Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

My biographical novel of Balian d'Ibelin in three parts is complete, but the saga continues. Follow me to Cyprus, where Lusignans and Ibelins struggle to put down a rebellion and establish a durable state. Watch for excerpts and updates here.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Places for the Imagination: Acre


The Harbor of Acre today
In Balian's time, Acre was the economic heart of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. After the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187, it became the de facto capital of the rump state as well. During the last hundred years of Frankish presence in the Levant, Acre became the principal seat of the Templar and Hospitaller Orders, as well as a the home of the largest "communes" of merchants from the various Italian city-states. 

Acre's Waterfront Today
As a major entrepot, Acre was famous for its cosmopolitan character. At any one time, it harbored a large transient population of sailors and caravan crews. Caravans bringing the riches of Asia and Arabia met and mingled with the crews of ships from all points West, including Ireland and Norway. Even the resident population was diverse and polyglot; Arabic, Greek, Syriac, Armenian, French and Italian would all have been spoken by people who called Acre home.

Not terribly surprising, given this diverse and often disreputable nature of the population, Acre in the crusader era was notorious as a city of "low morals" and sinful pleasures. Pilgrims and crusaders alike complained about the "excessive" number of bath-houses. More than once, Richard the Lionheart was compelled to chase his men out of the "flesh-pots" of Acre and remind them of their crusader vows and duties. 

The covered markets, suks, of Acre attracted both good and bad clientele.
Getting a feel for Acre was thus an important part of my research -- even if the tame, touristy modern city could hardly convey the character of crusader Acre. The remains of the massive Hospitaller headquarters did, however, hint at the wealth, power and importance of the military orders. Here some pictures from my visit:


 

Acre features particularly in the second and third books of the Jerusalem Trilogy.


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