First Crusade (1095-1100)

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Departing for the First Crusades

The First Crusade began in 1095. Some Crusaders went by land led by princes from France Burgundy, and Normandy. Seafaring contingents from England, Italy and Flanders, arrived in Syria in 1098. Crusaders set up states along the Syrian coast. A Burgundy duke was christened, king of Jerusalem. The Crusaders wore clothes stitched with crosses and mussel shells, and one of the main leaders was Duke Godfrey of Belgium. He commanded an army of 4,000 or 5,000 mounted knights and 30,000 foot soldiers and countless civilians. He helped launch the successful assault of Jerusalem that was staged three years after the Crusaders left their homelands. The Christians Europeans only held Jerusalem for a few decades before the Muslims led by Saladin the Kurd reclaimed it. [Source: "History of Warfare" by John Keegan, Vintage Books]

Carl A. Volz wrote: The First Crusade “began with an unruly and disorganized People's Crusade, a bizarre undertaking preached and led by Peter the Hermit and Walter the Penniless. They ravaged Hungary, bypassed Constantinople, attacked Nicea, and were practically annihilated by the Turks. The more organized troops came a year later, led entirely by French noblemen: Godfrey of Bouillon (Lorraine), Bohemund (a Norman from Sicily), Raymond of Toulouse, Baldwin (brother of Bohemund), Tancred, Robert of Normandy (son of William the Conqueror of England), and Adhemar of Puy (the papal legate and theoretical leader). [Source: Carl A. Volz, late professor of church history at Luther Seminary, The Apostolic Fathers., /~]

The first Crusaders had more problems in Turkey than anywhere else. During a battle at a Turkish-held castle in Iznik, there were reports of Christian soldiers being killed by a stone hurling giant. The Crusaders answered back by catapulting heads of victims they had killed over the wall. Near Constantinople thousands were killed in an ambush. Many more died of starvation and thirst on the Turkish steppes when the Turks fell back, destroying crops and blocking wells as they went.

Crusaders in First Crusade slaughter Jews and Muslims, which many Crusaders viewed as infidels. Many Crusaders had little interest in reaching the Holy Land they were more interested in raping and pillaging along the way and enriching themselves with booty. Local people often rose up against them.

Volz wrote: “In 1097 they recaptured Nicea. In 1098 they recaptured Antioch, and Bohemund assumed control over it. The same year they captured Edessa.In 1099 they finally recaptured Jerusalem, and Godfrey became its ruler, "The Advocate of the Holy Sepulchre". Now with the aid of the Italian (Venice) fleets they take the coastal towns. 1109 Tripoli. Thus were established the Four Crusader States in the Holy Land: 1) the Principality of Antioch; 2) the County of Edessa; 3) the Kingdom of Jerusalem; and 4) the County of Tripoli. In addition, four baronies were established: Jaffa, Kerak, Galilee, and Sidon. Meanwhile, two more waves of Crusaders arrived. The conquest of the Holy Land proceeded until 1120.” /~\

Battle of Antioch

Massacre at Antioch

Antioch Castle in present-day Syria was the site of a famous battle between 11th century Crusaders and Seljuk Turks. After a siege of several months, the Crusaders captured the castle by bribing a watchmen, but once inside they quickly became trapped without supplies. Just as all seemed lost one of the Crusaders had a vision that the lance used to pierce Christ's side before his crucifixion was buried underneath the castle. The next day the Crusaders began digging. They found a lance and this inspired them to drive off the Turks and eventually capture Jerusalem.

Count Stephen of Blois wrote in March 1099: "We found the city of Antioch very extensively fortified with the greatest strength and almost impossible to be taken. In addition 5,000 bold Turkish soldiers had entered the city, not counting Saracens, Publicans, Arabs, Turcopolitans, Syrians, Armenians and other different races.

"In fighting against these enemies of God" we "endured many sufferings and innumerable hardships...throughout the whole winter we suffered for Lord Christ from excessive cold and enormous torrents of rain...Very many of our Franks, indeed, would have met a bodily death from starvation if the mercy of God and our money had not come to their rescue."

"I delight to tell you what happened to us during Lent...The Turks collected an army, fell suddenly upon our two leaders and forced them into a perilous flight. In the unexpected fight we lost 500 of our foot soldiers...But by God’s grace things turned out very differently; for when they tried to build a bridge across the great river Moscholum we followed them as closely as possible, killed many before they reached the bridge and very many at the narrow entrance to the gate...we killed 30 emirs...and 300 other Turkish nobles...Indeed the number of Turks and Saracens killed is reckoned at 1,230, but our we did not lose a single man."

