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1,000 Year Old Hospital Revealed

December 3, 2013
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According to the IAA [Israel Antiquities Authority] excavation directors, “We know that this was a hospital from contemporary historical documents. The hospital was established and constructed by a Christian military order named the 'Order of St. John of the Hospital in Jerusalem' and known by its Latin name the Hospitallers. The Hospitallers took an oath to care for and watch over pilgrims, and when necessary they joined the ranks of the fighters as an elite unit.

The hospital was comprised of different wings and departments according to the nature of the illness and the condition of the patient. In an emergency situation the hospital could accept as many as 2,000 patients. The Hospitallers treated sick men and women of different religions. There is even information about Crusaders who ensured their Jewish patients received kosher food.

The hospital also functioned as an orphanage where abandoned newborns were brought. Mothers would come with covered heads and hand over their infants. When twins were born, one of them was given to the orphanage. The orphans were treated with great devotion and when they reached adulthood they served in the military order.

The Ayyubid ruler Saladin lived near the hospital following the defeat of the Crusaders. He permitted ten Crusader monks to continue to reside there and serve the population of Jerusalem. The building collapsed in an earthquake that struck in AD 1457 and was buried beneath its ruins, which is how it remained until the Ottoman period. In the Middle Ages, parts of the structure were used as a stable and the bones of horses and camels were found in excavations, alongside an enormous amount of metal that was used in shoeing the animals.

Source: Excerpts of an article by Edgar Asher, Ashernet

Photo Credit: Ashernet and IAA

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