Saladin’s Reign in Jerusalem
Saladin’s compassionate but absolute conquest of Jerusalem put an end once and for all to Christian dominion over the Holy City. Through various building projects in the name of Islam and with a total reclamation of the Temple Mount, Saladin put the stamp of his religion upon Jerusalem. He also invited the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to take up residence there. But the battles between Saladin’s forces and the Crusaders raged on, as they would for many years to come.
One of Saladin’s first acts was to retake the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque, which had been converted into Christian houses of worship during the Crusaders’ reign. This meant dismantling the stone that obscured many of the Islamic aspects of the buildings, including a cover for the Rock itself. A cross adorned the top of the dome, which was pulled down.
Jerusalem: A Muslim City Once More
But Saladin didn’t stop there in his architectural transformation of the city. He acquired the Church of St. Anne and turned it into a mosque, while making the convent into a Muslim place of learning.
The population of the city, now drained of most of its Christians, also changed dramatically during Saladin’s reign: Thousands of Muslims flocked to Jerusalem, and Saladin invited the Jews to return, particularly the Jewish community of Ashkelon.
For the most part, the only Christians that remained in Saladin’s Jerusalem were eastern Christians: The Greek Orthodox were given control of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and some thousands of Armenian and Syrian Christians remained in the city as well.
But a Third Crusade against Saladin was already brewing. In England, King Richard I took up a “Saladin Tax” to gather funds for the Third Crusade. Though Acre became the new capital city of Crusader Palestine, the rulers in Acre referred to themselves as “King of Jerusalem.”
This continued warfare between the Muslims and Crusaders created relentless tension in the region for many years to come.