Crusaders Capture Jerusalem

In June 1099, the Crusaders began a 41-day siege of Jerusalem, which fell on July 15, 1099 After a three year pilgrimage, with some fighting along the way, the first Crusaders arrived at the walls of Jerusalem on June 7th. Of the 80,000 or so that left Europe only about 12,000 made it. Some wept when as they laid eyes on the city they struggled against Turks, thirst and hunger to reach. Others kissed the ground.

With a little prodding from a hermit living in the Mount of Olives the Crusaders launched their attack on the Muslim infidels (Fatimid Egyptians who hadn't occupied the city long themselves) almost immediately. "God is all powerful," the hermit said, "If He wills, He will storm the walls even with one ladder." And that is about all they had during their first assault. The first man up ladder saw his hand go flying the air—bringing about an abrupt change in strategy.♂

To get themselves psyched for the second assault the Crusader bore banners and marched around the walls barefoot while the Muslims "placed many crosses on the walls in yokes and mocked them with blows and insulting deeds." To prepare for the assault itself the Crusaders spent three weeks building siege towers.♂

On July 15 the Crusaders pushed and levered a the tower to weakest point in the wall, threw out some beams to make a bridge to the fortress, and the first knights were soon in the city. What followed was a merciless massacre that lasted for week and resulted in the slaughter of an untold number of Muslims and Jews. "No one has ever seen or heard of such a slaughter of pagan," one knight recalled. "Almost the whole city was full of their dead bodies." Another wrote "under the portico of the mosque the blood was knee deeps and reached the horses bridles."

Ralph of Caen, watching the city from the Mount of Olives, saw "the scurrying people, the fortified towers, the roused garrison, the men rushing to arms, the women in tears, the priests turned to their prayers, the streets ringing with cries, crashing, clanging and neighing."

Routes of the First Crusade

Siege of the City of Jerusalem

Fulcher of Chartres wrote: On the seventh of June the Franks besieged Jerusalem. The city is located in a mountainous region, which is lacking in rivers, woods, and springs, except the Fountain of Siloam, where there is plenty of water, but it empties forth only at certain intervals. This fountain empties into the valley, at the foot of Mount Zion, and flows into the course of the brook of Kedron, which, during the winter, flows through the valley of Jehosaphat. There are many cisterns, which furnish abundant water within the city. When filled by the winter rains and well cared for, they offer both men and beasts an unfailing supply at all times. Moreover, the city is laid out most beautifully, and cannot be criticized. for too great length or as being disproportionately narrow. On the west is the. tower of David,. which is flanked on both sides by the broad wall of the city. The lower half of the wall is solid masonry, of square stones and mortar, sealed with molten lead. So strong is this wall that, if fifteen or twenty men should be well supplied with provisions, they would never be taken by any army. [Source: Fulk (or Fulcher) of Chartres, “Gesta Francorum Jerusalem Expugnantium, “The Deeds of the Franks Who Attacked Jerusalem”, in Frederick Duncan and August C. Krey, eds., “Parallel Source Problems in Medieval History” (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1912), pp. 109-115]

Raymond d'Aguiliers wrote: “The Duke and the Counts of Normandy and Flanders placed Gaston of Beert in charge of the workmen who constructed machines. They built mantlets and towers with which to attack the wall. The direction of this work was assigned to Gaston by the princes because he was a most noble lord, respected by all for his skill and reputation. He very cleverly hastened matters by dividing the work. The princes busied themselves with obtaining the material, while Gaston supervised the construction. Likewise, Count Raymond made William Ricau superintendent of the work on Mount Zion and placed the Bishop of Albara in charge of the Saracens and others who brought in the timber. The Count's men had taken many Saracen castles and villages and forced the Saracens to work, as though they were their serfs. Thus for the construction of machines at Jerusalem fifty or sixty men carried on their shoulders a great beam that could not have been dragged by four pair of oxen. What more shall I say? All worked with a singleness of purpose, no one was slothful, and no bands were idle. All worked without wages, except the artisans, who were paid from a collection taken from the people. However, Count Raymond paid his workmen from his own treasury. Surely the band of the Lord was with us and aided those who were working! [Source: August. C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants, (Princeton: 1921), 257-62]

“When our efforts were ended and the machines completed, the princes held a council and announced: "Let all prepare themselves for a battle on Thursday; in the meantime, let us pray, fast, and give alms. Hand over your animals and your boys to the artisans and carpenters, that they may bring in beams, poles, stakes, and branches to make mantlets. Two knights should make one mantlet and one scaling ladder. Do not hesitate to work for the Lord, for your labors will soon be ended." This was willingly done by all. Then it was decided what part of the city each leader should attack and where his machines should be located.

