The History of Jerusalem 70 AD - 1913 AD, being an adapted article from the Catholic Encyclopaedia,1913.

Click here for a modern map showing places of cities and towns.

Click here for a map from time of Joshua.

Click here for a map from 1st century A.D.

In Latin and Greek language, Jerusalem was referred to as "Hierusalem" by the Romans and as "Hierosolyma" by the Greeks, from the Greek word "Hieros" meaning "Holy", and "Salem" from Shalom in Hebrew, Salaam in Arabic, Paid (in full), Pax (pact, peace, appeasement) in Latin, Eirene (Irony) in Greek
Paying out the account Shel in Hebrew, similar to Sheol (the afterlife)


Many bizarre comments have been published recently on the Internet regarding life in early 1st century Israel — that Jerusalem at the time of Christ had gladiator sports, that families were regularly being enslaved (without reason), Roman and Greek hedonism was rampant throughout the city — but none of this seems to have occurred until much much later. Christ s coming, his death and his resurrection was Israel's season of grace, for all those who would receive it.

For example, regarding Roman Gladiators in Jerusalem at time of Christ: Due to Jewish sensibilities, there is no hard evidence of "gladiator" theatres in Jerusalem or in fact anywhere in first century Palestine. According to Josephus, a hippodrome (for chariot racing) was built by King Herod the Great when he built Caesarea around 20 BC, and was only adapted to a more conventional Roman Theatre (with gladiators, animal baiting, etc) around the start of the second century AD.

For further notes on first century Palestine, click here


Just before his crucifixion in March 31 AD, Christ spoke of the coming siege and destruction of Jerusalem Luke 21: Verses 20-23 encouraging his listeners to be ready to flee to the mountains. Due to a required need for speed, he warned against being pregnant, or having young children. And in 66 AD, the simmering disquiet indeed became a full-blown war. The Roman general Cestius surrounded Jerusalem but was unable to take it, and retreated. Many Christians, remembering Jesus's words, immediately took the opportunity to leave. The Roman emperor, Nero, deployed four legions under his able general Vespasian with instructions to crush the rebellion. Vespasian arrived in Antioch in the early spring of 67 AD and rapidly brought Galilee under control. Over the next 3 years there was now great tribulation for the Jews. Under three rival leaders, Eleazar ben Simon, John of Gischala and Simon bar Gioras, the so-called "three shepherds" of Zechariah 11:8, numerous thieves and murderers calling themselves zealots, saviours, deliverers made their way into Jerusalem. Click here for a summarized account by the Jewish historian, Josephus. To quote from him "robber Zealots took refuge in the Temple and fortified it more strongly than before. They appointed as high priest one Phanias, a coarse and clownish rustic, utterly ignorant of the priestly duties, who when decked in the robes of office caused great derision. This sport and pastime for the Zealots caused the more religious people to shed tears of grief and shame; and the citizens, unable to endure such insolence rose in great numbers to avenge the outrage on the sacred rites. Thus a fierce civil war broke out (in Jerusalem) in which very many were slain."

In 68 AD, Nero committed suicide and the following year Vespasian returned to Rome to become emperor, leaving his son Titus responsible for ending this war in Judaea. The fortieth year of Jesus's prophecy, between April - September 70 AD, now saw the siege of Jerusalem with its accompanying famine. And following the fall of the city and the burning of the temple, Josephus recorded "Then the Romans brought their ensigns (banners) into the temple (area) and set them over against (a fragment of) the eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them (in worship - but bringing yet further desecration to the temple) and there did they praise Titus with the greatest acclamations of joy". Titus made a speech to the Jews, and offered them terms of mercy. The Jews would not accept these terms. And so, within the month the whole city was destroyed. Josephus records that during the period of the siege possibly over one million Jews perished, with 97,000 Jews captured by the Roman army including Simon Bar Giora and John of Gischala. Titus reportedly refused to accept a wreath of victory, as there is "no merit in vanquishing people forsaken by their own God". Click here for further background to this war.

The soldiers spared three great towers at the north of Herod's palace (Hippicus, Phasael, Mariamne) as well as the western wall. Few Jews remained. The Roman Tenth Legion held the upper town and Herod's castle as a fortress; Josephus says that Titus handed the fields around to his soldiers. The presence of these men would naturally repel Jews, though in this period there was no law against Jews being allowed to live in Jerusalem. The Jewish Rabbis gathered together at Jamnia (now Yavne) in the plain, northwest of the city.

Meanwhile the Christian community had fled to Pella in Peraea on the east side of the Jordan River (due east of Ginae - now Jenin) before the beginning of the siege. The Christians were still almost entirely converts from Judaism. After the destruction they came back and congregated in the house of John Mark and his mother Mary, where they had met before (see Acts 12:12). It was apparently in this house that we find the Upper Room, the scene of the Last Supper and of the assembly on Pentecost. Epiphanius says that when the Emperor Hadrian came to Jerusalem in 130 he found the Temple and the whole city destroyed save for a few houses, among them the one where the Apostles had received the Holy Ghost. It is known today as the Coenaculum or Cenacle - the Dining Room — with the room having been converted to a mosque in 1523 — south of the Gate of David in the west, and supposed to be David's tomb.

