Emmaus during the Crusader period (1099-1260)
The extant historical sources from the Crusader period do not provide us with exhaustive information about Emmaus. Medieval chroniclers of the First Crusade place Emmaus near the Ayalon Valley, a location which is also mentioned by Eastern Christian pilgrims and Muslim travelers. Christian pilgrims from the Western Europe, however, locate Emmaus closer to Jerusalem, near actual Abu Ghosh or Motsa.
As early as the mid-11th century, Jean Mauropous, Metropolitan Bishop of Euchaita, is the first to testify to the existence of various opinions concerning the location of Emmaus: As to the words the village, which was from Jerusalem about sixty stadia, some extend far this distance, while others only reduce it to thirty stadia, arguing that this is the exact distance between Emmaus and Jerusalem... (Letter 117, written in 1050, see: Vincent, Abel, Emmaus, sa Basilique, son histoire, Paris, 1932, p. 419). Nevertheless, the actual appearance of a second Emmaus at Abu Ghosh does not occur, according to historians, before the mid-12th century (See below. See also FAQs about Emmaus, question 7).
We can conclude then, that during the Crusader period, there were two places identified with the Gospel's site of Emmaus. The first, Emmaus Nicopolis, in the valley of Ayalon, was situated close to the Templar fortress of Toron (Latrun). Up until 1187 a Crusader agricultural colony was located here, containing a church (built by the Knights Templar?), which was in use by Western Christians, and, perhaps, by Eastern Christians as well. The second Emmaus was situated in the region of Abu Ghosh (or, according to some, near Motsa). Here there was a church (built by the Knights Hospitaller), to which, starting with the mid-12th century, Western pilgrims were coming from Ein Karem. Both locations were associated by the Crusaders with Modi'in and the Maccabees, following the First Book of the Maccabees, and both were called Nicopolis, following Byzantine written sources. (See: Denys Pringle, The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, Cambridge, 1993, vol. 1, pp. 52-59, Ronnie Ellenblum, Frankish rural settlement in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, Cambridge, 1998 , pp. 109-118).
According to the historian Ronnie Ellenblum: The pilgrims’ road [from Jaffa] to Jerusalem in the twelfth century by-passed Abu Ghosh ... almost all the travelers and armies, that wended their way to Jerusalem in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries used the northern road which passed through Emmaus-Nicopolis, Bayt Nuba (Bethnoble), al-Qubaiyba (Parva Mahomeria), and al-Nabi Samwil (Mons Gaudii). The southern road which passed through Abu Ghosh was used during the early Muslim period, but almost went out of use during the twelfth century. (Ronnie Ellenblum, op. cit., p. 115).
The itinerary of the First Crusade thus passed through Emmaus-Nicopolis. In the beginning of June 1099, the Crusaders left the city of Ramla and reached Emmaus, where they made a stop before pursuing their way to Jerusalem.
There is no consensus among modern historians concerning the location of Emmaus, where the Crusaders’ halt took place. Thus, Vincent and Abel (Vincent, Abel, op. cit., pp. 382 and 386) do not exclude that this event could have taken place in the vicinity of actual Abu Ghosh. However, there are several strong arguments in favor of a halt at Emmaus-Nicopolis.
Having left Ramla, the Crusader army could not have covered more than 18 kilometers in one day. This is what, in a different context, tells us the 12th century Muslim historian, Baha ad-Din: ... Our troops had withdrawn from the vicinity of the enemy and returned to En-Natrun (Latrun). From this place to Jaffa is two long or three ordinary marches for an army… (Beha ed-Din, The Life of Saladin, published by Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, London, 1897).
The distance between Jaffa and Latrun is about 36 km., with Ramla being located halfway between them. Thus, we can assume that the Crusader army stopped for the night at a distance of about 18 kilometers from Ramla, i.e. near Emmaus in the valley of Ayalon.
The French canon Fulcher of Chartres is the first chronicler to mention the Crusaders’ halt at Emmaus. Fulcher did not participate himself in the army’s march towards Jerusalem, but he settled in the Holy city 11 years after the events described and his History of Jerusalem, especially the first part of it, written between 1100 and 1106, is one of the most important sources of information about the First Crusade, being based upon contemporary letters and documents.
