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Principal Templar Strongholds in Outremer

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Principal Templar Strongholds in Outremer

Elsewhere the Military Orders had become substantial Iandholders and the territory under their control was the best defended in the Crusader States.

'The highly detailed Rule of the Military Order of the Templars does not distinguish between a proper castle and an unfortified ‘house’ where brethren lived and administered the Order’s estates. Both were under a commander in charge of all supplies and of the sergeants who guarded their gates. In fact the Rule of the Templars makes few references to castle or their role in warfare. By the second half of the 12th century most Templar castles were concentrated in the northern part of the Principality of Antioch and in the south of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, In the north these templar castles formed a frontier march based upon Gaston (Baghras), Roche Guillaume, Roche de Roissel and Darbsak. In the south, some were close to Ascalon, which was held by the Fatimids until 1153. However, most templar castles in the Kingdom of Jerusalem guarded pilgrim routes. They ensured that pilgrims had food, tents, animal transport and protection.'  From Crusader Castles in the Holy Land 1097 - 1192


List of Principal Templar Strongholds in Syria and Palestine

Fortified Towns

Port Bonnel


Tortosa   or   Tartus





Siege of tyre 1189

After the defeat of the army of Jerusalem by Saladin at
Hattin (3–4 July 1187), Tyre became the most important
base of military operations for the Franks of Outremer and
crusaders from the West.
- The Crusades; An Encyclopaedia
Meanwhile the defenders of Tyre recovered their confidence and sat tight behind the
walls of a city built on a rocky peninsula that could only be approached across a
narrow, sandy isthmus. They were also supported by numerous ships. Saladin was
determined to renew the siege of Tyre and returned to the area with a small force on
12 November, the rest of his army coming up to assault the city 13 days later. It was
a hard fight, the attackers being supported by as many siege engines as could be
trained on the enemy. The isthmus was narrow and Christian ships filled with
archers, crossbowmen and stone-throwing engines were moored on each side to
shoot at the Muslims' flanks. The attacks failed and the siege dragged on with
occasional attacks by the Muslims and frequent sorties by the defenders, among
whom a Spanish knight, dressed in green and with a pair of stag's horns in his
helmet, earned praise even from Saladin himself.
It was now clear that only by winning command of the sea could Tyre be taken,
so a squadron of ten galleys and an unknown number of support vessels came up
from Acre under the command of Abd al Salam al Maghribi, an experienced North
African sailor. This was highly risky in the squalls of winter - the Mediterranean
sailing season normally running from early April to late October - but the Muslim fleet did force the Christian galleys into harbour. Meanwhile winter arrived, the
besiegers' camp becoming a sea of mud and slushy snow as sickness broke out.
Then came disaster at sea. A Muslim squadron of five galleys, having kept watch
through the night of 29/30 December, lowered their guard with the coming of dawn,
but as they slept they were surprised by a fleet of 17 Christian galleys with ten smaller
boats which darted out of Tyre and captured them. The five remaining Muslim galleys
and other ships were then ordered to retire to Beirut because they were now too few
to be effective. As they left they were pursued by galleys from Tyre which soon
overhauled the exhausted Muslim crews. Most were beached, their crews escaping
ashore and the vessels being destroyed on Saladin's orders, though one large sailing
ship, described as being 'like a small mountain' and manned by experienced sailors,
was able to escape. Following this setback the troops made a final unsuccessful attack
on the defences of Tyre after which Saladin summoned a conference of his amirs. Some
wanted to fight on but most said that the army was exhausted and their men wanted
to go home. So next day, New Year's Day 1188, Saladin dismissed his army except for
his own personal regiments whom he led back to Acre.   -   From Osprey Campaign #019 - Hattin 1187 Saladin's greatest victory

The events of 1187 shook Western Europe, the loss of Jerusalem being seen as casting
shame on all Christians. On 20 October Pope Urban III died, of grief it was said. Nine
days later his successor, Pope Gregory VIII, sent out letters urging Christendom to
save what was left of the Crusader Kingdom, letters which eventually led to the Third
Crusade. On 19 December Pope Gregory also died. Meanwhile the survival of Tyre
was a military disaster for Saladin, providing a perfect base from which the Third
Crusade would start reconquering a rump Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1191. Yet
this revived Crusader Kingdom was never what it had been. Hattin had demolished
its feudal structure and undermined the basis of royal power. Western European
interference in its government also increased rapidly.
On the Muslim side the liberation of Jerusalem had an enormous impact on
Saladin's prestige. Barely noticed amid the excitement, a merchant caravan had set
out from Damascus on 23 September, even before Jerusalem fell, heading for Cairo
by the coastal route. It was the first for more than 87 years to travel this route
without paying tolls.  -   From Osprey Campaign #019 - Hattin 1187 Saladin's greatest victory









