A Flat Vault in the “Crac des Chevaliers” and Some Considerations on the Development of Vault Geometry and Stereotomy in Mediaeval Masonry Structures in Syria
By Eyas Al-Khateeb and David Wendland
Paper given at the Second International Congress on Construction History (2006)
Introduction: At first glance the flat vault in the great Crusaders’ castle reminds one of the famous flat vaults in the Escorial (Spain) that were built centuries later. The vault is located in the south-western cylindrical tower at the external defensive wall of the “Crac des Chevaliers” Castle in Syria, and was built in the late 13th Century. In this paper the geometry of the vault is analysed and a hypothesis developed on the design process; the technology of the vault will also be considered together with a discussion on the differences with European examples. The issue of technological exchange between East and West during the Middle Ages will be touched on.
The flat vault under consideration is located in a tower which is part of the outer defence line of the Crac des Chevaliers and forms its highest ceiling. This cylindrical tower was built by the crusaders as part of the original structure of the castle. Later it underwent major alterations when a new structure was added to the corner of this defence line towards the moat, which required raising the level of the platform along the adjacent parts of the outer defence system and thereby the platform of the tower.