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THE STORY OF DANDOLO THE BLIND DOGE;
OR, THE FOURTH AND FIFTH CRUSADES
Oh for one hour of blind old Dandolo!
Th'octoyenarian chief, Byzantium's conquering foe.
BYRON: Childe Harold.
ICHARD the Lion-Heart had returned to
England in 1194. The next three years of the
dying century saw an attempt at an expedition
sometimes known as the Fourth, more often as the
"German " Crusade.
Its story contains little of interest. Saladin had died
before the release of Richard, and his brother Saphadim
reigned in his stead, when Henry, Emperor of Germany,
hoping to win the favour of his disapproving subjects,
sent an expedition to the Holy Land.
The Christian lords who yet held rule in Palestine had
found things run so smoothly under the hand of the
Sultan during the long truce, that they were in no hurry
to break the peace. But the Germans did not mean
to wait for their assistance, and while they were
marshalling their forces, Saphadim drew first blood by a sudden
and successful attack upon Joppa, once so ably held and
fortified by Richard.
The German Crusaders retaliated by a victory or
 rather a series of victories, which restored to them Joppa
and many other coast towns, and augured well for the
future. All this, however, was undone by their own
cruelty and thirst for blood.
On their triumphant march to Jerusalem they were
besieging a certain castle, and had succeeded in
tunnelling passages through the rock upon which it
stood. Hopeless of escape, the Moslem garrison offered
to surrender on condition that they were allowed a safe
passage into their own territory. To this the Crusaders
agreed, but a certain number of them were loud in their
disapproval, and began to threaten the Saracens to such
an extent that the latter lost faith in the promises that
had been given. Declaring that they would die rather
than submit, they lined the newly-cut rock-passages and
prepared to sell their lives dearly.
The Crusaders, furious at their defiant message, dashed
into the dark tunnels, only to fall by thousands at the
hands of their unseen and desperate foes. Nightfall
saw them repulsed and utterly dismayed at the
unexpected resistance; discipline was gone, none knew
what to do next. Then followed a disgraceful breach of
honour. Their leaders stole away under cover of the
darkness, and the German soldiers found themselves
left at the mercy of the foe.
Fortunately for them, the Saracens were too exhausted
to pursue their advantage, and the Germans, leaving
their baggage and even their weapons behind them, fled
in disorder to Tyre.
The news of the death of their Emperor recalled
most of these faint-hearted Soldiers of the Cross to
The remainder made one last endeavour to fortify
 Joppa and entrench themselves within it; but, in the
November of 1197, the city fell before a furious attack
of the Saracens, and the greater part of the inhabitants
This was the sad and disgraceful end of the Fourth
Crusade, which left the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem
a kingdom only in name.
The Fifth Crusade is remarkable for the fact that it
began in an outburst of keen religious enthusiasm, and
ended in a riot of cruelty, bloodshed and profanity,
without ever reaching the Holy Land at all.
Two very different men were responsible for stirring
up this Crusade in Europe. Innocent the Third, one
of the youngest, most energetic and most ambitious of
popes, thought to find in it an opportunity of increasing
his "temporal" as well as spiritual power. It had long
been the custom for princes, going forth on perilous
adventure, to leave their lands in charge of the Holy
Father; and even if this were not always done, the
Crusades gave many a chance of interfering with the
affairs of kingdoms and dukedoms whose people were
engaged in the great religious war.
Apart from this, the young Pope was, like all enthusiasts
in religion, deeply affected by the idea of the unhappy
state of the Holy Land, and sincerely desired to stir the
hearts of the princes of Europe to do their part towards
restoring it to Christendom. But the princes of Europe
had had enough of Crusades and they turned a deaf eai
to the call. It needed another Peter the Hermit, or at
least another St Bernard to stir the hearts of rich and
poor to march forth once more upon a quest that had cost
them already so dear.
 Then the right man appeared upon the scene. A
certain French priest, Fulk by name, in atonement for a
life of carelessness and sin, began to preach the duty of
taking up the Cross in the Holy War. A mere village
curd, he was content at first to teach and speak only in
his own neighbourhood, but his reputation increased, he
became noted as a worker of miracles, and rumours about
him ere long reached the ears of the Pope. Innocent III.
quickly saw in him the instrument he needed.
Throughout the streets and slums of Paris, in castle and in cottage,
Fulk was encouraged to make his way, calling upon men
to repent of their sins and to atone for them by taking
up arrns for the Cause of Christ.
As usual, "the common people heard him gladly,"
while for a time the nobles ignored him.