“Meanwhile, the Saracens in the city, noting the great number of machines that we had constructed, strengthened the weaker parts of the wall, so that it seemed that they could be taken only by the most desperate efforts. Because the Saracens bad made so many and such strong fortifications to oppose our machines, the Duke, the Count of Flanders, and the Count of Normandy spent the night before the day set for the attack moving their machines, mantlets, and platforms to that side of the city which is between the church of St. Stephen and the valley of Josaphat. You who read this must not think that this was a light undertaking, for the machines were carried in parts almost a mile to the place where they were to be set up. When morning came and the Saracens saw that all the machinery and tents had been moved during the night, they were amazed. Not only the Saracens were astonished, but our people as well, for they recognized that the band of the Lord was with us. The change was made because the new point chosen for attack was more level, and thus suitable for moving the machines up to the walls, which cannot be done unless the ground is level; and also because that part of the city seemed to be weaker having remained unfortified, as it was some distance from our camp. This part of the city is on the north.”

Crusaders Attack Jerusalem

Raymond d'Aguiliers wrote: “Count Raymond and his men worked equally bard on Mount Zion, but they bad much assistance from William Embriaco, and the Genoese sailors, who, although they bad lost their ships at Joppa, as we have already related, had been able, nevertheless, to save ropes, mallets, spikes, axes, and hatchets, which were very necessary to us. But why delay the story? The appointed day arrived and the attack began. However, I want to say this first, that, according to our estimate and that of many others, there were sixty thousand fighting men within the city, not counting the women and those unable to bear arms, and there were not many of these. At the most we did not have more than twelve thousand able to bear arms, for there were many poor people and many sick. There were twelve or thirteen hundred knights in our army, as I reckon it, not more. I say this that you may realize that nothing, whether great or small, which is undertaken in the name of the Lord can fail, as the following pages show. [Source: August. C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants, (Princeton: 1921), 257-62]

“Our men began to undermine the towers and walls. From every side stones were hurled from the tormenti and the petrahae, and so many arrows that they fell like hail. The servants of CA bore this patiently, sustained by the premises of their faith, whether they should be killed or should presently prevail over their enemies. The battle showed no indication of victory, but when the machines were drawn nearer to the walls, they hurled not only stones and arrows, but also burning wood and straw. The wood was dipped in pitch, wax, and sulphur; then straw and tow were fastened on by an iron band, and, when lighted, these firebrands were shot from the machines. (They were) all bound together by an iron band, I say, so that wherever they fell, the whole mass held together and continued to burn. Such missiles, burning as they shot upward, could not be resisted by swords or by high walls; it was not even possible for the defenders to find safety down behind the walls. Thus the fight continued from the rising to the setting sun in such splendid fashion that it is difficult to believe anything more glorious was ever done. Then we called on Almighty God, our Leader and Guide, confident in His mercy. Night brought fear to both sides. The Saracens feared that we would take the city during the night or on the next day for the outer works were broken through and the ditch was filled so that it was possible to make an entrance through the wall very quickly. On our part, we feared only that the Saracens would set fire to the machines that were moved close to the walls, and thus improve their situation. So on both sides it was a night of watchfulness, labor, and sleepless caution: on one side, most cert4n hope, on the other doubtful fear. We gladly labored to capture the city for the glory of God, they less willingly strove to resist our efforts for the sake of the laws of Muhammad. It is hard to believe how great were the efforts made on both sides during the night.

“When the morning came, our men eagerly rushed to be walls and dragged the machines forward, but the Saracens had constructed so many machines that for each one of ours they now had nine or ten. Thus they greatly interfered with our efforts. This was the ninth day, on which the priest had said that we would capture the city. But why do I delay so long? Our machines were now shaken apart by the blows of many stones, and our men lagged because they were very weary. However, there remained the mercy of the Lord which is never overcome nor conquered, but is always a source of support in times of adversity. One incident must not be omitted. Two women tried to bewitch one of the hurling machines, but a stone struck and crushed them, as well as three slaves, so that their lives were extinguished and the evil incantations averted.

“By noon our men were greatly discouraged. They were weary and at the end of their resources. There were still many of the enemy opposing each one of our men; the walls were very high and strong, and the great resources and skill that the enemy exhibited in repairing their defenses seemed too great for us to overcome. But, while we hesitated, irresolute, and the enemy exulted in our discomfiture, the healing mercy of God inspired us and turned our sorrow into joy, for the Lord did not forsake us. While a council was being held to decide whether or not our machines should be withdrawn, for some were burned and the rest badly shaken to pieces, a knight on the Mount of Olives began to wave his shield to those who were with the Count and others, signalling them to advance. Who this knight was we have been unable to find out.

