Nov 20, 2010

Krak des Chevaliers | Syria

Krak des Chevaliers, transliterated Crac des Chevaliers, is a Crusader castle in Syria and one of the most important preserved medieval military castles in the world. In Arabic, the fortress is called Qal'at al-Ḥiṣn (Arabic: قلعة الحصن‎), the word Krak coming from the Syriac karak, meaning fortress. It is located approximately 40 km west of the city of Homs, close to the border of Lebanon, and is administratively part of the Homs Governorate.
Known to the Arabs as Hisn al Akrad (Arabic: حصن الأکراد‎), the Castle of the Kurds, it was called by the Franks Le Crat and then by a confusion with karak (fortress), Le Crac. The modern Arabic name for the castle is Qalaat el Hosn; this derives from the name of an earlier fortification on the site called Hosn el Akrad, meaning "stronghold of the Kurds".
The castle is located east of Tartus, Syria, in the Homs Gap, atop a 650-metre-high hill. It sat along the only route from Antioch to Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of many fortresses that were part of a defensive network along the border of the old Crusader states. The fortress controlled the road to the Mediterranean, and from this base, the Hospitallers could exert some influence over Lake Homs to the east to control the fishing industry and watch for Muslim armies gathering in Syria. 

The fortress was described as "perhaps the best preserved and most wholly admirable castle in the world" by T. E. Lawrence. In 1935, the castle was bought by the French government. Restoration began under the supervision of Pierre Coupel, who had undertaken similar work at the Tower of the Lions and the two castles at Sidon. The castle was made a World Heritage Site, along with Qal’at Salah El-Din, in 2006, and is owned by the Syrian government. The fortress is one of the few sites where Crusader art (in the form of frescoes) has been preserved. [wikipedia]

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