Name of Monument:

Shawbak Castle

Location:

Shawbak, Jordan

Date of Monument:

Hegira 6th–7th century / AD 12th–13th century

Period / Dynasty:

Crusader, Ayyubid–Mamluk

Patron(s):

Baldwin I (r. AH 509–12 / AD 1115–18).

Description:

Shawbak is a Crusader, Ayyubid–Mamluk castle of the AH 6th–7th / AD 12th and 13th centuries. Located in southern Jordan, it is 120 km south of Kerak, and 35 km north of the fabulous Nabataean city of Petra. In AH 509 / AD 1115 Baldwin I, founder of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, led a major expedition into the region southeast of the Dead Sea. He crossed wadi Araba and marched to the fertile, wooded district of al-Shawbak. There atop a steep mountain, overlooking a well-watered valley, Baldwin erected a huge castle, which he named, 'le Crac de Montreal' and appointed Roman le Puy as lord of Montreal and the land of Oultre Jourdain.
Shawbak (Montreal) is linked with two smaller fortresses built in and around Petra: al-Habis and al-Wu'ayra. The construction of these castles gave the Franks a loose control over the territory between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, and had the further advantage of hindering both the commercial and military connection between Syria, Egypt and the Hijaz. Shawbak fell to the soldiers of Salah al-Din (Saladin) in AH 584 / AD 1188 and was refortified several times by both the Ayyubids (AH 570–648 / AD 1174–1250) and the Mamluks (AH 648–923 / AD 1250–1517). The Castle was occupied by a village throughout the later Ottoman period (the 18th and 19th centuries AD) and was emptied of its inhabitants only in the 20th century. Considerable remains of all these periods fill the interior.
Shawbak Castle, which has an irregular shape with maximum dimensions of 175 m x 90 m, possesses a Crusader church and a chapel as well as substantial secular buildings constructed out of stone taken from a nearby antique site and from quarries located one kilometre to the west of the castle. Numerous Arabic inscriptions in naskhi script record the various reconstructions of the castle. The impressive rusticated towers; curtain walls and a glacis (a paved slope) wrapped around the castle are fine examples of early Mamluk fortification showing the evolution of siege defences.

View Short Description

Shawbak Castle was built in AH 509 / AD 1115 by Baldwin I, founder of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, who named it Le Crac de Montreal. It is linked with two smaller fortresses at Petra, which gave the Franks loose control over the area between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, and hindered the commercial and military connection between Syria, Egypt and the Hijaz. Shawbak fell to the forces of Salah al-Din in 584 / 1188. Numerous Arabic inscriptions record various reconstructions of the castle, including fine examples of early Mamluk fortification that show the evolution of siege defences.

How Monument was dated:

The monument was date by both inscriptions in situ and historical sources.

Selected bibliography:

المومني، سعد محمد، " القلاع الإسلامية في الأردن : الفترة الأيوبية و المملوكية"، عمان، 1988، ص. 24– 93.
Brown, R. M., “Shaubak”, in: D. Homes-Fredericq and JB Hennessey, (eds), Archaeology of Jordan, II: 2, Leuven, 1989, pp.559–66.
Kennedy, H., Crusader Castles, Cambridge, 1994, pp.23–5.

Citation of this web page:

Ghazi Bisheh "Shawbak Castle" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;jo;Mon01;21;en

Prepared by: Ghazi Bisheh
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez


MWNF Working Number: JO 21