalem for the purpose of worshipping; with the holy places having been visited and other works of piety fulfilled, with joyous souls they returned to their leaders” and prepared themselves for the siege of Acre, although this did take place.86  And Albert of Aachen states that, in 1103, “again the Pisans and Genoese (…) had assembled for the purpose of worshipping at Jerusalem” 87 after this, they began military action against the cities of Gibelet and Acre. These accounts seem to express a slight shift in the concept of the crusade. Urban II had joined the elements of pilgrimage and holy war together, but at the time of the First Crusade, these two sides were inevitably intermingled – the taking of Jerusalem was as much fulfilment of the pilgrimage element of the crusade as it was the war element. Now, with Jerusalem safely in Christian hands, the two ideas seem to have become somewhat more distinct; pilgrimage was followed by warfare rather than the two being intermingled. Perhaps Erdmann’s concept of the separation of the Marschziel and Kriegsziel is in a sense applicable to events after the First Crusade rather than to the crusade itself;88 certainly, accounts of the Italians in the Holy Land see their religious devotion to the pilgrimage as quite distinct from their motivation to war on a spiritual level.

The account of the Venetian entry into Jerusalem in 1101 is very similar to that of the Genoese in the same year; again, there is a stress on the penitential side of the pilgrimage, whilst their arrival at the Holy City is portrayed as the end of one part of their journey. “The leader of the fleet and the Bishop, along with half of the army, approached Jerusalem (…) on the day of the birth of S. John the Baptist at around six, with bare feet and fasting, they entered the Holy City with great reverence.”89  In the sermon preached soon after their arrival by Henry of Castello, he emphasized, before going on to consider the duty of crusaders in war, the attainment of the goal of their pilgrimage by stressing the fact that they were litterally standing and worshipping on a relic. “Today we enter into the holy tent of the Lord. Today we worshipped in the place were stood the feet of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today we are in the Holy City consacrated by the blood of Christ. Oh how joyful is today brothers!”90  It is interesting to compare this language with the account of Urban II’s sermon at Clermont, as reported by Robert of Rheims. Christ made Jerusalem “famous by his birth, embellished it by his presence, sanctified it by his Passion, redeemed it by his death, left his seal upon it by his burial….”91  Both accounts show the immense hold which the city of Jerusalem had over contemporary western minds; the former highlights the fact that for the Venetians, the aim of their pilgrimage had been reached, and demonstrates the obvious joy with which that fact was heralded, as they stood in the Holy City. That they had not been present at the capture of Jerusalem did not matter; it is clear that one of their aims in setting out for the east had been to complete a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and this had now been done.

Devotion to relics outside the context of the pilgrimage is another aspect of the Italians’ religious devotion; the concept of pilgrimage itself and contemporary ideas on veneration of relics were closely linked, and as we have seen, the description of the Holy Land as a relic by the Bishop of Castello came at the end of the Venetians’ pilgrimage. The major account concerning the devotion of Italians to relics in our period is that contained in the Monachus Littorensis which deals with the acquisition of the body of S. Nicholas of Myra, when the Venetians were on the way to the Holy Land. The worth of this account, as previously seen, has to be questioned in terms of its relation to historical fact, but it is still indicative of the religious devotion shown by the Italians which found an expression in aspects of their role in the Latin East. When the Venetians heard of the relics that were believe to be at Myra, they rushed off in anarchic fashion, without waiting to hear the advice of the Bishop of Castello or of John Michael. When they arrived at the church, however, the soldiers “stopping and discarding their arms, they prayed with tears….”92  The joy of Venice when the fleet returned there in December 1100 is shown as being just as much through the translation to there of the relics of S. Nicholas, as at the homecoming of the crusaders following their triumphs in the East.93 The crusader’s attitude to the relics can be regarded as a product of the same religious devotion noted in their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The translation of S. Nicholas to Venice and the achievements of the Venetians in the East may be factually unrelated, but it is appropriate that they are so closely linked in the Monachus Liuorensis; they largely sprang from the same root.

It seems impossible to generalise about the motivation of the crusaders. Even at the time of the First Crusade it is undoubtedly true that for some men, material factors were of prime consideration. Similarly, a single event such as the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, often regarded as the triumph of secularism can be portrayed as indicative of the religious devotion of the crusaders and specifically their desire for relics.94  It appears that the best which may be done is attempt to obtain a balance between the various spiritual and material forces which prompted men to take the cross. This is just as true in the case of the Italians as any other group of crusaders. Perhaps they have been maligned through their subsequent role in the history of the Latin East; it seems that in the late eleventh century they were as aware of the spiritual side of the crusade as crusaders from the rest of Europe. Their initial inspiration, and their motivation in the East, were regarded by contemporary writers as the results of admonitions which stressed the spiritual rewards of such acts. As pilgrims, they showed their religious devotion at Jerusalem and the other holy places; these acts are described in terms which purport to show the profound emotional effect which the Holy Land had on them, just as on the other crusaders. In later years, the commerce of the Latin East may have led the Italians to take a more cynical view of the spiritual side of the crusade. In the period, with which has been dealt, with here, spiritual motivation and religious devotion appear to have been important factors in the Italians’ presence in the Holy Land.95

End Notes 

1. ALBERTI AQUENSIS Historia Hierosolymitana, in Recueil des historiens des Croisades. Historiens Occidentaux, 4, Paris 1866 (Hereafter RHC Oc.), 520.

