The Crak de Chevaliers: A Remarkable Crusader Castle in Central Syria

The Crak de Chevaliers: A Remarkable Crusader Castle in Central Syria

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The story

The Krak des Chevaliers is considered one of the world's best-preserved and most impressive Crusader castles. It is located near the city of Safita in Central Syria and was built by the Knights Hospitaller during the time of the Crusades. Remarkably, it remains in excellent condition to this day.

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I have had the opportunity to visit this site twice, once in 2022 and again in 2023. On both occasions, I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the castle and discovering its hidden corners, as well as learning fascinating facts about its history. During my first visit, I had the pleasure of meeting a Hungarian archaeologist and his team, who shared interesting insights about the castle. Despite the ongoing war, they continued their work there.

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The Crak des Chevaliers did not sustain significant damage during the Syrian Civil War. Only one room was hit by a shell, and the rest of the castle survived the conflict remarkably well. Our guide explained that the warring factions were not interested in wasting ammunition on the castle, as their focus was on destroying the settlements surrounding it, which are now mostly in ruins. The castle stands as a solitary structure amidst the devastation.

If you find yourself in the area, I highly recommend making the trip up the mountain to witness this spectacular medieval site. Walking through its extensive sections, one can feel transported back in time, experiencing the defensive and offensive structures, the sleeping quarters of soldiers, the storage areas, and even the places where fires were once lit. And when you reach the top, the view of the valley and villages below is simply breathtaking.

The Krak des Chevaliers was initially inhabited in the 11th century by Kurdish troops garrisoned there by the Mirdasids. In 1142, it was given to the Knights Hospitaller by Raymond II, Count of Tripoli. They occupied the castle until it was reconquered by the Muslims in 1271.

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In the 19th century, there was a renewed interest in Crusader castles, which led to the investigation of Krak des Chevaliers. Unfortunately, in the late 19th or early 20th century, a settlement was established within the castle, resulting in damage to its structure. In 1933, the 500 inhabitants were relocated, and the castle was handed over to the French Alawite State. The state initiated a program of clearing and restoration. When Syria declared independence in 1946, it took control of the castle. Presently, the village of al-Husn surrounds the castle and has a population of nearly 9,000.

The Krak des Chevaliers is a remarkable fortress that has withstood the test of time. Despite the war, the castle remains awe-inspiring, capturing the imagination just as it would have done in medieval times.

The Krak des Chevaliers

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