Very little is known of the Kantara castle's early days. It is thought to have been built by the Byzantines, probably after the last of the Arab raids in the late 10th century. However there are no remains or records dating from that time. Its first mention was in 1191, during Richard the Lionheart's Crusade to the Holy land. It was at Kantara that the self-styled king, Isaac Commenos, sheltered before surrendering to the English King.
In the 13th century, the castle was remodelled by the Lusignans, and during the next few hundred years, the castle often served as a shelter for defeated barons and kings. When the Genoese conquered Famagusta and Nicosia in 1373, Kantara remained undefeated in the hands of the King. It was here too, that Prince John, the king's brother, fled, disguised as a cook, after his escape from the Genoese. The story goes that the prince, having been captured in Famagusta with the rest of the Royal Family, was imprisoned in irons. With the aid of his faithful servant and cook, he escaped, dressed as the cook's scullion, with an old cooking pot over his head, and carrying a frying pan which he was supposedly taking to be re-tinned. After the peace treaty with the Genoese, Kantara was further re-fortified. Most of the castle that we see today dates from around this time.
When the Venetians took over the island in 1489, the castle continued as an important garrison for the defence of the area. However, the art of warfare was changing, and the Venetians strengthened the fortifications at Kyrenia, Famagusta and Nicosia. The castle was abandoned in 1525, though there are records showing the castle as still fortified in 1529. However records show the castle in ruins by 1562.References:
The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.
The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.
After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.
The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.
Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.
The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.