Capture of Jerusalem by the Crusaders

Raymond d'Aguiliers wrote: “At this signal our men began to take heart, and some began to batter down the wall, while others began to ascend by means of scaling ladders and ropes. Our archers shot burning firebrands, and in this way checked the attack that the Saracens were making upon the wooden towers of the Duke and the two Counts. These firebrands, moreover, were wrapped in cotton. This shower of fire drove the defenders from the walls. Then the Count quickly released the long drawbridge which had protected the side of the wooden tower next to the wall, and it swung down from the top, being fastened to the middle of the tower, making a bridge over which the men began to enter Jerusalem bravely and fearlessly. Among those who entered first were Tancred and the Duke of Lorraine, and the amount of blood that they shed on that day is incredible. All ascended after them, and the Saracens now began to suffer. [Source: August. C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants, (Princeton: 1921), 257-62]

“Strange to relate, however, at this very time when the city was practically captured by the Franks, the Saracens were still fighting on the other side, where the Count was attacking the wall as though the city should never be captured. But now that our men had possession of the walls and towers, wonderful sights were to be seen. Some of our men (and this was more merciful) cut off the heads of their enemies; others shot them with arrows, so that they fell from the towers; others tortured them longer by casting them into the flames. Piles of heads, hands, and feet were to be seen in the streets of the city. It was necessary to pick one's way over the bodies of men and horses. But these were small matters compared to what happened at the Temple of Solomon, a place where religious services are ordinarily chanted. What happened there? If I tell the truth, it will exceed your powers of belief. So let it suffice to say this much, at least, that in the Temple and porch of Solomon, men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins. Indeed, it was a just and splendid judgment of God that this place should be filled with the blood of the unbelievers, since it had suffered so long from their blasphemies. The city was filled with corpses and blood. Some of the enemy took refuge in the Tower of David, and, petitioning Count Raymond for protection, surrendered the Tower into his hands.”

Fulcher of Chartres wrote: “When the Franks saw how difficult it would be to take the city, the leaders ordered scaling ladders to be made, hoping that by a brave assault it might be possible to surmount the walls by means 'of ladders and thus take the city, God helping. So the ladders were made, and on the day following the seventh, in the early morning, the leaders ordered the attack, and, with the trumpets sounding, a splendid assault was made on the city from all sides. The attack lasted till the sixth hour, but it was discovered that the city could not be entered by the use of ladders, which were few in number, and sadly we ceased the attack. [Source: Fulk (or Fulcher) of Chartres, “Gesta Francorum Jerusalem Expugnantium, “The Deeds of the Franks Who Attacked Jerusalem”, in Frederick Duncan and August C. Krey, eds., “Parallel Source Problems in Medieval History” (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1912), pp. 109-115]

“Then a council was held, and it was ordered that siege machines should be constructed by the artisans, so that by moving them close to the wall we might accomplish our purpose, with the aid of God. This was done... When the tower had been put together and bad been covered with hides, it was moved nearer to the wall. Then knights, few in number, but brave, at the sound of the trumpet, took their places in the tower and began to shoot stones and arrows. The Saracens defended themselves vigorously, and, with slings, very skilfully hurled back burning firebrands, which had been dipped in oil and fresh fat. Many on both sides, fighting in this manner, often found themselves in the presence of death.

“On the following day the work again began at the sound of the trumpet, and to such purpose that the rams, by continual pounding, made a hole through one part of the wall. The Saracens suspended two beams before the opening, supporting them by ropes, so that by piling stones behind them they would make an obstacle to the rams. However, what they did for their own protection became, through the providence of God, the cause of their own destruction. For, when the tower was moved nearer to the wall, the ropes that supported the beams were cut; from these same beams the Franks constructed a bridge, which they cleverly extended from the tower to the wall. About this time one of the towers in the stone wall began to burn, for the men who worked our machines had been hurling firebrands upon it until the wooden beams within it caught fire. The flames and smoke soon became so bad that none of the defenders of this part of the wall were able to remain near this place. At the noon hour on Friday, with trumpets sounding, amid great commotion and shouting "God help us," the Franks entered the city. When the pagans saw one standard planted on the wall, they were completely demoralized, and all their former boldness vanished, and they turned to flee through the narrow streets of the city. Those who were already in rapid flight began to flee more rapidly.

