Monday, February 26, 2024

Visiting Caesarea, Israel – From Herod to the Crusades

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Caesarea in Israel

I used to be bounding round Caesarea, Israel, like an over-caffeinated bunny.

There are a number of issues to do in Caesarea Maritima. It’s an enormous archeological web site on the Mediterranean coast and one among Israel’s high Holy Land sights.

This historical seaport has a historical past so long as historical past itself, and I had lots of must-see points of interest to examine off my listing. 

Ancient seaport of Caesarea Maritima in Israel

Holy Land Historical past

Constructed by Herod the Nice between 22 and 10 BCE, and now a nationwide park, it’s one of the fascinating locations to place in your Israel itinerary. Hopefully this journey information will allow you to.

Its wealthy historical past contains everybody from Herod, the King of Judea, to Louis IX of France, who got here right here on the seventh Campaign.

Journey Tip: Don’t combine up Caesarea Maritima with Caesarea Philippi, which is within the Golan Heights.

Confused? Make it straightforward with a day tour of Caesarea, Haifa and Akko from Tel Aviv. Examine costs right here.

Caesaria in Israel, Crusader Gate
Historical Caesarea – Picture credit score: Carol Perehudoff

Touring Caesarea

Sadly, our group arrived at this spectacular vacation spot midway between Haifa and Tel Aviv simply because the falling solar was pouring liquid gold via the weathered stone arches.

Everybody, together with me, was scrambling round making an attempt to get images on this honey-tinted gentle and to see the most effective Caesarea points of interest earlier than the park closed.

Caesarea in Israel, ruins
Golden gentle on Caesarea – Picture credit score: Carol Perehudoff

Louis IX, the Crusader 

I particularly wished to get a photograph with my arms on the 800-year-old crusader partitions of Caesarea that Louis IX, King of France, helped restore together with his personal two arms in the course of the seventh Campaign in 1251.

Fairly soiled work for a king.

In some way, I felt that by touching the partitions that had been touched by a French king who was so impassioned about fortifying Caesarea he risked his life to be right here, I’d be touching a hint of that keenness for myself.

And possibly perceive it.

Crusader walls at the ancient seaport of Caesarea Maritima
Louis IX helped construct these partitions – Picture credit score: Carol Perehudoff

The Crusader Metropolis

The Crusades are problematic. The pillaging, the plunder and slaughter isn’t one thing to glorify. In reality, it’s terrifying.

It’s the concept of the Campaign because the Quest – that everlasting thirst for journey and goal that raises women and men out of their on a regular basis existence – that offers it a robust pull on the creativeness. 

It’s a ‘fireplace within the bones’ that has fuelled every little thing from climbing Mount Everest to rumbling throughout the Wild West in a wagon practice.

What Fuelled the Crusades?

The crusades, nevertheless, had been no strange journey.

They had been backed by a religion so sturdy they impressed males, girl and kids (Sure, there was even a Kids’s Campaign in 1212) to uproot their lives and march to the Holy Land to combat for management of the area’s most sacred sights.

I attempt to reconcile this spiritual zeal with the truth that, in the course of the 4th campaign, crusaders sacked Constantinople, a christian metropolis, which they couldn’t very nicely justify utilizing the excuse of faith. 

Caesarea Israel, statues
Strolling previous historical past – Picture credit score: Carol Perehudoff

There’s a Lot to See at Caesarea in Israel

Dashing to meet up with our ever-patient information, Paule, who’s making an attempt to get us via the Crusader city of Caesarea earlier than it closed, I spotted I’be been so busy making an attempt to kind out my emotions concerning the crusades that:

1) I forgot to the touch the partitions that Louis IX had touched and due to this fact perceive his spiritual fervor higher.

2) I might need missed some important Louis IX campaign info by falling behind, like how he was captured in Egypt and ransomed earlier than coming to Caesarea, or how he introduced his spouse with him on the campaign and he or she holed up at Acre, a crusader stronghold additional north.

Caesarea port from the water
An historical port – Picture credit score: Carol Perehudoff

Caesarea Maritima – A Port Constructed on a Grand Scale

In the intervening time, nevertheless, Paule was explaining how King Herod constructed the huge port of Caesarea Maritima to rival all the opposite seaports such because the Nabatean Port in Gaza. 

As a result of Herod preferred his structure on a grand scale, he created a whole city with palaces, temples, a hippodrome, amphitheatre and elaborate baths.

