Citadel of Aleppo

Last updated
Citadel of Aleppo
قلعة حلب
Aleppo, Syria
Citadel of Aleppo.jpg
The Citadel of Aleppo in 2010
Location map Syria Ancient City of Aleppo.png
Red pog.svg
Citadel of Aleppo
قلعة حلب
Coordinates 36°11′57″N37°09′45″E / 36.19917°N 37.16250°E / 36.19917; 37.16250
TypeCastle
Site information
Controlled by Syrian Arab Republic
Open to
the public
Yes
ConditionPartially ruined
Site history
Built3rd millennium BC – 12th century AD
In useUntil 21st century
Materials Limestone
Battles/wars Syrian War
Hadad Temple Inside the Citadel Udgravning (Citadellet Aleppo).jpg
Hadad Temple Inside the Citadel
The inner gate of the citadel Inner Gate of the Aleppo Citadel.jpg
The inner gate of the citadel
View from outside Citadelle d'Alep.jpg
View from outside
Entrance gate Porte citadelle alep.jpg
Entrance gate
The fortified entrance Aleppo Citadel 04.jpg
The fortified entrance
The entrance to the Throne Hall AleppoAyyubidPalace.jpg
The entrance to the Throne Hall
The Throne Hall Aleppo Citadel 18 - Throne Hall.jpg
The Throne Hall

The Citadel of Aleppo (Arabic : قلعة حلب) is a large medieval fortified palace in the centre of the old city of Aleppo, northern Syria. It is considered to be one of the oldest and largest castles in the world. Usage of the Citadel hill dates back at least to the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. Occupied by many civilizations over time including the Greeks, Byzantines, Ayyubids, Mamluks and Ottomans  the majority of the construction as it stands today is thought to originate from the Ayyubid period. An extensive conservation work took place in the 2000s by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, in collaboration with Aleppo Archeological Society. Dominating the city, the Citadel is part of the Ancient City of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. [1] During the 2010s, the Citadel received significant damage during the lengthy Battle of Aleppo. [2] [3] It was reopened to the public in early 2017 with repairs to damaged parts underway. [4]

Contents

History

The recently discovered temple of the ancient storm-god Hadad dates use of the hill to the middle of the 3rd millennium BC, as referenced in cuneiform texts from Ebla and Mari. [5] The city became the capital of Yamhad and was known as the "City of Hadad". [6] The temple remained in use from the 24th century BC [7] to at least the 9th century BC, [8] as evidenced by reliefs discovered at it during excavations by German archaeologist Kay Kohlmeyer.

The patriarch Abraham is said to have milked his sheep on the citadel hill. [9] After the decline of the Neo-Hittite state centred in Aleppo, the Assyrians dominated the area (8th–4th century BC), followed by the Neo-Babylonians and the Persians (539–333). [10]

Seleucid period

After Aleppo was taken by the armies of Alexander the Great, Aleppo was ruled by Seleucus I Nicator, who undertook the revival of the city under the name Beroia. Medieval Arab historians say that the history of the citadel as a fortified acropolis began under Nicator. [9] In some areas of the citadel there are up to two meters of remains of Hellenistic settlement. A colonnaded street led up to the citadel hill from the west, where the south area of Aleppo still retains the Hellenistic grid street plan. [11]

Roman and Byzantine periods

After the Romans deposed the Seleucid dynasty in 64 BC, the citadel hill continued to have religious significance. Emperor Julian, in his 363 AD visit to Aleppo noted "I stayed there for a day, visited the acropolis, offered a white bull to Zeus according to imperial customs, and held a short talk with the town council about worshiping the gods." Very few physical remains have been found from the Roman age in the Citadel. [10]

The Roman Empire was divided into two parts in 395. Aleppo was in the eastern half, Byzantium. During the clashes with the Sassanian king Khosrau II in the 7th century, the population of Aleppo is said to have taken refuge in the Citadel because the city wall was in a deplorable state. Currently, very few remains from the Byzantine period have been found on the Citadel Hill, although the two mosques inside the Citadel are known to be converted from churches originally built by the Byzantines. [9] [10]

