Templar hero: Gerard de Ridefort

Templar hothead De Ridefort – as depicted in the movie Arn

Any of you who watched the Swedish Templar movie Arn will know all about Gerard de Ridefort – or at least be familiar with the name.

Gerard was a Grand Master of the Templars who was either a crazed, over-zealous hothead leading the crusader project in the Holy Land to bloody defeat or a brave knight undermined by intrigue within the Christian court of Jerusalem. All depending who you want to believe.

It was nearly a hundred years since Jerusalem had been taken from Muslim control to be ruled by a succession of Christian crusader rulers. Their Kingdom of Jerusalem was one of several states carved out by the crusaders in the Levant (modern Lebanon, Syria and Israel basically).

The first half of the twelfth century had been all about expansion, pushing back Muslim opponents who were divided among themselves. But a leader had emerged on the Muslim side bringing both a new unity and a strength of purpose. His name was Saladin. Pragmatic genius or proto-jihadi? Historians differ in their view of the man.

He was the formidable enemy that Gerard had to face in the 1180s as Grand Master. The crusaders had managed to survive thus far through a combination of military organisation but also a degree of diplomacy and finding ways to co-exist with notionally hostile neighbours. But Saladin, having united Syria and Egypt, was in no mood to continue with crusaders sitting on his doorstep. They were going to be driven into the sea – back to the lands from whence they had come.

The Templars had emerged as the elite fighting force in the vanguard of the Christian Middle East. But Gerard had to contend with some very poisonous politics in Jerusalem. On one side of the scheming was Raymond of Tripoli, a local Christian magnate. Gerard is said to have hated him for very personal reasons.

Gerard had arrived in the Holy Land as just an ordinary knight – not a Knight Templar. He had hoped to marry a very eligible heiress called Lucia of Botrun, a daughter of one of Raymond’s vassals.

Raymond had agreed to this match but was then offered Lucia’s weight in gold if he would hand her over to a very wealthy Italian merchant. Well, Raymond wasn’t going to turn that offer down. So, Lucia was given to the merchant and Gerard had to remain a very disgruntled bachelor.

It almost looks like Gerard joined the Templars in a fit of pique. But he took to his new role. Rapidly, he rose to be Seneschal and was then elected Grand Master. His ascension to the top job came as Saladin massed his armies on the crusader borders while Christian kings in Europe had too much trouble at home to spare more resources for the war against Islam in the east.

And then the leper king of Jerusalem, Baldwin IV, died. He was succeeded by the seven year old son of his sister Sybilla – not exactly what the crusaders needed at that moment. Here was a child monarch, crowned as Baldwin V, who couldn’t even raise a sword let alone make any strategic decisions. And over his head, two men – Raymond of Tripoli and Guy de Lusignan – battled for real control.

Gerard backed Guy, the husband of Sybilla. And his support for Guy became even more essential when the child king suddenly died aged only eight. Gerard and Guy raced to crown Sybilla queen before Raymond could intervene. In an almost comical twist, the three keys to the chest containing the crown jewels of Jerusalem were held by the patriarch of the city, the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller.

The master of the Hospitallers, Roger de Moulins, didn’t want to hand over his key but a bit of roughing up by Gerard and others convinced him to play along with the plan. Though he did petulantly throw his key out of the window, which probably earned him another punch in the face. Sybilla was duly crowned and although she had promised to divorce Guy, as a condition of becoming queen, she then stuck a crown on his head too – and dared anybody to dissent. Gerard looked on approvingly.

Down the road in his castle, Raymond was horrified. So full of anger that he made a truce with Saladin. Worse, he then gave permission for one of Saladin’s commanders to march his forces through territory under Raymond’s control, right past the biblical town of Nazareth.

Gerard got wind off this while on his way to Raymond to negotiate peace terms between him and Sybilla. In truth, Gerard would rather have been heading towards Raymond to cut his head off and stick it on a pole. But he was under orders to patch things up between the rival factions. Instead, he ran into a seven thousand strong Muslim army.

Disaster at Cresson

The Templar grand master was accompanied by the leader of the Hospitallers – he of the key thrown out of the window.  Together they were followed by about 140 knights dedicated to fighting for Christ.

