The Saint Hilarion Castle | Cyprus Inform
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Visiting A fairy Tale – the Saint Hilarion Castle (video)

Замок Святого Иллариона

The route from Nicosia

The route from NicosiaIf you manage to come to the northern part of Cyprus, you should visit a wonderful place located close to Nicosia and Кyrenia, where the famous Saint Hilarion castle is.

It is easy enough to find the castle – after passing the border between the so-called Northern and Southern Cyprus, going from Nicosia to Kyrenia, you will see a signpost pointing to the castle about 6 kilometres before the city. If you travel for another 4 kilometres, you will find yourself on the site, the view from which will take your breath away.

Monastery — Fortress — Castle

The Saint Hilarion castle used to be one of the most important fortresses in Cyprus, whilst its architecture would impress the most sophisticated travelers and enthusiasts of historical monuments. It was not for nothing that the Walt Disney studio chose this place when creating the image of a castle for the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs cartoon.

The castle was named after a monk who, as the legend has it, lived there.  The place was initially a monastery аnd later a fortified fortress. Тhe fortress is also known as Dieu D’Amour (or the God of Love) — the origin of this name dates back to the Middle Ages.

In those times the area where the castle now stands was called Didymos, or twins, because of two mountain peaks which split the valley. Some specialists believe that the first Latin settlers mispronounced it as DieuD’Amour, and the name stuck.

 

The Saint Hilarion CastleThe Saint Hilarion Castle

The Saint Hilarion castle is one which was built on the summit of a mountain to protect the inhabitants of the island from Arab invasions. This protective network of fortresses also included the castles of Кyrenia, Buffavento and Kantara.

Аrabs began their raids on the island in the 7th century and continued their attempts to conquer Cyprus until the 10th century. It is assumed that the first observation tower of the castle was built in that period. In accordance with written sources, when Richard the Lionheart conquered Cyprus in 1191, the castle had already been built.

The castle was renovated and continued its service during the rule of the Lusignans. Saint Hilarion is still famous for its gardens with their unique flora. It is interesting that it is cool here even in the most scorching heat, this is why you can enjoy certain plants only in the gardens of the castle. It is the coolness and the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful views that attracted the Lusignan noblemen to the castle.

When the island was occupied by the Venetians (15th century), the castle was abandoned and remained so for a long time.

The greatest tragedy of all happened in the castle with Prince John Aniosh, a brother of Peter I, King of Cyprus. The prince and his family found lodgings in the castle to protect themselves from attacks of the Genoese. Ensnared by Queen Eleanor, John believed that Bulgarian contractors who served in his guard conspired behind his back. This upset the Prince greatly and he killed all the guards one after another, and had their bodies  thrown off the highest tower.

 

Тhree Parts of the Castle

The Saint Hilarion Castle

The structure of the castle is split into three parts, located on different levels. The first part was built to accommodate soldiers and the servants of the castle. Here there are water tanks, stables and other buildings. A barbican, which protects the entrance, is fortified with the help of towers in the form of a horse shoe. Under the entrance, which is architecturally beautiful in itself, there is an area with an arms room and a portrait of the saint.

You should start the excursion from the information section. Here different pictures and sketches showing the castle and its surroundings are represented. This part used to be stables.

In the second part of the castle there used to be a church, royal rooms, a hall, a kitchen, a water tank and rooms, which belonged to the Castellans, аs well as a pantry, barracks and medieval toilets. You could get into this part only through a huge closing door, after crossing a bridge, which could be raised if necessary.

A Byzantine church of the 10th century strikes tourists with its perfect architecture.

You should make an effort and reach the third and highest part of the castle. A steep path, which used to be equipped with stairs, leads to it.

When you arrive there you will find yourself in a garden with a kitchen and a stone oven, a water tank and auxiliary buildings. Royal apartments dating back to the time of the Lusignan rule were arranged on the western side at the end of the garden.

Wide “royal” windows in the Gothic style are well preserved in the rooms which open to breathtaking views of Kyrenia.

The third part of the castle is located at the height of 725 metres above sea level, but despite the difficulties the view is well worth the climb.

Impressions, cafes and souvenirs

The Northern CyprusThe way back lies along another path, going down which you can visit the tower of Prince John.

On the way back you can drop in to a café located on the second level and enjoy food and drinks, admiring the unforgettable sights which open from the terrace. Here you can also buy unique souvenirs.

A visit to the castle costs about 3 еuros.

Our journey to a fairy tale is over now. It is worth mentioning that the ancient castle is well looked after, every year thousands of tourists come here and share information of their unforgettable impressions from the journey.