War of the Lombards

War of the Lombards
LocationKingdom of Cyprus, Kingdom of Jerusalem
Result Victory of anti-Imperial faction of local barons

Holy Roman Empire
Pro-Imperial faction in the Kingdom of Jerusalem

Principality of Antioch and County of Tripoli
Republic of Pisa
Knights Hospitaller
Teutonic Knights

Kingdom of Cyprus
Anti-Imperial faction in the Kingdom of Jerusalem

Republic of Genoa
Knights Templar
Commanders and leaders
Emperor Frederick II
Riccardo Filangieri
Queen Alice of Cyprus
John of Ibelin
Simon de Montfort

The War of the Lombards (12281243) was a civil war in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Cyprus between the "Lombards" (also called the imperialists), the representatives of the Emperor Frederick II, largely from Lombardy, and the native aristocracy, led first by the Ibelins and then by the Montforts. The war was provoked by Frederick's attempt to control the regency for his young son, Conrad II of Jerusalem. Frederick and Conrad represented the Hohenstaufen dynasty.


Frederick had been King of Jerusalemand as such claimed suzerainty over Cyprusin right of his wife Isabella II until her death in 1228. That year he arrived first in Cyprus, where he antagonised the nobles, and then in Jerusalem, where he stayed until 1229, leaving in humiliating circumstances after having produced an anti-imperialist reaction in the people. In 1231 he sent Riccardo Filangieri as his marshal. His attempt to assert his authority was opposed by John of Ibelin, the Old Lord of Beirut, who had been regent until Frederick's arrival. On John's death in 1236 the war was taken up by his son Balian. In 1239 Philip of Montfort assumed the leadership of the opposition.[1]

Though the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the Knights Templar supported the nobility, the Teutonic Knights and Knights Hospitaller supported Filangieri. In general his rights as regent were recognised but his practical power was denied on the basis of the Assizes and the Haute Cour. His headquarters were in Tyre and he had the allegiance of Bohemond V, Prince of Antioch and Count of Tripoli. He also held the Holy City of Jerusalem itself, which had been negotiated away from the Saracens by Frederick. So long as the Ibelins controlled the opposition, Filangieri could count on the support of their enemies as well. The Italian cities were also divided between the two factions: Pisa supported Filangieri and Genoa the Ibelins. The Ibelins controlled Beirut, Arsuf, and Caesarea as well as the old capital of Acre. In 1231 the citizens of Acre formed a commune with their headquarters at the church of Saint Andrew's in order to unify their opposition to Filangieri. In 1232 John of Ibelin was elected its mayor.[2]


The first major battle of the war took place at Casal Imbert in May 1232. Filangieri defeated the Ibelins.[3] In June, however, he was so soundly defeated by an inferior force at the Battle of Agridi in Cyprus that his support on the island dwindled to zero within a year.

In 1241 the barons offered the bailliage of Acre to Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester, a cousin of Philip of Montfort, and a relative through marriage to both the Hohenstaufen and the Plantagenets. He never assumed it. In 1242 or 1243 Conrad declared his own majority and on 5 June the absentee monarch's regency was granted by the Haut Court to Alice, widow of Hugh I of Cyprus and daughter of Isabella I of Jerusalem.[4] Alice promptly began ruling as if queen, ignoring Conrad, who was in Italy, and ordering Filangieri arrested. After a long siege, Tyre fell on 12 June. The Ibelins seized its citadel on 7 or 10 July, with the help of Alice, whose forces arrived on 15 June. Only the Ibelins could claim to be the winners of the war.[5]

Primary sources

The chief primary source for the War is Philip of Novara's The Wars of Frederick II Against the Ibelins, which is a highly partisan account favouring the Ibelins.[6] Philip was an active participant in and eyewitness of many of the events he describes. In the 1240s he was handsomely rewarded in money and fiefs by Alice. His Wars is generally trusted but is contained in a later compilation called Les gestes des Chiprois, and it is sometimes difficult to determine if a detail was amended by the compiler. His account, written contemporaneously with events, only covers the years 122833, 1236, and 124142. He wrote the last part of his account between 1242 and 1247, adding interpolations until as late as 1258. It is Philip that gives the name "Longuebars" (Lombards) to the imperialists.

The Venetian baili Marsilio Zorzi, who arrived in Acre shortly before Alice's election as regent, wrote a report of conditions and recent events in the Levant for his masters in Venice. It is preserved in a manuscript of 1246 and in the fourteenth-century Liber Albus, but is a less precise, though more contemporaneous, account than Philip's.[7]

Richard of San Germano presents a few details with regards to the beginning of Conrad's rule and the end of Frederick's regency that cannot be found elsewhere.[8] According to him, Tommaso of Aquino, Count of Acerra, left for the Holy Land in June 1242 in connexion with Conrad's assumption of power to be the king's representative in the East. He also mentions that Raymond VII of Toulouse met the emperor at Melfi in September 1242 and intervened on behalf of the defeated Filangieri.


  • Jackson, Peter (1986). "The End of Hohenstaufen Rule in Syria". Historical Research, 59:139, pp. 2036.
  • Jacoby, David (1986). "The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Collapse of Hohenstaufen Power in the Levant". Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 40:83101.
  • Marshall, Christopher (1992). Warfare in the Latin East, 11921291. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Tyerman, Christopher (2006). God's War: A New History of the Crusades. London: Penguin Books.


  1. The chronology of the opposition leadership is given in Tyerman, 725. According to Jackson, 20, the communal party was moderate.
  2. A summary description of the factions and the territories they controlled can be found in Tyerman, 726.
  3. Tyerman, 726.
  4. According to Jacoby, 8384, the date of 1242 comes from Philip of Novara, while the date of 1243 is an extrapolation from Conrad's birth year (1228).
  5. Tyerman, 726, explains that only the Ibelins "gained" from the war, for their position at its conclusion was stronger than at its commencement.
  6. The relevant criticism of Philip's history can be found in Jacoby, 8485.
  7. Jacoby, 8586, providse an analysis of Zorzi's value to historians. Marsilius Georgius is described as baiulus in Syria Venetorum, iussi domini duci Iacobi Teupoli. His report was completed in 1244.
  8. Jacoby, 86.
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