War Sicilian vespers. Carl of Anjou loses the kingdom

The crusade against the Tunisian emir, despite ambiguous results, only added the already considerable political weight to Charles of Anjou. No one had the strength and ability to challenge his rights to the Sicilian throne, and the uprising, inspired by the already dead Conradin, faded away, abundantly irrigated with blood.

War Sicilian vespers. Carl of Anjou loses the kingdom

Sicilian Vespers. Italian painter of the late 19th century Erulo Eroli

The king’s gaze was directed to the East - he dreamed of strengthening the Balkan vector of his policy and of a victorious march on Constantinople. However, a valiant monarch and a diplomat experienced in diplomacy did not make it to the capital of the once mighty Byzantium. The island of Sicily, despite the merciless suppression, continued to remain a hot brazier, lightly sprinkled with sand.

Sharp stone under the wheel stories

Of course, there was also a real problem related to the Holy See. The support and inspiring word of the Pope were very useful in some circumstances, while in others the presence of the pontiff itself created tangible difficulties. Karl of Anjou, as he could, kept the election of the new head of the Catholic Church, skillfully using the internecine feuds of the cardinals and higher clergy. Unfortunately for the King of Sicily, this could not continue indefinitely - all large sections of the population wanted, finally, to streamline the spiritual life.

This aspiration was expressed in at least the inhabitants of the Apennine Peninsula were capable of. In the palace in Viterbo, where the conclave of cardinals met, local activists dismantled the roof, forcing Their Eminence to make a decision as soon as possible. As a result of September 1 1271, Gregory X was elected the new Pope.

This choice was not very favorable for Karl. Gregory led his own policy, which was not distinguished by its former loyalty to the King of Sicily. The pope not only approved the election of Charles's nephew, the young French king Philip III, as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, but also established quite friendly relations with Byzantium. In 1274, a union was signed in Lyon, according to which two churches were reunited. Although this agreement was temporary, now organizing a military campaign to seize Constantinople was a much more difficult task.

The new pope clearly made it clear to Karl that he would not tolerate any hostile actions against Byzantium. Gregory was a good strategist and clearly understood that the success of the crusades and the fate of all the territories conquered in the Holy Land depend largely on close cooperation with Eastern Christians. So Karl had to concentrate on other areas of his foreign and domestic policy.

He was a good player - calculating and able to take risks. Even from the death of his brother, Louis IX, whom he respected and honored during his lifetime, the king of Sicily sought to gain some benefit. He insisted that part of the remains of the French monarch was buried in the Sicilian kingdom - after all, there was talk of canonization of Louis.

In foreign policy, his sword is deeply stuck in the Balkans. Taking advantage of a convenient moment, he conquered the Epirus despotat and declared himself king of Albania. However, further expansion to the east had to be stopped because of the firm position of Gregory X, whose plans did not include a quarrel with Mikhail VIII Palaeologus at all. Carl had to temper his aggressive fervor and with some regret to concentrate on Italian affairs.

In the north and in the center of the Apennine Peninsula, the ghibeline parties were still strong, and in addition, Charles of Anjou was in very strained relations with the new ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, Rudolf I Habsburg. The latter had its own vision of what is happening in Italy and considered the Sicilian king an upstart. With a generous hand into this fire of hostility, he poured oil on Karl Margaret of Provence, the mother of the French King Philip III, who hates.

The difficult relationship between the emperor and the king of Sicily, which threatened to turn into a series of merciless and exhausting wars, was solved by the next Pope Nicholas III only in 1280 year. At the same time, Charles had to abandon his governorship in Tuscany. However, it was too early to talk about the weakening of the position of the king of Sicily - he not only still owned southern and central Italy, the territories in Epirus, but also received the title of King of Jerusalem. However, this crown went to Karl not with the help of the masterly use of wrought iron, but due to the correct investment of minted gold. In 1277, he bought this title from Mary of Antioch, granddaughter of King Amory II of Jerusalem.

Pope Martin IV

The newly minted king controlled his overseas possession from Italy, sending in his place a trusted man, Roger de Saint-Severino, with a large detachment of warriors. Skillfully intervening in the election of another pope, Karl managed to push through a reliable candidate in all respects: Martin IV, a longtime friend of the French royal family. Finally, after so many years of intrigue and failure, the king of Sicily acquired a loyal Pope at his disposal.

