Salah Ed-Din Castle

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Salah Ed-Din Castle, also known as Saladin’s Castle or Saône and locally known as Qalaat Salah Ed-Din or Qalaat Sahyun, lies north east of the city of Latakia in Syria. It is situated on a ridge between two deep ravines and surrounded by forest.

The first fortification at this site may have been built by the Phoenicians, who are said to have surrendered it to Alexander the Great about 334 BC. Nothing is known about what happened to it between this period and the 10th century although it guarded an important route from the port of Latakia to Aleppo.

In 975 AD the site was taken from the Hamdanids of Aleppo by the Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimiskes. Under his reign the castle was considerably strengthened and the square Byzantine fortress on top of the castle hill was built.

In 1108 Salah Ed-Din Castle was taken by Tancred of Antioch, Prince of Galilee. In 1119 the castle was given as a fief by Roger of Salerno, Prince of Antioch, to Robert of Saône. Robert died that same year and the castle went to his son William. The Lordship of Saône became one of the most important vassals of the Principality of Antioch. The large revenues of his Lordship enabled William to rebuilt and enlarge the castle. Most of what we see today dates back to that time; the massive keep which has walls of up to 5 meters thick, the curtain walls and the wall towers.

The dry moat, which separated the castle from the rest of the ridge is one of the most notable features of Salah Ed-Din Castle. It was probably made by the Byzantines and completed by William of Saône. This dry moat was cut into living rock over a length of over a 100 meters. It is 14 to 20 meters wide and has a lonely 28 meters high needle which supported the former drawbridge to one of the gates of the castle.

The castle was notable as being one of the few which were not entrusted to the major military orders of the Hospitaller or the Templars.

In 1188 Salah Ed-Din Castle was sieged by Saladin, the Ayyubid Sultan, with 6 large trebuchets. After 2 days of bombarding the castle walls, the walls were breached and Saladin’s troops entered the castle. The Franks did not have a sufficient defending force and capitulated. It is from this victory that the castle takes its present name. Saladin next gave the castle to a family of local Emirs  loyal to the Ayyubids, the Nasr al-Din Manguwiris. They restored the castle. In 1272 they ceded the castle to the Mamluk Sultan Baibars. From 1280 till 1287 the castle was kept by Sonqor al-Ashqar, governor of Damascus. In 1287 it was taken by the Mamluk Sultan Al Mansur Qalawun.

In 1840 Turkish troops fired at the castle causing some damage. Also in the 19th century the castle was occupied by troops of Ibrahim Pasha, the Egyptian general and Governor of Syria, which also damaged the castle.

At present the castle can be visited for a small fee. A very nice castle on a beautiful green location.