Magical knights in the Old City

An enchanting European-style festival in the spirit of the Middle Ages transforms Jerusalem’s Old City every week in November.

November 6, 2011 23:30
2 minute read.
City of Lions festival

City of Lions festival 311. (photo credit: Muky Schwartz)


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The second Jerusalem Knights in the Old City Festival, known this year as The City of Lions, kicked off Thursday evening with knights, princesses, magicians, troubadours, court jesters, acrobats, dancers and musicians filling the ancient alleyways of Jerusalem’s Old City. Thousands of Jerusalemites, Israelis and tourists of all ages braved the cold weather and rain in honor of this this fascinating cultural event.

The festival is an initiative of the Jerusalem Development Authority, in collaboration with the Prime Minister’s Office and the Jerusalem municipality who aim to expand the range of nocturnal events for visitors to the Old City. “The idea for the medieval theme came easily with the Old City’s rich history and its stone walls as a backdrop,” says Elad Kendel, Director of the Old City Basin at the Jerusalem Development Authority.

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Inspired by the grand festivals of Venice, this year the City of Lions has a global flavor with artistic management by famous Italian performer, Massimo Andreoli. Andreoli is the artistic director of the Carnival of Venice, the Medieval Festival in Monteriggioni, the Mask Festival in Taiwan and is the historic advisor of a similar festival in Greece.

As part of this collaboration, Venetian artists perform alongside local performers on a mapped-out circular path that begins and ends at Jaffa Gate. Visitors are greeted at the entrance plaza to Jaffa Gate with music, knights, fire and stunts. Flying acrobats conduct staged battles on the walls of the Tower of David, and the Italian troupe in authentic costumes perform in the Muristan square in the Christian Quarter. Visitors can also enjoy knight jousting, a feast, mask workshops and oriental dance.

One of the highlights on Thursday evening was the interaction between visitors and characters from the past. Street theater actors took on the guise of period characters acting out typical medieval scenes, some more scary than others. Restaurants, coffee shops and markets in the Old City and Mamilla Mall remained open creating a festive vibe and a great mix of ancient and contemporary.

“Along with Hamshushalayim, the Festival of Light and the Festival of Flavor, The City of Lions is now one of the Old City’s annual highlights,” says Elad. “It’s a memorable experience in a unique setting”.

The City of Lions takes place every Thursday during November. 6:00 p.m.until 11:00 p.m.

Entrance is free.

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