Siege of Kerak

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Siege of Kerak
Part of Crusades
Kerak BW 1.JPG
Kerak Castle
DateEarly November – 4 December 1183
Result Crusader victory
Vexillum Regni Hierosolymae.svg Kingdom of Jerusalem Flag of Ayyubid Dynasty.svg Ayyubids
Commanders and leaders
Vexillum Regni Hierosolymae.svg Raynald of Châtillon
Vexillum Regni Hierosolymae.svg King Baldwin IV
Flag of Ayyubid Dynasty.svg Saladin
Flag of Ayyubid Dynasty.svg Al-Adil I[1]
Flag of Ayyubid Dynasty.svg Al-Muzaffar Umar
Flag of Ayyubid Dynasty.svg Kara Arslan
Flag of Ayyubid Dynasty.svg Sheref ad-Din Barghosh 
Unknown 8 siege engines[2]
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown

The Siege of Kerak took place in 1183, with Saladin's forces attacking and being repelled from the Crusader stronghold.


Kerak was the stronghold of Raynald of Châtillon, Lord of Oultrejordain, 124 km south of Amman.[3] The fortress was built in 1142 by Pagan the Butler, Lord of Montreal.[3] While Raynald ruled, several truces existed between the Christian and Muslim states in the Holy Land, none of which he made any qualms about breaking. The last straw came in 1183 when he organized an expedition around the Red Sea. He captured the town of Aqaba, giving him a base of operations against Islam's holiest city, Mecca. Saladin, the leader of the Muslim forces, could not tolerate this and moved against Raynald's stronghold.

Demonstrations of war machines used during the Siege of Kerak in Kerak Castle Museum

Siege and relief[edit]

The Muslims had sought to take Kerak for several years, but now they stretched its defenses to the breaking point. At one point, nine catapults were bombarding the walls and inhabitants within.

Inside the walls, a royal marriage was taking place. Humphrey IV of Toron, Raynald's stepson and heir, was to take the hand of Isabella of Jerusalem, the King's half sister. As the wedding ceremonies continued, Saladin instructed his troops to avoid bombarding the young couple's quarters, but pressure on Kerak continued. Messengers managed to escape the town and take word to the King, Baldwin IV.

Baldwin immediately marched with a relief force, accompanied by his regent, Raymond III of Tripoli. Although suffering from leprosy since childhood, Baldwin's determination to frustrate Saladin's attempt was such that he led personally, although he had to be carried on a stretcher. The Christian forces arrived while Saladin was still struggling against the heavy fortifications. Knowing he risked being crushed between the royal army and the walls of Kerak, he lifted the siege.


Saladin returned to Kerak again in 1184, with the same result. Kerak remained a Crusader stronghold and a symbol of the West's grip in the region until falling to Muslim control in 1188.[3] The next time the Crusaders had to contend with a major siege, it was at the walls of Jerusalem itself.

In fiction[edit]

The motion picture Kingdom of Heaven contains a fictional portrayal of the siege. In the film, knights under the command of Balian engaged the Ayyubids as they approached Kerak, so that defenseless citizens could retreat to Raynald's castle. The film also showed the siege not taking place, but King Baldwin IV and Saladin negotiating a settlement. Baldwin then punished Raynald for breaking the truce (with Saladin) by attacking a Muslim caravan.


  1. ^ "The Life of Saladin Behaudin Tekstualno". Scribd. Retrieved 2016-02-20.
  2. ^ Stevenson 1907, p. 234.
  3. ^ a b c "Kerak, Jordan". Retrieved 2016-02-20.


  • Smail, R. C. Crusading Warfare 1097–1193. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, (1956) 1995. ISBN 1-56619-769-4
  • Stevenson, W (1907). The Crusaders in the East: a brief history of the wars of Islam with the Latins in Syria during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Cambridge University Press.