If you’re looking to explore Crusader ruins and Crusades sites and want to find the best places to view the history of the Crusades then you can explore our interactive map above or navigate further by using the links below.
There’s a great selection of Crusader ruins and Crusades sites and you can plan some fantastic things to see on your trips. Once you’ve explored the list of Crusades sites and selected those you wish to visit you can use our itinerary planner tool to plan your trip and then print off a free pocket guidebook. This indispensible holiday guide will help you make the most of your time exploring Crusader ruins and Crusades sites.
Our database of the historic sites of the Crusades is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. Remember, if you know of other Crusader sites, remains or ruins, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by visiting our upload page.
One of the most famous Crusader sites, Acre is a UNESCO listed site of a city in Israel fortified by the Crusaders and the Ottomans.
Acre or “Akko” is an ancient city in Israel which has been almost continuously inhabited since at least 3000 BC, during the Early Bronze Age. Today, the Old City of Acre is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with a myriad of ruins representing the many civilisations that ruled the area over the centuries.
Allocated to the tribe of Asher under the Israelites, Acre would come under the rule of the Assyrians (9th century BC) and the Phoenicians (6th-4th centuries BC) before being conquered by Alexander the Great. It would later be ruled by the Egyptian Ptolemid Dynasty, Syria’s Seleucids and form part of the Hasmonean Kingdom, then being taken by the Romans in 63 BC. From 638 AD, Acre became an Arab city, part of the Caliphate of Cairo.
All of these cultures and civilisations left their mark on the Old City of Acre. The ruins of various fortifications and structures can still be seen there today. However, the overwhelming character of Acre is defined by two later periods, denoting the city’s time under the Crusaders and the Ottomans.
The Crusaders took Acre in 1104 and proceeded to build an impressive set of fortifications, much of which remain. This was a time of great development and prosperity, with the erection of many public buildings such as bathhouses, markets, shops and churches. However, from 1187, Acre fell to the Muslims and proceeded to change hands many more times including falling to the Crusaders yet again under Richard the Lion Heart in 1191.
From 1517, Acre – then in a poor state due to damage from several conflicts - came under Ottoman rule, although it was not until the eighteenth century that reconstruction began taking place. The Ottoman redevelopment of Acre was sympathetic to the Crusader buildings, with their remaining structures being used as a basis for new construction. At this time, Acre experienced yet another period of prosperity, with many new public buildings, including mosques and homes.
Acre is also famous for being the site of a failed siege by Napoleon in 1799 and being the location of a prison for political dissidents under the British Mandate.
Visitors to Acre can see its impressive fortifications, sites related to the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitallers, such as the Knights’ Halls, sites of the Bahá'í Faith and the many remaining public buildings, most of which originate from the Ottoman and Crusader periods.
Acre features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions of Israel.
A grand medieval castle commissioned by Saladin, Ajlun Castle is an excellent example of Ayyubid-era fortifications which is now a tourist attraction and museum.
A grand medieval castle commissioned by Saladin and built by his nephew Izz al-Din Usama, Ajlun Castle was a fortress designed to strike fear in the heart of the Franks.
While the crusaders in Levant played cat and mouse with the great Saladin, his generals were preparing for warfare on their own terms – a war that would see the Franks destroyed at the battle of Hattin several years later in 1187. Arab military fortifications were strengthened as the years went by and Saladin worked hard to unite the Muslim forces.
An imposing stronghold, complete with moat, drawbridge and towers, Ajlun, itself, was built in 1184 but lost much of its military significance after the fall of Karak – a crusader strong hold in the South of Jordan. However, the castle continued to guard important trade routes into Syria and was consequently never allowed to fall into disuse – serving primarily as an administrative centre under Ayyubid and later Mamluk control.
Ajlun would even feature heavily during the wars between the Mongols and the Mamluk empire. The castle was occupied and severely damaged by the Mongol invaders before being reclaimed by the Mameluk Sultan Baibars after the Mongol defeat at the iconic battle of Ayn Jalut; where the remarkable Mongol advance would finally be turned back.
Later, after the Ottomans established their rule in the area, Ajlun Castle would continue its administrative role which lasted right up until the 19th century, when severe damage from an earthquake led to its abandonment.
Today, a visit to Ajlun Castle will immerse visitors into the culture of siege warfare and take them back in time to one of the most destructive periods in the region’s history. The site also holds the remarkable Ajlun Archeological Museum, housed inside the castle, offering fine examples of pottery and ceramics as well as other displays and artefacts from the region.
