>  Top Tour Destinations in Northern Israel   >  ‘Knights Halls’ – The Hospitallers Citadel

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Half buried in Akko’s old city, the medieval Hospitallers complex is truly an architectural marvel. In the 13th century, fighting monks treated the sick and the needy, congregated in prayers, assembled for festive events and feasts, and trained as a military order. After 800 have been buried under the Ottoman-era citadel, their grand halls are re-exposed today, offering a first-hand view of the Crusaders in their heydays.

The Hospitallers

The Order of the Knights of Saint John was founded in Jerusalem in the 11th century. Initially, they were a welfare organization supporting Christians visiting the Holy Land. During the Crusaders, they formed a military order alongside the Knights’ Templars and the Teutonic order. Being so, they became more known as the ‘Knight’s Hospitallers.’ In the 13th century, the headquarters were established in Akko, which operated until the fall of Akko in 1291 CE. Later, it operated in the islands of Rhodes and Malta and split into five charity institutions.

The Hospitallers in Akko

Four years after being defeated and pushed out of the Holy Land, in 1191 CE, the Crusaders managed to repossess Akko. But after failing to re-conquer Jerusalem, they established their new capital in Akko and re-modelled the city. The port was expanded, and communities of Italian merchants settled in it. The Hospitallers settled in the city’s northern end and built an extensive complex.

Re-Exposing the ‘Knights Halls’

In 1291 CE, the Crusaders were pushed out of the Holy Land. The Hospitallers, too, were expelled and later dispersed in Europe. Centuries later, the Ottomans filled their abandoned compound with sand to build a fort above it. Ironically, this protected the halls from further decay.  Since the 1960s, their buildings have been meticulously exposed and restored, reviving the fame of this fabled order.

Touring the ‘Knights Halls’

akko knights halls hospitallersThe ‘Knight Halls’ halls are still not all fully exposed, yet the visible remains are fascinating. The grand assembly and dining hall could fit in a scene of a medieval movie. There are also extensive vaulted halls around a central courtyard, a prison, a public restroom, and even a secret escape tunnel. The site is open every day of the week and has an entry fee. The site also has a visitor center with an audio-visual presentation and a model of the old city. The medieval prison was turned into a small museum, presenting Akko’s long and turbulent history.

A tour of the Knights’ Halls and Akko can be combined with a day tour of Akko, Haifa, and Caesarea.

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