Then they (the Crusaders) left the maritime region on the right and the town of Arsur, and they proceeded through a city, Rama or Aramathea by name, from which the Saracen inhabitants had fled on the day before the Franks arrived. Here they found much grain which they loaded on their beasts of burden and carried all the way to Jerusalem. After a delay of four days there, when they had appointed the bishop of the Church of Saint George, and had placed men on guard in the citadels of the city, they went forward on their journey to Jerusalem. On that day they marched as far as the fortress (village, castellum), which was called Emmaus, near which was Modin, the city of the Maccabees. On the following night, one hundred of the truest soldiers mounted their horses. When the dawn grew bright, they came close to Jerusalem, and hastened all the way to Bethlehem. Of these, one was Tancred, and another one was Baldwin… A consecrated public thanksgiving to God was performed there in the Church of the Blessed Mary. When they had visited the place where Christ was born, and after they had given the kiss of peace to the Syrians, they returned quickly to the holy city of Jerusalem. Behold! there was the army following. Gabaon, which was about five and three-quarters miles from Jerusalem, had been passed on the left. Here Joshua had commanded the sun and the moon. They approached the city. When the advance guard bearing the banners aloft had shown them to the citizens, straightway the enemy within came out against them. But those who had so hastily come out, were soon driven hastily back into the city. June was now warmed by the heat of its seventh sun, When the Franks surrounded Jerusalem in siege. (Fulcher of Chartres, The History of Jerusalem, Book 1, ch. 25, translation taken from: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and other source materials, edited by Edward Peters, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998, pp. 86-87, see the original text in: Fulcherii Carnotensis Historia Hierosolymitana, H. Hagenmeyer, ed., Heidelberg, 1913, pp. 275-281).
Fulcher tells us that the Crusaders reached Emmaus on the same day as they left Ramla. The army, as we have seen, was not able to cover 35 km in one day so as to reach the area of Abu Ghosh. Fulcher’s mentioning of Modi’in equally points to Emmaus of Ayalon valley (it should be noticed, however, that during the Crusader period, some pilgrims used to place Modi’in near the present-day Abu Ghosh (See below, Identification of Abu Ghosh as Emmaus).
The next chronicle of the First Crusade, Gesta Francorum Iherusalem expugnatium (Acts of the Francs while conquering Jerusalem), written ca. 1108 by Bartolf of Nangis, is based mainly on Fulcher’s work, but includes also some original details. Here is how it describes the Crusaders’ stop at Emmaus:
The Franks inspired and relying on the mercy of God that He will help them by the grace of the Holy Spirit ... ordained a bishop in the Church of St. George, miraculously founded near the town of Ramoula, placed guards in the citadels around the church, and on the same day reached the village called Emmaus, sixty stadia away from Jerusalem. (Translated from: Recueil des historiens des croisades, Historiens occidentaux, Paris, 1866, vol. 3, pp. 308-309).
The distance of 60 stadia (12 km) mentioned here, does not match the location of Emmaus-Nicopolis, but it might be due to Bartolf’s being influenced by the manuscripts of the Gospel of Luke, containing the version of 60 stadia in Luke 24, verse 13.
