The Third Crusade: Death of Frederick Barbarossa, 1190
With Jerusalem in his hands Saladin and his army retired
from the field, leaving the remaining defenders of the Holy Land concentrated
in Tyre, the only major Latin stronghold left in the East. The conqueror's
army could not, in any case, have been kept together much longer and there
must have seemed little likelihood that Tyre or its garrison could cause
any great difficulty for the new master of the Holy Land. Saladin could
afford to postpone an attack upon Tyre until some more convenient time
of the disaster in the Holy Land was carried quickly to the West. The
collapse of Western Christendom's design to hold the shrines of the Holy
Land was apparent and only heroic measures would suffice to retrieve the
situation. On October 29, 1187, Pope Gregory VIII appealed for another
Cade, even before the news of Saladin's capture of Jerusalem had reached
him . The Pope also ordained for all the faithful a general abstinence
from meat on Fridays for a five-year period in atonement for the sins
which had brought on the recent disasters in the East.
before the full measure of the disaster was known in the West, efforts
were made to enlist the services of the three greatest European monarchs
in a grand expedition to Palestine. Contact was made with the German Emperor,
Frederick Barbarossa, with the King of France, Philip Augustus, and with
the King of England, Henry TI. The obstacles to a joint expedition by
these monarchs were formidable. Barbarossa was elderly and bad spent the
greater part of his career at odds with the Papacy. Philip Augustus was
not enthusiastic for the venture and, furthermore, he had been almost
constantly at war with Henry II of England. To expect either the French
King or the English King to depart for the East and to leave his rival
behind in Europe was simply unrealistic. Either both must go or neither
would go, and cooperation between the two men would not be easy to arrange.
January 1188 the French and English Kings met at Gisors to discuss the
situation. After much talking an agreement was reached which obliged the
monarchs with their respective armies to proceed to the Holy Land together.
Peace between the kingdoms was not so quickly arranged, however. Before
the year was out, war between them had begun again; then, in July 1189,
while the war was still in progress, Henry II of England died. The accession
of his son, Richard, greatly improved the prospects for the expedition.
Another meeting between the English and French monarchs took place and
new agreements about the Cade were made.
meanwhile, bad already set his part of the expedition in order and in
May 1189 a German army departed on Cade. Barbarossa's force was large,
well-equipped, admirably controlled. The German army set out to follow
the land route through the Balkans and Asia Minor to the Holy Land. Aside
from some incidents near Constantinople, the German army passed through
the Balkans with a minimum of difficulty. In Asia Minor the Germans were
harried from time to time by Turkish soldiers, but only one pitched battle
took place there, near Konya on May 17, 1190. Barbarossa's men were victorious
and his army passed from Konya through the Tau Mountains and on to
the plains of Seleucea . Then cam a problem:-
June 10  the advance unit of the army camped on the plains of Seleucea.
Up to this point the whole army of the Holy Cross the rich and the poor,
the sick and those who seemed healthy had journeyed through the glare
of the sun and the burning beat of summer along a torturous road which
led them across rocky cliffs accessible only to birds and mountain goats.
The Emperor,311 who had shared in all the dangers, wished both to moderate
the inordinate heat and to avoid climbing the mountain peak. Accordingly,
he attempted to swim across the very swift Calycadmus River. As the wise
man says, however, "Thou shalt not swim against the river's current
."[Eccles. 4:32] Wise though he was in other ways, the Emperor foolishly
tried his strength against the current and power of the river. Although
everyone tried to stop him, he entered the water and plunged into a whirlpool.
He, who had often escaped great dangers, perished miserably. Let us comment
the secret judgment of God, "to Whom no man dares say: Why have you
acted thus," when he takes such or so many men in death. The Emperor
was, indeed, a knight of Christ and a member of his army. He was taken
up while on a laudable mission to recover the Lord's land and his cross
and thus, even though he was taken unexpectedly, we may believe that,
without doubt, be was saved. When, therefore, the other nobles around
him hastened, although too late, to help him, they took him from the water
and dragged him to the bank.
was afflicted with great sorrow over his death; so much so, indeed, that
some, caught between hope and dread, would have ended their lives with
him. Others, however, despaired and, as it seemed that God did not care
for them, they renounced the Christian faith to become pagans among the
and unrestrained sorrow not unmerited by the death of such a prince
occupied the hearts of all, so that they could rightly lament, saying
with the prophet: "Alas, we are sinners, the wreath has faded from
our brows; there are sad hearts everywhere. " [Lam 5:16-17] The Duke
of Swabia, a most illustrious prince and his father's right noble heir,
was duly chosen and acclaimed as leader of Christ's army. The Duke took
up his father's body and bore it with him to the city of Tarsus in Cilicia,
where his father's intestines were devotedly laid to rest.
army divided there. Some made their way toward Tripoli, which was in Christian
bands. The others, who followed the Duke of Swabia, marched toward Antioch.
On June 17 they came to Port Saint Simeon and on June 19 they came to
Antioch, where the messengers of the Lord Leo of the Mountain bad come
to meet the lord Emperor. The messengers had as yet heard nothing ot the
Emperor's death; learning of it there, they were affected more than the
others. In Antioch the Emperor was given a royal burial, as was fitting.
To the accompaniment of disconsolate mourning, they laid the remains of
his body to rest in the cathedral church of Peter, Prince of the Apostles.
text is part of the Internet
Medieval Source Book.