Then it came to pass that young Count Theobald
of Champagne held a great tournament, at which
assembled two thousand knights. Into the midst of that
gay throng appeared on a sudden the inspired face of
Fulk the priest, dressed in his threadbare cassock. His
burning words carried conviction to the hearts of the
knights, and Theobald himself was the first to take up
the Cross. Others followed-amongst them Simon de
Montfort, father of the famous "good Earl Simon" of
English history-and finally nearly all that great band
of knights were enlisted as Crusaders.
Everywhere the same result was seen. Great sums
of money were raised for the enterprise. Louis, Count
of Blois, and Baldwin, Count of Flanders, joined the
band of leaders, and while preparations went on apace
in France, Baldwin mindful of the chief reason for past
failures, sent a message to Dandolo, the blind Doge of
Venice, asking him to supply flat-bottomed boats in which
 for a certain sum of money, the Crusading armies might
be transported to the Holy Land.
One of those sent upon this mission was Geoffrey de
Villehardouin, Marshal of Champagne, who tells the story
of this, the Fifth Crusade, so vividly.
"The Doge of Venice," says he, "whose name was
Henry Dandolo, and who was very wise and very
valiant, did them (the envoys) great honour, and
entertained them right willingly, marvelling, however, what
might be the matter that had brought them to that
country. The envoys entered the palace, which was
passing rich and beautiful, and found the Doge and his
council in a chamber.
"There they delivered their message after this
manner. 'Sire, we come to thee on the part of the high
barons of France who have taken the Sign of the Cross to
avenge the shame done to Jesus Christ and to reconquer
Jerusalem, if so be that God will suffer it. And because
they know that no people have such great power to help
them as you and your people, therefore we pray you by
God that you take pity on the land oversea, and the
shame of Christ, and use diligence that our lords have
ships for transport and battle.'
"'And after what manner should we use diligence?'
said the Doge.
"'After all manner that you may advise and propose,'
rejoined the envoys, 'in so far as what you propose may
be within our means.'
"'Certes,' said the Doge, 'it is a great thing that your
lords require of us, and well it seems that they have in
 view a high enterprise. We will give you our answer
eight days from to-day, for it is meet so great a matter
be fully pondered.'"
So eight days later, when the covenant had been
proposed and accepted by the council and the envoys, a
"mass of the Holy Ghost was celebrated in the chapel
of St Mark, 'the most beautiful chapel that there is.'
To this gathered 'well ten thousand of the people,'
and immediately afterwards the French envoys were
bidden 'to humbly ask them to assent to the proposed
"Villehardouin himself was spokesman before that
multitude, and said unto them. 'Lords, the barons of
France, most high and puissant, have sent us to you, and
they cry to you for mercy, that you have pity on
Jerusalem, which is in bondage to the Turks, and that for
God's sake, you help to avenge the shame of Christ Jesus.
"And for this end they have elected to come to you,
because they know full well that there is none other
people having so great power on the seas as you and
your people. And they commanded us to fall at your
feet, and not to rise till you consent to take pity on the
Holy Land which is beyond the seas.'
"Then the six envoys knelt at the feet of the people,
weeping many tears. And the Doge and all the others
burst into tears of pity and compassion, and cried with
one voice, and lifted up their hands, saying: `We
consent! We consent!'
"Then was there so great a noise and tumult that it
seemed as if the earth itself were falling to pieces.
"And when this great tumult and passion of pity—
greater did never any man see—were appeased, the
Good Doge of Venice, who was very wise and valiant,
 went up into the reading-desk, and spoke to the people,
and said to them
"'Signors, behold the honour that God has done you,
for the best people in the world have set aside all other
people, and chosen you to join them in so high an
enterprise as the deliverance of our Lord."'
Thus comes on the stage upon which was played the
story of the Fifth Crusade, that curious and interesting
figure, the blind old Doge, Henry Dandolo, who, for all
intents and purposes, may be regarded as the leader of
that expedition, so completely did he sway its designs
by his counsel and action.
Years before, or so the story goes, he had been sent
on an embassy to Constantinople, and there had been
seized and treacherously ill-used so that he became
practically blind. Whether this is true or not, the fact
remains that Dandolo hated the Greeks with a bitter
hatred, and was ready to use any means towards their
hurt or downfall.
So the treaty was made, and the Crusaders promised
to pay the whole expenses of the expedition, a sum
amounting to eighty-five thousand pieces of silver, on
condition that they were provided food and transport.
And to show their goodwill, the Venetians added fifty
armed galleys to the fleet, "for the love of God."
Then the envoys returned rejoicing, only to meet with
one piece of ill luck after another.
On his journey to Champagne, Geoffrey de Villehardouin
met a large company of men, amongst whom were several
important barons who had taken the Cross, and who were
now following Walter of Brienne on an expedition to
conquer the land of his wife, the daughter of King Tancred
 "Now when he told them the news how the envoys
had fared, great was their joy, and much did they prize
the arrangements made. And they said, We are
already on our way; and when you come, you will find
"But," comments Geoffrey somewhat wearily, for this
was but the first of many wasteful and irregular
expeditions, "events fall out as God wills, and never had
they power to join the host. This was much to our loss,
for they were of great prowess and valiant." And then
they parted and each went on his way.
