Sunday, October 30, 2011

Kantara Castle

Kantara Castle
Kantara Castle is the closest castle to our marina.  Kantara is situated on a mountain overlooking the Karpaz peninsula of northeastern Cyprus.  It is the easternmost castle on the Kyrenia mountain range and is situated at 630 meters above sea level. The high elevation on the peninsula affords views north to Turkey, south towards Israel and Lebanon, and eastward towards Syria.  Turkey is only 44 miles north and can be seen on a clear day.  The other countries range from 75 miles to 150 miles distant and a bit too far for the human eye.  This was the perfect vantage point to be on the lookout for raiding Arabs arriving by sea in centuries past.

Kantara Castle
No one seems to know the original date of construction for the Kantara Castle.  It is believed to have been built by the Byzantines during the 10th century to ward off raiding Arabs.  The first historical mention of this castle is when Richard the Lionheart captured Cyprus in 1191 A.D. during the Crusades.  Makes one wonder if dear brave Richard realized that the inhabitants were Christian or if he just assumed that they must be infidels.  At the time Richard captured Cyprus, the ruler was Isaac Commenus (also spelled Kommenus) and was Byzantine, not Islamic.  Makes one wonder just how many non-Muslim people were killed during the Crusades.  When Richard attacked Cyprus, Commenus took refuge in Kantara Castle.

Kantara Castle
Kantara (630 meters) is the lowest of the 3 great crusader castles located in the Kyrenia mountain range of Cyprus.  Located nearer the center of the mountain range is the Buffavento Castle, which is also the highest (950 meters).  Nearer the western end of the mountain range is the St. Hillarion Castle (732 meters), after which Walt Disney is said to have modeled the castle depicted in the movie Snow White.  I hope to visit St. Hillarion during our stay on Cyprus, although it takes over an hour to climb to the castle from the parking lot and I probably can't handle that activity at that height.  It was hard enough breathing walking the steps at Kantara Castle.

Kantara Castle from parking lot
Kantara was bombarded by royalists with catapults in 1228 A.D. and the walls were severely damaged.  During the Genoese attacks at Famagusta on the southern coast of the peninsula, people escaped the fighting by sheltering in Kantara Castle.  One of these was the Prince of Antioch who escaped Famagusta with the help of his trusted cook.   Later, during more peaceful times, the Lusignan royalty would come to Kantara and use tame leopards to hunt wild mountain goats. 

Kantara Castle
Like the other castles on Cyprus, the Venetians took over when they arrived.  But the Venetians abandoned Kantara in 1525 because the castle was so remote.  The ruins seen today date from the 13th century.   It is very picturesque and the ruins include towers, walls and a barbican, or approach fortification.

Half way up looking to south

The word kantara in Arabic means 'arch.'  Kantara Castle is built on an arch and is accessible from only one side.  We drove to the castle from the south side of the peninsula and the road was horrible -- very narrow and far-too-many patches in the asphalt.  Very bumpy and long ride up there, with spectacular views and sheer drop-offs!.  On the way down we opted to take a different route.  About 1/4 way down there was an intersection and we turned north rather than take re-trace our route to the south.  Much, much better!  The road was all new asphalt; even had shoulders and guard rails!  Definitely the better route to visit this castle.

Looking to north from Kantara Castle
After visiting Kantara at 630 meters, I have no desire to visit Buffavento Castle at 930 meters.  The guide books state that the roads up to that castle are in deplorable condition.  No thanks!

But Kantara Castle gets a thumbs up.

Here are a few more photos added later.  Taken by Glenn and later emailed to us.

Judy at Kantara Castle looking southward

Bill near top at Kantara Castle

Glenn at Kantara Castle

Kantara Castle

Judy & Bill at Kantara Castle

1 comment:

  1. was thinking about you tonight. we are in desparate need of water and you are swimming in it! I love reading your blog. the pictures and the history behind them are very interesting for those of us who lead more sedentary lives! Dave Hulett, Malakoff, TX


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