This excerpt is based on first hand accounts of Frederick II's visit to the Holy City, including the Arab sources that tell us about the Qadi and his reaction to Frederick's actions.
At the entrance to the Temple Mount, Frederick and his escort of Teutonic and Imperial knights dismounted again and passed through the gate. Here Frederick waited for the qadi of Nablus to catch up with him while gazing up at the great, golden dome. When the Muslim cleric rejoined him, Frederick noted, “It is a beautiful structure—far more magnificent than the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Is it true that that madman Balian d’Ibelin stripped the gold from it during the last siege?”
The qadi bowed deeply. “It is true, your majesty. He is said to have used the gold to pay the mercenaries that defended the city against the forces of Salah ad-Din.”
“Barbarian!” Frederick dismissed Beirut’s father with contempt. The qadi gestured for Frederick to proceed, and they mounted the steps and crossed the wide paved platform in the direction of the great mosque. Frederick kept nodding in approval as his eyes swept over the mosaics of the exterior. Then his eyes fell on a marble plaque. He paused to read it, deciphering the Arabic out loud. “The Great Sultan Salah ad-Din, may Allah’s blessing be upon him, purified this city of the polytheists. Ah ha!” Frederick turned to grin at the embarrassed qadi. “So who were the polytheists?”
The Muslim scholar opened his mouth and closed it again, bowing deeply in embarrassment as Frederick burst out laughing. He passed into the interior of the mosque with the qadi trailing unhappily in his wake. Fredrick looked about as any tourist would, noting the interior decorations with approval before wandering over to the “rock” itself. This was protected by an iron fence and screen. “What’s this for?” he asked over his shoulder to the qadi. “Something to keep out the pigs?” He jovially referred to the Christians by another name popular among Muslims.
The qadi looked as if he wanted to sink into the foundations, while Frederick again laughed heartily at his own joke.
His tour of the Dome of the Rock complete, Frederick proceeded toward the al-Aqsa mosque—that large complex that had served as Templar headquarters and which the greedy bastards valued more than the rest of Jerusalem put together. Ahead of him a throng of pilgrims of the poorer sort were already gathered, oblivious to the fact that the Holy Roman Emperor had arrived by the other gate to the Temple Mount. They were shuffling forward to pass through the narrow entrance guarded by some Mamlukes.
The Mamlukes looked angry and disgusted, Frederick noted, and he imagined they thoroughly disapproved of the terms of the Treaty that gave Christian pilgrims the right to set foot on the Temple Mount at all. The terms were restrictive, but they did grant those in Frederick’s army the right to visit all the “holy” sites—even if Fredrick couldn’t see what was “holy” about the Knights Templar’s former headquarters.
Shaking his head in disgust, his eyes fell on a priest clutching a copy of the Bible in his hand. Frederick instantly lost his temper. “You tactless idiot!” he called out.
At once all the pilgrims turned to stare in astonishment. At the sight of the Holy Roman Emperor still wearing the Imperial crown and robes, they fell to their knees in awe.
Fredrick waded into the crowd, grabbed the stupid priest by his arm and yanked him to his feet. “How dare you come in here with a Bible? Don’t you realize this is a sacred Muslim site! You are here as a guest only! You have no business carrying a Bible with you! Get out! Out!” The Emperor shoved his knee into the priest’s backside to lend his words greater force, and the man stumbled over his own robes as he staggered forward. “Go!” Frederick shouted after him, and the man started running, with a backward look at Frederick as if the Emperor was mad.
Turning to his host, Frederick intoned, “We apologize for the tactless stupidity of our subjects, o qadi.”
The qadi of Nablus bowed deeply in reply, but he failed to disguise his intense disapproval.
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