During the first Christian centuries the church at this place was the centre of Christianity in Jerusalem. From this Coenaculum the first Christian overseers (or bishops) administered the Church in Jerusalem. They were (initially at least) all converts from Judaism, as were their flocks. Eusebius gives the list of these overseers. According to a universal tradition, the first was the Apostle James, a son of Joseph (before he became a widower in an earlier marriage), and thus Jesus's stepbrother. His predominant place and residence in the city are implied by Galatians 1:19. Eusebius says he was appointed overseer by Peter, James, and John. Following 32 years of ministry, he was thrown from a rock and stoned to death by the Jews about the year 63. After his death the surviving Apostles and other disciples who were at Jerusalem chose Simon, son of Clopas, to succeed him. Clopas was believed to be the brother of Joseph and Jesus's uncle. Simon is thus referred to also as the Lord's brother in Matthew 13:55. He was overseer at the time of the destruction (70) and probably then went to Pella with the others. About the year 106 or 107 he was crucified under Trajan. The line of overseers in Jerusalem was then continued as follows:

For a full list of patriarchs, from James the Just to Theophilus III today, click here

All the overseers listed above were Jews. It was during the time of Judas Quiriacus that the second great calamity, the revolt of Bar-Kokhba and final destruction of the city, took place. Goaded by the tyranny of the Romans, by Hadrian's ban on circumcision, his planned rebuilding of Jerusalem as a Roman colony in 130, and the establishment of an altar to Jupiter on the site of the Temple, the Jews broke into a hopeless rebellion under a famous false Messiah Bar-Kokhba (son of the star — a reference to Numbers 24:17) about the year 132. During his rebellion he also persecuted the Jewish Christians, who naturally refused to acknowledge him.

Deploying 12 legions, the Emperor Hadrian eventually put down this rebellion and executed Bar-Kokhba in 135 after a siege of the Betar fortress — a terraced farming village 11 kms south-west of Jerusalem where he had stationed his troops — that lasted 3½ years. As a result of this last war the whole neighbourhood of Jerusalem became a desert. In order to erase any memory of Judaea, he wiped the name off the map and replaced it with Syria Palestine, an insulting reminder of the Jews' ancient enemies the Philistines, long extinct by then. On the ruins a new Roman city was built, called lia Capitolina ( lia was Hadrian's family-name, probably related to the Greek word "Helios" — "the sun"), and a temple to Jupiter Capitolinus (Jupiter's "Government") was built on Mount Moria. No Jew (therefore no Jewish Christian) was allowed under pain of death inside the town.

An exception was permitted once a year on the day of Tisha B'Av or literally "the ninth day of Av" — the fifth month of the Jewish year that came in July-August.
It was an annual fast day that commemorated, amongst other calamities,

  1. the weeping of the people (Numbers 14:1) following the unbelieving report of those twelve spies sent out by Moses in 1504 BC
  2. the burning of Solomon's temple (2 Kings 25:9) by Nebuchadnezzar in 506 BC
  3. the burning of the second temple (Luke 21:20) by Titus in 70 AD, and the breaching and destruction of the Betar Fortress in 135 AD.

But with this banishment, a complete change came to the circumstances of the church there. The old Jewish Christian community came to an end. In its place a church of Greek speaking, also uncircumcised, Christians was formed, with its overseers appointed by Caesarea on the coast. They depended much less on the sacred memories of the city. lia, being now made up chiefly with Roman legionaries, and with its temples to the gods, was a town of no importance to the empire — the governor of the province resided at Caesarea.

Note too that from the time of Nebuchadnezzar , many Jews now made their home in Babylon. When, 70 years after Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus had made his decree that the Jews who wished to could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple, 42360 Jews had done so but this was only a small percentage of the Jews living in Babylon, possibly up to one million in number. And so, with this current total collapse of Jerusalem as the Jewish capital, Babylon (modern day Iraq) increased its influence as the focus of Judaism, as two major rabbinical academies were subsequently built.

Click here for further background on Jewish history at this time as they spread into Europe.


In 313 a great change came to the whole empire that affected Jerusalem profoundly. After much political turmoil click here for details, Constantine became emperor of the Western Roman Empire. In his battle for Rome, his soldiers had famously had the "anointed" Chi-Rho symbol, the first two letters for Christ (in Greek) emblazoned on their shields & helmets. The Christian Faith was now acknowledged as a legal religion and the Church became a recognized society (Edict of Milan, Jan. 313). At Constantine's death (337) Christianity had become the religion of the Court and Government. As a natural result the Faith spread very rapidly everywhere. The same generation that had seen Diocletian's persecution through the 10 years that had begun in Feb. 303 and ended in Jan. 313 (and which brought to mind the 10 days affliction mentioned in Revelation 2:10), now saw Christianity the dominant religion and the old paganism gradually reduced to country villages and out-of-the-way towns. While persecution (at a much reduced level) continued in the East, this ended with the overthrow of Licinius by Constantine in 324.

