Latin patriarch of Jerusalem (1225-1238/1239) and papal legate.
Born into the nobility of Burgundy, Gerold served as abbot of Molesme (1208-1215), abbot of Cluny (1215-1219/ 1220), and bishop of Valence (1220-1225). Gerold’s accession to the patriarchate occurred when the Frankish states of Outremer needed powerful Western allies after the failure of the Fifth Crusade (1217-1221). While still bishop of Valence, he attended the meeting at Ferentino in March 1223 to discuss the possibility of a marriage between Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and king of Sicily, and Isabella II, daughter of John of Brienne and heiress to the kingdom of Jerusalem.
On the death of Ralph of Merencourt (1124), the canons of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre nominated Cardinal Thomas of Capua to the patriarchate, but Pope Honorius III refused their postulation and appointed Gerold as patriarch and papal legate. The new patriarch set out for Palestine in September 1227 along with Frederick’s long-promised crusade, although the emperor, who remained in Italy pleading that illness made him unfit to travel, was excommunicated by Pope Gregory IX for failing to fulfil his obligations as a crusader (29 September 1227), supposing that the emperor was using the deferred crusade to neutralize papal opposition to his Italian policies.
The eventual arrival of the excommunicate emperor in Palestine (September 1228) posed problems for the patriarch and the Latin hierarchy. In February 1229 Frederick II agreed on a ten-year truce with al-Kāmil, Ayyûbid sultan of Egypt, and thereby gained Jerusalem, Lydda (mod. Lod, Israel), Bethlehem, and a strip of land as far as the coast. Gerold, along with the Templars and Hospitallers, fought against this treaty, believing that it implied the abandonment of the rest of the former kingdom, and that the places restored were indefensible.
After Frederick entered Jerusalem on Saturday 17 March 1229 with his army and wore the crown, Patriarch Gerold had an interdict placed on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the other holy sites in Jerusalem by the archbishop of Caesarea (19 March). The patriarch and the Curia vacillated between dismissing Frederick’s performance in the holy city as a miserable spectacle and condemning it as the ultimate sinful endeavour. The conflict was brought to an end when news reached Frederick that a papal army, led by his father- in-law, John of Brienne, had invaded the kingdom of Sicily, and he left with his troops for the West on 1 May 1229. Thereafter, the patriarch and the bishops reconsecrated the regained holy sites.
In the continuing conflict between supporters and opponents of Frederick II in Palestine, the patriarch’s position was not simple, not least because Frederick II made peace with the pope in 1230 (Treaty of San Germano) and was thenceforth recognized by Gregory IX as lawful king of Jerusalem. Gerold and Bishop Peter of Caesarea, together with the masters of the Temple and the Hospital, attempted to mediate peace between the two factions during the civil war, but met with no success. The emperor was persuaded that the patriarch was his enemy, and on 7 July 1232 prevailed on the pope to recall Gerold to Rome. The patriarch did not evidently obey this summons for over a year, but when he finally reached Rome in 1233, he was detained there for four years.
Gerold returned to Syria in 1237 with his full legatine powers restored. He attended to conflicts between the Order of the Temple, the Teutonic Knights, and the Order of St. John, and he filled a number of vacant sees (Caesarea, Nazareth, Bethlehem) without reference to Frederick, since the emperor’s authority was not recognized in most of the kingdom. Gerold continued to reside in Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel), not wishing to live in Jerusalem, because the Holy City was partly held by the Muslims under the terms of the treaty of 1229. He appointed the dean of Jaffa and the abbot of the Mount of Olives as his vicars in Jerusalem, but does not seem to have visited the Holy City himself.
The truce with al-Kāmil expired in 1239. Gerold accompanied the Crusade of 1239-1241, led by Thibaud IV of Champagne, in its campaign against Egyptian-held territory in southern Palestine, but the attack was defeated near Gaza (November 1239). This was Gerold’s last known public act: he died later that winter, leaving a fortune estimated at more than 16,000 bezants, which he deposited with the Templars for the defense of the Holy Land.