Belvoir Castle

Beit She'an, Israel

Belvoir Castle is a Crusader castle in northern Israel, on a hill on the eastern edge of the Issachar Plateau, on the edge of Lower Galilee 20 kilometres south of the Sea of Galilee. Gilbert of Assailly, Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller, began construction of the castle in 1168. The restored castle is located in Belvoir National Park (a.k.a. Jordan Star National Park). It is one of the best-preserved Crusader castle in Israel.

Standing 500 metres above the Jordan River Valley level, the plateau commanded the route from Gilead into the Kingdom of Jerusalem via a nearby river crossing. The site of the castle dominated the surrounding area.

The Hebrew name, Kochav Hayarden, meaning Star of the Jordan, preserves the name of Kochava – a Jewish village which existed nearby during the Roman and Byzantine periods.

The Knights Hospitaller purchased the site from Velos, a French nobleman, in 1168. As soon as the Knights Hospitaller purchased the land, they began construction of castle. While Gilbert of Assailly was Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller, the order gained around thirteen new castles, among which Belvoir was the most important. The castle of Belvoir served as a major obstacle to the Muslim goal of invading the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem from the east. It withstood an attack by Muslim forces in 1180. During the campaign of 1182, the Battle of Belvoir Castle was fought nearby between King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem and Saladin.

Following Saladin's victory over the Crusaders at the Battle of Hattin, Belvoir was besieged. The siege lasted a year and a half, until the defenders surrendered on 5 January 1189. An Arab governor occupied it until 1219 when the Ayyubid ruler in Damascus had it slighted. In 1241 Belvoir was ceded to the Franks, who controlled it until 1263.

Architecture

Excavations in the 1960s demonstrated the complex nature of early military architecture in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Belvoir's design bore similarities to that of a Roman castrum: the inner enclosure was rectangular with towers at the corners, and large gatehouse in the middle of one wall, in this case the west.

Belvoir is an early example of the concentric castle plan, which was widely used in later crusader castles. The castle was highly symmetric, with a rectangular outer wall, reinforced with square towers at the corners and on each side, surrounding a square inner enclosure with four corner towers and one on the west wall. Vaults on the inner side of both walls provided storage and protection during bombardments. The castle was surrounded by a moat 20 metres wide and 12 metres deep.

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Beit She'an, Israel
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Details

Founded: 1168
Category: Castles and fortifications in Israel

More Information

en.wikipedia.org

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Adam Pitzele (10 months ago)
Extremely well preserved crusader era fort. Definitely worth stopping for those with an interest in that period. Easily navigable for all ages but the fort itself has a gravel floor so not accessible to those requiring assistance.
Nir Sharony (12 months ago)
A beautiful view of the Jordan valley plus a very interesting castle with lots of rooms to explore. You might even spot some Rock hyraxes hiding among the boulders surrounding the castle walls
Maryna Gl (13 months ago)
A picturesque road to the park and no less beautiful views from Belvoir Castle. A small park, you can go around it in an hour - an hour and a half. In spring, everything is green and many bright pink flowers grow. You can grab a thermos with tea or coffee and rest on the stones of the fortress. There are places for a picnic. It is better to visit in winter or spring, while it is not too hot... The park has an exhibition of works by the Israeli sculptor Yigal Tumarkin.
Dan M (14 months ago)
Belvoir, or Kohav Hayarden. Belvoir from the French Bel-Voir: Beautiful View. Probably the most impressive Fortress in Israel. Nimrod Fortress or Akko Citadel are impressive of course, Yehi'am as well, although a little less, and Chateau Pelerin is bigger but you can't access it. So Belvoir is really the place to be. Look at the pictures and you'll understand why. If you like old stones, and if the middle ages make you dream and imagine heroic stories (and also if not) I believe this is one oh the best places to visit in Israel. And as a bonus, breathtaking views on the Jordan River Valley. Just do it!
Marcus Hurley (2 years ago)
I told Deb we were going to Jordan Star National Park for our next stop on our Israel tour, which sounds lovely and it was – the Crusader castle of Belvoir – how cunning is that?! When we turned off the main road we didn’t even see the castle on the hills above and it was a 6km drive over a steadily worsening road to reach the summit with the castle. We parked in the huge car park along with 4 cars belonging to the staff – we were the only visitors! The guy in the ticket office was really helpful and we started our walk to the castle. Although a lot smaller than the Islamic Nimrod Fortress we saw yesterday, Belvoir was far sturdier with solid walls, a massive rock cut moat and concentric layers of walls. Science at its best. This castle was also a solid military structure, no expense was wasted on any decoration and the black rock made it look even more squat and dense. Although in a pretty much impregnable position I’d have thought its isolation was also a weakness – if they spotted an Arab raiding party in the valley below it would have been long gone by the time they got there. The castle had a lot of modern touches as it was owned by the Hospitallers – there were facilities for bathing and washing as well as proper latrines which didn’t usually feature in European castle (or even house!) design in this period. There were lots of information boards showing what the castle looked like before being dismantled after the garrison surrendered following an eighteen month siege. The route ended with us going down steps into the moat to come out via a sally port – another brilliant bit of design that was almost invisible even though we knew where it was. We walked along the moat then up the other side and across the modern bridge. Attached to the fortress is a rare plant nursery which would have been great to visit in spring but only had crocus in flower now.
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