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The Siege of Kerak: Saladin’s troops would not attack the castle tower in which a wedding was taking place

Marija Georgievska

Castle Kerak was the stronghold of the Lord of Oultrejordain, Raynald of Chatillon and is located in al-Karak, Jordan.

The fortress was built in 1142, during the reign of Pagan the Butler who was the Lord of Montreal. It is considered to be one of the largest crusader castles in the Levant. The castle was in possession of Raynald in 1176 after he had married the widow of Humphrey III of Toron, Stephanie of Milly.

The Kerak Castle  Photo Credit

The Kerak Castle  Photo Credit

 

It is considered as one of the largest crusader castles in the Levant  Photo Credit

It is considered as one of the largest crusader castles in the Levant  Photo Credit

The Crusader architecture of the castle is a mixture of several architectural styles, including the Arab and Byzantine designs, and the West European. There are rectangular towers and vaulted stone galleries that were constructed to strengthen the walls. There is a deep moat which is a typical part of spur castles. The design of the stronghold is less sophisticated than that of the Krak des Chevaliers crusader castle.

In 2004, in the lower court of the castle, the Karak Archaeological Museum was opened and introduced the history of the region around the castle. During Raynald’s reign, there were several truces between the Muslim and the Christian states. In 1183, he tried to attack Islam’s holiest city, Mecca.

A possible portrait of Saladin

A possible portrait of Saladin

 

Demonstration of war machines which were used during the Siege of Kerak

Demonstration of war machines which were used during the Siege of Kerak

Painting of William of Tyre discovering Baldwin’s first symptoms of leprosy

Painting of William of Tyre discovering Baldwin’s first symptoms of leprosy

The same year, Saladin besieged the castle because he could not tolerate Raynald’s attacks. At the time of the siege, there was a wedding at the Kerak castle of Humphrey IV and Isabella I of Jerusalem. After some negotiations, Saladin decided not to attack only the tower where the wedding was taking place. The siege was relieved by Baldwin IV of Jerusalem who immediately marched at the site with a relief force.

Baldwin was in terrible health condition (leprosy), so he could barely stand or see. He continued to fight against Saladin and was carried on a stretcher by his troops. While Saladin was struggling against the defenses of the castle, the Christian forces had arrived, and that forced him to flee from Kerak.

The lower court of the castle  Photo Credit

The lower court of the castle  Photo Credit

 

Inside the castle  Photo Credit

Inside the castle  Photo Credit

One year later, Saladin returned to Kerak, but he failed again. The castle remained a Crusader stronghold until 1188 when it fell under Muslim control.

Read another story from us: The colossal Hand of Hercules among the ruins in the Amman Citadel in Jordan

The siege is fictionally presented in the movie Kingdom of Heaven where the actor Edward Norton plays the role of  Baldwin, and Ghassan Massoud plays the role of Saladin. There is a scene where Saladin and Baldwin Iv are negotiating a settlement. In the end, Baldwin punishes Raynald because he broke the truce with Saladin.