Newly-released photos show the extent of damage to the great 13th century Citadel of Aleppo, in the latest example of heritage being lost to Syria’s five-year long war.
Images from the Syrian Directorate-General of Antiquities & Museums show parts of the citadel’s pale stone citadel collapsing, while rubble from neighbouring bombed-out buildings litter its moat.
Syria’s directorate general of antiquities posted pictures of damage to Aleppo’s historic citadel. pic.twitter.com/EXKEdOWgDk
— DavidKenner (@DavidKenner)
2 Février 2016
Recent #photos of #damage around the #Citadel of #Aleppo#DGAM, with cooperation of the photographer #Shady_Martak, has…
Directorate-General of Antiquities & Museums, DGAM Syria sur
lundi 1 février 2016
The Aleppo Citadel was frequented by tourists before the war (Alamy) Photo: Alamy
The grand steps that lead up into the citadel, which stands 50m above Syria’s second city on the remains of Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine period buildings, also appear to have become loose and prone to collapse with grass and rubble on the steps.
“These photos show the great damage at these neighbouring areas as a result of constant clashes” the DGAM said, although it did not apportion blame.
Another image shows the once-grand Throne Room inside the citadel loaded with sand bags and the walls around its small windows appearing to break away.
Footage published last month by French television channel France 2 from the citadel said that the fortress is being used by snipers and as a defence point.
“For four years Syrian soldiers have defended this stronghold,” the report said. “From their firing positions, the view shows the intensity of bombardments, with entire districts annihilated by shelling.”
The French report also said that sand bags had been used to protect the historic bas-reliefs around the citadel, which depict scenes from a millennia ago but they had not been enough to protect them from damage. “Traces of bombardments are visible pretty much everywhere.”
The Citadel and the surrounding area was once one of Aleppo’s major attractions for both locals and foreign tourists, with an esplanade area around the castle hill used for evening strolls. The area was atmospherically lit at night and ornamental street lamps shared the street with stone benches for meetings between friends.
The area around the Citadel used to be one of the city’s most atmospheric (Alamy) Photo: Alamy
Pictures from before the conflict show tourists gathering to take photos inside the Citadel, which Unesco describes as part of an ensemble of military architecture displaying the height of Arab dominance” in the region.
The luxury Carlton Hotel used to stand directly opposite the citadel, and was a popular option for foreign tourists, with opulent interiors and extensive facilities. But it was obliterated in an explosion in 2014.
The Carlton Citadel was a grand hotel before the war. Photo: Preacher Lad/Wiki Photo: Preacher Lad
The Carlton hotel was destroyed in 2014 bombing (Getty) Photo: Getty
The Citadel itself was also damaged last year, when part of the fortress wall collapsed following an explosion in a nearby tunnel.
A destroyed section of the wall of Aleppo’s ancient citadel as seen from a rebel-held area in Aleppo, Syria Photo: REUTERS
The historical fort sites alongside Aleppo’s Old City, a Unesco World Heritage site that itself has suffered extensively as a result of fighting between government forces and rebel troops.
According to a recent UN report, 22 of the heritage sites in the city have been totally destroyed, including many of its khans and souqs, testimony to the city’s past as a major trading point. Dozens of others have been totally destroyed. Aleppo is one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities, dating back to 4,300 BC.
A local monitoring group also said that airstrikes led to significant destruction of Aleppo’s Agha Jeq mosque to the north-east of the citadel.
The Agha Jeq mosque was hit by bombardments and extensively damaged. This photo was published on January 12 2016 (Apsa2011.com) Photo: apsa2011.com
The Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology, a group of academics and archaeologists from France and Syria documenting damage across the country, published photos of the Ottoman-era mosque, with holes in its dome and part of the minaret collapsing.
The war in Syria has not only lead to the death of more than 250,000 people, and caused four million people to flee the country, but has left heritage sites all over the country damaged and destroyed.
Its six Unesco World Heritage sites – testimony to the Romans, Byzantines and Crusaders who once occupied Syria – have been looted and extensively damaged. One of the most famous is the ancient central city of Palmyra, which was seized by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) on May 21. The group subsequently blew up various structures including the Temple of Bal.