It’s back to the Middle Ages we go this week, as history buffs band together for the reenactment of one of the most significant battles of the Crusades, the Battle of Hattin, which took place 828 years ago.
Jeusalem living history group Regnum Hierosolymitanum (aka Kingdom of Jerusalem Club) is once again at the helm of the fifth annual revival of this epic saga. Almost all of Israel’s historical clubs, as well as visitors from overseas, are participating in the July 2-4 event.
The event kicks off with the building of a military camp near Tzippori on July 2. Participants embark early Friday morning (July 3) from the camp for a two-day journey to the Sea of Galilee that will end with the battle reenactment.
The Battle of Hattin – also known as the Battle of the Horns of Hattin – took place in 1187 between the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Saladin forces. The Christian hold in Jerusalem was toppled and the aftermath led to the Third Crusade two years later.
The Regnum Hierosolymitanum club carries out historical reenactments of significant events during the time of the Kingdom of Jerusalem throughout the year, but the Battle of Hattin is its biggest living-history happening.
“Although the majority of the club members specialize in Frankish population, the interests of the club include all residents of the Kingdom, without distinction of religion, national or social origin. In addition to traditional crafts, we are also engaged in the martial arts, in particular – archery and historical fencing,” the group notes on its Facebook page.
The group meets once a week in Jerusalem to practice fencing and make new equipment.
The Regnum Hierosolymitanum club sponsors the Battle of Hattin reenactment and calls it a “private initiative.” But the media were invited to film the participants in action, especially from an excellent vantage point on the Western slope of the Horns of Hattin, a steep double hill outside Tiberias.
Participants are assigned to one of the two armies: that of King of Jerusalem Guy de Lusignanor or that of Salah ad-Din. Each must choose a character to portray, including knight, professional mercenary, member of the military orders, Mameluke, pilgrim, countryman, city dweller, Bedouin, musician and others.
Organizers – who also include members of the Jerusalem Traditional Archery Club – say this is more than just a role-playing event. The project is based on “academic and archaeological research carried out on the battlefield.”
The modern-day Battle of Hattin march “resembles the landscape and conditions of the original march as much as possible. Everything is authentic,” say the organizers, noting that participants only eat food that was available in the 12th century, carry Middle Ages-style weapons and set up camp to match the time period.
Of course, being in Israel, there’s a touch of high-tech innovation that didn’t exist back in 1187: Viewers at home can follow the route of the march and battle on the web, via Google maps and on Facebook in English, Russian and Hebrew.