Citadel of Aleppo

Citadel of Aleppo

It is known as a great palace and military architectural building of the middle ages. The Citadel of Aleppo is located in the old city of Syria Aleppo. The Citadel hills are considered to be occupied by different empires such as Greeks, Ayyubids, and Byzantines. It is contemplated as one of the greatest fortresses in the world. It was mainly put up by the Ayyubids. At the start of the 2000s, the major work of its construction was done by the collaboration of Aga khan trust for culture and Aleppo archeological society. Citadel hills are basically the part of the ancient city of Aleppo. In 2010, the fortress was extensively damaged by the war of Aleppo or the Syrian civilian war. Then, it was closed for some time for the public visits for its major repairing. In 2017, again it becomes the major center of tourism for the public.

Historical Overview:

There was a temple on the hill of citadel prior to the citadel of Aleppo. The temple was popular by the name of the storm-god Hadad. Aleppo was earlier known as the city of Hadad which remained till 9th century BC. The city later became the capital of Yamhad. The German archeologist Kay Kohlmeyer through his archeological studies evidenced the existence of temple during the excavation of land at Aleppo.

The citadel hill was also used by prophet Ibrahim (A.S), as a point to milk his sheep. At the start 539 BC, the downturn of the state of Aleppo started as it was the area which was taken over by Assyrians and later by Persians and Neo-Babylonians.

The Persians were then deposed from the city by the army of Alexander the Great. In the rule of Alexander, the great, the name of the city was again revived as Bertoia along with the re-establishment of the roads and streets. The overall rule by the armies of Alexander the great is termed as the Seleucid period.

The Seleucids were succeeded by the Romans, which drew a remarkable religious influence over Aleppo. Later, the Roman empire was broken into two parts. The Aleppo was in the eastern half as Byzantium. The war started between the Byzantine rulers and the king of Sassanian. The people of Aleppo find the citadel hill a safe place for refuges. The religious impact was great at that time, as depicted by the evidence that the two churches of the citadel were converted to Mosques.

The Umayyad and Abbasid rulers have ruled over the city. The city then became the center of Muslim rulers’ attention. The work of Nur-ad-Din and his father Imam-ad-Din was remarkable in holding the Aleppo and Damascus. Religious renovations were done by Nur-ad-Din. He had done great in his part for Ibrahim mosque and two other mosques. He also worked for the architectural structure of the city by building a wall around the Aleppo city and the grassy environment of the city. The architectural work was later carried out by Sultan Ghazi which also worked for the construction of canals, bridges and entrance blocks which are still present in the city of Aleppo. Sultan Ghazi also extended the area of the city by extending its walls. The structure of Aleppo has improved to an excellent extent up to the 13th century, as it became a religious and architectural center. In 1260, a major defection was done by the Mongols, this destruction was overcome through rebuilding citadel by Mamluk. Two towers and mamluk palace were also built at the entrance point of citadel. The citadel also remained a trading center. During the Ottoman Empire, some people of the Aleppo started to live outside the walls of the city, which has remarkably impact the overall defense of citadel. In 1822, the earthquake totally changed the map of the citadel. The local population left the city leaving behind inhabitants in the form of Aleppo soldiers at that time. Some structure of citadel was restored by the Ibrahim Pasha. In 1930, many buildings and halls of Aleppo were restored to its original shape. In 1980, to carry the major events the amphitheater hall was established.

In 2010, the Syrian civilian war did huge damage to the outer boundaries of the citadel. The clash continued later in 2015 which resulted in the bombastic ending. A bomb was found in the base of the outer boundaries which had a huge destructive impact. The Syrian army also played its role in the significant damage of citadel, as they used the citadel as a military base.

