initiator: James of Vitry
recipient: Pope Honorius III
text: Sept. 14 and 22. In the army besieging Damietta. James of Vitry [I. Acconensis ecclesie minister] writes to Pope Honorius and to his friends. He narrates how, after returning from Caesarea, the Christian army in Palestine built a new castle [Castrum Peregrinorum] by the sea, at a place on the road to Jerusalem called Districte, how the Sarraceni made an unsuccessful attack on Caesarea, how, after the Christian army had returned to Acre, a fleet of 40 Frisian and German cogones arrived not long after Easter and a council-of-war [commune consilium] decided to invade Egypt [Egyptum]. He describes the wealth of Egypt, its flatness, the absence of major fortifications other than Damiata, Babylonia - called Kayre by the Egyptians - and Alexandria, the sites of Christian pilgrimage in the country and the fact that it is the centre of the production of balsam. He maintains that most of the population are still Christian, if pacific, and comments on the fact that there are Christian populations in the East. He narrates how on 24 May the patriarch of Jerusalem embarked with the relic of the True Cross, which was a splinter of that which had been lost [at Hattin], how the army voyaged to Egypt, arrived before Damietta and established an encampment on an island before the city. He describes the practice of the incubination of hen eggs, the situation of the city, the flooding of the river Nile, sickness in the army, the difficulty, even with siege engines, of ship-borne assaults on a strong tower in the middle of the river from which a chain barred the progress of shipping. The attacks continued for 4 months until the Frisians, under magister Oliverus Coloniensis cancellarius, constructed a magnificent and expensive floating siege engine on 2 ships and the tower was captured. At the time of writing [14 September] the Christians, who were expecting reinforcements, were planning a crossing of the Nile to attack Damietta. Many Sarraceni were deserting and being baptized, while part of the garrison of Mons Thabor had been sent to Egypt and their castle had been destroyed, as had been the city of Gibelet [Gibel ?] and 5 fortresses between Tyre and Damascus, at a time when the Christians had strengthened the fortresses [munitiones] of Districtum and Caesarea on the way to Jerusalem. Further, the sultan of Egypt had died from sorrow at the loss of the tower in the Nile. James of Vitry asks for prayers that the Christians successfully take Egypt. In the copy of his letter to the pope, James reports that 9 ships with domnus Petrus Hanibal and other Romans arrived in the week after 24 August. Cardinal Pelagius of Albano, the papal legate, has reached Acre with a Roman prince and is daily expected in Egypt. In the copy of his letter to his friends, James of Vitry asks for prayers for those who have died, including magister Walterus de Tornacho archidiaconus ecclesie Acconensis, who did much good in Acre; magister Constantius de Duacho decanus ecclesie Acconensis; domnus Iohannes de Cameracho ecclesie Acconensis cantor; domnus Reinerus, a cleric in James’s household who became Sancti Michaelis in Accon pastor; H. serviens episcopi Acconensis; magister Thomas cancellarius Noviomensis; magister Leonius qui legebat de Theologia in civitate Acconensi; magister Alexander nepos magistri R. cardinalis; Iohannes iunior de Cameraco nepos cantoris ecclesie Acconensis; magister Reinaldus de Barbachon ecclesie Acconensis thesaurarius. James adds that he was very ill for 2 months in the camp before Damietta.
Sept. 14 and 22. In the army besieging Damietta. James of Vitry [I. Acconensis ecclesie minister] writes to Pope Honorius and to his friends. He narrates how, after returning from Caesarea, the Christian army in Palestine built a new castle [Castrum Peregrinorum] by the sea, at a place on the road... more
sources: James of Vitry, Lettres, pp. 101-11, no. 4 (RRH no. 915)
initiator: James of Vitry
recipient: Pope Honorius III
additional institution: Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem
text: May - Sept. 1-30.  James of Vitry [I. Acconensis ecclesie minister] writes to Pope Honorius III. He continues his narrative of the Fifth Crusade, describing how the Christian army reached Damietta, took the strong tower in the middle of the river Nile, breaking the iron chains that stretched across the river and prevented ships passing up stream, although the Sarraceni sank ships to impede any progress. Cardinal Pelagius had his cog hauled into the upper river, as had James of Vitry himself, although with losses, including his barbota with 20 men on board, and the cog of the Knights Templar, which had to fight its way upstream with heavy losses. He describes galley battles [galeae] with losses on both sides and the attempt by the Sarraceni to build a bridge up-river, the sufferings during the winter from storms, floods, cold and disease, the deaths of Cardinal Robert de Courçon and the bishop of Paris, the building of a canal round the Christian camp, the fasting and liturgical processions decreed by Cardinal Pelagius of Albano and the patriarch of Jerusalem, and their expulsion of malefactors, the passage of ships up the canal, the flight of the sultan of Egypt, the building of a pontoon by the Christians, their occupation of the bank on which the city stood, its encirclement and the preparation of siege-engines, the arrival of major Muslim reinforcements under Coradinus rex Damasci [al-Mu‘azzam], the brother of the sultan of Egypt, and their withdrawal after an unsuccessful assault on the Christians, because of threats to Aleppo and Damascus from the sultan of Konya, the king of Cilician Armenia and one of Saladin’s sons. James returns to his letter, the early part of which had been written at the time of the Easter passage. He describes attacks on the city, a break down in discipline and a Muslim attack that resulted in heavy Christian losses. He reports the deaths or captivity of 200 milites of the Knights Templar and the Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem and others, among whom were the electus Belvacensis, domnus Walter regis Francie camerarius, filius eius vicecomes de Bellomonte, domnus Iohannes de Archies, domnus Andreas de Espoisse and domnus Andreas de Nantuel, the brother of the electus. He reports desertions from the Christian army, but also that the Muslims in Damietta face starvation. He hopes that once Damietta is taken the crusade will advance into Egypt and will then recover Jerusalem.
May - Sept. 1-30.  James of Vitry [I. Acconensis ecclesie minister] writes to Pope Honorius III. He continues his narrative of the Fifth Crusade, describing how the Christian army reached Damietta, took the strong tower in the middle of the river Nile, breaking the iron chains that stretched... more
sources: James of Vitry, Lettres, pp. 112-22, no. 5 (RRH no. 924)