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Milanese Crusade
Crusade success
Date: 1120-1126 AD
Place: northern Italy and eastern France
Outcome: Crusader victory
Major Battles: Siege of Milan (1126)
Battle of Mons Aurelius
Siege of Genoa (1128)
Siege of Mets (1132)
Siege of Dijon (1136)
Siege of Dijon (1140)

Milan Duchy of Milan

HRE Holy Roman Empire
Medieval France Kingdom of France


Milan Bernardo of Metz
Milan Cristoforo of Dijon
Milan Agostino Rossi
Milan Catelano Rossi

HRE Henry IV of Germany
HRE Henry V of Germany
HRE Lothair III of Germany
HRE Conrad III of Germany
HRE Frederick Barbarossa
HRE Edmund Bresch
HRE Henry of Frankfurt
HRE Michel Engel
Medieval France Louis VI of France

The Milanese Crusade was a crusade declared by Pope Callixtus II in 1120, with the suggestion of attacking the pagan Milan coming from Emperor Henry IV of Germany, who was just returning from the Holy Land with a fleet of German and mercenary soldiers. The war was bloody, ending in the sack of every captured city, adding up to over 7,498 civilian casualties.


Count Cristoforo

Count Cristoforo of Milan


   The two pre-eminent powers in southern Francia were the Kingdom of France and the Duchy of Milan, both of whom were Catholic nations loyal to the pope. Count Cristoforo of Milan's lust for territorial expansion, however, caused war between the two nations, and Pope Paschal II excommunicated the Italian count, which made him liable for a crusade.

   Henry IV of Germany attempted to persuade the pope to lead a crusade against the infidels of Milan, but Paschal died before an agreement could be settled, and Pope Gelasius II, the "Ill Pope", denied every request for a crusade, but when he finally died in 1119, his successor Pope Callixtus II declared a crusade to capture Milan from Cristoforo's regime.

=== Arrival at Milan ===   

Henry V of Germany

Henry of Frankfurt

It took a while for the crusaders to land; Henry IV was on a fleet of ships carrying a massive crusader army that was intended for capturing the Holy Land from the Saracens. Henry IV died before a sword could be drawn, so his son Henry V of Germany became the new national leader, and he landed at Ortona on Italy's east coast and marched northwards. By 1124, he had reached Lombardy, and in 1126, his army of 2,400 Germans besieged the city. 

   The city of Milan was defended by extensive fortifications, manned by 6,000 Milanese troops under the command of Captain Manno and Captain Cesare, who were posted at the city to defend it while the Count was campaigning in France. The city had wells and food supplies that could supply the city with eight years' worth of food and water, and the Germans were not prepared to wait that long. Henry V ordered, and oversaw, the construction of scaling ladders and battering rams, but they were not put to use, as Manno and Cesare plotted an assault on the besieging force. The Milanese peon infantry charged into battle with the Imperial Army and were hacked down piecemeal, and the city was conquered by the Germans, who fulfilled the purpose of the crusade.

Incursions into France

   Despite the end of the crusade, the war continued for many more years to come. Milan's defense of their lands was to be rigorous, and vigorous. The Germans inflicted a defeat on the Milanese and Mons Aurelius in 1128, slaying 2,180 foes but losing 960 men dead, a high loss in Imperial standards. This battle was known well to the Milanese civilians, who heard the oft-repeated story of the battle: many Milanese prisoners fell into the hands of the Germans, who offered to ransom them to Count Cristoforo. The cold-hearted rulers of Milan were not to send an emissary with the florins, and the Germans, choiceless, were forced to execute the prisoners of war in a series of mass-hangings.

   The Germans, having removed the threat to their stronghold of Florence, proceeded to invade southern France, occupied by the Milanese. They laid siege to Genoa later in 1128 and butchered over 2,250 civilians and looted 1,000 florins, after slaying most of the garrison. The prisoners were again hanged after failure by Milan to pay the money required, and the Imperial Army resumed its campaign of rampage. 

   In 1132, Henry of Frankfurt, a son of Henry V of Germany, led an army to besiege Metz, a city in Burgundy that was held by Milan. The Germans succeeded in taking the city by employing the use of great siege engines and slaying 731 people in the city, and Michel Engel, his brother, attempted to take Dijon in 1136, but failed, and failed again four years later.