Belvoir Fortress (Israel)

The remains of Belvoir Castle. Note the two circuits of defensive wall, one inside the other.

Belvoir Fortress (Hebrew: כוכב הירדן‎, Kohav HaYarden) is a Crusader fortress in northern Israel, on a hill 20 km south of the Sea of Galilee. The restored fortress is located in Belvoir National Park. It is the best preserved Crusader fortress in the country. [1]



Belvoir from southwest

Belvoir Fortress was part of the feudal estate of a French nobleman named Velos who lived in Tiberias. In 1168, Velos sold it to the Order of the Hospitallers and a concentric castle was built on the site. [2]

The fortress of Belvoir served as a major obstacle to the Muslim goal of invading the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem from the east. It withstood the attack of the 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 the Saladin's victory over the Crusaders at the battle of the Horns of Hittin, Belvoir was besieged. The siege lasted a year and a half, until the defenders surrendered on 5 January 1189. The fortifications of Belvoir were dismantled in 1217–18 by the Muslim rulers who feared the reconquest of the fortress by the Crusaders. In 1240 Belvoir was ceded to the Crusaders by agreement. However, lack of funds did not permit restoration of the fortifications and the fortress returned to Muslim control.

The Hebrew name, Kohav Hayarden, meaning – Star of the Jordan, preserves the name of Kohav – a Jewish village which existed nearby during the Roman and Byzantine periods.[3]

Muslim period

During the Muslim period the place was known as Kawkab al-Hawa, meaning "Star of the Winds," representing the strong winds on this hill top. An Arab writer described Belvoir as "set amidst the stars like an eagles nest and abode of the moon."[4] The Palestinian village was depopulated after a military assault by Israeli forces in May 1948.


Plan of Belvoir Castle

After the end of the Second World War, the study of Crusader castles experienced a lull. For instance, Syria declared independence in 1946 and had little money to spare for archaeology. In Israel a school of study of Crusader castles developed under Joshua Prawer. The most significant discovery was at Belvoir. Between 1963 and 1968 the Israel Department of Antiquities carried out excavations at the castle. Before the investigations, it had been assumed that Belvoir was a simple castle, with just a single enclosure; the effect of the discovery of the 1960s was that it demonstrated the complex nature of the early military architecture of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.[5] Belvoir's design bore similarities to that of a Roman fort: the inner enclosure was rectangular with towers at the corners, and large gatehouse in the middle of one wall, in this case the west.[6]

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 (66 ft) wide and 12 metres (39 ft) deep.[7]

See also


  • Kennedy, Hugh (1994), Crusader Castles, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-42068-7 
  • Platt, Colin (1982), The Castle in Medieval England and Wales, Secker & Warburg, ISBN 0-436-37555-9 

External links

Coordinates: 32°35′44″N 35°31′17″E / 32.59556°N 35.52139°E / 32.59556; 35.52139

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