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Margat, also known as Marqab from the Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 Qalaat al-Marqab (قلعة المرقب, "Castle of the Watchtower") is a castle
A castle is a type of fortified structure built in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble...

 near Baniyas
Baniyas is a city of northwestern Syria, located at the foot of the hill of Qalaat el-Marqab , 55 km to the south of Latakia and 35 km north of Tartous , and a Catholic titular see under the Latin name of Balanea, which is presently vacant.It is famous for its orchards...

, Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, which was a Crusader fortress and one of the major strongholds of the Knights Hospitaller
Knights Hospitaller
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta , also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta , Order of Malta or Knights of Malta, is a Roman Catholic lay religious order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. It is the world's...

. It is located around 2 km from the Mediterranean coast, approximately 6 km south of Baniyas.
The castle had been in poor preservation until 2007, when some reconstruction and renovation started.


Margat is located on a hill about 360 metres above sea level, formed by an extinct volcano
2. Bedrock3. Conduit 4. Base5. Sill6. Dike7. Layers of ash emitted by the volcano8. Flank| 9. Layers of lava emitted by the volcano10. Throat11. Parasitic cone12. Lava flow13. Vent14. Crater15...

 on the road between Tripoli
Tripoli, Lebanon
Tripoli is the largest city in northern Lebanon and the second-largest city in Lebanon. Situated 85 km north of the capital Beirut, Tripoli is the capital of the North Governorate and the Tripoli District. Geographically located on the east of the Mediterranean, the city's history dates back...

 and Latakia
Latakia, or Latakiyah , is the principal port city of Syria, as well as the capital of the Latakia Governorate. In addition to serving as a port, the city is a manufacturing center for surrounding agricultural towns and villages...

, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...


According to Arab sources, the site of Margat Castle was first fortified in 1062 by Muslims. They continued to hold it within the Christian Principality of Antioch
Principality of Antioch
The Principality of Antioch, including parts of modern-day Turkey and Syria, was one of the crusader states created during the First Crusade.-Foundation:...

 in the aftermath of the First Crusade
First Crusade
The First Crusade was a military expedition by Western Christianity to regain the Holy Lands taken in the Muslim conquest of the Levant, ultimately resulting in the recapture of Jerusalem...

. When the Principality was defeated at the Battle of Harran
Battle of Harran
The Battle of Harran took place on May 7, 1104 between the Crusader states of the Principality of Antioch and the County of Edessa, and the Seljuk Turks. It was the first major battle against the newfound Crusader states in the aftermath of the First Crusade marking a key turning point against...

 in 1104, the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 took advantage of their weakness and captured Margat from the Muslims. A few years later it was captured by Tancred, Prince of Galilee
Tancred, Prince of Galilee
Tancred was a Norman leader of the First Crusade who later became Prince of Galilee and regent of the Principality of Antioch...

, regent of Antioch, and was incorporated into the Principality.

In the 1170s it was controlled by Reynald II Mazoir of Antioch as a vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

 of the count of Tripoli
County of Tripoli
The County of Tripoli was the last Crusader state founded in the Levant, located in what today are parts of western Syria and northern Lebanon, where exists the modern city of Tripoli. The Crusader state was captured and created by Christian forces in 1109, originally held by Bertrand of Toulouse...

; the fortress was so large that it had its own household officials and a number of rear-vassals
A vavasour, is a term in Feudal law. A vavasour was the vassal or tenant of a baron, one who held their tenancy under a baron, and who also had tenants under him...

. His 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.

In 1188, Saladin
Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb , better known in the Western world as Saladin, was an Arabized Kurdish Muslim, who became the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, and founded the Ayyubid dynasty. He led Muslim and Arab opposition to the Franks and other European Crusaders in the Levant...

 marched on Margat having left Krak des Chevaliers in search of easier prey. According to Abu'l-Fida
Abu al-Fida or Abul Fida Ismail Hamvi was a Kurdish historian, geographer, and local sultan...

, "Recognising that Maqab was impregnable and that he had no hope of capturing it, he passed on to Jabala". 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
Richard I of England
Richard I was King of England from 6 July 1189 until his death. He also ruled as Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Count of Nantes, and Overlord of Brittany at various times during the same period...

 captured Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

 from him during the Third Crusade
Third Crusade
The Third Crusade , also known as the Kings' Crusade, was an attempt by European leaders to reconquer the Holy Land from Saladin...

. 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
Krak des Chevaliers
Krak des Chevaliers , also Crac des Chevaliers, is a Crusader castle in Syria and one of the most important preserved medieval castles in the world. The site was first inhabited in the 11th century by a settlement of Kurds; as a result it was known as Hisn al Akrad, meaning the "Castle of the...


The Mamluk
Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo)
The Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt was the final independent Egyptian state prior to the establishment of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty in 1805. It lasted from the overthrow of the Ayyubid Dynasty until the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517. The sultanate's ruling caste was composed of Mamluks, Arabised...

 sultan of Egypt
Sultan of Egypt
Sultan of Egypt was the status held by the rulers of Egypt after the establishment of the Ayyubid Dynasty of Saladin in 1174 until the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517. Though the extent of the Egyptian Sultanate ebbed and flowed, it generally included Sham and Hejaz, with the consequence that the...

Saif ad-Dīn Qalawun aṣ-Ṣāliḥī was the seventh Mamluk sultan of Egypt...

 besieged it beginning on April 25, 1285, and captured it after a month when sapper
A sapper, pioneer or combat engineer is a combatant soldier who performs a wide variety of combat engineering duties, typically including, but not limited to, bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, demolitions, field defences, general construction and building, as well as road and airfield...

s mined 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.


Castles in Europe provided lordly accommodation for their owners and acted a centres of administration; in the Levant the need for defence was paramount and this was reflected in castle design. Historian Hugh Kennedy suggests that "The castle scientifically designed as a fighting machine surely reached its apogee in great buildings like Margat and Crac des Chevaliers." Like the Krak des Chevaliers
Krak des Chevaliers
Krak des Chevaliers , also Crac des Chevaliers, is a Crusader castle in Syria and one of the most important preserved medieval castles in the world. The site was first inhabited in the 11th century by a settlement of Kurds; as a result it was known as Hisn al Akrad, meaning the "Castle of the...

, Margat is a large spur castle
Spur castle
A spur castle is a type of medieval fortification that uses its location as a defensive feature. The name refers to the location on a spur projecting from a hill...

 with many typical elements of a concentric castle
Concentric castle
A concentric castle is a castle with two or more concentric curtain walls, such that the outer wall is lower than the inner and can be defended from it. The word concentric does not imply that these castles were circular; in fact if taken too literally the term "concentric" is quite misleading...

. It has a bent entrance
Bent entrance
A bent entrance is a defensive feature in mediaeval fortification. In a castle with a bent entrance, the gate passage is narrow and turns sharply. Its purpose is to slow down attackers attempting to rush the gate and impede the use of battering rams against doors...

 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 it should not be confused with a central keep
A keep is a type of fortified tower built within castles during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars have debated the scope of the word keep, but usually consider it to refer to large towers in castles that were fortified residences, used as a refuge of last resort should the rest of the...

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

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