Major structure:

Citadel of Aleppo which was mainly built with limestone in the 12th and 13th century. Citadel is located almost 40m above the city of Aleppo. Today, Some structure of Citadel is in its present shape and form. Some prominent features include:

Entrance block:

Sultan ghazi built a stone bridge over the entrance. The castle entrance block was constructed mainly with the technique to fight against the enemies. In medieval ages, the entrance was built having a bent in it, the basic purpose of it was to narrow the passage near the gate. It prevented the large troops to entre the fort. Almost six turns were present in the way of the entrance block. On the above sides of turned walls of the turn’s machicolations were present, from which the hot liquid was thrown over the troops. The entrance block was also connected to secret pathways. Below the “Mamluk throne hall” was Ayyubid block which was used by Ayyubids rulers as center foe carrying their official work of the state. The basic purpose of the entrance block was to make the entry of the enemy difficult and complicated.

Ghazi palace of glory:

Citadel of Aleppo

The palace of glory was exclusively damaged in the reign of Ghazi. The palace was modified later and today, the palace is amongst the most remarkable architectural palaces of the world. Besides this, the major work of the entrance area was done by Ayyubids such as honeycomb vaulting, main courtyard with architectural pillars.

Hammam palace:

Citadel of Aleppo

Hammam palace was built by Ayyubids and considered as the most unique hammam of the world. The hammam comprises three main sections for different purposes. The first section was specified for dressing and rest. The second room served as a warm room; this room was not heated but its structural was warming. The second room accompanied the third section which comprised a steam room.

Underground structure of citadel:

Citadel of Aleppo

The walls of the citadel penetrated in the ground up to 412ft. Many secret underground passages are present there. The passages are spread in different underground areas of the citadel which link the different palaces and halls with the main towers.

Ringwall of the citadel:

The wall has a total length of about 900 meters. There are 80 advance towers that were built along the length of the wall. The two significant high towers are present in the north and south of the fort, which has round holes for throwing canons on the troops.


Citadel of Aleppo

There is no clear evidence of moat now in the citadel. Caves were present above the moat. Prisons were kept in the cave during the Ayyubids rule. Moat mostly contains the waste material of the city. Moat also served as a defensive line along outside of the walls.

Bridge of Ghazi:

Citadel of Aleppo

The bridge was built in the reign of sultan ghazi with 8 pillars below. There are no signs of towers on either side of the bridge. But the 8 pillars are present in their original shape.

 Gates of the citadel:

The first gate of the entrance complex was entirely embellished in the original medieval architectural style. The two marble dragons were connected together on the above side of the gate with open jaws. The second gate of the citadel was entirely different. It is a great wonder having a lily on the entrance and two lions sit inside the flower. At the last gate of the citadel are different lions’ sculptures, some are laughing and some are weeping. The presence of the sculptures on the entrance of citadel was a symbol of bravery and Safety.

Secret passages:

The two secret paths were built between the second and third gate of the citadel. One path leads out of citadel through the moat to escape from the citadel. The second pathway was also meant for the purpose of escape but that opened to inner buildings of citadel. Both these secrets paths are now closed.

Maqam of Khider:

Place of the appearance of a Muslim saint is present close to the third gate. Believers of Khader said that he had drunk the water of life and he lived in water. It is also believed that saint also appears near the third gate of the citadel for protection to one of his believers.

Ibrahim Mosque:

Two Ibrahim mosques are present in the citadel. According to Arab believers, Prophet Ibrahim sacrificed a sheep and milked his sheep at the hill of the citadel. These two mosques were churches till the 11th century and later converted to mosques in the reign of Nur-ad-Din. The mosque comprises of a single room for prayer and courtyard. The roof of the prayer room is domed shaped.

Ghazi well:

The well was built in the reign of Sultan Ghazi. The well contains some stairs and a rectangular boundary with windows on the sides. The well has a depth of about 52 meters. After the earthquake of 1822, there is only the structure of well due to lack of care.

Theatre of the citadel:

The theatre was built at the start of the 1980s to carry out major events and concerts. The theatre has a stage in the center and has stairs at height. Many buildings came under the stairs of the theatre. Some rooms of the Ayyubid dynasty are still present on the sides of the theatre.

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