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Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The art and architecture of the crusader states

IV: Military Architecture in the Crusader States in Palestine and Syria,   pp. 140-164 PDF (8.9 MB)

Page 153

 The importance of the castle was partially economic. The fortified village
on the northeast slope was a protected dwelling place for the cultivators
of this profitable land, and as the Moslem danger grew stronger the actual
castle walls were enlarged so that men and beasts could take refuge there.
Defensively it was well placed, though strategically it did not, as is sometimes
claimed, control the gap of Homs, for the easiest route between Homs and
Tripoli passes some eleven miles south of the castle, though at various points
it can be seen from it. It was a base from which inroads could be made on
enemy territory. "What think you," wrote Ibn-Jubair about Homs, "of a town
that is only a few miles from Hisn al-Akrãd, the stronghold of the
enemy where you can see their fires whose sparks burn you when they fly,
and whence each day, should they wish, the enemy may raid you on horseback?"
18 And when in their turns the Moslem raiders came, Krak was the refuge and
the rallying point for counterattack. 
 In 1110 a crusading force occupied an Arab castle on the site, and for some
thirty years it was held from the county of Tripoli; its last baronial occupier
was William of Le Crat, who is mentioned in a document by which Raymond II
of Tripoli ceded the castle to the Hospitallers in 1142. The two military
orders were rapidly becoming the only reliable source for manpower and building
finance. How far the Arab castle had already been rebuilt is not clear, but
tile central block as it stands today was probably built by tile Hospitallers
shortly after they occupied the castle (fig. 7). It is an irregular poly
gon, following the lie of the ground, rounded on the north side, but at an
obtuse angle on the south enclosing an inner courtyard from which opened
a chapel and a hail. Tile chapel, a nave of tilree barrel-vaulted bays ending
in an apse, has blind pointed arches witil double voussoirs on the side walls,
a system found in many Provençal churches. In restoration work on
the porch in 1965 a fresco of tile Presentation in the Temple was uncovered
and is now in the museum at Tortosa. It seems to be twelfth-century work,
showing both Byzantine and western influences. 19 Between tile courtyard
and the 
18. The Travels of Thn Jubayr, tr. R. J. C. Broadhurst (London, 1952), p.
19. A. Rihaoui (' Abd-al-Qadir ar-Rihãwi), The Krak of the Knights
(2nd ed., Damascus, 
1966), p. 33. The Presentation fresco was not the only painting found at
Krak des Chevaliers. Paul Deschamps reports (Terre Sainte romane [1964],
p. 137): "En 1935 on 
découvrit les restes d'une chapelle située hors du Crac a 40
metres de l'entrée principale. . . . Cette chapelle était entièrement
couverte de peintures a personnages ou se combinent l'art français
et l'art syrien. Une partie était en bon état; on déposa
ce fragment et on le reporta sur une toile. Une inscription latine a révélé
qu'une des figures représentait saint Pantaléon, médecin
martyrisé a Nicomédie en 303." Deschamps says this fresco was
taken to Tortosa with the Presentation, but it is not there, and so far all
attempts to locate it have failed. [J. F.] 

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