The next blow hit Geoffrey very hard. He rode day
by day so that he came at length, he says, to Troyes, in
Champagne, and found his lord, Count Theobald, sick
and languishing, and right glad was the Count at his
coming. And when he had told him how he fared,
Theobald was so rejoiced that he said he would mount
his horse, a thing he had not done for a long time. So
he rose from his bed and rode forth. "But alas : how
great the pity! For never again did he bestride horse
but that once."
Growing worse and worse, the Count began to realise
that his part in the Crusade was over. So he divided
the money which would have taken him on pilgrimage
among his followers and companions, giving orders that
each one, on receiving it, should swear "on holy relics,
to join the host at Venice."
"Many there were," says Geoffrey, "who kept that
oath badly and so incurred great blame."
So the Count Theobald died and was buried, and the
Crusaders looked about them for another chief. First
they went to Odo, Duke of Burgundy, his cousin, and
offered him their faith and loyalty. "But such was
 his pleasure that he refused. And be it known to you
that he might have done much better," is the terse
comment of Geoffrey.
Finally, Boniface, Marquis of Montferrat, one of the
foremost nobles in that land, a patron of poets and
troubadours and a skilled soldier, received the "lordship
of the host."
"Whereupon the Bishop of Soissons, and Master Fulk,
that holy man, and two white monks whom the Marquis
had brought with him from his own land, led him into
the church of Notre Dame at Soissons, and attached the
Cross to his shoulder."
The death of Theobald was not the last blow that fate
had in store for the Crusaders, says Geoffrey. "Thus
did the pilgrims make ready in all lands. Alas! A
great mischance befell them in the following Lent, before
they had started, for another notable chief, Count
Geoffrey of Perche, fell sick, and made his will in such
fashion that he directed that Stephen, his brother,
should have his goods and lead his men in the host. Of
this exchange the pilgrims would willingly have been
quit, had God so ordered. Thus did the Count make
an end and die; and much evil ensued, for he was a
baron high and honoured, and a good knight. Greatly
was he mourned throughout all lands."
It was soon after the Easter of 1202 that the French
Crusaders began their march. Fulk himself, the
originator of the movement, did not accompany them,
remaining behind, possibly to stir up fresh enthusiasm
and supplies of money if not of men. But he was not
destined to see with his bodily eyes the failure of the
expedition, for he died of fever at Neuilly, while the
pilgrims were still at Venice.
 The French army marched by way of the Jura
Mountains and through Lombardy, where they were
joined by the Marquis of Montferrat with his troops of
Lombards, Piedmontese and Savoyards, and by a small
band of Germans.
At the same time a fleet had started from Flanders,
the leaders of which had promised Count Baldwin to join
the Crusaders at Venice.
"But ill did these keep the faith they had sworn to the
Count, they and others like them, because they, and such
others of the same sort, became fearful of the great perils
that the host of Venice had undertaken."
Many of the French leaders, too, failed the main body
of the Crusaders in the same way; for they avoided the
passage to Venice because of the danger, and went instead
to Marseilles, "whereof," says Geoffrey, "they received
shame and much were they blamed-and great were the
mishaps that afterwards befell them."
Meantime, the French army, under the Marquis of
Montferrat, had arrived safely at Venice, and was
rejoiced to see the fair array of ships and transports
waiting to convey it to the Holy Land.
But now an unexpected difficulty arose; for, of all
that great number of barons who had sworn to bring
their men to Venice, only a very few had arrived; and
then came the disconcerting news that many of these
pilgrims were travelling by other ways and from other
Consternation ensued among the barons, for the
Venetians were naturally determined that the money
stipulated for the transports should be paid at once, and
this could only be done if all the barons bore their share,
as they had agreed to do.
 So envoys, amongst whom was again found Geoffrey
de Villehardouin, were sent to intercept the various
leaders of armies, and "to beseech them to have pity
on the Holy Land beyond the sea, and show them that no
other passages save that from Venice could be of profit."
These envoys met with only partial success. Count
Louis of Blois agreed to accompany them, but many
others chose to go their own way. "And then," says
Geoffrey, "was the host of those who went by Venice
greatly weakened, and much evil befell them therefrom,
as you shall shortly hear."
The Venetians had done their part well. They
"held a market " for the Crusaders, "rich and abundant,
of all things needful for horses and men. And the fleet
they had got ready was so goodly and fine that never did
Christian man see one goodlier or finer; both galleys and
transports; and sufficient for at least three times as
many men as were in the host."
