Battle of Cresson

Battle of Cresson

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The Battle of Cresson was a small battle fought on May 1, 1187, at the springs of Cresson
Cresson may refer to:Places* Battle of Cresson, a small battle fought on May 1, 1187 in what now is Israel, near Nazareth* Cresson, Pennsylvania, a United States borough* Cressona, Pennsylvania, a United States borough...

, or 'Ain Gozeh, near Nazareth
Nazareth is the largest city in the North District of Israel. Known as "the Arab capital of Israel," the population is made up predominantly of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel...

. It was a prelude to the decisive defeat of the Kingdom of Jerusalem
Kingdom of Jerusalem
The Kingdom of Jerusalem was a Catholic kingdom established in the Levant in 1099 after the First Crusade. The kingdom lasted nearly two hundred years, from 1099 until 1291 when the last remaining possession, Acre, was destroyed by the Mamluks, but its history is divided into two distinct periods....

 at the Battle of Hattin
Battle of Hattin
The Battle of Hattin took place on Saturday, July 4, 1187, between the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and the forces of the Ayyubid dynasty....

 two months later.


The political situation in Jerusalem was tense because of factional rivalries between two branches of the royal house. Raymond III of Tripoli
Raymond III of Tripoli
Raymond III of Tripoli was Count of Tripoli from 1152 to 1187 and Prince of Galilee and Tiberias in right of his wife Eschiva.-Early life:...

, who had previously been regent for the kingdom, refused to accept Guy of Lusignan
Guy of Lusignan
Guy of Lusignan was a Poitevin knight, son of Hugh VIII of the prominent Lusignan dynasty. He was king of the crusader state of Jerusalem from 1186 to 1192 by right of marriage to Sibylla of Jerusalem, and of Cyprus from 1192 to 1194...

 as king, following the death of the child king, Baldwin V
Baldwin V of Jerusalem
Baldwin V of Jerusalem was the son of Sibylla of Jerusalem and her first husband, William of Montferrat...

 (Guy's stepson) the previous year. Gerard of Ridefort, master of the Knights Templar
Knights Templar
The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon , commonly known as the Knights Templar, the Order of the Temple or simply as Templars, were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders...

, Roger de Moulins
Roger de Moulins
Roger de Moulins was Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller from 1177 to his death in 1187, succeeding Jobert of Syria.The Hospitallers were rivals of the Knights Templar, but Pope Alexander III persuaded Roger to make a truce with them in 1179...

, master of the Knights Hospitaller
Knights Hospitaller
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta , also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta , Order of Malta or Knights of Malta, is a Roman Catholic lay religious order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. It is the world's...

, Balian of Ibelin
Balian of Ibelin
Balian of Ibelin was an important noble in the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in the 12th century.-Early life:Balian was the youngest son of Barisan of Ibelin, and brother of Hugh and Baldwin. His father, a knight in the County of Jaffa, had been rewarded with the lordship of Ibelin after the...

, Joscius, Archbishop of Tyre
Joscius, Archbishop of Tyre
Joscius was Archbishop of Tyre in the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in the late 12th century.He was a canon and subdeacon of the church of Acre, and became Bishop of Acre on November 23, 1172. He was a member of the delegation from the Latin church of the Crusader states at the Third Lateran...

, and Reginald Grenier
Reginald of Sidon
Reginald Grenier was Lord of Sidon and an important noble in the late-12th century Kingdom of Jerusalem.-Rise to fame:...

, lord of Sidon, were sent to Tiberias to negotiate with Raymond.

The battle

Meanwhile, Saladin
Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb , better known in the Western world as Saladin, was an Arabized Kurdish Muslim, who became the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, and founded the Ayyubid dynasty. He led Muslim and Arab opposition to the Franks and other European Crusaders in the Levant...

 had sent a small force towards Tiberias led by his son al-Afdal, seeking revenge for an attack on a Muslim caravan
Caravan (travellers)
A caravan is a group of people traveling together, often on a trade expedition. Caravans were used mainly in desert areas and throughout the Silk Road, where traveling in groups aided in defence against bandits as well as helped to improve economies of scale in trade.In historical times, caravans...

 by Raynald of Châtillon
Raynald of Chatillon
Raynald of Châtillon was a knight who served in the Second Crusade and remained in the Holy Land after its defeat...

. Raymond III hoped Saladin would ally with him against Guy, and allowed this force to pass through Tiberias on April 30, although he warned the Christians in Nazareth about the army's presence. Hearing this, Gerard quickly assembled a small army, consisting of the Templar garrisons from Qaqun
Qaqun was a Palestinian Arab village located northwest of the city of Tulkarm at the only entrance to Mount Nablus from the coastal Sharon plain....

 and al-Fulah
Afula is a city in the North District of Israel, often known as the "Capital of the Valley", referring to the Jezreel Valley. The city had a population of 40,500 at the end of 2009.-History:...

 and the royal knights stationed at Nazareth, only about 130 knights in total; Balian had stopped along the way at his fief of Nablus
Nablus is a Palestinian city in the northern West Bank, approximately north of Jerusalem, with a population of 126,132. Located in a strategic position between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, it is the capital of the Nablus Governorate and a Palestinian commercial and cultural center.Founded by the...

 and Reginald was also elsewhere. Saladin's force, led by his son, consisted of about 7000 men.

