The Castle of the High Rock

post 110/365

View_from_Beaufort_Castle,_Lebanon,_2006

The broken clouds and the serene hills around this stone castle lay soundless. The straying wind of time passed flies fast from deep within and though the shrubs desolated by time still stand, while time takes its grip, the grounds never sleep on this sullen earthly strip.

Beaufort Castle stands on a rocky crest above soaring 300-metre precipices amidst enchanting countryside, to the south-south-east of the village of Arnoun and overlooking the Litani River in South Lebanon. Beaufort Castle is a mighty fortress standing on a strategic site. The castle was named “bel fort” or “beau fort”, French for beautiful fortress, by the Crusaders who occupied the castle in the 12th century. Its Arabic name Qala’at al-Shaqif means Castle of the High Rock. Shqif is the Aramaic word for high rock.

Beaufort provides one of the few cases where a medieval castle proved of military value and utility also in modern warfare, as its late 20th-century history shows. The view all around is panoramic and enough to take anyone’s breathe away. The Crusaders took possession of it in 1139, and there are traces there of earlier Arab construction. 
Beaufort was entrusted to Renaud de Sagette, a Frankish knight having an attractive personality; speaking Arabic as well as he spoke French. 

To isolate the fortress on the western side of the plateau, deep and wide excavations were dug into the living rock. The castle was impregnable and able to hold out indefinitely against any kind of siege or attack. It had many passageways, impressive underground rooms, and towers from which fire could be aimed down. There were rooms for storage, and a great inside water reservoir, with others dug out of the rock. A spacious hall built by the Templars was almost certainly a chapel.

Beaufort changed hands several times. The Franks held the castle from 1139 to 1190. From 1190 to 1240 Saladin occupied it. From 1240 to 1268 it was again in the hands of the Templars. It passed once more into the hands of the Arabs and in 1610 Fakhredin II, Emir of Lebanon, strengthened its fortifications and made it a storehouse for his treasures. Jarkass Pasha largely destroyed 
It.

During the recent 1982 South invasion in Lebanon, it passed into the hands of the Israeli occupation army and then into those of Lebanese resistance fighters. Despite the exterior ruin and the damage caused throughout the long years, the inside is well preserved. The castle is a storehouse of our history. On a clear day, you will have a clear view all the way across the border of the country, to Palestine.

These ancient castle ruins are nothing now but cracked stones. The old flagstones are lined with the attack of ages. The walls of the courtyard grimed with time, there is no more life here. There is only the croaking silence of history’s solitary raven as it keeps a ghostly guard over its domain. Maybe, in time, it will be silenced forevermore and like its dark past it will remain silent watching outside its gates, the history of its land unfold.

This castle in the air isn’t immune from the tides of humanity’s dark history. The dainty sunshine bathes its face. A place of history that lives lived and life lost. We know not today the human cost of battles fought by the ghosts of our past to create a peace uncertain to last.

Walk slowly. Walk quietly and open your mind to the floors trodden heavy with memories rich with oppression and conquest. Its  walls with secrets hidden amongst it now lay damaged by time’s cruel fate. Imagine the battles who lived here long ago and whose spirit we fear when through this castle we flow. To my South…

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