The castle, with stone walls and towers, was built by King Baldwin III of Jerusalem in the winter of 1149–1150 as one of several fortifications encircling the Fatimid enclave of Ascalon. There were insufficient men or resources to fortify the entire site, and the chronicler William of Tyre records that the castle occupied only part of it. It was granted with its surrounding lands to the Templars and soon afterward withstood a Muslim attack. - The Crusades; An Encyclopaedia

When Saladin laid siege to Darum in
December 1170, King Amalric withdrew Gaza’s Templar garrison
to assist in its defence. Saladin therefore fell on Gaza,
destroying the faubourg and slaughtering its inhabitants,
who had been denied access to the castle by the temporary
castellan, Miles of Plancy. In November 1177, the Templars
again prepared to defend Gaza when Saladin raided Ascalon.
In September 1187, they finally surrendered Gaza in return
for the release of their master, Gerard of Ridefort.
- The Crusades; An Encyclopaedia

Saladin ordered Gaza’s destruction in September 1191.
Although it was refortified and returned to the Templars by
King Richard I of England in 1192, Gaza’s fortifications
were again demolished under the terms of the Treaty of Jaffa
later that year. Thereafter Gaza developed as an Ayyubid
town, with the emir ‘Alam al-Din Qaysar as its first governor.
A failed attempt to retake it was made by Count Henry
of Bar and other nobles during the Crusade of 1239–1241;
and a further attempt in 1244 ended in disaster at La Forbie.
- The Crusades; An Encyclopaedia


La Roche de Roussel   (Hajar Shuglan)

La Roche Guillaume


'The Templars built a castle at Amoude, were largely responsible for a castle at Trapesac, and made minor alterations to the existing Islamic castle at Haruniya: all of which were at various times within the Armenian kingdom.'   ----   Crusader castles in the Holy Land 1192-1302


Darbsak  or Trapesac

Gaston (Baghras)  

La Collee

Castel-Blanc (Safita or  Burj Safitha)

al-Arimah   or Arima   (al-Araymah

Beaufort  or Belfort    (Sharif Arnum)


Safed  /  Saphet


Le Destroit   (Qal’at Dustray)

Castle Pilgrim (Atlit)

Caco   (al-Qaqun)

La Feve

Le Petit Gerin

Castel Arnand


The Templars occupied a castle, with a priory, on the summit of Mount Quarantene  - where Jesus was said to have fasted for forty-days and where he was also supposed to have been tempted by Satan.

Casal des Plains

Toron of the Knights

Ahamant (Amman)


Citerne Rouge

Vadum Jacob



'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 Castel 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

At the Cisterna Rubea, midway between Jerusalem and Jericho, the Templars built a castle, a road station and a chapel. There was a Templar tower closer to Jericho at Bait Jubr at-Tahtani; a castle and priory on the summit of Mount Quarantene where Jesus fasted for forty-days and was also tempted by Satan; and a castle by the River Jordan at the spot where Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist.
The first major fortress assigned to the Templars was not in the Kingdom of Jerusalem but on the northernmost frontier of the Latin possessions in the Amanus mountains. ..
The road through these mountains from wither Aleppo or Antioch to the ports of Alexandretta amd Port Bonnel (Arsuz) is by the Belen Pass, otherwise known as the Syrian Gates. In the 1130s the Templars were given the responsibility for securing the mountainous frontier region between the Kingdom of Silicia and the Principality of Antioch - the Amanus march. To guard the Belen Pass through the Amanus range they occupied the stronghold of Barghas, which they called Gaston, a castle towering on an impenetrable summit, rising on an impregnable rock, it's foundations touching the sky.' Gaston was on the eastern side of the range and looked down over the plain of Aleppo to Antioch. Further north, to guard the Hajar Shuglan Pass, they occupied the castles of Darbsaq and la Roche de Roussel.

'No castle in Outremer held out for more than six weeks after the Mamelukes had begun a serious siege. The castles of the Frankish East represent some of the most developed and sophisticated military architecture of medieval Christendom, but in the absence of reinforcements and the absence of hope, they could not ensure the survival of Outremer.' –Hugh Kennedy - The Crusades; An Encyclopaedia





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