And Martin did not disappoint - in a short time, the negotiation process with Byzantium was curtailed, and the emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus himself was again declared schismatic. Karl's hands were untied, and he again began to prepare for the campaign against Constantinople. Moreover, the position of the emperor Michael, surrounded on all sides by the enemies, was as difficult as ever.

Karl of Anjou was at the peak of his political and military power and, perhaps, was not very sure about his strength. He dreamed of Constantinople, but sometimes the cart, which was quickly dispersed by the gambling driver, could tip over even because of a small stone, which was not appropriately caught by the wheel. And for Charles, Sicily became such a stone.


Karl could not hope for the indifference of his enemies, whose number grew in proportion to the political and military success of the king. These enemies had a good memory and were far from Christian forgiveness. In 1262, Manfred, being the de facto ruler of Sicily, betrayed his daughter Constance for the Infante Pedro, son of King of Aragon Jaime I. When Manfred died in the battle of Benevento, his illegitimate sons were imprisoned, and the young Conradin was beheaded, Constantine became the heiress of Hohenstaufu in Italy.

Constance of Sicily, daughter of Manfred, queen of Aragon

All these years, while Charles of Anjou strengthened his power, expanded possession, preparing for the mission of the great Crusader King, political refugees from Sicily and the Apennine Peninsula flowed to Aragon. There were people who served not only Manfred and Conradin, but also well remembering the Emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen. All this crowd of fugitives and dissidents beat the threshold of the residence of Pedro and Constance. The infanta expressed to them every kind of sympathy, but while Jaime I was alive, loyal to the French king and his relatives, could not influence the situation.

In 1276, Jaime of Aragon passed away, and his son Pedro ascended the throne. Constance finally became queen. Having settled internal strife and strengthened the borders with the Moorish territories in Andalusia, the royal couple was able to do external affairs. The right hand of the new King of Aragon was Chancellor Giovanni da Procida. And it was he who was entrusted with the task of calculating the political "multi-purpose", the purpose of which was the collapse of the Anjou dynasty and the return of Sicily to its true owners, according to Pedro and Constancia.

The operation began in 1279, when Giovanni da Procida was incognito, often changing appearance, traveling companions and means of transportation, and embarked on his journey through Europe. The Chancellor visited the Byzantine Emperor, in Genoa, Sicily and Rome. He led secret negotiations, probed the ground, desperately bargained and negotiated. In many places, the idea that "Karl must go" found a warm response and understanding. King Pedro, in fact, had already openly begun to prepare for an expedition to Sicily, and the island itself was flooded with its agents.

The situation there was quite different from the continental possessions of Charles. If the inhabitants of Puglia, in spite of the rigid tax system, did not show underlined discontent, then the islanders had a special opinion on this matter. In the possession of Charles of Anjou, Sicily was a crisis region - the administration, bearing in mind the recent uprising, acted severely and at times cruelly. Its representatives did not respect local customs and traditions and did not even bother to get acquainted with the Sicilian language.

The island was inhabited by many Greeks, who still considered themselves related to Byzantium and did not want to take part in the campaign against it. The efforts of the agents of Aragon, supported by the gold of Emperor Michael, gave quite optimistic results. Meanwhile, Charles of Anjou, not paying attention to the warnings of an impending threat, concentrated a huge fleet in Messina. According to the plan, it was intended for the transfer of the army under Constantinople and was supposed to send off 1282 in the first week of April. Emperor Michael was close to despair, and King Pedro III was very concerned - something needed to be done urgently.

Sicilian Vespers

Holy Week in Sicily in the spring of the year 1282 stood outwardly calm. Emissaries of Charles of Anjou continued to collect food, forage and livestock from the population, because the army formed for the campaign against Constantinople absorbed them in large quantities. The islanders tightened their belts tighter and squeezed their fists no less tightly. The city of Palermo celebrated Easter, the coming 29 of March, and no one imagined how this holiday will end.

The center of action was the Church of the Holy Spirit, located a mile from the old city wall on the banks of the Oretto River. On Monday, local people flocked here to listen to the evening service. It was crowded, the parishioners were in high spirits, talking and singing. Suddenly, a small French detachment of soldiers and officials appeared on the square in front of the church. The guests were not welcome here, especially since the visitors were not only drunk, but also behaved quite cheekily.