There was thus a great movement of organization among Christians; churches were built everywhere. A further result of the freedom and the dominance of Christianity was a revival of enthusiasm for the holy places where the new religion had been born, where the events that everyone now read about or heard of in sermons had taken place. Already in the fourth century, there began those great waves of pilgrimage to the Holy Land that have gone on ever since. A great number of monks from Egypt and Libya also came and established themselves in the desert by the Jordan. When the pilgrims returned home they remembered and told their friends about the services they had seen and they began to imitate them in their own churches. Thus a great number of well-known ceremonies (the Palm Sunday procession, later the Stations of the Cross, etc.) were originally imitations of local rites in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile another result of these pilgrimages was the discovery of the Holy Places. Naturally the pilgrims when they arrived wanted to see the actual spots where the events they had read of in the Gospels had happened. Naturally too, each such place when it was known or conjectured became a shrine with a church built over it. Of these shrines the most famous are those built by Constantine and his mother St. Helena. St. Helena in her eightieth year (326-327) came on a pilgrimage and caused churches to be built at Bethlehem, and on the Mount of Olives. Constantine built the famous church of the Holy Sepulchre. Eusebius says that the place of Calvary in about 326 was covered with dirt and rubbish; over it was a temple of Venus. Emperor Hadrian had built a great terrace round the place enclosed in a wall, on this he had planted a grove to Jupiter and Venus. When St. Helena came and was shown the place she determined to restore it as a Christian shrine. By order of the emperor all the soldiers of the garrison were employed to clear away the temple, grove, and terrace. Underneath they found Golgotha and the tomb of our Lord. Constantine wrote to Bishop Macarius saying: "I have nothing more at heart than to adorn with due splendour that sacred place", etc.

As a separate (and yet connected) issue, Byzantium, a prosperous Greek city on the sea coastline that separates Europe (in the west) and Asia (in the east) attracted Constantine. In 330 he refounded it as Nova Roma (New Rome) after a prophetic dream was said to have identified the location of the city. (However, the name Nova Roma never came into common use, instead, Constantinople became its name.) The Eastern Roman Empire then had its capital in Constantinople until its conquest by Turkey in 1453. (In 1930, Constantinople received its current name of Istanbul.) This empire has often been called the Byzantine Empire or Byzantium by modern scholars. And in the West, the old Roman empire was steadily overcome by invaders.

Back to Jerusalem. In the year 614 a great calamity befell the city; it was taken by the Persians. Previously, in 602, the Byzantine Roman Emperor Maurice had had a major falling out with his army who had deposed him and caused him to be barbarously murdered. The army then appointed Phocas as their new emperor (602-610). Chosroes (Khusru) II, King of Persia, had previously found protection from his enemies at home with Maurice, who in 591 had sent the army to restore him. Thus, the Persian king, furious at the murder of his friend and benefactor (and doubtless aware of the weakened unity in the empire), declared war against Phocas and invaded Syria (604). This war between Persia and Rome continued under Phocas's successor, the Roman Emperor Heraclius (610-642). In 611 the Persians took Antioch, then Caesarea in Cappadocia and Damascus. In 614 they stormed Jerusalem. The Persian King Chosroes's son-in-law Shaharbarz besieged the city; in his camp were 26,000 Jews eager to destroy Christian sovereignty in their holy city. It is said that no less than 90,000 Christians perished when Jerusalem fell. The Patriarch Zacharius was taken captive to Persia. The Anastasis and Martyrion (buildings that formed part of the Holy Sepulchre) and other Christian sanctuaries were burned or razed to the ground. The Jews as a reward for their help were allowed to do as they liked in the city. But their triumph did not last long. In 622 Heraclius marched across Asia Minor, driving back the Persians. In 627 he invaded Persia; Chosroes fled, was deposed, and murdered in 628 by his son Siroes. In the same year the Persians had to submit to a peace which deprived them of all their conquests. The Persian soldiers evacuated the cities of Syria and Egypt which they had conquered.The emperor as a punishment for the treason of the Jews renewed the old law of Hadrian forbidding them to enter the city.

After the Persian assault on the town, and before the Romans reconquered it, Modestus, Abbot of the monastery of St. Theodosius in the desert to the south, acting apparently as vicar for the captured patriarch, had already begun to restore the shrines. It was impossible under Persian rule to restore the splendour of Constantine's great Martyrion. Modestus therefore had to be content with a more modest group of buildings at the Holy Sepulchre. Heraclius when he reconquered the city rebuilt the walls and restored many more of the ruined shrines. From his time to the Arab conquest Jerusalem enjoyed a short period of peace and prosperity.


