Episode 16 AD 1238-1291

The Mongol Invasion and the End of the Crusading Project

In the central 1200s Europe escaped a Mongol conquest – by the merest chance.

The Baltic became (or was made to be) Christian during this period. The Mongol invasion created the pre-conditions for the later emergence of ‘Russia’.
Christendom’s internal conflicts continued regardless: in Italy the Emperor fought a war to re-establish the Roman Empire … and failed, leaving in the debris the long-term bases for the emergence of ‘Germany’ and ‘Italy’; heresy arose for the first time as a whole social movement, particularly in the County of Toulouse, precipitating an internal Crusade, ending in a further expansion of the French crown’s reach. As the Empire fragmented, so too did France expand and consolidate.

At the end of the century the Crusading movement in the Holy Land finally met its fate, and was definitively defeated with the fall of the city of Acre.

Contents of the video (1 hour 7 mins.)

  • The expansion of the ‘pull’ of Christendom, eastern and western. The assimilation of the Principality of Kiev to eastern Orthodoxy.
  • The Latin Crusades in the Baltic – Estonia by Denmark, Swedes in Finland, Latvia by the Teutonic Knights. Pagan Lithuania remained unconquerable. Novgorod threw back the Teutonic Knights.
  • The sudden irruption of the Mongols in 1240 into the Ukraine and on northward into Russia. The Russian princes submit to the Golden Horde, at Sarai on the Volga.
  • Baidar and Kaidu, Mongol princelings, invaded central Europe in 1241.
  • The forces of Poland, Silesia and of Hungary successively were annihilated. No substantial opposition now stood between the Mongol horde and the kingdom of France.
  • By accident, the Great Khan in Mongolia died just then, and the Mongol princes withdrew to dispute the succession. Europe was spared a fate similar to that of Russia in the Middle Ages, which they call “the Mongol Yoke”.
  • While this was happening, Frederic II Hohenstaufen, the Latin Roman Emperor, was in civil war with the northern Italian cities allied with the papacy for the hegemony of Italy.
  • Frederic’s defeat and death ensured the independence of the papacy, the freedom of the northern Italian cities and the restriction of the western Empire to north of the Alps. The Empire’s princes ruled it as a committee, through its confederal institutions.
  • To finish off the Hohenstaufen, the pope gave sovereignty of southern Italy and Sicily to the French king’s brother, Charles d’Anjou, who soon moved south to take control.
  • In 1261 a Genoese fleet restored the Greek Roman Emperor to Constantinople, driving out the Latins. Facing the ambitions of Charles d’Anjou to take Constantinople, the Emperor suggested to the king that he could take southern Italy and Sicily from Charles. An Aragonese conspiracy in Sicily led to the massacre of the French there, know as ‘the Sicilian Vespers’.
  • For years thereafter the Aragonese and Angevin fought for what was called the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, until the Aragonese won, who now dominated the western Mediterranean.
  • In southern France the Cathar heresy took root and gained aristocratic support. The murder of a papal legate ignited an internal Crusade against them. A terrible war of extirpation ensued. The winner was the king of France, whose realm was expanded massively.
  • Through the later 1200s the remaining Latin Christian fortresses and city ports in the Holy Land fell to the Sultan of Egypt’s jihãdi excursions.
  • In 1291, after a desperate siege, the last Christian stronghold in the Holy Land, Acre, fell to the Muslims. Its fall marked the end of the whole Crusading project, which had lasted just two centuries.

Now with the audio-only version included

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