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Geoffrey I of Villehardouin

Geoffrey I of Villehardouin

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Geoffrey I of Villehardouin (c. 1169-c. 1229) was a French
French people
The French are a nation that share a common French culture and speak the French language as a mother tongue. Historically, the French population are descended from peoples of Celtic, Latin and Germanic origin, and are today a mixture of several ethnic groups...

 knight
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

 from the County of Champagne who joined the Fourth Crusade
Fourth Crusade
The Fourth Crusade was originally intended to conquer Muslim-controlled Jerusalem by means of an invasion through Egypt. Instead, in April 1204, the Crusaders of Western Europe invaded and conquered the Christian city of Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire...

. He participated in the conquest of the Peloponnese
Peloponnese
The Peloponnese, Peloponnesos or Peloponnesus , is a large peninsula , located in a region of southern Greece, forming the part of the country south of the Gulf of Corinth...

 and became the second prince of Achaea (1209/1210-c. 1229).

Under his reign, the principality of Achaea
Principality of Achaea
The Principality of Achaea or of the Morea was one of the three vassal states of the Latin Empire which replaced the Byzantine Empire after the capture of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. It became a vassal of the Kingdom of Thessalonica, along with the Duchy of Athens, until Thessalonica...

 became the direct vassal of the Latin Empire of Constantinople. He extended the borders of his principality, but the closing years of his rule were marked by his conflict with the church.

Early years and the Fourth Crusade


Geoffrey was the eldest son of John of Villeharouin and his wife, Celine of Briel. He married Elisabeth of Chappes.

He took the cross with his uncle, Geoffrey of Villehardouin
Geoffrey of Villehardouin
Geoffrey of Villehardouin was a knight and historian who participated in and chronicled the Fourth Crusade...

, the future chronicler of the Fourth Crusade, at a tournament of Écry-sur-Aisne in late November 1199. Geoffrey were among the crusaders who went directly to Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

. Thus he was not present at the occupation of Constantinople by the crusaders on April 13, 1204
Siege of Constantinople (1204)
The Siege of Constantinople occurred in 1204; it destroyed parts of the capital of the Byzantine Empire as it was confiscated by Western European and Venetian Crusaders...

.

But hearing of the capture of the great city on the Bosporus
Bosporus
The Bosphorus or Bosporus , also known as the Istanbul Strait , is a strait that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia. It is one of the Turkish Straits, along with the Dardanelles...

, he decided to sail west in the summer of 1204. But the weather became bad, and adverse winds drove him westward. He landed at Modon
Methoni, Messenia
Methoni is a village and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is a municipal unit. Its name may be derived from Mothona, a mythical rock. It is located 11 km south of Pylos and...

 (now Methoni, Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

) in the southern Peloponnese where he spent the winter of 1204-1205.

Conquest of the Peloponnese



At Modon, Geoffrey entered into an alliance with a Greek
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 archon (nobleman) from Messenia
Messenia
Messenia is a regional unit in the southwestern part of the Peloponnese region, one of 13 regions into which Greece has been divided by the Kallikratis plan, implemented 1 January 2011...

 to conquer as much of the western Peloponnese as they could. Almost immediately afterward, however, the Greek died, and his son broke of the alliance. It was at this point that Geoffrey learned of the appearance of King Boniface I of Thessalonica (1204–1207) with his army before Nauplia (now Nafplion, Greece). He determined to seek aid and rode up early in 1205 to join the king. He was well received by Boniface I who would have retained Geoffrey in his service. But in the camp at Nauplia Geoffrey found his good friend William of Champlitte
William of Champlitte
William I of Champlitte was a French knight who joined the Fourth Crusade and became the first prince of Achaea .- Early years and the Fourth Crusade :...

 and offered to the latter to share the conquest of the Peloponnese. His friend accepted the offer and the two also received royal permission for their expedition.

