Levonkla – Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia

Levonkla – Armenian Kingdom of CiliciaArchitecture of Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia developed upon the base of traditions of Kingdom of Armenia and local culture. Such cities as the original capital of Cilicia Tarsus, the following metropolis Sis and Anabarza incarnated the experience of Armenian architectonics.

Monastic complexes Hromkla (nowadays Rumkale), Drazark, Akner and Skevra are another embodiment of Armenian spiritual culture and architectural science.

Cilician artisans managed to achieve perfection in their compositions. An example of their masterworks is the castle Levonkla (Armenian Լևոնկլա, “Levon’s fortress”), also named Kovara and Vaner in Middle Ages.

Today it is known as Yilankale (Turkish for “Snake Castle”) and is located near the east bank of the Ceyhan River and six kilometers west of the town of Ceyhan in Adana Province, Turkey. As the castle’s name implies, it has been supposedly built under King Leo (Levon) I the Magnificent (sometimes as Levon II Metsagorts, the tenth lord of Armenian Cilicia; ruled from 1198/1199-1219).

It has been situated on the Great Silk Road on the way from Taurus Mountains to Antioch and has been one of the most significant frontiers of the region. According to information on the Çukurova University website, the castle was abandoned during the reign of the Ramadanids in the mid-14th century.

Levonkla’s walls, numerous horseshoe-shaped towers and vaulted chambers are built with rusticated masonry and are precisely adapted to the coiling outcrop of limestone to form three baileys. Each unit is particularly detailed in an archeological and historical assessment of the castle published in 1987.

There is some iconographic and archaeological evidence suggesting that the relief of a seated king with two rampant lions in the gatehouse door depicts not King Levon I (which could confirm the conclusion that he was the castle’s founder in early 13th century), but either Kings Hethum I (1226–70) or Hethum II (1289–1307), which in some measure questions the involvement of King Levon I in the foundation of Levonkla.

The Levonkla castle is considered the most preserved castle of Cilicia. It was renovated in summer of 2014 and now is open to public.


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