Canon Albert of Aix, who never visited the Holy Land, composed his own chronicle of the First Crusade, based upon written and oral accounts of those who had taken part in it. His Historia Hierosolymitanae Expeditionis (The History of the Expedition to Jerusalem), written between 1125 and 1150, is independent of all other previous chronicles known to us. Here is what he tells us about the Crusaders' halt at Emmaus:
The fourth day, in the morning, the pilgrims left the city of Ramla; and continuing their walk, they decided to arrive at the place where the mountains begin, among which is situated the city of Jerusalem. However, having reached this place, they were suffering from a great thirst for water. Instructed by their Saracen guide that there were cisterns and springs of living water in the castle (castellum, village) of Emmaus, three (variant: two) miles further, they sent a strong detachment of shield-bearers who brought back not only an abundance of water, but in addition plenty of forage for the horses. They saw in this place and in this same night an eclipse of the moon, that was the 15th; this planet completely lost its shine and was tinted with a color of blood until midnight. All who saw it should have been overcome by a great trembling, if not for a few men versed in the knowledge of stars who consoled them, that this prodigy was not at all of evil omen for the Christians, and that this darkening of the moon, this change to the color of blood, indicated without doubt the destruction of the Saracens. They claimed at the same time that an eclipse of the sun would be a dangerous sign for the pilgrims. While the entire army of Christians were encamped in these places, at the mountains of Jerusalem, and at the moment when the day began to fall, there was announced to Duke Godfry a deputation of the Christian inhabitants of the city of Bethlehem, and principally the faithful that the Turks had banished from Jerusalem, harassing them with threats and accusing them of treason on the occasion of the arrival of the pilgrims in the country. They came to ask, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that the army continue their march without any delay, in order to bring them help... The duke, having received their requests, and informed by them of the perils of the Christians, chose from the camp and among the troops about a hundred armored knights, that he sent immediately ahead, in order to bring help to the distressed faithful of Christ, gathered in Bethlehem. Obedient to the orders of the Christian leader, they mounted their horses and having traveled overnight a distance of 6 miles, they reached Bethlehem at dawn ... As soon as the Christian knights had left the camp, a rumor informed all the leaders of the army of the deputation that the Duke had just received from Bethlehem. So it was not yet the middle of the night when all the Christians, great and small, broke camp and set off on a direct road, across the gorges and the outlines of the hills. All great and small, hurried, pressed by the same desire to arrive quickly to Jerusalem. (Albert of Aix, History of the Expedition to Jerusalem, Book V, ch. 43-45, translation is ours. See also: Albert of Aachen, Historia Ierosolimitana, edited and translated by S. B. Edgington, Clarendon press, Oxford, 2007, pp. 398-401).
According to Albert of Aix, the army stopped for the night at the place where the mountains of Jerusalem begin, that is to say near Emmaus in the valley of Ayalon. The distance of six miles between the Crusader camp and Bethlehem, mentioned by Albert, corresponds to the location of Emmaus-Nicopolis, provided that the author uses the German mile, which equals about 7 km. The village of Emmaus, mentioned in this text, at the distance of three German miles (21 km or 13 English miles) from Emmaus-Nicopolis could refer to Abu-Ghosh.
William, the Archbishop of Tyre, was not a contemporary of the First Crusade, but he was born and raised in Jerusalem in the early 12th century, and his chronicle Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum (History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea), written in 1170-1184, is one of the most important sources of information on the period in question. William’s chronicle is based on previous historical sources, including those which are no more extant. This is his description of the army’s halt at Emmaus:
The army passed three days at Ramla. They then appointed guards to protect the better fortified part of the city from the wiles of the foe and made ready to resume the march toward their objective. At dawn on the following day, under the guidance of experienced men who knew the country well, they arrived at Nicopolis. Nicopolis is
one of the cities of Palestine. It is mentioned in the holy books of the Gospels as the village of Emmaus. St. Luke the Evangelist says that it was threescore furlongs from Jerusalem. In the sixth book of the Historia tripartita, Sozomenus speaks of this place as follows: “After the Romans had conquered Judea and laid waste Jerusalem, Emmaus was called Nicopolis in commemoration of that victory. Before the city, at the crossing of the roads where Christ is known to have walked with Cleopas after His resurrection as if on the way to another village, there is a spring of health-giving waters. Here the ills of men are washed away and the various diseases to which the lower animals are subject are likewise cured. In explanation of this belief, tradition says that on some walk Christ appeared to His disciples at that spring and himself bathed their feet in its waters; hence from that time on it became a cure for all ailments.” These are the statements made