Crusader Jerusalem

A reader asked me to post something about the Crusaders in Jerusalem. I am happy to and also to lead tours focussing on the Crusader period.

Raymond of Aguilers, who wrote a chronicle of the First Crusade (1096–1099), relates that on the morning of June 7, 1099, the Crusaders reached the summit of Nebi Samuel, from which they saw Jerusalem for the first time. The elated Crusaders fell to the ground and wept with joy, calling it Mons Gaudi, mount of joy. The same day they reached the walls of Jerusalem.

Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph as Crusader

With insufficient troops and supplies and rumor of a Fatimid advance, the Crusaders could not besiege the city for long but had to organize a direct assault.  After about a month they were able to get skilled builders and wood by cannibalizing Genoan ships that had arrived at Jaffa port for siege towers. This enabled the Crusaders to breach the walls in 3 places on July 15th. The Crusaders massacred most of the Muslims and Jews and evicted the remainder leaving Jerusalem almost uninhabited until Christians could be encouraged to settle there. On 22 July, a council was held in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher that chose Godfrey as the princeps for the newly created Kingdom of Jerusalem which became an important Christian center.

Crusader sites in Jerusalem

In 1160 the Crusaders added a glacis to the tower at the Citadel and dug a moat around it.

The Roman Cardo was subdivided into 3 covered markets: Vegetable or Spice market, Market of Malcuisinat and Covered market – this property was donated to the convent at Santa Anna. Nearby along David St. today, was the poultry market selling eggs, milk, cheese.

The Crusaders built a church in Kidron valley that contained the Tomb to the VIrgin Mary  and Queen Melisende was buried there. Beside it was Gethsemane and a Barluzzi church in 1920s was built on earlier Byzantine and Crusader ruins.

The remains of the Church of Mary of Latina can be seen in part of the German Lutheran Church of Redeemer that was dedicated in 1898 during the German Kaiser’s visit.

Capitals outside German Lutheran churchClose by is the Church of Holy Sepulcher, rebuilt by the Crusaders and dedicated in 1149. The sculpted marble panels on lintels over the two main doors, in Romanesque style, are now in the Rockefeller museum.

Ascension of Jesus Crusader mosaicOn the ceiling of the Catholic Chapel of the Nailing to the Cross (11th station) is a 12th-century medallion of the Ascension of Jesus — the only surviving Crusader mosaic in the building. Small geometric-shaped pieces of marble inlaid in the floor is a style known as Cosmati or Cosmatesque a traditional technique from the Crusader period though it was done when the chapel was renovated in 1937 by Barluzzi.

There are Hospitaler sites in the Muristan and German knights in the Jewish quarter, remains of a hospice, hospital and church, St. Mary of Germans.

Up on the Haram el-Sharif, the Knights Templar, used the Al Dome of AscensionAqsa mosque, called Templum Solomonis by the Crusaders, and the underground arches of Solomon’s stables. The Dome of the Rock functioned as a church, Templum Domini. A short distance to the northwest, is the Dome of the Ascension, which served as its baptistery. The Dome of the Chain to the east was a Christian chapel to St. James.

If you have the chance, visit the Temple Mount Sifting Project to try some hands-on archaeology and take the opportunity to see artifacts like arrowheads, coins and relics from the Crusader period.

At Bethesda Pools is the ruins of a Crusader chapel, Mary of Bethesda, built on the ruins of a much larger Byzantine church from the 5th century named for St. Mary (Church of the Probatica) and the Church of Santa Anna, one of the most exquisite examples of Crusader architecture in the country.

Santa AnnaOn Mount Zion, the German Dormition Abbey was built on the ruins of the Crusader church of St Mary of Mount Zion which includes an upstairs room which can be visited today, the Coenaculum or Room of the Last Supper.

The Crusaders built many buildings which affected the city’s image, adding a Christian flavor to the 450 year old Muslim city and many of these changes can still be seen in the Old City today.


6 thoughts on “Crusader Jerusalem

    1. Shmuel Browns Post author

      When the Kingdom of Jerusalem fell to Salah a-Din after the Battle at the Horns of Hittin in 1187, Acre became the Crusader capital.
      There are Crusader remains throughout Israel, in Nazareth, fortresses at Belvoir, Atlit, HaBonim, in Tzfat and Ashkelon but this post was about Jerusalem.

  1. Outremer

    Shmuel: Great post!

    The image you chose to illustrate it is quite intriguing. People may be interested to know that the mural is found in the small, Rococo-style chapel of the Old City’s Austrian Hospice. And, what it actually depicts is the visit to Jerusalem of Franz Joseph I, the Austro-Hungarian emperor, in 1869 — cast as a latter-day Crusader, with all the trappings! One of the titles Franz Joseph claimed, in fact, was “King of Jerusalem” — even Godfrey in 1099 was not so bold! It’s just striking to me how the Crusader ethos and imagery were still being embraced and even trumpeted.

    One other site perhaps worth mentioning: The Chapel/Mosque of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives, where the central pavillion (intact, but much altered after 1187), as well as the surrounding wall with its great column bases, are remnants of a Crusader church remembering Jesus’ ascension.

    About the Crusader conquest of Jerusalem in 1099: It’s worth noting that among the victims of their indiscriminate, murderous assault were (along with Jews and Muslims) many fellow Christians, the members of the local orthodox Christian communities and their clergy. A reminder, perhaps, of the rich mix of peoples that has almost always defined Jerusalem — a mostly peaceable mix, barring outside interference.

    TOM POWERS / Bethlehem

    1. Shmuel Browns Post author

      Hi Tom. Thanks for your comment.

      > The image you chose to illustrate Crusaders is quite intriguing.
      I know. It’s an image that I liked and how it does or doesn’t fit the subject. I don’t write everything in my blog posts so as to keep a little back for when I’m guiding.
      > Chapel/Mosque of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives
      Parts of it are Crusader, definitely worth visiting.
      > About the Crusader conquest of Jerusalem in 1099: It’s worth noting that among the victims of their indiscriminate, murderous assault
      > were (along with Jews and Muslims) many fellow Christians, the members of the local orthodox Christian communities and their clergy.
      I’ve read that but I’ve also read that “The Eastern Christian population of the city had been expelled before the siege by the governor, and thus escaped the massacre.” Tyerman, Christopher (2006). God’s War: A New History of the Crusades. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

  2. Pingback: Bethesda Pool and Church of Santa Anna | Israel Tours | Israel Tour Guide

  3. Phil Day

    From a client that I guided in Crusader Jerusalem:
    It is difficult to put into words just how good this tour – and guide – actually is. Let’s start with the route. It ticked all the boxes of the main things you would expect to see, but I saw things that you would NEVER find on a self-guide or group route. The route was well-thought out and personalised to my PRECISE needs. That is priceless! So, now to the guide. Shmuel. What he didn’t know was not worth knowing. He was a walking, talking, smiling, happy encyclopaedia. Book this guide with confidence!


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