The Later Crusades, 1274-1580: From Lyons to Alcazar

By Norman Housley | Go to book overview

1
The Loss of the Holy Land 1274-1370

IN March 1272 the recently elected Pope Gregory X summoned a general council of the Church to discuss the three greatest problems facing the Catholic faith: the threat to Latin Syria, the schism between the Latin and Greek churches, and corruption within the Latin church. The Council, which opened proceedings at Lyons in May 1274, therefore forms a natural point at which to begin consideration both of the downfall of Latin Syria, and (in the next chapter) of papal-Byzantine relations in the late Middle Ages. The Second Council of Lyons does not possess the significance, for the history of the crusades, of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, or even the Vienne Council of 1311-12; but as a general council of the Church it was bound to be a major event, and in two respects it was special. It constituted the last attempt by a thirteenth-century pope to launch a crusade which was recognizably cast in the mould of Innocent III's conception of crusading as an expression of papal supremacy in temporal matters. And, more importantly, it can be seen in retrospect as Christendom's last chance to set in motion military activity on a scale sufficient to save the Latin states in Syria from destruction.

Before looking at what took place at Lyons it is thus essential to examine the situation which the General Council was to try to redress (see map 2). The position of the Franks in Syria and Palestine could not be described as favourable at any time after Saladin's great victory at Hattin in 1187. But for some forty years after 1192, when the truce of Jaffa brought the Third Crusade to an end, the Franks' possession of considerable financial resources derived from trade, combined with dissension amongst the Ayyubid successors to Saladin in Syria and Egypt, enabled the Christians to maintain a position of some strength

-7-

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