Chroniclers of the Fifth Crusade - 605 

Chroniclers of the Fifth Crusade

Chronicle of Ernoul (1227/29)

Francis’s dramatic crossing of the Crusader-Egyptian lines to visit the Sultan at Damietta captured the imagination of later generations and the scene was often depicted in art, yet there are only two contemporaries who recorded the visit: Jacques de Vitry and the so-called Chronicle of Ernoul.a The reputed author of this work, which is considered the most accurate of the several attempts to continue the classic twelfth-century Crusade chronicle of William of Tyre, was one Ernoul, the shield-bearer of Balian II of Ibelin, one of the great feudal lords of the Crusader states. Late in life this Ernoul apparently either wrote or dictated his reminiscences, and these were combined with other, anonymous accounts to complete the narrative. The chronicle was written in Old French in a direct and artless style.b

1 Now I am going to tell you about two clericsc who were among the host at Damietta. They went before the Cardinal,d saying that they wished to go preach to the Sultan,e but that they did not want to do this without his leave. The Cardinal told them that as far as he was concerned, they would go there neither with his blessing nor under his orders, for he would never want to give them permission to go to a place where they would only be killed. For he knew well that if they went there, they would never come back. But they responded that, if they were to go there, he would have no blame, because he had not commanded them, but only allowed them to go.

And thus they begged the Cardinal insistently. When he saw that they were firm in their resolve, he told them: “Sirs, I do not know what is in your hearts or in your thoughts, whether these be good or evil, but
if you do go, see that your heart and your thoughts are always turned to

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Chronicle of Ernoul, Biblioteca Biobibliografica della Terra Santa, p. 1213


Chronicle of Ernoul (1227/29)25

Or vous dirai de II. clers qui estoient en Post à Damiete. Il vinrent au cardenal, si disent qu'il voloient aler al soudan preçier, et qu'il n'i voloient mie aler sans [son] congié. Et li cardenals lor dist que par son congié ne par son commandement n'iroient il pas, car il ne lor voloit mie donner congiet à essient d'aler en tel liu où il fuissent ocis; car il savoit bien s'il i aloient, il n'en revenroient ja. Il disent, s'il i aloient, qu'il n'i aroit point de pecié, car il nes i envoioit pas, mais soufrist tant qu'il i alaissent. Moult l'en proierent. Quant li cardenal vit qu'il estoient en si grant [volonté d'aler], si lor dist: «Signor, je ne sai quel vo cuer, ne vos pensées soient, ne s'eles sont bonnes ou malvaises, et se vous i alés, gardés que vo cuer et vos pensées soient toujours à Dame Diu».

Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, p. 605

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