800 years ago, Crusades Jerusalem kingdom was flourishing. Lots of citadels, monasteries and fortified farms were built along the strategic Jaffa-Jerusalem road. One of those is Aqua Bella ("Beautiful water") farm near Jerusalem. The poetic name was given to the farm because of several springs and brooks with crystal-clear cold water, flowing through the farm lands.
Clean and cool spring waters of Aqua Bella
The farm was built in the XII Century by the great queen of Jerusalem kingdom – famous Melisende. Melisende ruled for 30 years, and those were the years of prosperity, development and a relative peace. Actually, most of what we see in Jerusalem Old City today is a result of her efforts – from the markets and streets to the huge complex of the Sepulcher Church.
During her long rule, Melisende never was ready to share the power, not with her husband and not with her son. When, after several years of happy marriage, her husband Fulk dared to request a joint rule, he was sent away to exile and soon died at the hutting incident under rather strange circumstances.
Melisende continued ruling the country for more years as a regent on behalf of her small son, Baldwin. But, when the boy grew up and wanted her to give up the throne, she started a civil war, but lost it. Melisende died soon after her defeat and is buried in a beautiful church built over the tomb of Virgin Mary – that was the last will of Melisende – to be buried there.
In the National park - Crusades Bridge, brooks and springs
Aqua Bella farm was a successful enterprise but the queen was too busy to give it enough attention. And so, the Royal couple decided to sell it to any European king who will be ready to send new settlers to the Crusades Kingdom. With the total population of only quarter of a million, surrounded by the multi-million sea of the Muslims, the Crusades kings were desperate to increase the population. But no one of the European rulers was ready to send people the settle in Palestine, and the farm was left in Melisende hands.
Finally, in 1187 Jerusalem was captured by the great Muslim warrior Salah ad Din, and most of the kingdom was lost, including Aqua Bella farm. And hundred years later, the leftovers of the Crusades kingdom were completely destroyed by the invading Muslim Mamluk armies, and Palestine fell into oblivion.
Farm fortified building
Today, almost 800 years later, Aqua Bella is back to life. Thousands of people come there daily to enjoy the beautiful springs, to walk up to the knees in shallow brook waters, to enjoy the shade of hundreds years old trees and to visit the huge fortified farm building. History of the Crusades and their queen Melisende has come back to life in a modern State of Israel.