While spectacular views of Jordan are a feature of your visit, visitors can also experience the local wildlife in the nearby Ajlun Nature Reserve.
Contributed by Rebecca Lewis
Arsuf contains the remains of a Crusader castle once occupied by the Knights Hospitaller. With special events for children, this can be one of the most fun Crusades sites to visit with a family.
Arsuf, also known as Apollonia, contains the remains of an ancient settlement on the Israeli coast that has stood for over 1,000 years. Arsuf is best known for the remains of a once-mighty Crusader castle which was once home to the Knights Hospitaller, but the site also contains remnants from the many other civilisations that have occupied the area.
Founded by the Phoenicians in the 6th or 5th century BC, Arsuf was occupied by the Persians, Seleucid Greeks (from where it gained the name Apollonia), Romans, Byzantines, Muslims and finally the Crusaders who captured the town in 1101AD. In 1191AD Richard the Lionheart defeated Saladin here in the Battle of Arsuf.
The area was fought over throughout the Crusader period and, from 1261AD the fortress of Arsuf was occupied by the Knights Hospitaller. However, just four years later the Mamluk Sultan Baibars captured the fortress after a 40-day siege. His forces destroyed the town and the site was abandoned.
Today, Arsuf has been excavated and is now Apollonia National Park. Visitors can see the remains of the Crusader fortress, including evidence from the final battle. The clifftop setting and impressive defensive moat bring to life the scale and drama of the once-mighty castle. Also on show are the remains of a Roman villa, which highlights the diverse nature of the settlement at Arsuf.
Visitors can wander through the remnants of Crusader chambers and the site contains useful information on the various areas of the ruins. The site itself takes only about an hour to view, and contains some pleasant coastal and tranquil walkways.
During the holidays, events are often held here for children and the site can make for a good family day out. Purists be warned, those core historians seeking to explore the atmosphere of the ancient ruins should check ahead to avoid these events, as the site can be overrun with children dressed as pirates!
Asenova Fortress is a pretty medieval fortress near Plovdiv, Bulgaria, once occupied by Crusaders.
Asenova Fortress (Asenova Krepost) is a pretty medieval fortress near Plovdiv. Some evidence shows that the area of Asenova Fortress has been inhabited by a variety of people dating back to ancient times, including the Thracians and Romans as well as the Byzantines.
Whilst it is said t have been mentioned in the 11th century and taken by Crusaders, many of the remains of Asenova Fortress today date to the 13th century when they were rebuilt under tsar Ivan Assen II. Having said this, the most intact aspect of Asenova Fortress is a 12th century church.
Beit Shean is an immensely impressive archaeological site with remains dating back mostly to the Roman and Byzantine period.
The ancient city of Beit She’an in the northern Jordan Valley is an immensely impressive archaeological site with remains dating back mostly to the Roman and Byzantine period.
The site itself has an extensive history dating back to around the fifth millennium BC and was a significant settlement by the Bronze Age period. During the Late Bronze Age, when the Egyptians ruled the area, Beit She’an served as the administrative centre of the region.
As the Egyptians lost control of the region, around the 12th century BC, the Egyptian city was destroyed by fire and a Canaanite city rose in its place, before the Philistines conquered the area. It was during this period that Beit She’an gained a Biblical reference when the Israelites under King Saul were defeated at the Battle of Mount Gilboa – it is said that the body of Saul was hung from the city’s walls, along with the bodies of his sons. The city was then captured by the Israelite king David and formed part of the Israelite kingdom until its destruction by the Assyrians in 731 BC.
Following this period the city was later re-founded as a Hellenistic settlement and was known as Nisa Scythopolis. As with many of the ancient cities in the area Beit She’an was later incorporated into the Roman Empire and survived under Roman and later Byzanine rule for several centuries; it was one of the ten cities of the Decapolis league. Most of the remains of Beit She’an which can be seen today date back to this period, which is when the city reached its zenith with a population approaching 50,000 by the 5th century AD.
The city continued to function after the 7th century Arab conquest, despite seeing a decline in its prominence and size. However, it was not war or man-made destruction which signalled the end of Beit She’an, rather a major earthquake which struck the region in 749 AD and devastated the city. There were subsequent periods of occupation after this event – including a period of Crusader rule which saw the construction of a Crusader castle – but the ancient city itself fell into ruin.
