Krak des Chevalliers
Krak (or Crac) des Chevaliers is situated in fertile land immediately to the north of the Homs Gap with the specific aim of dominating traffic through that important strategic feature. Krak, together with Saône, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The earliest fortification on the site was constructed for a garrison of Kurdish warriors placed there by the Emir of Homs in 1031 (hence it was known as Hisn al-Akrad, or Castle of the Kurds). Some of the fragmentary basalt walls may derive from this fortress and the earliest Hospitaller castle may well have reused and reconstructed this, at least in outline. The site was captured in 1099 by Raymond de St Gilles but retaken by the Emir of Homs when it was vacated.

In 1110 it was taken by Tancred, the Regent of Antioch. Then, in 1144, The Count of Tripoli, Raymond II, presented it to the Hospitaller Knights of St John. The original Hospitaller fortification only had rectangular towers, the Tower of the King’s Daughter being the only one which survives externally. After a major earthquake in 1170 the castle underwent an extensive reconstruction and it was probably at this time that the outer enceinte was added around the inner citadel. This incorporated rounded towers and box machicolation, along with the sloping glacis (which has a gallery giving access to a series of arrow slits), dual-purpose moat/cistern, and superimposed rounded towers, although the original bossed masonry and the western rectangular tower survive within the glacis and can be inspected by the intrepid.

The castle resisted the attentions of Nur al-Din in 1163 and Saladin in 1188, but as the Crusader presence in the area diminished Krak waned. In 1271, the Mameluke Sultan Baybars laid siege to the site, probably concentrating on the southern outer defences (the most vulnerable point of the fortification). He used trebuchets to batter a hole in the wall (probably at the point where a later tower was constructed). Once inside the outer ward, he persuaded the defenders in the main fortification to surrender, offering them safe conduct to Tripoli.

With the departure of the crusaders, the purpose of Krak was gone and it eventually colonised by local inhabitants, so that by the time Gertrude Bell visited, there was a small village occupying the interior of the castle, which was cleared out in the 1930s and the present village constructed.
60 photos · 324 views