“Count Raymond and his men, who were attacking the wall on the other side, did not yet know of all this, until they saw the Saracens leap from the wall in front of them. Forthwith, they joyfully rushed into the city to pursue and kill the nefarious enemies, as their comrades were already doing. Some Saracens, Arabs, and Ethiopians took refuge in the tower of David, others fled to the temples of the Lord and of Solomon. A great fight took place in the court and porch of the temples, where they were unable to escape from our gladiators. Many fled to the roof of the temple of Solomon, and were shot with arrows, so that they fell to the ground dead. In this temple almost ten thousand were killed. Indeed, if you had been there you would have seen our feet colored to our ankles with the blood of the slain. But what more shall I relate? None of them were left alive; neither women nor children were spared.”

Celebration, Killing and Pillage by the Christians

Crusaders discover the True Cross

Raymond d'Aguiliers wrote: “Now that the city was taken, it was well worth all our previous labors and hardships to see the devotion of the pilgrims at the Holy Sepulchre. How they rejoiced and exulted and sang a new song to the Lord! For their hearts offered prayers of praise to God, victorious and triumphant, which cannot be told in words. A new day, new joy, new and perpetual gladness, the consummation of our labor and devotion, drew forth from all new words and new songs. This day, I say, will be famous in all future ages, for it turned our labors and sorrows into joy and exultation; this day, I say, marks the justification of all Christianity, the humiliation of paganism, and the renewal of our faith. "This is the day which the Lord bath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it," for on this day the Lord revealed Himself to His people and blessed them. [Source: August. C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants, (Princeton: 1921), 257-62]

“On this day, the Ides of July, Lord Adhemar, Bishop of Puy, was seen in the city by many people. Many also testified that he was the first to scale the wall, and that he summoned the knights and people to follow him. On this day, moreover, the apostles were cast forth from Jerusalem and scattered over the whole world. On this same day, the children of the apostles regained the city and fatherland for God and the fathers. This day, the Ides of July, shall be celebrated to the praise and glory of the name of God, who, answering the prayers of His Church, gave in trust and benediction to His children the city and fatherland which He bad promised to the fathers. On this day we chanted the Office of the Resurrection, since on that day He, who by His virtue arose from the dead, revived us through His grace. So much is to be said of this.”

Fulcher of Chartres wrote: “This may seem strange to you. Our squires and poorer footmen discovered a trick of the Saracens, for they learned that they could find byzants [note: a gold coin] in the stomachs and intestines of the dead Saracens, who had swallowed them. Thus, after several days they burned a great heap of dead bodies, that they might more easily get the precious metal from the ashes. Moreover, Tancred broke into the temple of the Lord and most wrongfully stole much gold and silver, also precious stones, but later, repenting of his action, after everything had been accounted for, be restored all to its former place of sanctity. [Source: Fulk (or Fulcher) of Chartres, “Gesta Francorum Jerusalem Expugnantium, “The Deeds of the Franks Who Attacked Jerusalem”, in Frederick Duncan and August C. Krey, eds., “Parallel Source Problems in Medieval History” (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1912), pp. 109-115]

“The carnage over, the crusaders entered the houses and took whatever they found in them. However, this was all done in such a sensible manner that whoever entered a house first received no injury from any one else, whether he was rich or poor. Even though the house was a palace, whatever he found there was his property. Thus many poor men became rich. Afterward, all, clergy and laymen, went to the Sepulcher of the Lord and His glorious temple, singing the ninth chant. With fitting humility, they repeated prayers and made their offering at the holy places that they had long desired to visit.”

Legacy of the First Crusade

massacre of the Jews in Jerusalem

After Jerusalem was taken on July 15, 1099 after the five week siege, the banner of Christ was raised above the Temple Mount. The city was empty then. The Christians had fled and Muslims and Jews had been sold into slavery or slaughtered. Corpses were reported piled knee-high and blood flowed down the Valley of Kidorn. William of Tyre wrote, "It roused horror in all who looked upon [it].”

The Crusaders then took over many of the cities on the Mediterranean coast and built a large number of fortified castles all over the Holy Land to protect their new territories, while also establishing churches loyal to Rome. For the Crusaders, the Dome of the Rock was the Temple of Solomon; the Aqsa mosque was converted to use as a palace and stables. [Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art \^/]

With the aid of Italian (Venice) fleets the Crusaders captured many Mediterranean coastal towns, including Tripoli in 1109. Four Crusader States were created in the Holy Land: 1) the Principality of Antioch; 2) the County of Edessa; 3) the Kingdom of Jerusalem; and 4) the County of Tripoli. In addition, four baronies were established: Jaffa, Kerak, Galilee, and Sidon. Meanwhile, two more waves of Crusaders arrived. The conquest of the Holy Land proceeded until 1120.

