Crusader period (1099-1260)
Godfrey of Bouillon
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 travellers. Christian pilgrims from the Western Europe, however, locate Emmaus closer to Jerusalem, near actual Abu Ghosh or Motza.
As early as the mid-11th century, John Mauropous, Metropolitan Bishop of Euchaita, is the first to testify to the existence of various opinions concerning the location of Emmaus (see: The Early Arab period). 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 that during the Crusader period, there were at least two places identified with the Gospel’s site of Emmaus. The first, Emmaus 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. Here there was a church (built by the Knights Hospitaller), to which, starting with the mid-12th century, Western pilgrims were coming from Jerusalem through 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. 1-17, 52-59, see here, Ronnie Ellenblum, Frankish rural settlement in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, Cambridge, 1998, pp. 109-118.
As to the existence of a third Emmaus near Motza during the Crusader period, see: FAQs about Emmaus, questions 3 and 7.
The route of the First Crusade passed through the region of Emmaus (Latrun) on its way to Jerusalem. In the beginning of June 1099, the Crusaders left the town of Ramla and reached Emmaus, where they rested before continuing to the Holy City.
The itinerary of the First Crusade
There is no consensus among modern historians over where Crusaders camped. Thus, F.-M. Abel (Vincent & Abel, Emmaüs, Paris, 1932, pp. 382 and 386, see here) does not exclude that this event could have taken place in the vicinity of actual Abu Ghosh. However, there are several strong arguments in favour of a halt at Emmaus in the valley of Ayalon.
Having left Ramla, the Crusader army could not have covered more than 18 kilometres (ca. 11 miles) in one day. This is what the 12th century Muslim historian, Baha ad-Din tells us while he describes Saladin’s war against the Crusaders:
“... 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, pp. 35-36.
The distance between Jaffa and Latrun is about 36 km (22 miles), 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 km (11 miles) from Ramla, i.e. near Emmaus-Nicopolis.
The French canon Fulcher of Chartres is the first chronicler to mention the Crusaders’ halt at Emmaus. Fulcher himself did not participate in the army’s march towards Jerusalem, but he settled in the Holy city several years later. The first part of his History of Jerusalem (written in 1100-1106), based upon contemporary letters and documents, remains one of the most important sources of information for the First Crusade.
“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 [the latin word castellum, which stands here, can be translated either as “fortress” or as “village”], 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: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and other source materials, edited by Edward Peters, University of Pennsylvania Press,1998, pp. 86-87, see also: Fulcherii Carnotensis Historia Hierosolymitana, H. Hagenmeyer, ed., Heidelberg, 1913, p. 275-281, see the original text here,
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 (22 miles) 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 (though, 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 Ramula, placed guards in the citadels around the church, and on the same day reached the village called Emmaus, sixty stadia away from Jerusalem.”
Translated by us from: Recueil des historiens des croisades, Historiens occidentaux, Paris, 1866, vol. 3, pp. 508-509,
see the original text here
The distance of 60 stadia (12 km, 7 miles) mentioned here, does not match the location of Emmaus (Latrun), but it might be due to Bartolf’s being influenced by the reading of 60 stadia in Luke 24:13.
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 an original work, which does not borrow from the other 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 village (castellum) of Emmaus, three miles (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 colour 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 colour 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 armoured 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 travelled overnight a distance of 6 miles, they reached Bethlehem at dawn. [...] As soon as the Christian knights had left the camp, a rumour 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, the translation is ours, see the original text here: Recueil des historiens des croisades, Historiens occidentaux, Paris, 1866, vol. 3, pp. 461-462.
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 (4 English miles). The village of Emmaus, mentioned in this text, at the distance of three German miles (21 km or 13 English miles) from the Crusader camp 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 presently lost. 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 defence 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 a 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 favourable 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, Book VII, ch. 24-25, see the original text here: Recueil des historiens des croisades, Historiens occidentaux, Paris, 1844, vol. 1, part 1, pp. 315-317. Translation by E. A. Babcock and A. C. Krey, NY, 1943, vol. 1, pp. 335-337.
The same 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 ...”
