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Qalaat Saladin (Saladin’s Castle or Saone)

Listed under Castles & Palaces in Syria.

Photo of Qalaat Saladin (Saladin’s Castle or Saone)
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This is one of the most magnificent and best preserved of the Crusader Castles, the current incarnation was also renovated for one of the most important rulers of the day and thus was large and solid (however it is questioned whether Saladin ever actually lived here, though he did conquer the castle in 1188 - it was named retrospectively in the 20th Century, at the time it was called Saone.). The site adds to the magnificence. Saladin’s Castle with it’s three thick circular towers, thick stone walled courtyards, vast vaulted rooms and Byzantine carvings rises out of a ridge between two deep hand cut protective gorges which drop from the plains of forest the castle occupies 150 metres to the river bed below. Built in the style of the Byzantine period, Saone, unlike many of it’s contemporaries, was added to and well repaired over the ages: Phoenician fortified the walls, Alexander took the castle but didn’t do much construction work, in the 13th Century Arab Baths were added in a domed courtyard decorated with mosaics and a fountain and later a large mosque, now in ruins, was built within the grounds.

I was given a guided tour by a man who as a child lived within the castle grounds but has since been turfed out, but he had the knowledge of someone who had lived there and was able to take us though seemingly maze like back staircases etc. which was a highlight of the experience.

Fans of T.E. Lawrence will know this as one of the few castles from this early period that Lawrence found praise for. It is also interesting in that it is one of the few Crusader Castles not taken by the Knights Templars or Hospitaliers.

Written by  Kynan Wieltz.

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