2. On the commercial role of the Italians in the Latin East, cfr. W. HEYD, Histoire du commerce du Levant au Moyen Age, trad. fr. Paris 1885, 131-190 and 310-359; C. CAHEN, Orient Latin et commerce du Levant, Bulletin de la Faculte des Lettres de Strasbourg, 29 (1951), 328-346; J. PRAWER, The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, London 1972, 85-93 and 391-402; ID.,Crusader Institutions, Oxford 1980, 217-249.

3. J.S.C. RILEY-SMITH, Government in Latin Syria and the commercial Privileges of foreign Merchants, in Relations between East and West in the Middle Ages, ed. by D. BAKER, Edinburgh 1973, 109-132.

4. E. H. BYRNE, Genoese Trade with Syria in the Twelfth Century, American Historical Review, 25 (1919-1920), 193.

5. MONACHI LITTORENSIS Historia de trdnslatione Sanctorum Magni Nicolai, RCH Oc., 5, 271-272.

6. FULCIIERII CARNOTENSIS Historia Hierosolymitana, ed. H. HAGENMEYER, Heidelberg 1913, 397.

7. J.S.C. RILEY-SMITH, An approach to Crusading Ethics, Reading Medieval Studies, 6 (1980), 3-19.

8. CAFARI De Liberatione civitatum Orientis, ed. L. T. BELGRANO, Roma 1890 (Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medioevo. Fonti per la storia d’Italia, I1), 99-124.

9. See C. ERDMANN, The Origin of the Idea of Crusade, Princeton 1977, passim.

10.Ibid., 110-112 and 117.

11. H.E.J. COWDREY, The Mahdia Campaign of 1087, English Historical Review, 92 (1977), 23-29.

12. Ibid., 2-3.

13. Ibid., 21-22.

14. Ibid., 25.

15. H. HAGENMEYER, Die Kreuzzugsbriefe aus den Jahren 1088-1100, Innsbruck 1901, 137.

16. COWDREY, The Mahdia Compaign, cit., 25.

17. Ibid., 26.

18. CAFARI De Liberatione, ed. cit., 102-109; RAIMUNDI DE AGUILERS Liber, ed. J. A. HILL‑L. L. Hui, Paris 1969, 49.

19. CAFARI De Liberatione, ed. cit., 102-109; RAIMUNDI DE AGUIL. Liber, ed. cit., 141; Gesta Francorum et aliorum Hierosolymitanorum, ed. R. HILL, London 1962, 88; PETRI TUDEHODI Historia de Hierosolymitano Itinere, ed. J.H. HILL-L.L. HILL, Paris 1977, 135.

20. CAFARI De Liberatione, ed. cit., 111-113 and 120-121; FULCH. CARNOT. Historia, ed. cit., 393-405; CAFARI Annales, ed. L. T. BELGRANO, Cit., 5-13.

21. CAFARI De Liberatione, ed. cit.. 120-121.

22. Ibid., 118-119.

23. ALBERTI AQUENS. Historia, ed. cit., 605-608; CAFARI De Liberatione, ed. cit., 120-121; FULCH. CARNOT. Historia, ed. cit., 462-464.

24. Gesta triumphalia Pisanorum in captione Jerusalem, RCH Oc., 5, 368; ALBERTI AQUENS. Historia, ed. cit., 511.

25. Ibid., 605-608.

26. MONACHI I.ITT. Historia, ed. cit., 256-279; Annales Venetici breves, MGH SS., 14, 70.

27. On this form of literature, cfr. P.G. GEARY, Furta Sacra, Princeton 1978, 11-16 and 115-127.

28. The point is made by J.S.C. RILEY-SMITH, Peace never Established: the Case of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Transaction of the Royal Historical Society, 28 (1978), 94-95.

29. Cfr. the view expressed in PRAWER, Latin Kingdom, cit., 85-93; J. RICHARD, Le Royaume latin de Jerusalem, Paris 1953, 217-227 and 284-292. This opinion has been adopted by most writers on the subject.

30. J.S.C. RILEY-SMITH, What were the Crusaders?, London 1977, 29-33.

31. RAIMUNDI DE AGUIL. Liber, ed. cit., 141.

32. Gesta Francorum, ed. cit., 88.

33. On these privileges, cfr. J. A. BRUNDAGE, Medieval Canon Law and the Crusader, Madison 1969, 139‑190; RILEY-SMITH, What were the Crusaders?, cit., 54-62.

34. CAFARI De Liberatione, ed. cit., 102.

35. ID. Annales, ed. cit., 12.

36. ID. De Liberatione, ed. cit., 121.

37. Annales Pisani di Bernardo Maragone, ed. M. L. GENTILE, Bologna 1936 (RIS, 6.2), 7.

38. MONACHI LITT. Historia, ed. cit., 255.

39. Ibid., 262.

40. Ibid., 274.

41. Ibid., 276.

42. ALBERTI AQUENS. Historia, ed. cit., 520.

43. ANDREAE DANDULI Chronica per extensum descripta aa. 46-1280, X(L), 17, ed. E. PASTORELLO, Citta di Castello 1942 (RIS, 12.1), 221.

44. See RILEY-SMITH, An Approach, cit., 11-14.

45. HAGENMEYER, Die Kreuzzugsbriefe, cit., 150.

46. CAFARI De Liberatione, ed. cit., 107-108.

47. MONACHI LITT. Historia, ed. cit., 255.

48. Ibid., 277.

49. CAFARI De Liberatione, ed. cit., 119.

50. Gesta triumphalia Pisanorum, ed. cit., 368.

51. J.S.C. RILEY-SMITH, Crusading as an Act of Love, History, 65 (1980), 177-192.

52. P.F. KEHR, Papsturkunden in Spanien, 1, Katalonien, Berlin 1926, 288.

53. MONACHI LITT. Historia, ed. cit., 275.

54. CAFARI De Liberatione, ed. cit., 103.

55. MONACHI LITT. Historia, ed. cit., 273.

56. Gesta triumphalia Pisanorum, ed. cit., 368.

57. Annales Pisani, ed. cit., 7.

58. HAGENMEYER, Die Kreuzzugsbriefe, cit., 179-181.

59. P.F. KEHR, Regesta Pontificum RomanorumItalia Pontificia, 6.1, Berlin 1961, 54.

60. LANDULFI DE SANCTO PAULO Historia Mediolanensis, 4, MGH SS., 20, 22.

61. HAGENMEYER, Die Kreuzzugsbriefe, cit.. 137.

62. CAFARI De Liberatione, ed. cit., 101.

63. Ibid., 102.

64. MONACHI LITT. Historia, ed. cit., 255.

65. ANDR. DAND. Chronica, ed. cit., 221.

66. MONACHI LITT. Historia, ed. cit., 256.

67. CAFARI De Liberatione, ed. cit., 111-112.

68. Ibid., 121.

69. Ibid., 102.

70. Ibid., 103.

71. MONACHI LITT. Historia, ed. cit., 275.

72 ALBERTI AQUENS. Historia, ed. cit., 606.

73. CAFARI Annales, ed. cit., 11.

74. Cfr. F.H. RUSSELL, The Just War in the Middle Ages, Cambridge 1975, 17-23; RILEY‑Storm, Crusading as an Act of Love, cit., 185-187.

75. CAFARI De Liberatione, ed. cit., 106.

76. ID. Annales, ed. cit., 10-11.

77. MONACHI LITT. Historia, ed. cit., 257.

78. Ibid., 273.

79. Ibid., 274.

80. ALBERTI AQUENS. Historia, ed. cit., 606.

81. CAFARI Annales, ed. cit., 7

82. Ibid., 7-9.

83. Ibid., 9.

84. ID. De Liberatione, ed. cit., 102.

85. Ibid., 118.

86. MONACHI LITT. Historia, ed. cit., 605.

87. ALBERTI AQUENS. Historia, ed. cit., 605.

88. ERDMANN, Origin, cit., 355-371; see also H.E. MAYER, The Crusades, Oxford 1972, 9-40; H.E.J. COWDREY, Pope Urban II’s Preaching of the First Crusade, History, 55 (1970), 177-188.

89. MONACHI LITT. Historia, ed. cit., 272.

90. Ibid., 273.

91. ROBERTI MON. Historia Iherosolimitana, RHC Oc., 3, 279.

92. MONACHI LITT. Historia, ed. cit., 260.

93. Ibid., 278-280.

94. A. FROLOW, La deviation de la IV Croisade vers Constantinople, Revue de 1’Historie des Religions, 145 (1954), 168-187; 146 (1954), 67-89 and 194-219.

95. A version of this article was submitted as part of a University of London MA degree in 1982. I am grateful to my supervisor, Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith, for his criticisms, comments and advice.

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