The commandery of Saint-Jean-d'Acre is a monumental complex founded by the Hospitallers. From the first years of the establishment of the Crusaders in the city, the Hospitallers received donated properties. In 1110, King Baldwin granted the permission to them to keep the buildings located to the north of the Sainte-Croix church. In the years 1130, the buildings were damaged during works near the church and the Hospitallers decided to move near the 12th century north wall of the city. This is the actual place of the commandery.
In 1149, the first testimony of the commandery is in a document concerning the construction of the Saint-Jean church. In 1169, a pilgrim described the commandery of the Hospitallers of Acre as a very impressive fortified building.
After the defeat of Hattin in 1187, Saladin took the city. In 1191, during the third Crusade, the Frankish reconquer Acre after its siege. The Hospitallers moved back in their buildings. Jerusalem is no longer in the hands of the crusaders. And so the commandery becomes the new headquarters of the order. A new construction campaign took place between the end of 12th century and 13th century with new wings and additional floors.
The courtyard has an area of 1200 m2 and is surrounded by a series of arcades. On the east side, a staircase leads to the upper parts. A well with a depth of 4.5 m is located near the north side and two shallow pools are next to this well. On the south side a pool with a depth of 1.5 m and another well were built.
The north wing was built along the north wall. There are ten vaulted rooms ten meters high built during the Frankish era. The exterior wall is massive with a thickness of 3.5 m. Later to the west, two new rooms will complete this building. In the south wall, there are windows that overlook a narrow passage and the wall of the pillar room. The entrance of the building is in the south side wall.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).