Tartous, this small harbor city
with over 160 000 inhabitants, is now Syria's second port
city. Formerly known as Antaradus and Constantia in Latin or
Antartus and Tortosa by the Crusaders, it has developed
rapidly over the recent years, and has nearly lost its charm
as a small fishing town. However there are a few remains
that the Crusaders left that remind us of the past.
History of Tartous
Not much remains of the
Phoenician Antaradus (Anti-Aradus - the town facing Arwad),
the mainland settlement that was linked to the more
important and larger settlement in Arwad.
This town was favored by
Constantine for its devotion to the cult of the Virgin. The
first chapel to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary is said to
have been built here in the 3rd century. Two centuries later
an earthquake hit the chapel and the altar was miraculously
saved. This miracle was further enhanced by an icon of the
Virgin believed to be painted by St. Luke resembling the one
in Seidnaya. The church 'Our Lady of Tortosa' was built upon
this miracle by the Crusaders in 1123. It now houses this
altar and has received many pilgrims.
Nur Al Din occupied for a
brief time and then it was recaptured by the Crusaders.
Tartous was placed under the control of the Templars who
rebuilt and redeveloped its defenses. It was then recaptured
by Saladin in 1188, whence the Templars locked themselves
into the keep. However it was rebuilt and remained under
Templar control until 1291. Tartous was the last stand the
Templars had on the mainland of Syria departing to Arwad,
which they kept for another decade.
It was of little use to most,
including the Ottomans and the French, however in recent
decades it has quickly developed into Syria's second port.
As for the Cathedral it was used as a mosque for a while
then as a barracks for the Ottomans. It was renovated under
the French and turned into a museum.