Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Crusader castle of Cursat

About twenty kilometres south of Antakya (Antioch) you find the ruins of the crusader castle Cursat. It is located southeast to the waterfalls at Harbiye (Daphne) off the road going to Yayladağ. You pass the small village of Sofular and continue to the village of Kozkalesi, which is also the name of Cursat in Turkish.[i]
Cursat is in the centre of the picture, the waterfalls at Harbiye at the upper left.

The first time we hear of this castles was in AD 1133, thirty five years after the crusaders took Antioch. In that year the Cursat was taken by King Fulk, the crusader king of Jerusalem in connection with the king's controversy with Alice of Antioch, Pons of Tripoli and Josquelin II of Edessa (Urfa).
As seen on the picture Cursat was surrounded by ravines and easy to defend.
About twenty years later Cursat was used as a treasury by the Roman Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Aimery of Limoges. In fact, in AD 1165 he settled there as the Byzantine Emperor Manuel forced Bohemund III of Antioch to reinstate the Greek Orthodox Patriarch. It was very likely a wise move, as the Patriarch had imposed interdict on Antioch before he left.
However, the Roman Catholic Patriarch of Antioch did not last long. During the big earthquake in AD 1170 part of the Church of St. Peter collapsed over the Orthodox patriarch and Aimery could return to his city.[ii]

Nevertheless, in AD 1180 Aimery again had to take refuge in Cursat. He had fallen out with Bohemund, who, in fact, came and besieged Cursat.

In 1188 Saladin passed by, but did not harm the castle.

Around the middle of the thirteenth century the Mamluks became a threat to the Principality of Antioch. The Mamluk Sultan Baibars sent soldier to take Cursat, but it resisted and Baibars proceeded to Antioch and utterly destroyed the city. Eventually the defenders of Cursat surrendered to the Mamluks.



[i] For details, please see T. A. Sinclair, Eastern Turkey: An Architectural & Archeological Survey, Volume IV (London: The Pindar Press, 1990), 261.
[ii] E. S. Bouchier, A Short History of Antioch: 300 B.C – 1268 A.D. (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1921), 262. Notice, please, that the Church of St. Peter evidently was a building and not a cave. The cave now called the Church of St. Peter would have been rather safe. See also Jørgen Christensen-Ernst, Antioch on the Orontes – A History and a Guide (Maryland: Hamilton Books 2012), 175, 176.