The Fifth Crusade before the port of Damietta, Egypt c. 1217 A. D.
Quia maior was the papal bull calling the Fifth Crusade, issued in April of 1213. It was intended to garner mass popular support for the Crusading cause to retake the Holy Land from the Ayyubid Dynasty. As St. Francis of Assisi participated in this Crusade, it is of important historical interest for understanding the motivations of the Saint of Peace.
This particular translation of Quia maior is found in “The Crusades — Idea and Reality, 1095-1274” by Louise and Jonathan Riley-Smith. Text found for free use on the Internet at http://lit.genius.com/Pope-innocent-iii-quia-maior-annotated
Pope Innocent III, Servant of the Servants of God:
Because at this time there is a more compelling urgency than there has ever been before to help the Holy Land in her great need and because we hope that the aid sent to her and will be greater than that which has ever reached her before, listen when, again taking up the old cry, we cry to you. We cry on behalf of him who when dying cried with a loud voice on the cross, becoming obedient to God the father unto the death of the cross, crying out so that he might snatch us from the crucifixion of eternal death. He also cries out with his own voice and says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” as if to say, to put it more plainly, “If anyone wishes to follow me to the crown, let him also follow me to the battle, which is now proposed as a test for all men.” For it was entirely in the power of almighty God, if he had so wished, to prevent that land from being handed over into hostile hands. And if he wishes he can easily free it from the hands of the enemy, since nothing can resist his will. But when already wickedness had gone beyond all bounds and love in the hearts of many men had grown cold, he put this contest before his faithful followers to awaken them from the sleep of death to the pursuit of life, in which he might try their faith “as gold in the furnace.” He has granted them an opportunity to win salvation, nay more, a means of salvation, so that those who fight faithfully for him will be crowned in happiness by him, but those who refuse to pay him the servant’s service that they owe him in a crisis of such great urgency will justly deserve to suffer a sentence of damnation of the Last Day of severe Judgment.
Oh, how much good has already come from this cause! How many men, converted to penance, have delivered themselves up to the service of the Crucified One in order to liberate the Holy Land and have won a crown of glory as if they had suffered the agony of martyrdom, men who perhaps might have died in their wicked ways, ensnared in carnal pleasures and worldy enticements! This is the ancient device of Jesus Christ which he has deigned to renew in these times for the salvation of his faithful. For if any temporal king is thrown out of his kingdom by his enemies, when he regains his lost kingdom surely he will condemn his vassals as faithless men and for these bad men will devise unimagined torments, with which he will bring them to a bad end, unless they risk for him not only their possessions but also their persons? In just such a way will the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ, who bestowed on you body and soul and all the other good things you have, condemn you for the vice of ingratitude and the crime of infidelity if you fail to come to his aid when he has been, as it were, thrown out of his kingdom, which he purchased with the price of his blood. So you must know that anyone who fails to serve his Redeemer in this hour of need is blameworthily severe and severely to be blamed.
For how can a man be said to love his neighbor as himself, in obedience to God’s command, when, knowing that his brothers, who are Christians in faith and in name, are held in the hands of the perfidious Saracens in dire imprisonment and are weighed down by the yoke of most heavy slavery, he does not do something effective to liberate them, thereby transgressing the command of that naturl law which the Lord gave in the gospel, “Whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them?” Or perhaps you do not know that many thousands of Christians are being held in slavery and imprisonment in their hands, tortured by countless torments?
The Christian peoples, in fact, held almost all the Saracen provinces up to the time of Blessed Gregory; but since then a son of perdition has arisen, the false prophet Muhammad, who has seduced many men from the truth by worldly enticements and the pleasures of the flesh. Although his treachery has prevailed up to the present day, we nevertheless put out trust in the Lord who has already given us a sign that good is to come, that the end of this beast is approaching, whose “number”, according to the Revelation of St. John, will end in 666 years, of which already nearly 600 have passed. And in addition to the former great and grave injuries which the treacherous Saracens have inflicted on our Redeemer, on account of our offences, the same perfidious Saracens have recently built a fortified stronghold to confound the Christian name on Mount Thabor, where Christ revealed to his disciples a vision of his future glory; by means of this fortress they think they will easily occupy the city of Acre, which is very near them, and then invade the rest of that land without any obstructive resistance, since it is almost entirely devoid of forces or supplies.