Early Islamic period

Muslim troops captured Aleppo in 636 AD. Written sources document repairs being made on the citadel after a major earthquake. Little is known about the citadel in the period of early Islam, except that Aleppo was a frontier town on the edges of the Ummayad and Abbasid empires. [10]

Sayf al-Dawla, a Hamdanid prince, conquered the city in 944, and it subsequently rose to a political and economic renaissance. [10] [12] The Hamdanids built a reputedly splendid palace on the banks of the river, but moved to the Citadel after Byzantine troops attacked in 962. A period of instability followed the Hamdanid rule, marked by Byzantine and Beduin attacks, a short-term rule by the Egyptian-based Fatimids. The Mirdasids were said to have converted the two churches into mosques. [10]

Zengid and Ayyubid periods

The roof of the baths, with the mosque and minaret in the background. Aleppo Cittadella - GAR - 9-22.JPG
The roof of the baths, with the mosque and minaret in the background.

The citadel rose to the peak of its importance in the period during and after the Crusader presence in the Near East. Zengid ruler Imad ad-Din Zengi, followed by his son Nur ad-Din (ruled 1147–1174) successfully unified Aleppo and Damascus and held back the Crusaders from their repeated assaults on the cities. Several famous crusaders were imprisoned in the citadel, among them Count of Edessa, Joscelin II, who died there, Raynald of Châtillon, and the King of Jerusalem, Baldwin II, who was held for two years. In addition to his many works in both Aleppo and Damascus, Nur ad-Din rebuilt the Aleppo city walls and fortified the citadel. Arab sources report that he also made several other improvements, such as a high, brick-walled entrance ramp, a palace, and a racecourse likely covered with grass. Nur ad-Din additionally restored or rebuilt the two mosque and donated an elaborate wooden mihrab (prayer niche) to the Mosque of Abraham. The mihrab disappeared during the French Mandate. [13]

Saladin's son al-Zahir al-Ghazi ruled Aleppo between 1193 and 1215. During this time the citadel went through major reconstruction, fortification and addition of new structures that create the complex of the Citadel in its current form today. Sultan Ghazi strengthened the walls, smoothed the surface of the outcrop and covered sections of the slope at the entrance area with stone cladding. The depth of the moat was increased, connected with water canals and spanned by a tall bridge-cum-viaduct, which today still serves as the entrance into the Citadel. During the first decade of the thirteenth century the citadel evolved into a palatial city that included functions ranging from residential (palaces and baths), religious (mosque and shrines), military installations (arsenal, training ground, defence towers and the entrance block) and supporting elements (water cisterns and granaries). The most prominent renovation is the entrance block rebuilt in 1213. Sultan Ghazi also had the two mosques on the Citadel restored, and expanded the city walls to include the southern and eastern suburbs, making the citadel the centre of the fortifications, rather than alongside the wall. [13]

Mongol and Mamluk periods

The citadel was damaged by the Mongol invasion of 1260 and again destroyed by the invasion led by the Turco-Mongol leader Timur which swept through Aleppo in 1400–1401. [13]

In 1415 the Mamluk governor of Aleppo, prince Sayf al-Din Jakam, was authorized to rebuild the citadel, which by then stood at the centre of a significant trading city of between 50,000–100,000 inhabitants. [14] Sayf al-Din's additions included two new advance towers on the north and south slopes of the citadel, and the new Mamluk palace built on top of the higher of the two entrance towers. The Ayyubid palace was almost completely abandoned during this period. The Mamluk period also administered restoration and preservation projects on the Citadel. The final Mamluk sultan, Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri, replaced the flat ceiling of the Throne Hall with 9 domes. [15]

Ottoman period

Inside the Citadel of Aleppo Aleppo Cittadella - GAR - 9-27.JPG
Inside the Citadel of Aleppo

