Category Archives: Middle East

Louis IX – King of France and the crusades

Saint Louis departing d'Aigues Mortes

Saint Louis departing d’Aigues Mortes

Every year at the end of August, the city of Aigues-Mortes in southern France celebrates the departure of Saint Louis for the Crusades.

This good-hearted and generous king never hesitated to invite the poors to his table. He vowed to cross himself after a long illness that many thought fatal.

While a relative peace and economic prosperity reigned in the Middle East, and diplomatic and trade relations were constantly increasing, an unwelcome alliance was made with the Prince of Damascus against the Sultan of Egypt. In 1244 the sultan took Jerusalem and destroyed the Christian army.

Pope Innocent IV then called for a new crusade and Saint Louis hasted to organise it.

The seventh crusade was to be the first one of the two crusades undertaken under the direction of Saint Louis – King of France.

In this southern city of France, construction work would be carried out, such as a port, a church called the ”Sablon”, and a tower to protect the port called ”Constance”, of which remains exist in the old town of Aigues-Mortes to this day.

This expedition regrouped 36,000 men committed to a new conquest of the holy places and the Holy Sepulchre, but also in order to found a colony in Africa. Therefore it was necessary to bring not only arms, ammunition and food, but tools as well.

A crusade in which no foreign sovereign was involved … strictly French !!

After receiving the papal blessing in Lyon, Saint Louis reached Aigues-Mortes the 25th of August 1248.

The cry of ” God willing”  accompanied the departure of these Fancs to the Holy Land.

Saint Louis remained in the Holy Land for four years in order to build the Kingdom of Jerusalem and to allow it to be capable of defending itself against a new threat: the Mameluks. The crusade ended in 1254 by the sudden return of the king to France after the death of Blanche of Castile, his mother who ensured the regency during his absence. Although this crusade did not reach the desired results, it was important for the survival of the Kingdom in the Holy Land.

Following the conquest by the Mamluks of the port City of Jaffa, Caesarea and Arsuf, Saint Louis decided to return for a new crusade.

While reaching the port of Tunis a plague broke out, and a large part of his troops became ill, as well as the king himself, who died in August 25th, 1270 however it seems that the scorbut desease sould be the reason of his death.

 

 

Saint Louis

Saint Louis

Napoleon and AKKO

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

In 1799 Napoleon Bonaparte tried to conquer other territories in the Middle East during the period of his Egyptian campaign.

After El-Arish, Jaffa and Mount Tabor he tried to conquer the city of Akko.

He set up his headquarter with 13000 soldiers on the hill outside the walls which is called upto this day the ” Napoleon Hill ”.

The Pasha El-Jezzar called the “Butcher”, a not so friendly man, knew of the intention of this general Napoleon, therefore with the help of of Antoine Picard of Phelippeaux, a French royalist engineer, built a second wall to protect his city.

This man knew Bonaparte from the Royal Military School of Paris where they studied together and dislike him.

Also the English Fleet under the command of Admiral Smith , the eternal enemy of General Bonaparte, came to the rescue of the Pasha, who felt strong enough to face this terrible threat.

Bonaparte was counting on the big guns which were to arrive by sea to succeed in this battle, but the English Fleet intercepted the French one and captured it.

Many French soldiers lost their lives against the heavy attacks of the Ottomans because the simple field guns that Bonaparte had could only make minor damage to the walls.

Despite this, the Napoleonic troops led by General Kleber, repeatedly pierced the walls, to take control of part of the city. However, each time they were pushed back by the defenders of the city.

An army of 35,000 men from Damascus came to the Pasha rescue and setback the French troops by surpise.

After two months of siege, Bonaparte renounced taking the city. The plague raged in his troops, some sick soldiers could no longer follow and were executed on the spot. Bonaparte went back to Egypt, where his departure had only weakened his troops left behind.

It is said that the Pasha El-Jezzar wanted to eliminate Christians living in the city as revenge, but  Admiral Smith threatened him to bomb Akko if this should happen and prevented the massacre …

 

The coronation of napoleon

The coronation of napoleon