Today visitors to the site can explore the remains of ancient Beit She’an (also called Bet She’an, Beth Shean or Bet Shean) which sits on the eastern side of the modern city of the same name.
Among the ruins are the impressive colonnaded main street (known as Paladius Street), parts of the defensive walls, the reconstructed Roman theatre, an ancient amphitheatre, Byzantine bathhouse and even structures dating back to the Egyptian and Canannite periods, such as a large Canaanite temple and the ancient house of the Egyptian governor. The remains of the Crusader castle can also be visited as well as a Mamluk-era mosque.
Alongside the ruins sits the Biblical Mount Gilboa, which affords excellent views of the surrounding area, and visitors can also purchase tickets for the impressive sound-and-light experience which is run at the site. Beit She’an features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Israel.
Bodrum Castle is a 15th century citadel built by Christian knights and houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology.
Bodrum Castle (Bodrum Kalesi), also known as The Castle of St. Peter, in Bodrum, Turkey was built by the Knights Hospitaller in 1402 in order to offer protection from the invading Seljuk Turks.
Constructed according to the highest standards at the time, it remained an important Christian stronghold for over a century, serving as a focal point in Asia Minor. Bodrum Castle incorporates many pieces from the nearby Mausoleum of Mausolus, including sculptures and building materials, the latter of which were used to strengthen Bodrum Castle from invasion by Sultan Suleiman in 1522.
Today, Bodrum Castle is open to the public and houses the world renowned Museum of Underwater Archaeology founded in 1962. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.
The Museum of Underwater Archaeology in Bodrum is located in Bodrum Castle, one a Crusader fortress.
The Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology in Turkey exhibits historical treasures uncovered through underwater excavations.
Some of the treasures at the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology include the finds from the Bronze Age Uluburun Shipwreck, believed to have sunk in 14th century BC and discoveries from a 5th century ship, most of which includes glasswear, lending it the name of “The Glasswreck”.
The Museum of Underwater Archaeology also has other departments, including its “secret museum” which explores ancient forms of medicine.
Even the building in which the Museum of Underwater Archaeology is housed, Bodrum Castle, has a history of its own. In fact, it is a 15th century fortification built by Christian Hospitaller Knights. The exhibitions are dotted around its halls and towers, allowing visitors to explore underwater finds in a fascinating environment. The Museum of Underwater Archaeology itself was founded in 1962.
A lesser-known Crusades Site Byblos is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities and contains the ruins of a 12th century Crusader Castle.
Byblos (Jbail) in Lebanon is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, as attested by the incredibly diverse ages of its ruins. Thought to have first inhabited sometime around the fifth millennium BC, Byblos began as a Neolithic village of fisherman.
Over time, Byblos would, amongst other things, become a Phoenician trading hub called Gublu, be taken by Alexander the Great in 333BC, be ruled by the Greeks (this as when it acquired its current name) and then fall to Pompey, becoming a Roman city in the 1st century BC. Byblos began to decline under the Byzantines, who took it in 399AD.
Today, Byblos bears the marks of all of these civilisations. Stone Age, Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age dwelling sit side by side with a royal Phoenician necropolis and Roman sites such as a theatre, a road and nympheum. There is also a 12th century Crusader Castle, a reminder of when Byblos was conquered in 1104.
In addition to its fascinating ruins, Byblos is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its contribution to modern language. In particular, Byblos is connected with the Phoenicians' development of the predecessor of our alphabet. There’s plenty to see at Byblos, some in its main archaeological site, other elements dotted around its medieval town centre.
Caesarea in Israel was an Ancient Roman city later conquered by the Crusaders and still containing the original Crusader fortifications.
Caesarea or “Keysarya” was an Ancient Roman city which is now a large archaeological site in Israel. It is believed that the city of Caesarea was initially founded atop the ruins of Straton's Tower, a third century BC Phoenician port city.
Conquered by King Alexander Jannaeus of the Hasmonean Kingdom in 90 BC, Caesarea’s population remained under local control until it was taken by the Romans in 63 BC. It was King Herod the Great who named the city Caesarea – after Augustus Caesar - and who endowed it with the majority of its great public buildings, infrastructure and monuments from 22 BC. Caesarea became a thriving commercial hub which hosted sporting events and which flourished further under the Byzantines. It was conquered by Crusaders in the eleventh century and its Crusader defences were erected in 1251 under French King Louis IX.
