Post-classical history


Margat (mod. Qal‘at Marqab, Syria) was a castle overlooking the Mediterranean coast near the southern frontier of the principality of Antioch. It was originally built by the Mazoir family, who held the surrounding lordship, but they sold it to the Hospitallers in 1186. Saladin reckoned it was too strong to take in 1188.

The Hospitallers conducted a major rebuilding in the early thirteenth century. The adjacent town was fortified, and the citadel, at the south end of the isolated plateau on which the castle stands, was transformed into a massive stronghold. Built in black basalt, it consists of two lines of fortification dominated by a massive, round donjon some 25 meters (82 ft.) high. Inside the walls there are vast storerooms on different levels. There were halls for the Hospitaller knights and a large, simple chapel in which traces of mosaic decoration have been found. In 1212 the castle was said to have had a normal complement of 1,000 men and contained enough supplies for five years. It also became the seat of the Latin bishop of Valania and the archives of the Hospitallers. The Mamlûk Sultan Qalâwûn began a siege on 17 April 1285 and on 23 May the southern tower of the spur was undermined. The next day the garrison asked for terms and were allowed to retire to Tortosa and Tripoli.

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