Hungary History Holy Land
The conquest of Jerusalem during the First Crusade on 15 July, 1099. Photo: Wiki Commons By Émile Signol

Andrew II (1205-1235) inherited the vow to lead a crusade to the Holy Land from his father, Béla III (1172-1196), and he fulfilled it. Though he was not able to win back Jerusalem for the Christian world, he managed to find spouses for his children and thus, he formed alliances with the rulers of the Middle East and the Balkans.

After Venice distracted the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204), and instead of fighting back the Holy Land, they conquered and sacked Constantinople, leaders of the Western Christian world felt ashamed and wanted to live this situation down. The French king and the Holy Roman Emperor were busy fighting their inland adversaries, so the leaders of the Fifth Crusade (1217-1221) came from the “periphery” of Western Christianity: the Hungarian king, the Count of Holland, the Austrian and the Meranian princes. 

Since Andrew II’s father, Béla III, could not fulfil his vow to lead a crusade to the Holy Land because of his illness, the newly elected Pope Honorius III (1216-1227) did everything to make Andrew do it. Andrew did not want to go and postponed the campaign three times (in 1201, 1209, and 1213), but finally, he set sail from the port of Split.

Many Historians say that Andrew wanted to

become the Latin Emperor of Constantinople

after his wife’s uncle, Emperor Henry, had died in 1216. However, many facts contradict this assumption, so today, there is an agreement that Andrew did not have such goals, he just wanted to fulfil his father’s vow. 

Andrew did not have the money for the costs of a crusade, so he had to sell and mortgage royal estates and even jewellery to finance his campaign. He probably had 5-10,000 men, and the ships transported them to Acre, where they landed in September.

In early November, the Crusaders launched a campaign for the Jordan River, forcing Al-Adil I, Sultan of Egypt, to withdraw without fighting. Afterwards, Andrew did not participate in any other military actions. Instead,

he was collecting relics,

including a water jug allegedly used at the marriage at Cana, the heads of Saint Stephen and Margaret the Virgin, the right hands of the Apostles Thomas and Bartholomew, and a part of Aaron’s rod.

In 1218, he decided to return home, but during his long journey, he managed to betroth Leo I of Armenia’s daughter, Isabella, for his youngest son, Andrew. Furthermore, he arranged the marriage of his eldest son, Béla, to Maria Laskarina, a daughter of Emperor Theodore I Laskaris. When he arrived in Bulgaria, Andrew was detained until he “gave full surety that his daughter would be united in marriage” to Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria.

Finally, Andrew returned to Hungary in late 1218 and found the country on the edge of civil war. Historians agree today that his crusade achieved almost nothing but brought him honour and

demonstrated that Hungary is a part of the Christian world.

HERE you can read an article about how Hungarian archaeologists found the basement of the tombs of Andrew II (1205-1235) and his wife, Yolanda of Courtenay (1200-1233) of Constantinople, near Egres (Igris, Romania). In Hungary, this is a very important discovery because apart from the Habsburg kings and queens of the country who rest in Vienna, there are only a few Hungarian monarchs whose grave or tomb is preserved or even known.

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