Innocent III, Register 6, no. 102

Po. 1947

Consilium quod dominus papa Innocentius misit crucesignatis sine bulla

(Consilium that the Lord Pope Innocent sent to the crusaders without a seal)

If you have truly repented of your sins and propose to render satisfaction fully for them, we believe, rather we know, you will now be reconciled to God. If, therefore, the Venetians could be induced to render satisfaction and if they would merit the benefit of absolution, you could sail with them securely and fight the battle of the Lord. If they do not, indeed, want to render satisfaction and do not want to be absolved, as those who are said to rejoice in their sins rather than repent them, we permit you to sail with them to the land of the Sarracens or to the province of Jerusalem. You should agree on this among yourselves and with the Venetians honestly, and you may make the passage by boat. However, you should communicate with them as little as you can and with sorrow and sadness in your hearts and with the hope of forgiveness.

Since, moreover, the Venetians have received a great quantity of money for your passage from you, and since they cannot be induced to refund it or forced to return it, if it would be decided otherwise, we would seem to injure you for your penance and give them a reward for their contumacy <if we forbade you to take passage with them>. They remain obligated to fulfil their debt to you, and one may demand and one may receive from excommunicants what is owed. It is moreover provided by law that when anyone travels through the lands of heretics or excommunicants, a traveler can buy and receive those things that are necessary. Therefore if a sentence of excommunication were levied on the paterfamilias of the home, his family would be excused from participation in the excommunication. Although the doge of the Venetians, the lord of the ships, as the paterfamilias of the home persists in his excommunication, while you were on his ships, his excommunication did not touch you. You will be excused in heaven if you sail on the Venetians' ships with a heart full of sorrow, that you communicate with them with the hope that they will do penance and that your communication with them cannot be avoided. When you arrive in the lands of the Sarracens or in the province of Jerusalem and disembark from their ships, unless the Venetians have been induced or compelled to give satisfaction and to receive the gift of absolution according to the forms of the church, do not presume to wage the battle of the Lord with them. Otherwise, if you may do battle against the enemies of the cross with the Venetians still being subject to condemnation, you may not prevail but fail when you turn your backs and flee.

For in the book of Josuha it is read that Achor, son of Carmi, took from the condemned plunder of Jericho a good red cloak, two hundred silver pieces and a fifty weight bar of gold, the Lord of Israel was angry [Joshua 7:21]. Consequently when the three thousand Israelites ascended to the city of Hai, they immediately turned their backs and were struck down by the men of the city of Hai. Thirty-six men of Israel were slain. The men of Hai pursued them from the gate of the city to Sabarim and cut them down as they ran down the slopes {Josuha 7:4-5]. The Lord did not deliver the city of Hai into the hands of the Israelites until the people had stoned Achor and had burned all his belongings [Josuha 7:25-26]. In Paralipomena Josaphat, the king of Juda, made an alliance of friendship with Ochozias, whose deeds were evil, to build a fleet to send to Tharsis. Eliezer, son of Dodau from Maresa, it is read, prophesied saying: Because you have a pact with Ochozias, the Lord has destroyed your plans and wasted your ships. They will not sail to Tharsis [2 Paralip. 20:35-37]. It is also read in the book of the Machabees that when Judas set out against Gorgias, the provost of Idumaea with three thousand foot soldiers and four hundred horsemen, the battle was fought and a few Jews died. When the bodies of the slain were gathered and brought to the tombs of their fathers, they found gifts of the idols that were from Idumaea under their tunics. The law prohibited the Jews from wearing them. It is clear to all in these matters that for this reason those who fail, fail together.

In order that you will not be without food, we will write to our most beloved son in Christ, the emperor in Constantinople, and according to his letters he has promised us that he will provide food for you.  And if it may happen that those things may be denied to you, since you have devoted yourselves to the common service of the cross, whose is the land and its plenty, whose is the  world and all those who live in it, it may not seem absurd that you may, remembering to fear the Lord, take those things with the intention of making reparations and only those things that are necessary, without any injury of persons.  In this you may imitate the earthly emperor, concerning whom it is provided for in civil law that if his army were in need of food, it can gather provisions from anywhere.

In the Book of Judges it is found that when Gideon was pursuing kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna vigorously, and asked first the men of Succoth, and secondly the inhabitants of Penuel, for bread to feed his people who were with him and were almost exhausted, because they denied him what he had asked, when he returned victoriously he carried the old men of Succoth into the desert and with the thorns and thistles of the land he destroyed and crushed the men of Succoth. He also destroyed the tower of Penuel and killed the inhabitants of the city.

Necessity, especially when justifying necessary actions, excuses much in many things.

When, moreover, the Lord walked through cornfields on the Sabbath and his disciples picked ears of corn and ate them as they rubbed them between their hands, certain Pharisees said to the disciples: What are you doing? That is not permitted on the Sabbath, they proclaimed. Jesus, it is read, responded: Have you not read what David did when he and those with him who were hungry, went into the house of God, and David took the bread set out there and ate them, and gave it to those who were with him, even though the bread was only to be eaten by the priests? Jesus then added: Because the Son of man is Lord also over the Sabbath.

You, moreover, intend to struggle with the affairs of the Son of man and fight the battles of the Lord.

We bring forward these examples from the Holy Scriptures not because we would permit pillage, but that we would be tolerant of those things which could not be avoided without great loss and under the pressure of grave necessity.

Therefore you should prudently and cautiously plan that, if indeed the Venetians want to find some reasons for which the army may be disbanded, you should tolerate many things and dissimulate for a time, until you arrive at your destination, where, having accepted their plans and willfulness,  as it was expedient, you must curb their malice. 

Sine loco et anno (Ferentino, 20 June, 1203?).

Canonical Collections that included the consilium: Alan. 5.21.6; Alan. (2nd rec.) 5.22.10; Bern 5.22.13; Collectio Fuld. 5.21.34; 3 Comp. 5.21.7( X 5.39.34). Bern.'s text is the same as 3 Comp. and X. Alanus included the section on food but omitted all the biblical arguments.

Innocent III, Pope. Die Register Innocenz' III. 6: 6. Pontifikatsjahr, 1203/1204, Texte und Indices. Ed. Othmar Hageneder, John C. Moore, and Andrea Sommerlechner with Christoph Egger and Herwig Weigl. Publikationen des Historischen Instituts beim Österreichischen Kulturinstitut in Rom. Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1995. No. 102, pp. 165-168

On this text see Alfred J. Andrea and Ilona Motsiff, "Pope Innocent III and the Diversion of the Fourth Crusade Army to Zara," Byzantinoslavica: Revue internationale des études Byzantines 33 (1972) 6-25, at 23-25 and  Donald E. Queller and Thomas F. Madden, The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople (2nd Ed. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997) 90-92.

Translated by K. Pennington

The translation of  this consilium may be used in the classroom without asking my permission

© 1998  K. Pennington