A History of Deeds done beyond the sea by William Archbishop of Tyre, Book VIII, ch. 1, see the original text here: Recueil des historiens des croisades, Historiens occidentaux, Paris, 1844, vol. 1, part 1, p. 320. Translation by E. A. Babcock and A. C. Krey, NY, 1943, vol. 1, p.339.
It is obvious, that William’s account of Emmaus is based upon the ancient Byzantine authors (see: The Byzantine period), who placed 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’s Mevo Horon), Lydda, and Jaffa. Therefore, we can be sure 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), see: P. D. A. Harvey, "Medieval Maps of the Holy Land", London, The British Library, 2012, pp. 40-59.
Apparently, the Crusaders found the Basilica of Emmaus-Nicopolis destroyed. Russian abbot Daniel visited Emmaus in 1106 and testifies to its ruin:
“…Directing one's steps from Rama towards the west, after four versts [1 verst corresponds to 1.0668 km, 0.6629 miles, 3,500 feet] 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.,
translation: C. W. Wilson, Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society, London, 1888, pp. 52-53,
see the original text here: Житье и хожение Даниила, Русьскыя земли игумена, Православный Палестинский сборник, 8-9, St. Petersburg, 1885, p. 86.
The distances between Emmaus and other places of the Holy Land mentioned by the Medieval pilgrims are often inexact and difficult to interpret. Abbot Daniel situates Emmaus at the midway point between Rama (Nebi Samwil) and Lydda (Lod), which corresponds to where Emmaus Nicopolis is found. The distance of 4 versts (2.6 miles) given by Daniel is certainly a mistake.
Castellum Arnaldi, today's Tel Ayalon in Canada Park near Emmaus
(source: Wikimedia Commons, author: Bukvoed)
At the beginning of the Crusaders’ control of the Holy Land, King Baldwin I built a fortress to the North of Emmaus (Castellum Arnaldi, Chastel Arnoul, Château Hernault), in order to protect the access to Jerusalem from the West (today’s Tel Ayalon, in the Canada Park). The fortress was destroyed by the Fatimid army in 1106 and rebuilt in 1132-1133 by Warmund, the Patriarch of Jerusalem. See: Albert of Aix, History of the Expedition to Jerusalem, Book X, 10-14; William of Tyre, A History of Deeds done beyond the sea, Book XIV, Ch. 8; Adrian J. Boas, Archaeology of the Military Orders, London-NY, 2006, pp. 113-114, 233.
Ca. 1140 a Spanish count, Rodrigo Gonzalez de Lara, built a fortress at the distance of 1 km (0.6 miles) 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 travelled 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…”
Chronica Adefonsi Imperatoris, Book 1, 48, written in the mid-12th c., events of 1137-1141; translated by: Glenn Edward Lipskey, Northwestern University dissertation, 1972, https://libro.uca.edu/lipskey/chronicle.htm, see the original text here (National Library of Spain, MSS 9237).
Ruins of Latrun fortress
The reconstruction of the church at Emmaus-Nicopolis likely occurred around the same time. The new church was built in Romanesque style, typical for the period. The church incorporated the eastern wall of the previous Byzantine basilica, using its central apse. No precise information about the purpose of the church is available, partially due to the fact that much of the archaeological evidence was destroyed during the excavations carried out in the late 19th century around the church, see: Denys Pringle, The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, Cambridge, 1993, vol. 1, p. 59, see here. 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, Emmaüs, Paris, 1932, p. 381, see here.
Crusader church of Emmaus-Nicopolis and its reconstruction by Aaro Söderlund©
Remains of a Crusader chancel barrier inside the main Byzantine apse are still visible upon early 20th c. photos. The barrier disappears entirely during World War I, likely destroyed by Turkish soldiers camping in the ruins. Photos: Ecole Biblique de Jérusalem
A blue marble slab from the Crusader church of Emmaus is extant, a part of a lintel 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). (Latrun Abbey collection), see: F.-M. Abel, "Retable médiéval d’Amwas avec inscription", "Vivre et penser", 1941, p.126, see here.
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 16-17th c.
The Knights Templar seem to have linked Latrun to the Maccabees and identified it 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, The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, Cambridge, 1998, v. 2, pp. 5-6, see here; Vincent & Abel, Emmaüs, Paris 1932, pp. 372-374, see here). Medieval Christian pilgrims mention tombs of the Maccabees in the area of Emmaus-Latrun (See: The Mameluke period). This tradition survived till the 19th century (see: The Ottoman period).