Today, Caesarea offers so much to see, including a large amphitheatre overlooking the ocean and an extensive labyrinth of ruins. Some of the most imposing remains at Caesarea are its Crusader fortifications.
Nearby, visitors can also explore the stunning remains of the Caesarea Aqueduct. Unless willing to hike for quite a while, it’s best to drive to this site. Overall, a trip to Caesarea can last anywhere from one to three hours and makes for a truly excellent day out. This site also features as one of our Top Ten Tourist Attractions in Israel.
The Castle of Almourol is a medieval castle built by the Knights Templar on an islet in the Tagus River.
Almourol Castle was built in the 12th century, on an islet in the middle of the Tagus River, as part of the defensive line held by the Knights Templar during the Portuguese Reconquista.
Although the site of Almourol Castle had been used as a fortification since at least Roman times the castle that stands today was primarily built under the Knights Templar, who began construction in 1171 AD. Subsequent excavations at the site have found evidence of this earlier Roman occupation, including the foundations of the Roman structure built here.
After the dissolution of the Templar Order in 1312 AD the castle was largely abandoned, particularly as the military situation in the area had changed meaning Almourol Castle was no longer of crucial strategic importance.
It was not until the Romanticist movement of the 19th century gathered pace that the castle became the subject of scrutiny once again, and it was largely restored at this time. Further restoration work took place in the mid-20th century.
Today the castle’s distinctive location and Templar architecture has led to Almourol becoming a popular attraction and a noted symbol of the Reconquest. Small wonder then that it's one of our picks for Portugal's top 10 visitor attractions.
Contributed by nmac
One of many religious Crusades sites, the Church of the Annunciation is believed to be the site where Gabriel told Mary she was to conceive the son of G-d.
The Church of the Annunciation, often called the Basilica of the Annunciation, is located in Nazareth on the site where it is believed that the angel Gabriel told Mary that she was to miraculously conceive the son of G-d. This holy Christian event is known as the Annunciation.
While the structure of the Church of the Annunciation is a twentieth century one, two previous churches – one Byzantine, one Crusader – have been excavated there, with the earlier one probably dating back to the fourth century AD. Inside the current church, visitors can see the Cave of the Annunciation, the site in which this event is thought to have occurred.
It is worth mentioning that the site of the Annunciation is a matter of some dispute, with some believing that it occurred elsewhere within Nazareth. The Greek Orthodox faith has its own Church of the Annunciation.
Built on the believed site of the crucifixion of Jesus, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is possibly the holiest site in Christianity. The current structure mostly dates to the Crusader period.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is holiest site in Christianity due the fact that it encompasses what are thought to be the last five stations travelled through by Christ, ending in his crucifixion.
Built in 325/6AD by Roman Emperor Constantine I (the first such emperor to convert to Christianity), the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located on what many Christians believe to be Golgotha/The Hill of Cavalry, where Christ is said to have been crucified and later resurrected. It derives its name - Sepulchre, meaning the tomb- from the belief that it is the site of Jesus' burial.
It was Constantine’s mother, Helena, who went to Jerusalem and identified the site. Prior to the building of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the land on which it stands had been a temple to the deity Aphrodite, built by the Emperor Hadrian.
The sepulchre, the burial place of Jesus, is at the core of the church whilst the other four stations are clustered in The Hill of Cavalry. The décor of this section of the church is noticeably more opulent is believed to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has been destroyed and rebuilt several times throughout the centuries, it now mostly dating to the twelfth century following the First Crusade. At present the building itself is controlled by six Christian churches - the division of the site can be traced from the 11th century, and was solidified by the Ottomans in 1767. This division has not been tranquil and there continue to be violent clashes between members of different Christian churches; in 2008 a particularly hostile brawl between the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Churches had to be broken up by Israeli police.
Since 1981, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has been a UNESCO World Heritage site as part of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls. This site features as one of our recommended key places to visit in Israel.
One of many more isolated Crusader sites, the Citadel of Salah Ed-Din is a Crusader-era castle situated in Syria, designated a World Heritage site in 2006.
The Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, also known as Saladin Castle and Saone, is a partly-preserved fortress in Syria which is an interesting example of Crusader-era fortifications.
The site has been used as a fortification for many centuries, and is thought to have first been occupied by the Phoenicians and later by Alexander the Great. The current site was built by the Byzantines and became a Crusader stronghold until its capture by Saladin in 1188.
The Citadel of Salah Ed-Din was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006.
Built on the site of a fourteenth century complex built by the Knights Hospitallers, Fort Saint Jean was used as a prison during the French Revolution.
