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Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem
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Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem

Heraclius of Caesarea (died 1191) was archbishop of Caesarea and Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.

He was from Auvergne in France, and like his later rival William of Tyre he studied law in Bologna. He came to the Kingdom of Jerusalem to serve as archbishop of Caeasarea (while William served as archbishop of Tyre). As archbishops, Heraclius and William attended the Third Council of the Lateran in 1179. In 1180, William was considered the most likely candidate for the patriarchate of Jerusalem, but with the support of Agnes of Courtenay, mother of king Baldwin IV, William was passed over in favour of Heraclius.

Because most of our information about Heraclius comes from his rival William and William's supporter Ernoul (who continued Williamís chronicle), Heraclius is often seen as a particularly corrupt and worldly choice for patriarch. He was said to have had many mistresses, including, supposedly, Agnes of Courtenay, as well as Pasque de Riviera, who lived with him and was referred to as "Madame Patriarch." He may have also excommunicated William in 1183, forcing him to leave the kingdom to seek the Pope's help in Rome; according to Ernoul, Heraclius also arranged for William to be poisoned there (which is certainly false, as William did not die until 1186).

In 1184, Heraclius, along with Roger de Moulins, grand master of the Knights Hospitaller, and Arnold de Toroga, grand master of the Knights Templar, travelled to Europe to seek help in solving the looming succession crisis in the kingdom. The chronicler Ralph Niger reports that his enormous retinue and opulent dress offended the sensibilities of many westerners, who felt they were not befitting a patriarch; surely if the east was so wealthy, no help was needed from the west. Heraclius offered the kingship to both Philip II of France and Henry II of England (and indeed, according to Ralph, any other prince he came across), but both turned him down. He had a notable confrontation with Henry II, who had promised to go on crusade years before after the murder of Thomas Becket; Heraclius reminded him of the vow and declared him and his children to be of the devil when Henry chose to stay at home. While in England, Heraclius also consecrated the Temple Church in London, the English headquarters of the Knights Templar.

Heraclius returned to Jerusalem in 1185 and supported the accession of Guy of Lusignan, a relative newcomer to the kingdom. In 1187, Saladin invaded the kingdom, and when Guy marched out to meet him, he asked Heraclius to march along with him at the head of the army with the relic of the True Cross (Heraclius, however, was ill, and the bishop of Acre took his place). The relic did not save them, as Saladin inflicted a crippling defeat on them at the Battle of Hattin on July 4. In Jerusalem Heraclius helped lead the defense of the city against Saladin, but it was finally forced to capitulate on October 2. Heraclius personally negotiated the surrender with Saladin, who allowed him and the other Christians to leave the city unharmed; Heraclius stripped the gold from the churches and was said to carry away cartloads of treasure with him.

After the capture of Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom, along with the patriarchate, was moved to Acre. Saladin soon besieged this city as well, and before it was relieved by the Third Crusade in 1191, Heraclius and many others were dead.