So, let’s so the maths. 140 as a percentage of 7,000. My calculator says that’s fifty Muslims on Saladin’s side to every one crusader knight. Everybody agreed it was probably a good idea to retreat – except Gerard. He demanded they honour the Templar code and charge towards the opposing force.

They did and were cut down in a bloody massacre. Gerard narrowly escaped. Roger de Moulins wasn’t so lucky. This was seen by some chroniclers as typical of Gerard’s emotional approach to decision making. Whereas previous Templar masters had been cool and calculating, Gerard de Ridefort just ploughed in and hoped God was smiling on his endeavour. Evidently not at Cresson.

That engagement would be a rehearsal for the even bigger catastrophe at Hattin, which I’ve blogged about before and I’m returning to very shortly – so keep following!

Gerard would be taken prisoner by Saladin after the massive crusader defeat at Hattin but then negotiated his own release – showing he could do diplomacy when he had to. However, he was captured again by Saladin after the siege of Acre and this time, his head was struck off his shoulders.





Ten things you never knew about the Knights Templar

Bit of festive fun – here are ten things you may not have known about the Knights Templar – add your own facts in the comments below:

The Templars allegedly ran a white slave trade

Let’s start with a contentious claim made by Michael Haag in his book The Templars – that the Knights Templar were involved in trading Turkish, Greek, Russian and Circassian slaves brought from the east and set to work in their preceptories in southern Italy and Aragon. The centre of this grim trade was the Mediterranean port of Ayas in the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia. Turkish or Mongol slavers would capture or buy these unfortunate human beings then sell them to the Templars. I’d be very happy to be told that this is complete tripe. But it’s recorded in various sources.

Ten things you never knew about the Knights Templar!
Ten things you never knew about the Knights Templar!

Saladin specifically slaughtered the Templars AFTER the Battle of Hattin

The battle at the Horns of Hattin in 1187 was a disaster for the Knights Templar and the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem – Saladin and his saracen army emerged totally triumphant.  In the aftermath, countless Christian soldiers were sold as slaves – so many that the price went down to 3 dinars each and one was reputedly sold in exchange for a shoe! Initially, the Templars and Hospitallers were also sold off as slaves. But Saladin then decided that he really wanted all the Templars slain – without exception. Those who had bought Templars were compensated with 50 dinars each and the knights were then brought before the Muslim ruler. Conversion or death was the choice. It seems few decided to convert. There are accounts from both sides of what happened next – a grisly mass beheading often carried out by zealous individuals and botched very badly. In revenge, Richard the Lionheart would later execute 3,000 prisoners at Acre in one of the worst war crimes in history.

The Al Aqsa Mosque was the global headquarters of the Knights Templar

Even today, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is fought over – a holy place that inspires bloody hatreds. In the early 12th century, it was firmly under the control of crusader Christians. The Dome of the Rock was renamed the Templum Domini and the Al Aqsa Mosque became the HQ of the Templars – sited on what was believed to be the palace of Solomon. Beneath were Solomon’s stables, or so it was thought, and abundant rumours that hidden somewhere on the site was the Holy Grail….or the Ark of the Covenant. Much of the existing mosque today was of Templar era construction.

Henry III pawned his crown jewels to the Templars
Henry III pawned his crown jewels to the Templars

England’s crown jewels were pawned by King Henry III to the Templars

Facing a rebellion by his barons, King Henry III of England sent the crown jewels to the Temple in Paris for safekeeping and to raise money for his fightback. The previous king, John, had made a series of concessions to the same barons by agreeing to sign the Magna Carta. The Templars were broadly supportive of the kings as both advisers and bankers (and pawnbrokers!).

Templars were not – strictly speaking – priests

While the Knights Templar did take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience – they weren’t actually priests as such. Barbara Frale in her book on The Templars points out that the knights were not allowed to administer the sacraments as they weren’t formally ordained. And she argues that priests could not wield a sword in battle. Instead, they had their own Templar chaplains assigned to their houses to say mass. But by 1300, many Templar houses didn’t have chaplains. So their spiritual needs had to be administered by priests from other orders.