The Muslims in the first zeal of their new faith proceeded to invade Syria. Caliph Abu-Bakr (632-634) gave the command of the army to Abu-Ubaidah (who had been one of the original companions of Mohammed back in 622). They first took Bosra. In July, 633, they defeated Heraclius's army at Ajnadain near Emesa; in 634 they stormed Damascus and again defeated the Romans at Yarmuk. Emesa (Homs in Syria) fell in 636.

The Muslims then consulted Caliph Omar (634-644) as to whether they should march on Jerusalem or Caesarea. By his advice they received orders to take the Holy City. First they sent the warrior Muawiyah ibn Abi-Sufyan with 5000 Arabs to surprise the city; soon afterwards it was invested by the whole army of Abu-Ubaidah. It was defended by a large force composed of refugees from all parts of Syria, soldiers who had escaped from Yarmuk and a strong garrison. For four months the siege continued, every day there was a fierce assault. At last, when all further resistance was hopeless, the Patriarch Sophronius (who acted throughout as the head of the Christian defenders) appeared on the walls and demanded a conference with Abu-Ubaidah. He then proposed to surrender on fair and honourable terms; the Christians were to keep their churches and sanctuaries, no one was to be forced to accept Islam. Sophronius further insisted that these terms should be ratified by the caliph in person. Omar, then at Medina, agreed to these terms and came with a single camel to the walls of Jerusalem. He signed the capitulation, then entered the city with Sophronius "and courteously discoursed with the patriarch concerning its religious antiquities". It is said that when the hour for his prayer came he was in the Anastasis, but refused to say it there, lest in future times the Muslims should make that an excuse for breaking the treaty and confiscating the church. The Mosque of Omar, opposite the doors of the Anastasis, with the tall minaret, is shown as the place to which he retired for his prayer. Under the Muslims the Christian population of Jerusalem in the first period enjoyed the usual toleration given to non-Muslim theists.The pilgrimages went on as before. The new government did not make Jerusalem the political centre of Palestine. This was fixed at Lydda till the year 716, then at Ramla.

It was in the reign of Caliph Abd al-Malik (684-705, fifth Umayyad caliph at Damascus and of Sunni tradition) that three groups - the Shiites, the Kharijites, and the forces of the anti-Caliph Abd Allah ibn az-Zubayr created a formidable opposition in Iraq. Ibn Zubayr took possession of the Hijaz i.e. the region in north-west Saudi Arabia that is famous for Mecca. In order for al-Malik to give his followers a substitute for Mecca and Medina, which they were prevented from visiting, he resolved to make Jerusalem a centre of pilgrimage. He, therefore, set about to adorn the place of the Temple with a splendid mosque. It appears that the Christians had left the place where the Temple had once stood untouched. And the Caliph Omar, when he had visited it and found it filled up with refuse, had organized that a large square building with no architectural pretension be put up to shelter "True Believers" who went there to pray. Now, in 691, Abd al-Malik replaced this with the Dome of the Rock, built by Byzantine architects, that currently stands in the middle of the Temple area.

Note - The background to this is from a dream of Mohammed — recorded in the Koran in Sura 17 — about Jerusalem. In that dream, Mohammed rides his flying horse, El Burak — a steed with the body of a woman and the tail of a peacock — to the "farthest place." The farthest place in Arabic is Al-Aqsa. There he meets Gabriel and goes up to heaven for a forty-day sojourn, meeting all the prophets and talking to Moses and Jesus etc. The Muslims decided that the farthest place (Al-Aqsa) had to be the farther end (southern end) of the Temple Mount. And that the center of the Temple Mount, where a huge stone protruded, must be the spot from which Mohammed ascended to heaven. Note too that the Dome of the Rock is not a mosque. Rather it is a shrine built around the huge rock, which Jews believe to be the same stone where Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed, where Jacob dreamed of a ladder to heaven, and where the Holy of Holies once stood. The mosque — Al-Aqsa — is another building altogether, built at the southern end of the Temple Mount by Abd al-Malik's son, El Walid in 701. - Excerpt from Crash Course in Jewish History

The description of Arculf, a Frankish bishop who went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the seventh century, gives us a not unpleasant picture of the conditions of Christians in Palestine in the first period of Muslim rule. The caliphs of Damascus (661-750) were tolerant princes, on quite good terms with their Christian subjects. Many Christians (e.g. St. John Damascene, d. c. 754) held important offices at their court. The Abbasid caliphs at Baghdad (753-1242), as long as they ruled Syria, were also just and tolerant to the Christians. The famous Caliph Haroun al-Raschid (786-809) sent the keys of the Holy Sepulchre to Charlemagne who built a hospice for Latin pilgrims near the shrine. But revolutions and rival dynasties that tore the union of Islam to pieces then made Syria the battleground of the Muslim world.