During the Ottoman period, the military role of the citadel as a defense fortress slowly diminished as the city began to grow outside the city walls and was taking its form as a commercial metropolis. The Citadel was still used as a barracks for Ottoman soldiers, although it is not known exactly how many were stationed there. An anonymous Venetian traveler mentions some 2000 people living in the Citadel in 1556. In 1679, the French consul d’Arvieux reports 1400 people there, 350 of whom were Janissaries, the elite military corps in the service of the Ottoman Empire. Sultan Süleyman ordered a restoration of the citadel in 1521. [9] [16]

Aleppo and the citadel were heavily damaged in the earthquake of 1822. After the earthquake only soldiers lived in the citadel. [9] The Ottoman Governor of the time, Ibrahim Pasha, used stones from destroyed buildings in the citadel to build a barracks in the north of the crown. It was later restored under the rule of Sultan Abdülmecid in 1850–51. A windmill, also on the northern edge of the crown, was probably built around the same time. [16]

French Mandate

Soldiers continued to be stationed in the citadel during the French Mandate (1920–45). The French began archaeological excavations and extensive restoration work in the 1930s, particularly on the perimeter wall. The Mamluk Throne Hall was also completely restored during this time and given a new flat roof decorated in 19th-century Damascene style. A modern amphitheater was constructed on a section of an unexcavated surface of the citadel in 1980 to hold events and concerts. [17]

Modern day

The restored square AleppoCitadel.jpg
The restored square

The Citadel in its present form today, is situated on a mound which has an elliptical base with a length of 450 metres (1,480 feet) and width of 325 metres (1,066 feet). At the top this ellipse measures 285 metres (935 feet) by 160 metres (520 feet) with the height of this slanting foundation measuring 50 metres (160 feet). In the past, the entire mound was covered with large blocks of gleaming limestone, some of which still remain today. [17]

The mound is surrounded by a 22-metre-deep (72-foot) and 30-metre-wide (98-foot) moat, dating from the 12th century. Notable is the fortified gateway, accessible though an arched bridge. This feature was an addition from the Mamluk government in the 16th century. A succession of five right-angle turns and three large gates (with carved figures) leads to the main inner castle entrance. [17] Particularly interesting in the interior are the Weapons' Hall, the Byzantine Hall and the Throne Hall, with a restored decorated ceiling. Prior to the Syrian civil war, the citadel was a tourist attraction and a site of archaeological digs and studies. The amphitheater was often used for musical concerts or cultural events. [17]

Syrian Civil War

In August 2012, during the Battle of Aleppo of the Syrian Civil War, the external gate of the citadel was damaged after being shelled during a clash between the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Army to gain control over the citadel. [18] In July 2015, a bomb was set off in a tunnel under one of the outer walls causing further damage to the citadel, in an attempt for the Free Syrian Army to dislodge the Syrian Army. [19]

During the conflict, the Syrian Army used the Citadel as a military base, and according to the opposition fighters, with the walls acting as cover while shelling surrounding areas and ancient arrow slits in walls being used by snipers to target rebels. [20] As a result of this contemporary usage, the Citadel has received significant damage. [2] [3] [21]

Internal sites

The theatre Aleppo Citadel 17 - Theatre.jpg
The theatre
The Aleppo Citadel Museum Aleppo citadel Museum laz.jpg
The Aleppo Citadel Museum

There are many structural remains inside the citadel. Notable sites include:

Entrance block

The enormous stone bridge constructed by Sultan Ghazi over the moat led to an imposing bent entrance complex. Would-be assailants to the castle would have to take over six turns up a vaulted entrance ramp, over which were machicolations for pouring hot liquids on attackers from the mezzanine above. Secret passageways wind through the complex, and the main passages are decorated with figurative reliefs. The Ayyubid block is topped by the Mamluk "Throne Hall", a hall where Mamluk sultans entertained large audiences and held official functions. [22]