by the historian mentioned above about the village of Emmaus. The Christians passed that night peacefully in the enjoyment of abundant water and a goodly supply of the necessary food. About midnight envoys arrived from the faithful who lived at Bethlehem. They came to beg Duke Godfrey most earnestly that he would send part of his forces thither. For the enemy from all the towns and the countryside in the vicinity were repairing in haste to Jerusalem, not only to aid in the defense of the city, but also to find a place of safety for themselves. The faithful at Bethlehem were in terror, therefore, lest these infidels might invade their city and pull down the church which the Christians had repeatedly redeemed from destruction at the hand of these same enemies by the payment of large sums of money. The requests of these faithful brethren were heard with loving piety. The duke ordered an hundred light-armed horsemen, picked men from his own following, to hasten at once to Bethlehem for the assistance of the Christians there… Meanwhile, the hearts of those who remained behind were yearning to proceed on the way. The knowledge that they were close to the venerated places, love and reverence for which had enabled them to endure even unto this third year so many privations and dangers, prevented them from sleeping. Eagerly they longed for the coming of the dawn, that they might see the successful end of their journeyings and the happy consummation of their long pilgrimage. The watches of the night seemed prolonged beyond their usual length even to the extent of unduly encroaching on the morrow. To their yearning hearts, all delay was intolerable and perilous, for, as says the proverb, “To the longing heart, no haste seems sufficient”; and still another, “Desire increases with delay.” When it became known in the camp that the duke had received messengers from the people of Bethlehem during the night and had sent troops from the army to their aid, the people rose in wrath and incited one another to rebellion. They waited for no permission to depart nor for a favorable time such as the dawn presents; but chiding further delay, they started out in the dead of night, in entire disregard of the opposition of their leaders. (A History of Deeds done beyond the sea by William Archbishop of Tyre, translated by E. A. Babcock and A. C. Krey, NY, 1943, vol. 1, Book VII, ch. 24-25, pp. 335-337, written between 1170 and 1184).
William of Tyre mentions Emmaus once more while describing the Holy Land:
It is a well-known fact that Jerusalem, the Holy City beloved of God, is situated on lofty hills, and ancient authorities say that it was located in the tribe of Benjamin. To the west lie the land of Simeon and the region of the Philistines. To the west likewise is the Mediterranean sea, which is twenty-four miles distant at the nearest point, hard by the ancient city of Jaffa. Between Jerusalem and the sea is the village of Emmaus, which, as has been said, was later called Nicopolis, the place where the Lord appeared to two of His disciples after his resurrection. There also lies Modin, the happy stronghold of the holy Maccabees; there is Nobe, the sacred village where David and his servants, when ahungered, ate the bread of the Covenant, with the consent of Ahimelech the priest. There is situated Diospolis also, which is Lydda, where Peter restored to health the paralytic who had lain on his bed from his eighth year. There too is Jaffa, where the same Peter raised from the dead the disciple named Tabitha ... (op. cit., vol. 1, Book VIII, ch. 1, p.339)
It is obvious, that William’s account of Emmaus is based upon the ancient Byzantine authors (see above, Byzantine period), who identified the Gospel’s Emmaus in the valley of Ayalon. He mentions Emmaus among other places located on the coastal plain (Shephelah): Modi’in, Nobe (Beit Nuba, today Mevo Horon), Lydda and Jaffa. We can be sure, therefore, that according to William of Tyre, the halt of the Crusader army took place at Emmaus-Nicopolis.
Part of a 12th c. map of the Holy Land, featuring Emmaus Nicopolis. The map is based upon descriptions of the Holy Land by Eusebius of Caesarea and St. Jerome
(British Library, London)
The Crusaders, apparently, found the Basilica of Emmaus-Nicopolis already destroyed. Russian abbot Daniel visited Emmaus in 1106 and testifies to its ruin:
…Directing one's steps from Rama (Abu Ghosh?) towards the west, after four versts one reaches Emmaus, where, the third day after the Resurrection, Christ appeared to Luke and Cleopas, who were going from Jerusalem to the town; and they recognized Him when he had broken bread. It was a large town, and a church was built there; but now all has been destroyed by the infidels, and the town of Emmaus is deserted. It is situated behind a mountain to the right, not far from the road leading from Jerusalem to Joppa. From Emmaus to Lydda it is four versts across the plain… (The Pilgrimage of the Russian Abbot Daniel in the Holy Land 1106-1107 A. D., published by C. W. Wilson, Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society, London, 1888, pp. 52-53 ).
At the beginning of the Crusaders’ rule in the Holy Land, King Baldwin I built a fortress to the North of Emmaus (Castellum Arnaldi, Chastel Arnoul, Château Hernault), in order to control the access to Jerusalem from the West (today’s Tel Ayalon, in the Canada Park). The castle was destroyed by the Fatimid army in 1106 (see: Albert of Aix, op. cit., Book X, 10-14) and rebuilt in 1132-1133 by Warmund, the Patriarch of Jerusalem (See: William of Tyre, op. cit., Book XIV, Ch. 8). (See: Adrian J. Boas, Archaeology of the Military Orders, London-NY, 2006, p. 113-114, 233).
