The Crusaders of the Later Middle Ages:
the King of Cyprus, Pierre I Lusignan (1359–1369)

Svetlana Bliznyuk (Moscow State University, Russia)

First of all I wish to consider a problem of the crusades in the Later Middle Ages: their character, tasks, purposes, the main directions, a role of the local governors of the crusaders’ states in their organization. We take into consideration a fact of gradual losing of the illusion by the local governors that the French royal dynasty would provide the leadership and the resources needed for the crusade in the XIVth century. We can illustrate it with the crusading activity of the king of Cyprus Pierre I Lusignan, who just intercepted the initiative from the French king and assumed his role as the leader of the crusade.

The King of Cyprus Pierre I Lusignan was one of the most famous crusaders of the Later Middle Ages. Many chronicles, poems, legends, enthusiastic words of his contemporaries were devoted to this legendary person. One of the brilliant victory of the crusaders in the Later Middle Ages, the conquer of Alexandria in Egypt in 1365, was connected with his name. With his accession in 1359, we come to the most famous period of Cypriot involvement in the crusading movement.

After the victory in Alexandria Pierre I Lusignan became almost a legendary hero who was possessed of the idea to return the Holy Land and Jerusalem to the Christians. This opinion exists and in the modern historiography. But did Pierre I believe himself to the possibility to take Jerusalem? Did he aim it in general? Or may be was this idea only a slogan of propaganda to collect in his army the European knighthood? To answer to these questions we need to analyze the real economical situation in Cyprus on the eve of his crusades, a character and causes of his travels to Europe to organize his expeditions, the character of his negotiations with the European monarchs and governors about it, the real relations with the sultan of Egypt.

After the accession of King Pierre I (1359), he continues a policy of his father Hugh IV with regard to the Turks. He conquers several Turkish points in Asia Minor. But he could not begin a war against the Mameluks without the help of the European knights. His new chivalric Order, “the Order of Sword,” has been explicitly designed to appeal to the foreigners, and Pierre I had rewarded them generously. We can see many foreigners at Pierre’s court and in his army. But all of them were only private persons but not representatives of their states. First the maritime republics and the pope helped Pierre I and gave him financial and military support. But after the seizure of Alexandria their attitude to Pierre’s crusades were changed.

Only the knights of the Order of Hospitals were with the Cypriot king up to the end of his crusading activity. Following on from there I wish to consider the position and the role of the Order of Hospitals in the crusades of the Cypriot king. One of the main areas I wish to touch on is a military aliens between the Cypriot king and the knights of Rhodes. The armies of the crusaders were collected and organized just in Rhodes. Exactly from Rhodes the crusaders under the leadership of Pierre I Lusignan set sail to Egypt. The Cypriot crusading army was formed also in Rhodes. In general it is doubtful that Pierre was in Rhodes the large part of his time. Rhodes was not only the place of the crusaders’ station but also helped the Cypriot king in all his expeditions, travels to the West, in the negotiations with the pope and European governors, but not in his home problems.

The interests of the Order of Hospitals and the Cypriot Kingdom in the eastern policy often coincided: to defend their states from the Turks and the Mameluks. Besides it was very important for Cyprus to prevent from the deviation the commercial ways from Cyprus and to provide privileges in commerce for the Cypriot merchants in the sultan’s lands. The main reason of the crusading activity of Pierre I Lusignan was connected with the economical problems of his kingdom and it had nothing in common with the political propaganda of taking Jerusalem and the Holy Land.


Chronological History