Kingdom of Heaven - PRELUDE TO DISASTER

During June and July of 1187, tensions between the Franks and Saladin’s forces grew ever-more intense. A small group of Frankish forces, trying to stop Saladin’s men at Saffuriyah (Sephorie), were annihilated. This map depicts the location of that vicious battle. Click on the image for a better view.


In the summer of 1187, between the time of the Second and Third Crusades, Saladin had raised a powerful army. The Franks - Renaud de Chatillon, in particular - had broken a treaty earlier that year, attacking a caravan as it passed through the Kingdom from Cairo to Damascus.

Saladin demanded compensation; none was paid. War between the Muslims and the Franks was likely.

Raymond of Tripoli, retired in his Galilean lands after Guy and Sibylla became king and queen, was still “on the outs” with the rulers in Jerusalem. He did, however, have an understanding with Saladin.

Raymond had negotiated an alliance with the Muslim leader when it looked like Guy’s army would attack Raymond at Tiberias. Saladin’s troops, sent to reinforce the garrison at Tiberias, caused the army of Jerusalem to turn back. Raymond was now beholden to Saladin.

As concerns about war loomed over the Franks, Guy sent envoys to Raymond. His hope was to make peace with the man who could be helpful if war actually occurred. Unknown to Guy, and before the envoys arrived in Tiberias, Saladin had asked Raymond to allow his reconnaissance scouts to pass over Raymond’s lands.

Put in a difficult position, Raymond acceded to Saladin’s request. He demanded, however, that all Muslim soldiers be out of his territory by nightfall and that they not attack Raymond’s subjects on their own property. He then warned everyone in the surrounding lands that Muslim troops were coming.

Word that Muslim soldiers would pass through the territory reached the Templars and Hospitallers, monk-soldiers who had no agreement with Saladin.

The next day, as 7,000 Muslim cavalry returned from their mission, they passed near Saffuriya (also known as Sepphoris), north of Nazareth. Greeting them was a hastily mounted assault by a few hundred knights and soldiers summoned by the Templars and Hospitallers.

The Franks were annihilated.

How did this happen? According to the Muslim historian, Ibn al-Athir:

Frightened by this defeat, the Franj [the Franks] sent their patriarch, priests, and monks, together with a large number of knights, to Raymond. They remonstrated bitterly with him about his alliance with Salah al-Din, saying: “You must surely have converted to Islam, otherwise you could never tolerate what has just happened. You would not have allowed Muslims to cross your territory, to massacre Templars and Hospitallers, to carry off prisoners, without doing anything to stop it!”

The count’s own soldiers, those of Tripoli and Tiberias, also chided him, and the patriarch threatened to excommunicate him and to annul his marriage.

Raymond, obviously chagrined by the turn of events, knew where his allegiance had to lie. The massacre brought him back to Guy’s fold. Ibn al-Athir continues:

Raymond was unnerved by this pressure. He begged their pardon and repented. They forgave him, there was a reconciliation, and they asked him to place his troops at the disposal of the king and to join the battle against the Muslims. The count left with them. The Franj reassembled their troops, cavalry and foot-soldiers, near Acre, and then they marched, shuffling along, toward the village of Saffuriya. (Quoted in The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, page 189.)

Suffuriya, parenthetically, is no place to be in the middle of summer if one is without water.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: May 01, 2005

Updated Last Revision: Jun 19, 2017

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"PRELUDE TO DISASTER" AwesomeStories.com. May 01, 2005. Jan 19, 2020.
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