Castellum Arnaldi, today's Tel Ayalon in Canada Park near Emmaus (source: Wikimedia Commons, author: Bukvoed)
Ca. 1140 a Spanish count, Rodrigo Gonzalez de Lara, built a fortress at the distance of 1 km to the south of Emmaus and entrusted it to the custody of the Templars. The fortress, which was to play an important role in history, received the name of Toron of Knights (Toron Militum), today’s Latrun:
…After Count González had kissed the King's hand in farewell and had taken leave of his comrades, he traveled far away to Jerusalem, and fought many battles there with the infidels. He also constructed a very strong castle facing Ascalon. This was called the castle of Toron. The Count reinforced it with knights, infantrymen, and provisions, and he gave it to the Knights Templar. Then he crossed the Adriatic Sea and finally returned to Spain… (The Chronicle of Alfonso the Emperor, Book 1, 48, written in the mid-12th c., events of 1137-1141, from: Glenn Edward Lipskey, Northwestern University dissertation, 1972, published on the internet).
The reconstruction of the church at Emmaus likely occurred around the same time. The new church, leaning against the apse of the Byzantine basilica, was built in Romanesque style, typical of the period. No precise information about the purpose of the church is available, partially due to the fact that much of the archeological evidence was destroyed during the excavations carried out in the late 19th century around the church building (see. D. Pringle, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 59). Only two half-destroyed walls of the church, built against the central Byzantine apse have survived. The roof of the church collapsed, presumably, in 1834, during the suppression of the local Arab revolt by the Egyptian army. (See. Vincent, Abel, op. cit., p. 381).
Remains of a Crusader chancel barrier inside the main Byzantine apse are still visible upon early 20th c. photos. The barrier disappears entirely during the World War I, likely destroyed by Turkish soldiers camping in the ruins.
A blue marble slab from the Crusader church of Emmaus is extant, a part of a tympanum or of a reredos. It bears an image of the Lamb of God and a Latin inscription “... S LIBRAT QWI SIDERA PALMO CMPOHET” (Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? - a quotation of Isaiah 40:12). (In the collection of Latrun Abbey).
The fortress of Latrun has never been a subject of an exhaustive archaeological research. We know that there was a church in it, which is mentioned by Christian pilgrims as late as 16-17 th c.
In the Templars’ mind, Latrun seems to have been linked to the Maccabees and identified as Modi'in. In one of the medieval chronicles the fortress is called Turemod or Turemund, that is to say, “Toron of Modi'in” (see: Denys Pringle, op. cit., v. 2, pp. 5-6, Vincent & Abel, op. cit., pp. 372-374). Medieval Christian pilgrims mention tombs of the Maccabees in the area of Emmaus-Latrun (See below, Mameluke period). This tradition survived till the 19th century (see below, Ottoman period).
Column capital from the fortress of Latrun (Crusader period), today in Istanbul
Emmaus in Abu Ghosh
Starting with the second half of the 12th century, Western Christian pilgrims place Emmaus near today's Abu Ghosh. The earliest known text containing this identification comes from to the 12th century:
The village of Emmaus [Castellum Emmaus, which] is near to the house [of Zacharias, or Ayn Karim] by one large mile, and is the same distance from Jerusalem... In that village indeed, in the place in which Christ appeared to the two disciples, there is now a church. (Belard of Ascoli, The Jerusalem Pilgrimage, written between 1112 and 1165, See: Ronny Ellenblum, op.cit., p. 113, Wilkinson, Hill, Ryan, Jerusalem pilgrimage 1099-1185, London, 1988, p. 231 ).
Part of a map of the Holy Land from the early 13th century (Corpus Christi College, Oxford).
