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The Papacy’s Conflict with the Staufen Dynasty

Relations between the papacy and the Staufen dynasty receive a lot of attention in Middle Eastern Arabic-Islamic historiography of this period. In connection with Frederick II’s diplomatic efforts to take hold of Jerusalem by negotiating a truce with the Ayyubids, al-Dhahabi (d. 748/1348 or 753/1352) mentions the emperor’s exchange with the Ayyubid sultan al-Kamil in 625/1227. Frederick allegedly claimed to be the greatest ruler beyond the sea, and asserted that the pope and all other rulers of this area were aware of his visit and his objective of regaining Christian rule over Jerusalem. If the sultan was prepared to help him, he should hand the city over to him in exchange for money.n5

In 659/1261, the Mamluk sultan Baybars sent Ibn Wasil (d. 697/1298) on a diplomatic mission to the court of Manfred of Sicily. This journey enabled the historiographer to acquire information on the relations between popes and emperors in general and between the popes and the late Staufen dynasty in particular. According to Ibn Wasil, Frederick II (Fardarik) had lost his father in his early youth and was confronted with several Frankish lords who all strove for the imperial office, hoping that the pope would delegate it to them. Claiming that he did not feel capable of assuming this office, Frederick spoke to each Frankish lord separately. He urged each lord to give him the floor in the electoral assembly convened by the pope. Each time he promised to use his prestige as the son of the last emperor to support the election of the respective lord. However, instead of adhering to his promise, Frederick crowned himself emperor during the congregation in the great church of Rome and then fled with a group of German supporters. In the ensuing period, several of his actions provoked the papal ban (tahrim).n6

Ibn Wasil claims that Frederick II had a very low opinion of the papacy and the criteria of choosing a pope. In a conversation with the amir Fakhr al-Din b. al-Shaykh in Acre, the emperor is said to have asked the latter about the origins of the caliphate. True to Abbasid ideology,U7 Fakhr al-Din responded that the caliphate had its origins in the family of the prophet whose members held the office up to his day. In reaction, Frederick accused the Franks of being idiots who raised an ignorant and stupid man from a heap of manure and appointed him as representative of Jesus in spite of the fact that he was not related to the latter.ns

Ibn Wasil comments that the pope detested the emperor (al-anbaratur) and his sons Conrad (Kurra) and Manfred (Manfrid) because of their sympathy for the Muslims.[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] Sibt b. al-Jawzi (d. 654/1256), al-Dhahabi (d. 748/1348 or 753/1352), Ibn Kathir (d. 774/1373), and Ibn al-Furat (d. 807/1405) even report on a papal attempt on the emperor’s life that is also mentioned by Matthaeus Parisiensis (d. 1259).i20 In 644/1246 the pope allegedly sent out emissaries to murder the emperor, promising them—Sibt b. al-Jawzi, al-Dhahabi, and Ibn al-Furat claim— the emperor’s estates as a reward. According to all four authors, the emperor heard of the pope’s plans and took countermeasures by placing a slave in his bed. The assailants believed the slave to be the emperor and killed him. Then they were seized, massacred, skinned, filled with straw, and nailed to the doors of the emperor’s palace. According to Ibn Kathir and Ibn al-Furat, this incited the pope to send out an army to attack the emperor.m

Ibn Wasil was well aware of the pope’s implication in the end of Staufen rule. In the war between Manfred of Sicily and the pope, Manfred had initially been victorious. However, after his return from Manfred’s court, Ibn Wasil heard that the pope and the French king’s brother had agreed to take action against Manfred.m The pope allegedly gave orders to seize and murder him. In 663/1265, the French king’s brother then assumed rule in Manfred’s territories.123

Arabic-Islamic historiographers of the ensuing period must have understood that the demise of the Staufen dynasty deprived the Islamic Middle East of a reliable political partner—another factor that may have contributed to ending the phase of ‘experimental diplomacy’ mentioned above.m According to the Egyptian historiographer al-Maqrizi (d. 845/1442), the Mamluk sultan Baybars (ruled 658-76/1260-77) summoned and severely reprimanded representatives of the military orders (buyut al-firanjiyya) in 661/1263. Among other things, he complained that, in spite of a promise of safe-conduct, his messengers to the Seljuqs had been arrested in Cyprus. This should have led to countermeasures on the side of the Franks, who ought to have informed the pope and Frankish rulers of what had happened.125 This lack of reliability may have reinforced the Mamluks’ will to take action against the crusaders. Ibn Khaldun (d. 808/1406) claims that Bay- bars took possession of the castle of Antioch in 673/1275, which had been held by the Franks and had belonged to the ‘their patriarch in Rome whom they call the pope’.126

Historiographers of the Mamluk era also paid attention to what happened in the central Mediterranean after the end of Staufen rule. In his biography of the Mamluk sultan al-Mansur Qalawun (ruled 678-89/1279-90), Muhi al-Din b. Abd al-Zahir (d. 692/1292) mentions the death of pope Martin IV (sed. 1281-85), the ensuing election of Honorius IV (sed. 1285-87), and comments on events following the so-called Sicilian Vespers and the Aragonese takeover in Sicily and southern Italy:

