St.Hilarion Castle CYPRUS
The castle is named after St Hilarion,a hermit monk who fled from persecution in the Holy Land and lived and died in a cave on the mountain.Later in the tenth centur the Byzantines built a church and monestery here.
Along with Kantara and Buffavento,St Hilarion Castle was originally built as a watch tower to give warning of approaching Arab pirates who launched a continuous series of raids on Cyprus and the cpast of Anatolia from the seventy to the tenth centuries.Some 400 years after it was first built,the castle became a place of refuge and also a summer residence for the Lusignans.When the Venetians captured Cyprus in 1489,they relied on Kyrenia,Nicosia and Famagusta for the defence of the island and St Hilarion was neglected and fell into oblivion.
The castle consisted of three wards on different altitudes,each with ıts cisterns and storage rooms. The first and lowest of these was used to accommodate the garrison and horse.It began with a barbican and ıts main gate and other walls,which are reinforced by horseshoe-shaped towers,were built originally by the Byzantines in the 11th century.The ruins of the stables where the animals were kept and the water cisterns-an invaluable water source during the long medieval sieges-have survived tothe present day.
The entrence of the main gateway of the middle castle,which consısted of a church,Belvedere,barrack rooms and a four-storey royal apartment,was closed with a drawbridge.From the church of St Hillarion its apse has survived.The refectory which served as the dining hall for the Lusignan nobles is the largest room of the surviving ruins.When the weather is clear enough,Kyrenia range and the Mediterranean and even the snow-capped Taurus mountanis of Anatolia soma 100 km north are visible.Beyond the royal apartments there is a large water to collect the winter rain.
After a steep and windy climb access to the upper castle is gained by a Lusignan archway guarded by a tower.The courtyard of the twin summits,some 730m above the sea.These two peaks have given the mountain its first name Didymos(Greek for ‘twin’),and from which the Crusaders derived the corrupted name of Dieu d’Amour.Two cisterns sunk into the rocky coutyard supplied water to the upper castle.The rooms on the east side served as kitchens and waitingrooms.The royal apartment occupied the western side of the courtyard.From the gallery,Which was originally on a basement,two Gothic tracery windows,one with two stone window seats on either side and thus known as the ‘Queen’s Window’,have survived.The offers a beautiful view of the village of Karmi.
A set of rough steps leads to the uppermost section of the castle known as the Tower of Prince john.Tradition has it that Prince john of Antioch,the brother of King Peter I of Cyprus,in 1373 having been convinced that they were plotting against him threw his Bulgarian bobgarian bodyguards to their dearh.