St. Hilarion Castle
The castle is the main castle in Cyprus and one with the most impressive architecture. The name of the Saint Hilarion castle, also known as Dieu D’Amour belongs to a saint who is believed to have lived here. The second name came about with a word trick that was liked by many in the Middle Ages. In the old times this area was known as Didymos (twins) because of the two peaks that were separated by a valley. This name was mispronounced by the first Latin settlers and the name Dieu D’Amour became widely used.
St. Hilarion was one of the many castles built on the highest point of mountains to protect the Cypriot public from attacks by the Arabs. This protection chain also involved castles in Kyrenia, Buffavento and Kantara. The Arab attacks started in the 7th century and continued until the 10 th century with breaks in between. In this respect it is being predicted that the first observation tower here was built during the years these attacks took place. Also, written accounts state that the castle was present when Richard the Lionheart took the island in 1191.
The castle was refurbished and developed during the Lusignan period. The fact that unlike the other castle in Cyprus, the garden in St. Hilarion always stayed cool even in hot weather and the chance to see one of the best sceneries in Cyprus made it the point of attraction for Lusignan nobles. The castle was also a point of refuge for the Lusignan nobles.
The castle was emptied and left vacant in 1489 when the Venetians the island.
The biggest tragedy of this castle that has faced many tragedies and successes has been that of the Prince John of Antioch, brother of Peter I, King of Cyprus. The prince and his family started living in the castle in order to be protected from the Genoese attacks. John, due to the lies of Queen Eleanor, believed that his loyal Bulgarian mercenaries were secretly plotting against him. Prince got really upset at this incident and called his guards one by one to the castle and dropped them off the highest point. It is being predicted that this took place at what is now known as the Prince John Tower.
The castle is made up three main sections that are built in different levels. The 1st section is built for soldiers and the castle workers and contains cisterns, stables and other structures. The barbican that protects the main entrance has been fortified with horseshoe shaped tower. It is predicted that underneath the entrance, which is an example of good architecture, in the plain and semi circular area were the kingdom weaponry and the picture of the saint.
The second section consists of a church, the royal apartments and hall, kitchen, cistern and rooms that belong to the castellan as well as a pantry workshop, barracks and Middle Age toilets. The entrance could only be reached through a large closed door and a bridge that could be pulled up. The 10th century Byzantine church had an impressive architecture.
The climb up to the third section starts with a steep pathway that used to have stairs, which made the climb easier in the past. Once you are in the internal garden, there is a kitchen with an oven inside, cisterns and subsidary buildings. To the west, the garden ends with the Lusignan period Royal rooms. The Gothic style windows in this section are also known as the Queen windows and are worth seeing. You reach the top after a short climb from the garden. The top is 732m from sea level and has a magnificent scenery. On the way down, those, who want to take on a challenge can take on an alternative path and visit the prince John Tower, which is isolated.