Enshrined Fortification: A Trialogue on the Rise and Fall of Safed

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The study of castles has formed a major part of crusade historiography since its inception in the early nineteenth century. Fortification has been taken to represent the magnificence of the efforts to rule the Holy Land and the battle between Christianity and Islam. Recently, however, scholars have recognised that, inasmuch as castles were celebrated as the epitomes of resilience and hostility, military architecture was far more dialogical than previously noticed. The design of castles involved a highly nuanced familiarity with the culture from which they were intended to defend. This article seeks to show that not only the physical characteristics of castles but also ideas about what made them religiously successful, in their capacity to enact and protect ritual spaces, were shaped through a dynamic inter-religious dialogue. Taking Safed as a case study, this article brings together three narratives—in Latin, Arabic and Hebrew—that share the attempt to laud the castle by drawing a dialectic between its strategic might and the sanctity of the soil upon which it is built. While the three accounts differ radically in their political stakes, the rhetorical strategies they employ in order to contemplate the spiritual efficacy of the castle is profoundly entangled.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-290
Number of pages26
JournalMedieval History Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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