Built as a Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu, the main shrine is well preserved and depicts scenes from Vishnu and Krishna legends in bas-relief. It was built in the middle of the 12th century by king Suryavarman II, who reigned from 1113-1150. It is in the Art Style of Angkor Wat. It is also referred to as The Citadel of Samre.
Banteay Samre is said to be one of the most complete complexes due to the application of a restoration method known as anastylosis. However, the lack of maintenance over the past quarter of a centry is evident in the amount of deterioration. Many of these temples were built of sandstone that does not stand up well to the elements. Sandstone is very porous and becomes pitted which weakens it.
We learned that the name, Samre, refers to an ancient ethnic group of mountain people from Indochina. They were probably related to the Khmers. Since no inscriptions have been found in this temple, the style has been attribute to both the Angkor Wat and the Bayon styles. Perhaps it was built over time incorporating both styles.
There is an interior moat with laterite paving. It is suggested that when filled with water, the moat would give an ethereal atmosphere to the temple. All of the buildings around the moat are on a raised base. The decorations run horizontally and feature the lotus bud motif and figures. There are no smooth surfaces as they are all carved.
Since this temple is relatively close to Siem Reap, it is convenient for artists to visit and use for inspiration. There were a number of young artists drawing and painting in the area. Their works were for sale