The Citadel of Salah Ed-Din
( ) (Arabic: Qalaat Salah ed-Din; once known as
Saone, also known as Saladdin
Castle) is a castle in Syria.
is located c. 30 km east of Latakia, in high
mountainous terrain, on a ridge between two deep ravines and
surrounded by forest.
was built in ancient times, possibly during the Phoenician period (early first millennium BC).
Phoenicians are said to have surrendered it to Alexander the Great about 334 BC.
According to legend, the Macedonian
phalanxes had been unable to storm the castle even after a long
siege. In despair, Alexander prayed at the local temple of Hercules
(the Phoenician Melkarth
following evening, Hercules appeared to Alexander in a vision and
showed him the location of a nearby cave where his legendary club
was hidden. Alexander sprung out of bed and sure enough, found the
cave and the club where the vision had shown him. Next morning,
Alexander lead a charge against the castle armed with Hercules'
club. The stone gates were no match for a demigod's weapon, and
thus the castle finally fell to the Macedonian conqueror. Not much
is known about what happened to it between this period and the
return of the Byzantines
10th century AD. Emperor John I
Tzimiskes gained control of the place from the Aleppan Hamdanid dynasty, and built the first of
its defensive structures.
It then fell in the hands of the
Crusaders at around the beginning of the 12th century. It is
mentioned that in 1119 it was owned by Robert of Saone who was
given control of it by Roger, Prince of
. Most of what is evident today was built at this time.
The fortress was notable as being one of the few which were not
entrusted to the major military orders of the Hospitaller
and the Templars
The Crusader walls were breached by the armies of Muslim leader
in July 1188
, and it is from this victory that the castle takes
its present name.
From 1188 to 1272 the castle was controlled by the local family of
Nasr al-Din Manguwiris, who ceded it to Egyptian sultan Baybars
in 1273. From 1280 it was under Sonqor al-Ashqar
, but was captured back by
the Egyptians in 1287 by Qalaun
One of the most magnificent features of the fortress is the
28 m deep ditch, which was cut into living rock probably by
the Byzantines (it might have been completed by the Crusaders).
This ditch, which runs 156 meters along the east side, is 14 to 20
meters wide and has a lonely 28 m high needle to support the
The entrance to the castle is through an entrance on the south side
of the fortress. On the right of the entrance is a tower, a bastion
built by the Crusaders. There is another a few meters further.
There is a cistern for water storage and some stables just next to
a massive keep that overlooks the ditch. This keep has walls of
5 m thick and it covers an area of nearly 24 m². Further
on to the north is the gate where the drawbridge used to be. Also
evident are the Byzantine citadel, located at the center of the
fortress, another large cistern, the Crusader tea house, and a
Crusader church adjoining one of two Byzantine chapels.
As for the Arab additions to the fortress they include a mosque,
which dates back to sultan Qalawun
, and a
palace, which includes baths with courtyards and iwans. This has
been slightly restored.
- An article about crusader castles, with a section on