A royal sergeant, Druet, went so far as to snatch a married woman out of the crowd and start caring for her. The patience of the spouse who was present immediately vanished instantly, like water spilled on a brazier. He grabbed a knife and stabbed the sergeant. This led to a chain reaction: the French tried to avenge their comrade, but were immediately surrounded by a crowd of increasingly ferocious townspeople, in whose hands suddenly appeared weapon. Soon all the French were killed.

Sicilian Vespers. Francesco Ayets, 1846

At the same time, the bells of the Church of the Holy Spirit and other temples loudly called for vespers. Events began to develop like an avalanche. The news of the incident, like the wind, spread throughout the city. Out of nowhere, heralds appeared who began to urge residents to take up arms and kill the French. The streets were quickly filled with armed and embittered people - the enmity, which had been locked up for a long time, broke free. The crowd, chanting "Death to the French!", Was looking for blood and soon found it in abundance.

A merciless massacre began, in which there was no mercy for either women or children. Citizens burst into houses and inns, killing any Frenchman they met, not sparing family members. All the French monks were forcibly pulled out of the monasteries and immediately deprived of their lives. By the morning of the next day, more than two thousand people were killed, and the rebels fully controlled Palermo.

It should be noted that the rebellion did not turn into a chaotic mayhem, when, fed up with blood, the cooled crowd unhurriedly and happily dispersed to their homes. On the contrary, the insurgent citizens quickly organized themselves, chose authoritative leaders from among the nobility and declared themselves a commune. Delegates were immediately sent to the Pope with the request to take Sicily under their high patronage.

The uprising spread around the island, and soon only Messina remained in the hands of the French, where a large and strong garrison was stationed and the fleet of Charles of Anjou stood, who for some time called himself Charles I. However, apparent calm in Messina remained nothing more than an illusion. Large detachments of the rebels were moving toward the city, and appeals to the insurgency spread among the inhabitants.

Finally, 28 April, the city rose in arms. The French garrison escaped destruction, hiding in the citadel in time, but the rebels captured and burned the entire huge fleet, concentrated in the harbor. Together with him burned and plans of Charles to seize Constantinople and inscribed in the history of his name as the great King of the Crusader. After short negotiations, the garrison of the Messina Citadel was allowed to leave the city on ships. Sicily was no longer under the rule of the Angevin dynasty.

Island of contention

The residents of Palermo who had sent a delegation to Pope Martin hoped in vain. The head of the church did not deign to accept them. But the Sicilians did not despair and soon sent to the residence of the Pontiff new ambassadors - not only from Palermo and Messina, but also from other cities. This time, Martin allowed the delegation to enter into his chambers, however, he only answered the whole prayer to take the rebels under his patronage with a quote from the Bible: “Rejoice, King of the Jews! - and beat him. The delegates received no other answer and left with nothing.

7 May 1282, the Holy See issued a bullet about excommunication of all rebel Sicilians from the church and in advance of all those who support them. In addition, Martin excommunicated the emperor Michael Palaeologus and all the Ghibellins of northern Italy. Dad turned out to be true to himself and in the conflict that started, he clearly chose the side of King Charles.

Carl was very painfully worried all the more sad news from Sicily. When the king was informed about the massacre in Palermo, he took this event as a local unrest, which the local administration could handle. But after receiving the news of the fall of Messina and the loss of standing there fleet, Karl exclaimed: “Lord Almighty, if you want to overthrow me, then at least let down in small steps!”

However, the fifty-five-year-old king of Sicily was far from despair and began to prepare a relentless and quick answer to the rebels. His troops were in the south of the peninsula, and in the local ports, particularly in Brindisi, the entire fleet that had survived the Messian disaster was concentrated.

Karl also wanted to enlist the support of his nephew, King of France Philip III, who, in between the sessions of the mother's suggestions, was still able to make independent decisions. The nephew expressed his understanding of his uncle's problems, rightly, however, pointing out that the rope from the bell of Sicilian vespers has long been in the hands of Aragonese bell ringers.

