Sunday, July 3, 2011

Templar Ruins Discovered Beneath City of Acre

A Templar tunnel under the city of Acre.

Passages built 700 years ago by the Knights Templar in the famous final Templar stronghold Acre, on Israel's Mediterranean coast, are about to be unveiled to public visitors. The city was captured by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem in 1104 during the First Crusade and it quickly became the principal seaport in the Holy Land.

After Jerusalem fell to Saladin, the Crusaders retreated to Acre, which became the new capitol of Outremer. The invading Mamluks destroyed the city in 1291, and the Templars and Hospitallers fled to Cyprus.

From "Archaeologists Uncover Ruins of Crusader City":

Off the track beaten by most Holy Land tourists lies one of the richest archaeological sites in a country full of them: the walled port of Acre, where the busy alleys of an Ottoman-era town cover a uniquely intact Crusader city now being rediscovered.

Preparing to open a new subterranean section to the public, workers cleaned stones this week in an arched passageway underground.

Etched in plaster on one wall was a coat of arms -- graffiti left by a medieval traveler. Nearby was a main street of cobblestones and a row of shops that once sold clay figurines and ampules for holy water, popular souvenirs for pilgrims.

All were last used by residents in 1291, the year a Muslim army from Egypt defeated Acre's Christian garrison and leveled its remains.

The existing city, built by the Ottoman Turks around 1750, effectively preserved this earlier town, which had been hidden for centuries under the rubble.

"It's like Pompeii of Roman times -- it's a complete city," said Eliezer Stern, the Israeli archaeologist in charge of Acre. He called the town "one of the most exciting sites in the world of archaeology."

The newly excavated area, part of a Crusader neighborhood, is set to open later this year.


Acre has existed for at least 4,500 years, but reached the height of its importance with the Crusader conquest in 1104.
Under Christian rule, the city became an unruly trading hub home to combative orders of soldier-monks, European factions that distrusted each other and sometimes fought in the streets, competing merchants from cities like Genoa, Venice and Pisa, and small populations of Jews and Muslims, all sharing an enclosed area that at its height was barely the size of two football fields.

AP Photo by Ariel Shalit from Archaeologists Uncover Ruins of Crusader City

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