Castles of the Jordan Valley
Travel to the site of the 1179 Battle of Jacob’s Ford and the nearby Crusader castle of Chastellet. From there we drive to visit the breathtaking Knights Hospitaller castle of Belvoir, perched above the Jordan Valley. From here we continue to Beit She’an and visit the largest and most beautiful Roman city in the Holy Land.
Chastellet (Metsad Ateret): A Knights Templar fortress built at the northeastern border of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, overlooking the Jordan River.
Baldwin IV, the Leper, took the power of the Kingdom of Jerusalem at a very early age after his father Amalric I died in 1174, the same year that Saladin the Ayyubid warlord came to power. (His mother Agnes of Courtenay)
Saladin began his military campaign against the Christians in the Holy Land around 1177 to rout the Crusaders.
In November 1177, Baldwin IV, at the age of 16, and his Crusaders defeated the Muslims at Mont Gisard (near Ramla or Tel el Tsafi) and Saladin was forced to flee back to Egypt after narrowly escaping death.
At end of 1178, Baldwin IV, King of Jerusalem, began constructing a new line of defense at Jacob’s Ford, a key river crossing on one of the main roads between Acre to Damascus and called the fortification Chastellet.
When Saladin noticed what the Crusaders were doing he offered Baldwin 60,000 dinars to halt construction. Baldwin declined. Then Saladin raised the offer to 100,000 dinars. Baldwin refused once more and continued to build the fortress. By mid 1179, Baldwin’s forces had constructed a massive stone wall.
Several months after the construction of Chastellet began; Saladin assembled a huge Muslim army to march southwest towards Jacob’s Ford and laid siege to the fortress in August of 1179.
The forces defending the castle began to reinforce the main gates. The Muslims dug a tunnel under the walls of the castle lit a fire under the walls. As a consequence of that fire, the walls collapsed. The Crusaders’ attempts to refortify the fortress were useless and in six days after the siege began, Saladin and his troops conquered Chastellet.
By end of August 1179, the Muslim invaders pillaged Chastellet and killed most of its defenders.
Baldwin IV, who set out from Tiberias, with his reinforcements, was surprised to discover smoke rising in the horizon directly above Chastellet. Obviously, they were too late to save the 700 knights, architects, and construction workers who were killed and another 800 who were taken captive. Baldwin IV turned back to Tiberias and Saladin tore down the remains of the fortification
In 1180, Saladin and Baldwin IV signed a peace treaty. Seven years after this truce, Saladin captured Jerusalem from the Christians following his decisive victory at the Battle of Hattin.
Guided Tour only