Fresh news was brought by the arrival of a ship from Naples to Alexandria on 12 Rabf al-akhir 683/28 June 1285. Those arriving reported that the pope, the caliph of the Franks, had died and that the Franks had appointed another one among the twelve cardinals (al-kardhandl) by the name of Giacomo Savelli (Jdkumu Sabbalu). In addition, [they reported] that he had imposed an armistice on the Genoese and their enemies, that the people of Sicily had sent an envoy to him in two corvettes because of the armistice and the liberation of the captured prince, the son of Charles (al-ibrins b. Sharlun), that sixty corvettes had been constructed in Sicily, and that this pope had communicated in all directions that they should not move without his orders.[9] [10] [11]

Mamluk lack of trust vis-a-vis the pope is well expressed in a treaty concluded between the king of Aragon and the Mamluk sultan al-Mansur Qalawun, which is cited by Muhi al-Din b. 'Abd al-Zahir directly after the passage quoted above. In this treaty, concluded in 689/1290, the pope is clearly portrayed as a potential aggressor. It obliges the king of Aragon to avert and, if necessary, to repel any kind of aggression against the Mamluk realm initiated by the pope or any other Christian power. The king pledges not to support the pope or other powers and to inform the sultan about any offers of alliance that could harm the MamluksV8 Unlike the Persian History of the Franks produced under Ilkhanid rule by Rashid al-Dln,i29 Middle Eastern Arabic-Islamic scholars fail to provide information on the popes of the fourteenth century. A final reference to the papacy’s involvement in the crusading movement is found in the work of al-Maqrizi. He claims that the pope convoked the council of Ferrara-Florence (1438-44) at the initiative of the duke of Milan and then entrusted the latter with the leadership of a new crusade. However, strife between Venice and Milan thwarted its realization:

Then the news arrived that the duke of Milan (dukat Milan), that is the master of Milan, one of the Frankish principalities (ta'ifa min al-Faranj), had invaded the realm of Venice (mamlakat al-Bunduqiyya) and that they did not stop to wage war against each other. This duke presides over a spacious territory, possesses authority and is described as intelligent and learned. He used to rule over Genoa for a while until it detached itself in the year 840 [1436-37]. Around this time he wrote to the pope (al-baba) in Rome asking and imploring him to meet up with him at a convention where the priests, monks and eminent people from among the Byzantines (al-Rum) and Franks (al-Faranj) would come together to agree on matters of faith (li-yattafiqu jamian 'ala amr diniyalqiduhu). The latter answered to the effect that they all came together in Ferrara (Farara), situated in a part of the territory belonging to the duke of Milan that borders on the territory of Florence (mamlakat Farantin). It was a huge convention, so they soon lacked space. In consequence, they all went to the city of Florence (madinat Farantin) where they took up residence in summer and autumn. Then they split up and everyone returned home. While he was on the way, the Venetians (al-Banadiqa) attacked the duke without warning. This led to a great battle, during which as many people were killed as God willed it. The duke of Milan suffered a most terrible defeat: the majority of his soldiers were slaughtered and his riches were plundered. Praise to God for this, for it is said that his meeting with the pope took place because he wanted to set out against the Muslims and wanted the pope to invest him with the appropriate position and leadership. But God halted his pursuit.[12] [13]

The form and contents of this passage suggest strongly that al-MaqrlzI received this news from a representative of one of the maritime republics active in Egypt who, by the middle of the fifteenth century, increasingly began to receive regular reports on the affairs of the Apennine Peninsula thanks to ‘newsletters’ circulating in the mercantile diaspora.131

