Saint Hilarion Castle

 

By Graham Brown…..
Esentepe Community

The Saint Hilarion Castle lies on the Kyrenia mountain range, in Northern Cyprus near Kyrenia. This location provided the castle with command of the pass road from Kyrenia to Nicosia. It is the best preserved ruin of the three former strongholds in the Kyrenia mountains, the others being Kantara and Buffavento.

Saint Hilarion was originally a monastery, named after a monk who allegedly chose the site for his hermitage, with a monastery and a church built there in the 10th century. Starting in the 11th century, the Byzantines began fortification. Saint Hilarion formed the defense of the island with the castles of Buffavento and Kantara against Arab pirates raiding the coast. Some sections were further upgraded under the Lusignan rule, who may have used it as a summer residence. During the rule of the Lusignans, the castle was the focus of a four-year struggle between Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and Regent John d’ Ibelin for control of Cyprus.

The castle has three divisions or wards. The lower and middle wards served economic purposes, while the upper ward housed the royal family. The lower ward had the stables and the living quarters for the men-at-arms. The Prince John tower sits on a cliff high above the lower castle. The church lies on the middle ward. The upper ward was reserved for the Royals and can be entered via a well-preserved archway. Farm buildings are located in the west close to the royal apartments. Along the western wall, there is a breathtaking view of the northern coast of Cyprus, overlooking the city of Girne (Kyrenia), from the Queen’s Window.

Much of the castle was dismantled by the Venetians in the 15th century to reduce the up-keeping cost of garrisons.

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Going back to St Hilarion Castle

By Chris Elliott

It is many years since I visited St Hilarion Castle and in those days I had no interest in writing or taking photographs but I was so inspired by Graham Brown’s article and video and decided to visit it again and despite the effects of age and unwilling body parts, I managed to walk or should I say climb the castle up very rough stone steps or steel steps in places to eventually stand on the viewing platform on the peak of St Hilarion and realise I was at 732 meters and was it worth it? yes of course it was despite the fact that I had a few aches afterward but so many visual memories to share.

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Now my interests are different and my desire to convey the beauty and fascination of the splendour of Northern Cyprus is paramount so I am sharing with Graham’s article a selection of photographs I have taken and hope it may encourage many more visitors to take the ultimate challenge and climb those steps where so many others have travelled before throughout Cyprus history.

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In addition there is a PDF file which shows extracts and a map of St Hilarion Castle in a leaflet provided by the TRNC Department of Antiquities and Museums which we have no doubt will whet the appetite of those would-be visitors to come to this fascinating historical gem of Cyprus. Please click here.