Letter to Pope Urban III and Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, July 1187 re: Hattin

Bibliographic Information


Medieval Title: 

Untitled; Letter sent from crusader kingdoms to Pope Urban III, r. 1185-7 and the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I (Barbarossa), r. 1152-90.



Leaders of the Transmarine Church and Other Christian Men



1187, shortly after the Battle of Hattin, likely early to mid-July (see Birkett, “News”)


Textual Information

Brief Summary:

Letter sent from “principes transmarinae ecclesiae et ceteri christianae professionis homines lacrimabili conquestione ad aures Romani summi pontificis et serenissimi imperatoris Friderici” (Leaders of the transmarine church and other men of the Christian faith  in mournful bewailing to the ears  of the highest Roman bishop [Pope Urban III, r. 1185-7] and to the most serene emperor Frederick [Emperor Frederick Barbarossa].

The letter recounts the Battle of the Springs of Cresson ( May 1, 1187) and the Battle of Hattin (July 4, 1187), including the capture of a relic of the Holy Cross carried into battle by the armies of the crusader kingdoms. The text includes a brief narrative of what happened to the relic afterwards when, according to this letter, Saladin “Volens . . . virtutem dominicae crucis experiri [wanting to test the strength of the Lord’s Cross]” had it thrown down into a fire. The cross , however, “egrederetur”[came forth/marched out] and so Saladin ordered it to be carefully guarded in his treasury.

The letter is preserved only in the “continuatio Weingartensis” of the Chronicle of Hugh of Saint-Victor as part of yearly accounts of the reigns of German emperors from the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. The chronicle states that the contents of this letter were  read out in public around the feast of Saint Clement (November 23, 1187). It is apparently also referenced in the Chronica regia Coloniensis, ed, Georg Waitz, in MGH Scriptores rerum Germanicarum in usum scholarum separatim, vol. 18 (Hanover 1880), p. 138.



Relics Appearing in Text:




Manuscripts, Editions, and Translations




List of Editions of the Medieval Text: 

“E continuatione chronici Hugonis a Sancto Victore.” Edited by Ludovic Weiland. In “Hugonis et Honorii Chronicorum Continuationes Weingartenses, a. 1152-1208,” pp. 473-80 of Historici Germaniae saec. XII. 1  of Monumenta Germaniae Historica (MGH) Scriptores (SS), vol. 21, ed. George Henry Pertz (Hanover 1869), pp. 474-9.

Available online at: https://www.dmgh.de/mgh_ss_21/index.htm#page/473/mode/1up


List of Translations of the Medieval Text: 

Malcolm Barber and Keith Bate. “41. Princes and Ecclesiastics Beyond the Sea to Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (July, 1187.” In Letters from the East: Crusaders, Pilgrims and Settlers in the 12th-13th Centuries, Trans. Barber and Bate (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010), 75-77.




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