One monarch donated his kingdom to the Knights Templar

It wasn’t a popular move but King Alfonso of Aragon donated his kingdom to the Templars at his death. The Templars were very active in the “reconquest” (reconquista) of modern Spain and Portugal from Moorish (Muslim) rule. It’s often forgotten that the Templars were active on many fronts – in the Middle East, eastern Europe and southern Europe. The caliphate ruling the Iberian peninsula was remarkably tolerant and urbanised for the standards of the time with Jews, Christians and Muslims living together. But kings like Alfonso were determined to drive out the caliphs and the Templars assisted in this process. They often took control of dangerous areas in the no-man’s land between Christian and Muslim control. Alfonso rewarded their bravery with a big portion of his kingdom when he died but this was reversed afterwards by the counts of Barcelona.

Offshore banking was invented by the Templars

Most of you will know that the Knights were also bankers. You could deposit wealth in one of their preceptories – say at the Temple in Paris – and with a credit note they would issue, you could make a withdrawal at a preceptory in outremer (Christian controlled territories in the Middle East). This meant not having to haul heavy caskets of bullion around with you. But the Templars went a step further and had treasure ships located offshore from which crusaders could make withdrawals safely.

Charges against the Templar included “adoring a cat”

The framing of the Templars was a shabby episode with popes and kings working together to destroy the Order. Various ridiculous charges were trumped up including inappropriate kissing in various parts of the body, denying Christ, venerating idols, operating to secret codes and…..adoring a cat.

It all went horribly wrong for the Templars at the end
It all went horribly wrong for the Templars at the end

Templars were accused of behaving like Muslims

In the frenzy to blacken the name of the Knights Templar – their critics pointed to the fact that some of them allegedly spoke Arabic (well you would being in the Middle East for a while and wanting to understand your enemy’s documents and messages). They also claimed that the Templars performed rituals medieval Christians falsely attributed to Muslims. According to Helen Nicholson in her book The Knights Templar – this included worshipping idols of Mohammed (sic!!), Apollo and Jupiter. Plus spitting on crucifixes. The church loved to tell stories of Muslim Saracen soldiers urinating on the cross to antagonise crusaders. Of course, Muslims do not revere idols – certainly not of the Prophet – and the accusations against the Templars are just absurd. But it worked at the time!

The Spanish and Portuguese nationalised the Templars

The kings of Spain and Portugal more or less took over the Knights Templar. In Spain, the king took the powers of the Grand Master whereas in Portugal a successor order was created called the Order of Christ. The latter organisation was even based at the old Templar preceptory at Tomar – a stunning church you can still see today.

Siege of Tiberias and disaster at Hattin

Tiberias today is a pretty small place in an area where Israel is incredibly narrow. I visited the town and there is surprisingly little of the crusader presence left, compared to Acre for example. But some very significant history is embedded in this place.

Very near to Tiberias, an appalling battle occurred at the Horns of Hattin. This was a decisive defeat for the Templars and the crusaders at the hands of Saladin. He massed about 30,000 troops to besiege the Christian forces at Tiberias. The crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem was riven with internal disputes in the wake of the death of Baldwin V with Raymond of Tripoli in open revolt against Baldwin’s successor Guy of Lusignan.

While the crusaders were disunited, Saladin – an ethnic Kurd – had united Egypt and Syria and solidified the Muslim polity. Saladin was determined to take back Jerusalem and any hope of peace overtures were snuffed out when the volatile Reynald of Chatillon raided a Muslim caravan that included Saladin’s sister. She was allegedly raped.

Saladin laid siege to Tiberias but Raymond of Tripoli was strangely reticent to join battle even though his own wife was in the city. This has led to speculation that he had reached a deal with the Saracen leader that he would help Raymond overthrow Guy and become king of Jerusalem.

The Knights Hospitaller were also cagey about taking on Saladin but the Templar Grand Master Gerard de Ridefort urged Guy on to attack the Saracens. And so he left Jerusalem with an army two thirds the size of that commanded by Saladin – a move that has rightly been described as suicidal. The intention was to relieve Tiberias but they never got there. Instead, they struck camp at Hattin where Saladin could not believe his luck. Far better to battle the crusaders in the open than when they were behind thick walls.

The rest, as they say, is history!


So…here are some pictures from medieval Tiberias that I took three weeks ago.

Battle of Hattin – a contemporary account

HattinAs detailed in the posts immediately before this – the Battle of Hattin is where Saladin finally bested the crusaders and opened up Jerusalem to being conquered by the muslim forces.  A hundred years of crusader and Templar rule in the city was finally brought to an end in the aftermath of the disastrous defeat at Hattin.