So rouse yourselves, most beloved sons, transforming your quarrels and rivalries, brother against brother, into associations of peace and affection; gird yourselves for the service of the Crucified One, not hesitating to risk your possessions and your persons for him who laid down his life and shed his blood for you, equally certain and sure that if you are truly penitent you will achieve eternal rest as a profit from this temporal labour. For we, trusting in the mercy of almighty God and the authority of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, by that power of binding and loosing that God as conferred on us, although unworthy, grant to all those submitting to this labour personally or at their own expense full forgiveness of their sins, of which they make truthful oral confession with contrite hearts, and as the reward of the just we promise them a greater share of eternal salvation. To those who do not personally campaign but at least send out suitable men at their own expense according to their means and station in life and similarly to those who go personally although at another’s expense we concede full forgiveness of their sins. We also wish and concede that all those who donate a fitting proportion of their goods to the aid of that land should share in the remission of sins, according to the amount of their aid and the depth of their devotion.
We also take under the protection of Blessed Peter and ourselves the persons and goods of those same people from the time they take the cross; in fact they are to remain under the protection of the archbishops and the bishops and all the prelates of the Church of God and we decree that these goods are to remain untouched and rest unmolested until it is known for certain whether they have died or have returned home. If anyone dares to defy this he must be restrained by the prelates of the churches with ecclesiastical censure and with no right of appeal.
And if any of those setting out to that place are strictly held by oath to repay usuries we order with the same strictness that their creditors be compelled by the prelates of the churches to refrain from enforcing the oaths that had been made to them and to stop exacting usuries. And if any of their creditors forces them to pay usuries we command him to be compelled by a similar censure to restore them. We command Jews to be compelled by means of the secular power to remit usuries to the same people; and all contact of any kind, whether in commercial dealings or in anything else, with all the Christian faithful should be denied them by sentence of excommunication until they have remitted them.
But so that the aid to the Holy Land may be given more easily if it is shared by many, we beg each and every one of you through the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the one only true, the one eternal God – and we speak as Vicar of Christ for Christ – for an adequate number of fighting men with expenses for three years, to be provided by archbishops and bishops, abbots and priors and chapters, whether of cathedrals or other conventual churches, and all clergy, and also cities, villages and castles, according to their own means. And if there are not enough fighting men for this in any particular company, several groups must be joined together. For we certainly hope that manpower will not be insufficient if the means are not lacking. We ask the same thing from those kings and princes, count, barons and other magnates, who themselves perhaps are not going personally to the service of the Crucified one. We also demand naval help from maritime cities.
And so that we should not seem to be laying on others “heavy and insupportable burdens” which we are not willing to “move with a finger of our own”, we declare truthfully before God that we ourselves will do with a willing heart what we have demanded others to do.
We give special license to the clergy for their needs in this business; for this matter and without any contradiction they may pledge the returns of their benefices for up to three years.
Because in fact it would mean that aid to the Holy Land would be much impeded or delayed if before taking the cross each person had to be examined to see whether he was personally fit and able to fulfill a vow of this kind, we concede that anyone who wishes, except persons bound by religious profession, may take the cross in such a way that this vow maybe be commuted, redeemed or deferred by apostolic mandate when urgent need or evident expediency demands it.
And for the same reason we revoke the remissions and indulgences formerly granted by us to those setting out for Spain against the Moors or against the heretics in Provence, chiefly because these were conceded to them in circumstances which have already entirely passed and for that particular cause which has already for the most part disappeared, for so far affairs in both places have gone well, by the grace of God, so that the immediate use of force is not needed. If perchance it were needed, we would take care to give our attention to any serious situation that arises. We concede, however, that remissions and indulgences of this kind should remain available to the people of Provence and the Spaniards.