Pedro and Constance continued to pretend that they had nothing to do with what was happening. When Pope Martin IV sent a request for what purpose a huge fleet was concentrated in the mouth of the Ebro River, he received a very pious answer: to fight against pirates in Africa. However, to himself and in the circle of initiates, Pedro of Aragon determined the position of "Africa" ​​in a place just north of the ruins of Carthage.

The uprising in Sicily, despite careful preparations, took him by surprise - the king planned to speak only when Karl sailed with his army to finally solve the problem of Constantinople. Only after the loss of Messina and the destruction of Charles’s ships did the Aragonese fleet set sail. Pedro III didn’t really like to quarrel with dad, so he acted very carefully on the initial pores. His fleet slowly crossed the Mediterranean Sea and dropped anchors on the Algerian coast. The ruler of Constantine was a formal ally of the King of Aragon against the Tunisian emir, and Pedro stopped here, awaiting news from Sicily.

And in Sicily, waiting for guests in the face of enraged former owners. Carl was in no hurry - the campaign to Constantinople was still postponed indefinitely, and Anjou thoroughly approached the matter of organizing a punitive expedition. In Genoa, Venice and Pisa, new ships were hired to transport troops. 25 June 1282 Karl's army crossed the strait and camped near Messina.

Simultaneously with this operation, steps were taken to more or less peacefully curb the uprising. Martin IV sent one of his trusted representatives to the island - the skilled negotiator Cardinal Gerard Parma, who was supposed to make contact with the leaders of the Sicilian communes and persuade them to capitulate. In addition to the efforts of the Holy See, Charles issued a special edict, according to which the administration of the island underwent major changes in the direction of easing. Administrative power of officials was significantly limited, and taxes were reduced.

However, the belated concessions of the king made no impression on the islanders. The French continued to hate and were considered invaders, and Charles himself was a ruthless tyrant who killed the true King Manfred and executed Conradin.

The inhabitants of Messina began to prepare for defense. It was led by a militarily experienced Sicilian aristocrat Alamo da Lentino. He immediately began to bring the walls and fortifications of the city in proper order, to procure food and weapons. Volunteers from Genoa, Ancona and Venice arrived in Messina and were unhappy with Charles. In early August, a detachment of Aragonese nobles, together with servants and squires, arrived here on ships. They “asked for leave” from Pedro III and, on the rights of volunteers, decided to take part in the defense.

After setting up his camp and realizing that the Messina’s defenders were rejecting any negotiations, Karl took active steps. The first attack on the city fortifications was launched on August 6 - being a trial, it was beaten off without any casualties. The next attacks, a few days later, were carried out with the involvement of large forces from the besiegers, but were equally fruitless.

After the first test of strength, the turn of the negotiations came when Cardinal Gerard Parma, the papal nuncio, went to Messina. When the defenders heard from him about the request of the Pope to return the city to the "true owner", the cardinal was escorted to the French camp.

15 August 1282, Charles's troops again went on the attack, and again they were waited for by failure. A naval blockade loop around the city — Charles’s fleet was many times more powerful than the naval forces at the disposal of the Messina. However, hunger has not yet been felt - this year there was a rich harvest of fruits collected from areas inside the city, fish were abundant in the harbor. Having come to the conclusion that not to take the besieged with the ground, Karl again resorts to force methods of influence.

2 September he unsuccessfully attacks the northern side of Messina, and 14 September was announced the day of the general assault. The battle on that day was notable for its particular intensity and bitterness, but the fortifications turned out to be strong and firm, like the spirit of their defenders. After a stone from a catapult killed two knights standing next to Karl, he ordered a retreat.

Frustrated by the failure, the king tried to use a different method: he wrote the commander-in-chief of defense, Alamo da Lentino, a lengthy letter in which he promised him a lot of money and lands, and heirlooms. In exchange, it was required to transfer Messina under the authority of the king and extradite six instigators of the insurrection of Karl’s choice. Other residents received the highest forgiveness. Alamo da Lentino was obviously not one of those who believed the promises of a wolf to become a vegetarian in exchange for the right to visit the sheep-dairy only for scientific purposes, and rejected the king’s proposals.

The defenders of Messina, like the rest of Sicily, were in an extremely difficult position. The Pope, despite his pleas, unconditionally accepted Charles's side — he should not have expected help from the Holy See. Sicily, despite volunteers from the mainland, was not able to stand against the mighty war machine of one of the most powerful and powerful monarchs of that time.

