Underneath the fortress built by the Ottoman Governor Ahmad al-Jazzar (the famous British Mandate Acre Prison), dwell halls of the Hospitaller Fortress from the Crusader period. Maps found in the Vatican library teach us that so far no more than four percent of the magnificent Crusader city has been exposed. Excavations have continued over the years and people who visited the Knights’ Halls a few years ago will not recognize the place
Underneath the fortress of the Ottoman Governor Ahmad al-Jazzar (the famous British Mandate Acre Prison), dwell halls of the Hospitaller Fortress from the Crusader period. Archeologists have already been excavating Acre for 50 years; exposing the Crusader city that was destroyed by the Mamelukes (though not to the ground), and years later was covered purposefully by no other than Al-Jazzar, ‘the Butcher’, who did not want to use Christian ruins and structures.
Maps found in the Vatican library teach us that so far no more than four percent of the magnificent Crusader city has been exposed. Excavations have continued throughout the years and people who visited the Knights’ Halls a few years ago will not recognize the place nowadays.
Among the halls exposed, visitors can find a prisoner’s hall where criminals and war prisoners were held. This hall has no windows. Along the walls one can see deep holes, a reminder of the chains that prisoners were shackled in.
Crusader Streets are gradually exposed, and in some places familiar symbols are found engraved in the original plaster.
Another one of the halls found is the magnificent dining hall; Crusader soldiers used to sit on benches along the table, while the Knight sat at the head of the table. This is the origin of the term Chairman, explains Pascal, our tour guide; meaning ‘the man with the chair’. As the story goes, cats and dogs ran among the tables and diners used their fur to wipe their hands of. In one of the dining halls corners a relief of a Lily was exposed. The three-petal flower impressed Louis VII greatly when he visited Acre during the Second Crusade. Following this encounter the Lily of our region became the coat of arms of the Bourbon royal family.
From the dining hall, Knights would go to the garderobe. According to written evidence, between the stone sits in the garderobe there was no separation. The knights used to send their servants ahead – to warm up the stone. And regarding wiping (this time not of hands) we can disclose that knights were equipped with… rabbit’s’ ears. Rabbits were raised for eating purposes and were plentiful. Somewhat reminiscent of the chicks in the story ‘Essav’ (Esau) by Meir Shalev (an Israeli Author). Pascal, the tour guide, says the use of chicks was appropriate for the British; Spoiled lot.