Gerard reached Cresson on May 1. As the Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi, a chronicle of the Third Crusade
Third Crusade
The Third Crusade , also known as the Kings' Crusade, was an attempt by European leaders to reconquer the Holy Land from Saladin...

, records it:

So Saladin assembled armed forces and marched violently on Palestine. He sent the emir of Edessa, Manafaradin [al-Muzaffar], on ahead with 7000 Turks to ravage the Holy Land. Now, when this Manafaradin advanced into the Tiberias region, he happened to encounter the master of the Temple, Gerard de Ridefort, and the master of the Hospital, Roger des Moulins. In the unexpected battle which followed, he put the former to flight and killed the latter.

The Muslims feigned a retreat, a common tactic which should not have fooled Gerard; nevertheless, he ordered a charge, against Roger's advice, and the knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

s were separated from the foot-soldiers. The Muslims easily repulsed a direct Christian attack, killing both the exhausted knights, and, later, the foot-soldiers. Gerard was wounded, but survived; however, almost all the others were killed. According to the Itinerarium, however, Gerard did not rashly engage the enemy, but was actually caught unaware and was the victim of an attack himself. The Itinerarium also records the exploits of a certain Templar named Jakelin de Mailly, who, after all his companions had been killed, fought singlehandedly against the throng of Muslims until he too fell.

Balian was still a day behind, and had also stopped at Sebastea
Sebastea is the Latin name of two ancient cities:*Sebastia, Nablus, West Bank*Sivas, Turkey...

 to celebrate a feast day. After reaching the castle of La Fève, where the Templars and Hospitallers had camped, he found that the place was deserted. He sent his squire Ernoul
Ernoul is the name generally given to the author of a chronicle of the late 12th century dealing with the fall of the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.-Biography:Ernoul himself is mentioned only once in history, and only in his own chronicle...

 ahead to learn what had happened, and news of the disastrous battle soon arrived from the few survivors. Raymond heard about the battle as well and met the embassy at Tiberias, and agreed to accompany them back to Jerusalem.

Raymond was finally willing to acknowledge Guy as king, but the damage to the kingdom was severe, and both Gerard and Raynald considered Raymond a traitor. Saladin gathered a much larger army of 20,000 men, invaded the kingdom in June, and defeated Guy at Hattin on July 4; by October he captured Jerusalem itself.

The problem of the sources

The battle is mentioned in a number of contemporary chronicles. These accounts differ considerably, and have never been fully reconciled by historians. Instead historical accounts tend to be dominated by the early interpretations of the Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 De expugnatione Terrae Sanctae libellus. The aforementioned Latin Itinerarium was probably compiled in the late 1190s or early 13th century, incorporating material from a member of Richard I
Richard I of England
Richard I was King of England from 6 July 1189 until his death. He also ruled as Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Count of Nantes, and Overlord of Brittany at various times during the same period...

's army in the unsuccessful Third Crusade, and some other sources.

The Old French Continuation of William of Tyre (1230s in its present form) includes an account of the immediate aftermath which is attributed to Balian's squire Ernoul: Ernoul himself was travelling with his lord and was not present for the actual fighting. Gerard of Ridefort's own report of the battle was the source for a short narrative written by Pope Urban III
Pope Urban III
Pope Urban III , born Uberto Crivelli, was Pope from 1185 to 1187. He was made cardinal and archbishop of Milan by Pope Lucius III, whom he succeeded on November 25, 1185...

 to Baldwin of Exeter
Baldwin of Exeter
Baldwin of Forde was Archbishop of Canterbury between 1185 and 1190. Son of a clergyman, he studied both canon law and theology at Bologna and was tutor to Pope Eugene III's nephew before returning to England to serve successive bishops of Exeter...

, archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

. The Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 chronicle of Baha ad-Din ibn Shaddad
Baha ad-Din ibn Shaddad
Bahā' ad-Dīn Yusuf ibn Rafi ibn Shaddād was a 12th-century Muslim jurist and scholar, an Arabian historian of great note, notable for writing a biography of Saladin whom he knew well.Ibn Shaddād was born in Mosul on 10 Ramadan 539 AH , where he studied the...

 briefly mentions Saladin's expedition but does not refer specifically to Cresson; according to him the advance guard remained in the Hawran while Saladin was in Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...


There is no real secondary literature on this battle, which was a minor prelude to Hattin. However, the classic study on crusader warfare of this period is Smail. A useful additional read is Marshall, which covers the armies of the region shortly after the battle of Hattin.