En route to relieve Tiberias, the crusaders decided to strike camp on the volcanic outcrop at Hattin.  A contemporary source – the crusader called Ernoul – said many believed King Guy of Jerusalem should have attacked Saladin immediately and with the sheer force of numbers, he would have defeated the Saracen leader.   But Raymond of Tripoli prevailed on the impressionable King Guy and he instead camped on a dry and parched hilltop.

Saladin, with better supply routes, could not believe his luck.

Ernoul describes how Saladin decided to smoke the crusaders out:

As soon as they were encamped, Saladin ordered all his men to collect brushwood, dry grass, stubble and anything else with which they could light fires, and make barriers which he had made all round the Christians. They soon did this, and the fires burned vigorously and the smoke from the fires was great; and this, together with the heat of the sun above them caused them discomfort and great harm. Saladin had commanded caravans of camels loaded with water from the Sea of Tiberias to be brought up and had water pots placed near the camp. The water pots were then emptied in view of the Christians so that they should have still greater anguish through thirst, and their mounts too. A strange thing happened in the Christian host the day they were encamped at the spring of Saffuriya, for the horses refused to drink the water either at night or in the morning, and because of their thirst they were to failt heir masters when they most needed them.

Already tired from their march, the crusaders and military orders of monks – Templars and Hospitallers – made a pretty poor show:

When the fires were lit and the smoke was great, the Saracens surrounded the host and shot their darts through the smoke and so wounded and killed men and horses. When the king saw the disadvantageous position the host was in, he called the master of the Temple and Prince Raynald and told them to give him their advice. They conselled him that he must fight the Saracens.

Fight he did – and lost.  King Guy of Jerusalem and plenty of knights were captured:

He (Saladin) captured the king, the Master of the Temple, Prince Raynald, Marquis Boniface, Aimery the constable, Humphrey of Toron, Hugh of Gibelet, Plivain, lord of Botron, and so many other barons and knights that it would take too long to give the names of all of them; the Holy Cross also was lost. Later, in the time of Count Henry (of Champagne, “Lord of the Kingdom of Jerusalem” 1192-7), a brother of the Temple came to him and said that he had been at the great defeat and had buried the Holy Cross and knew well where it was; if he had an escort he would go and look for it. Count Henry gave him his leave and an escort. They went secretly and dug for three nights but could not find anything; then they returned to the city of Acre.

As I mentioned before – Saladin offered a cup of iced water to King Guy who drank and then passed it on to Raynald, the deranged scourge of the Saracens.  He refused to drink but this only angered Saladin further who had no intention of offering the cup of mercy to Raynald anyway:

Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 19.11.32When Saladin saw that he (Guy) had handed the cup to Prince Raynald, he was irritated and told him: “Drink, for you will never drink again!”. The prince replied that if it pleased God, he would never drink or eat anything of his (Saladin’s). Saladin asked him: “Prince Raynald, if you held me in your prison as I now hold you in mine, what, by your law, would you do to me?”. “So help me God”, he replied, “I would cut off your head”. Saladin was greatly enraged at this most insolent reply, and said: “Pig! You are my prisoner, yet you answer me so arrogantly?”. He took a sword in his hand and thrust it right through his body. The mamluks who were standing by rushed at him and cut off his head. Saladin took some of the blood and sprinkled it on his head in recognition that he had taken vengeance on him. Then he ordered that they carry the head to Damascus, and it was dragged along the ground to show the Saracens whom the prince had wronged what vengeance he had had. Then he commanded the king and the other prisoners to be taken to Damascus, where they were put in prison as was appropriate for them.

Battle of Hattin – the aftermath

English: Battle of Hattin
Battle of Hattin 

Having been defeated at the Battle of Hattin, the crusaders and Templars now found themselves at the mercy of Saladin.  When it came to the Templars and Hospitallers, the muslim leader was in no particular mood to show mercy.  The victorious leader declared that the warrior monks were “monstrous orders whose practices are of no use, who will never renounce their hostility and who will render no service as slaves”.

Saladin knew that the Templars would never renounce their faith.  He went through the motions of offering conversion or death but all opted to die.  In total, something like 230 knights of the Order of the Temple and the Hospital were beheaded by Saladin’s troops.  One exception to the mass execution was the Templar Grand Master Gerard de Ridefort who avoided the blade and was imprisoned.

