About Krak des Chevaliers
Krak des Chevaliers, known in Arabic by Hisn al-Akrad, is a castle in Syria built for the Emir of Aleppo in 1031 AD which became the headquarters of the famous Crusader Knights Hospitallier during the 12th and 13th centuries.
Perhaps the best preserved example of a Crusader fortress in existence today, Krak des Chevaliers is an awe-inspiring example of medieval military architecture and resultantly was designated a World Heritage site in 2006.
Krak des Chevaliers history
Located on a 650 metre-high natural citadel between Tartus and Tripoli, the castle was originally constructed by the Emir of Aleppo in 1031 on the site of an earlier fort. However, after the Emir was defeated, the stronghold was given by Raymond II of Tripoli to the Jerusalem-based Order of the Knights Hospitaller in 1144.
The Hospitallers could properly man the fortress, providing useful cover to the eastern frontier and maintaining control of the area including the Muslim sect, the Assassins, who paid them annual tribute. At its peak, the castle held 2,000 people including infantry to mercenaries, with only 60 brother knights.
Built to withstand a siege for up to 5 years, Krak des Chevaliers was considered virtually impregnable after the Hospitallers extended the castle and gave it a new outer defensive wall. The main enclosure was surrounded by a man-made moat which was carved out of solid rock in a dramatic example of Crusade-era engineering.
Captured by the Mameluke Sultan Baibars in 1271, Krak des Chevaliers was used as a base for Mameluke expansion towards the end of the 13th century. During the Ottoman period between the 16th and 20th centuries, the Krak des Chevaliers was commanded by a warden and acted as the centre of a tax district.
Krak des Chevaliers today
Today, a village clled al-Husn surrounds the well-preserved castle that is open to visitors. Situated close to the border with Lebanon, Krak des Chevaliers provides a uniquely full picture of Crusader life for to those interested in the Crusades. Without charge, wander the immense castle as the wind whips about you, high on the hill.
Be aware, you should check your government’s travel advice before travelling to Syria since the recent civil war. Evidence of the recent conflict is now part of the castle’s remains: bullet holes and Russian graffiti from Chechen rebels scarring the medieval fortress.
Getting to Krak des Chevaliers
Open Sunday through to Friday, you can reach Krak des Chevaliers from Homs in 45 minutes by car via the M1, exiting towards Wadi International University. From Tripoli in Lebanon, it is a 1 hour and 40 minute drive via the border at Aabboudiye and M1.
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