About Bagras Fortress
Originally a Byzantine castle, Bagras Fortress in Turkey was later occupied by the powerful Crusader force: the Knights Templar. Today the castle ruins stand perched on a high hilltop and the remains of archways, outer walls and corridors can be explored.
Bagras Fortress history
Built in the main southern passage in Amanus, Bagras Fortress was constructed in 965 AD by the Byzantine emperor, Nikephoros II Phokas. The castle provided a base for raiding the area surrounding the city of Antioch, and acted as a gateway into the Amernian Kingdom of Cilicia. Bagras was therefore built in two levels on a defensive knoll, with water supplied via aqueducts.
The castle was rebuilt when it became inhabited by the Knights Templar, a religious order of crusaders who renamed the fortress Gastun. Bagras was held until 1189 when the Sultan Saladin forced the Knights to surrender. Levon II, the Armenian king, wanted to regain control of the main passage between Cilicia and Antiocha. However, Saladin learned of the plans to recapture Bagras, and detroyed all the castle’s fortifications before abandoning it.
Levon occupied Bagras, renovating the castle and refortifying it. The Templars demanded Levon return the fortress to them, but he refused and relations between Antiocha and the Knights deteriorated. In 1194, after the death of Saladin, King Bohemond II of Antiocha was captured by Levon at Bagras. Bohemond was only released when he acknowledged Levon’s possession of Bagras.
However, the castle was returned to the Templars in 1216, withstanding a siege by the forces of Allepo. Throughout the 13th century, Bagras saw power struggles within the region, and was possessed by the Baibars of Egypt before eventually being destroyed and surrendered by the retreating Templars.
The castle was completely excavated in 1979 by R. W. Edwards who drew a complex plan detailing the castle remains.
Bagras Fortress today
Today, visitors to Bagras will see the steep Frankish exterior of the castle, perhaps noting the Armenian’s distinctive masonry on the towers and wall repairs. While in ruins, the fortress remains an imposing marker on a baron and rocky landscape, hinting at its former strategic importance.
Bagras remains are freely accessible, and you can still see much of the aqueduct supplying the castle, as well as the great hall, church and massive keep. Take comfortable shoes to traverse the uneven ground.
Getting to Bagras Fortress
Bagras is a remote ruin, so it is easiest to access via car. If driving from nearby Iskenderen, the drive is 44 minutes via the D817, with a short walk to the castle from the Otencay road.