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Mia Arawi 27 Feb 2023

Historical Snapshot: The Curious Stories of the Crusader Counts of Tripoli

Some of us are familiar with the history of the crusaders in Lebanon, but apart from calling them “Franks” and looking at some of their castles, what do we actually know? The story of the County of Tripoli is perhaps a good first step into the history of the crusaders in the country.

The area was captured by Christian forces in 1109 as part of the first crusade into the region, and was incorporated as a vassal of the newly established Kingdom of Jerusalem. The first true count of Tripoli was Bertrand of Toulouse and simultaneously the count of Toulouse in France. His father Raymond IV had been one of the major participants in the first crusade, and led a major siege on Tripoli, but died before ever capturing it.

During his assault on the city, Raymond had built a large citadel on Mount Pilgrim, then known as Citadel of Raymond de Saint-Gilles, now known as Qalaat Trablos or Qalaat el Sanjil. After Bertrand’s death in 1112, Pons became the new count of Tripoli.

Under Pons’ rule, Tripoli became embroiled in inter-crusader conflicts after the death of Baldwin I and Baldwin II, and was involved in multiple wars against the local muslims. In 1132, Pons ordered the execution of the native ra’is of Tripoli, one of the first times that ever happened. Pons was succeeded by Raymond II in 1137.

Raymond II was in a very unhappy marriage with Hodierna of Jerusalem, which led her sister Melisende of Jerusalem to come and attempt to mediate. Hodierna eventually decided to leave Tripoli, returning to Jerusalem with her sister escorted by Raymond. On his way back, he was assassinated by the mysterious Hashashin order, becoming the first Christian leader to die at their hands.

Raymond III was 12-years old when his father was assassinated. His most major achievement includes spending 10 years in an Aleppo prison, then losing at the Battle of Hattin, and leaving Tripoli to his godson Raymond IV. Not of age, his father decided to replace Raymond IV with Prince of Bohemond IV as Count of Tripoli, who would eventually join Antioch and Tripoli.

The last count of Tripoli was Lucia, the successor of Bohemond VII, himself the successor of Bohemond VI, who succeeded Bohemond V, very creative. Lucia was the sister of Bohemond VII and had a weak reign, which officially saw the end of the County of Tripoli.

Today, Tripoli remains twinned with Toulouse as part of the international sister town program.