Ayyubid Palace and Hammam

Ghazi's "palace of glory" burned down on his wedding night, but it was later rebuilt and today stands as one of the most important and impressive monuments in the citadel crown. The Ayyubids were not the first to build a palace on the citadel. Today, numerous architectural details remain from the Ayyubid period, including an entrance portal with muqarnas, or honeycomb vaulting, and a courtyard on the four-iwan system, with tiling. [23]

Laid out in traditional medieval Islamic style, the palace hammam has three sections. The first was used for dressing, undressing, and resting. The second was an unheated but warmer room, and this was followed by a hot room, and a steam room equipped with alcoves. Hot and cold water was piped through to the hammam with earthenware pipes. [23]

Satura, Hellenistic Well, and underground passages

The construction in the citadel was not confined to above-ground. Several wells penetrate down to 125 m (410 ft) below the surface of the crown. Underground passageways connect to the advance towers and possibly under the moat to the city. [23]

View of the top Aleppo Citadel 25.jpg
View of the top

Related Research Articles

Ayyubid dynasty Kurdish Muslim dynasty, founded by Saladin and centered in Egypt

The Ayyubid dynasty was a Sunni Muslim dynasty of Kurdish origin, founded by Saladin and centered in Egypt, ruling over the Levant, Mesopotamia, Hijaz, Nubia and parts of the Maghreb. The dynasty ruled large parts of the Middle East during the 12th and 13th centuries. Saladin had risen to vizier of Fatimid Egypt in 1169, before abolishing the Fatimid Caliphate in 1171. Three years later, he was proclaimed sultan following the death of his former master, the Zengid ruler Nur al-Din and established himself as the first custodian of the two holy mosques. For the next decade, the Ayyubids launched conquests throughout the region and by 1183, their domains encompassed Egypt, Syria, Upper Mesopotamia, the Hejaz, Yemen and the North African coast up to the borders of modern-day Tunisia. Most of the Crusader states including the Kingdom of Jerusalem fell to Saladin after his victory at the Battle of Hattin in 1187. However, the Crusaders regained control of Palestine's coastline in the 1190s.

Hama City in Syria

Hama is a city on the banks of the Orontes River in west-central Syria. It is located 213 km (132 mi) north of Damascus and 46 kilometres (29 mi) north of Homs. It is the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate. With a population of 854,000, Hama is the fourth-largest city in Syria after Damascus, Aleppo and Homs.

Tower of David

The Tower of David, also known as the Citadel, is an ancient citadel located near the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem.

Islamic Cairo Part of central Cairo around the old walled city

Islamic Cairo, also called Historic Cairo or Medieval Cairo, refers generically to the historic areas of Cairo, Egypt, that existed before the city's modern expansion during the 19th and 20th centuries; particularly the central parts around the old walled city and around the Citadel of Cairo. The name "Islamic" Cairo refers not to a greater prominence of Muslims in the area but rather to the city's rich history and heritage since its foundation in the early period of Islam, while distinguishing it from with the nearby Ancient Egyptian sites of Giza and Memphis. This area holds one of the largest and densest concentrations of historic architecture in the Islamic world. It is characterized by hundreds of mosques, tombs, madrasas, mansions, caravanserais, and fortifications dating from throughout the Islamic era of Egypt. In 1979, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed Historic Cairo a World Cultural Heritage site, as "one of the world's oldest Islamic cities, with its famous mosques, madrasas, hammams and fountains" and "the new centre of the Islamic world, reaching its golden age in the 14th century."

Masyaf Place in Hama, Syria

Masyaf is a city in northwestern Syria. It is the center of the Masyaf District in the Hama Governorate. As of 2004, Masyaf had a religiously diverse population of 22,000 Ismailis, Alawites and Christians. The city is well known for its large medieval castle, particularly its role as the headquarters of the Nizari Ismailis and their elite Assassins unit.

Umayyad Mosque Mosque in Syria

The Umayyad Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus, located in the old city of Damascus, is one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world. The mosque is also important in Islam because of its historical and eschatological reports and events associated with the mosque.

Cairo Citadel

The Citadel of Cairo or Citadel of Saladin is a medieval Islamic-era fortification in Cairo, Egypt, built by Salah ad-Din (Saladin) and further developed by subsequent Egyptian rulers. It was the seat of government in Egypt and the residence of its rulers for nearly 700 years from the 13th to the 19th centuries. Its location on a promontory of the Mokattam hills near the center of Cairo commands a strategic position overlooking the city and dominating its skyline. At the time of its construction, it was among the most impressive and ambitious military fortification projects of its time. It is now a preserved historic site, including mosques and museums.

Hasankeyf Place in Batman, Turkey

Hasankeyf was an ancient town and district located along the Tigris River in the Batman Province in southeastern Turkey. It was declared a natural conservation area by Turkey in 1981.

Sahyun Castle

Sahyun Castle, also known as the Castle of Saladin, is a medieval castle in northwestern Syria. It is located 7 km east of Al-Haffah town and 30 km east of the city of Latakia, in high mountainous terrain on a ridge between two deep ravines and surrounded by forest, the site has been fortified since at least the mid 10th century. In 975 the Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimiskes captured the site and it remained under Byzantine control until around 1108. Early in the 12th century the Franks assumed control of the site and it was part of the newly formed Crusader state of the Principality of Antioch. The Crusaders undertook an extensive building programme, giving the castle much of its current appearance. In 1188 it fell to the forces of Saladin after a three-day siege. The castle was again besieged in 1287, this time both defender and belligerent were Mamluks. In 2006, the castles of Qal'at Salah El-Din and Krak des Chevaliers were recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The site is owned by the Syrian government.

Aleppo is a city in Syria.

Qalat Najm

Qal'at Najm is a castle located on the right bank of the Euphrates, near the town of Manbij in north Syria. The castle probably stood on the site of an earlier Roman site and is known from Arabic texts since the 7th century CE. Reconstruction works were carried out in the castle by Nur ad-Din Zangi and Az-Zahir Ghazi during the 12th and early 13th centuries. The castle sits on a mound that is protected by a glacis and houses a palace-bath complex and a mosque.

Citadel of Damascus

The Citadel of Damascus is a large medieval fortified palace and citadel in Damascus, Syria. It is part of the Ancient City of Damascus, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

Amman Citadel

The Amman Citadel is a historical site at the center of downtown Amman, the capital of Jordan. The L-shaped hill is one of the seven hills (jabals) that originally made up Amman.

Great Mosque of Aleppo

The Great Mosque of Aleppo or the Banu Umayya Mosque of Aleppo is the largest and one of the oldest mosques in the city of Aleppo, Syria. It is located in al-Jalloum district of the Ancient City of Aleppo, a World Heritage Site, near the entrance to Al-Madina Souq. The mosque is purportedly home to the remains of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, both of whom are revered in Islam and Christianity. It was built in the beginning of the 8th century CE. However, the current building dates back to the 11th through 14th centuries. The minaret was built in 1090, and was destroyed during fighting in the Syrian civil war in April 2013.

Ancient City of Damascus

The Ancient City of Damascus is the historic city centre of Damascus, Syria. The old city which is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, contains numerous archaeological sites, including some historical churches and mosques. Many cultures have left their mark, especially Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic. In 1979, the historical center of the city, surrounded by walls of Roman era, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In June 2013, UNESCO included all Syrian sites on the list of World Heritage in Danger to warn of the risks to which they are exposed because of the Syrian Civil War.

Ancient City of Aleppo

The Ancient City of Aleppo is the historic city centre of Aleppo, Syria. Before the Syrian Civil War, many districts of the ancient city remained essentially unchanged since its construction during the 12th to the 16th century. Being subjected to constant invasions and political instability, the inhabitants of the city were forced to build cell-like quarters and districts that were socially and economically independent. Each district was characterized by the religious and ethnic characteristics of its inhabitants.

