Friday, March 31, 2023

Visiting Caesarea, Israel – From Herod to the Crusades

This publish could comprise affiliate hyperlinks.

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 certainly one of Israel’s prime Holy Land sights.

This historical seaport has a historical past so long as historical past itself, and I had quite a lot of must-see sights to verify off my record. 

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 crucial 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 here.

Caesaria in Israel, Crusader Gate
Historic Caesarea – Photograph 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 by means of 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 sights earlier than the park closed.

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

Louis IX, the Crusader 

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

Fairly soiled work for a king.

One way or the other, 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 zeal for myself.

And perhaps perceive it.

Crusader walls at the ancient seaport of Caesarea Maritima
Louis IX helped construct these partitions – Photograph 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 thought 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 strong pull on the creativeness. 

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

What Fuelled the Crusades?

The crusades, nonetheless, have been no strange journey.

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

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

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

There’s a Lot to See at Caesarea in Israel

Speeding to meet up with our ever-patient information, Paule, who’s making an attempt to get us by means of the Crusader city of Caesarea earlier than it closed, I noticed I’be been so busy making an attempt to kind out my emotions in regards to 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 she or he holed up at Acre, a crusader stronghold additional north.

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

Caesarea Maritima – A Port Constructed on a Grand Scale

In the intervening time, nonetheless, 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 appreciated his structure on a grand scale, he created a whole city with palaces, temples, a hippodrome, amphitheatre and elaborate baths.

(When you like the thought 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 – Photograph credit score: Carol Perehudoff

Fast Crusader Historical past of Caesarea

Caesarea was below 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 wonderful stained glass great 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 as we speak, 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 – Photograph credit score: Carol Perehudoff

The eighth Campaign

After returning to France, Louis IX launched into yet 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 – Photograph 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 avenue) or appeared out on the sea?

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

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

Regardless of how laborious I strive, I can’t get into the top of the French King – perhaps 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 – Photograph credit score: Carol Perehudoff

I do know this, nonetheless: What Louis IX wouldn’t have seen is Caesarea as we speak.

Visiting Caesarea In the present day

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

It’s a preferred seaside vacation spot and attracts huge daytime crowds.

Caesarea can also be, curiously sufficient, a residential neighborhood that’s residence to a number of millionaire tycoons – it’s one of many wealthiest locations to stay in Israel.

For the common vacationer, the nationwide park with its unbelievable archeological sights is the primary vacation spot. There are quite a lot 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 primary Customer Middle and is spectacularly set in 2,000 yr previous vaults.

After a fast and enlightening multimedia movie in regards to the historical past of Caesarea, go to the Time Trek the place you may work together with key holograph-induced figures of Caesarea.

(And should you 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 by means of Roman, Arab, Crusader and Byzantine eras as much as early Zionism and a mosque constructed for Nineteenth-century Muslim Bosnian refugees throughout the Ottoman rule.

See the Reef Palace

Also called the Promontory Palace, these atmospheric ruins overlook the Mediterranean.

Made up of two major 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, however it’s assured he didn’t stay right here, as a result of whereas he created Caesarea, he by no means really visited.

Photograph Bomb a Marriage 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 glad marriage.

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

Eat on the Crusader Restaurant

The principle 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 may, on the restored Roman Theater.

See the Hippodrome

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

It additionally has a horrible blight on its previous.

It’s the place the Roman Normal Titus compelled 2500 Jews to battle wild animals throughout the Nice Jewish Revolt in opposition to 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 large Roman Aqueduct is just a few km north of the positioning alongside the water’s edge. It’s terrific at sundown.

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

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

Leaving Caesarea

On our approach out of Caesarea, as we have 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 probability. There was no time to backtrack to put my palms on King Louis’ partitions and I can’t faux I wasn’t dissatisfied.

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

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 related to Caesarea’s historical past in spite of everything.

Caesarea Journey Ideas

The place is Caesarea?

Caesarea is in Israel. Also called Caesarea Maritima, it’s about 45 km from Haifa and the identical from Tel Aviv. In the present day 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 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 throughout the night.

Attending to Caesarea in Israel

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

By Tour

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

Take a look at a day tour of Caesarea, Haifa and Akko from Jerusalem here.

By Public Transport

Caesarea By Practice

When you do wish to come by yourself and also you’re not driving, you may take a prepare to Binyamina and get a taxi from there.

You might wish to prepare for the taxi to select you up while 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 may take a bus in the 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: Attitude at the Mount of Beatitudes: A trip 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.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles