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Medieval Sourcebook:
Innocent III:
Summons to A Crusade, 1215


("Bullariulii Romanum, editio Taurinensis," vol iii, p. 300.)

Aspiring with ardent desire to liberate the Holy Land from the hands of the ungodly, by the counssel of prudent men Who fully know he circumstances of times and places the holy council approving: we decree that the crusaders shall so prepare themselves that, at the Calends of the June following the next one, all who have arranged to cross by sea shall come together in the kingdom of Sicily; some, as shall be convenient and fitting, at Brindisi, and others at Messina and the places adjoining on both sides where we also have arranged then to be present in person if God wills it, in order that by our counsel and aid the Christian army may be healthfully arranged, about to start with the divine and apostolic benediction.

1. Against the same term, also, those who have decided to go by land shall endeavour to make themselves ready; announcing to us, in the meantime, this determination, so that we may grant them, for counsel and aid, a suitable legate from our side.

2. Priests, moreover, and other clergy who shall be in the Christian army, subordinates as well as prelates, shall diligently insist with prayer and exhortation, reaching the crusaders by word and example alike that they should always have the divine fear and love before their eves, and that they should not say or do anything which might offend the divine majesty. Although at times they may lapse into sin, through true penitence they shall soon arise again; showing humility of heart and body, and observing moderation as well in their living as in their apparel; altogether avoiding dissensions and emulations; rancour and spleen being entirely removed from them. So that, thus armed with spiritual and material weapons, they may fight the more securely against the enemies of the faith; not presuming in their own power, but hoping in the divine virtue.

3. To the clergy themselves, moreover, we grant that they may retain their benefices intact for three years, as if they were residing in their churches; and, if it shall be necessary, they may be allowed to place them in pledge for that time.

4. Lest therefore this holy undertaking should happen to be impeded or retarded, we distinctly enjoin on all the prelates of the churches, that, separately, throughout their districts, they diligently move and induce to fulfil their vows to God those who have arranged to resume the sign of the cross; and besides these, the others who are signed who have hitherto been signed; and with the cross, and that, if it shall be necessary, through sentences of excommunication against their persons and of interdict against their lands, all backsliding being put an end to, they compel them to fulfil their vows: those only being excepted who shall meet with some impediment on account of which, according to the ordinance of the apostolic chair, their vow may rightly be commuted or deferred.

5. Besides this, lest anything which pertains to the work of Jesus Christ be omitted, we will and command that the patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, abbots and others who - obtain the care of Souls shall studiously propound to those committed to them the word of the cross, exhorting through the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit-the one sole true eternal God,-the kings, dukes, princes, margraves, counts and barons and other magnates, also the communities of the cities towns and burghs, that those who do not in person go to the aid of the Holy Land, shall donate a suitable number of warriors, with the necessary expenses for three years, according to their own wealth, for the remission of their sins,-as has been expressed in our general letters, and as, for the greater safety, we shall also express below. Of this remission we wish to be partakers not only those who furnish their own ships, but also those who on account of this work have striven to build new ships.

6. To those that refuse, moreover, if any by chance shall be so ungrateful to our Lord God, they (the clergy) shall firmly protest on behalf of the apostolic see, that they shall know that for this they are about to answer to us, at the final day of a strict investigation, before the tremendous Judgment. First considering, however, with what conscience, or with what security they will be able to confess in the presence of Jesus Christ the only begotten Son of God, into whose hands the Father gave all things, if they shall refuse in this matter, as if it were properly their own, to serve Him who was crucified for sinners; by whose gift they live, by whose benefit they are sustained, nay, more, by whose blood they are redeemed.

7. Lest, however, we seem to impose upon the shoulders of men heavy and unbearable burdens which we are unwilling to put a finger to, like those who only say, and do not do; behold we, from what we have been able to spare beyond our necessary and moderate expenses, do grant and give thirty thousand pounds to this work; and, besides the transport from Rome and the neighbouring places that we have granted, we assign in addition, for this same purpose, three thousand marks of silver which have remained over to us from the alms of some of the faithful ; the rest having been faithfully distributed for the needs and uses of the aforesaid Land, through the hand of the abbot of blessed memory, the patriarch of Jerusalem, and the masters of the Templars and Hospitallers.

8. Desiring, moreover, to have the other prelates of the churches, as well as the whole clergy, as participators and sharers both in the merit and in the reward, we have decreed with the general approbation of the council, that absolutely the entire clergy, subordinates as well as prelates, shall give the twentieth part of their ecclesiastical revenues for three ears in aid of the Holy Land, through the hands of those who shall by the care of the pope be appointed for this purpose; certain monks alone being excepted, who are rightly to be exempted from this taxation; likewise those who, having assumed or being about to assume the cross, are on the point of making the expedition.

9. We, also, and our brothers the cardinals of the holy Roman Church, shall pay fully one tenth; and they shall all know that they are all bound to faithfully observe this under penalty of excommunication; so that those who in this matter shall knowingly commit fraud shall incur sentence of excommunication.

