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)