Syria – POINTS OF INTEREST – Historical Sites – Castles and Fortresses

Castles and Fortresses

MasyafMasyaf is a castle in Syria dating back to the Byzantine era. It is situated in the lush Orontes Valley, 40 miles to the west of Hama. It served to protect the trade routes to cities further inland such as Banyas. The castle itself stands about 20 meters above the surrounding plain.Krak des ChevaliersKrak des Chevaliers (also Crac des Chevaliers, “fortress of the knights” in a mixture of Arabic and French) was the headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller in Syria during the Crusades. It was also called in Arabic Ḥiṣn al-Akrād, قلعة الحصن, “fortress of the Kurds.”The castle is located east of Tripoli in the “Homs Gap,” atop a 650-meter high cliff along the only route from Antioch to Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea. The original fortress had been built in 1031 for the emir of Aleppo. It was captured by Raymond IV of Toulouse early in 1099, during the First Crusade, but was abandoned when the Crusaders continued their march to Jerusalem. It was reoccupied again by Tancred, Prince of Galilee in 1110. Raymond II, count of Tripoli, gave it to the Hospitallers in 1144.

Margat

Margat also known as Marqab (from the Arabic Qalaat al-Marqab, “Castle of the Watchtower”) was a Crusader fortress in modern Syria. It was one of the major strongholds of the Knights Hospitaller.Margat was located on a hill about 500 metres above sea level, formed by an extinct volcano on the road between Tripoli and Latakia, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea

Chastel Blanc

Chastel Blanc (called by the natives, ‘the White tower’) was built by the Knights Templar on already existing fortifications. There were other fortifications in Safita in addition to the tower, however, the tower is the only fortification that has lasted all this time even surviving an earthquake in 1202. The tower was built on the highest of Safita’s three hills, and offers a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. It has a height of 30 meters, a width of 50 meters, a length of 70 meters.The structure was constructed with limestone blocks, and the flooring is covered with big stone plates. The tower has two floors, the ground floor contains the chapel of St. Michael, surviving from the Crusader era. The second floor, which can be reached by a flight of partially destroyed stairs, contains many small windows that were used by archers to defend the tower. The ceiling of the tower is supported by many robust columns. There is a big bell on the eastern wall and its sound can be heard up to 5 kilometers from Safita. Another flight of stairs are found on the second floor, that can be taken to the roof of the tower. From the roof, one can see the snow-covered mountains of Lebanon, as well as Tripoli. The Mediterreanean sea and the Krak des Chevaliers are also visible. During French colonialism, efforts were made to restore the tower, causing great discomfort to the villagers that lived very close to it.

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