Column capital from Latrun fortress, today in Istanbul Archaeological museum. See here: C. Enlart, "Les monuments des croisés dans le Royaume de Jérusalem", v. 2, Paris 1926, pp. 271-272, fig. 376-377.
Emmaus in Abu Ghosh
Starting with the second half of the 12th century, Western Christian pilgrims place Emmaus somewhere near today's Abu Ghosh. The earliest known text containing this identification comes from about the same period:
“The village of Emmaus [Castellum Emmaus, which] is near to the house [of Zacharias, or Ein Karem] 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: Ronnie Ellenblum, Frankish rural settlement in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, Cambridge, 1998, 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.
This map was first published by R. Röhricht, ZDPV 18, 1895, Tafel VI, see also: P. D. A. Harvey, "Medieval Maps of the Holy Land", London, The British Library, 2012, p. 65.
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 (7 miles) mentioned by many manuscripts of the Gospel ( See: Vincent & Abel, Emmaüs, Paris 1932, pp 386-387, see here; Carsten Thiede, The Emmaus Mystery, London-NY 2005, p. 62-63).
According to the historian Ronnie Ellenblum:
“The pilgrims’ road [from Jaffa] to Jerusalem in the twelfth century by-passed Abu Ghosh [...] almost all the travellers 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, Frankish rural settlement in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, Cambridge, 1998, p. 115
Starting at Jerusalem, pilgrims would reach Emmaus/Abu Ghosh via 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, Jerusalem pilgrimage 1099-1185, London, 1988, p. 57,
see the original text here: Theoderici Libellus de Locis Sanctis, Titus Tobler, ed., St. Gallen-Paris, 1865, pp. 86-87.
This text also shows us that some pilgrims were visiting Modi’in in the area of Abu Ghosh, which means that the Emmaus of the Book of Maccabees and that of the Gospel were considered to be the same place.
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 traveller, 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, Jerusalem pilgrimage 1099-1185, London, 1988, p. 260,
see the original text here: Descriptiones Terrae Sanctae, Titus Tobler, ed., Leipzig 1874. pp. 146-147.
The ancient tradition of the water spring at Emmaus-Nicopolis, 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.”
Old French description of the Holy Land La citez de Jerusalem, written ca. 1187,
translated by us from: Itinéraires à Jérusalem, descriptions de la Terre Sainte, Henri Michelant, Gaston Raynaud, ed., Genève, 1882, p. 47-48,
see the original text here.
The medieval church in Abu Ghosh is located above a water spring, and this fact has helped researchers to identify the place as the Crusaders’ Emmaus. The church dates back to ca. 1140. See: D. Pringle, The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, Cambridge, 1993, vol. 1, p. 16, see here.
Since 1141 “the land of 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 the 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 Gilla 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 Sepulchre of Jerusalem, 1141 AD, see the Latin text here,
translated by us from: Delaville le Roulx, ed., Cartulaire de l'ordre des Hospitaliers, 113-114, Paris 1894 – 1906.
See also: Vincent et Abel, Emmaüs, Paris, 1932, p. 423-424,
Geneviève Bresc-Bautier, Cartulaire du chapitre du Saint-Sépulcre de Jérusalem, Paris 1984, p. 226;
see also: https://epistolae.ctl.columbia.edu/letter/1470.html
Most historians believe that Emmaus, mentioned in this text, is Abu Ghosh. See: Ronnie Ellenblum, Frankish rural settlement in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, Cambridge, 1998, p. 109-118, D. Pringle, The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, vol. 4, p. 249, see here.
The identification of Abu Ghosh as Crusader Emmaus is not unanimously agreed upon 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 could be located near the village of Motza. See: Vincent & Abel, Emmaüs, Paris, 1932, p. 382-385, see here, see also: FAQs about Emmaus, Question 3.
Ca. 1170 Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela visited the area of Emmaus (Latrun), he is the first medieval traveller to mention the fortress of Latrun (Toron de los Cavalleros), built some 30 years earlier:
“It is five parasangs [ca. 20 mi, 30 km] hence to Beit Guvrin, the ancient Mareshah, where there are but three Jewish inhabitants. Five parasangs farther bring us to Toron de los Caballeros. [...] We then proceed three parasangs to St. Samuel of Shiloh, the ancient Shiloh, within two parasangs of Jerusalem.”
