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Margat Castle (or Marquab Castle)
Ruined Crusader Castle in Syria

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Margat Castle, near Baniyas in Syria, was a Crusader fortress. It was one of the major strongholds of the Knights Hospitaller. Like the Krak des Chevaliers, Margat is a large spur castle with many elements of a concentric castle.

It was a stronghold of the Knights Templar, besieged without success by the great Saladin.

The castle has been in a poor state until 2007, when some reconstruction and renovation started. It is now open to the public.

Castle Margat - La ville De Valanie. oublished by H Raigniald in  Paris, Michael Soly, 1629. (7.5 x 10.4 inches. / 19.0 x 26.4 cm. Uncoloured.)

 

 

 

 

Margat Castle is located around 2 km from the Mediterranean coast, approximately 6 km south of Baniyas. It is in the old \Crusader Principality of Antioch, modern day Syria Itis sited on a hill about 360 metres above sea level, formed by an extinct volcano on the road between Tripoli and Latakia, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Margat is also known as Marqab from the Arabic Qalaat al-Marqab (قلعة المرقب,) "Castle of the Watchtower")


Google map showing the location of Margat Castle (or Marquab Castle)

 

Google map showing Margat Castle (or Marquab Castle)

 

It was probably an ancient fortress, but earliest existing defences were built in 1062 by the local Muslim lords, who continued to hold it within the Christian Principality of Antioch in the aftermath of the First Crusade. When the Principality was defeated at the Battle of Harran in 1104, the Byzantine Empire took advantage of the Moslems’ weakness and captured Margat from them. A few years later it was captured by Tancred, Prince of Galilee, regent of Antioch, and incorporated into the Principality.

In the 1170s it was controlled by Reynald II Mazoir of Antioch as a vassal of the Count of Tripoli; the fortress was so large that it had its own household officials and a number of rear-vassals.

Mazoir’s son Bertrand sold it to the Hospitallers in 1186 as it was too expensive for the Mazoir family to maintain. After some rebuilding and expansion by the Hospitallers, it became their headquarters in Syria. Under Hospitaller control, its fourteen towers were thought to be impregnable.

Saladin besieged the castle in 1188 but was unable to capture it and it was one of the few remaining territories left in Christian hands after Saladin's conquests.

By the beginning of the 13th century the Hospitallers controlled the surrounding land and roads and made a large profit from travellers and pilgrims passing through.

Isaac Comnenus of Cyprus was imprisoned there after Richard I of England captured Cyprus from him during the Third Crusade.

The bishop of nearby Valenia also used Margat as his headquarters after around 1240. Margat was second in size in power only to the other Hospitaller fortress to the south, Krak des Chevaliers.

The Mamluk sultan of Egypt Qalawun besieged it beginning on April 25, 1285, and captured it after a month when sappers had undermined the north wall. Qalawun respected the size of the fortress and the courage of its defenders, and allowed the Hospitallers to leave with everything they could carry. Rather than destroy it as he did with other fortresses, he placed a Mamluk garrison in it.

 

 

 

 

Architecture

Margat castle is built of basalt.

Like the Krak des Chevaliers, Margat is a large spur castle with many typical elements of a concentric castle. It has a bent entrance leading through the base of a gate tower.

A notable feature of the inner defences is a large circular tower, sometime referred to as a donjon (though there is also a central keep).

Unlike Krak, Margat has a large outer ward, giving it a larger total area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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