Sent Hillarion Castle
St Hilarion Castle is named after a hermit and monk who
escaped from persecution in Palestine, and lived on the
mountain where the castle stands today. The saint resisted
the cries of tempting demons who stalked the mountain in
the 7th century AD with ease – because he was stone deaf
and couldn’t hear them. Eventually the demons left him,
and the mountain, in peace.
By the 10th century, a Byzantine chapel and monastery
has been added to the site of the saint’s tomb, joined by a
fort in the 12th century. Richard the Lionheart captured the
castle on his way to the Third Crusade, and the later
Lusignan kings fortified it further. St Hilarion is one of three
Crusader castles along the Northern Cyprus coastline, and
together with the castles at Buffavento and Kantara, defended
the island from pirates and various invaders.
With its system of three sets of defensive walls and towers,
topped with the redoubt, the castle certainly has a fairy-tale
look about it. The writer Rose Macaulay called it ”a picture-book
castle for elf-kings” and the rumour still persists that Walt
Disney based Snow White’s castle on this North Cyprus
original. At the bottom of the complex is the bailey,
a courtyard inside the walls containing the stables and barracks.
You climb steadily to another gate, which leads into the royal
apartments and past the Byzantine church and dining hall.
Onwards and upwards, you will discover another set of
apartments, another dining hall and more barracks, before
finally reaching the tower at the very summit of the twin peaked
mountain. From here, the view across to Kyrenia and along the
coastline is simply amazing.
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