Pope Honorius III and the Holy Land Crusades, 1216-1227: A Study in Responsive Papal Government

Thomas Smith

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis is a study of medieval papal government and the Holy Land crusades under Pope Honorius III (1216-27). Based on the systematic study of the unpublished manuscripts of Honorius’s papal registers (Vatican City, Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Registra Vaticana 9-13) and supplemented with contemporary diplomatic evidence and chronicles, it examines the institutions of papal government that were central to Honorius’s administration of crusade affairs in the East and the West.

This thesis seeks to repair the significant historiographical gap for Honorius III’s pontificate and to analyse the pope’s reign on its own terms. It also puts forward a new view of the nature of papal crusade government, arguing that Honorius’s administration of the Holy Land crusades was primarily responsive rather than proactive in its operation. This thesis contends the prevailing view in the current historiography that the papacy played a proactive role in formulating, implementing, and modifying a coherent and premeditated crusade policy. Instead it is demonstrated that Honorius pursued his crusade policy responsively, which was defined by input from outside the papal curia. It is established that the direction of most papal crusade decisions was determined in an ad hoc fashion in response to petitioners and diplomats presenting business at the curia.

Part one of the thesis is formed of three chapters which provide a chronological framework and propound a detailed political narrative of Honorius’s diplomacy with the lay powers between 1216 and 1227. Part two of the thesis consists of three chapters arranged thematically to consider the institutions of papal government under Honorius, investigating the theology in his letter arengae, his deployment of papal legates, and the management of the crusade tax respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Phillips, Jonathan, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Oct 2013
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


  • Pope Honorius III
  • Honorius III
  • Crusades
  • Holy Land Crusades
  • Holy Land
  • Fifth Crusade
  • Papal Government
  • Petitioning
  • Petitions
  • Medieval
  • Middle Ages
  • Frederick II
  • Innocent III
  • Andrew II
  • Henry III
  • John of Brienne
  • Jerusalem
  • Damietta
  • Egypt
  • Thirteenth Century
  • Sixth Crusade
  • Legates
  • Theology
  • Arengas
  • Arengae
  • Arenga
  • Tax
  • Twentieth tax
  • 1215
  • 1216-1227
  • 1216-27
  • 1217-1221
  • Pelagius
  • Hugolino
  • Diplomatic
  • Diplomacy
  • Papal Letters
  • Registra Vaticana
  • Vatican Archives
  • Archivio Segreto Vaticano

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