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Templar Castles in Outremer


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Templar Castles in Outremer



The inland fortresses were now too costly by the feudal barons of Outremer and were therefore sustained by the military orders: the Teutonic Knights held Montfort, the Hospitallers Belvoir and the Templars Chastel Blanc and Saphet. Saphet had been rebuilt in the 1240s at enormous expense and was now the largest castle in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, dominating Gallilee and the route between Damascus and Acre. It had a peacetime garrison of 1,700 men to which a further 500 were added in time of war. Of these, 50 were Templar knights and 30 Templar sergeants, 50 Turcopoles and 300 crossbowmen. The cost of its construction was put at 1,000,000 Saracen besants and 400 slaves were employed to assist the skilled masons. Twelve thousand mule loads of barley and grain were required to provision the castle every year, some of it now imported from the Templar preceptories in Europe. ---  From The Templars – Piers Paul Read

Safad castle, lost to Saladin in 1188, returned to Crusader hands from 1218 to 1220 when it was apparently intended as a base from which to reconquer Galilee. As a result, when the Muslims took it again in 1220, they completely dismantled the existing castle. Safad was handed back to the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1240, whereupon major efforts were made to refortify it , probably for the same strategic reasons. .  ---  Crusader castles in the Holy Land 1192-1302

The well-known manuscript cal led De constructione castri Saphet was made for Armand till Perigord, Grand Master of the Templars. and is dated 1264. It provides details about the Crusaders' attempts to refortify Safad in the 1240s, but was previously regarded as controversial because it apparently did not fit the evidence of the site . Fo r example it mentioned am internal rampart (in muris), and a foss (fossatis) within an external wall (antemuralia) which itself had a moat (scama ) and seven towers. Also the garrison appeared impossibly numerous. In fact the Mamluks besieged Safad in 1266 and when the castle capitulated the victors reportedly found a garrison of 4,000 soldiers. However, more recent archaeological work shows that the document of 1264 was much closer to reality than expected.   ---    Crusader castles in the Holy Land 1192-1302

safed fell following a month long bombardement after the fall of Jerusalem

"In June of 1266, Baybars besieged the great Templar fortress of Safed. Its massive fortifications, so recently rebuilt, withstood the first assault but the very size of the castle meant that a large part of the garrison was composed of Syrian Christians whom Baybars emissaries promised to spare should they surrender. Knowing tht they would not be relieved, and seeing that the turcopole soldiers were starting to desert, the Templar commander sent a native Syrian sergeant called Leon cazelier to negotiate a surrender. cazelier returned with Baybar's assurance of safe-conduct to Acre, but the only skin to be saved was cazelier's. Once the Egyptians had taken control of the castle, the women and chidren were taken captive and sold as slavesin Cairo while the Templars were beheaded.
"The loss of safed after a siege of only sixteen days was a catastrophe for the Franks in Outremer and a humiliation for the Temple. the stronghold was refortified by Baybars, giving the Mamelukes control of Gallilee and the approaches to the coastal cities of Acre, Tyre and Sidon. To impress upon the Franks the fate that awaited them, the heads of the decapitated Templars were placed in a circle around the castle.............P.P.Read.

Around 1240 the Templars began to build the castle at
Saphet (mod. Zefat, Israel) in Upper Galilee. Virtually nothing
has survived of the structure, but we have a unique
account of the architecture and purpose of the castle in a
treatise apparently written as a fund-raising pamphlet at the
behest of the bishop of Marseilles who visited the site while
on pilgrimage. Despite these efforts, the castle fell to Sultan
Baybars I in 1266. - The Crusades; An Encyclopedia

We are told that Saphet, which was probably typical of
the great castles of the military orders, had a garrison of
1,700 men in peacetime and 2,200 in war. Of these only 50
were Templar knight brethren. There were 30 sergeants,
who were probably also Franks, and 50 locally engaged Turcopoles.
The remainder consisted of 300 crossbowmen,
workers and servants, and 400 slaves.
- The Crusades; An Encyclopedia

Saphet or Safad (mod. Zefat, Israel) was a Templar castle in
the kingdom of Jerusalem, situated in Upper Galilee about
13 kilometers (c. 8 mi.) northwest of Lake Tiberias.
There are few visible remains of the castle, which stood
on a prominent hilltop position commanding fine views over
the surrounding country. It is now a public park. Excavations
have recovered some evidence of crusader work and
Maml‰k rebuilding.
The castle was originally constructed by the Templars but
lost to Saladin in 1188. In 1240 it was restored to the Templars
in the aftermath of the Crusade of 1239–1241 and
rebuilt on a large scale. In 1266 the Maml‰k sultan Baybars
I took the castle; he had apparently promised the defenders
safe conduct, but 150 knights and 769 other members of the
garrison were executed. The local Syrian Christians were allowed to go free. Saphet is best known for the account of
the rebuilding of the castle after 1240 written for the bishop
of Marseilles, Benedict of Alignan, who visited twice. It was
Benedict who had persuaded the Templars to undertake the
refortification. His account was probably written as a fundraising
pamphlet and describes the strategic position of the
castle and its design in some detail. It is the fullest account
we have of the building of any castle in Outremer.
–Hugh Kennedy - The Crusades; An Encyclopaedia





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