Crac des Chevaliers – once again – Comments on the state of research
By Thomas Biller, Daniel Burger, G. Ulrich Grossmann, Hans-Heinrich Häffner, Timm Radt, Reinhard Schmitt
Die Pfalz Wimpfen und der Burgenbau in Südwestdeutschland (Forschungen zu Burgen und Schlössern ; 15), ed. Michael Goer (Petersburg, 2013)
Introduction: The Crac des Chevaliers in today’s Syria (province of Homs), is one of the most famous castles in the world – and not just because this spectacular eye-catcher is often used as a prime example when talking in the broadest sense about crusades or the Middle Ages in the Near East. Moreover, scientists often dealt with the building, not only by mentioning it in their specialized literature and numerous articles about individual aspects, but also between 1934 and 2006 in not less than three extensive object monographs.
These three works were always made within or commissioned by high-ranking institutions in France and Germany2, and were the result of research work done over any years by experienced specialists. For that reason, the Crac does not only rank beyond any doubt among the first-rate castles but is also one of the best examined at the same time.
Against this background, it will certainly be of interest that a fourth work has been published – the third one within the period of just eight years – dealing with this important building and which – at least according to the authors’ explicit intention – will outshine all previous works to such an extent that any analysis of the former state of research becomes completely unnecessary. This is exactly what the reader already learns when reading the introduction, where the authors, without any false modesty, declare that they simply consider anything written about the Crac up to now to be superficial and incorrect or even “absurd“.
Confronted with such statements, the impartial observer only has the choice between two diametrically opposed judgments. Either he thinks that he witnesses a great moment of science, in which everything that authors of outstanding competence wrote before vanishes into thin air – or the observer is confronted with an unusual kind of self- confidence, which already clearly exceeds the bounds of the problematic!