Fort Saint Jean was one of two fortresses built by King Louis XIV in Marseille in the seventeenth century. Construction began in the 1660’s under the guise of wanting to protect Marseille from outside attack. In fact, the purpose of Fort Saint Jean was to subdue a rebellion by the citizens against royal rule, a role also fulfilled be Fort Saint Nicholas on the other end of the harbour.
The site on which Fort Saint Jean was erected was previously home to a fourteenth century complex of buildings built by the Knights Hospitallers of Jerusalem during the crusades. It included a palace, chapel and a hospital. A later addition to the site was the René I Tower, built in the mid-fifteenth century and dedicated to the then king of Provence. Some of these buildings were incorporated into Fort Saint Jean.
Fort Saint Jean was garrisoned until the French Revolution when it became a prison housing, amongst others, the Duke of Orléans, Louis Philippe II and his two sons. Louis Philippe II had originally been a proponent of the revolution, even taking to being called “Philippe Égalité”, but was not spared in the Reign of Terror, eventually being executed by guillotine.
World War II
In World War II, Fort Saint Jean served as a munitions storage facility during the Nazi occupation of Marseille. This would spell the destruction of much of Fort Saint Jean as, in 1944, some of the ammunition stored within it exploded. It is home to the Museum of Civilizations in Europe and the Mediterranean, although at the time of writing, this may be undergoing renovation.
One of the most famous Crusader sites, the Grandmasters Palace of Rhodes was the base of the Knights Hospitaller of St John.
The Grandmasters Palace of Rhodes was the palace of the Knights Hospitaller of St John. Dating to the fourteenth century (circa 1309), the Grandmasters Palace would be the base of this famous Christian and military order until Rhodes was captured by the Ottomans in 1522.
Under this empire the Grandmasters Palace served as a fortress, but was devastated in 1856 by an ammunitions explosion. It was the Italians who restored the Grandmaster Palace in 1912.
Today, this medieval castle operates as a museum of works mostly from the early Christian period up to the Ottoman conquest. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Medieval City of Rhodes. This site also features as one of our Top 10 tourist attractions in Greece.
The Grandmasters Palace in Valletta has been the seat of power in Malta since the sixteenth century. One of the most important latter Crusader sites.
The Grandmasters Palace in Valletta has been the seat of power in Malta since the sixteenth century. It was in 1571 that the Knights Hospitaller of St John made the Grandmasters Palace their base, a role which it would fulfil until 1798, when this religious and military order left Malta.
At first, the site of the Grandmasters Palace only had a single house on it, owned by the nephew of the head of the Knights Hospitaller, Grandmaster Jean Parisot de la Valette. This was incorporated into the new palace.
Under British Rule in the nineteenth century, the Grandmasters Palace became the home of the British governors and, since Malta’s independence in 1964, it has served as the seat of the country’s House of Representatives.
Today, as well as being a government building, parts of the Grandmasters Palace are open to the public, particularly the State Rooms and the Armoury. The opulent and lavishly decorated State Rooms display several art collections of which many, such as The Great Siege Frescoes by Matteo Perez d’Aleccio, date back to the times of the Knights Hospitaller.
Meanwhile, the Palace Armoury contains the impressive collection of armour and weaponry of the Knights Hospitaller.
The Grandmasters Palace is part of the City of Valletta UNESCO World Heritage listing.
An impressive 12th century Crusader castle in Jordan, the remains of the fortification of Kerak are an awesome and slightly forbidding sight even today.
Kerak Castle is an impressive 12th century Crusader-era fortification located to the south of Amman, Jordan, on the ancient King's Highway. Today the castle operates as a visitor attraction and contains a maze of corridors and chambers within the imposing fortifications.
Described by a contemporary adventurer as "the most marvellous, most inaccessible and most celebrated of castles", the site of Kerak is mentioned in the Bible, where it was said to have been besieged by the King of Israel.
The structure which is visible today took on its current guise during the Crusades in the 12th century. Initially a Crusader stronghold, the castle is situated within the city walls of Karak and was located in an area of great strategic importance, nine-hundred metres above sea level.
The construction of Kerak began in 1142 and it took approximately twenty years to complete. There was already a fortified town of some considerable importance on the site, which served as an administrative centre during the Roman and Byzantine eras, as well as the early Islamic period. The castle soon became the most important centre of control in the Transjordan region.
