Montreal Castle (Shobak Castle)

 Montreal Castle (Shobak Castle)



Location: Ma'an Governorate Map


History of Montreal Castle (Shobak Castle)


Montreal Castle (Shobak Castle) was built in 1115 by the orders of king Baldwin I of Jerusalem to secure newly conquered lands east of Jordan river and the Dead Sea in modern day Jordan including port city of Aqaba. Montreal Castle was built on a strategic cone shaped hill as part of line of military defenses against invasions by Arab forces. Additionally it provided base for the military garrison that defended pilgrims who travelled to and from Holy Land. Caravans that passed through these lands had to pay a fee to support Montreal citadel and its inhabitants. It was not really a negotiable option. Montreal Castle was originally known as Mount Royal in honor of king of Jerusalem who built it. Later it was simply known as Montreal or Krak de Montreal. Natural steep sides of the hill along with an artificial moat made the castle an impressive citadel against all attacks. Additionally military garrison of Montreal Castle was supplied by fresh water from a natural spring deep underneath the fortress.


Montreal Castle was transferred to Raynald de Chatillon when he married Stephanie de Milly. "The Kingdom of Heaven" (2005) truthfully portrays attacks on caravans that Raynald undertook while staying here. Additionally he attacked and killed Muslim pilgrims who dies on their way to Mecca. Some suggested that lord of Montreal Castle even contemplated attacking Mecca itself. It is hard to explain his aggressive actions. None of the owners of Montreal Castle ever undertook these barbaric and violent attacks. Whatever the reason might be, his aggression was cut short by a turning tight in the Middle East when Saladin took control of Muslim army. After disastrous battle of Hattin (July 4, 1187) and subsequent execution of Raynald de Chatillon from the hands of Saladin himself, Latin Christian kingdom in Jerusalem was doomed.


Montreal Castle was besieged by the armies of Sultan Saladin in 1187 shortly after he captured Jerusalem from the Crusaders. Muslim armies went on a mop up raids against Christian citadels spread through the region. Due to natural defenses Saladin couldn't capture Montreal Castle. It took two years to convince Crusaders to leave the citadel voluntary after it became clear that help was not coming.


During archeological excavation scientist discovered two churches, baths, drain pipes, arches, millstones for pressing olives and other buildings for civilian and military population of the citadel. Additionally archeologists discovered a hidden staircase that was carved into the rock side that lead to the catacombs dug under one of the Christian churches. Here they discovered unique rock carvings depicting animals and historic episodes of the Crusades.