They set out with 100 knights and 400 mounted men-at-arms upon their campaign in the spring of 1205. They took Patras
Patras
Patras , ) is Greece's third largest urban area and the regional capital of West Greece, located in northern Peloponnese, 215 kilometers west of Athens...

 and Pondikos by assault, and Andravida
Andravida
Andravída is a town and a former municipality in Elis, West Greece, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Andravida-Kyllini, of which it is a municipal unit. Its population is about 4,300. Distance from Patras is around 63 km SW and 33 km NW of...

 opened its gates. The people of the countryside came to make their submission and were confirmed in their property and local customs. Only in Arcadia
Arcadia
Arcadia is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the administrative region of Peloponnese. It is situated in the central and eastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. It takes its name from the mythological character Arcas. In Greek mythology, it was the home of the god Pan...

 were the crusaders resisted. This opposition was led by landlords from Arcadia and Laconia
Laconia
Laconia , also known as Lacedaemonia, is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Peloponnese. It is situated in the southeastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. Its administrative capital is Sparti...

, particularly the Chamaretos family, allied to the Slavic
Slavic peoples
The Slavic people are an Indo-European panethnicity living in Eastern Europe, Southeast Europe, North Asia and Central Asia. The term Slavic represents a broad ethno-linguistic group of people, who speak languages belonging to the Slavic language family and share, to varying degrees, certain...

 Melingoi
Melingoi
The Melingoi or Milingoi were a Slavic tribe that settled in the Peloponnese in southern Greece during the Middle Ages. Proto-Slavic tribes settled throughout the Balkans following the collapse of the Byzantine Empire's defense of the Danube frontier in the early decades of the 7th century, with...

 tribe. The resistance was soon joined by a certain Michael identified by most scholars with Michael I Komnenos Doukas
Michael I Komnenos Doukas
Michael I Komnenos Doukas or Comnenus Ducas , often inaccurately called Michael Angelos , was the founder and first ruler of the principality of Epirus from 1205 until his death in 1215.-Life:...

 (1204–1215) who was then creating his own principality in Epiros
Despotate of Epirus
The Despotate or Principality of Epirus was one of the Byzantine Greek successor states of the Byzantine Empire that emerged in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade in 1204. It claimed to be the legitimate successor of the Byzantine Empire, along with the Empire of Nicaea, and the Empire of Trebizond...

. Michael advanced into the Peloponnese with 5,000 men, but the little crusader army defeated him at Koundouros
Battle of the Olive Grove of Koundouros
The Battle of the Olive Grove of Koundouros or Koundouras took place in the spring of 1205, in Messinia, Peloponnese, between the Franks and the Greeks, resulting in a victory of the Frankish knights and the collapse of the local resistance....

 in northeast Messenia. Then the crusaders completed the conquest of the region and advanced into the interior of the country, occupying the entire peninsula with the exception of Arcadia and Laconia.

William of Champlitte thus became master of the Peloponnese with the title prince of Achaea (1205–1209) under the suzerainty of the king of Thessalonica. Geoffrey received Kalamata
Kalamata
Kalamata is the second-largest city of the Peloponnese in southern Greece. The capital and chief port of the Messenia prefecture, it lies along the Nedon River at the head of the Messenian Gulf...

 and Messenia as a fief from the new prince. However, the Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

 proceeded to make good her claims that the leaders of the Fourth Crusade had guaranteed it by the partition treaty of 1204 to the important way stations along the sea route to Constantinople. Thus the Venetians armed a fleet which took Modon and Coron
Koroni
Koroni or Coroni is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is a municipal unit. Known as Corone by the Venetians and Ottomans, the town of Koroni Koroni or Coroni is a...

 (now Koroni, Greece) in 1206. But William of Champlitte compensated Geoffrey by assigning Arcadia to him.

His reign in Achaea


In 1208 William I of Achaea departed for France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 in order to claim an inheritance his brother had left to him. William I appointed Geoffrey to administer the principality as bailiff
Bailiff
A bailiff is a governor or custodian ; a legal officer to whom some degree of authority, care or jurisdiction is committed...

 until the prince’s nephew, Hugh should arrive. However, both the first prince of Achaea and his nephew died very shortly.