(In the event you like the concept of grand structure, don’t miss Herod’s fortress of Masada within the Israeli Desert.)

Ruins of Caesarea in Israel in golden light
So many layers of historical past – Picture credit score: Carol Perehudoff

Fast Crusader Historical past of Caesarea

Caesarea was beneath Crusader management from 1101 to 1187. Then it was conquered by Saladin, the sultan of Egypt and Syria. The Crusaders wrestled it away once more in 1191.

As we’ve already decided, in 1251 the very religious Louis IX of France got here to Caesarea.

King Louis’ Divine Mission


There is no such thing as a doubt Louis IX believed in his divine mission. And, as he is identical king who constructed the fantastic stained glass fantastic thing about Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, and since I can’t separate the king from the glittering light-filled chapel, I’ve a sure fondness for him.

He additionally understood the necessity for good defences. Particularly as he’d already been captured as soon as. So, he added the partitions and a moat.

Whereas components of the crusader partitions nonetheless stand right this moment, they couldn’t preserve out the Mamluks. Caesarea fell to them in 1265, and lay in ruins for hundreds of years.

Crusader walls at Caesarea in Israel
The partitions – Picture credit score: Carol Perehudoff

The eighth Campaign

After returning to France, Louis IX launched into one more journey to the Holy Land, the eighth Campaign, however died of dysentery close to Tunis.

He’s the solely French king who was ever canonized by the Catholic Church and is formally St. Louis.

Caesarea in Israel, column
New and previous – Picture credit score: Carol Perehudoff

Caesarea’s Previous

I attempt to think about Louis IX right here. What did he consider when he handed the Roman statues, walked on the Cardo (a north-south Roman road) or appeared out on the sea?

Was he pondering of France? Of God? Of his spouse, who he’d introduced on the campaign and who was holed up within the stronghold of Acre?

Perhaps he was pondering of Caesarea’s Roman roots, and the way it was the house of Pontius Pilate, whose identify was discovered inscribed on excavated stones of the Roman Theater.

Irrespective of how onerous I strive, I can’t get into the pinnacle of the French King – possibly as a result of I’m not full of crusader zeal. (Or as a result of I didn’t contact the partitions.)

Modern Caesarea in Israel
A cleaned up Caesarea – Picture credit score: Carol Perehudoff

I do know this, nevertheless: What Louis IX wouldn’t have seen is Caesarea right this moment.

Visiting Caesarea Immediately

Now, along with the traditional pediments, pillars and remnants of mosaic flooring, you’ll discover a rebuilt ‘Crusader’ harbour, outlets, multimedia points of interest, eating places and a restored Roman Theatre. 

It’s a well-liked seashore vacation spot and attracts large daytime crowds.

Caesarea can be, apparently sufficient, a residential group that’s dwelling to a number of millionaire tycoons – it’s one of many wealthiest locations to dwell in Israel.

For the typical vacationer, the nationwide park with its unimaginable archeological points of interest is the principle vacation spot. There are lots of issues to do in Caesarea and right here’s how I recommend you do it.

Issues to Do in Caesarea, Israel

Begin With the Caesarea Harbor Expertise

Situated on the harbor, the Caesarea Expertise is the principle Customer Heart and is spectacularly set in 2,000 yr previous vaults.

After a fast and enlightening multimedia movie concerning the historical past of Caesarea, go to the Time Trek the place you’ll be able to work together with key holograph-induced figures of Caesarea.

(And if you happen to handle to speak to Louis IX let me know as a result of I used to be busy chatting to Helena, mom of Constantine.)

Tour the Ruins

You’ll be stumbling over so many centuries of historical past it’s thoughts boggling.

You’ll wander via Roman, Arab, Crusader and Byzantine eras as much as early Zionism and a mosque constructed for Nineteenth-century Muslim Bosnian refugees in the course of the Ottoman rule.

See the Reef Palace

Often known as the Promontory Palace, these atmospheric ruins overlook the Mediterranean.

Made up of two most important sections, the Reef Palace was as soon as a powerful residence with pillars, a big courtyard and a swimming pool.

Whether or not it was constructed by King Herod is up for debate, nevertheless it’s assured he didn’t dwell right here, as a result of whereas he created Caesarea, he by no means truly visited.