In 899 the Qarmatians (Carmathians)—Shiite followers of Ismail bin Jafar—had arisen in eastern Arabia. They defeated the troops of the Caliph, entered Syria (903-904) and devastated Damascus and other cities in the province. In 930, they sacked Mecca seizing "The Black Stone" which they held for 22 years. During this time Muslims again began to go in pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The religious importance that the city thus gained for them was also the beginning of intolerance towards the Christians there. It is the invariable result in Islam; the more sacred a place is to Muslims the less they are disposed to tolerate unbelievers in it.

The Byzantine Roman empire took advantage of the gradual dismemberment of the Muslim world to continue to invade their former provinces. In 962 Nicephorus Phocas with 100,000 men came as far as Aleppo and devastated the country. In 968 and 969 the Romans reconquered Antioch. It was inevitable that the Christians of Jerusalem should try to help their fellow-countrymen to reconquer the land that had been Roman (with Christian traditions); inevitable, too, that the Muslims should punish such attempts as high treason.

The Fatimid dynasty—a second Ismaili sect had now arisen in Africa (908) in opposition to the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad. In 969 al-Muizz, the fourth Fatimid Caliph, captured Egypt (and Jerusalem) transferring his residence from Tunisia to his newly founded city of Cairo. That same year, the patriarch, John VII, was put to death for treasonable correspondence with the Romans; many other Christians suffered the same fate, and a number of churches were destroyed. The sixth Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim (996-1021), believed to be God made manifest by the Ismaili offshoot known as the Druze, determined to destroy the Holy Sepulchre. In 1010 the buildings erected by Modestus were burned to the ground. The news of their destruction, brought back by pilgrims, caused a wave of indignation throughout Europe. It was one of the causes of the feeling that eventually brought about the First Crusade. Meanwhile funds were collected to rebuild the sanctuary. The Emperor Constantine IX (1042-1054) persuaded the Caliph al-Mustansir Billah (1036-1094) to allow the rebuilding on condition of releasing 5000 Muslim prisoners and of allowing prayer for al-Mustansir in the mosques in the empire. Byzantine architects were sent to Jerusalem. The rebuilding was finished in 1048. The work of Modestus was restored with a few additions hurriedly and not well. The Holy Sepulchre remained in this state till the crusaders replaced it by the present group of buildings (1140-1149).

In 1030 merchants of Amalfi in Italy were able to establish themselves permanently in Jerusalem. They had leave to trade fully with the people of Palestine, built a Catholic church (St. Maria Latina), a Benedictine monastery, and a hospice for pilgrims.

In 1077 the Seljuk Turks became masters of Palestine. From this time the condition of the Christians became unbearable. The Turks forbade Christian services, devastated churches, murdered pilgrims. It was the news of these outrages that provoked the Council of Clermont (1095) and that brought great numbers of warrior pilgrims and soldiers (that were later referred to as crusaders) to Jerusalem in 1099, victorious, yes, but also bringing much bloodshed as the Jews and Muslims who lived in that section of the city were all killed, only a handful managing to escape.

Capturing the city on July 15 1099, the soldiers quickly converted the Dome of the Rock to the Templum Domini - the Lord's Temple - placing a huge gold cross on top. Subsequently the authorities surrounded the rock with an ornamental iron grill, covering it with marble slabs, on which they built an altar dedicated to St Nicolas. Monks of the Augustinian order were allotted the honor of service, with a house built for them north of the Temple.

The church of the Holy Sepulchre now had incorporated into it the Rock of Golgotha (Calvary), which until then had been a separate edifice.

The al Aqsa mosque returned to its earlier name of Solomon's Temple (or Palace), and for nineteen years served as a main palace for the kingdom before being turned over to the Order of the Knights Templar. A newly formed monastic order, it had been set up to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land as they travelled between Jaffa and Jerusalem. Its headquarters were thus in this wing of the Temple Mount. Extract from Contested Holiness by Rivka Gonen


Thus the Latin (or Catholic) Kingdom of Jerusalem was founded as a result of what was later called the First Crusade, in 1099. For the first hundred years (and to a much lesser extent the second) it was for Western Europe a genuine centre of colonization. As the common property of Christendom it retained its international character to the end, although the French element predominated among the feudal lords and the government officials, and the Italians acquired the economic preponderance in the cities.

Kings and Succession to the Throne

The succession of kings is as follows:

During this century, in the ports, the Italian cities of Genoa, Venice, and Pisa, and the French cities of Marseilles, Narbonne, etc, received grants of houses and even of districts independently administered by their own consuls. Each of these colonies had lands on the outskirts of the city, where cotton and sugar-cane were cultivated; the colonial merchants had the monopoly of commerce between Europe and the East, and freighted their out-going ships with costly merchandise, spices, China silk, precious stones, etc., which the caravans brought from the interior of Asia. Industries peculiar to Syria, the manufacture of silk and cotton materials, the dye-works and glass factories of Tyre, etc., all helped to feed this commerce, as did also the agricultural products of the land. In exchange, the Western ships brought to Palestine such European products as were necessary to the colonists; two flotillas sailed yearly from Western ports, at Easter and about the feast of St. John (December 27), thus ensuring communication between Palestine and Europe. Thanks to this commerce, during the twelfth century the Kingdom of Jerusalem became one of the most prosperous states in Christendom. In the castles, as in the cities, the Western knights loved to surround themselves with gorgeous equipments and choice furniture, the latter often of Arabian workmanship. In Palestine there was a marked development along artistic lines, and churches were erected in the towns according to the rules of Roman architecture. The Kingdom of Jerusalem, established as a result of the First Crusade, was thus one of the first attempts made by Europeans at colonization.

