initiator: James of Vitry
recipient: Pope Honorius III, master John of Nivelles, the abbess and convent of Aywières
text: Spring.  James of Vitry [I. Acconensis ecclesie minister/Acconensis episcopus] informs Pope Honorius III, master John of Nivelles, the abbess and convent of Aywières and others of the fall of Damietta to the crusaders. He narrates how the Sarraceni offered to return the relic of the True Cross, and all the land, together with Jerusalem and all captives, and promised to subsidize the refortification of Jerusalem and to return the castles of Turo, in the territory of Tyre, Sephet, Beaufort and Belinas, the walls of which thay had destroyed. They wished to retain Craccus and Mons Regalis, for which they would pay an annual rent. Many of the peregrini wanted to accept this offer, but others suspected fraud, especially the Knights Templar, the Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem, the Hospitallers of St Mary of the Germans, the papal legate, the patriarch, archbishops, bishops and all the clergy, who feared that the withdrawal of the crusaders would encourage the Muslims to recover the land, Jerusalem, Mons Thabor and other castles. And they did not believe that the Muslims had the True Cross. James describes how in the midst of these debates the city was entered and surrendered to the crusaders without resistance. He describes the dreadful conditions in Damietta and its purification. A basilica and churches were established [out of mosques], but because of looting, the withdrawal of money by the Muslims or its casting into the river, only 400000 besants could be collected for division. 400 of the more eminent Muslims were kept in captivity to be ransomed, but others were sold into slavery and more than 500 were baptized. With the agreement of the peregrini, the papal legate incorporated the city into the kingdom of Jerusalem and its houses and towers were divided among the peregrini according to nationhood. The city of Thanei with its castle also fell into Christian hands, to be granted suffragan status under Damietta. James eulogizes the crusaders. He returns to a Muslim assault that he had described in an earlier letter, in which there were more than 1000 Christian losses and the electus Belvacensis, frater eius Andreas de Nantuel, Iohannes de Archies miles strenuus, Andreas de Espoisse, Galterus camerarius regis Francie, filius eius vicecomes Bellimontis, frater Andegavensis episcopi, Odo de Castellione and many others were captured. James himself had joined a Christian sortie, unarmed and accompanying the papal legate who carried the relic of the True Cross, but was unharmed. He dwells on the difficulty of besieging Damietta. He asks for prayers. In the copy of his letter to the pope he tries to estimate the number of defenders and inhabitants of Damietta. In the copies of his letter to John of Nivelles and the abbess of Aywières he reports that Dominus Reinerus prior sancti Michaelis, Colinus Anglicus clericus noster and two of James’s companions, magister Michael and domnus Matheus, to whom James had given care of the church of the Holy Cross [in Acre], have joined the Order of Friars Minor [Franciscans]. With difficulty James has retained the services of [I. de Cameracho] the cantor, Henricus [senescalcus ecclesie Acconensis] and others. He describes the spread of the Order of Friars Minor and how the magister and founder of the Order [Francis] preached to the Muslims and to the sultan of Egypt himself. In the copy of his letter to John of Nivelles he adds greetings from his companions O. de Dionanto, I. de Cameracho his cantor and Henricus senescalcus ecclesie Acconensis. He reports that he is ill and sends 2 little boys, saved from a fire in Egypt, together with silk cloth and other letters. He asks John to show his letter to the abbot of Villers and other friends.
Spring.  James of Vitry [I. Acconensis ecclesie minister/Acconensis episcopus] informs Pope Honorius III, master John of Nivelles, the abbess and convent of Aywières and others of the fall of Damietta to the crusaders. He narrates how the Sarraceni offered to return the relic of the True... more
sources: James of Vitry, Lettres, pp. 123-33, no. 6 (RRH no. 928)