- historical event: Leprosy did not yet afflict the king so badly so that he could not ride a horse. However, his right arm was affected by the disease, so he was allegedly forced to hold his sword with the left. It is believed that he personally led the Crusader army to the battlefield near the present-day Israeli city of Ramla
On this day in 1177, one of the most famous battles between the Crusaders and the Muslims took place in the Holy Land. Namely, that was the time when the Kingdom of Jerusalem existed in Palestine. It was a state in which the Crusaders ruled, and was created after the Christian victory in the First Crusade. The King of Jerusalem was Baldwin IV, called “the Leper” because he suffered from that malignant disease from an early age. King Baldwin is portrayed in the film Kingdom of Heaven (Ridley Scott, 2005), wearing a mask to hide the scars with which leprosy had disfigured his face.
He came to the throne of Jerusalem when he was only 13 years old. His country faced danger from the powerful Saladin, the Muslim ruler who wanted to expel the Crusaders from the Middle East.
On this day, Saladin’s army and the Crusader army clashed at the Battle of Montgisard. This is the French name for the location near the present-day Israeli city of Ramla, on the way from Jerusalem to the Mediterranean Sea. Young king Baldwin was then only 16 years old. Leprosy did not yet affect him so badly so that he could not ride a horse. However, his right arm was afflicted by the disease, so he was allegedly forced to hold his sword with the left. It is believed that he personally led the Crusader army to the battlefield. He, of course, had the help of the experienced crusading army commanders – Odo de St Amand (who was the mighty Master of the Knights Templar) and Raynald of Châtillon (who had the French title “seigneur d’Outre-Jourdain” – which can be translated as the “Lord of Areas Beyond the Jordan River”).
Saladin’s mistake was that he underestimated the young ailing king. He did not see him as a threat, so he did not seriously prepare for the battle. Crusaders, including the Templars, strongly attacked Saladin’s army, which found itself in a panic. On the eve of the battle, King Baldwin ordered the relic of the True Cross to be raised above the troops. The Christian victory was complete. Saladin barely escaped capture and reportedly fled from the battlefield on a camel.