In May 1209, Geoffrey went to the parliament that the Latin Emperor Henry I
Henry of Flanders
Henry was the second emperor of the Latin Empire of Constantinople. He was a younger son of Baldwin V, Count of Hainaut , and Margaret I of Flanders, sister of Philip of Alsace, count of Flanders....

 (1206–1216) had convoked at Ravennika to assure the emperor of his loyalty. The emperor confirmed Geoffrey as prince of Achaea and made him immediate imperial vassal. Moreover, Henry I also appointed Geoffrey seneschal
Seneschal
A seneschal was an officer in the houses of important nobles in the Middle Ages. In the French administrative system of the Middle Ages, the sénéchal was also a royal officer in charge of justice and control of the administration in southern provinces, equivalent to the northern French bailli...

 of the Latin Empire.

The Chronicle of the Morea narrates that Geoffrey only became prince of Achaea some time later, because the late William I’s nephew, Robert had a year and a day to travel to the Peloponnese and claim his inheritance. According to the story, all sorts of ruses were used to cause delays in Robert’s trip east, and when he finally arrived in the Peloponnese Geoffrey kept moving from place to place with the leading knights until the time had elapsed. Geoffrey then held an assembly that declared that the heir had forfeited his rights and elected Geoffrey hereditary prince of Achaea.

Nevertheless, Geoffrey I made a pact with the Venetians already in June 1209 on the island of Sapientza
Sapientza
Sapientza is a Greek island off the southern coast of the Peloponnese. It is administratively part of the municipality of Methóni in the Messinia Prefecture. The 2001 census reported a population of seven inhabitants.-External links:*...

. He acknowledged himself to be the vassal of the Republic of Venice for all the lands extending from Corinth
Corinth
Corinth is a city and former municipality in Corinthia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Corinth, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit...

 to the roadstead of Navarino
Pylos
Pylos , historically known under its Italian name Navarino, is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It was the capital of the former...

 (now Pylos, Greece). Geoffrey I also gave Venice the right to free trade throughout his principality. According to the treaty, he and his successors were also to receive Venetian citizenship, own a house in Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

, and present the Republic with three silk broadcloths a year, one for the doge
Doge of Venice
The Doge of Venice , often mistranslated Duke was the chief magistrate and leader of the Most Serene Republic of Venice for over a thousand years. Doges of Venice were elected for life by the city-state's aristocracy. Commonly the person selected as Doge was the shrewdest elder in the city...

 and two for St Mark's Basilica
St Mark's Basilica
The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, northern Italy. It is the most famous of the city's churches and one of the best known examples of Byzantine architecture...

.

Afterward Geoffrey I devoted himself to enlarging his possessions. With the aid of Otto I
Otto de la Roche
Otto de la Roche was a Burgundian nobleman from the castle of La Roche-sur-l'Ognon, in the Franche-Comté commune of Rigney, Doubs. He joined the Fourth Crusade in 1204 and became the first Duke of Athens...

, the lord of Athens
Duchy of Athens
The Duchy of Athens was one of the Crusader States set up in Greece after the conquest of the Byzantine Empire during the Fourth Crusade, encompassing the regions of Attica and Boeotia, and surviving until its conquest by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century....

 (1204–1225), he seized, in 1209, the fortresses of Acrocorinth
Acrocorinth
Acrocorinth , "Upper Corinth", the acropolis of ancient Corinth, is a monolithic rock overseeing the ancient city of Corinth, Greece. "It is the most impressive of the acropoleis of mainland Greece," in the estimation of George Forrest. Acrocorinth was continuously occupied from archaic times to...

 where first Leo Sgouros
Leo Sgouros
Leo Sgouros was a Greek independent lord in the northeastern Peloponnese in the early 13th century. The scion of the magnate Sgouros family, he succeeded his father as hereditary lord in the region of Nauplia...

, and then Theodore Komnenos Doukas
Theodore Komnenos Doukas
Theodore Komnenos Doukas was ruler of Epirus from 1215 to 1230 and of Thessalonica from 1224 to 1230.-Life:...

