Page 3, 22nd November 1957

22nd November 1957
Page 3
Page 3, 22nd November 1957 — Stone which did the work of Men

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Locations: Beirut, Gaza


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Stone which did the work of Men

By J. J. Dwyer

CRUSADER CASTLES, by Robin Fedden and John Thomson (John Murray, I8s.).

HIS charming book, full of splendid photographs, tells the astonishing story of the castles built by the Crusaders in Palestine and beyond. There were nearly 100 of them; they ranged from Anamur under the Taurus down to Gaza and inland beyond the Dead Sea to the head of the Gulf of Aqaba.

They were needed by reason of the lack of man-power. Stone had to do the work of men. When Richard Coeur de Lion sold Cyprus to the Tempters, they took over the whole island with 120 horse and foot. A score of Knights with perhaps 100 men would hold not one but a group of castles against thousands.

The castles were masterpieces of planning and of architecture. Solid and monumental, at first, like the Romanesque churches of France. they became complicated and sophisticated with balance of masses and beauty of internal decoration. Margat had windows and portals that might have come from 13th century France ; at Beirut there

was marble panelling and mosaic hut immense strength was always the dominant theme.

Sometimes built in groups, they were so sited as to possess intervisibility. Everywhere, strategy. design and precision of detail told of the genius of the French.

Three castles of the Latin Kingdom are here described in detail. with plans: Saone. "clamped upon a mountain spur " : the famous " Krak of the Knights lof St. Johnl, twelve times besieged by the Saracens. a fortress that seems to ride above the extended landscape with a ship's poise and mastery " Chastel Merin, of the Tcmplars, which was never taken but evacuated on that sad day. August 14, 1291. when they sailed for Cyprus. Nor are the castles of the Cilician " Kingdom of Armenia " omitted : four of them are described by Mr. Thomson : and lastly we have the castles of Cyprus, Kyrenia, Kolossi, seat of the Commandery, and the amazing St. Hilarion which rivals and recalls the miracle of MontSaint-M ichel.

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