As mentioned above, the Latin dominion over Jerusalem really came to an end on 2 October, 1187, when the city opened its gates to Saladin (Yusuf ibn Ayyub, Salah al-Din, Emir of Egypt, 1169-1193); although fragments of the Latin kingdom in Palestine lasted another century. Frederick II acquired a short possession of Jerusalem again by treaty later, and the title "King of Jerusalem" added an empty splendour to the styles of various European sovereigns. Nevertheless after 1187 the episode of Latin rule over the Holy City was closed. From that time it fell back again into its former state of a city under Muslim government, in which Christian pilgrims were at best only tolerated.

As soon as Saladin's army entered the city they set to destroy all traces of the Christian rule. They tore the great golden cross from the Dome of the Rock, broke up the bells, plundered churches and convents, restored all their buildings (notably the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque), turned other churches into stables or granaries, and founded Muslim schools and hospitals. While Europe was thunderstruck at the loss of the Holy City, and was preparing a new crusade to recapture it, letters were sent to all parts of the Muslim world announcing the glad tidings that El-Quds (the Arabic name for Jerusalem - means "The Holy") was now purified and restored to the true believers. But — also true to the promise made 550 years previously by Omar (see above) — Saladin left the Holy Sepulchre, as well as a few other church buildings, to the Christians (i.e. the Eastern Orthodox Church in Jerusalem ruled by Constantinople). For the use of these they had to pay a heavy tribute.

Saladin further strengthened the walls of the city when the Third Crusade (with King Richard of England) approached. Saladin suffered defeats from Richard at both Acre (Akko) and Jaffa. On September 2, 1192, Richard and Saladin finalized a treaty by which Jerusalem would remain under Muslim control, but which also allowed unarmed Christian pilgrims to visit the city. Richard departed the Holy Land on October 9, though was then captured in Vienna by King Leopold V of Austria who had quarrelled with Richard during the crusade over Richard's support for Guy of Lusignan instead of Leopold and the barons' choice, Conrad of Montferrat. Conrad was husband of Queen Isabella, cousin of Leopold, and an experienced warrior. Isabella, Sybilla's sister and the second daughter of Amalric I, had been forced to divorce her first husband following Sybilla's death so that Conrad could marry her and thus put him directly in the bloodline. But Conrad was murdered shortly after Leopold left Acre following this quarrel, and Richard's nephew, Henry of Champagne, married Isabella in Tyre, eight days later. A surviving assassin then implicated Richard in the plot. A large ransom secured Richard's release, which, incidentally, became the foundation for the mint in Vienna. Click here for further details.

The Fourth crusade never reached Jerusalem. Instead Venetian mercenaries, led by Enrico Dandolo, sacked Constantinople in revenge for the confiscation of their ships following a riot that had occurred between Venice and Genoa there back in 1171, as well as a massacre of Western (Latin) merchants by a Constantinople mob that had occurred in 1182. During this sacking, many ancient and medieval Roman and Greek works were stolen or destroyed. There was now an irrevocable rift between the West and the East. As an epilogue to the event, Pope Innocent III, the man who had launched the expedition, thundered against the crusaders thus: "You vowed to liberate the Holy Land but you rashly turned away from the purity of your vow when you took up arms not against Saracens but Christians... The Greek Church has seen in the Latins nothing other than an example of affliction and the works of Hell, so that now it rightly detests them more than dogs".

The Fifth Crusade:- Isabella had married Guy's older brother Amalric in Acre after Amalric's first wife and her third husband Henry both died in 1197. Amalric took the title Amalric II, King of Jerusalem, until his death in 1205 with Isabella also passing away four days later. Then in 1210, John of Brienne in France married Maria, the eighteen year old daughter of Isabella and her second husband Conrad, assuming the title of King of Jerusalem in right of his wife. John and Maria had a daughter, Yolande, in 1212, with Maria sadly passing away shortly after the birth. Now John became a prominent figure in a new crusade to free Jerusalem. In 1217 the crusaders landed in Palestine. After an initial victory at Bethsaida on the Jordan River, a key associate, King Andrew of Hungary returned home. But new troops arrived from Germany and Holland. In 1219, the Sultan al-Muazzam (who was then chiefly responsible for government in Syria) ordered the walls of Jerusalem be destroyed to prevent this crusader army from being able to defend the city once they took it. In Damietta in Egypt, the sultan's brother, who was then being besieged by the crusaders, offered them Jerusalem and also to rebuild its walls if they would lift the siege. John was amenable, but Pelagius of Albano who claimed the command, refused. Then after gaining victory in Damietta, the crusaders suffered a decisive defeat when marching on Cairo in 1221, and returned home.

