The Holy Land, c. 1170
The Holy Land, c. 1170

This strategic Holy Land port came under Western control during the First Crusade—but changed hands several times after. In 1291 it was the last Christian-held fortress in the Holy Land when it fell to the Mamluks—one of the most devastating events in Templar, and Western, history.

One of the four Crusader states established following the success of the First Crusade. Antioch (located near modern-day Antakya, Turkey) and its surrounding areas were the site of crucial early Templar holdings, including the castles of Baghras, Darbask, La Roche de Roussel and La Roche de Guillaume. The latter, Antioch’s last Templar stronghold, fell to the Muslims around 1299.

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Lying just off the coast of the one-time crusader town of Tortosa, this tiny island (also known as Ru’ad) was the site of one of the Templars’ last major battles. In 1300-1302 they occupied the fortress here, trying to launch a counter-strike against the Mamluks on the mainland. The offensive failed and the Templars on Ru’ad were captured and taken to Egypt for sale as slaves.

Templars built this stronghold, located in the northwest of modern-day Syria, on the central of the region’s three hills, providing a key vantage point for nearby fortresses. The 91-foot-tall square tower, erected in 1202, is one of the better-preserved Templar sites in the region.

One of the most successful Crusader fortresses constructed, Château Pèlerin (meaning Castle Pilgrim, a.k.a. ‘Atlit) supported some 4,000 troops. Its prime coastal location allowed it to be resupplied by land and sea. And its unique double-wall design—with a taller inner wall that allowed defenders to shoot down and over a shorter outer wall—withstood many sieges.

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Following the fall of Acre in 1291, the Templars moved their Eastern headquarters (including their treasury and archives) to Cyprus. There, they fought with other Crusader-era orders, including the Hospitallers, over control of the island’s stronghold fortresses. One of them, Famagusta, the island’s only deep-water port, saw a huge influx of refugees from elsewhere in the Holy Land after Acre fell.

In 1119-20, when the King of Jerusalem officially tasked the Templars with defending the city and protecting Christian pilgrims who came there, he granted them quarters in the al-Aqsa mosque, then his palace. It would go on to become the first Templar headquarters in the Holy Land. The mosque, which stood atop Temple Mount, a hill overlooking the city, was built on the site of the Jewish Temple of Solomon, inspiring the Order’s name, “The Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon.”

La Féve

A key Templar castle guarding the intersection of the roads leading from Jerusalem to Tiberias and from Baisan to Acre. The fortress, built atop a Bronze-Age mound, could accommodate more than 50 knights.

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Templars in this small castle could patrol and stand watch over the road between Jerusalem and Jericho, along which pilgrims traveled on their way to bathe in the river Jordan. It was also known as the Red Cistern, because it was built in an area famous for its striking red-coloured rock, not far from an underground reservoir which collected rainwater.

In 1105, Crusaders captured the area known as Antartus (modern-day Tartus, Syria) and built the Cathedral of our Lady of Tortosa, now one of the region’s best-preserved religious structures. Templars took control in 1152, building a military keep with double walls and chapel, which they held until the city fell to the Mamluks in 1291.