  • [1] Ibn Wasil, mufarrij, ed. Rabi and Ashur, vol. 4, AH 626, pp. 248—9; Cf. Abu l-Fida,al-mukhtasar, ed. Zaynuhum Azab et al., vol. 4, AH 697, pp. 50—1.
  • [2] Matthaeus Parisiensis, Historia Anglorum, ed. Madden, vol. 3, a. 1246, pp. 11—12.
  • [3] Sibt b. al-Jawzi, mirat al-zaman, ed. facs. Jewett, pp. 505—6; al-Dhahabi, tarikh, ed. Tadmuri,vol. 47, AH 644, p. 27; Ibn Kathir, al-bidaya, ed. al-Turki, vol. 14, AH 644, pp. 288—9; Ibn al-Furat,ed./trans. Lyons, vol. 1, AH 644, p. 11 (AR), vol. 2, p. 9 (EN). Cf. Leder, ‘Kaiser’ (2008), p. 90.
  • [4] Ibn Wasil, mufarrij, ed. Rabf and Ashur, vol. 4, AH 626, p. 249.
  • [5] Ibid., vol. 4, AH 626, p. 251. 124 See Chapter 7.3.1.
  • [6] 125 al-Maqrizi, al-suluk, ed. Ata, vol. 1, AH 661, p. 553; cf. Holt, Diplomacy (1995), pp. 13, 69;
  • [7] Weil, Geschichte, vol. 4 (1860), pp. 45—6.
  • [8] 126 Ibn Khaldun, tarikh, ed. Zakkar and Shahada, vol. 5, p. 450: ‘li-batrakihim bi-Ruma alladhiyusammunahu al-baba’.
  • [9] Ibn 'Abd al-Zahir, tashrif al-ayydm, ed. Amari (BAS), p. 341 (AR): wa-mimma tajaddadawurud markab fi than! ashar shahr rabf al-akhir (ya'ni sanat 683) min Nabul ila l-Iskandariyyawa-khabbara man wasala fihi anna l-bab khalifat al-Faranj halaka wa-aqama al-Faranj ghayrahu minal-kardhanal al-ithna ashar shakhsan yusamma Jakumu Sabbalu wa-annahu shara'a fi l-sulh baynaal-Janawiyya wa-a'da ihim wa-anna ahl Siqilliya sayyaru ilayhi rasulan fi ghurabayn bi-sabab al-sulhwa-khalas al-ibrins b. Sharlun al-mu'taqal fi Siqilliya wa-annahu qad 'ummira fi Siqilliya sittunghuraban wa-anna hadha al-bab sayyara ila kull jiha bi-annahum la yataharrakuna illa bi-amrihi’,trans. Amari (BAS), vol. 1, p. 548 (IT). On the captivity of Charles II, see Kiesewetter, Anfange (1999), pp. 160-99.
  • [10] Ibn 'Abd al-Zahir, tashrif al-ayydm, ed./trans. Amari (BAS), p. 346 (AR): wa-ala annahu matatalaba al-bab bi-Rumiyya wa-muluk al-Faranj wa-l-Rum wa-l-Tatar wa-ghayruhum min al-malikal-raydaraghun aw min ikhwatihi aw min biladihi injadan aw mu'awana bi-khayyala aw rajjala wa-malaw marakib aw shawani aw silah la yuwafiquhum ala shay5 min dhalika la fi sirr wa-la fi jahr wa-layu'ayyin ahadan minhum wa-la yuwafiquhu 'ala dhalika wa-mata ittala'a ala anna ahadan minhumyaqsud bilad mawlana al-sultan bi-muharaba aw bi-madarra yusayyir yu'arrif mawlana al-sultanbi-khabarihim wa-bi-l-jiha allati ittafaqu 'ala qasdiha fi aqrab waqt qabla harakatihim min biladihimwa-la yukhfihi shayan min dhalika’; vol. 1, pp. 559-60 (IT). Cf. Holt, Diplomacy (1995),pp. 129-40.
  • [11] Probably drawing on the chronicle of Martinus Oppaviensis for his lists of emperors and popes,Rashid al-Din, Frankengeschichte, trans. Jahn, pp. 56-93, traces these lists up to the fourteenthcentury. Cf. Jahn, Abendland’ (1976), pp. 15-16.
  • [12] al-MaqrIzI, al-suluk, ed. 'Ata, vol. 7, AH 843 (11 Shaban), p. 446: ‘wa-qadama al-khabrbi-anna dukat Milan—ya'nl sahib Milan—wa-hiya ta’ifa min al-Faranj, tajawaza mamlakatal-Bunduqiyya, wa-lam yazalu yuharibunahum, wa-li-dukat hadha mamlaka muttasi'a, wa-lahu satwa,wa-yusaf bi-'aql wa-ma'rifa, wa-kana qad malaka Janawah muddatan, thumma intuzi'at minhu fi sanat'arba'In wa-thamanimi’a, fa-lamma kana fi hadhihi al-ayyam kataba ila l-baba bi-Rumiyya yas’aluhuwa-yarghab ilayhi fi an yajtami'a bihi fi mahfal yajtami'u fihi al-qissisun wa-l-ruhban wa-a'yan al-Rumwa-l-Faranj, li-yattafiqu jami'an 'ala amr dini ya'qiduhu, fa-ajabahu ila dhalika, fa-saru jami'an hattatawafu 'ala Farara—wa-hiya fi taraf mamlakat dukat Milan bi-jiwar mamlakat Farantin, wa-kanadhalika jam'an 'aziman bi-haythu daqa bihim al-fada’, fa-saru bi-ajma'ihim wa-nazalu ard madinatFarantin, wa-dhalika fi fasl al-sayf wa-fasl al-kharif, thumma iftaraqu, wa-'ada kullun minhum ilawatanihi, fa-baynama al-duk sa’ir idh taraqahu al-Banadiqa 'ala hini ghafla, fa-kanat baynahuma waq'a'azima, qutila fiha ma sha’ Allah, wa-inhazama dukat aqbah hazima, wa-qad funiya mu'zam 'askarihiwa-nuhibat amwaluhu, wa-li-llah al-hamd, fa-innahu yuqal inna ijtima'ahu bi-l-baba kana bi-sababmuharabatihi li-l-muslimin, wa-an yufawwid ilayhi al-tasarruf wa-l-hukm, fa-kafa Allah amrahu.’ Onthe council, see Setton, Papacy, vol. 2 (1978), pp. 58—62; Meuthen and Marti, 15. Jahrhundert (2006),pp. 65-7.
  • [13] Christ, ‘Newsletter’ (2005), pp. 42-3.
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