The Old City of Acre and Visiting its Main Points of Interest
Many people are unfamiliar with the hidden gem in the land of Israel. Tourists now visit this city after massive restoration and see the Crusader Halls, chambers, passages and tunnels. As opposed to what is apparent to the eye, the extravagant renovated structure of the Crusader City is only 4% of its recovery, as found in the maps of the Vatican library, despite it being the UNESCO World Heritage site.
Brief History of the City of Acre
The Old City of Acre was built and destroyed within the 12th century by Mamluks when they conquered Acre and started building their own city with the ruins of the Crusader. Acre’s natural harbor was a common entering point for Christian pilgrims en route to Jerusalem. It was the connecting source between Europe and the Middle East. Imported goods landed from all around the continent to provide different ideas and cultures to the Holy Land. One of the oldest cities that Acre is located in the north of Haifa bordering with Israel’s Mediterranean coast. Many conquerors came and went during the last 4,500 years.
Who were the Crusaders?
Christian soldiers were appointed on a mission to secure the Holy Land. They were also required to provide a safe way for visiting pilgrims. Four crusaders were prepared to protect the Holy Land for Christ and Christians who were believed to be under a significant threat from the Muslims.
The initial crusade took action from 1187 to 1099, and its purpose was to protect the capital of Jerusalem. The next line of action took place between 1104 till 1187, when Saladin took over the city.
The third crusade was done with the help of Richard the Lionheart when the city of Acre came back under the Crusaders in 1191. Due to the lack of strength in retaining their hold in Jerusalem, the Crusaders transferred the new Crusaders headquarters along with new wings to the main Hospitallers Centre.
Under the Crusaders’ protection, the city of Acre was labeled as St John d’Acre, honoring John the Baptist, the saint of the Knights Hospitallers. The Christians remained safe until 1291 when Mamluks destroyed the city and removed all Christians.
The Ottoman Turks overtook the city, but until then, it was left in ruins for around 500 years. The town was later rebuilt on the ruins of Crusaders, cementing a hidden city under it. The unearthing of the city began in 1950, after which it became available to tourists again.
Main Points of Interest
- The Acre Prison: The building was initially built by the Ottoman, used as a prison. Later, used by the British Mandate leaders as a prison once again for Jewish underground resistance fighters just before independence. Upon visiting, you will be able to see the gallows that were used to hang prisoners. Also, some of the cells are accessible by visitors. Today, it has transformed into a museum.
- The Tunisian Synagogue: This building is under the resident Zion Badasche since 1955. The individual mosaics were created in the Galilee. They depict a variety of themes, objects, and stories related to Judaism and its history, as well as the history of Israel. The synagogue houses seven different Torah arks and a women’s gallery whose walls tell the stories of the famous women of the Bible. The building also boasts 140 stained-glass windows and an intricately decorated dome.
- The subterranean Crusader Halls: Also recognized as the headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller over 7000 years ago. It is located approximately eight meters below the ground level. These halls were taken over by the Ottomans, who built their city above the Roman ruins. During the British Mandate period, these halls were used as a prison, which now is the Museum of Heroism. There is a Citadel where you can see demonstrations of medieval arts and crafts, the fortress courtyard is the outdoor space, and there are stairways that will take you to the upper floors. The northern and the pillars halls – dining halls, where the knights would sit together on a long dining table and eat. The prisoner’s hall for the criminals where there was no window for light or air as well.
- The Marketplace and other Attractions: Akko’s vibrant Oriental markets, beaches, and water sports facilities, the port, restaurants, hotels, and strikingly pleasant annual festivals are just a few more attractions for the tourists of the Acre City. Upon visiting this glorious city, you will be reminded of the stories of how the rulers fought for it and built it, just by looking at the city walls, fortresses, castles, mosques, and churches.