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Templar Castles in Outremer


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Templar Castles in Outremer


(Safita or  Burj Safitha)

The Templars, for example, were in the process of forming a sort of autonomous palatinate around Tartus by the mid 12th century, just as the Hospitallers would do around Crac des Chevaliers. Within this expanding Templar palatinate, the castle of Castel Blanc was an impressive eglise donjon (fortified church) that dominated the surrounding castle . It was built in the final quarter of the 12th century but was subsequently repaired extensively. Access from the ground-floor church to the upper chamber and roof is so awkward that the building cannot have been permanently garrisoned . However, it was very defensible and had a slit machiolation over the main church door.The tower of Castel Blanc (Burj Safitha) dominated the surrounding Syrian town. The 27m-high tower is a typical donjon and was rebuilt in the late-12th or early-13th century when it was occupied by the Templars.  From Crusader Castles in the Holy Land 1097 - 1192


The fortified church and town of Safita (Castel Blanc) in the mid 13th century

The great tower or keep ( I) of Castel Blanc in the Syrian coastal mountains was a massively fortified church rather than simply a castle. The lower chamber (2) formed the church with a serni-dorned apse at its eastern end (3); a function which continues to this day. The upper chamber (4) consist s of a two-aisled hall support ed by three columns. Access to this upper chamber from the church was within the sout h-western corner (5) and was not particularly convenient for military purposes. while access to the roof was by stairs against the western wall of the upper chamber. A rock-cut cistern lay beneath the church (6).An extensive platform surrounds the church. and appears to have had a defensive wall which formed an inner enceinte (7).Apart from the platform. the only substantial surviving element of these inner defences is the small south-western tower (8). Even less remains of the outer fortifications of Castel Blanc. recreated in the lower illustration, with the notable except ion of part of a great entrance tower on the eastern side of the hill (9). Photographs taken before the modern village of Safita expanded into a small but thriving town. indicate that this formed only part of a complex of fortifications around the entrance to the Crusader town. .  ---  Crusader castles in the Holy Land 1192-1302

The lower part of the great fortified tower that rises over Safita (Castel Blanc) consisted of a church which has remained to this day throughout the tumultuous history of Syria. The impact of earthquakes. which still sometimes rock t his region can be seen in the cracked semi-dome of the apse. .  ---  Crusader castles in the Holy Land 1192-1302

"In February 1272, the Templar castle of Chastel Blanc surrendered on the advice of the Grand Master, its garrison being then permitted to withdraw to Tortosa. -- P.P.Read


The most complete surviving example of Templar work from this period is the tower
and chapel at Chastel Blanc (mod. Safita, Lebanon). The centerpiece
of the castles is a vast rectangular tower with a large
simple church on the ground floor and a chamber above.
This was surrounded by a curtain wall that enclosed spacious
halls, but all of these are now very ruinous. - The Crusades; An Encyclopedia





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