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1,000 year old hospital discovered in Jerusalem's Christian Quarter

5 August, 20135 August, 2013 0 comments History History

An incredible discovery dating to the Crusader period (1099-1291 CE) was revealed today in Jerusalem in an excavation being done by the Israel Antiquities Authority in cooperation with the Grand BAzaar Company of East Jerusalem. An enormous part of a busy hospital was discovered in a building owned by the Islamic Waqfsituated in the heart of the Christian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. The area is known as "Muristan" (a corruption of the Persian word for hospital), and is located near David Street, the main road in the Old City.

For the last decade the building had been sitting empty but in light of Grand Bazaar Company's plans to renovate the market and redevelop it as a restaurant, the Israel Antiquities Authority began to excavate the site. A small part was exposed but apparently covers an area of almost fifteen dunams and consists of huge pillars, ribbed vaults and stands over six meters high.

Excavation directors Renee Forestany and Amit Re'em, "We've learned about the hospital from contemporary historical documents, most of which are written in Latin. These mention a sophisticated hospital that is as large and as organized as a modern hospital. The hospital was established and constructed by a Christian military order named the "Order of St. John of the Hospital in Jerusalem" and known by its Latin name the Hospitallers (from the word hospital). These righteous warriors took an oath to care for and watch over pilgrims, and when necessary they joined the ranks of the fighters as an elite unit."

Similar to a modern hospital the ancient facility consisted of a number of different wings each for a different department. According to documents the hospitallers treated sick men and women of different religions and documents also indicate that the Crusaders ensured that their Jewish patients received kosher food. Apparently the local Muslim Arab population was instrumental in assisting the Crusaders in establishing the hospital and teaching them medicine.

An orphanage also functioned within the hospital as well. Contemporary documents provide much insight into the size of the hospital as well as the management.

The Crusader ruler Saladin lived near the facility. He renovated the building and also allowed ten Crusader monks to continue to reside there and serve the needs of the population of Jerusalem.

An earthquake struck in 1457 CE and the hospital was buried until the Ottoman period.
Plans for restaurant will incorporate the historical site, which will be integrated into the design of the restaurant, expected to open later in 2013.


Source: Israel Antiquities Authority; photo credit Yoli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority


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