, brother of Michael I of Epirus had resisted the attacks of the crusaders. In 1210 he also achieved the surrender of Corinth, the other fortress held by the Greeks. In the month that followed, Nauplia was also taken, and early in 1212 the stronghold of Argos
Argos
Argos is a city and a former municipality in Argolis, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Argos-Mykines, of which it is a municipal unit. It is 11 kilometres from Nafplion, which was its historic harbour...

, where Theodore Komnenos Doukas had stored the treasure of the Church of Corinth, likewise fell into the hands of Geoffrey I and Otto I. When Albertino and Rolandino of Canossa, the lords of Thebes had left their town, the lordship of Thebes was divided equally between Geoffrey I and the lord of Athens.

Geoffrey I sent to France, mainly to Champagne, for young knights to occupy the newly conquered lands and the fiefs of those who had returned to the west. Under Geoffrey I the assignment of fiefs and the obligations which went with them were reviewed before the barons assembled in a great parliament at Andravida. Thus a dozen or so great baronies came into being in the principality, and those who received the titles to them made up with their many vassals the High Court of Achaea.

At the time of the conquest much ecclesiastical property had been secularized and, despite the demands of the clergy, this had not been returned to the churches. The Chronicle of the Morea reports that when the churches refused to provide their fair share of military aid, Geoffrey I seized their property and devoted the income from it to the construction of the powerful castle of Clermont. Furthermore, Geoffrey I was also accused of treating the Greek priests as serfs because their numbers had considerably increased, since the Greek prelates showed no hesitation in conferring orders on peasants to permit them to escape the burdens of serfdom. These events resulted in a prolonged conflict with the church.

First the Latin Patriarch of Constantinople
Latin Patriarch of Constantinople
The Latin Patriarch of Constantinople was an office established as a result of Crusader activity in the Near East. The title should not be confused with that of the Patriarch of Constantinople, an office which existed before and after....

, Gervasius promulgated a decree of excommunication
Excommunication
Excommunication is a religious censure used to deprive, suspend or limit membership in a religious community. The word means putting [someone] out of communion. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group...

 against Geoffrey I and laid an interdict
Interdict
The term Interdict may refer to:* Court order enforcing or prohibiting a certain action* Injunction, such as a restraining order...

 upon Achaea. Upon the request of Geoffrey I, however, on February 11, 1217 Pope Honorius III
Pope Honorius III
Pope Honorius III , previously known as Cencio Savelli, was Pope from 1216 to 1227.-Early work:He was born in Rome as son of Aimerico...

 (1216–1227) declared that the patriarch was to relax the sentence within a week after the receipt of the papal letter. Then the patriarch sent out a legate who laid a new interdict upon the Principality of Achaea. But his act was again qualified by the pope as usurpation of the power of the Holy See
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

.

Next the papal legate
Papal legate
A papal legate – from the Latin, authentic Roman title Legatus – is a personal representative of the pope to foreign nations, or to some part of the Catholic Church. He is empowered on matters of Catholic Faith and for the settlement of ecclesiastical matters....

 Cardinal Giovanni Colonna who was travelling through the Peloponnese in 1218 excommunicated Geoffroy I because of the prince's contumacious retention of certain abbeys, churches, rural parishes, and ecclesiastical goods. Upon the request of the local high clergy, the pope confirmed Geoffrey I's excommunication on January 21, 1219. The pope even declared Geoffrey I to be an enemy of God “more inhuman than Pharaoh”.

The conflict lasted some five years, until 1223 when Geoffrey I decided to negotiate and sent one of his knights to Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

. Finally on September 4, 1223 Pope Honorius III confirmed the accord that had been drawn up between the prince and the church of Achaea. According to the treaty, Geoffrey I restored the church lands, but he kept the treasures and furnishings of the churches in exchange for an annual indemnity and the number of Greek priests enjoying liberty and immunity was also to be limited in proportion to the size of the community.

In the meantime, Theodore I of Epirus (1215–1224) had attacked the kingdom of Thessalonica and laid siege the kingdom's capital. William I, despite the urgent appeals of the pope, did not appear to have assisted the threatened city that finally surrendered near the end of 1224.

Geoffrey died sometime between 1228 and 1230 at the age of about sixty. He was buried in the Church of St James in Andravida.

Further reading