Dec 14, 2016

The Krak des Chevaliers

Rmn-Grand Palais

Kalaat-El-Hosn, Syria

The Krak, or fortress, des Chevaliers is a fortified castle situated in the west of Syria, some fifty kilometers west of Homs.

It is perched on the Jebel Ansariyeh mountain.

A perfect model of fortress
The Krak des Chevaliers as it can be seen today is a perfect example of the development of military architecture of the Middle East during the time of the Crusades, from the 11th to the 13th centuries.

The ancient Turkish garrison was established in 1031 and fell into the hands of the Franks after the first crusade in 1110.

From 1142 until 1271, the fortress belonged to the military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. It was during this period that it became the "Krak des Chevaliers". It was also made considerably bigger, to the point where it could accommodate several thousand men.

The fortress is made up of two surrounding walls separated by a moat.

The Franks Time

The inner wall, the oldest of the two...

... and towers over the external wall.

It contains the inner buildings: a great hall, the chapel, a cloister, dwellings, shops, etc.

Reinforcement during the seventh crusade
The construction of the external wall began in 1250 (under Saint Louis) to reinforce the site. It is equipped with arrow slits, crenelations, and machicolations. .    

The surrounding area can be surveyed from the ramparts walk at the top of the wall. The stables were also housed in the external wall.

The main entrance is on the east side and is a long entrance with a hairpin turn. It is a vaulted ramp with dotted with holes that let light in, but which also allowed enemies to be showered with projectiles.

From fortress to residential palace
In 1271, the impenetrable fortress finally fell to the cunning attacks of the sultan Baybars of the Mamluk dynasty. It was then transformed into a residential palace, with Turkish baths and an aqueduct.

In the summer of 1909, Thomas Edward Shaw, also known as Lawrence of Arabia, left England and spent three months in Syria. He wanted to visit the crusader castles on foot. He reached the Krak des Chevaliers on his 21st birthday. Filled with wonder, he called it the "most beautiful castle, the most picturesque in the world". (paragraph likely to be deleted)

In 1999, the Krak became protected under the Syrian Antiquities Law and in 2006 became a World Heritage site. Between 2012 and 2014, it was the headquarters of the rebellion and was repeatedly bombarded before being retaken by Bashar al-Assad's army. Many of its structures were damaged. The monument is currently included on the List of World Heritage in Danger and a digital reconstruction is being created of the monument in its entirety and, in particular, the parts that have been destroyed.

Le monument figure, aujourd’hui, sur la "Liste du patrimoine en péril" de l'UNESCO et fait l’objet de travaux de restitution numérique de l’ensemble du monument et en particulier des parties détruites.

Eternal Sites, Grans Palais
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