Built along the banks of the Orontes River just northwest of Hama, the Syrian town of Shayzar was, for much of its history, a strategic prize for the Muslim and Christian forces who battled for control of the region at the turn of the first millennium. Shayzar passed from Byzantine to Arab control in the 11th century, though Crusaders continued to make periodic, and unsuccessful, military claims on the settlement. Its famous castle, a remarkable feat of military and palatial architecture, sits on a promontory overlooking the Orontes. An earlier castle was destroyed by earthquake in 1157. Construction on a new citadel began under the Ayyubid prince Nur-ed Din Zangi in the late 12th century and continued into the 13th century.
2006 World Monuments Watch
Due to general neglect, geological instability, and adverse exposure to winds and vegetation overgrowth, Shayzar Castle was in a state of advanced disrepair when WMF placed the citadel on the 2006 Watch list. Beginning in 2007, a team of conservators worked to address systemic problems with the building’s engineering and upkeep, and to secure its stability. The team removed vegetation, cleared loose masonry, and installed strategic tie-rods. The team also repaired the castle roof, restored damaged masonry, and consolidated the citadel floor, providing greater structural soundness to the complex. A temporary metal gate controls access to the castle interior and protects against vandalism, a serious problem at the site.
Already an immensely beautiful and historically significant site, Shayzar Castle has become an increasingly prominent national monument and a popular regional destination in the years since WMF’s intervention. Improvements to the building’s structural stability, along with installation of metal banisters and staircases, also enhanced the site’s growing importance as a tourist attraction. Since WMF’s intervention, the castle has garnered further attention from architectural and archaeological interests, and a conservation commitment from the national Directorate of Antiquities. WMF’s work at Shayzar encouraged this public action, and ensured necessary protection for the invaluable and irreplaceable building.