One of the most notorious figures of the period, Reynald of Chatillon, ruled Kerak from the early 1170s. Reynald was infamous among contemporaries for acts of barbarism, which included breaking treaties, and looting the caravans of worshippers bound for Mecca. One of the favourite pastimes of Reynald was said to have been throwing prisoners from the castle walls onto the rocks below.
In 1177, after one particularly notorious attack made on such a caravan during peacetime, the Sultan of Egypt and Syria, Saladin, launched an attack on the crusader kingdom, which resulted in the defeat of Reynald's forces at the Battle of Hattin. Saladin, noted for his restraint shown towards his enemies during his lifetime, spared elements of the Crusader army but personally executed Reynald himself.
After the battle, Kerak Castle also fell to Saladin after a long siege, and it would remain in Muslim hands from this point on. During the period of Muslim rule, the castle would undergo further significant alteration and restoration as well as often being involved in the mainly-internal conflicts of the following centuries. Indeed, the castle held the dubious honour of being the first target of modern gunpowder artillery to be used in the Middle East.
Today, a visit to Kerak Castle affords the unique opportunity to thoroughly explore a well preserved Crusader fortification. There are seven different levels within the castle and visitors can wander through vaulted passageways and dungeons. Bringing a torch can help with navigating some of the smaller and darker passageways. The castle kitchens contain an olive press and ovens, and there is also a partially ruined chapel to be seen.
There is a museum located on a lower floor of the castle, and one route leads onto the keep, which provides spectacular views. Visitors can look across the Dead Sea and out to the Mount of Olives, bordering on Jerusalem, on clearer days.
Contributed by Chris Reid
Among the more obscure Crusader sites, Kolossi Castle was a fortification of the Knights Hospitallers built in the thirteenth century.
Kolossi Castle was originally a thirteenth century Frankish fortification near Limassol in Cyprus.
Constructed by the Knights Hospitallers in 1210, Kolossi Castle almost exclusively remained in their possession until it was destroyed by Mameluke raids in 1525/6. The only interruption occurred between 1306 and 1313, when it was taken over by the Knights Templar.
The current Kolossi Castle was built in 1454 under the orders of Louis de Magnac. His coat of arms can be seen on the wall of the structure.
Perhaps the best preserved example of a Crusader fortress in existence today, the magnificent fortress of Krak des Chevaliers is a stunning example of Medieval military architecture.
Krak des Chevaliers is a stunning example of Crusader-era military architecture and was the headquarters of the famous Knights Hospitallier during the 12th and 13th centuries.
It is perhaps the best preserved example of a Crusader fortress in existence today, and is an awe-inspiring example of medieval military architecture.
Built to withstand a siege for up to five years, Krak des Chevaliers stands atop a 650-metre high hill which dominated the route from Antioch to Beirut. The main enclosure was surrounded by a man-made moat which was carved out of solid rock in a dramatic example of Crusade-era engineering.
Captured by the Mameluke Sultan Baibars in 1271, Krak des Chevaliers was used as a base for Mameluk expansion towards the end of the 13th Century. Situated close to the border with Lebanon, it provides a unique experience to those wishing to find out more about the Crusades.
Krak des Chevaliers was designated a World Heritage site in 2006.
Not necessarily known as being among the Crusades sites, Petra was actually a Crusader stronghold for a number of years.
Petra is an iconic ancient site in southern Jordan. A secret to all but the Bedouins until 1812, Petra’s incredible monuments are now considered to be one of the wonders of the world.
Petra was established by the once nomadic Kingdom of the Nabataeans. Carving a city out of the sandstone rocks and cliffs, the Nabataeans settled and made Petra into their capital. The Nabataeans chose this site carefully, selecting a place which was located along the paths of numerous strategic caravan trails.
It is unknown when Petra was first founded, but it was inhabited from prehistoric times and fully established by the fourth century BC, by which time it had achieved fame as an incredible feat of architecture. In 312 BC, Petra was attacked in by Antigonus I Monophthalmos, who had once been a general of Alexander the Great, although he failed to capture it.
Petra continued to thrive under the Nabataeans, growing into a centre of trade with around 300,000 citizens and becoming extremely prosperous. It managed to resist numerous invasions and conquests, including by the Hasmonean Jewish Commonwealth and by the Romans. However, in 106 AD, during the reign of the Roman emperor Trajan, Petra lost its independence as it was absorbed into the Roman Arabian territory.
