Montfort Castle (Galilee)

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The Montfort Castle, known as the Qal'at al-Qurain (قلعة القرين) or Qal'at al-Qarn; meaning "Castle of the Little Horn" or "Castle of the Horn" in Arabic, is a ruined Crusader castle in the Upper Galilee region in northern Israel/Palestine.

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Overview

The name of the castle derives from the two French words mont, mountain, and fort, strong, meaning the "strong mountain".

It was built on land that the Teutonic Order purchased from the French de Milly family in 1220 CE and is one of the finest examples of fortified building architecture in Outremer.

Montfort was the principal castle in the Holy Land of the monastic military Teutonic Order, which was founded in the late 12th century in the port city of Acre. The castle is built on a narrow and steep cliff above the southern bank of Nahal Kziv in the Upper Galilee region, about 8 miles (13 kilometers) northeast of the city of Nahariya. Unlike many other Crusader castles in the Holy Land, this castle was not originally built for military purposes, but was built to move some of the order's administration, such as the archives and treasury, from Acre to a more isolated location.

Architecture

circa 1200 CE

Built on a very defensible narrow ridge, Montfort is a spur castle. The defences are concentrated at the most vulnerable eastern side where the spur joins the hill. On that side there are two ditches in front of a large D-shaped tower. The entrance to the castle is on the opposite side, with a smaller entrance tower guarding it. As the top of the spur is quite narrow, the main residential buildings are arranged in sequence between these two towers along the top of the ridge. Together with a western gate zwinger, these elements constitute the upper ward, or the castle proper. The outer ward, possibly unfinished by the time the castle fell in 1271 CE, is delineated by the remnants of an outer defensive wall extending down the northern and western slopes.

Two ditches cut through the spur to the east of the tower-keep. The D-shaped keep was the first part to be built. It protects the castle from the highest, and most exposed, eastern point. West of the keep, an elongated two-storey building was added. This became the main domestic structure, stretching between the keep to the east and the three-storey administrative building to the west. The three-storey administrative building to the lower, western end of the main castle contained what Adrian Boas interprets as the ceremonial hall (second storey), and the living quarters of the castellan (third storey). At ground level, two tall vaulted halls are still standing. A small vaulted structure was added to the west. It is now badly ruined.

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