The Hospitaller Fortress also known as the Knights’ Halls are halls that were formerly used for lodging and eating for the Crusader orders that took place in Acre, and which are housed in the Citadel of Acre. The halls were discovered in the 1960s during an excavation to lay sewer pipes, and research at the site began in 1992.
Some More About the Hospitaller Fortress
Acre was a small fishing town until the time of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. During this period it began to grow, especially after it began to serve as the capital of the kingdom in 1191, after the Third Crusade. The halls were built by the Knights of the Order of St. John of the Jerusalem Hospitallers. In addition, they were also used by the many pilgrims who came to the city, and who stayed there as a stopover on their way to Jerusalem.
During the Ottoman period, the governor of the Galilee, Daher al-Omar, built a fortress above the remains of the Crusader fortress. In this fortress resided the seat of the ruler and a prison. Daher al-Omar’s successor, Ahmad al-Jazar, expanded and renovated the citadel structure, and its southern part was used as a garrison residence, in the center stood his personal palace, and to the east were the weapons depots called in Turkish “Jabhana”. During the British Mandate, the fortress served as the main prison in Israel. Today, the fortress is a tourist attraction.
The structure of the Hospitaller Fortress
The northern wing: This wing is located on the northern route of the Acre Wall, with nine narrow and long halls: six of them served as warehouses, two as water reservoirs that drained from the fortress roof, and another hall served as a passage to the central courtyard to the north.
Eastern Wing: This wing includes a large hall – the “Grand Munir”, which is covered by cross vaults. Its openings face north and its wide windows face west and south. It is about 40×35 meters in size. The hall has 15 columns arranged in three rows and supporting its ceiling. The hall served as a gathering and ceremonial hall for the knights.
The south wing: In this wing is the refectory built in a magnificent Gothic style. The rib bases that support the ceiling are decorated, and the ceiling itself is made of cross-vaults that are carried on three pillars of extra-wide diameter. This hall has two openings facing the central courtyard: a door facing east and windows facing south. Below the dining room is a tunnel leading to the southern part of the compound, containing a crypt, the remains of a Gothic church, and a Turkish bath located on the level of the Crusader city and most of which have not yet been exposed.
Western Wing: This wing has two floors for the fighters’ quarters. In its northern part are the public toilets, also built on two floors, each of which has thirty cells. These are drained through gutters installed in the walls to an underground room, and from there to the main sewer. Both the west wing and the south wing are built in a magnificent style and were probably built in a later period.