Travels of Benjamin of Tudela, see the Hebrew text here: אוצר מסעות, A compendium of Jewish Travels, J. D. Eisenstein, ed., N.-Y., 1926, p. 28 . Translation: Early Travels in Palestine, Thomas Wright, ed., London, 1848, p. 87.
Benjamin of Tudela (Engraving by Paul Dumouza)
In 1185, a Greek pilgrim John Phocas visited Emmaus in the valley of Ayalon:
“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.”
John Phocas, Ekphrasis (Concise Description) of the Holy Places, PG CXXXIII, 960, translation: Palestine Pilgrims’ Text society, The Pilgrimage of Joannes Phocas in the Holy Land, A. Stewart, transl., London, 1889, p.34,
see the original Greek text here.
According to John Phocas, Emmaus was “a large city” at the time. We can only assume that it was a large Crusader agricultural settlement. Such a settlement could have only survived until the conquest of the Jerusalem Kingdom by Saladin, sultan of Egypt and Syria, in 1187 (see: D. Pringle, The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, Cambridge, 1993, vol. 1, p. 53, see here). 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 arrived in the Holy Land to fight Saladin (the Third Crusade). Retreating in front of the Crusaders, Saladin destroyed the walls of several fortresses, including those of Latrun (December 2, 1191, see: Beha ed-Din, The Life of Saladin, published by Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, London, 1897, pp. 303-304).
King Richard the Lionheart of England marched toward Jerusalem, and on December 22, 1191 came to Latrun, where he spent the Christmas days. In June 1192, King Richard resumed his march to Jerusalem. His army passed through Latrun, 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] Betonoble 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 by us from: Radulphi de Coggeshall Chronicon Anglicanum, J. Stevenson, ed., London, 1875, pp. 37-38, see the original text here
“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, see the original Latin text here: Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi, William Stubbs, ed., London 1864, pp. 368-369. Translation: Richard of Holy Trinity, Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land (formerly ascribed to Geoffrey de Vinsauf), translated by an anonymous, In parentheses Publications, Cambridge, Ontario 2001, Book 5, ch. 49, p. 241, http://www.yorku.ca/inpar/richard_of_holy_trinity.pdf.
According to D. Pringle, this text refers to Abu Ghosh, as Emmaus-Nicopolis was not mentioned by chronicles of the Third Crusade after abandoned in 1187 (see: D. Pringle, The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, Cambridge, 1993, vol. 1, p. 8 and p. 53, see here).
Finally, King Richard decided not to besiege Jerusalem and retired to Acre, planning a march on Beirut. Saladin took Latrun and stayed here until October 1192. In August-September 1192, after a renewed battle for Jaffa, Richard and Saladin concluded a peace treaty according to which Crusaders kept possession of the coastal strip between Jaffa and Tyre. Most of the Holy Land remained in the possession of the Muslims. In 1193 Saladin's son, al-Afdal, appointed an emir to govern the Latrun fortress, which shows the importance of this place found on the road between Jaffa and Jerusalem ( Beha ed-Din, The Life of Saladin, published by Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, London, 1897, p. 182).
In the late 12th century, Emmaus assumed a new religious significance for Muslims. The Persian traveller al-Harawi, patronized by Saladin, is the first to locate here the 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 Mu‘adh 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, written before 1215,
translated by us from: Archives de l’Orient latin, vol. 1, Paris, 1881, p. 609.
Concerning these tombs, see: The Early Arab period
Roman-Byzantine bathhouse at Emmaus, used by Crusaders as a warehouse.
Revered by Muslims as the tomb of Abu ‘Ubaida, a companion of Muhammad.
During the 13th century, the fortress of Latrun continues to serve Muslims in 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 Mameluke period. Abu Ghosh becomes completely forgotten until the early 16th century, when Christian pilgrims start to mention it as Anathoth, the Prophet Jeremiah’s village ( see: D. Pringle, The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, Cambridge, 1993, vol. 1, p. 8, see here).
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”.