The Crusades gave trade during the Middle Ages a big push. They opened up trade with the Muslim world, which was also a conduit for products from the Orient. Crusaders returned to Europe with spices and perfumes, knowledge of a world outside their own and a taste for the exotic. States like Venice grew rich selling silks, perfumes and spices and bankers in Italy grew rich financing the purchase of these items for clerics, popes, kings and nobles.

Many Christians saw the capture of Jerusalem as a defeat of the AntiChrist. Europe was plunged into a period of end-of-the-world fervor. In 1208, there were Crusades within Europe against the Albigensian heretics in France. Although, the Crusaders only held Jerusalem for 87 years, they ruled large parts of Palestine and Syria from 1098 to 1291

Crusader Rule Jerusalem

Crusader rule of Jerusalem lasted for 87 years. In that time it was made into a Christian capital. The Crusaders banned Jews, limited the number of Muslims and imported Christians from Syria and Jordan. The knights divided up the land among themselves. The Church of St. Anne was built over the site of Virgin Maet’s birth. The Chuhc of the Holy Sepulcher was consecrated again.

Election of Godfrey

Godfrey became the King of Jerusalem, "The Advocate of the Holy Sepulchre". The Latin kingdom of Jerusalem established by the Crusaders boasted fifteen cathedral churches. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem became the seat of a Western Christian bishop in 1110.

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “Artists from different traditions met in the city of Jerusalem, with, for example, Syrian goldworkers on the right of the market near the Holy Sepulcher, and Latin goldworkers on the left (Conder 1896). Indeed, metalwork from this period sometimes combines an Islamic aesthetic with Christian subject matter. Some pieces even bear an inscription indicating that they were made by an Islamic goldsmith for a Christian. Precious works of art fashioned for the churches of Europe celebrated their links to the Holy Land. [Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art \^/]

Changes to Jerusalem Under the Christians

The Crusaders made many changes to thr area around the Dome of the Rock and Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. In "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem”, Hadia Dajani-Shakeel wrote:. One Latin pilgrim, Theoderich, who visited the Holy Land around A.D. 1172, refers to al-Aqsa mosque as the Palace of Solomon (others refer to it as the Temple of Solomon), as it was known to the Latins and to Europeans in general. He says it was in the hands of the Templars,” who dwell in it and in the other buildings connected with it, havng many magazines of arms, clothing, and food in it. They have below them stables for horses built by King Solomon himself in the days of old; adjoining the palace a wondrous and intricate building resting on piers and containing an endless complication of arches and vaults, which stables, we declare, according to our reckoning, could take in 10,000 horses with their grooms." [Source: Hadia Dajani-Shakeel. "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem (Al-Quds)", “Studia Palaestina: Studies in honour of Constantine K. Zurayk,” edited by Hisham Nashabe, Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut 1988 ]

“Another pilgrim, John of Wurzburg, who visited the Holy Land some time between A.D. 1160 and A.D. 1170, confirms Theoderich's account. However, he refers to the stables as having the capacity to hold 2,000 horses or 1,500 camels. These stables were at the southeast corner of the Haram area. John of Wurzburg also refers to the foundations of a large new church, which was not yet finished.

“The Dome of the Rock also suffered from desecration by the Crusaders, who, according to 'Imad al-Din, had built a church and an altar on top of the Rock and decorated both with images and statues. They had also built residences there and erected a small dome on the "footprint," which they ornamented with gold and marble.

Holy Places in Christian Jerusalem in 1172

Crusade graffiti in the Church of the Holy Sepulchure, the home of the tomb of Jesus, in Jerusalem

In his description of "The Palace of Solomon" [Al-Aqsa mosque], Theoderich wrote in his guide to Holy Places in Palestine (A.D . 1172): “Next comes, on the south, the palace of Solomon, which is oblong, and supported by columns within like a church, and at the end is round like a sanctuary and covered by a great round dome, so that, as I have said, it resembles a church. This building, with all its appurtenances, has passed into the hands of the Knights Templars, who dwell in it and in the other buildings connected with it, having many magazines of arms, clothing, and food in it, and are ever on the watch to guard and protect the country. They have below them stables for horses built by King Solomon himself in the days of old, adjoining the palace, a wondrous and intricate building resting on piers and containing an endless complication of arches and vaults, which stable, we declare, according to our reckoning, could take in ten thousand horses with their grooms. No man could send an arrow from one end of their building to the other, either lengthways or crossways, at one shot with a Balearic bow. [Source: Appendix 1 of “Theoderich's Description of the Holy Places (A.D . 1172), translated by Aubrey Stewart (London: Palcstine Pilgrims' Text Society, 1896): 30-32.]

