Krak des Chevaliers, also Crac des Chevaliers or “Castle of the Knights” is a massive Crusader fortress east of Tartus, Syria and one of the most important preserved medieval castles in the world.
The castle represents the most significant examples illustrating the exchange of influences and documenting the evolution of military architecture in the Near East during the time of the Crusades (11th – 13th centuries), having been inhabited by both Christian and Muslim forces on various occasions.
It became known as Crac de I’Ospital, it was build by the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem from 1142 to 1271; the name Krak des Chevaliers was coined in the 19th century.
Krak des Chevaliers was among the most important castles and acted as a center of administration and military base. Because of an earthquake damage, the castle was rebuilt in the 1140s and finished by 1170. After second phase of building, which was undertaken in the 13th century (building the outer walls), Krak des Chevaliers became a concentric castle.
The castle has two parts: an outside wall with 13 towers and an inside wall and keep. The view from the outer walls is all the way to Lebanon, it has great physical strength with vast stone walls and excellent quality of construction and subtle defensive systems. It could accommodate a garrison of as many as 2000 soldiers.
The main building material at Krak des Chevaliers was limestone. The concentric design of Krak was constructed so the defenders can protect themselves equally on all sides. Only one route led from the city of Antioch south to Beirut and the Mediterranean, and that route passed through Homs Gap, a relatively flat passage in the Orontes River Valley of southern Syria.
Krak des Chevaliers is a typical example of Gothic architecture, uprooted from Western Europe and transferred to the Middle East and is on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. The British author, archaeologist, military officer, and diplomat T.E Lawrence described the castle as ‘the best preserved and most wholly admirable castle in the world’.