#144 Belvoir Castle
Kaukab al-Hawa "Star of the Winds" [Arabic]
Kochav HaYarden "Star of the Jordan" [Yiddish]
Northern District, Israel
1168-~1180
This is NOT an official Lego site

This early concentric castle was built in 1168 by the Grand Master of the Order of the Knights of St. John [or Hospitallers], Gilbert of Assailly [near Lyon, France]. The land, about 12 miles south of the Sea of Galilee, was purchased by the Knights Hospitaller from Velos, a French nobleman.  The castle stands 1,600 feet above the Jordan River Valley, commanding the route into the Kingdom of Jerusalem from Gilead.  It is the best preserved castle in Israel, though when visited by T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia) it was still considered to be a simple, single enclosure castle. Lawrence wrote in his 1936 Crusader Castles [Immel Publishing] "At Belvoir, Rey declares that there are traces of a square keep inside the ditch and wall, and this of course if true would be somewhat puzzling: neither Mr. Pirie-Gordon nor myself however could find the slightest trace of its existence. Rey was probably deceived by the wall of some Arab house."
Archaeologist E. G. Rey (1837-1916) would prove in the end to be much more observant than the 21 year old T. E. Lawrence. Between 1963 and 1968 the Israel Department of Antiquities discovered that Belvoir was much more complex: an early example of the concentric castle plan that was used not only in later Crusader Castles, but notably by Edward I in Wales. The castle was highly symmetrical with square towers at the corners of both the outer and inner castles, and curtain towers on all sides of the outer wall, especially at the complex entrance.  Belvoir was to influence the design of castles for centuries to come.
At the time Belvoir was being built, the Sultan of Egypt and Syria, Salah ad-Din Yusuf (aka Saladin) had forged a truce with the Kingdom of Jerusalem following his defeat by the knight Raynald of Châtillon, who had stayed in the Holy Land after the unsuccessful 2nd Crusade [1145-9]. Raynald however continued to hinder shipping and attacked caravans. Saladin besieged the city of Tiberias in 1187 and foolishly King Guy of Jerusalem took his army to meet him at the Horns of Hattin outside Tiberias, where Saladin scored a resounding victory. Saladin next captured Jerusalem then sent his army to besiege Belvoir. Fortunately the winter rains soon came and the muddy and demoralized Muslim army soon gave up the siege. Saladin returned in the spring of 1188 and on January 5, 1189, Belvoir surrendered. An Arab governor occupied Belvoir until 1219, when the Ayyubid ruler in Damascus slighted the castle. It was ceded back to the Franks in 1241 but abandoned in 1263 following the victories of Mamluk Sultan Baibars of Egypt. Belvoir was an Arab village when it was abandoned during the 1947-8 war.  The Israelis soon removed all traces of the Arab presence.
One of the surviving gates
A panorama of the ruin [Google Maps offers an impressive walk-about]
A cellar in the castle
Pre-excavation Plan from
T. E. Lawrence' 1936
book Crusader Castles
Floor Plan from Hugh
Kennedy's 1994 book
Crusader Castles
Floor Plan with key
Conjectural Drawing at Belvoir
National Park in Israel
Another drawing of what Belvoir
might have looked like

 

Photos of the Lego Model
under construction beginning August
On August 28, Belvoir Castle is laid
out with minor adjustments made for
the availability of tan slopes.
The ditch seems more pronounced
on the north and west sides, so the
model is thusly laid out.
After a bit more building, I've
decided the inner castle needs to be
defined so the center is filled with
vertical and horizontal supports...
...upon which both the inner face of
the outer castle and the outer face of
the inner castle are defined.
On Labor Day, September 1, the
switchback main entrance passage
is mostly completed...
...as is the secondary bridge entrance
on the west face of the castle.
It's now September 10 and I've raised
the walls of both the outer & inner
castles. All the doors are installed and
many arrowslits are being added.
On Sept. 12 I've enough built to
begin to roof the outer walls
which contain the stables and
storerooms.
The first level of the Eastern Tower
also now has a floor
By September 19 the cistern
and knights' bath is complete...
...and there is real sense about
how the inner courtyard will look.
The switchback entrance ramp is
embattled, but with 2-wide crenels
separating the merlons.
The design work on the western gate
bridge is also done - and parts
ordered.
The bread oven outside the
kitchen is heating up.
Finally the roofing of the outer
castle is complete...
...and the construction of the inner
castle resumes!
On October 25 the inner courtyard
is virtually complete...
...and roofing of the inner castle
begins.  Bands of nervous arabs
are checking out the progress.
On October 29 the western bridge
is complete -- and guarded.
Hospitallers, Teutonic knights and
other keep a wary eye on the
native visitors...

 

Photos of the Lego Model
Built August - November, 2014

The castle's main entrance is
protected by the West Tower,
bristling with arrowslits...
...and a fortified ramp through
two gates.
The entrance is also overshadowed
by the NW tower which rivals the
donjon in size.
The secondary entrance is on
the east side - a bridge crossing
the wide dry moat.
Here is the view from the east,
which gives nice display of the
fortification.
The deep ditch/moat also extends
along the south side of the castle.
The south face returns the ditch
to open hilltop.
The view of Belvoir from
the southwest.
Here is a close-up of the
fortified main gate.
Looking at the switch-back
from the West Tower courtyard.
The bridge over the dry moat
to the East Gate.
There are also three postern
sally-ports.
Here is a detail of the back of
the West Tower.
The door into the outer
courtyard.
Detail of the cistern and the bath. The inner East Tower serves
both as the main entrance to the
Inner Castle and as the Donjon.
The postern door of the Inner
Castle opens near the cistern.
The east half of the Inner
Courtyard with main entrance
and Chapel.
The northwest view of the Inner
Courtyard details the kitchen and
oven.
Another view of the Donjon with
Watch Turret and bell to signal
prayers, meals and warnings.
The Arabs have discovered that
Belvoir has been completed.
Saladin and his army prepare
to attack.
The warning bell alerts the various
knights to prepare for battle.
Belvoir will not be taken in battle.
She only surrenders after a nine
month siege!

 

Build Your Own
The other plans are too large
for me to copy. Sorry.
Lego Plan
South Elevation
East Elevation


Other Belvoir Castle pages:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belvoir_Fortress
http://www.everycastle.com/Belvoir-Castle.html
https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Archaeology/Belvoir.html

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Castles created by Robert Carney
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Robert Carney