History : Jun-Jul 2015
to return to their original headquarters, which they called the Temple of Solomon. The Tem- plars began desperate actions against seemingly everyone—Muslims, the Knights Hospitaller (the Holy Land’s other large religious military or- der), as well as various other groups of crusaders. In 1243, after several years of confusion, the Templars managed to achieve a certain degree of stability, and they even returned to Jerusalem, where they planned to rebuild the walls Sala- din had pulled down. It was, however, a short- lived recovery. Just one year later the Egyptian Mamluks, fierce warrior-slaves, took the city by storm. A few weeks later 348 Templars fought in the Battle of La Forbie, and only 36 survived; the head of the grand master was displayed on the gates of Cairo. Hope from the East Once again the Templars had proved unable to defend Jerusalem, and the future of the Christian presence in the Holy Land hung desperately in the balance. The end seemed imminent when hope came from an utterly unexpected quarter— the Mongol Empire. The Mongols advanced west from Asia, sweeping through the Islamic territo- ries and, in 1258, capturing Baghdad and ending the influential Abbasid caliphate. According to some accounts, the last caliph was killed in a humiliating way: rolled up in a carpet and tram- pled by horses. The Mongol armies moved on to conquer Syria and settle in Palestine, but in 1260 they were finally stopped by the Mam- luks, at the bloody Battle of Goliath’s Well. In the following years all the Christian strongholds in the Holy Land fell: the Mamluks took Cae- sarea, Arsuf, Haifa, and Antioch. Then in 1291 the Mamluks conquered Acre, the Templars’ headquarters. A furious siege had culminated THE GREAT BASTION OF CRUSADERS Acre was the last crusader capital in the Holy Land. All the military orders had headquarters here, though relations between the Templars, the Hospitallers, and the Teutonic Knights was not always peaceful. RICCARDOSPILA/FOTOTECA9X12 DUBY TAL/AGE FOTOSTOCK NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY 71 Of the 348 Knights Templar who fought in La Forbie against the soldiers of the Egyptian sultan, only 36 survived.