Citadel of Aleppo

By the Editors of the Madain Project

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The Citadel of Aleppo (Arabic: قلعة حلب‎) is a large medieval fortified palace in the centre of the old city of Aleppo, northern Syria. It is considered to be one of the oldest and largest castles in the world.


Usage of the Citadel hill dates back at least to the middle of the 3rd millennium BCE. Occupied by many civilizations over time – including the Greeks, Byzantines, Ayyubids and Mamluks – the majority of the construction as it stands today is thought to originate from the Ayyubid period. An extensive conservation work took place in the 2000s by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, in collaboration with Aleppo Archeological Society. Dominating the city, the Citadel is part of the Ancient City of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986.

During the 2010s, the Citadel received significant damage during the lengthy Battle of Aleppo. It was reopened to the public in early 2017 with repairs to damaged parts underway.

circa 3000 BCE

Temple of Storm God Hadad
The Hadad Temple represents an exceptionally important archaeological discovery. By providing material evidence on Aleppo’s earliest known history it has allowed researchers to explore a previously unknown layer of the unique city, which was followed by continuous settlement in the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Zangid, Ayyubid, Mamluk, and Ottoman periods.

circa 1200 CE

Ayyubid Palace
Ddespite its modest proportions, it was formally and iconographically associated with a well-established iconography of power, an iconography that was first conceived in classical Islamic palaces and later perpetuated in the palaces of the Ayyubid and Artuqid dynasties.

circa 1200 CE

Entrance Complex
The enormous stone bridge constructed by Sultan al-Zahir al-Ghazi over the moat led to an imposing bent entrance complex. Would-be assailants to the castle would have to take over six turns up a vaulted entrance ramp, over which were machicolations for pouring hot liquids on attackers from the mezzanine above. Secret passageways wind through the complex, and the main passages are decorated with figurative reliefs. The Ayyubid block is topped by the Mamluk "Throne Hall", a hall where Mamluk sultans entertained large audiences and held official functions.

circa 1213 CE

Jami' al-Kabir
The Great Mosque of Aleppo Citadel was constructed in 1213-14 CE (610 Hj.) under the patronage of Ayyubid Sultan al-Malik al-Zahir Ghazi. Its situation at the highest point of the Citadel, with its towering minaret that is 21 meters high, extended both the citadels visibility and its defense to greater distances. Here the minaret begins to play a religious and military role; this duality merges the virtues of power and piety in the icon of the Islamic faith.

circa 1400 CE

Throne Hall
The magnificent throne hall was added on top of the twelfth-century fortified entrance complex, during the restoration of the citadel. The new throne hall was the grandest space in the citadel and it was used for official functions and for entertaining by the rulers of Aleppo and by Mamluk sultans visiting from Cairo. It was added following a sack of the citadel by the conqueror Timur, known to the West as Tamerlane, in 1400, when the Mamluk governors of Aleppo embarked on a large-scale reconstruction program.

circa 1505 CE

Barbican Fortifications
In a building campaign that lasted from 1505-6 CE and then 1509-10 CE (911-915 Hj.), Mamluk Sultan Qansuh al-Ghuri constructed the lower tower (barbican) of the Entrance Complex and rebuilt two towers on the glacis: one on the south side, east of the Entrance Complex, and one on the north.



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