Petra maintained its status as an important trading centre throughout its time under the Roman Empire. It was only as the empire fell and following a series of earthquakes that Petra declined, at one point being a Crusader stronghold, but eventually forgotten.
Today, visitors to Petra cannot help but be inspired by its incredible remains. Intricate temples and tombs emerge from rocks and cliffs together with later additions from the Roman era and even a Byzantine church resplendent with mosaics. Other Roman remains include the tomb of the Roman governor Sextius Florentinus, the remains of a Roman palace and the remains of the main colonnaded road.
However, it is Petra’s most impressive and well-preserved monument, The Treasury, which is the first site to greet most visitors. Comprised of an elaborate façade hewn into the rock, The Treasury is thought to date back to the first century BC although its actual purpose is unknown (it may have been a temple, perhaps a tomb).
If the façade of Petra’s Treasury looks familiar, this might be because of its prominent appearance in the film ’Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’. Sadly, the inside of this monument does not meet the expectations created by its exterior – it is in fact remarkably bare.
There are several other sites to see along the way including Petra’s theatre and an array of rock-carved tombs. Petra is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and is well served by the Jordanian tourist industry.
The Rhodes Archaeological Museum is housed within the Great Hospital of the Knights Hospitallers an important Crusader site.
The Rhodes Archaeological Museum displays mostly Classical and Hellenistic as well as some Archaic artifacts including statues, funereal pieces and decorative items.
The building in which the Rhodes Archaeological Museum is located is also historically important, it being the Great Hospital of the Knights Hospitallers, built between 1440 and 1489. This Christian military order was based in Rhodes at the time and the Great Hospital is part of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage listing.
The ruins of Simena are spread along beautiful beaches and submerged under crystal clear waters. Enjoy spectacular views from the crusader castle or explore an authentic Lycian Necropolis.
The remains of ancient Simena, now modern Kaleköy in the Kekova region, form one of the most impressive historical places in Turkey. The city’s striking crusader castle combines with a wealth of partly submerged ancient ruins and the beautiful Mediterranean waters to produce a truly inspiring place to explore.
Indeed, it comes as no surprise that Simena is an environmentally protected site; this unspoilt harbour town is surrounded by blue skies, white sand and a wealth of archaeological wonder. The surviving ancient ruins date to as far back as the 4th Century BC but most of the sites to have survived are from the Roman and Byzantine periods.
Although a member of the Lycian League, Simena’s coastal location afforded it a degree of independence from Lycian affairs, instead Simena was a small port town for traders of the wider Mediterranean. Certainly pirates saw promise in the treasures of Simena and the problem of piracy is prominent throughout the town’s history. The coastline was militarised to deal with the threat and Simena boasts the remnants of a crusader castle, erected by the Knights of Rhodes (an order of the Knights Hospitaller) atop earlier fortifications.
Today this historic castle is probably the most renowned of Simena’s sights and tourists can visit the castle which also possesses its own small ancient theatre among other remains. The well preserved ruins also offer great views of the surrounding countryside and the idyllic coastline.
While many of the ruins were submerged when Simena was prey to earthquakes in the 2nd century AD, many points of historical note still remain. It is evident, for example, that Roman Baths c79AD were dedicated to the Flavian Emperor Titus during his short reign by the townsfolk of Simena, and inscriptions that decorate the ruins are ready to be deciphered by the eager Latin historian.
If you’re brave enough, Simena is also home to a Lycian necropolis or burial ground. The sarcophagi are large structures which can be accessed on foot; many of them still remain scattered along the nearby hill side. A Byzantine wall also surrounds the village, while the remnants of a Temple to Poseidon can be discovered nearby.
However, one of the most fascinating aspects of site are the numerous remains which are now underwater. Visitors can see Lycian tombs protruding from the coastal waters along with half-submerged ancient houses. In fact, a small but thriving boat-tours industry has now established itself to serve the needs of visiting tourists – though more challenging canoeing tours are also available in the village while renting a yacht is another option for tourists looking to get the most out of their visit to this spectacular site.
Today, Simena provides a scenic backdrop for visitors that travel year round by both land and sea to experience the awe inspiring history of the city; what was once a small fishing village is now an idyllic coastal treasure trove for the tourist and the historian alike.
Contributed by Rebecca Lewis
St George’s Castle in Lisbon is a medieval castle which once served as a royal palace. One of many Crusader sites in Portugal.
St George’s Castle (Castelo de Sao Jorge) in Lisbon is a medieval citadel resting high atop one of the city’s highest hills overlooking the Tagus River.
