Château Pèlerin (Atlit)
From a distance, the distinct contour of Château Pèlerin, also known as Atlit Castle and Castle Pilgrim, appears on the shore of the Mediterranean about eight miles south of Haifa. During the Crusades, a smaller fortress was first built on this site to deter robbers and road pirates who preyed on Christian pilgrims.
When touring the Crusader-era cemetery to the north of the fortress, look for the singular tombstone with a cross in the shape of an anchor. Also note that on the eastern cliff of an ancient road leading to the castle, two very large, easily visible Phoenician letters are carved into the face of the rock.
Today, the castle ruins themselves are within a closed military zone. At present, the site can only be viewed from the adjacent scenic beach and from Mt. Carmel. Surrounding it is the modern city of Atlit which is continuously expanding closer to the castle. There are municipal efforts afoot to encourage the military to move out so the Crusader site can be opened to Christian pilgrims and others touring the Holy Land.
The Knights Templar, who financed and built many fortifications around the Holy Land, initiated construction on the larger and more important Crusader fortress of Château Pèlerin in 1218. It was the last Crusader stronghold to be built in the Holy Land. At its peak, Château Pèlerin housed 4,000 Crusaders and is considered to be a supreme example of Crusader architectural expertise. Ultimately lost in military action to the Mamluks in 1291, Château Pèlerin was damaged by a major regional earthquake in 1837.