The Crusader castle Crac des Chevaliers in Syria is the best preserved of its kind. High towering above the area it is easy to go back in time and you get the Crusaders to mind.
Crac des Chevaliers is a stunning castle. As Boase writes in his book about castles: "What the Parthenon for Greek temples and Gothic cathedrals of Chartres is Crac des Chevaliers to medieval castles, a perfect example, one of the biggest buildings of all time." This gives an idea of how impressive the castle. To this day it is in almost perfect condition and one of the main attractions of Syria.
Crac des Chevaliers is the largest fort built by European crusaders in Syria and Palestine. It is one of the most remarkable relics of medieval military architecture. The fort was built near the border with what is now Lebanon, on the site of a former Muslim stronghold which was built by the governor of Homs around 1031. After Antioch in 1098 was occupied by the Crusaders ran two crusader armies Syria under the foot; one along the coast and through the Orontes Valley.
The Crusaders arrived in february 1099 under the leadership of Raymond de Toulouse, at the castle but the place was reconquered and it took until 1110 before the Crusaders occupied it again. The castle fell under the control of the Duke of Tripoli. The Crusaders were the best use of it after the Duke handed over in 1144, along with other dependent castles to him, the Hospitallers. Knights decided to expand the castle on a large scale. They doubled the fortifications, built new buildings there and put spaces for stocks were sufficient, with a garrison of 2,000 people, resist a siege of five years. There were aqueducts and water tanks, grain storage barrels and olive oil plus an olive press. The Crac was of great importance to the Crusaders because it was the coast covenant with the Orontes Valley and access to the land route between Europe and the Holy Land. It was an advanced defense post against the threat of the Muslim Emirs of Homs and Hama and more distant cities such as Aleppo and Damascus. The fort was a safe base situated in an area that was populated mainly by Christians.
The castle withstood two attacks by Muslims in the 12th century. First it was Nur ed-Din who tried the castle to get their hands in 1163 followed by Saladin in 1188. During the 13th century the presence of the Crusaders in the interior less and garrison in the Crac was reduced by the lack of new recruits from Europe. Sultan Baybars of Mamluken united Syria and Egypt under his rule and took one for the Crusaders occupied by castles: Kerak, Caesarea, Arsuf, Safad and Jaffa. In 1270 Antioch was occupied and the Sultan decided to recapture the Crac and the Crusaders to expel definitively from Greater Syria. Baybars besieged the fort on 21 february 1271 and the garrison surrendered on April 7th. The Crac thus came into Muslim hands. Baybars initially continued to oversee the repairs. The Mamluken used the castle as a base for a period. With the decrease of the external threat hit the fort, however, obsolete and military establishment. Over the locals took up residence in the castle until the French invaders in 1934 decided that the castle was of great historical value and the people put out. The newly built parts were demolished.
More information on Syria can be found in the Specials Syria, the cradle of civilization and the history of Syria. More information about the Crusades can be found in the Special Crusades.