The Bishop of Oldenburg, travelling to the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1212, was stunned by the luxury of the residences of the elite. According to Sir Steven Runciman in his "Families of Outremer," Oldenburg was particularly impressed by the Ibelin palace in Beirut:
Its windows opened some on the sea, some on to delicious gardens. Its walls were panelled with plaques of polychrome marble; the vaulted ceiling [of the salon] was painted to resemble the sky with its stars; in the centre of the [salon] was a fountain, and round it mosaics depicting the waves of the sea edged with sands so lifelike that [the bishop] feared to tread on them lest he should leave a footmark.
Doors and windows could be either arched or square, with the Romanesque forms of “double-” or “triple-light” windows presumably as common in the Holy Land as in the countries of the crusaders’ origin. Below is a lovely example of a medieval portal in Jerusalem, and two examples of windows form St. Hilarion and Krak de Chevaliers respectively.
Archaeological evidence suggests windows in the crusader kingdoms used both plate glass and round glass set in plaster (the latter being presumably much cheaper and more common). To the left is an example of the round glass technique used here in the Templar Church in Famagusta, Cyprus.
As the description at the start of this essay indicated, interior décor could include polychrome marble, but mosaics and glazed tiles were also common. A wide variety of crusader glazed pottery has been found, using cream colors, yellows, greens and blues. The pottery gives us some indication of what colors and motifs may have been used on floor and wall tiles. Here is one example of crusader pottery:
However, we also know that the Turks and Saracens were very fond of brilliant blues and turquoise tiles in later centuries, and these may also have been available to the crusaders. At least I like to imagine it so! To the left is an example of modern tile work just to hint at the possibilities.
As for mosaics, the description at the start of the article is perhaps the best indication of quality and the fact that life-like motifs were possible in the crusader era. However, we should not forget that mosaics floors were very common in the Roman and Byzantine periods, and the many crusader residences in fact dated from earlier periods and retained these older tiles. Below is a picture of tiles that date back the 4th century AD and were allegedly commission by St. Helena. Particularly under the influence of the Byzantine brides of Baldwin III and Amalric I, Byzantine styles and artists were welcomed and employed in the crusader kingdoms. They would easily have produced tiles similar to this example from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Note: All photos except the glass and pottery were taken by the author.