Why did Pope Innocent III call the
Fourth Crusade in Aug. 1198?
With the Papal bull Post miserabile, Pope
Innocent III launched the Fourth Crusade,
inspired ‘following the miserable collapse of
the territory of Jerusalem’.
Pope Innocent III was determined to restore Christian control
over the Holy Land, in particular to secure the reconquest of
In Oct. 1187 the Holy city had fallen to Saladin, and
although a Third crusade had taken place it had
ended with the Treaty of Jaffa in 1192 without the
return of Jerusalem into Christian hands.
The Kingdom of Jerusalem
Saladin died in Mar. 1193 and the divisions within
the Muslim world presented opportunities for the
Franks to extend their influence.
However, the Crusader states were still in a
fragile position after the death of the King of
Jerusalem, Henry of Champagne in 1197
which led to another succession crisis, so the
Kingdom of Jerusalem needed the aid that
Innocent’s crusade would provide.
King Henry VI
A crusade to the Holy land led by Emperor Henry VI had
captured Beirut but ended in 1197 following the Emperor’s
Innocent wished to continue its momentum, but like his predecessor
Pope Eugenius III he also wished to reassert Papal control over the
crusading movement, Henry had launched his crusade without a
Political stability in Europe
Innocent may also have desired to stabilise European
politics and end conflict between secular powers,
especially England and France, channelling warfare
into a righteous purpose.
like his Papal predecessors Pope Innocent III saw
crusading as having the purpose of spiritual
liberation-it was a means for promoting Christian
He was inspired by a vision of his role and
responsibility as head of Christendom, he was
the ‘supreme pontiff’ and claimed a ‘fullness of
power’ over Christ’s power.
Pope Innocent III had a clear vision of the papacy’s role as
the leader of Europe, a favourite quote was ‘I have set thee
above nations’, and calling a crusade only nine months after
becoming pope was part of that wide sense of his
responsibility and of his authority.
His goal was to use crusading (five took place during his
pontificate) to create a unified and morally purified