Emmaus appears south to the prophet Samuel's tomb, in the area of Abu Ghosh or Motza
The reasons why the pilgrimage of Emmaus moved to Abu Ghosh were practical. Pilgrims could easier get there from Jerusalem, and, in addition, the new place corresponded better to the distance of 60 stadia mentioned by many manuscripts of the Gospel. (See: Vincent, Abel, op. cit., pp 386-387, Carsten Thiede, The Emmaus Mystery, London-NY 2005, p. 62-63).
Pilgrims were coming to Emmaus - Abu Ghosh from Jerusalem, passing through Ein Karem:
From thence one passes on to St. John’s, or to the place which is called ‘In the Wood,’ where his father, Zacharias, and his mother, Elizabeth, lived, and where St. John himself was born, where also St. Mary, after she had received the salutation of the angel at Nazareth, came and saluted St. Elizabeth. Near this place are the mountains of Modin, upon which Mathathias sat with his sons when Antiochus took the city and the children of Israel by storm. These mountains are called by the moderns Belmont. Near these mountains is the village of Emmaus, which the moderns call Fontenoid, where the Lord appeared to two of His disciples on the very day of His resurrection. Not far from hence are the mountains of Ephraim, which are called Sophim… (German monk Theodoric, Libellus de Locis Sanctis, written ca. 1172, translated by: Wilkinson, Hill, Ryan, op. cit, p. 57). This text testifies to the fact that Emmaus moved to the area of Abu Gosh together with Modi'in. It means that the link between Emmaus and the history of Maccabees was important for Crusaders.
The Roman-Byzantine name of Emmaus - Nicopolis - was also transferred to Abu Ghosh:
On the same day, when evening was approaching, Christ, hiding under the appearance of a traveler, appeared to two disciples. They were on their way, as they complained about his death, to Nicopolis, that is Emmaus, a town six miles west of Jerusalem. They entertained him as a guest, and recognized him at the breaking of bread, but immediately he disappeared. (German pilgrim John of Würzburg, Description of the Holy Land, written ca. 1170, translated by: Wilkinson, Hill, Ryan, op. cit., p. 260).
... From Jerusalem four leagues (ca. 15 km) towards the west there is Emmaus where the Lord walking with two disciples as a pilgrim was recognized in the breaking of the bread. Today the place is called Nicopolis ... (German pilgrim Burchard of Mount Zion, a description of the Holy Land written ca. 1283, translated from: Peregrinatores Medii Aevi Quatuor, J. C. M. Laurent, editor, Lipsiae, 1864, p. 77).
The ancient tradition of the water spring at Emmaus, attested by the Byzantine authors, was equally transferred to Abu Ghosh:
Three leagues to the west of Jerusalem, there is a spring, called “the spring of Emmaus”. A village (castiel) used to be here, and it happened, as the Gospel testifies, that the Lord went to this village with two disciples after His resurrection, and sat down to eat at the source, but they did not recognize him until he broke the bread. Then he vanished from their sight, and they returned to Jerusalem to the apostles to tell them how they had spoken to him. (French description of the Holy Land La citez de Jerusalem, written ca. 1187, translated from: Itinéraires à Jérusalem, descriptions de la Terre Sainte, Henri Michelant, Gaston Raynaud, ed., Geneve, 1882, p. 47 -48).
The medieval church in Abu Ghosh is located above a water spring, and this fact has contributed to identify the place as the Crusaders’ Emmaus. The church dates back to ca. 1140 (see: D. Pringle, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 16).
Since 1141 “the land Emmaus” came under the control of Knights Hospitaller. Here is one of the legal medieval texts testifying to the fact:
I, William, who am by the abundance of divine goodness the Patriarch of Jerusalemites and of the Holy City, have found it necessary to note on paper the treaty or friendly agreement, concluded between the Hospitaller brothers and Robert of the village of Saint Gilles and his wife, with the agreement of Rohard the Viscount and his wife Gille and with the consent and encouragement of the Lord King Fulk and the Queen Melisende, as it has been decided and done in my presence in Jerusalem and Neapolis, according to the following details: Aforementioned Robert together with his wife gives to the Church of St. John the Baptist of the Hospital, to Raymond, the master of the House and all other Hospitaller brothers present and future, the land of Emmaus with its villages and dependencies, those he possesses… from the fief of Rohard and his wife. By this treaty, the aforementioned Hospitaller brothers will pay him and his heirs at Easter an annual rent of 250 bezants... The land, however, and everything in it, will belong to the Hospital in perpetuity, unless the Hospitaller brothers seriously fail to comply with the aforementioned treaty... (Cartulary of the Chapter of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, 1141 AD, translated from: Delaville le Roulx, ed., Cartulaire de l'ordre des Hospitaliers, 113-114, Paris 1894 - 1906 (see also: Vincent et Abel, op. cit., p. 423-424, Geneviève Bresc-Bautier, Cartulaire du chapitre du Saint-Sépulcre de Jérusalem, Paris 1984, p. 226).
