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WHO  IS  WHO  IN  THE  CHURCHES  OF  JERUSALEM

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 The Heads 
 of the Churches 
 of Jerusalem

 The History 
 of the Church
 of Jerusalem

Crusaders



 Palestinian 
 Christians:
 Challenges 
 and Hopes


© Alexander Deriev

Crusaders

 Having been conquered by the Turkish Seljuks, Jerusalem was to meet further turbulence.  A horde of soldiers and common-folk gathered in Europe to "liberate" the Christian holy places in Jerusalem.  The reasons were manifold.  The harsh treatment the Christians, both locals and pilgrims, who suffered under the Turks in the eleventh century arose the ire of the Christian rulers in Europe.  Combined with this ire, there was a fear of the steadily expanding Muslim power approaching Europe from the East.  Social upheaval in Europe created a huge rootless population.  These people became easy targets for charismatic preachers propagating participation in the campaign to liberate the Tomb of Christ in Jerusalem.  Promises of a guaranteed place in heaven for those who joined the Crusades as well as expectations of the breakthrough of a Messianic era when the Tomb of Christ will be "liberated" added to the enthusiasm of the crowd. 
 Although the greater part of the army of the first Crusade perished during the long and harsh march to Jerusalem, those who finally arrived were so filled with ecstasy that there were no limitations to their rampaging.  The attack of the Crusaders on Jerusalem and its population was so brutal that in the East the very word “Crusader” has come to mean cruelty.  It is said that the streets were flooded with blood.  No distinction was made among the different groups of the local population in Jerusalem.  Jews, Eastern Christians, and Muslims were slaughtered in the same manner.  However, it seems that Muslims expelled most of the Christians from Jerusalem shortly before the attack.  The Orthodox Patriarch escaped, or was expelled, and the Latin Patriarch was elected immediately by the Crusaders. 
 Soon after the brutal conquest of Jerusalem and the establishment of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099, the Crusaders recognized the presence of the Eastern Churches.  The Orthodox Churches were invited to return to the holy places and to the abandoned monasteries, though under supervision of the Crusaders.  Although both theological and political issues caused constant suspicion between the Eastern and Western Christians, in time Jerusalem regained its colorful character.
 The Crusader period brought a dramatic change for Christianity in the Holy Land, causing hard consequences for the Eastern Christians, the consequences of which they still suffer in their relations with Muslims.  At the same time, the Crusaders also built up the country in many ways.  They restored many churches and erected impressive new church buildings and fortresses which can still be seen today.  On the social level, they established many different institutions such as hospitals and hostels. 
 The three main orders that built up the Holy Land were the Order of the Hospitallers of St. John (which was the main custodian for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre); the Order of the Templars (which converted the Mosques of the Al-Aqsa area to Templum Domini and Templum Salomoni); and the Order of the Teutonic Knights (which had its center in Acre).  The members of these orders worked as soldiers, doctors, architects, and monks.
 The Crusaders never could get a real foothold as rulers of the Holy Land because they were always dependent on support — both material and human — from Europe.  They ruled over people who never accepted them as their authority.  The Crusaders came to power much because of deep disintegration among the Muslim forces.  With a unifying movement among Muslims led by Salah al-Din, the power of the Crusaders became more and more circumscribed.  This was accompanied by an inner split among the Christian groups behind the Crusaders.  In 1187, Salah al-Din’s victory on the plain of Hittin in Galilee became a definite sign that the power of the Crusaders has come to an end.  Later the same year, Jerusalem was captured by the Muslim forces.
 The Crusaders still fought for their presence at the Holy Places, adhering to the coast for another hundred years.  They were also reinforced by several new Crusader groups from Europe.  Therefore, during the thirteenth century, they even succeeded in recapturing Jerusalem for some years.  At the same time, without popular support and without clear leadership, their presence faded slowly away.  In 1291, the last battle between the Muslims and Crusaders took place at Akko, the last bastion of the Crusaders in the Holy Land.  After this battle, they had to leave Palestine for good. 
 Although the history of the Crusaders came to an end, the consequence of their presence remained for a long time on many levels.  Although the most visible signs are their buildings (especially churches and fortresses), it is equally important that the Crusaders inter-married, became Arabized, and joined the local population.  Many Christians, especially in the Bethlehem region, have their ancestry among those Crusaders.  

Håkan Sandvik
Pastor of the Swedish Lutheran Church


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A view of the Holy Sepulchre


 

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The first edition of 
Who is Who 
in the Churches of Jerusalem
was published in 1998 
in Jerusalem.
The second edition
was published one year later
in Moscow.


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© Text by Alexander Deriev
© Translation by Denis Deriev
© Pictures by Studio Ghristo, Photographic Repository of La Terra Santa magazine, and Ghassan Bitar

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