Savoyard crusade

Fresco on the walls of a hall in the episcopal palace at Colle Val d'Elsa, depicting the departure of barons on a crusade. It probably represents the crusade of 1366, since the knight on the left is Amadeus VI. "The fresco is usually ascribed to the Sienese school and dated in the last half of the fourteenth century."[1]

The Savoyard crusade was a crusading expedition to the Balkans in 1366–67. It was born out of the same planning that led to the Alexandrian Crusade and was the brainchild of Pope Urban V. It was led by Amadeus VI, Count of Savoy, and directed against the growing Ottoman Empire in eastern Europe. Although intended as a collaboration with the Kingdom of Hungary and the Byzantine Empire, the crusade was diverted from its main purpose to attack the Second Bulgarian Empire. There the crusaders made small gains that they handed over to the Byzantines. It did take back some territory the Ottomans in the vicinity of Constantinople and on Gallipoli.

Noting the greater attention paid to Bulgaria than to the Turks, historian Nicolae Iorga argued "it was not the same thing as a crusade, this expedition that better resembled an escapade."[2] Still, the taking of Gallipoli, according to Oskar Halecki, was "the first success achieved by the Christians in their struggle for the defense of Europe, and at the same time the last great Christian victory [over the Turks] during all the fourteenth century."[3]



On 31 March 1363, Good Friday, at Papal Avignon, the kings of France and Cyprus, John II and Peter I, took crusading vows to go to the Holy Land and received from Pope Urban V the sign of the cross (signum crucis) to sew on their garments as a sign of their vow. This was the beginning of the Savoyard crusade, although John II would never fulfill his vow personally and Peter I did not ultimately cooperate with the count of Savoy in the venture.[4] The latter did not make his crusading vow, also before Urban V, until probably 19 January 1364, when a council of regional magnates was held at Avignon to form a league (colligatio) against the marauding free companies. This was certainly the occasion when the pope bestowed on Amadeus the Golden Rose, and the count founded the chivalric Order of the Collar to replace his earlier, and probably defunct, Order of the Black Swan.[4][5] The original members of the Order of the Collar were devoted followers, and often relatives, of Amadeus and all were probably pledged to accompany him on crusade. In the event, all but two who could not go for reasons of health, travelled east.[6] The Order, like the crusade, was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The deadline established for the departure of the crusade was 1 March 1365, although the pope expected both Peter of Cyprus and Amadeus of Savoy to depart earlier.[7] The deadline was met by nobody, although on 27 June the king of Cyprus left Venice on the Alexandrian Crusade.[8]

Map of the divisions of Bulgaria at the time of the crusade

In May 1363, Urban had made an appeal to Louis I of Hungary for a crusade against the Turks, and the king spent the winter of 1364–65 preparing an army for a major offensive designed to push the Turks out of Europe. In January 1365, as reported at Venice, ten galleys were being gathered in Provence for Louis's use, and Louis had issued a call for support in Zadar (Zara) and Dalmatia. In the spring he invaded, not Turkish Europe (Rumelia), but rather the north of Bulgaria, then ruled by the tsar's second son, Sratsimir. He conquered and occupied Vidin, and took Sratsimir captive back to Hungary. His expedition was thus completed in time for him to cooperate with Amadeus in a joint attack on the Turks in the spring of 1366.[9]


On 1 April 1364 Urban V made a serious effort to fund Amadeus's expedition with a series of seven bulls granting him various new sources of income. All confiscated "ill-gotten gains" (male acquisita) from theft, rapine or usury which could not be restituted (to the victims) were to be used for the next six years for the crusade. Further, "all the hitherto unspent legacies, gifts, confiscations, fines, and penances which had been bequeathed, given, assigned, or levied pro dicto passagio et Terre Sancte subsidio [for the passage to the Holy Land and its welfare] in the county of Savoy and its dependencies for the preceding twelve years and for the next six" were assigned to the count for his expedition. Finally, the church was to pay a tithe (tenth) of its tithes to the count for the crusade, excepting those priests who had received permission to go on the journey themselves.[4]

Army and fleet

In early 1366 Amadeus was in Savoy assembling his army. More than half of the army consisted of the hereditary vassals of the count of Savoy, and almost no family in his dominions was unrepresented. His half-brother Ogier and his nephew Humbert, son of his half-brother Humbert, both joined. Aymon, younger brother of James of Piedmont, and Amadeus's two illegitimate sons, both named Antoine, participated.[10] Among crusaders were the English knight Richard Musard, the count's cousin Guillaume de Grandson, Aymond, heir of Amadeus III of Geneva, who was too ill to fulfill his vow, and Louis de Beaujeu, sire d'Alloignet, who was taking the place of Antoine de Beaujeu.[11] By the time it had reached Venice, this army had been organised into three batailles under the oversight of the marshal Gaspard de Montmayeur: the first was led by Amadeus, Gaspard, Aymard de Clermont, and the brothers Guy and Jean de Vienne; the second by Étienne de la Baume, the sire de Basset, and the sire de Saint-Amour; the third and largest, the grosse bataille, was commanded by Guillaume de Grandson, Antelme d'Urtières, and Florimont de Lesparre, and included the count's relatives.[12]

Seeing that the Alexandrian Crusade had harmed its commercial relations with the Islamic powers, the Republic of Venice was disinclined to participate in the projected crusade or to provide it transportation east.[7][12] A letter from Pope Urban in March 1365 did not convince them otherwise, but an embassy from Amadeus procured a promise of two galleys in light of the count's request for five (and two fustes). Urban, the architect of the crusade, negotiated with Genoa and Marseille to procure ships, but the promise of transportation from the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV was never fulfilled. A large number of mercenaries from the free companies had joined the crusade and assembled at Tournus under Arnaud de Cervole, but when he was assassinated on 25 May 1366 near Mâcon, they abandoned the expedition.[12]

Other Languages
português: Cruzada Saboia
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Savojski križarski rat