Post-classical history

Belvoir

A castle in Palestine, also known as Belveir, Coquet, and Kawkab al-Hawa (mod. Kokhav ha-Yarden, Israel), belonging to the Order of the Hospital.

Belvoir was situated on the eastern edge of the Jordan Valley, some 12 kilometers (c. 71/2 mi.) south of Lake Tiberias. Construction must have begun as soon as the Hospital acquired the estate from the knight Ivo Velos in April 1168, for the castle was described as very strong and very large by the pilgrim Theoderic in 1169 or 1172 and as a new castle by the chronicler William of Tyre in 1182. The garrison surrendered to Saladin on 5 January 1189, eighteen months after the battle of Hattin. Thereafter the castle appears to have been refurbished by theAyyûbids and was occupied until 1219, when it was finally dismantled by al-Mu‘azzam ‘īsā, ruler of Damascus.

Ruins of Belvoir, a twelfth-century Hospitaller castle that commanded the Jordan Valley. (Courtesy Alfred Andrea)

Ruins of Belvoir, a twelfth-century Hospitaller castle that commanded the Jordan Valley. (Courtesy Alfred Andrea)

The site was excavated in 1963-1968. The castle was found to comprise two roughly square wards, one inside the other. The inner ward, containing the knights’ quarters, was 50 meters (164 ft.) square, with rectangular corner towers and a gate tower on the east containing a bent entrance below a chapel. The outer ward, some 100 meters (328 ft.) north-south by 110 meters (361 ft.) east-west, was also defended by rectangular towers and was enclosed by a rock- cut ditch on three sides, with the plateau’s edge giving protection on the east. It was entered by a ramped barbican accessed from the southeast. Belvoir represents the earliest documented example of a medieval “concentric” castle.

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