10. Since, indeed, those who with right judgment remain in the service of the divine Commander ought to rejoice in a special privilege: when the time of the expedition exceeds one year in length, the crusaders shall be free from taxes and talliages and other burdens. Upon their assuming the cross we take their persons and goods under the protection of the blessed Peter and of ourselves, so that they shall remain under the care of the archbishops, bishops and other prelates of the church. Special protectors, nevertheless, being deputed for this purpose, so that, until most certain news shall have been obtained either of their death or of their return, their possessions shall remain intact and unassailed. And if any one presume to the contrary he shall be restrained by ecclesiastical censure.

11. But if any of those proceeding thither are bound by an oath to pay interest, we command, under the same penalty, that their creditors be compelled to remit the oath and to desist from claiming interest. But if any one of their creditors shall compel them to pay interest, we command that, by a similar process, they shall be compelled to restore it. But we command that Jews shall be compelled by the secular power to remit their interest; and until they remit it, all intercourse with them on the part of followers of Christ shall be denied, under pain of excommunication. For those, moreover, who are unable at present to pay their debts to the Jews, the secular princes shall so provide, with useful delay, that, from the time when they started on their journey until most certain news is obtained of their death return, they shall -not incur the inconvenience of interest. The Jews being compelled to count the income which they in the meantime received the lands pledged to them, towards the principal of the sum loaned, the necessary expenses being deducted; for such a benefice does not suffer much loss, when it so delays the payment that it is not itself absorbed by the debt. The prelates of the churches, indeed, who shall be found negligent in rendering shall justice to the crusaders and their families, shall know that they shall be severely punished.

12. Furthermore since corsair and pirates excessively impede the aiding of the Holy Land, taking and despoiling those who go to and return from it, we bind with the chain of the anathema their especial aiders and favourers. Forbidding, under threat of the anathema, that any one making common cause with them through any contract of buying or selling; and enjoining on the rectors of their cities and districts to recall and restrain them from this iniquity. Otherwise, since to be unwilling to disturb the wicked is nothing else than to foster them, and since he is not without suspicion of secret collusion who desists from opposing a manifest crime: we will and command that, against their persons and lands, ecclesiastical severity shall be exercised by the prelates of the churches.

13. Moreover we excommunicate and anathematize those false and impious Christians who, against Christ Himself and the Christian people, carry arms, iron, and wood for ships to the Saracens. Those also who sell to them galleys or ships and who, in the pirate ships of the Saracens, keep watch or do the steering, or give them any aid, counsel or favour with regard to their war machines or to anything else, to the harm of the Holy Land; - we decree shall be punished with the loss of their own possessions and shall be the slaves of those who capture them. And we command that on Sundays and feast days, throughout all the maritime cities, this sentence shall be renewed; and to such the lap of the church shall not be opened unless they shall send all that they have received from such damnable gains, and as much more of their own as aid to the afore. said Land; so that. they may be punished with a penalty equal to the amount of their original fault. But if by chance they be insolvent, those guilty of such things shall be otherwise punished; that through their punishment others may be prevented from having the audacity to presume to act similarly.

14. We prohibit, moreover, all Christians, and under pain of anathema, interdict them from sending across or taking across their ships to the lands of the Saracens who inhabit the oriental districts, until four years are past; so that, in this way, greater means of transport may be prepared for those wishing to cross to the aid of the Holy Land, and the aforesaid Saracens may be deprived of the by no means small advantage which has, as a rule, accrued to them from this.

15. Although, indeed, in different councils, tournaments have been generally forbidden under penalty: inasmuch as at this time the matter of the crusade is very much impeded by them, we, under pain of excommunication, do firmly forbid them to be carried on for the next three years.

16. Since, moreover., in order to carry on this matter it is most necessary that the princes and the People of Christ should mutually observe peace, the holy universal synod us: we do establish that, at least for four years, throughout the whole Christian world, a general peace shall be observed; so that, through the prelates of the churches, the contending parties may be brought back to inviolably observe a full peace or a firm truce. . And those who by chance, shall scorn to acquiesce, shall be most sternly compelled to do so through excommunication against their persons and interdict against their land; unless the maliciousness of the injuries shall be so great, that the persons themselves ought not to have the benefit of such peace. But if by chance they despise the ecclesiastical censure, not without reason shall they fear lest, through the authority of the church, the secular power may be brought to bear against them as against disturbers of what pertains to the Crucified One.

17. We therefore, trusting in the mercy of almighty God and in the authority of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, from that power of binding and loosing which God conferred on us, although unworthy, do grant to all who shall undergo this labour in their own persons and at their own expense, full pardon of their sins of which in their heart they shall have freely repented, and which they shall have confessed; and , at the retribution of the just, we promise them an increase of eternal salvation. To those, moreover, who do not go hither in their own persons, but who only at their own expense, according to their wealth quality, send suitable men; and to those likewise, although at another's expense, go, nevertheless, in own persons: we grant full pardon of their sins. Of this remission, we will and grant that, according to the quality of their aid and the depth of their devotion, all shall be partakers, who shall suitably minister from their goods towards the aid of that same Land, or who shall give timely counsel and aid. To all, moreover, who piously proceed in this work the general synod imparts in common the aid of all its benefits, that it may help them to salvation.

Given at the Lateran, on the nineteenth day before the Calends of January (Dec 14th) in the eighteenth year of out pontificate.

trans in Ernest F. Henderson, Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages, (London: George Bell and Sons, 1910), pp. 337-344


This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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(c)Paul Halsall Mar 1996
halsall@murray.fordham.edu