An eleven-century hospital structure dating to the Crusader era (1099–1291 CE) has been unearthed in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The excavated site, which will be opened to the public later this year, is located in a region known as Muristan (the Persian word for hospital) in the Christian Quarter near David Street in the Old City.

A 13-year excavation work at the site, initiated by the Grand Bazaar Company and Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), exposed a small part of the structure that is said to be the largest hospital of crusader period ever found in the region, archaeologists revealed on 5 August.

The part of the building excavated so far includes a large hall composed of more than six metres high massive pillars, rooms and smaller halls, and is supposed to extend across an area of what served as the region's largest hospital in that era.

"We've learned about the hospital from contemporary historical documents, most of which are written in Latin. These mention a sophisticated hospital that is as large and as organized as a modern hospital," IAA's excavation directors Renee Forestany and Amit Re'em said in a statement.

The documents indicated that just like modern-day hospitals, the crusaders' hospital consisted of different wings and departments and was large enough to admit accept as many as 2,000 patients in an emergency situation.

Crusaders had Little Medicine Knowledge

The hospital was constructed by a Christian military order for providing medical treatment to pilgrims visiting Jerusalem. According to archaeologists, the crusader doctors treated sick men and women of different religions but were little ignorant of medical treatment.

The Muslim Arab population taught them medicine after the crusader state power fell to a Muslim army from Egypt in 1291. Saladin, founder of the Ayyubid dynasty, was instrumental in restoring the hospital. He maintained the structure and allowed ten crusader monks to serve the population of Jerusalem, the archaeologists said.

Hospital's Fall in Medieval Period

An earthquake in 1457 CE likely buried the crusaders' hospital in ruins until a part of it was opened as market in the 19th century under Ottoman Empire. The site continued to function as a fruit and vegetable market until excavation began in 2000.

Earlier, excavations have also shown that the hospital was used as a stable in the Middle Ages.

However, the hospital structure will finally be used as a place for fine dining attracting tourists, pilgrims and the locals in the coming years.

"The magnificent building will be integrated in a restaurant slated to be constructed there, and its patrons will be impressed by the enchanting atmosphere of the Middle Ages that prevails there," Monser Shwieki, the project manager, said.

The hospital building from Crusader era will be used as a restaurant, attracting tourists and pilgrims. (Photo: Yoli Shwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority)
The hospital building from Crusader era will be used as a restaurant, attracting tourists and pilgrims. (Photo: Yoli Shwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority)