initiator: James of Vitry
recipient: Pope Honorius III, Abbot Walter of Villers, Master John of Nivelles, his brothers and friends at and near Oignies, Duke Leopold of Austria, Stephen dean of Paris, Philip chancellor of Paris, all the masters and scholars living in Paris
text: Apr. 18.  James of Vitry [Iacobus Acconensis ecclesie minister/Acconensis episcopus] writes to Pope Honorius III, Abbot Walter of Villers, Master John of Nivelles, his brothers and friends at and near Oignies, Duke Leopold of Austria, Stephen dean of Paris, Philip chancellor of Paris, all the masters and scholars living in Paris, and his friends everywhere. He continues his account of events at Damietta. He dwells on bad behaviour in the Christian army, dissensions, the departures of the king of Jerusalem, the magister of the Knights Templar with most of his brothers, nearly all the French [Francigene] milites, the patriarch of Jerusalem, the Cypriots and nearly all the settlers in the Latin East, which gravely weaken the crusade, although comes Matheus from Sicily remains with milites retained at his own expense. The Christians remain in Damietta. The sultan of Egypt and his army are not far off and threaten them. James describes the dangers attached to the raiding expeditions of milites and Turcopoles, particularly from Beduini, the imprisonment of more than 3000 Christian captives, taken not only in battle but by Muslim pirates at sea, in Alexandria, Cairo and Damascus, combats between Christians and Muslims, Christian deserters and their treatment by the Sarraceni. He records how the sultan of Egypt persuaded his brother Coradinus, the sultan of Damascus, to besiege the new castle near Acre called Castrum Peregrinum, leading to many leaving Damietta to go to the castle’s relief and the refusal of those in Acre to travel to Egypt. The sultan also ordered another brother called Saleph, who was prince of Calaph in terra Assyriorum, to raid Antioch and Tripoli, with the result that no help is to be had from the principality or county, while Muslim galleys impede the transport of peregrini and merchandise and deprive the crusade of assistance from Cyprus. Muslim attacks on Thaneos and Damietta have increased. There has been an outburst of Christian fervour, so that the army has become like a monastery [quasi claustrum monachorum], and moral and sumptuary sanctions have been imposed, including the expulsion, whipping and branding of prostitutes and fines for tavern drinking or gambling. James describes the enormous efforts made at port and fortification construction, especially as suitable stone can only be found in Cyprus and Syria. The Christians now have 4 fortifications in Egypt: Damietta, Thanis, Turonum in sabulo and castrum Butavant, which is surrounded by water. Meanwhile the Sarraceni are weakened by dissension and fear the approach of David rex Indorum, commonly known as Prester John [presbyter Iohannes]. James incorporates a history of the deeds and conquests of David/Presbyter Iohannes, which he says has been translated from Arabic into Latin and had been brought to the count of Tripoli by merchants carrying spices and precious stones from the East. He has heard that David, who intends to subdue all the Muslim lands, has sent 3 armies, one to the land of Calaph [Aleppo] held by the brother of the sultan of Egypt, one to Baldach [Baghdad] and the third towards Mausa [Mosul], which used to be called Nineveh and is only 15 days’ march from Antioch. James had heard that some Christian prisoners were sent to Baghdad and on to King David, who, when he knew they were Christians, returned them to Antioch. James describes the consternation among the Muslims, the release to the crusade of the electus Belvacensis, frater eius, vicecomes Bellimontis, Iohannes de Archies, Odo de Castellione, Andreas de Espoisse and some Knights Templars, Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem and Hospitallers of St Mary of Germans, with renewed offers of a truce. The crusaders are also glad to hear that the emperor Frederick II was arriving with a large army in the following August. James writes that an Arabic book of prophecy, which has come into his possession, prophesies the successes of Saladin and the Third Crusade and foretells future Christian successes in Egypt and Syria and the liberation of Jerusalem. For him this message is reinforced by an apocryphal gospel, provided by the Suriani, containing similar prophecies. James has used it, the news of King David and the planned arrival of the emperor Frederick, to preach a comforting sermon to the crusaders in Egypt.
Apr. 18.  James of Vitry [Iacobus Acconensis ecclesie minister/Acconensis episcopus] writes to Pope Honorius III, Abbot Walter of Villers, Master John of Nivelles, his brothers and friends at and near Oignies, Duke Leopold of Austria, Stephen dean of Paris, Philip chancellor of Paris, all the... more
sources: James of Vitry, Lettres, pp. 134-53, no. 7 (RRH no. 941)