Krak des Chevaliers, Syria

Photo: Krak_des_Chevaliers_landscape.jpg: (Ergo) derivative work: Nev1 (Krak_des_Chevaliers_landscape.jpg) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Krak_des_Chevaliers_landscape.jpg: (Ergo) derivative work: Nev1 (Krak_des_Chevaliers_landscape.jpg) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Syria is a mess. It’s not a secret. The world is watching as atrocity after atrocity is being committed. Some people are being forced from their homes and violently killed, while others have fled the country, fearing for their lives. There is no end in sight.

Eventually, the world will look back at this time with embarrassment and regret. First as memorials are erected over the lives lost. Second over the widespread destruction of such a beautiful country. Just as it’s impossible to replace family members, it’s also impossible to replace historical sites, like Krak des Chevaliers.

Krak des Chevaliers is one of the most important medieval castles in the world. The Castle of the Kurds was built in the 11th century and given to the Knights Hospitaller, a Christian military order in the Middle Ages, by the Count of Tripoli. Its strategic position, on a steep hill in the Homs Gap, was a crucial stop along the trade route between Homs and Tripoli. The limestone castle now sits near the Lebanese border and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Until a few years ago, people rushed into—not out of—Syria to see Krak des Chevaliers. The Crusader castle has two massive walls separated by a moat. The outer wall, which was added in the 13th century, has 13 towers looking out in every direction. Warden’s Tower, in the southwest corner, has the best views of the green countryside. The courtyard has vaulted chambers and a Gothic façade. Dark tunnels connected the Great Hall, the baths, and even the stables. The chapel was converted into a mosque when the castle fell to the Muslim Mamluk Sultan Baibars later in the 13th century, though the pulpit still remains. Also remaining: well-preserved frescoes.

Well-preserved until recently, that is. Krak des Chevaliers was shelled during a 2012 attack, causing damage to the chapel. Airstrikes in 2013 destroyed one of the towers. And the fighting continues in the hotly contested surrounding area. Pretty soon, everything and everyone will be gone.

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