Crac des Chevaliers

Crac des Chevaliers, with its finely cut white limestone masonry, is less forbidding than the dark and roughly cut basalt mass of Margat. It is, however, more cramped, with approximately three-quarters of the area within the inner walls being built over. A chapel stands at one end of a small courtyard while at the other a large raised platform rests on vaults, which were probably used for storage, inner stabling and as shelter from incoming stones and arrows. On the western side of this courtyard is the magnificent Hall of the Knights, perhaps largely 12th century with 13th-century interior vaulting and ribs. However, even this was not the most remarkable aspect of Crac des Chevaliers. To quote the historian Hugh Kennedy:

The most striking feature is the gallery on the courtyard side, which probably dates from the 1230s; elegant, with delicate, slender pillars and tracery, it shows all the refinement of the high Gothic of the thirteenth century and is a perfect complement to the massive fortifications. There is a short Latin verse inscribed on one of the arches: Sit tibi copia, Sit sapiencia, Formaque detur, Inquinat omnia sola, Superbia si comitetur. (Have richness, have wisdom, have beauty but beware of pride, which spoils all it comes into contact with.)

The eastern entrance of the castle of Crac des Chevaliers led to a covered entrance ramp, the upper part of which is seen here. Halfway up the covered corridor the ramp made an abrupt 180-degree turn, at the furthest point visible in this picture.

One of the most remarkable features inside the castle of Crac des Chevaliers is an open cistern, or short moat, between the extremely strong southern outer wall, on the left, and the even larger southern glacis of the inner citadel, on the right. In addition to serving as a secure source of water, its existence may have inhibited mining operations against the vulnerable southern side of the castle.

In stern contrast to the delicacy of this carved gallery or cloister, are the great towers of the southern wall. These provided accommodation for the 60 or so knights who were the aristocracy of the community. The south-west tower also has a vaulted circular chamber, which may later have been modified to provide the Grand Master with some privacy. On top are the remains of a small watchtower.

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