Most historians believe that Emmaus, mentioned in this text, is Abu Ghosh. See: Ronny Ellenblum, op. cit., p. 109-118, D. Pringle, op. cit., vol. 4, p. 249).
The identification of Abu Ghosh as Crusader Emmaus is not unanimously admitted by researchers. (See: Michael Ehrlich, The Identification of Emmaus with Abu Gosh in the Crusader Period Reconsidered, ZDPV 112 (1996) 2). There is some evidence suggesting the Crusaders’ Emmaus is to be found near the village of Motsa. See. Vincent & Abel, op. cit., p. 382-385, as well as FAQs about Emmaus, Question 3.
Ca. 1170 Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela visited the area of Emmaus, he is the first medieval traveler to mention the fortress of Latrun (Toron de los Cavalleros), built some 30 years earlier:
It is five parasangs hence to Beit Jaberim, the ancient Mareshah, where there are but three Jewish inhabitants. Five parasangs farther bring us to Toron de los Caballeros, which is Shunem, inhabited by three hundred Jews. We then proceed three parasangs to St. Samuel of Shiloh, the ancient Shiloh, within two parasangs of Jerusalem. (Travels of Benjamin of Tudela, second half of the 12th c., translation taken from: Early Travels in Palestine, Thomas Wright, ed., London, 1848, p. 87).
Jewish inhabitants (workers) might have been found in the Knights Templar fortress, although their number (300) has been probably exaggerated by the author or by a copyist. The identification of Latrun as Shunem is difficult to explain and is contended only by Benjamin of Tudela.
In 1185, a Greek pilgrim John Phocas visited Emmaus:
At a distance of about six miles from Jerusalem, the Holy City, is the city of Armathem (Nebi Samwil), wherein the great prophet Samuel was born; and at a distance of about seven miles, or rather more, beyond it, is the large city of Emmaus, built upon a rising ground in the midst of a valley. Here for about four-and-twenty miles extends the country of Ramplea (Ramla), wherein may be seen a very great church of the great and holy martyr George.
(Palestine Pilgrims’ Text society, The Pilgrimage of Joannes Phocas in the Holy Land, A. Stewart, transl., London, 1889, p.34).
According to John Phocas, Emmaus was “a large city” at the time. We can assume, therefore, that it was a Crusader agricultural settlement. Such a settlement could only survive until the conquest of the Jerusalem Kingdom by Saladin, sultan of Egypt and Syria, in 1187 (see: D. Pringle, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 53). That year Saladin vanquished Crusaders in the Battle of Hattin, and the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Gerard of Ridefort was captured by Saracens. In the same year, Saladin took Jerusalem and most of the cities of Palestine. The Latrun Fortress was abandoned by the Knights Templar to Saladin in 1188, in exchange for the release of their Grand Master.
Starting with 1189, new Crusader forces arrive to the Holy Land to fight Saladin (the Third Crusade). Retreating in front of the Crusaders, Saladin destroys walls of several fortresses, including that of Latrun (December 2, 1191). King Richard the Lionheart of England marches toward Jerusalem, and on December 22, 1191 comes to Latrun, where he spends the Christmas days. In June 1192, Richard the Lionheart resumes his march to Jerusalem. His army passes through Latrun and Castellum Arnaldi (today’s Tel Ayalon) and Betonople (Beit Nuba, the current Mevo Horon). In this context, we find new mentions of Emmaus:
As the king (Richard) with all of his army had reached the castle of Ernald and (the village of) Betonople near Emmaus, some Bedouins, loyal to the king, announced that a very huge force was moving from Babylonia towards Jerusalem… (Ralph of Coggeshall, Chronicon Anglicanum, written in early 13th century, events of 1192, translated from: Rerum Britannicarum Medii Aevi Scriptores, J. Stevenson, ed. London, 1875, pp. 37-38).
