Rihard the Lionheart at Pusta Bela

Rihard the Lionheart at Pusta Bela


Bela, a lonely fortified town on the hill above the river Bednja's valley, guarded an important path even in the early Middle Ages.

It was built by the Templars who ruled their enormous country from it. The town of the „Red friars“ gave shelter to the Holy Land. An old legend says that even Richard the Lionheart stayed there on his way back form the third crusade.

The Templars came to this area in the early 12th century, and it is possible that were at Bela as early as 1165.

So the legend of Richard the Lionheart might be historically based. On his way back from the Holy Land, after making peace with Saladin in 1191, the legendary king and warrior survived a shipwreck near the island of Lokrum so he continued his way to England by land.

The historical sources say that he travelled back to his country incognito, disguised as a humble merchant, followed only by his four most loyal warriors. It is highly likely that he passed through this area on his way to Vienna, where he was captured by Duke Leopold in 1192. It is therefore possible that he took a rest in Bela.

After French King Philip IV the Fair fought the Templars in 1307, Pope Clement V abolished the Templar Order in 1312 under the accusation of heresy so the Templar estates were given to the Knights Hospitallers.

In the Charter from 1275 the town of Bela is mentioned for the first time as „the centre of Knights Hospitaller that had its master“. The old Templar fort was abandoned in 1653 so the people started calling it Pusta Bela („Empty Bela“). However, eventhough it has been just a ruin for centuries, its remains still hold the memory of the famous king and warrior Richard the Lionheart.

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