Historical research has shown that the hill on which St George’s Castle sits was inhabited as early as the sixth century BC, with the first fortifications dating back to the second century BC. This hill was of military importance to a number of peoples, including Lisbon’s indigenous Celtic and Iberian tribes as well as the Romans, the Visigoths and the Moors.
The earliest mentions of St George’s Castle date back to the eleventh century, when Arab geographers mention it defending the ‘quasabah’ or ‘fortress’. In 1147, St George’s Castle was conquered from the Moors by Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques helped by crusaders as part of the Seige of Lisbon.
In 1255, when Lisbon became the capital city, St George’s Castle served as the royal palace and was later renovated by King Dinis I. The castle was dedicated to Saint George by King João I in the fourteenth century. However, St George’s Castle began to lose its stature in the sixteenth century, when King Manuel I built the Ribeira Palace, particularly when St George’s Castle was damaged by earthquakes in 1531 and 1755 and never properly rebuilt.
Today, people mostly visit St George’s Castle for its beautiful views across Lisbon on Ulysses Tower. The Castle does have some exhibitions, including a multimedia presentation of the city’s history and a space for temporary exhibitions as well as a handful of courtyards and battlements to explore. Also visible are the remnants of an old Moorish wall, which was reconstructed by the King Ferdinand I in the 1370’s.
St George’s Castle also features as one of our top tourist attractions of Portugal.
The Temple Church in London was established by the Knights Templar in the twelfth century.
The Temple Church in Central London is named after the Knights Templar, who founded it in the twelfth century.
Consecrated on 10 February 1185, probably in the presence of King Henry II, Temple Church became the British headquarters of this famous Christian charitable and military order who played an important role in the Crusades.
This first section of the Temple Church is now known as the Round Church, built in a circular form so as to echo the shape of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Despite having once been favoured by the monarchy, in the fourteenth century, the Knights Templar were forcibly dissolved in accordance with orders from the Pope and Temple Church became the property of the Knights Hospitaller. The Knights Hospitaller then rented the Temple Church to two legal colleges. These two colleges, now known as the Middle and Inner Temples, have been located there ever since.
Today, Temple Church is a working church and is open to the public. Sadly, much of it was destroyed in a German air raid in World War II, but it has since been restored. One of the highlights of the visit is seeing the unique effigies of ten knights on its floor, each with individual characteristics.
As discussed in the Dan Brown novel, “The Davinci Code”, which sets a very powerful scene at the site, these effigies do not mark the locations of actual tombs.
The Coenaculum in Jerusalem is a Crusader-built structure at the believed location of The Last Supper.
The Coenaculum in Jerusalem is a room built by the Crusaders in the fourteenth century, later taken over by the Franciscans and then transformed into a mosque by the Ottomans in the sixteenth century.
However, for Christians, it is best known as the “Last Supper Room”, the upper room where Jesus Christ had his final supper before being crucified.
In fact, the site of the Last Supper has never been definitively verified and the date in which this particular room was built means that it is not the actual room in which this iconic event took place. However, it is believed to be built on the same site where the original room stood.
Situated on the second floor, the Coenaculum also sits above the site where Jews believe King David was buried, King David’s Tomb.
Vezelay Basilica is a twelfth century Romanesque church once said to have housed Mary Magdalene’s relics. It was the meeting place for Richard the Lionheart and Philip Augustus in July 1190, just before they embarked on the Third Crusade.
Vezelay Basilica, also known as Vezelay Abbey or Basilique Ste-Madeleine, has been a place of pilgrimage since it was claimed that the relics of Mary Magdalene had been brought there, sometime before the twelfth century. Whilst it is unlikely that this was really the case, Vezelay Basilica has remained an important site for Christians.
In medieval times, Vezelay Basilica was a key stop for pilgrims making their way to the Spanish church of Santiago de Compostela. This fame was further enhanced by the important events that have taken place at the church, including a meeting between Richard the Lionheart and Philip Augustus in July 1190, just before they embarked on the Third Crusade.
Vezelay Basilica itself was founded as a Benedictine abbey in the ninth century, although the current structure was built later and completed in around the twelfth century. A vast Romanesque structure resplendent with detailed carvings, such as its twelfth century tympanum – a depiction of Christ on His throne surrounded by the apostles - Vezelay Basilica has been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979. Much of it was restored by Viollet-le-Duc in the nineteenth century.