Al Marqab Castle
Only 6 Km from Banias,
this magnificent castle sits on the side of an extinct volcano, over
watching the sea. Called Qalaat Al Marqab in Arabic it means Castle
of the watchtower. This is where Richard the Lionheart landed at the
beginning of the third crusade.
Founded in 1062 by the Muslim Arabs it was then taken over by the
Byzantines then somehow passed into the hands of the principality of
Antioch at an unknown date. It was then sold to the Hospitallers in
1186 and was rebuilt to the latest Frankish military standards of
architecture and used by the crusaders until it fell into the hands
of Sultan Qalaun in 1285, after only 5 weeks of battle.
The most important aspects and features of this fortress, are the
keep and the chapel. The round keep is a massive tower of strength,
and at a diameter of nearly 29 meters and walls of 5 meters thick it
is quite typical of 12th century Hospitallers work. From the top
magnificent views of the mountains and the coast can be seen, not to
mention the beautiful view of the Mediterranean.
As for the chapel, it is entered by two entrances one from the
north and the other from the west (up some steps). This chapel, also
built in the 12th century is a magnificent example of Gothic art,
with traces of Romanesque. Although this chapel is relatively small
the fact that there are no aisles makes it quite spacious, this is
typical of Gothic art. There are three pointed arches, one decorated
in black and white, one undecorated but supported with Corinthian
capitalized columns. The rounded apse is two steps higher than the
rest of the chapel, and there are two small rooms behind it. The
chapel is beautiful in its simplicity.