The first difficulty arose, naturally, over the matter of
payment. Each man had done what he could, but the
total sum came to less than half of that which was due.
Earnestly did the barons urge the need of making
further payment in fulfilment of their promise. "For
God's sake," said they, "let each contribute all that he
has, so that we may fulfil our covenant; for better it is
that we should lose all that we have than lose what we
have already paid and prove false to our promises; for
if this host remains here, the rescue of the land oversea
comes to naught."
But the other barons and the lesser folk said, "We
have paid for our passages, and if they will take us, we
shall go willingly, but if not, we shall inquire and look
for other means of passage."
 "They spoke thus," says Geoffrey, "because they
wished that the host should fall to pieces and each return
to his own land."
But the finer spirits preferred to face ruin, as far as
worldly prospects went, and to go penniless with the
host, rather than that the expedition should fail. "For
God," said they, "will doubtless repay us when it so
So they began to give and to borrow all that they could.
"Then might you have seen many a fine vessel of silver
and gold borne in payment to the palace of the Doge."
But still a large part of the sum required was lacking.
Then the Doge, seeing their plight, made a proposal
to them. To his own citizens he said, "Signors, these
people cannot pay more, and in so far as they have paid
at all, we have benefited by an agreement that they
cannot now fulfil. But our right to keep this money
would not everywhere be acknowledged, and if we so
kept it, we should be greatly blamed, both us and our
land. Let us therefore offer them terms.
"'The King of Hungary has taken from us Zara, in
Sclavonia, which is one of the strongest places in the
world; and never shall we recover it with all the power
that we possess, save with the help of these people. Let
us therefore ask them to help us to reconquer it, and we
will remit the payment of the rest of the debt, until
such time as it shall please God to allow us to gain the
moneys by conquest, we and they together.'
"And to this the Venetians and the Crusading host
agreed." A striking and pathetic scene followed.
On a very high festival the church of St Mark was
thronged with citizens, barons and pilgrims. Before
High Mass began, the blind and aged Doge, Henry
 Dandolo, was led up to the reading-desk, from whence
he spoke thus to his people.
"'Signors, you are associated with the most worthy
people in the world, and for the highest enterprise ever
undertaken; and I am a man, old and feeble, who
should have need of rest, and I am sick in body; but I
see that no one could command and lead you like myself,
who am your lord.
"If you will consent that I take the Sign of the Cross
to guard and direct you, and that my son remain in my
place to guard the land, then shall I go to live or die with
you and with the pilgrims.'
"And when they heard him, they cried with one voice,
'We pray you by God that you consent and do it, and
that you come with us!'"
"He was of a great heart," says Geoffrey, comparing
him bitterly with those who had gone to other ports to
"Then he came down from the reading-desk, and went
before the altar, and knelt upon his knees, greatly
weeping. And they sewed the cross on to a great cotton hat
which he wore, and in front because he wished that all
men should see it."
His example sent many of the Venetians to follow in
his steps, and at the same time preparations were
hurried on for the departure, for September was now nigh
Just before they started, messengers appeared in their
midst with an appeal that was destined to change the
whole aim of the Fifth Crusade.
"At that time," says Geoffrey in his terse way, "there
was an emperor in Constantinople whose name was Isaac,
and he had a brother, Alexios by name, whom he had
 ransomed from captivity among the Turks. This
Alexios took his brother, the Emperor, tore the eyes out
of his head, and made himself emperor by the aforesaid
treachery. He kept Isaac a long time in prison, together
with his son Alexios. This son escaped from prison, and
fled in a ship to a city on the sea, which is called Ancona.
"Thence he departed to go to King Philip of Germany,
who had married his sister, and so came to Verona, in
Lombardy, and lodged in the town, and found there a
number of pilgrims and other people who were on their
way to join the host.
"And those who had helped him to escape, and were
with him, said, ` Sire, here is an army in Venice, quite
near to us, the best and most valiant people and knights
that are in the world, and they are going oversea. Cry
to them therefore for mercy, that they have pity on
thee and on thy father, who have been so wrongfully
dispossessed. And if they be willing to help thee, thou
shalt be guided by them. Perchance they will take pity
on thy estate.'
"So the young Alexios said he would do this right
willingly, and that the advice was good."
Then he sent envoys to the Marquis of Montferrat,
chief of the host, and the barons agreed that if he would
help them to recover the land oversea, they would help
him to recover the land so wrongfully wrested from him
and his father. They sent also an envoy with the prince
to King Philip of Germany; and in consequence, a
goodly number of German soldiers joined the host at
Venice and prepared to aid them in their enterprise.
And then, after long delay, the Crusading army set out
from the port of Venice in the month of October, 1202.
THE FLEET OF THE FIFTH CRUSADE SETS SAIL FROM VENICE