Krak des Chevaliers

Facts about Krak des Chevaliers

We found 17 facts about Krak des Chevaliers

Knights' stronghold

Krak des Chevaliers, the magnificent fortress of the Knights of St. John, is one of the largest, most famous, and until recently best-preserved stone castles in the world. It is located in the western part of Syria, in the Jabal al-Nusariya mountain range, northeast of Tripoli. Situated on a 650-meter-high rock fault, it once guarded the only route from Antioch to Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea. Until the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, it was one of the main tourist attractions of the region, included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. During the hostilities taking place there since 2011, the castle was bombed and damaged. It is currently on the Heritage at Risk list.

Krak des Chevaliers
The name "Krak des Chevaliers" means "fortress of the knights".

The castle once had the Arabic name Hisn al-Akrad - 'the fortress of the Kurds', and today Qal at al-Hisn - 'the citadel of the fortress'.

Before the Crusades began, there was a Muslim castle here, built in 1031 for the Emir of Aleppo.

It was a watchtower occupied by the Kurdish military colony, Hosn Al Akrad, i.e. the Kurdish stronghold. It was probably an insignificant fort at that time, guarding an important route.

In 1096, the first armed expedition (there were seven in total) set off from Western Europe, known as the Crusade.

The Crusades were a response to the call of Pope Urban II, and their goal was to liberate Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulcher from the hands of Muslims, as well as to protect pilgrim Christians traveling to the Holy Land.

The Crusaders, traveling through Asia Minor, plundered and destroyed cities, murdered infidels, occupied strongholds already existing in these areas, and created fortification systems.

In this way, powerful castles-fortresses were created: Kerak and Shobak in Jordan, Nimrud near the Golan Heights, Belvior in Galilee, a fortress in the Gulf of Aqaba, Krak de Chevaliers.

Krak des Chevaliers, then a small Kurdish fortress, was a particularly desirable place for the Crusaders due to its strategic location.

Possessing it gave them dominion over the southern part of the Dead Sea and the eastern desert route.

The fortress was captured in 1099 by the troops of Raymond, Count of Toulouse, a very religious man who always wanted to die in the Holy Land.

When the pope called for a crusade, he was the first to accept the call and, at the head of a large company, marched towards Constantinople, where he joined the remaining crusaders. Because he was a very wealthy and charismatic man, he quickly became the main leader of the expedition.

When the Crusaders marched on Jerusalem, the castle was abandoned.

It was captured again in 1110 by Tancred, the nephew of one of the leaders of the First Crusade, the prince of Antioch, and in 1142, Raymond II, count of Tripoli, gave it to the Order of the Hospitallers.

The Hospitallers (Sovereign Military Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Rhodes, and Malta) expanded the castle and its fortifications.

The castle was expanded in the Gothic style. In the central part of the fortress, measuring 110 by 60 m, a church, a knights' hall, and several towers were built.

The Knights of St. John managed the fortress for 150 years, struggling with earthquakes and Muslim attacks.

They created a fortress in the Middle East with a European character and architecture, which could accommodate about 4000 people and as many horses on an area of three hectares.

The Krak des Chevaliers fortress was exposed to constant attack and siege by Muslims.

In 1271, after a two-month siege, the fortress with 200 knights surrendered to the troops of the Mamluk Sultan Baybars. Baybars probably did this by trickery, writing a letter to the garrison commander as the Count of Tripoli, in which he informed about the impossibility of providing military support. After reading the letter, the crew surrendered. The Sultan accepted the surrender of the crew. The knights were allowed to leave on the condition that each return to his own country.

When the Crusaders left the Middle East in 1291, the fortress of Krak des Chevaliers lost its military importance.

The fortress shared the fate of almost all fortresses. War techniques and strategies changed, and fortification systems became useless, especially since Krak was not located within the city where it could act as a military citadel. The entire Muslim settlement lived inside the castle. The great halls were divided into small rooms and small houses where the local poor lived. There was a mosque, baths, and other rooms necessary for life.

In 1934, on the initiative of the French authorities, the renovation of the castle began.

The people living in the castle were relocated to a settlement on the slope of the large castle mountain called Hosn.

Krak des Chevaliers is perched on the top of a basalt mountain, high above the forestless area, making it visible from afar.

It covers an area of approximately 3 hectares and resembles an irregular trapezoid with dimensions of 240 m by 170 m.

The castle consists of two lines of powerful walls with thirteen towers and towers, of various heights and shapes, and the actual seat of the knights.

The fortress is surrounded by a dry moat, and once a drawbridge led to the only gate.

The outer walls are connected to their inner zone by a sloping stone ramp in the form of a corridor, and numerous openings provide ventilation and natural lighting.

There was a deep moat in the Zwinger (an open area between two defensive walls), which is now filled in and only partially filled with water.

The rooms of the upper and lower castle were different, there were latrines, baths, and barracks, but also impressive, decorated meeting and courtrooms.

Noteworthy is a 10 m high, 8 m wide, and 20 m long room equipped with a heating furnace and serving as the center of garrison life. One of the towers was the residence of the Grand Master. There are terraces and courtyards and many small rooms of unknown purpose.

Krak des Chevaliers was an impregnable fortress.

However, events related to the civil war in Syria caused the fortress to be destroyed, and the Syrian regime captured the former stronghold of the Knights of St. John, which had long been a rebel stronghold.

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