Monday, June 8, 2015

The fall of Crusader Jerusalem

Balian of Ibelin - The Christians butchered every Muslim within the walls when they took this city.
Saladin - I am not those men.
Saladin - I am Saladin.
Saladin - Saladin.
Balian of Ibelin - Then, under these terms, I surrender Jerusalem.

After occupying Ascalon on 5 September, Saladin advanced on Jerusalem. By mid- September he had taken the monasteries and villages in the outskirts of the city, including the Premonstratensian monastery of Montjoie (Nabi Samâwil), the monks of which appear to have been unsuccessfully racing against time to complete their fortifications and moat. Saladin himself arrived at Jerusalem on Sunday 20 September. By this time the population of the city had swelled considerably. Franks from Ascalon, Darum, Gaza, Ramleh and other towns and villages had fled to the capital. Goods were brought in from the surrounding countryside to supply the city’s needs in preparation for the expected siege.

After the Frankish defeat at Hattin, Balian of Ibelin, lord of Nablus, received permission to come to Jerusalem in early July to take away his wife, Maria Comnena and his family. Saladin permitted this on condition that he did not remain more than one night or take up arms in defence of the city. On arriving in Jerusalem, Balian was welcomed by church leaders and the populace as the badly needed leader of the city’s defence. The commanders of the Templars and the Hospitallers maintained that it was his moral obligation to defend Jerusalem. The greatest pressure on Balian was exerted by Patriarch Eraclius. Balian was in a difficult position because of his oath to Saladin, which he felt bound to uphold. He chose the extraordinary action of applying to Saladin to release him from his oath, and Saladin with even more remarkable magnanimity agreed to do so. Balian immediately set up a provisional government, organizing a makeshift army as there were almost no fighting men in the city. ‘Imad al-Dîn and Ibn Shaddâd describe Jerusalem as being filled with more than 60,000 fighting men, and Ibn al-Athîr refers to 70,000 cavalry and infantry. However, these numbers are pure propaganda, doubtless aimed at glorifying the achievement of the Ayyubid army. According to the Chronicle of Ernoul and Bernard the Treasurer there were only two knights in the city who had escaped from Hattin! In order to alleviate the situation, Balian knighted all noble youths over the age of fifteen and promoted some forty burgesses to knighthood. Gold and silver were stripped from the roof of the Holy Sepulchre to be used for minting coins to pay the new knights.

The events which followed mirror, to some extent, the siege of Jerusalem by the Frankish armies in 1099. The defenders procured supplies from the surrounding countryside and took up positions around the walls. On 21 September the besieging army advanced on the northern and north-western walls. Attacks on these positions continued for several days, but to no avail. With their backs to the wall, the Franks seem to have regained the tenacity they had lost at Hattin. The realization that they were defending the Holy Sepulchre itself must have strengthened their motivation.

The next move of the Muslims once again echoes the manoeuvres of the Crusaders in 1099. On Friday 26 September they took up position further to the east, on the northern wall, in the area of St Mary Magdalene’s postern and opposite the northern part of the eastern city wall. One major difference between the two sieges was that the Muslim army was well equipped with siege machinery. They set up mangonels and began a bombardment of the walls. A tremendous hail of arrows was fired by at least 10,000 archers at the defenders, preventing them from remaining on the walls. These measures allowed the Muslim attackers, defended by another 10,000 mounted men armed with lances and bows, to cross the ditch and set to work at sapping the walls, until a section of the forewall collapsed. This, in effect, sealed the fate of Jerusalem. The Franks, realizing the hopelessness of their position, asked for terms. Saladin initially refused and, in desperation, Balian of Ibelin warned him in no uncertain terms of the drastic measures that the Franks were prepared to take. According to Ibn al- Athîr, Balian said that the Franks would kill the women and children and all the Muslim prisoners, between 3,000 and 5,000, destroy their property and, most appalling of all, dismantle the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque. This had the desired effect and Saladin agreed to let the Franks ransom themselves. He first demanded 100,000 bezants, a sum which Balian told him was unrealistic. In the end, the terms agreed upon were ten dinars for a man, five for a woman and one for a child. The Franks were given forty days to raise the ransom money. These terms were beyond the means of most of the inhabitants; while many were freed without payment, many others were taken into captivity. Ibn al-Athîr gives the number of Franks expelled from the town as 60,000.