Acre fell to Saladin shortly after followed by Ascalon and then Gaza.  De Ridefort appears to have convinced the Templars at Gaza to surrender and in return for this, Saladin set him free.  The Grand Master returned to the fray against the Saracens and appears to have been eventually executed by Saladin after being captured yet again.

The insanely unstable Reynald de Chatillon was killed by Saladin in person after the defeat at Hattin.  Saladin offered iced water to King Guy of Jerusalem – a gesture of mercy by the muslim leader.  But Guy passed the cup to Reynald, an act which angered Saladin who had certainly not intended to offer clemency to Reynald.  To reinforce this point, it is claimed Saladin took a scimitar and beheaded him in front of a no doubt horrified Guy.

After Hattin….it was only a matter of time before Jerusalem fell to Saladin.

Battle of Hattin – Templar disaster

HattinSo what exactly happened at the Battle of Hattin in 1187 – aside from Orlando Bloom (my least favourite actor) re-enacting it in the movie Kingdom of Heaven?    The battle is one of those events that it’s difficult not to call a decisive turning point.  In this case, it was the point at which the crusader project in the Middle East started to crumble.

From the end of the 11th century – barely a hundred years before – the crusaders had embarked on taking the places sacred to Christendom away from the control of the muslim caliphate.  These same places were of course sacred to muslims as well as they shared Christianity and Judaism’s Abrahamic roots.  From the 7th century AD, the muslim wave had swept across the Levant and ended eastern Roman rule from Constantinople.  The new rulers were fairly benign until the Seljuk Turks took control of the caliphate – after which, things turned a little nastier for Jews and Christians living in the region.  In truth, toleration of the so-called ‘dhimmi’ faiths of Christianity and Judaism went in waves – under some muslim rulers, things were fine and under others, not so good.

Increased repression in the Holy Land and the disintegration of the Christian empire of Constantinople (called Byzantine today but not back then), led to the crusades.  Jerusalem fell to the crusaders along with most of the shoreline of the Levant.  Rival princes carved out kingdoms like Tripoli, Jerusalem and Edessa.  Divisions within the Islamic body politic and skilful diplomacy as well as warfare by the crusaders kept these new kingdoms in existence for a surprisingly long time.

But by the reign of the muslim leader Saladin, there was a new resolve to push the crusaders out once and for all.  Saladin had managed through force and guile to unite the Islamic east whereas now, in marked contrast, it was the crusaders who were at each other’s throats.  The leper king of Jerusalem Baldwin IV had finally died of his debilitating disorder and been succeeded by Baldwin V – his nephew.  Baldwin V was a child and the regency – real decision making – passed to Raymond of Tripoli.

Unfortunately, Baldwin V died very young and this sparked off a succession crisis.  The agreed plan had been for Raymond to remain regent until the Pope and Europe’s great monarchs expressed their preference.  But Baldwin V’s mother Sybilla had no interest in such formalities and essentially grabbed the crown for herself and her husband Guy.  Raymond, in the foulest of moods, slunk off to Nablus.  He formed a faction that was extremely hostile to Sybilla who was basically viewed as something of an illegal usurper.

Saladin must have viewed these splits within the crusader camp with glee.  What would have also given him an excellent pretext to attack was the activities of medieval headbanger and all round psychopath – Reynald of Chatillon.  The so-called ‘men of Jerusalem’ – long established crusader families in the kingdom – had come to something of a modus vivendi with the Arab and muslim world.  There was no need to antagonise the neighbours – why not just get along and get wealthy?  But Reynald had no intention of getting on with the muslim world.  No, he was spoiling for a fight 24/7.

His favourite activity seems to have been attacking caravan trains trekking through the desert laden with goods.  The story that he attacked one which included Saladin’s sister is possible erroneous and is a confusion of two stories.  the Arab chroniclers do not agree that Reynald took or even killed Saladin’s sister or any other relative.

Attacking caravans was small beer compared to Reynald’s most audacious and lunatic project which was to descend on Mecca with a crusader force and dig up the tomb of the prophet Mohammed.  If Saladin was looking for a reason to push the crusaders in to the sea – then Reynald handed him several on a plate.  Having been a prisoner of the caliphate for 17 years in Aleppo, Reynald just couldn’t contain his hatred of the saracens and further outrages impelled Saladin to march on Jerusalem.