On the third day, i.e. the ninth of June, the army arrived at Turon of the Soldiers, without obstacle or misfortune. On that night, our men captured fourteen Parthians who had come down from the mountains to plunder. On the morrow, after dinner, the army moved forward, the king going first, with his own private soldiers, as far as the castle of Arnald, where he ordered his tent to be pitched on the right and higher side of the castle. On the morrow, the French arrived, and the whole army set out for Betenoble, where they stayed some time in expectation of Count Henry, whom King Richard had sent to Acre to fetch the people who were living there in idleness … On the morrow of St. Barnabas, which was Friday, the king was informed by a spy that the Turks were on the mountains, lying in ambush for those who should pass by, and at earliest dawn he set out in search of them, and coming to the fountain of Emaus, he caught them unawares, slew twenty, put the others to flight, and captured Saladin’s herald, who was accustomed to proclaim his edicts… (English Chronicle Itinerarium Regis Ricardi, written in early 13th c., events of June 1192, translation taken from: Richard of Holy Trinity, Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land (formerly ascribed to Geoffrey de Vinsauf), translated by A Classical Scholar, In parentheses Publications, Cambridge, Ontario 2001, Book 5, ch. 49, p. 241, published on the internet). According to D. Pringle, the text refers to Emmaus in Abu Ghosh, see: D. Pringle, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 8. According to Pringle, Amwas (Emmaus-Nicopolis) was not mentioned by chronicles of the Third Crusade after abandoned in 1187 (see: D. Pringle, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 53).
Finally, King Richard decides not to besiege Jerusalem and retires to Acre, planning a march on Beirut. Saladin takes Latrun and stays here until October 1192. In August-September 1192, after a renewed battle for Jaffa, Richard and Saladin conclude a peace treaty according to which Crusaders keep the possession of the coastal strip between Jaffa and Tyre. The most of the Holy Land stays in the possession of the Muslims. In 1193 the Saladin's son, al-Afdal, appoints an emir to govern the Latrun fortress, which underlines the importance of this place found on the road between Jaffa and Jerusalem. (Baha ad-Din, op. cit., p. 182).
In the late 12th century, Emmaus assumes a new religious significance for Muslims: the Persian traveler al-Harawi, patronized by Saladin, is the first to mention here graves of Muhammad’s companions, victims of the 640 AD plague:
One sees at Amwas tombs of a great number of companions of the Prophet and of Tabi’un who died here of the plague. Among them are mentioned Abder Rahman ibn Muadh ben Jabal and his children, Harith, son of Hisham, Souhail, son of Amr, and many others whose place of burial is not known exactly. (Ali ibn Abi Bakr al-Harawi (Abu al Hassan), Guide for the Places of Pilgrimages, translated by us from: Archives de l’Orient latin, vol. 1, Paris, 1881, p. 609). Concerning these tombs see: Early Arab period.
Roman-Byzantine bathhouse at Emmaus, which was used by Crusaders as a repository.
Revered by Muslims as the tomb of Abu Ubaidah, a companion of Muhammad.
During the 13th century, the fortress of Latrun continues to serve Muslims as a base for their fight against Crusaders. By the end of the 13th century, the new rulers of Egypt, the Mamelukes, succeed in definitely expelling Crusaders from the Holy Land. The tradition of Emmaus at Abu Ghosh starts to fade away, and a new Emmaus appears, situated upon the northern road to Jerusalem, in the village of Parva Mahomeria (today’s Qubeibeh), see the next, Mameluke period.
Abu Ghosh becomes completely forgotten until early 16th century, when Christian pilgrims start to mention it as Anathoth, the Prophet Jeremiah’s village (see: D. Pringle, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 8).
Part of the map "Palestine of Crusades", published by F. J. Salmon in Jaffa in 1924, representing roads connecting Jerusalem to Jaffa. Emmaus-Nicopolis appears as Imwas, Abu-Gosh as "spring of Emmaus Fontenoid", Qubeibeh, as "La petite Mahomerie"