Biblical Archaeology Review 43:5, September/October 2017

Strata: Where Is It?

A. Jordan

B. Syria

C. France

D. Turkey

E. Portugal

Answer: (B) Syria

Krak des Chevaliers is one of the world’s most noteworthy preserved castles from the medieval period. In western Syria about 20 miles from the coast, Krak des Chevaliers sits more than 2,000 feet above Homs Gap, an important passage connecting Syria’s interior with its coast. The castle is an ideal stronghold. Its position—high above the valley below—gives it a natural defensive advantage. Further, it guards the ancient route that connected Tripoli (on Lebanon’s northern coast) to Homs (in western Syria)—making it of extreme strategic importance.

Kurdish tribesmen first built a fortress at the site in the 11th century C.E. During the First Crusade, Crusaders marched on the site on their way to Jerusalem. Shortly afterward in the early 12th century, Christian forces—under the leadership of Tancred, prince of Galilee—began permanently occupying the site. Around 1142 the castle—along with other property in the area—was given to the Knights Hospitaller, a Catholic military order. The Knights Hospitaller constructed a new castle at the site and held control of it for more than a century—despite frequent opposition. Following a month-and-a-half-long siege—and a bit of subterfuge on the part of their attackers—in 1271, the Crusaders fell to Mamluk forces. After gaining control of Krak des Chevaliers, the Mamluks added to the structure and converted the Crusaders’ chapel into a mosque.

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