Castles of Northern Galilee
To protect the Kingdom of Jerusalem and pilgrims visiting from Europe, fortresses and castles were built along the key trading routes, roads, borders and ports. Farms were built around these sites to supply food and water using the various springs and creeks for irrigation.
We shall explore a few of these places including the dramatic mountaintop fortress of Castle Montfort. Continue to the fortresses of Judyn (Kibbutz Yehiam) and Chateau de Roi (Meilia). In the afternoon, visit Château Neuf (Hunin near Kibbutz Margaliot) a Crusader castle that helped Hugh of St. Omer control the Upper Galilee.
Castle Montfort (Starkenberg) is an archaeological site consisting of the ruins of a fortress built by the Teutonic Knights in The Kingdom of Jerusalem. The fortress was built on a narrow and steep cliff above the southern bank of Nahal Kziv. This fortress was originally built as an agricultural farm and not for military purposes. As the years progressed, it became one of the finest examples of fortified buildings in the Levant.
During the 1st Crusade, the French Noble De Milly family received the estate and began to cultivate the land, turning it into a farming estate. In 1187 Muslims under the leadership of Saladin managed to defeat the Crusaders and take over the property became a Muslim possession.
In 1191 King Richard the Lion Heart and Philip II initiated the 3rd Crusade and tried to re-conquer the Holy Land from the Muslims. The Crusade ended with a minor victory. The territories of the 2nd Kingdom of Jerusalem were much smaller in size than those from before Saladin‘s conquests. The crusaders set their new capital in Acre as Jerusalem could not be liberated. The significance of the Montfort estate increased, due to its proximity of the property to Acre. Though the Noble De Milly family received their territory after its recapture, they sold it to the Teutonic Knights in 1220. The German knights renovated the buildings of the estate, built a huge magnificent fortress and made the site their global headquarters. They moved to Montfort from Acre following internal conflicts between themselves and the Knights Templars and Hospitallers.
Master Hermann von Salza became their military leader. The Teutonic Knights set their headquarters, archive, and treasury at the new property in 1229.
The Mamluk warlord Baibars besieged the fortress in 1266, but could not conquer it. Five years later, however, after most of the Crusader strongholds in the Holy Land had fallen into Baibars‘ hands, he returned to Montfort in 1271 and managed to topple the external southern wall using several military engineering battalions. After seven days of siege, the Teutonic Knights led by Johan von Sachsen surrendered the fortress. They were allowed to leave the fortress with all of their belongings and return to Acre. After the fall of that city in 1291, the Teutonic Knights moved to Venice.
By taxi or guided tour.