And then the call for help was heard by another interested party who, until recently, was warming the decks of their ships under the African sun. 30 August 1282 troops Pedro III of Aragon landed in Trapani.

To be continued ...
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  1. +3
    2 July 2018 07: 42
    Sicily is rich in killer traditions
    And Karl of Anjou did not understand who he contacted. Interesting story, thanks
  2. +3
    2 July 2018 15: 52
    An interesting era.
    The Anjou Sicilian Dynasty is a dynasty of real adventurers. Well, a clash with the papacy and the German crown is a topic for a detective novel.
    Vigorous were the times)
  3. +1
    2 July 2018 19: 05
    There were merry times, man was a wolf to man, and enlightened absolutism was still very far away.
    1. Cat
      2 July 2018 19: 28
      Great difference will devour you enlightened wolf or illiterate! By the way, the era of saints, heroes and outright bandits, but how beautifully they made a name, glory and wealth for themselves !!!
      Thanks to the author for continuing the series of articles!
      1. +1
        3 July 2018 11: 11
        Quote: Kotischa
        By the way, the era of saints, heroes and outright bandits,

        And often in one person ... Beautiful time (in its own way) ...
        In England, Edward the Long-Legged conducts not the first or the last genocide of Jews in history, in Scotland, the boy William Wallace still just drives goats through the mountains, in Sweden the children of Jarl Birger Mgnusson strenuously, without hesitation in means, divide the father's inheritance, in Russia they died in death the struggle for power, the children of Alexander Nevsky — Dmitry and Andrew — against the background of their struggle, Tver dramatically intensified with Prince Yaroslavich, the future saint. A small town of Moscow on the eponymous river just received its first prince-Rurikovich - young Danilo Alexandrovich. In the forest wilds of Samogitia, a small boy Gedeminas is swinging a wooden sword in games with his peers, Khan Mengu-Timur dies in the Horde and the last Mongolian Khan Tokhta actually begins the power struggle, the first independent political steps in the Middle East are made by the Ottoman Emirate - the future great empire .. .
  4. 0
    3 July 2018 10: 06
    Well done, Denis, interesting, I read with pleasure good
    Question. I tried to find a less reliable image of the main character of the cycle - Carl of Anjou. In addition to the sculpture on the facade of the palace in Naples, I did not find anything, but this, I'm sorry, the XVIII century. Are there any images close to the 13th century?
    1. +1
      5 July 2018 20: 28
      There are several images of Charles of Anjou, close to the XIII century. The European art of that time was predominantly ecclesiastical - wall paintings and sculptures. There were also miniatures in manuscripts. There is a miniature showing the coronation of Charles of Anjou in Rome in 1266. This is an illuminated manuscript created in 50 years after the death of the king.

      Miniature of Charles of Anjou, sailing beyond Rome and crowning his pope. The title of the manuscript is “Les Grandes chroniques de France”. Origin France, Central (Paris). Date after 1332, before 1350. Painters Mahiet and Master Cambrai Missal. More details can be found here: Great Chronicles
      The second miniature from the New Chronicles by Giovanni Villani, who was born, according to various sources, 5 – 10 years before Charles’s death, depicts a story about the death of the king.

      It is clear that there is no talk of portrait similarity - the image of faces is rather arbitrary. Rather, these miniatures can be called the plot of Carl.
      However, with portraits at that time it was not so good. Even the image of Louis IX the Saint was written only in 300 years - and surely this image was the way El Greco imagined this king.

      King of France Louis IX the Holy. El Greco. The Louvre
      And there is another image of King Charles of Anjou. This is a gravestone in the abbey of Saint-Denis, where his heart is buried. I do not know if there is a portrait likeness, but the headstone is ancient. It escaped destruction during the Great French Revolution. By the way, the gravestone of St. Louis was destroyed during the Hundred Years War.

      Tombstone of King Charles of Anjou in Saint-Denis Abbey
      All images are taken from open sources.
      1. 0
        5 July 2018 20: 36
        I see, thanks.
  5. +1
    3 July 2018 15: 39
    Denis, thanks again for the article. I look forward to continuing.

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