The Knights Templar have a reputation for loving tunnels. And theories abound as to whether these were just for military purposes – or did they have a deeper significance? Probably the most atmospheric Templar tunnels I’ve seen were at the castle of Kerak in Jordan – that I visited in 2013.
Templar castle riddled with tunnels
Kerak is a crusader castle in modern day Jordan from which the notoriously cruel crusader Raynald of Chatillon used to throw people off the battlements. And believe me, you wouldn’t have survived the fall. Rayland – sometimes spelt Reynald – was a minor noble by birth who got lucky through marriage.
He was wildly ambitious and notoriously cruel. When the Patriarch of Antioch, Aimery of Limoges, challenged Raynald – the fiery knight had no respect for the fact Aimery was a high ranking church prelate. He had him stripped, beaten, covered in honey and then left in the sun to be fed on by insects.
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When Saladin captured Raynald – it took him no time having the wild man beheaded. An execution that Saladin performed himself.
Why so many Templar tunnels under Kerak?
Kerak is a great limestone hulk built on a ridge and protected by steep valleys. It’s riddled with tunnels underneath. The foundations were crusader and as I wandered through these passageways, I was left wondering what on earth these Christian warriors were up to.
They did have plenty to worry about. Saladin besieged Kerak several times though as my photos show, it would have been almost impossible to storm. The drop from the walls is truly vertiginous. But in 1188, the castle was taken and never returned to crusader hands.
After it was captured by the Muslims, it became a great Mamluk fortress and they made some impressive additions. However the bulk of this great structure was made by crusader and Templar hands and is well worth a visit.
And do make sure to worm your way round the Templar tunnels under Kerak!