And because corsairs and pirates hinder exceedingly aid to the Holy Land by capturing and despoiling those traveling to and from her, we bind them and their principal aiders and abettors with the bond of excommunication, forbidding, under threat of unending anathema, anyone knowingly to communicate with them in any contract of sale or purchase and enjoining the rulers of their cities and districts to call them back and curb them from committing this inquity. Otherwise we will take pains to show ecclesiastical severity towards their persons and their lands, since such people are turned against the Christian name no less than are the Saracens, and because to them unwilling to confound the wicked is nothing less than to foster them, and a man who openly fails to challenge a malefactor does not escape the suspicion of being in some secret league with him. We renew, moreover, the sentence of excommunication promulgated at the Lateran Council against those who carry weapons, iron and wood, for building galleys to the Saracens and who captain the Saracens’ pirate vessels, and if these people are captured we judge that they are to be punished by the confiscation of their goods and are to become the slaves of their captors. We order sentence of this kind to be read out publicly each Sunday and feastday in all maritime cities.
We are sure that, since we ought to put much more trust in divine mercy than in human power, we ought to fight in such a conflict not so much with physical arms as with spiritual ones. And so we decree and command that once a month there must be a general procession of men separately and, where it can be done, of women separately, praying with minds and bodies humbly disposed and with devout and fervent prayer, that merciful God will relive us of this shameful disgrace by liberating from the hands of the pagans that land in which he accomplished the universal sacrament of our redemption and by restoring it to the Christian people to the praise and glory of his holy name; with this wise proviso that during that procession the preaching of the cross which brings salvation should always be offered to the people in a way that is assiduous and encouraging. Fasting and almsgiving should be joined to prayer, so that with these as wings the prayer itself may fly more easily and quickly to the most loving ears of God, who will mercifully listen to us at the appointed time. And every day during the celebration of mass, when the moment has come after the Kiss of Peace when the saving sacrifice is to be offered for the sins of the world or is about to be consumed, everyone, men and women alike, must humbly prostrate themselves on the ground and the psalm “Oh God, the heathens are come into thy inheritance” should be sung loudly by the clergy. When this has been ended reverently with this verse, “Let God Arise, and let his enemies be scattered: and let them that hate him flee from before his face, the priest who is celebrating must chant this prayer over the altar:
God, who disposes all things with marvelous providence, we humbly beseech thee to snatch from the hands of the enemies of the cross the land which thine only-begotten son consecrated with his own blood and to restore it to Christian worship by mercifully directing in the way of eternal salvation the vows of the faithful here present, made for its liberation, though the same Our Lord etc.
An empty chest must be placed in each church where a general procession gathers. It is to be locked with three keys which are to be looked after faithfully and held, one by an honest priest, another by a devout layman and a third by another religious. The clergy and laity, men and women, should put their alms for the aid of the Holy Land into this chest, to be spent according to the decision of those to whom this concern is entrusted. Nothing ought to be laid down about arranging a fitting place from which the army of the Lord may depart and about its proper and orderly passage and its time of departure until the crusaders have taken the cross. But then, when the circumstances on every side have been taken into consideration, we must decide to take whatever measures seem right with the advice of prudent men.
And so we are committing the task of carrying this out. To our beloved sons the abbot of Salem and the former abbot of Neuburg and Conrad the dean of Speyer and the provost of Augsburg, men of entirely proven integrity and faith, who, after they have admitted to their company men of foresight and integrity, must on our authority lay down and determine whatever arrangements they consider advantageous to promote this business. And they must see to it that their decisions are faithfully and carefully carried out in each diocese by suitable men especially appointed for this task. And so we ask, advise and beseech all of you in the Lord, commanding you by means of apostolic letters and enjoining you in the power of the Holy Spirit, to take pains to show them that you are the kind of people through and in whom they may produce the much desired result, supplying them with necessities inasmuch as these men are acting in the office of Christ’s legation.