The Fortress of Safita (Chastel-Blanc)

Translation : Carole Resplandy

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Syrie, Muhafazah of Tartus (Tortose), Safita - Chastel Blanc

Syria, District of Tartus (Tortose), at 20 km east of the city of Tartus, around 50 km north-west from Homs and at some kilometres of the Lebanese border.

Safita is the current name of the templar fortress mentioned in chronicles under the name of ‘Chastel-Blanc’.
The fortress rises at an altitude of 320 meters, in the buttresses of the Mounts Ansariyès, halfway between Tortose and Kalaat-el-Hosn (known under the name of ‘Krak des Chevaliers’).
The enclosure of the fortress affects the shape of an irregular polygon composed of a double flanked wall line of oblong towers resting on a thick slope of masonry. Between the two enclosures, one can still see the vestiges of many arched stores.
In the center of the second enclosure, culminates the principal tower of the castle, at the same time vault and keep.
The tower is built on the basis of rectangular plan of 31 meters length on 18 width.

Cross section of the fortress dungeon

The ground floor of the keep is occupied by the vault which is always used by the Syriac Christians of the area.
The arch stone of the door of entry is decorated of a blossomed cross similar to that which still exists above the entry of the castle of Tortose.
The basement of the vault consists of a water cistern cut directly in the rock.
The vault in itself measure 25 m length inside the walls over a width of 10,5 meters. The semicircular apse is elevated from the nave of two steps. In the apse, two small passages give access on the right and on the left to two small rectangular parts lit by loopholes.
The height of the vaults is 17,5 meters. The windows which light the building resemble more defensive loopholes than with windows themselves.
A staircase arranged in the thickness of the southern wall and closed by a door reinforced of sliding bars and bolts as the door of entry of the vault, gives access on the higher floor.
croquis de l'intérieur de la chapelle et de la grande salle This stage consists of a vast armoury pierced of high architraves, where one can find on a smaller scale the characteristics of the large room of Tortose. This room is, inside the walls, 26 meters long on 16 meters broad. Three pillars supporting the vaults separate the room in two parts, exactly like the room of the castle of Tortose.
A staircase located in the south-western angle of the room gives access the higher platform.
The parapet of this defensive terrace is pierced by loopholes alternating with crenels.
From this platform the sight extends to far on all the country surrounding and one could easily send signals with the other fortresses and towers of defence.

According to the chronicle of Aboulfeda, Nour-ed-Din seizes the fortress in 1167 and carries out its dismantling partly.
After having returned in the hands of the Franks, an earthquake again destroys most of its enclosing walls in 1202.
We know little about the Templar Lords of Safita. The only name which came to us is the one of Richard de Bures, who was Commandeur of the Land of Tripoli during Pierre de Montaigu was Master of the Order and who is, in 1243, selected with brother Renaud de Clamcourt, lord of Tortose, to settle a disagreement with Hughes de Revel, lord of the Krak. The Fortress, with several surrounding defensive positions, is seized definitively by Baybars in 1271.

More references... Bibliography
  1. "Essai sur la domination française en Syrie durant le Moyen-Age"
    E.G. Rey ; Imprimerie Thunot & Cie Paris 1866
  2. "Etude sur les monuments de l'architecture militaire des croisés en Syrie et dans l'île de Chypre"
    G. Rey ; Imprimerie Nationale Paris 1871
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