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THE BRUTAL STORY OF THE MOST BRUTAL MAN - RAYNALD DE CHATILLON

Updated: Mar 11

One of the most crucial events in the Medieval History of the Holy Land was the famous Battle of Hittin on July 14, 1187. At that day, the great Muslim warrior, the Sultan Salah ad-Din wiped out the whole Crusades army and with that, brought the bitter end to the Crusades Kingdom of Jerusalem.


Sultan Salah ad Din

Battle of Hattin


Just before the Battle, the Muslims and the Crusades had enjoyed a long-term truce ("Hudna"), and if the Sultan wanted to keep it or not, he had never broken any of the agreements he signed. But there was one man, a Crusader himself, who did his utmost to bring the destruction of the Crusades Kingdom and to eventually help the Sultan to break the truce. His name was Raynald de Chatillon. He always insisted to be called "The Price of Antioch", the title he was forced to share with his wife, Constance of Antioch. Constance, whose first husband had died in 1149, fell in love with Raynald and married him in 1153, giving him his hand, heart, and the title.


Raynald de Chatillon and his Castle Kerak in Jordan


Chatillon was famous for his cruelty, extraordinary even for those cruel times. His list of atrocities was long and impressive. Among them was his infamous sack of Cyprus. He overrun an unsuspecting and friendly Christian island, destroying cities, wrecking fortresses, plundering monasteries and raping “nuns and tender maidens.” The ravaging lasted for days, showing “no mercy to age or sex.” And what was the reason for all that? Cyprus belonged to the Byzantine Emperor, who failed to timely pay Raynald for his mercenary's services, and, in Raynald view, sacking friendly Cyprus was a descent revenge.


Raynald's famous atrocities were not even limited to the across the border raids. Once, out of sheer animosity to the Patriarch of Antioch, who opposed his next marriage (one of very many) and was not afraid to say so publicly, Chatillon had him seized, bound, and exposed to the blazing summer sun with his head covered with honey. The honey attracted the flies, and the old man, the highest church official in Chatillon's lordship, was tormented with heat and flies and would die if not the Byzantine Emperor's personal interference.


In 1161 Raynald was eventually captured by the Syrian Sultan Nur ad-Din and was imprisoned in extremely brutal conditions. It took him long 15 years in captivity, until he was finally released in prisoner exchange. Usually, prisoners were released much sooner, after the ransom was paid for them. But not in Raynald's case – Nur ad-Din hated him far too much to get him released "just for money". At time of his liberation, Raynald already was 52 years old, landless, and penniless - although he always insisted on being addressed as “Prince.” And still this "Prince" Raynald kept his extraordinarily rich imagination and highest ambitions. All that made him to decide launching a pirate raid against the most holy cities of Islam – Mecca and Medina, in an obvious attempt to destroy the Prophet Muhammad's Tomb in Medina. This happened just in the middle of the truce between the Muslims and the Crusades, making Raynald's crime even much worse.


Prophet Muhammad's Tomb in Medina


In December of 1182, de Chatillon's pirate ships manned by an estimated 3,000 cut-throats suddenly started terrorizing trade and pilgrims in the Red Sea. As such, they became the first Christian ships to be seen in the Red Sea in over 500 years. Muslim rulers had no warships in the Red Sea to deal with the pirate threat. As a result, within a short time these ships had completely disrupted the centuries old rich and vital trade between Egypt and India. But the worst of the worst - they had also disrupted the pilgrim traffic that converged on port of Jedda from all over North Africa for the final leg of the Haj to Mecca. The number of unarmed merchants and pilgrims, men, women, and children, abused, raped, or slaughtered was tremendously high. By the rumors, one of the de Chatillon's victims was the new Sultan Salah ad-Din' own sister, whose body was never returned or recovered.