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Citadel of Acre

The Citadel of Acre, located in Old Acer, was built in the later 1700s on the ruins of Crusader buildings from the 12th century – now the Hospitaller Fortress.

The fortress was first used as a government house and later as a prison and barracks and also as a weapons depot for the Ottoman garrison in Acre

At the beginning of the twentieth century, some members of the Hashomer organization were imprisoned here by the Ottoman government.

During the British Mandate, it was called Mandatory Acre Prison, and served as the main prison in the north of the country.

During the War of Independence, it operated in an Israeli military prison complex.

Later it became a government hospital for the mentally ill was established in the fortress. 

In what was once the gallows cell and its surroundings inside the hospital compound, a memorial corner called the “Hand for the Gallows Immigrants” was established.

This corner expanded until in 1980 the hospital was moved and the prison was reconstructed.

Since then, the Citadel of Acre, has been home to the Underground Prisoners Museum.

This is not unlike how the citadel in the Old City Jerusalem is now the Tower of David Museum.

The Administration Structure

The administration building was built during the Ottoman period and is a remnant of the Ottoman architecture in the city dating back to the early 1800s. 

On its southern side is a balcony that was erected during 2009 and restored to its appearance during the Mandate. 

During the operation of the British prison various works were done in the building to suit it for offices.

At that time, the sloping roof that appears in pictures from the beginning of the 20th century was removed.

The Bridge

The bridge was built in the late 19th century as a stone structure with two arches between which is a central pillar. 

The bridge underwent changes when it served as a British prison and during the period it served as a hospital. 

In 2016 the bridge was treated, restored and guarded.

The Northern Wing

On the level of the moat, where the “Knights’ Halls” are located, you can see the foundations of the northern wing.

There are remnants of the Crusader period visible on the northern façade.

During the 12th and 13th centuries the Knights of the Hospitaller Order, the Knights of St. John, inhabited the complex. 

There was also a hostel and a hospital that served the pilgrims.

In the middle of the 18th century, Ottomans began to rebuild Acre. 

The two build a palace and a residence in the fortress, as well as a base for their soldiers. 

During the 19th century, extensive work was carried out on the site, the traces of which can still be seen on the outer walls.

The northern wing is protected by a moat about 17 meters wide. 

From the Ottoman period the access to the northern wing was with a bridge which became the entrance bridge to the prison level.

During the Mandate, warehouses, workshops, administrative offices, the prison clinic, the gallows cell, and the death row cells were located here.

During the years of the hospital’s operation, no renovations or construction work were carried out in the ward, except for small but significant changes that made it difficult to restore the prison’s history (windows, doors, flooring, paint, and plaster).

The Northwest Tower i.e. “Jabotinsky Wing”

The Northwest Tower is an Ottoman tower with hospital foundations. 

Due to the changes it has undergone in different periods, it has a combination of styles. 

The tower now stands at the end of the fort compound. However, there are many remains that indicate that the southern side of the tower was used in the 12th century as an inner wall within a large hall. 

The first alterations made to the tower date to the Ottoman period when the building became a palace of the governor.

In the first half of the 19th century drastic changes were made to the structure. 

Another floor was built in the northernmost part of the tower during the British Mandate, where the gallows cell was erected. 

During the years of the hospital’s existence, minor changes were made to the building and part of it was converted into a hospital laundry. 

As a museum, the first floor was renovated according to its presumed appearance in the early 1920s.

An exhibit was placed here that tells the story of Jabotinsky and his friends, who were imprisoned in the compound in 1920. 

Next to it is the room of the founder of the Baha’i religion who was imprisoned there. 

The ground floor was restored as close as possible to how it looked in 1947 without ignoring the Ottoman and Hospitaller elements.

Finance Tower (Northeastern Tower)

It is estimated that the foundations of this tower date back to the 10th century, and that it was built as part of a land defense system.

In the Crusader period the tower was called TURRIS DOMINE NOSTRE

It was an integral part of the fort and served as a guard point.

According to the existing historical documentation, it can be said with high probability that in the 17th century the tower was largely destroyed.

The name of the tower appears again towards the end of the 18th century and during this period it was called the Treasure Tower.

The building served as part of the palace of al-Jazar and his heirs and the name “Tower of Finance” is comes from the legend that says he buried his great fortune in it.

The current shape of the building dates back to the early 1800s by the Ottomans. 

The inscription above the gate at the western entrance to the tower states that Abdullah Pasha built it in 1819 – it is likely that the construction was completed before he seized power in 1819.

The building underwent a significant change when it became a British prison in the early 1920s. 

A concrete structure was added whose roof was used as an observation and water pool. 

The main floor was a space for the detention of detainees and the roof itself served as the “hiking area” for the detainees. 

Many engravings made by the detainees can be seen on the roof floor. 

The floor was used by the “Museum of Heroism” that operated in the complex until the 1990s. 

Inside the British concrete structure on the roof are three rare pencil inscriptions written in 1948 that commemorated the conquest of Acre during the War of Independence by the Carmeli Brigade.

Eastern Wing

The eastern wing was built by the Ottomans, as part of the complex of wings (western and southern) that surround the courtyard. 

The British made changes to the appearance of the wing in order for it to hold prisoners. 

The significant change is the construction of a guard corridor in the eastern part of the wing which was used for the Jewish prisoners. 

The southern wing

The southern wing was built by the Ottomans as a double vaulted space.

An arcade of arches was built on the northern façade as part of the system surrounding the courtyard. 

The British made some changes to the wing to for it to become part of the prison complex. 

The fundamental change is the guard corridor in the southern part of the wing. 

The wing was used for the Arab prisoners. 

From the center of the corridor, Irgun fighters broke into the prison on May 4, 1947.

Commemoration and Heritage Families Division
The Heritage and Museums Unit

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