On June 10, 2018, a newly open promenade and Crusader marketplace was unveiled in Caesarea. This conservation and reconstruction project is the largest ever undertaken in Israel - with an investment of over 100 Million Shekels contributed by the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation and the Caesarea Development Corporation
When Herod the Great built Caesarea Maritima in the first century B.C., it was the largest artificial harbor in the ancient world and became a key trade port in the Mediterranean for centuries. Some 800 years ago during the Crusades, Luis IX fortified the city with high walls and a moat. The fortress promenade allows visitors a closer interaction with these crusader fortifications, and access to newly excavated areas.
Beginning near the Crusader city’s southern gate, the promenade leads to an observation tower which overlooks the Roman architecture of Herod's city including a bathhouse, theatre, hippodrome (chariot racing stadium) and Herod’s own palace. According to Michael Karsenti, the CEO of the Caesarea Development Corporation, the promenade was designed specifically so that as visitors proceed along or beside the walls, visual aids and reconstructions will allow them to get a glimpse into the past of this city with all its glory and diversity. As part of the walk, visitors may explore a tunnel which, Karsenti explains, "was used by the Crusader knights to access the moat surrounding the fortifications in order to bring food and ammunition supplies without risking a breach of the walls.”
The promenade also features various areas of recent excavation, including a Crusader marketplace. On the second level of the market quarter the crusaders had built residential apartments decorated with marble and elaborate mosaics. During excavations Byzantine architecture was also uncovered, as well as a High-quality mosaic, some 1,800 years old.
The 12 months of excavation and restoration leading to the promenade's opening is part of a NIS 150 million project funded by the Edmund de Rothschild Foundation, and carried out by the Caesarea Development Corporation together with the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. At the opening festival, Baroness Ariane de Rothschild affirmed the foundation's hope that this project will enhance visitor's experience and increase tourism but also stated that,
Karsenti and the Caesarea Port Authority director, Vered Sarig, promise that soon the Caesarea Development Corporation will hold a variety of period-inspired events in a theatrical atmosphere on the new promenade. These events will occur during both day and evening hours, with stalls of oil and wine pitchers, fruits, vegetables, and breads – a culinary experience reminiscent of the Crusader cuisine. The event dates will be posted in advance by the Caesarea Development Corporation.
Photo Credit: Victor Levy
Courtesy of The Israel Antiquities Authority