• Issue: December 2006
  • Designer: E. Weishoff
  • Stamp Size: 30.8 mm x 40 mm
  • Plate no.: 662 (2 phosphor bars) 663 (2 phosphor bars)
    664 (2 phosphor bars) 665 (2 phosphor bars)
  • Sheet of 8 stamps Tabs: 4
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.

In 1095, at a Church council in Clermont in Auvergne France, Pope Urban II announced a crusade aimed at capturing the Holy Land from the Muslims. On July 15, 1099, after a five-week siege, the crusaders captured Jerusalem and declared the establishment of the (first) Kingdom of Jerusalem, which was to last until 1187, when it was captured by Saladin.

Several years later, a new crusader force landed on the shores of Eretz Israel and began a series of conquests. Although Jerusalem was not captured, a (second) Kingdom ofJerusalem was established, with Acre as its capital. It was a diminished kingdom, which experienced ups and downs as a result of wars and treaties. During the era of the Kingdom ofJerusalem, Jerusalem itself was retaken by the crusaders for a period of some 20 years.

The Mamlukes began dispossessing the crusaders from the land in 1250, and on August 14, 1291, the crusaders abandoned the last of their fortresses at Athlit and retreated to Cyprus. With this, a chapter lasting some 200 years of Crusader rule in Eretz Israel came to end. One of the by-products of the Crusades was the establishment of a monastic military network whose main orders were the Hospitalers, the Templars, the German - Teutonic, among others.

Crusader citadels and fortresses

The Crusaders in Eretz Israel left behind impressive remains in the form of churches, chapels and above all archeological remnants of fortified cities and fortresses.

The format of the crusader fortifications was influenced by Byzantine-Muslim and Armenian military architecture of the time. Fortification was a prime strategic necessity for the crusaders, as they constituted a minority in control of vast landholdings.

Four of the dozens of such fortresses that dot the Eretz Israel landscape are featured in this series of stamps.


Caesarea was a fortified port on the Mediterranean, one of the most important in Eretz Israel. The moat at the foot of the eastern wall of the city is lined with stonework on both sides, as it was embedded in unstable sand dunes. Its purpose was to block modern siege equipment from reaching the walls, while allowing sorties to the bottom of the moat through access openings. The moat did not contain water.

The walls of Caesarea were alternately destroyed and rebuilt. Its excavators dated the visible fortifications to the reign of Saint Louis (Louis IX), who rebuilt them in the mid-13th century. The excavation of these fortifications was led by M. Avi-Yonah and A. Negev during 1960-64. The reconstruction of the gate aside the moat and wall was led by M. Yaffe in 1964.

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This fortress, built in 1218 during the period of the second Kingdom with the help of crusader pilgrims, was called, therefore, Château Pélerins ("the Pilgrims Fortress"). It was built on a rocky promontory jutting out into the sea. Following the capture of Acre, capital of the Kingdom, in May 1291, the Templar knights who held the chateau decided to abandon Atlit, sailing away to Cyprus in August 1291. The fortress was partially excavated by S. N. Jones in 1935.

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Belvoir (Kokhav Hayarden)

This fortress was called Belvoir ("beautiful view") because of the panoramic landscape it commands. It originated as a fortified farm that belonged to the crusader Velos family of Tiberias in the mid-12th, century. In 1168 it was sold to the Knights Hospitalers order, which used the site to build its main fortress in the northern part of the country, overlooking and guarding the major crossroads in the region. The site, a flat plateau, offered ideal conditions for this purpose. The design and construction of the fortress epitomize the essence of military architecture.

In 1187, Saladin laid siege to the fortress. Its defenders, resisting bravely, surrendered a year and a half later. The site remained deserted until the early 19th century, when a small village was established there.
The fortress is the only one of its kind in Israel that has been fully excavated to date. The excavation and preservation work was led by archeologist M.Ben-Dov in 1966-68.

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This fortress was originally built as a fortified farm in the center of the Kziv stream in the western Galilee on an isolated promontory. The name Montfort means in French strong mountain.

The farm was acquired during the second Kingdom by the Teutonic Order and was reconstituted as an impressive fortress. It served as the center of the order and the seat of its leaders, with its archives transferred there from the capital, Acre, and its original name replaced by the German word for strong mountain - "Starkenberg". Its advantage was its shielded location in the Kziv riverbed, isolated from its surroundings. However, because it was not built at a crossroads, its strategic status was minimal.

Part of the fortress was excavated by an expedition sponsored by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art during 1925-1926.

Meir Ben-Dov

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Crusader Sites in Israel