Post-classical history

Martin of Pairis

Abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Pairis in Alsace, participant in the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204), and hero of Gunther of Pairis’s Hystoria Constantinopolitana.

Little is known of Martin apart from Gunther’s partisan testimony; his family, place of origin, and birth and death dates are unknown. (Due to a misreading of the abbreviation for the Latin word licet in a manuscript of the Hystoria, some modern historians have even erroneously referred to him as Martin Litz.)

Martin took the cross while preaching the crusade at Basel in 1201, and set off with his crusade recruits in 1202. At Venice, Martin learned of the plan to sail against the Dalmatian city of Zara (mod. Zadar, Croatia) and sought leave to return home from Cardinal Peter Capuano, who refused and reportedly placed all German crusaders under Martin’s care. Following Zara’s capture, Martin joined the delegation to Rome that obtained papal absolution for the army, but rather than rejoining the crusaders at Zara, Martin sailed to Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel) with Peter Capuano. On 8 November 1203, he left Acre on a mission to seek speedy assistance from the crusade army for the beleaguered Franks of Outremer, reaching Constantinople on 1 January 1204, where he found the crusaders shut out of a hostile city. When they captured the city (12-13 April), Martin was not far behind, raiding the Church of Christ Pantokrator and making off with numerous relics. On 24 June 1204, Martin reentered Pairis, where he deposited his sacred booty in the abbey church.

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