A man-made moat, 20 m. wide and 14 m. deep, surrounded the fortress on three sides while the steep slope and the external tower protected its eastern side. The moat was dry and was meant to prevent siege engines, such as battering rams and assault towers, from coming close to the fortifications.
Huge towers rose at the four corners of the fortress, with additional towers between them at mid-point. The broad bases of the towers slope towards the bottom of the moat, to prevent tunneling under them. In the upper stories of the towers were loopholes protected by covered recesses. The placement of the towers is such that the entire circumference of the fortress walls could be covered by cross fire. Almost every tower incorporated sally ports into the moat, with narrow staircases; the steps are unusually high, undoubtedly to make enemy penetration from the outside more difficult.
In the courtyard between the walls of the outer fortress and the inner fortress were large halls covered with vaults. These served as stables, storehouses and living space and gave access to defensive positions on the roofs.
The Inner Fortress
Inside the outer fortress and separated from it by the courtyard was the inner fortress (keep, donjon). It was a square, 50 x 50 m. structure, two stories high and surrounded by a wall with towers at the corners. This inner fortress could withstand siege even after the main, outer fortress had fallen into enemy hands. The main entrance was from the west. In its center was an open courtyard surrounded by vaulted spaces which served as refectory, kitchen, meeting hall, stores, living quarters etc. The upper story served as the command headquarters of the fortress and included the apartments of the the knights, as well as a small chapel built of limestone and roofed with cross vaults.
The fortress of Belvoir served its purpose as a major obstacle to the Muslims goal of invading the Crusader Kingdom from the east. It was attacked by Muslim forces in 1180 but its mighty fortifications withstood the attack.
After the victory of the Muslim army under Salah al-Din (Saladin) over the Crusaders at the battle of the Horns of Hittin, Belvoir was besieged. The siege lasted a year and a half, until the defenders surrendered on 5 January 1189.
The fortifications of Belvoir were dismantled in 1217-18 by the Muslim rulers who feared the reconquest of the fortress by the Crusaders. In 1240 Belvoir was ceded to the Crusaders, by agreement; lack of funds did not permit them to restore the fortifications and it returned to Muslim control a few years later.
The fortress of Belvoir remained in ruins until comprehensive excavations were conducted in 1966. The fortifications, well preserved under masses of rubble, were revealed and, upon completion of the restoration work, the site was opened to visitors. It is the most complete and impressive Crusader fortress in Israel.
The excavations were carried out under the direction of M. Ben-Dov on behalf of the National Parks Authority