The Accursed Tower:: The Fall of Acre and the End of the Crusades
Roger Crowley

The Accursed Tower:: The Fall of Acre and the End of the Crusades

On 18 May 1291, after a desperate siege of six weeks, the city of Acre, the last crusader stronghold in the Holy Land, fell to the Mamluk army. It was the effective end to Christendom’s two hundred year adventure in the realm it called Outremer. The aftershock would last for hundreds of years. Despite calls for crusade that would rumble on almost into the seventeenth century, the dream of Jerusalem died amongst the ruins of Acre.

The fall of Acre has iconic significance in crusader and medieval history. Its events are both memorable and dramatic, notable for technical advances in military planning and siege warfare, extraordinary acts of individual heroism and savage slaughter. It forms the conventional end point of complete histories of the Holy Land crusades, and has been repeatedly mined by historical novelists. It is widely if vaguely known, yet there have been surprisingly few detailed studies of the siege itself. Acre was to all intents and purposes ‘The Kingdom of Jerusalem’ and its loss signalled a break point in the Middle Ages and the last significant action by the great crusading military orders. At the time both sides were acutely aware of the finality of the outcome. ‘Everything was lost,’ wrote a defending eyewitness, ‘so that altogether the Christians held not so much as a palm’s breadth of land in Syria’. A century later women in Cyprus were still in black mourning for the loss of Outremer. For their Muslim counterparts it was a moment when ‘the whole of Syria and the coastal zone were purified of the Franks. Praise be to God!’ It crystallised a bitter legacy for both Islam and Christianity and can claim a resonance over and beyond the drama of the event itself.

The Accursed Tower  tells the vivid story of the siege through contemporary accounts – a ferocious contest, in which giant catapults brought techniques of siege warfare to a new height, that was fought to the last man and the collapse of the last tower. It also sites its significance within the longer history of the crusades and the half-century endgame that led up to the final battle. 

Book Details:

  • Author: Roger Crowley
  • Published Year: 2019
  • Rights Sold
    • US: Basic Books
    • UK: Yale
    • Spain: Ático de los Libros
    • China: Marco Polo Press
    • Hungary: Libri
    • Czech Republic: Albatros
    • Turkey: Kronik
    • Albania: Dritan Botimet
    • Germany: Wissen. Bildung. Gemeinschaft.

Roger Crowley

Roger Crowley was born in 1951 and educated at Cambridge University. As the child of a naval family, early experiences of life in Malta gave him a deep interest in the history and culture of the Mediterranean world. After finishing school he spent his summers pottering in Greece; after university the Mediterranean bug took a more serious turn with a year spent on and off teaching English in Istanbul, exploring the city and walking across Anatolia with friends and donkeys. In recent years he has made return trips to the Greek-speaking world, including two visits to Mount Athos, spiritual hom...
More about Roger Crowley

Book Reviews

  • "Crowley has a talent for making a long and complex story seem effortless and approachable. Although the account is based upon a host of scrupulously researched first-hand sources, this historical information is skilfully blended into the narrative…. an excellent all-encompassing account of the fall of the last Crusader stronghold in the Holy Land"
    Catholic Herald
  • "finely crafted study of the fall of Acre…Crowley writes with authority and flair."
    Financial Times
  • "Roger Crowley's The Accursed Tower: The Fall of Acre and the End of the Crusades provides a whistle-stop history of the Crusader states...Crowley is very good on the topography and archaeology of medieval Acre and good also on the military technology of the time...Crowley's book has the feel of a slow-burning tragedy, and most of its readers will hope that Acre under the Crusaders will survive the ordeal in 1291 even though they know it will not."
    New York Review of Books
  • "A bracing work by a masterly historian whose great knowledge portrays the 'dramatic symbolic significance' of this landmark event."
    Kirkus
  • "  A gripping and brilliantly researched story of the bloody climax of the Crusader experiment in the Middle East. This is history red in tooth and claw."
    Justin Marozzi, author of Islamic Empires
  • "Crowley's enviable mastery of atmosphere and narrative are on full display in The Accursed Tower, transporting the reader to a Holy Land bursting with exotic and alien sights, smells, and sounds. His recounting of the siege and fall of Acre combines hair-raising action, ferocious savagery, and fascinating characters in an utterly compelling story. For my money, this is narrative history at its best: a living, breathing world full of real people struggling, living, and dying in an epic clash."
    Patrick Wyman, host of Tides of History
  • "Roger Crowley has once again found a subject worthy of his immense talent. In The Accursed Tower, he brings the climactic stages of the Crusades roaringly to life, as Popes, Kings, and Sultans-in-the-making lead holy warriors into battle alongside Mongols, Mamluks and Templars, fighting for supremacy in the holy land.  Here are some of the last great battles of the pre-gunpowder era, marked by thumping cavalry charges and sword thrusts, ingenious siege engines and trebuchets, chain mail and lances, and the terrors of Greek fire. Crowley's gripping account of the fall of Acre is irresistible.  It is the kind of book one does not want to end."
    Sean McMeekin,