Post-classical history

Blanchegarde

A castle in southern Palestine, some 25 kilometers (15 1/2 mi.) northeast of Ascalon (mod. Tel Ashqelon, Israel), also known as Alba Custodia or Alba Specula.

Blanchegarde was established in 1142 by Fulk of Anjou, king of Jerusalem, as one of a group of castles enclosing the Muslim-held city of Ascalon. Its territory, carved from the county of Jaffa, was administered as a royal castellany, returning to Jaffa during the tenure of the county by Amalric, younger brother of King Baldwin III, from 1151. Known castellans include Holmund Gillebert (mentioned retrospectively in 1185) and Arnulf (1165). Around 1165, it became a lordship when Walter Brisebarre, lord of Beirut, exchanged Beirut for Blanchegarde and sufficient money to ransom his mother from the Muslims, including an annual forty bezants from the port of Acre. The territory of Blanchegarde appears to have been very small, and the attachment of Walter of Blanchegarde’s service of nine knights to the royal domain of Acre, attested by John of Jaffa, suggests that the lordship’s income was supplemented from there. The castle was taken by the Ayyûbids in 1187 and dismantled in 1191.

The chronicler William of Tyre describes the castle as having “four towers of suitable height” [Guillaume de Tyr, Chronique, ed. Robert B. C. Huygens, 2 vols. (Turnhout: Bre- pols, 1986), 2:707-709]. This observation is supported by the plan made by Baron Rey in 1871, which shows an enclosure some 60 meters (197 ft.) square with rectangular towers at the corners and traces of an outer enceinte to the southwest. Excavations in 1899-1900 were unable to provide much further elucidation on account of the establishment of a Muslim shrine and cemetery on the site in the intervening period; however, they established the northwest tower as measuring 7.6 by 6.4 meters (25 by 21 ft.) and located a 3-meter (93/4 ft.) wide gate, besides unearthing architectural fragments, coins, pottery, and a signet ring. Excavations were resumed in 1996.

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