The ‘sea citadel’ was constructed on a rocky outcrop around 80 meters from the city’s seafront by the Crusaders between 1227 and 1228 and functioned to fortify Saida’s ancient port. It was built atop a Cannanite structure believed to be a shrine dedicated to the god Melkart that once existed on the port’s entrance and reused columns and stones from surrounding sites of antiquity. Completed by St. Louis IX during his stay in the Holy Land (1250-1254), the citadel’s early years were wrought with political instability and successive sieges as Saida frequently exchanged hands between the Crusaders and the Arabs. Following the first Arab retaking of the citadel, a small one room mosque was constructed atop its main hall by Al-Ashraf Khalil bin Qalawun.
The citadel was renovated and rebuilt by the Mamluks following their final conquest of the city in 1447, ending 200 years of violent wars. In the 17th century, it was further renovated and fortified by Emir Fakhreddine II of the Mount Lebanon Emirate who embellished the city with some of its most renowned monuments, such as the Khan el Franj in its current form, and his large palace a few hundred meters away, of which little remains today.
The fortress itself is composed of two defensive keeps connected by two large great hall, these in turn are protected by a wall that spans the Eastern side and forms the façade of the fortress facing the city. The fortress is connected to the old town, and directly to its two largest Khans (El-Franj and El-Roz) by a medieval stone bridge. The Citadel, and much of the old town was restored by a consortium of foundations following the liberation of South Lebanon in 2000, these include the Hariri Foundation, Audi Foundation, the UNDP and the Mohammad Zeidan Restoration Foundation.
Najjar, Jasmina, ed. Old Saida: The History of a City, a Legend for the Future. Beirut, 2008.
Ludvigsen, Børre. Sidon in History, 2018. https://almashriq.hiof.no/lebanon/900/910/919/saida1/history.html.
Sidon Sea Castle (Translated)
قلعة صيدا البحرية (Original)
Saida Sea Castle (Variant)
13th c., Expansion by Al-Ashraf Khalil bin Qalawun, Fortification and Reconstruction by Mamluks, Expansion & Fortification by Emir Fakhreddine II, British Royal Marines Bombardment