|Krak des Chevaliers from the south-west|
Krak des Chevaliers (French pronunciation: [kʁak de ʃəvaˈlje]) (Arabic: قلعة الحصن), also Crac des Chevaliers, is a Crusader castle in Syria and one of the most important preserved medieval castles in the world. The site was first inhabited in the 11th century by a settlement of Kurds; as a result it was known as Hisn al Akrad, meaning the "Castle of the Kurds". In 1142 it was given by Raymond II, Count of Tripoli, to the Knights Hospitaller. It remained in their possession until it fell in 1271. It became known as Crac de l'Ospital; the name Krak des Chevaliers was coined in the 19th century.
The Hospitallers began rebuilding the castle in the 1140s and were finished by 1170 when an earthquake damaged the castle. The order controlled a number of castles along the border of the County of Tripoli, a state founded after the First Crusade. Krak des Chevaliers was amongst the most important and acted as a centre of administration as well as a military base. After a second phase of building was undertaken in the 13th century, Krak des Chevaliers became a concentric castle. This phase created the outer wall and gave the castle its current appearance. The first half of the century has been described as Krak des Chevaliers' "golden age". At its peak, Krak des Chevaliers housed a garrison of around 2,000. Such a large garrison allowed the Hospitallers to extract tribute from a wide area. From the 1250s the fortunes of the Knights Hospitaller took a turn for the worse and in 1271 Krak des Chevaliers was captured by the Mamluk Sultan Baibars after a siege lasting 36 days, and then purportedly only by way of a forged letter purportedly from the Hospitallers' Grand Master that caused the Knights to surrender.
|A view from the tower towards the north|
Renewed interest in Crusader castles in the 19th century led to the investigation of Krak des Chevaliers, and architectural plans were drawn up. In the late 19th or early 20th century a settlement had been created within the castle, causing damage to its fabric. The 500 inhabitants were moved in 1933 and the castle was given over to the French state, under which a programme of clearing and restoration was carried out. When Syria declared independence in 1946, the castle left French control. Today, a village called al-Husn exists around the castle and has a population of nearly 9,000. Krak des Chevaliers is located approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) west of the city of Homs, close to the border of Lebanon, and is administratively part of the Homs Governorate. Since 2006, the castles of Krak des Chevaliers and Qal'at Salah El-Din have been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
|Group of Sheep having supper while enjoying the sunset|
Current Days:Activist video shows tower of UNESCO Heritage Site being hit as regime forces advance in nearby Homs city.
An air raid on Syria's famed Crac des Chevaliers castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has damaged one of the fortress's towers, footage shot by activists showed.
Several videos posted online in July 2012 showed at least one air strike against the Crusader castle in central Homs province, where fighting is raging between government troops and rebel forces.
The footage shows a huge blast as a tower of the fortress, which is built on a hill, appears to take a direct hit, throwing up large clouds of smoke and scattering debris in the air.
A separate video filmed inside the castle purports to show some of the damage caused by the air strike, including a gaping hole in the ceiling and a pile of rubble below.
The Photographer says: "God is great. This is the destruction caused by MiG air strike on the Crac des Chevaliers," says the activist filming the damage.
You can see the Krak Des Chevaliers listed on the UNESCO "List of World Heritage in Danger"