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Sailing to the Holy Land

Crusader Ships, Seamanship, Logistics and Landing Operations

Dan Mirkin
Publication Year:
107 pages, Illustrated throughout in colour and black and white. 3 tables, 81 figures (73 in colour).
BAR number:


This book, unlike most studies dealing with the Crusaders’ voyages by sea across the Mediterranean and their arrival at the shores of the Levant, looks at this feat from a seaman’s point of view. To this end, it examines the types of ships, the sails and rigging that were used at the time, drawing on the author’s personal experience and knowledge of the wind regime of the region. It also tackles the problems of transporting cargo, humans and horses, and the management of large fleets and their navigational difficulties. The book also deals with the question of landing on the flat coast of Palestine. It looks into the connection between seaside Crusader castles and the sea at their foot, taking as a case study the mooring basin below the Apollonia-Arsuf castle. This examination includes under-water digging and sub-bottom profiling using special equipment, and reveals interesting finds which call for further research.

Daniel (‘Dan’) Mirkin is a retired lawyer, a long-time sailor and, more recently, a scholar of marine history. Born in Paris in 1937, he has lived in Israel since 1938. He holds a BA in Political Science and French Literature and an LLB. Later on he acquired an MA in Maritime Civilisations and a PhD in Marine Archaeology.

‘The author`s enthusiasm and experience shine through in what could have been a dry [sic] topic. Short chapters consider the iconographic and archaeological evidence at hand; many good illustrations sourced from illuminated manuscripts (primarily the Bibliotèque Nationale de France) are included` Joseph Flatman, Medieval Archaeology, Vol 64 (1), August 2020

‘The author should be congratulated for successfully overcoming the challenge of translating and interpreting for the first time sources written in medieval French. (…) This book presents a detailed analysis from a maritime perspective, and is a significant contribution to our knowledge of Crusader-period seamanship and ship-handling. The number of illustrations is impressive, and their analysis innovative. The quotations from contemporary sources are wonderful, and some of their interpretations are enlightening. Sailing in the wake of Richard the Lionheart, the author arrived at important conclusions regarding the manner in which Crusaders with their horses and equipment sailed to the Holy Land and disembarked on its beaches. The primary and secondary written sources and the many medieval illustrations presented in this book, combined with maritime archaeology and the author’s practical experience as a sailor, draw a vivid picture of sailing and seamanship during the Crusader period.’ Deborah Cvikel, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, Issue 49 (2), 2020

‘Sailing to the Holy Land is an engaging book by a genial author’ John M. McManamon, Journal of Maritime Archaeology, 2019

‘An excellent contribution to our knowledge of Crusader period seamanship and ship handling. … Scholars and students interested in the Crusader period will find this volume to be of great value.’ Dr Deborah Cvikel, Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies, University of Haifa

‘This work benefits greatly from the author’s practical experiences as a sailor: based on the coastal hydrography of the exposed Levantine shore, … he identifies a number of potential navigational problems the crusaders would have encountered, which shape his research questions in a dynamic way.’ Dr Daniel Zwick, Archäologisches Landesamt Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

‘All researchers who are interested in Mediterranean studies in general, and not only scholars of the Crusader period, will be interested in this book. It provides a very interesting and fresh approach, which is applicable to other chronological settings and other geographical regions.’ Dr Alexander Fantalkin, Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University

Table of Contents (S2904_9781407316598_ToC.pdf, 151 Kb) [Download]

Introduction (S2904_9781407316598_Introduction.pdf, 215 Kb) [Download]