Meanwhile in Europe, King Frederick II, a Sicilian king who had been declared King of the Romans (and Germany) by the Pope in 1212, was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope in 1220. In 1225 he married Yolande, daughter of Maria, and as a result of marriage to this young thirteen year old queen he took the title King of Jerusalem, deposing her father, John. Sadly, Yolande died three years later, shortly after giving birth to a son, Conrad.

In 1229 the short interlude of reign in Jerusalem mentioned above began. Frederick II came personally on the Sixth Crusade (which many saw as a continuation of the Fifth). He obtained by treaty with the Sultan of Egypt, al-Kamil, possession of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and the pilgrim roads from Jaffa and Acre for ten years and a half (1229-1239). The city was not to be fortified, and the Temple area was to remain in exclusive possession of the Muslims. Following a crown wearing ceremony in 1229, Frederick who legally was only regent on behalf of his baby son Conrad, returned to Europe. In 1239 the Emir of Kerak, al-Nasir Daud, conquered Jerusalem again and destroyed the Tower of David. In 1241 the city returned to the crusaders, but very briefly, for al-Salih Ayyub, Caliph of Egypt (1238-49), then called on the savage Khwarezmian tribes to recapture it. These were Mamluks (Mamluks were Turkish slave soldiers) who had been driven from their homeland in Persia by Genghis Khan's Mongol army in 1220. They now poured over Syria plundering and murdering, and in September, 1244, stormed Jerusalem. In the massacre that followed 7000 Christians perished; and Jerusalem was restored once more to the Caliph. From this time the remaining Latin possessions in Palestine were lost one by one in quick succession. The last town, Acre, fell in 1291.


Till the sixteenth century Syria belonged to the caliphs in Egypt; but it was constantly overrun for short periods by their various enemies. Following the Khwarezmians, the Mongols, who had destroyed Baghdad in 1258 along with the line of Abbaside caliphs, now poured over Syria plundering and destroying under their chief Hulagu, capturing Aleppo in 1260. The current ruler of Cairo at that time, a Mamluk by the name of Qutuz (1259-60) then sent his famous general, Baibars, and the Mongols were halted and driven out. Baibars then had Qutuz murdered and reigned as caliph in his stead (1260-77). He succeeded in driving the Crusaders nearly back to their last stronghold at Acre, crushed the Assassins—a third Ismaili sect who had been the terror of Syria for nearly two centuries, and conquered a great part of Asia Minor. The name of Baibars, "The sultan, the manifest king, prop of the world and the faith" may be seen on many monuments in Jerusalem. Qalawan (1279-90) deposed Baibars' son, made himself caliph, further harassed the Crusaders, and built splendid monuments all over Syria. In 1400 the Mongols under Timur again devastated the land.


Steadily the Ottoman Turks became the dominant race in Islam. In 1453 they took Constantinople. In 1516 under Sultan Selim I (1512-20), after they had crushed the Persians (1514), they turned southward towards Syria. On 14 August, 1516, Selim routed the Egyptian army and killed the Caliph Qansuh al-Ghuri. On 22 January, 1517, Selim entered Cairo in triumph. Al-Mutawakkil, the last Egyptian caliph, died a captive of the Turks in 1538, bequeathing his title to the conquering House of Ottoman. It was on the strength of this legacy that the Turkish sultan then called himself Caliph of Islam. From then till 1917 the Turk was master of Jerusalem.

Following the expulsion of the Jews (and Muslims) from Spain in 1492, the Ottomans welcomed them, allowing increasing numbers of Jews to move back to Palestine. In 1799 Napoleon I invaded Syria and reached Nazareth. In 1831 the Egyptian army under Ibrahim Pasha defeated the Turks near Homs in Syria, and gained possession of Syria and Jerusalem. In 1840 England and Austria conquered them back and returned them to the Turks.

During the nineteenth century Syria had her share of various Turkish reforms. Jerusalem and the holy places especially, as being the most interesting parts of the empire to Christians and the scene of continual Christian pilgrimages, were the places where the Turkish government was most anxious to show that its reforms were really meant. In fact, the great number of Christian institutions and the large Christian population of Jerusalem almost took from it any appearance of an Eastern town. In the late 19th century there came an enormous increase of Jews who, in spite of repeated attempts on the part of the government to keep them out, formed large colonies in and around the city. Thus they and the European Christians became the predominant element. There were no cities of the Turkish Empire where (in 1913) Muslims were so little in evidence as in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth.

The Catholic Church in Jerusalem in 1913

From the thirteenth century, the Catholic cause was upheld almost solely by the Franciscan Order. The friars were first sent to Palestine by St. Francis himself in 1219. During the long centuries after the fall of the Latin kingdom the friars guarded the interests of the Catholic Church around the Holy Places. Frequently opposed by the Greek Orthodox and other Christian groups, persecuted by the Turks, they kept their place, and with it Catholic rights in the Holy Land, often at the price of their blood. It was in their hospices (which they built all over Palestine) that Catholic pilgrims found shelter. They kept the Latin altars in repair, and did not cease offering the Latin Mass on them when no one else cared for them.

Condition of the City in 1913

Jerusalem (El Quds) the city had a municipal government presided over by a mayor. The total population was estimated at 66,000. The Turkish census of 1905, which counted only Ottoman subjects, gave these figures: Jews, 45,000; Muslims, 8,000; Greek Orthodox, 6000; Catholic Latins, 2500; Armenians, 950; Protestants, 800; Melkites, 250; Copts, 150; Abyssinians, 100; Jacobites, 100; Catholic Syrians, 50. During the nineteenth century large suburbs to the north and east grew up, chiefly for the use of the Jewish colony. These suburbs contained nearly half the population.


In 1917, during the First World War, Jerusalem was taken by British and ANZAC troops, ending exactly 400 years of Turkish rule. The Balfour Declaration in England now declared the British government's support for a Jewish "national home" in Palestine, with the condition that nothing should be done which might prejudice the rights of existing communities there. In return, England looked for the support of the Jewish community (in America) in the war against Germany.

On May 14 1948, following a United Nations recommendation, the British mandate over Palestine ended and David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the re-creation of the state of Israel, with he becoming its first Prime Minister. The United Nations had recommended that Jerusalem come under an "international" regime, and that there be a separate state for Palestine. These boundaries the Jews (at the time) accepted, but the Arab countries did not, vowing instead to drive the Jewish nation (as such) into the sea. And so there was ongoing conflict. Within the year, Jerusalem had become a divided city with Israel controlling the west, and Jordan controlling the east.

Then in 1967 (following the six day war), the whole city of Jerusalem came under Israeli control, though there has obviously been contention with the Palestinians over the gradual Israeli confiscation/purchasing of 90% of their land in east Jerusalem. A particular issue was the Western (Wailing) Wall, which during the Ottoman Period had become the Jews' chief place of pilgrimage. For centuries it was located in a narrow alley just 4 metres wide that could accommodate only a few hundred densely packed worshipers. But in 1967, immediately after the Six Day War, Israelis levelled the neighboring Arab district to create the Western Wall Plaza which can accommodate tens of thousands of pilgrims.

Click here for an account of this six day war, as published in The Australian.

Click here for a look at Israel today.

The following extract is by Abraham Rabinovich, Weekend Australian, September 4th 2010

THE Palestinian refugee question, the most emotionally charged issue in the renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, seemed a simple humanitarian matter when an Israeli official named Avraham Biran first encountered it in the early 1950s. Biran, the chief administrator of the Jerusalem district, would meet periodically with his Jordanian counterpart in no man's land under UN auspices to resolve problems that cropped up in the divided city and its environs. The two men knew each other well from having been senior civil servants together in the British mandatory administration a few years before, and their relationship was that of old colleagues.

On one occasion, Biran broached the problem of the Latrun salient, west of the city, where a broad swath of no man's land had ill-defined borders that led to frequent exchanges of gunfire. In an interview 20 years ago, Biran told me he suggested to the Jordanian official, from the well-known Nashashibi family in Jerusalem, that they redraw the border at Latrun. "I proposed to him that we divide no man's land between us and establish clear demarcation lines," he says. But Nashashibi baulked. "He said, 'I know what you're after - restoring the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road'," says Biran. The old Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road had been cut at Latrun by no man's land, obliging Israel to build a lengthy bypass. "I conceded I was interested in that," said Biran. "But I made him an offer. There were a couple of abandoned Arab villages in that zone and they would be able to settle some of their refugees there in exchange for us opening the road. He said: 'My friend, you don't understand what it's all about. We don't want to solve the refugee problem. We want it to fester until we get rid of you.' He said it in a friendly way. We were not enemies personally." And fester the refugees did, generations of them dependent largely on UN aid.

The refugees initially consisted of the 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were driven out of the territory captured by Israel during its war of independence. With their descendants, who have been granted refugee status by the UN, the number today is 4.6 million, with about a third living in crowded refugee camps. The Arab League instructed its member states to deny citizenship to the refugees "to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland".

In Israel, about 600,000 Jews who fled or were driven out of Arab countries after the creation of the Jewish state - almost the same number as the initial number of Palestinian refugees - were fully absorbed into the nation's life after a brief period.

It is clear to many Arab leaders that Israel with its six million Jews cannot survive as a Jewish state if it accepts significant numbers of Palestinian refugees, and that it will accept only a small symbolic number, if any at all. Yet the right of return remains a central Palestinian demand, part a wish fantasy for the refugees, part a political club with which to beat Israel.

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