Montfort Castle

Eilon, Israel

Montfort is a ruined Crusader castle in the Upper Galilee region in northern Israel. The site is now a national park inside the Nahal Kziv nature reserve, and is an important tourist destination attracting many visitors from inside and outside Israel.

Montfort was the principal castle in the Holy Land of the monastic military Teutonic Order, which was founded in the late 12th century in the port city of Acre. The castle is built on a narrow and steep cliff above the southern bank of Nahal Kziv. Unlike many other Crusader castles in the Holy Land, this castle was not originally built for military purposes, but was built to move some of the order's administration, such as the archives and treasury, from Acre to a more isolated location.

In 1187 Muslims under the leadership of Saladin managed to defeat the Crusaders and take over Jerusalem following the Battle of Hattin. Along with Jerusalem, the property which was to be the Montfort castle became a Muslim possession as well. The Muslims, just like their Crusader predecessors, did not find the property particularly significant.

Saladin's victory triggered the Third Crusade (1189–1192). Led by King Richard I of England, the Third Crusade ended with a substantial Crusader victory. Although the de Milly family received back the Monfort territory after its recapture during the Third Crusade, they sold it to the Teutonic Knights in 1220. The German knights began to renovate the buildings of the estate and, following internal conflicts between themselves and the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller, it was imperative for the Teutonic Knights to leave Acre for a separate headquarters, and the property (on which the Montfort was soon to be built) was a natural choice.

An army led by two emirs of Mamluk sultan Baibars besieged the castle in 1266. However, the defenders resisted and eventually compelled the Mamluk army to leave.

In 1271, after most of the Crusader strongholds had fallen into Baibars' hands, the Mamluk leader himself besieged the castle using several military engineering battalions. After about three days of siege Baibars' troops took the rabad or faubourg, the next day the bashura or outer bailey fell, and on the fifteenth day the German defenders, which were still resisting in the keep, surrendered. Due to prior negotiations between Baibars and the Crusaders, the latter were allowed to leave the castle with all of their belongings and return to Acre. After the fall of that city in 1291, the Teutonic Knights made Venice their headquarters. The Mamluks then thoroughly demolished (slighted) the castle over a period of twelve days.

Architecture

Topographically, a spur is a narrow ridge projecting from a larger hill. Built on this defensible feature, Montfort is a spur castle. The defences are concentrated at the most vulnerable eastern side where the spur joins the hip. On that sids face there are two ditches in front of a large D-shaped tower. The entrance to the castle is on the opposite side, with a smaller entrance tower guarding it. As the top of the spur is quite narrow, the main residential buildings are arranged in sequence between these two towers along the top of the ridge. Together with a western gate zwinger, these elements constitute the upper ward, or the castle proper. The outer ward, possibly unfinished by the time the castle fell in 1271, is delineated by the remnants of an outer defensive wall extending down the northern and western slopes.

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Address

Eilon, Israel
See all sites in Eilon

Details

Founded: 12th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Israel

More Information

en.wikipedia.org

Rating

4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Irina Holban (10 months ago)
beautiful ruins from the time of the crusades
Len Aizen (13 months ago)
Great place for a tiyul. Give yourself lots of time. There are many hiking routes with various difficulty levels. We chose the red route.... Harder route
Ida Ben Ari (15 months ago)
The weather was on fabulous, sunny. Tip, park your car before you get to the really rocky path. Walking a little more only adds to the fun. Bring water with you. There is a garbage bin at the beginning of the walk to the fortress so make sure to bring a garbage bag to carry garbage with you. Have a great time.
A La (2 years ago)
Off the beaten path, but totally worth the hike. Not a whole lot of signage so read up on the place before you go.
Keren Shwartzman (4 years ago)
One of the best hiking trails in the North of Israel, lots of shade so it perfect even on hot days. there is a lot to see and about 4-5 different trails and the views are just amazing. this is definitely a please to come back to.
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