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Wolff, R. L.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume II: The later Crusades, 1189-1311

XI: The Fifth Crusade,   pp. 376-428 PDF (13.1 MB)

Page 385

who had taken the vow, Gervase writes, desired to know whether the pope had
accorded to the French nobles permission to delay their departure for a year.
Archbishop Simon of Tyre, lately arrived as legate in France, had because
of his limited authority given no satisfactory reply, merely answering that
the pope had changed nothing which had been determined by the council. The
inability to obtain sufficient answers to such questions was all the more
disturbing because the Parisian doctors had declared that one would be guilty
of mortal sin in failing to fulfill his vow within the prescribed year, save
with papal dispensation. 
 The nobles, the powerful men, and even the commoners of the cities had,
for the most part, determined not to go at all, having little regard either
for spiritual or for temporal penalties. On the other hand, the masses, the
"little crusaders", were ardently desirous of fulfilling their vows, but
were at a loss as to when to depart. Many had also expressed serious doubts
as to their useful ness in the Holy Land in the absence of leaders from their
own country who could speak their language. Gervase firmly believed also
that the French and the Germans, unable to cooperate in any great enterprise,
should not be required to set out together. 
 The most pressing difficulty, however, was the unequal justice meted out
to the upper and lower classes. In France sometimes the clergy had overlooked
the failure of the nobles to depart but had threatened the lowly with excommunication,
with an eye to filling their own pockets. Gervase advised that the French
be permitted to choose their own ports of embarkation. He further recommended
the appointment of a special nuncio or legate, acting directly under papal
orders, and expressed his disappointment that the new duties of James of
Vitry in the Holy Land precluded his returning to France. If the pope felt
it inadvisable to send a legate with full powers, Gervase recommended the
creation of diocesan commissions empowered to guarantee the privileges of
the crusaders, to grant dispensations to the unfit, to collect all accrued
sums, and to supervise the distribution of funds. Gervase urged that potential
leaders, such as dukes Odo of Burgundy and Theobald of Lorraine, should be
compelled to fulfill their vows punctually as a salutary example to all pledged
crusaders, whether of high or low degree. He feared that many who had accepted
the cross with fervent devotion would now fall "into the abyss of despair",
in the belief that the delay in departure, over which they had no control,
would deprive them of all privileges and all indulgences. He insisted, however,
that the clergy, who were obliged to pay one twentieth 

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