“Above it abounds with rooms, solar chambers, and buildings suitable for all manner of uses. Those who walk upon the roof of it find an abundance of gardens, courtyards, ante-chambers, vestibules, and rain-water cisterns; while down below it contains a wonderful number of baths, storehouses, granaries, and magazines for the storage of wood and other needful provisions. On another side of the palace, that is to say, on the western side, the Templars have erected a new building.

“I could give the measurements of its height, length, and breadth of its cellars, refectories, staircases, and roof, rising with a high pitch, unlike the flat roofs of that country; but even if I did so, my hearers would hardly be able to believe me. They have built a new cloister there in addition to the old one which they had in another part of the building. Moreover, they are laying the foundations of a new church of wonderful size and workmanship in this place, by the side of the great court.”

Dome of the Rock in 1172

Theoderich wrote in his guide to Holy Places in Palestine (A.D . 1172): “Hence by a street which bends a little towards the south one comes through the Beautiful Gate of the Temple to the Temple of the Lord, crossing about the middle of the city; where one mounts from the lower court to the upper one by twenty-two steps, and from the upper court one enters the Temple. In front of these same steps in the lower court there are twenty-five steps or more, leading down into a great pool, from which it is said there is a subterranean connection with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, through which the holy fire which is miraculously lighted in that church on Easter Even is said to be brought underground to the Temple of the Lord. Now, the outer court is twice as large, or more, than the inner court, which, like the outer one, is paved with broad and large stones. Two sides of the outer court exist to this day; the other two have been taken for the use of the canons, and the Templars, who have built houses and planted gardens on them. [Source: Appendix 2 Theoderich's Description of the Holy Places (A.D. 1172) "The Temple of Ihe Lord": "Dome of the Rock", translated by Aubrey Stewart (London: Palcstine Pilgrims' Text Society, 1896): 30-32.]

Dome of the Rock

“On the western side one ascends to the upper court by two ranges of steps, and in like manner on the southern side. Over the steps, before which we said that the pool is situated, there stand four columns with arches above them, and there, too, is the sepulchre of some rich man, surrounded by an iron grille, and beautifully carved in alabaster. On the right, also, above the steps on the south side, there stand in like manner four columns, and on the left three. On the eastern side also there are fifteen double steps, by which one mounts up to the Temple through the Golden Gate, according to the number of which the Psalmist composed fifteen psalms, and above these also stand columns. Besides this, on the south side above the two angles of the inner court, stand two small dwellings, whereof that towards the west is said to have been the school of the Blessed Virgin. Now, between the Temple and the two sides of the outer court - that is to say, the eastern and the southern sides - there stands a great stone like an altar, which, according to some traditions, is the mouth of some pools of water which exist there; but, according to the belief of others, point out the place where Zacharias, the son of Barachias, was slain. On the northern side are the cloister and conventual buildings of the clergy. Round about the Temple itself there are great pools of water under the pavement. Between the Golden Gate and the fifteen steps there stands an ancient and ruined cistern, wherein in old times victimes were washed before they were offered.

“The Temple itself is evidently of an octagonal shape in its lower part. Its lower part is ornamented as far as the middle with most glorious marbles, and from the middle up to the topmost border, on which the roof rests, is most beauteously adorned with mosaic work. Now, this border, which reaches round the entire circuit of the Temple, contains the following inscription, which, starting from the front, or west door, must be read according to the way of the sun as follows: On the front, "Peace be unto this house for ever, from the Father Eternal." On the second side, "The Temple of the Lord is holy; God careth for it; God halloweth it." On the third side, "This is the house of the Lord, firmly built." On the fourth side, "In the house of the Lord all men shall tell of His glory." On the fifth, "Blessed be the glory of the Lord out of His holy place." On the sixth, "Blessed are they which dwell in Thy house, O Lord." On the seventh, "Of a truth the Lord is in His holy place, and I knew it not." On the eighth, "The house of the Lord is well built upon a firm rock."

