Hegira 579–658 / AD 1184–1260
Salah al-Din (known as Saladin, AH 532–88 / AD 1138–93); Al-Zahir Baybars (AH 658–76 / AD 1260–77).
Ajlun is about 76 km northwest of Amman. Contrary to the other castles in Jordan such as Shawbak and Karak, this castle was entirely built by the Muslim forces in AH 579 / AD 1184 to counter the Crusader castle of Belvoir (Kawkab al-Hawa) to the west, and to secure trade and communications between Syria and Egypt. It was probably intended also to protect the important iron mines in the Ajlun area. The castle with its constant remodelling and enlargement is a good example of the development of military architecture in the AH 6th and 7th AD 12th and 13th centuries.
Originally the castle was almost square in plan, articulated with four square corner-towers. The towers and the northeastern and southwestern walls were provided with a band of narrow arrow slits. At this stage the main entrance to the castle was through an opening in the eastern wall. In AH 610 / AD 1214 the castle was enlarged by adding a massive wall to connect the north with the east towers. The entrance was shifted to the newly constructed conjunction of the northeastern wall with the eastern tower.
In AH 658 / AD 1260 further alterations were undertaken: two fortification towers were added and a new wall was constructed to connect the existing north tower with that just built; this new north tower was in turn connected with the additional east tower by a massive wall. During this period the southeastern and south sides of the castle were also remodelled by adding two towers (south and east towers) with a wall running between them. The entrance was shifted again to the corner of the newly built eastern tower. The castle was in use during the early Ottoman period to accommodate soldiers. Early in the AH 11th / AD 17th century the castle became the main base of Fakhr al-Din al-Ma'ni, a powerful amir of Lebanon.
Ajlun Castle, about 76 km northwest of Amman, was built by Muslim forces in AH 579 / AD 1184 to counter the Crusader castle of Belvoir (Kawkab al-Hawa) to the west, to secure the route between Syria and Egypt, and to protect the important iron mines in the area. The castle with its constant remodelling and enlargement is a good example of the development of military architecture in the 6th–7th / 12th–13th centuries. There are two Arabic inscriptions: one, dated 647–58 / 1250–60, mentions the renovation conducted by order of Salah al-Din (Saladin), while the second mentions a construction in 659 / 1261.
The monument was dated by its inscription and through historical sources. Two Arabic inscriptions were found by the Department of Antiquities of Jordan in 1963, the first of these was dated to the reign of Saladin (647–58 / 1250–60) and mentions the renovation works conducted by order of the Sultan. The second inscription mentions the construction of a wall or tower and gives the date AD 20 July 1261 (AH 659).
Burckhardt, J. L., Travels in Syria and the Holy Land, London, 1882, pp.266–7.
Jones, C. N., “Medieval Ajlun I: The Castle”, Quarterly of the Department of Antiquities in Palestine, Vol. 1, 1931, pp.21–33.
الكردي، حنان، القلاع الاثرية في الاردن، عمان، 1984، ص 22–27.
المومني، سعد، القلاع الاسلامية في الاردن، عمان، 1988، ص 114–155.
Mohammad Najjar "Ajlun Castle" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;jo;Mon01;16;en
Prepared by: Mohammad NajjarMohammad Najjar
Mohammad Najjar is an archaeologist and has been Director of Excavations and Surveys at the Department of Antiquities of Jordan since 1988. He studied archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology in Moscow from where he holds his Ph.D. He was affiliated to the Department of Antiquities of Jordan in 1982 as Curator of Jordan Archaeological Museum. He was the Technical Director of Cultural Resources Management (sites development) at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities between 1994 and 1997. He is the author of numerous publications on the archaeology of Jordan.
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: JO 16
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)Western Influence in Ottoman Lands | Jordan Arabic Calligraphy | Monumental Calligraphy The Atabegs and Ayyubids | War and Horsemanship The Mamluks | The Mamluk System Al-Franj: the Crusaders in the Levant | Saladin in the Holy Land
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