As Saladin prepared for war, the disunity among the crusaders had appalling results.  Turning his back on King Guy in Jerusalem, Raymond of Tripoli made a truce with Saladin.  Bohemond of Antioch also renewed an existing truce.  As a result, Raymond was honourably obliged to allow Saladin’s troops to move through his territory, which duly happened.  Regretablly, this multi-thousand Saracen force met a much smaller Templar army and predictably – wiped it out.   Raymond now seems to have decided that he was probably next on Saladin’s hit list and sank his differences with Guy.

These spats between crusader princes look insane to our eyes but in so many ways were an extension of the turbulent feudal politics of mainland Europe – a continent divided up in to a patchwork of rival duchies, counties, kingdoms, principalities, bishoprics, etc, etc.   Petty warfare just exported itself from Europe to the crusader kingdoms of outremer.

Saladin lured the crusaders to where he wanted them by attacking and taking Tiberias – holed up in the citadel and fighting to the last was Raymond’s wife.  He naturally flew to her aid.  This proved to be a disastrous error and it was on the dry and parched hill of Hattin that the crusaders and Templars camped ahead of fighting Saladin.  The Saracens were in the valley with their supply routes intact.  The crusaders had a dry well and not much to eat and drink.  They were also tired from their marching.

Saladin famously lit fires round the hill where the crusaders were camped to make their thirst that much more unbearable.  He then fired arrows through the smoke and slew the Christians where they stood.  The battle was lost before it was fought.  Here is how Kingdom of Heaven portrayed the carnage.

Hattin – Templar defeat at a key Christian site

Sermon on the Mount
Copenhagen Church Alter PaintingHattin was where the Knights Templar were roundly defeated by Saladin in 1187. How terrible then that it may also have been where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.

This from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The scene of this discourse is traditionally located on Karn Hattin (or Kurun Hattîn), the Horns of Hattin, a mountain which receives its name from the little village at its northern base and from the two cones or horns which crown its summit. Karn Hattin is in Galilee in easy distance of Nazareth, Cana, and Mt. Tabor to the southwest, of Tiberias and Lake Gennesaret (the Sea of Galilee) to the east, and of Capharnaum to the northeast, in the centre, therefore, of much of the ministry of Jesus. It lies 1, 816 feet above the lake and 1,135 feet above the sea level (according to Baedeker, Palestine and Syria, Leipzig, 1898, pp. 285, 288, which has the high authority of Socin and Benzinger). This mountain, rising above the hills that skirt the lake, is the only height to the west that can be seen from its shores. It consists of a low ridge about one-quarter of a mile long extending east and west, and rising at each extremity into a cone or horn. The horn, which is the taller, is only sixty feet above the ridge. Between the horns lies an uneven platform which could easily accomodate the crowd that followed Jesus; but it is believed that the spot on which the discourse was given is lower down, on a level place on the southern side of the mountain, corresponding with St. Luke’s description (topou pedinou), vi. 17, which may mean a level place, as well as a “plain”. From the eastern slope of the hill there is a beautiful view, to the east, of the lake with the Jôlan (Gaulanitis) mountains beyond, to the south, the plateau of Ard el-Hamma and Mt. Tabor, and to the north the snowy height of Mt. Hermon. The tradition that there was a village on the mountain top, if true (the only proof being the remains of a wall which served as defence to a camp), might lend point to the reference in the sermon to the city which was seated on a hill and could not be hid (Matthew 5:14); and the beautiful flowers that abound there might include the unidentified “lilies of the field” (6:28). Bishop Le Camus (Notre Voyage aux Pays Bibliques, II, pp. 220-222) thought he never saw elsewhere and never imagined so lovely a variety and harmony in the beauty of flowers; other travellers are scarcely so enthusiastic, but all agree the spot has a charm of its own. The Horns of Hattin are mentioned by a feeble and late tradition as the site of the second multiplication of loaves. The Jews of the locality point out here also the tomb of Jethro, father-in-law of Moses. During the Crusades the plain below was the scene of the battle in which Saladin dealt the death-blow to French power in Palestine (3-4 July, 1187).