Secret tunnels built by the Knights Templar to move gold underground to their “treasure tower” have been discovered by archaeologists.
The tunnels were found beneath the ancient coastal city of Acre, Israel, and were used by the knights 800 years ago.
As well as the tunnels, the team of archaeologists discovered the remnants of the warriors’ lavish fortress headquarters.
American archaeologist Dr Albert Lin revealed the discovery as part of a National Geographic documentary.
Speaking on the programme, he said: “These warrior monks are the stuff of legend, and so is their gold.
“During the Crusades the Knights Templar battle for God, gold and glory. Somewhere in the modern city of Acre lies their command centre, and possibly their treasure.
“It’s the stuff of childhood dreams. I’m here to find them.”
The Knights Templar were devout Christians renowned for fearsome skill in battle during the Crusades, which began in the 11th Century.
Using LiDAR technology, Dr Lin’s team scanned a site that was a key fortress for the group during the Third Crusade.
The technology uses lasers and detectors to scan the earth without disturbing any artefacts.
Scans revealed the secret tunnels and a guardhouse hidden beneath the modern city.
The work has revealed how the knights moved gold to their fabled “Treasure Tower”.
But the tower is buried beneath metres of dirt and rock and it is not clear if there will be a future excavation.
Dr Lin added: “The Templar’s hidden tunnels snaked beneath the streets.
“They secretly transported gold to the Acre fortress’ crowning glory, its Treasure Tower.”
There were a total of nine Crusades during the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.
Crusaders who arrived in Israel were ignorant of Islam and mistook it for a branch of Christianity.
Where most Muslims were spared, Jews were brutally slaughtered in their thousands – even European Jewish communities Crusaders encountered on their way to the Middle East.
The Dome of the Rock – one of the holiest sites for Muslims – was turned into a church and the Al Aqsa Mosque was turned into a stables for the crusaders.
The king of Jerusalem gave the Dome to the Knights Templar who maintained it as a headquarters and it became an architectural model for Templar churches across Europe.