Post-classical history

Chastel Neuf

A castle, also known as Castellum Novum or Qal‘at Hunin (mod. Horvat Mezudat Hunin, Israel), sited on the Tyre- Damascus road in northern Galilee, overlooking Banyas and the upper Jordan Valley.

Perhaps established by Hugh of Fauquembergues, lord of Tiberias, Chastel Neuf would have formed part of the lordship of Toron (Tibnin) established soon after his death (1106). In 1157, Humphrey II, lord of Toron, granted one-half of Chastel Neuf and Banyas to the Hospitallers to defend, but the order almost immediately withdrew from the agreement. The castle was taken and demolished byNūr al-Dīn in July and August 1167. It was under reconstruction when Humphrey II died there in April 1179. In 1180, it passed to King Baldwin IV when his sister Isabella was betrothed to Humphrey IV of Toron. The Arab writer Ibn Jubayr describes the system for joint Muslim-Frankish exploitation of the villages between Hunin and Banyas when he passed through the plain in September 1184. In 1186 the king granted Hunin to Joscelin III of Courtenay, but in December 1187 the castle fell to Saladin. Although nominally returned to Humphrey IV when Isabella divorced him in 1190, it remained in Muslim hands and was destroyed by al-Mu‘azzam ‘īsā, ruler of Damascus, in 1222. It finally returned to Frankish control in 1241, but was taken by the Mamlūk sultan Baybars I in 1266 and subsequently refortified.

The castle was rectangular, extending some 85 meters (279 ft.) east to west and 65 meters (213 ft.) north to south and enclosed by a rock-cut ditch on the north, west, and south and by the edge of the plateau on the west. Apart from one projecting rectangular turret on the east, little Frankish masonry survives. Excavation around the Ottoman-period gatehouse in 1994, however, revealed the foundations of two Frankish towers, 13 (40 ft.) meters square with walls 3 meters (9.8 ft.) thick, spaced 20 meters (65.5 ft.) apart and set 5 meters (16.4 ft.) back from the southern wall.

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