inside the Dome of the Rock in 1910

“Besides this, on the eastern side over against the Church of St. James (now called Qubbat al-Silsilah) there is a column represented in the wall in mosaic work, above which is the inscription, "The Roman Column." The upper wall forms a narrower circle, resting on arches within the building, and supports a leaden roof, which has on its summit a great ball with a gilded cross above it. Four doors lead into and out of the building, each door looking to one of the four quarters of the world. The church rests upon eight square piers and sixteen columns, and its walls and ceilings are magnificently adorned with mosaics. The circuit of the choir contains four main pillars, or piers, and eight columns, which support the inner wall, with its own lofty vaulted roof. Above the arches of the choir a scroll extends all round the building, bearing this text: "'My house shall be called the house of prayer,' saith the Lord. In it whosoever asks, receives. and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks shall be opened. Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find." In an upper circular scroll similarly placed round the building is the text: "Have Thou respect unto the prayer of Thy servant, and to his supplication, O Lord my God, that Thine eyes may be open and Thine ears turned towards this house night and day. Look down, O Lord, from Thy sanctuary and from the highest heaven, Thy dwelling-place."

“At the entrance to the choir there is an altar dedicated to St. Nicholas, enclosed in an iron enclosure, which has on its upper part a border containing this inscription: in front, "In the year 1101, in the fourth indiction, Epact 11," and on the left side, "From the taking of Antioch 63 years, from the taking of Jerusalem 53." On the right side, "From the taking of Tripoli 52 years, from the taking of Berytus 51 years, from the taking of Ascalon 11 years."

Al-Sulami and Jihad Against the Crusaders

In "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem”, Hadia Dajani-Shakeel wrote: “When the first Crusaders entered Syria in A.H. 49l/A.D. 1097, the first scholars to raise their voices in condemnation of the passiveness of the Muslim rulers, and to warn of the potentially disastrous consequences of the Crusade, were in Damascus. Among them was 'Ali Ibn Tahir al-Sulami (d. A.H. 5OIIAD 1106). Al-Sulami wrote one of the earliest treatises on the jihad in response to the Crusade. [Source: Hadia Dajani-Shakeel. "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem (Al-Quds)", “Studia Palaestina: Studies in honour of Constantine K. Zurayk,” edited by Hisham Nashabe, Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut 1988]

“Al-Sulami defined the Crusade as an invasion by Western nations, which started with the conquest of Sicily and parts of al-Andalus. These same nations, having encountered the weakness of the Muslims in the West and heard reports about their disunity in the East, marched against the East, while their ultimate goal was the conquest of Jerusalem. This definition of the Crusades by al-Sulami appears to have escaped many modern historians, who allege that the Muslims underestimated the nature and motives of the Crusade in the twelfth century.

“Al-Sulami, who preached in Damascus until his death, interpreted the Crusade as a divine warning to test the willingness of the Muslims to refrain from committing acts that God forbade and to unde take the duty of jihad, which they had neglected. He warned his contemporaries that if they did not act immediately, while the enemy was still weak and far from his sources of supply, they would not be able to uproot him.

“In his preaching al-Sulami provided his contemporaries with a new definition of jihad that, although derived to a great extent from the Islamic theory of war, was aimed at the confrontation with the Crusaders. According to him: "The early jurists emphasized the offensive Jihad, or the Jihad against enemies in countries that are nearby or remote. However, if an enemy attacks the Muslims, as this enemy [the Crusaders] has done, then pursuing him in areas that he has conquered from us [an allusion to those parts of Syria and Palestine then held by the Crusaders] is a just war aimed at protecting lives, children, and families and at preserving those parts that are still under our control."

“Al-Sulami, who established the theoretical foundations of the Countercrusade, did not live long enough to see the results of his teachings. However, he sowed the seeds of national and religious renaissance, which passed from one generation of scholars to another. These scholars, who included Syrian, Palestinian, Egyptian, Baghdadi, Andalusian, and even non-Arab Muslims - among whom the most outspoken was 'Imad al-Din al-lsfahani - passed the torch of the liberation of Jerusalem and other occupied terrltories in Syria and Palestine to Salah al-Din, who grew up and flourished in the same environment. The result of the long ideological campaign was manifested in the popular response to Salah al-Din's successes in Palestine, especially after the battle of Hittin. According to Ibn Shaddad, "Knowing that Salah al-Din was marching on Jerusalem, people had flocked from Syria and Egypt to join him in his battle,'' hoping thereby to earn a spiritual reward. Every famous person from Egypt and Syria witnessed the liberation, so that when Salah al-Din entered the city he was surrounded by scholars, jurists, sufis, and poets as well as by crowds of civilians and members of the military.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Islamic History Sourcebook: “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Arab News, Jeddah; “Islam, a Short History” by Karen Armstrong; “A History of the Arab Peoples” by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994). “Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The Guardian, BBC, Al Jazeera, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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