Subterranean Crusader Halls

February 6th 2014

In 1994, an underground tunnel more than 1000 feet in length was discovered in the northern port city of Acco. Archeologists posit that the tunnel was built during the Crusader era (1095-1291) by the Templar Order, a group of knights who took that name because they first settled on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, under the protection of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem.

The full length of the Templar Tunnel was opened to the public in 1999. A wood-lined path was installed, and visitors can see water on either side of the path. In 2011, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism funded a series of short, animated films that are screened on the walls of the tunnel. These brief videos give visitors a more complete feel for life in Acco during Crusader times as well as for the history of the Templar Order.

The Tunnel is fully accessible but tight in some spaces. Enter at the seaport and walk through the tunnel towards the Templar fortress in the west. The tunnel doesn’t take long to traverse, so it’s best experienced when combined with a tour of other sites in Acco. Visitors are often inspired by the vaulted ceilings and the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of 13th century Crusaders.

The Templar Order was a quasi-military order of knights. The Order was established by a small group of fighters from France who were determined to proactively protect Christian pilgrims who were routinely assaulted by Muslims while traveling through the Holy Land on religious pilgrimages.

In the late 12th century, the Templars moved from Jerusalem to Acco and began to build their community in the southwestern quarter of the city. The tunnel, carved into the bedrock, was built during this time period and was used to provide safe passage to the sea, connecting the Templar palace to the port. Over time, the Templar Order became a powerful military and economic force in Christian Crusader society. The king of France ultimately became threatened by their power, accused them of heresy and burned their leader at the stake in the early 14th century.