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Krak des Chevaliers

 

 

 

Location: 65 km West of Homs, Homs Governorate  Map

Open: 9am-6pm summer

9am-4pm winter

Phone: 740-002

 

 

 

Description of Krak des Chevaliers

Krak des Chevaliers or Castle of the Knights is located 65 km West of Homs, Homs Governorate in Syria. This fortress is one of the best preserved classic castle. Krak des Chevaliers was build by the Knights of Saint John in 1142. It was capable to house 4000 armed men and gained fame as impregnable surviving several sieges including that of Saladin. It fell not due to an attach, but to trickery of Sultan Baybans in 1271 who fooled Crusaders to leave fortifications. You can take a bus (cheap) or a taxi (no more than $60 both ways) from Tartus or preferably Homs. Additionally many hotels in Damascus offer bus trips to Krak des Chevaliers that are more expensive then regular busses, but are safer and more comfortable. 

 

 

 

 

 

From Arab chronicles it is known that in 1031 the fortress was occupied by the Kurdish garrison of the emir of Aleppo. In those days, the fortress was called Hysn el-Akrad ("Kurdish Castle"). By consonance, the Franks called the Krat fortress (Fr. Le Krat), and then, similar to the Arabic term “karak” (fortress), they began to call Krak (Fr. Le Krak).

In 1099, during the First Crusade, it was captured by Raimund IV, Count of Toulouse, but soon the crusaders left the fortress to continue the campaign to Jerusalem.

In 1110, the fortress was reoccupied by Tancred, the prince of Galilee, and in 1142 Raimund II, count of Tripoli, transferred the Crac de Chevalier to the order of the hospitaliers so that they would protect the borders from possible raids by Zangi ibn Ak-Soncur, the head of the Turkic garrison in Mosul and Aleppo.

Hospitallers rebuilt the fortress and built many additional facilities, turning it into the largest crusader stronghold in the Holy Land. Around the fortress was built a wall with a thickness of 3 to 30 meters with watch towers, one of which was occupied by the Grand Master of Hospitallers. Behind the ring of the outer wall was a courtyard, bypassing which one could get into the inner rooms - a hall, a chapel (which later was turned into a mosque by Muslims) and a 120-meter-long vault. Other storage facilities were hidden inside the rock on which the fortress stood, so that Crac de Chevalier could withstand prolonged sieges. At the end of XII - beginning of XIII centuries. a series of earthquakes damaged some buildings, and the fortress again had to be restored.

Crac de Chevalier was truly impregnable. He was besieged more than once, but always unsuccessfully. In 1188, the army of Saladin himself stood at the walls of the fortress. During that siege, the Muslims managed to capture the castellan. The soldiers of Saladin led him to the walls of the fortress and demanded that he order the garrison to open the gate. Castellan at first gave the Arabic order to surrender the fortress, but then in French he ordered the fight to the last man.

Only the Türks managed to take Krak de Chevalier by deception, when Baybars I, the Sultan of Syria and Egypt, sent a fake letter to the fortress in which Count Tripoli allegedly ordered the fortress to surrender. As a result, on April 8, 1271, the Crac de Chevalier fell.

In 1272, during the Ninth Crusade, the castle was seen by the English king Edward I and was so admired by him that he used Krak as a model for his castles in England and Wales.

Lawrence of Arabia, who first saw the castle in August 1909, described it as "perhaps the most magnificent castle in the world."

In 2003, the Russian television series Bayazet was shot in the fortress based on the novel of the same name by Valentin Pikul.

In 2013, the fortress was captured by terrorists.

In March 2014, during the civil war in Syria, government forces occupied the fortress, destroying dozens of terrorists, and forced survivors to flee to Lebanon. Earlier, during one of the Syrian Air Force air raids, one of its towers was destroyed at the castle.

According to some reports, the tower was destroyed by the departure of a Su-24MK bomber with a guided aerial bomb received from Russia. High-precision ammunition breached the fortifications used by the Syrian troops. This step allowed to preserve the historical fortress; the usual multi-day shelling for the Syrian army would have turned it into ruins.

 

 

 

 

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