Geoffroy de Villehardouin (1160-1213), a prominent French nobleman, contributed one of the major eyewitness accounts of the Fourth Crusade and the events leading to the sack of Constantinople in 1204.
Geoffroy de Villehardouin (born 1160 - died 1213), a prominent French nobleman, contributed one of the major eyewitness accounts of the Fourth Crusade and the events leading to the sack of Constantinople in 1204. Geoffroy de Villehardouin was among the first historians to write in Old French. Almost all that is known about him comes from his Memoirs or Chronicle of The Fourth Crusade and The Conquest of Constantinople, from which we get his account of the conquest of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade.
For Villehardouin, the crusade had a purely religious origin and was begun with only the best of intentions. He noted, for example, that many took the cross because the indulgences were so great. It is possible that his account emphasized what has been referred to as the accidental nature of the crusade, heading to Constantinople, by way of the conquest of the Christian city of Zadar, rather than its initial destination of Egypt.
Here is how Geoffrey de Villehardouin describes the departure from Venice in his Memoirs or Chronicle of The Fourth Crusade and The Conquest of Constantinople:
"Then were the ships and transports apportioned by the barons. Ah, God what fine war-horses were put therein. And when the ships were fulfilled with arms and provisions, and knights and sergeants, the shields were ranged round the bulwarks and castles of the ships, and the banners displayed, many and fair. And be it known to you that the vessels carried more than three hundred petraries and mangonels, and all such engines as are needed for the taking of cities, in great plenty. Never did finer fleet sail from any port. And this was in the octave of the Feast of St. Remigius (October) in the year of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ twelve hundred and two. Thus did they sail from the port of Venice, as you have been told. On the Eve of St. Martin (10th November) they came before Zadar, and beheld the city enclosed by high walls and high towers; and vainly would you have sought for a fairer city, or one of greater strength, or richer. And when the pilgrims saw it, they marvelled greatly, and said one to another, "How could such a city be taken by force, save by the help of God himself?"
The first ships that came before the city cast anchor, and waited for the others; and in the morning the day was very fine and very clear, and all the galleys came up with the transports, and the other ships which were behind; and they took the port by force, and broke the chain that defended it and was very strong and well-wrought; and they landed in such sort that the port was between them and the town. Then might you have seen many a knight and many a sergeant swarming out of the ships, and taking from the transports many a good war-horse, and many a rich tent and many a pavilion. Thus did the host encamp. And Zadar was besieged on St. Martin's Day (11th November 1202).“