About Saint Gilles Castle
Once a powerful Crusader castle, today the fortress of Raymond de Saint-Gilles towers above the modern city of Tripoli, Lebanon. The original Crusader fort was largely destroyed at the end of the 13th century before being rebuilt by the Mamluks. Visitors can explore the castle itself as well as the visitor centre which provides more information on the history of the site. The site also offers great views of the city and the surrounding area.
History of Saint Gilles Castle
Saint Gilles Castle was originally built by the governor of Tripoli as a Crusader fortress from 1103 to 1104. When the Mamluks set fire to the Mont Pelerin quarter in 1289, the castle of Saint Gilles lay abandoned for the next eighteen years.
A new fortification was needed as a stronghold for the sultan’s troops, and the governor chose the site of and the materials left behind from the gutted crusader castle to build a citadel.
In 1516, Syria and Egypt fell to the Ottoman Sultan Selin I. His son and successor Suleiman I made an inspection of his newly-conquered lands, and decided to fully rebuild the great citadel of Tripoli. Its construction was completed in 1521.
In the years that followed, successive Ottoman governors of Tripoli conducted restoration and renovation work on the citadel, and during the early 19th century, it was extensively restored.
Very little of the original Crusader structure survives, save a number of unidentified graves of Frankish knights.
It was because of the existence of the castle that the city of Tripoli was centred where it is now.
Saint Gilles Castle Today
Today, the citadel houses the Northern Lebanon and Akkar Museum, which holds a small number of items, including a numismatic collection which covers most periods from the Hellenics to Ayyubids. These items are well labelled by extensive information panels.
Visitors are advised to note the ‘mashhad’ (octagonal mausoleum) which was the centre of the Fatikid cemetery.
Views from the ramparts of Saint Gilles Castle are extensive and scenic.
Getting to Saint Gilles Castle
From the centre of Tripoli, the castle is a 10 minute drive via Mazhar Mikati. By foot, it takes around 15-20 minutes via El Amir Fakhreddine. For those who wish to enjoy the scenery, the coastline is only a little further away to the North West.