The city had surrendered on Friday 2 October 1187, and the departure of the Franks was completed by 10 November. The Muslims celebrated their recovery of the city with special prayers in the restored mosques. According to ‘Imad al-Dîn, Saladin wished to purify the city ‘of the filth of the hellish Franks’. He did this by turning mosques that had been converted by the Franks into churches back into mosques, by removing the church furnishings and erasing the structural changes made to these buildings, and by converting other structures built by the Franks into mosques and madrasas. He tore down the gilded cross from the Dome of the Rock and dismantled many of the Christian structures on the Temple Mount, including the monastery of the Augustinian canons which was located to the north of the Templum Domini (Dome of the Rock). The latter was cleansed and most of the changes made to the building by the Franks were removed, including the marble plates placed over the rock to preserve it from being damaged by the pilgrims, frescoes, Latin inscriptions and the altar. However, the Romanesque iron grille around the rock and the iron lampstands were left in place. Churches in the city and outside the walls were damaged or dismantled. Wood, iron, doors and marble flooring were stripped from them. The Holy Sepulchre however, was spared. Some of the emirs had wished to destroy it in order to put an end to Christian pilgrimage, but there was apparently fairly strong opposition to this by those who pointed out that Caliph ‘Umar had not done so when he took the city in the seventh century. It was also noted that it was not the building that the Christians worshipped, but the place of the Cross and the tomb. Rather than destroying the church, they closed it to the general public and a fee of ten bezants was demanded of visitors. On 27 October 1189 Saladin converted the Patriarch’s Palace into a hospice for Sufis known as al-Khankah al-Salâhiyya. A few years later, on 26 July 1192, he converted the church and convent of St Anne into a school of law, the al- Madrasa al-Sâlahiyya. The spire was torn down from the church of the Hospital, which was turned into a college for Shâfi‘ites.

In 1191 Saladin carried out repairs to the city walls. He realized that it was imperative to strengthen the walls and prepare the city for the expected attack by Richard I and his army. In this period Saladin resided in the ‘house of the priests by the Sepulchre’ (possibly the patriarch’s palace or the quarters of the Augustinian canons), while he personally supervised the work. The Arab historian, Mujîr al-Dîn (1456–1522) records that for this purpose he brought 2000 Frankish prisoners to the city, and a group of fifty masons were sent from Mosul to dig a ditch around the walls. He restored or rebuilt towers on the wall between St Stephen’s Gate and David’s Gate. Stone was quarried from the moat for the rebuilding and, to supplement this source, buildings outside the walls, including the church of St Mary of Mount Zion, the upper church of the Sepulchre of the Virgin Mary in Jehoshaphat, and perhaps the church of St Lazarus, were dismantled. From these measures we can conclude that in the east and south of the city, the destruction of the city walls during the siege in 1187 had been extensive. Damage to the fortifications in the south, although not referred to in the descriptions of the siege, would explain the rebuilding of the walls at this time to include Mount Zion within the fortifications once again. This measure was carried out by Saladin’s brother, al-Malik al-‘Adîl.

Under Ayyubid rule Christian pilgrims were allowed to visit the city, but they were subject to heavy restrictions. They were limited in their movement within the city and were probably forced to pay for entrance to most of the holy sites. However, a truce concluded between Saladin and Richard the Lion Heart in 1192 put an end to the ten bezant fee required on entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In order to control and limit pilgrim traffic into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the eastern portal of the main gate was blocked, as was the entrance to Calvary via the external Chapel of the Franks. It may have been during this period that the western entrance from the Street of the Patriarch into the Rotunda was also blocked. According to La Citez, pilgrims were forced to use a northern entrance via the canons’ quarters and their passage through the city was restricted to a single route from the St Lazarus postern on the northern wall directly to the church. Despite these restrictions, pilgrimage continued and Christians visited the city between 1187 and 1229, though undoubtedly in smaller numbers than under the Franks. There are indications that under Ayyubid rule the economic base of the city was considerably weakened, no doubt a direct result of the decline in the number of Western pilgrims visiting Jerusalem. This economic decline compelled the leadership to supplement the city’s revenues with a third of those of Nablus, whose administrator offered to shoulder all the expenses of Jerusalem and of the troops in the city. In these circumstances it is perhaps not surprising to find that there is even some evidence for a partial change of heart on the part of the Muslim leadership regarding Christian pilgrimage and a selective promotion of pilgrimage.

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