Unleashing the Fury of the Fifth Crusade: The Epic Clash of Empires in the Holy Land

The 5th Crusade started in 1217 and lasted until 1221. The third Crusade and fourth Crusades had been a disaster and it was hoped that the fifth Crusade would be more successful.

“The Fifth Crusade was an ambitious attempt to reassert Christian control over the Holy Land. Despite its initial successes, the crusade ultimately failed due to political infighting and military setbacks.”

Jonathan Phillips, Professor of Crusading History at Royal Holloway, University of London.
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Pope Innocent lll started the fifth Crusade, he was well aware of the mistakes made during the fourth Crusade and was determined that this would not happen again.

Pope Innocent III Fifth Crusade
Pope Innocent III demands the Fifth Crusade

To achieve his aim Pope Innocent lll was insistent that the 5th Crusade would be controlled by the church and not by kings so that the church would have full control over this crusade.

Pope, cardinal, and bishop. Supreme catholic priests in cassocks.

Pope Innocent *5th Crusade in 1213

As in previous Crusades, the goal of the 5th Crusade was to return the Holy lands and the city of Jerusalem to Christian rule. However, there was little enthusiasm for the fifth Crusade because of previous unsuccessful campaigns Crusades.


The Pope decided to offer rewards to Christian people who would take part in the Fifth Crusade. The Pope also asked people who are unable to make the journey to fast and pray for a positive outcome for the fifth Crusade.

Unfortunately, Pope Innocent III, died before his plans could be accomplished and the fifth crusade mission was taken up by a new Pope called ‘Honorius’.

Fifth Crusade Plan

The Fifth Crusade was yet another attempt to recapture the Holylands from Muslim rule, the plan was to attack the Ayyubid state in Egypt first and to try and divide the Egyptian people.


The Fourth Crusade had been a disaster and due to a severe breakdown in discipline in which the European crusaders attacked their fellow Byzantine Christians, this served to divide the Christians and strengthen the ties between the Egyptian people that had been previously fragmented, now Egypt was as united as ever.

The Egyptians now controlled Jerusalem and had captured much of the land that Christians in previous crusades had fought for and won.

Fifth Crusade *Fighting the Ayyubids

The armies of the 5th Crusade set off for Acre in 1217, at this time John of Brienne was the ruler of Jerusalem Kingdom and Prince Bohemund IV ruled the kingdom of Antioch.

The crusaders would join forces with their armies in the fight against the Ayyubids state of Egypt.


The Crusaders were making good progress when they were joined by the armies from Germany and Holland, this strengthened their resolve to conquer the Holy Lands and retake Jerusalem.

Fifth-Crusadde-Double-headed eagle of the Sultanate of Rum

Oliver of Cologne, the count of Holland, and William I were united in their attempt to conquer Egypt.

They also had another ace up their sleeve when they persuaded allied Seljuk Sultan of Rum to join them, he would give them more attacking options and would work his way from the North to fight the Egyptians.

Fifth Crusade *Assault on Damietta

In the summer of 1218, during The Fifth Crusades, the crusaders launched their assault on Damietta, which was a strategically important Egyptian settlement.  The crusaders caught Sultan Al-Adil by surprise, however, the city survived and the invading crusaders were repelled.

“The Fifth Crusade was unique in its emphasis on diplomacy rather than outright military conquest. However, this approach ultimately proved ineffective in achieving the crusaders’ goals.”

Carol Lansing, Professor of Medieval History at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The crusaders of the Fifth Crusade were determined and resolute and continued to attack for several months and there were thousands of lives lost before the battle for Damietta finally reached its conclusion.

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The Crusaders found a wealth of treasure, gold, silver, jewels, etc. and this inspired them to continue their march towards Cairo, this would be the last thing in their way and they could then march onto Cairo, then nothing would stand between them and Jerusalem.

“The Fifth Crusade represented a turning point in Christian-Muslim relations, as it marked a significant escalation in violence and hostility between the two faiths.”

Thomas Asbridge, Professor of Medieval History at Queen Mary University of London.

Fifth Crusade *Trapped by the Flooded Nile

Al-Adil planned to resist the crusaders a few miles outside of Damietta.

The crusaders had received word of the Sultans’ location, however, there was to be no resistance from the Egyptians who were shocked by the size of the Christian army as it marched towards them, many fled in fear for their lives towards Cairo and the famous Nile river.


The crusaders of the Fifth Crusade quickly followed the Egyptian forces but did not anticipate that the Nile which had become flooded would halt their progress and trap them.


“The Fifth Crusade was marked by a complex web of alliances and rivalries, as various European powers jockeyed for influence in the Holy Land. These political machinations often overshadowed the religious motivations behind the crusade.”

Helen Nicholson, Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at Cardiff University.

The Christian armies retreat

The Christian armies of the Fifth Crusade with little backup provisions including food became demoralised and started to retreat as they had nowhere to go.

As the Christian armies retreated they were attacked and they lost a lot of men, however, they caused the Egyptian soldiers many problems even though they were on the run.


The Crusaders would eventually agree to return Damietta to the Sultan after they were finally captured, and this brought an end to the fifth Crusade.