Quest for the True Cross – from Moorish Al-Usbuna to Christian Lisbon


In my book Quest for the True Cross – which you can download HERE – I take my hero, Sir William de Mandeville, to the Muslim realm of Al-Andalus. This corresponds to southern Spain and Portugal today. In the year 1147, Christian kingdoms in the north had gradually pushed back the Muslims who at one point ruled the entire Iberian peninsula.

William and the Templars join with the armies of Dom Afonso Henriquesking of Portugal – who is seeking to conquer the city of Al-Usbuna. He succeeds, but only after many bloody engagements. The city of Al-Usbuna – now modern Lisbon – centred on the Qasr (alcazar in Spanish, alcacer in Portuguese) which roughly corresponds to the modern castle of Saint George.

The area around the castle – the large stone platform dominating the hill – would have been the Qasba, where the nobility lived. Many of their houses – or ‘riads’ – are being excavated currently by archaeologists. The rest of the city – the medina – then stretched down the hill to the vast Tagus estuary. The medina roughly corresponds to the present day Alfama and Mouraria district. The cathedral was once the site of the Great Mosque. The area of the city now regarded as the centre – Rossio square – was under water!

I visited last year – here are some of my pictures.

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