Crusade and Christendom: Annotated Documents in Translation from Innocent III to the Fall of Acre, 1187-1291

Crusade and Christendom: Annotated Documents in Translation from Innocent III to the Fall of Acre, 1187-1291

Crusade and Christendom: Annotated Documents in Translation from Innocent III to the Fall of Acre, 1187-1291

Crusade and Christendom: Annotated Documents in Translation from Innocent III to the Fall of Acre, 1187-1291

Synopsis

Intended for the undergraduate yet also invaluable for teachers and scholars, this book illustrates how the crusade became crucial for defining and promoting the very concept and boundaries of Latin Christendom. It provides translations of and commentaries on key original sources and an up-to-date bibliography.

Excerpt

Beasts of many kinds are attempting to destroy the vineyard of the Lord
of Sabaoth, and their onset has so far succeeded against it that over no
small area thorns have sprung up instead of vines and (with grief we
report it!) the vines themselves are variously infected and diseased, and
instead of the grape they bring forth the wild grape [Is 6:4]. Therefore
we invoke the testimony of Him, who is a faithful witness in the Heav
ens [Apoc 1:5], that of all the desires of our heart we long chiefly for
two in this life, namely, that we may work successfully to recover the
Holy Land and to reform the Universal Church, both of which call for
attention so immediate as to preclude further apathy or delay unless at
the risk of great and serious danger.

In his letter Vineam Domini of April 1213, laced with familiar biblical citations and echoes of others, Pope Innocent III (b. ca. 1160, r. 1198–1216) called for a general council of the Latin Church, vividly depicting the dangers facing universal Christendom and what he perceived to be the two most pressing and closely related tasks before it. To be sure, the first fifteen years of Innocent’s pontificate had not neglected these problems, and the young pope had sent hundreds of letters concerning the threatened state of Christendom—letters that had urged, begged, cajoled, entreated, and thundered against the enemies of the church (seen as the entire Christian community), of peace, and of moral reform. In 1215 Innocent took two major steps to achieve the goals that he desired most. The Fourth Lateran Council, announced by the letter Vineam Domini, convened in Rome in November 1215. Its task was to build upon the work of earlier church councils and popes, as well as the more recent work of twelfth-century theologians and canon lawyers, toward the definition of dogma and law in the face of the need to reform the universal church, to achieve at last “the extirpation of vices and the

1. Translation cited from C. R. Cheney and W. H. Semple, eds., Selected Letters of Pope Innocent III Concerning England (1198–1216) (London, 1953), 144–145. The letter was circulated widely throughout western Europe. Papal letters are usually referred to by their opening Latin words and their locations in published collections, as well as date and place of issue. On the letter and the project, see Alberto Melloni, “Vineam Domini—10 April 1213: Summoning Lateran IV,” in John C. Moore, ed., Pope Innocent III and His World (Brookfield VT, 1999), 63–73. The Moore volume is a superb collection of studies of Innocent III and the range of issues during his pontificate. On Innocent and the Muslim world, see 317–376. The image of heretics as foxes destroying the vineyard of the church was extensively developed by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in his Sermon 65 on the Song of Songs (Sg 2:15) in 1144. Innocent III was greatly influenced by the works of Saint Bernard. Here Innocent uses the image more broadly to characterize all the ills besetting the church.

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