Khawabi Village in Tartus, Syria

Khawabi, also spelled Qala'at al-Khawabi is a village and medieval citadel in northwestern Syria, administratively part of the Tartus Governorate, located 20 kilometers northeast of Tartus and 12 kilometers east of al-Sawda. Khawabi is situated in a hilly area, surrounded by olive groves, in the Coastal Mountain Range. Nearby localities include al-Sawda and to the west, Al-Annazah to the northwest, al-Qamsiyah to the north, Brummanet Raad to the northeast, al-Shaykh Badr to the east, Khirbet al-Faras to the south and Bimalkah to the southwest.

Kafartab

Kafartab was a town and fortress in northwestern Syria that existed during the medieval period between the fortress cities of Maarat al-Numan in the north and Shaizar to the south. It was situated along the southeastern slopes of Jabal al-Zawiya. According to French geographer Robert Boulanger, writing in the early 1940s, Kafartab was "an abandoned ancient site" located 2.5 mi (4.0 km) northwest of Khan Shaykhun.

Al-Rahba Ruined castle in Syria

Al-Rahba, also known as Qal'at al-Rahba, which translates as the "Citadel of al-Rahba", is a medieval Arab fortress on the west bank of the Euphrates River, adjacent to the city of Mayadin in Syria. Situated atop a mound with an elevation of 244 meters (801 ft), al-Rahba oversees the Syrian Desert steppe. It has been described as "a fortress within a fortress"; it consists of an inner keep measuring 60 by 30 meters, protected by an enclosure measuring 270 by 95 meters. Al-Rahba is largely in ruins today as a result of wind erosion.

References

  1. "Ancient City of Aleppo". UNESCO. Retrieved Mar 7, 2012.
  2. 1 2 @edwardedark (29 July 2014). "Video: rebels blow up historic building in front of Aleppo citadel today" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  3. 1 2 "Syrian heritage destruction revealed in satellite images". September 19, 2014 via www.bbc.com.
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-12-03. Retrieved 2017-12-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. DayPress News, "Temple of Hadad in Aleppo Citadel Sheds Light on Important Periods" Archived 2020-05-07 at the Wayback Machine , Jan 16, 2010.
  6. Lluís Feliu. The God Dagan in Bronze Age Syria. p. 192.
  7. Hugh N. Kennedy. Muslim Military Architecture in Greater Syria. p. 166.
  8. Gülru Necipoğlu,Karen Leal. Muqarnas. p. 114.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 Bianca and Gaube, 2007, pp. 73–103
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Gonnela, 2008, pp. 12–13
  11. Gonnela, 2008, p.11
  12. Burns, Ross, Monuments of Syria; An Historical Guide, London: Tauris
  13. 1 2 3 Gonnela, 2008, pp. 14–19
  14. Hourani, A. (1992). A History of the Arab Peoples . New York: Warner.
  15. Gonnela, 2008, pp. 19–20
  16. 1 2 Gonnela, 2008, pp. 21–24
  17. 1 2 3 4 Gonnela, 2008, p.25
  18. "Aleppo citadel hit by shelling, says opposition". The Daily Star Lebanon. Agence France Presse. 11 August 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  19. "Syria civil war: Bomb damages Aleppo's ancient citadel". July 12, 2015 via www.bbc.com.
  20. Abigail Hauslohner and Ahmed Ramadan (5 May 2013). "Ancient Syrian castles serve again as fighting positions". Washington Post. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  21. UNESCO [49267] (2017). "Five years of conflict: the state of cultural heritage in the Ancient City of Aleppo; A comprehensive multi-temporal satellite imagery-based damage analysis for the Ancient City of Aleppo". unesdoc.unesco.org. pp. 34–56. Retrieved 2019-07-22.
  22. Gonnela, 2008, pp. 31 35
  23. 1 2 3 Gonnela, 2008, pp. 46 48

Sources