Picture Bomb a Wedding ceremony Portrait

Caesarea is a well-liked web site for weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs and as I used to be scurrying previous a marriage shoot I couldn’t assist launching myself within the air.

The couple didn’t appear to thoughts and I want them an extended and completely satisfied marriage.

PS: Simply kidding. You in all probability shouldn’t observe my instance.

Eat on the Crusader Restaurant

The primary motive to eat on the Crusader Restaurant is as a result of it overlooks the Mediterranean and likewise as a result of it’s referred to as the Crusader Restaurant.

FYI: Louis IX didn’t eat right here. Neither did Herod.

Attend a Live performance within the Restored Roman Theater

Think about attending a live performance the place the traditional Romans went to see their very own modern comedies and tragedies. You’ll be able to, on the restored Roman Theater.

See the Hippodrome

The Hippodrome, typically generally known as the Amphitheatre, is the place gladiators fought and chariot races had been held.

It additionally has a horrible blight on its previous.

It’s the place the Roman Common Titus compelled 2500 Jews to battle wild animals in the course of the Nice Jewish Revolt towards Rome, when Caesarea was the capital of Roman Palestine. 

Don’t Miss the Bathhouse

The Byzantine period bathhouse was an expensive place to wash, with mosaics, marble flooring and baths of various temperatures.

Dive on the Underwater Archaeological Park

Feeling adventurous? Take a diving tour over the submerged ruins of Herod’s masterfully-built port with Previous Caesarea Diving Centre. The Underwater Archaeological Park is distinctive on the earth.

See the Roman Aqueduct

The huge Roman Aqueduct is a number of km north of the location alongside the water’s edge. It’s terrific at sundown.

If you wish to go to a Caesarea Seashore, this one is very beneficial.

Caesarea in Israel Wandering Carol
Stone is stone, regardless of the place it’s

Leaving Caesarea

On our means out of Caesarea, as we had been hurrying to get to the Roman Aqueduct earlier than darkish, we left by a special exit, removed from the unique partitions that Louis IX helped restore.

Drat! I’d missed my likelihood. There was no time to backtrack to put my arms on King Louis’ partitions and I can’t fake I wasn’t upset.

Decided to not depart with out some type of contact, I discovered a wall close to the exit and leaned towards it in case I may faucet right into a burst of historical quest-fuelled vitality.

And okay, wasn’t an unique Crusader fortification, it was the again of the park’s bogs, however stone is stone and it made me really feel the tiniest bit linked to Caesarea’s historical past in any case.

Caesarea Journey Suggestions

The place is Caesarea?

Caesarea is in Israel. Often known as Caesarea Maritima, it’s about 45 km from Haifa and the identical from Tel Aviv. Immediately the preserved ruins have been integrated into Caesarea Nationwide Park. 

Entrance Tickets

Caesarea tickets: One all-inclusive entrance ticket contains the Roman Theatre and the Hippodrome in addition to the multimedia and interactive shows on the Caesarea Harbour

Reserve your tickets on the Nationwide Park web site.

Hours: Summer time 8 a.m. to six p.m. Winter 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Word: The eating places, galleries and seashores are open in the course of the night.

Attending to Caesarea in Israel

Probably the most handy option to get to Caesarea is to hire a automobile, however there are different strategies.

By Tour

Caesarea Nationwide Park just isn’t very accessible by public transport, so the best can be to take a day tour from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

Try a day tour of Caesarea, Haifa and Akko from Jerusalem right here.

By Public Transport

Caesarea By Practice

In the event you do need to come by yourself and also you’re not driving, you’ll be able to take a practice to Binyamina and get a taxi from there.

Chances are you’ll need to prepare for the taxi to select you up once you’re completed at Caesarea. (Word: I didn’t do that myself so I can’t vouch for this manner of getting right here.)

Bus to Caesarea

You’ll be able to take a bus in direction of Haifa or Tel Aviv and get off on the Or Akiva Interchange, however you’ll have a 20 to 30 minute stroll to Caesarea Nationwide Park.

How a lot time do you want at Caesarea? 

I’d advocate not less than a half day.

Caesarea beaches, Aqueduct Beach
Go to the aqueduct

Learn extra about Israel: Perspective on the Mount of Beatitudes: A visit to the Holy Land.

For extra info on visiting Israel try Go Israel, the Israel Tourism Board web site.

Disclosure: My go to was sponsored by the Israeli Tourism Board.

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