Castles of Spain
Spanish Castles and their history...
A castle which boasts of numerous underground passages; a palace built by the Banu Hud dynasty; and one of the largest medieval castles in Spain; these stories and more can be found on this page showcasing some of the glorious Castles of Spain. I hope you enjoy learning about the interesting and turbulent history of these landmarks. The castles covered on this page are: Almovodar Castle, La Mota-Medina del Campo, Aljaferia Palace, Mendoza-Manzaneres el Real, Castle of Santa Barbara, Palacio Real de Olite, and Butron Castle.
Images provided under a Creative Commons License.
Located east of Cordova in Andalucia, Spain, sitting atop a large hill called the Cerro de la Floresta. AlmodÃ³var Castle was originally built around 760 by the Moors. In 1240, Saint Fernando III took the castle after a long drawn out siege, and improvements were made by his Christian successors.
AlmodÃ³var Castle was used as a prison by several of its rulers, including Pedro I and Enrique II of Castille. AlmodÃ³var Castle was in a great position for defense and protection of its resident kings, and defenses were added throughout its history. In the 15th century, use as a stronghold became less necessary with the region becoming largely Christian, and the majestic castle was left to decay.
In 1902, a 36 year restoration project was undertaken by the Count of Torralva, Rafael Desmaisieres. Because of his vision, AlmodÃ³var Castle is one of the best preserved castles in Spain.
A visit to the castle will delight the patron with displays of castle life in ancient Spain. One can also tour the mysterious underground dungeons and passages.
The large photo of AlmodÃ³var Castle above courtesy of Phillip C Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of Salvatorecoco and Lourdes Cardenal.
La Mota Castle, Medina del Campo
Located in Valladolid, Spain, building on La Mota, Medina del Campo Castle began sometime in the 13th century as a residence for Alfonso VIII. The 14th and 15th centuries saw further additions and improvements under the rule of Henry IV. Queen Isabella oversaw even more additions and improvements during her reign. La Mota has also been used as a place to house prisoners during its long history.
Sometime after the 15th century, La Mota, Medina del Campo was abandoned and began to decay. Its use as a fortress was no longer necessary and there were no efforts to maintain the castle. After the Spanish Civil War began in 1936, this red brick castle was restored and was one of the first buildings in the area to be declared a Heritage Site.
Mota, meaning the same as motte in English, refers to the building of a castle upon a hill or mound, and this is where La Mota gets its name. There are quite a few castles in Spain that are known as La Mota, so the castle name is usually followed by its location, hence, this one is La Mota, Medina del Campo.
There is a story that Christopher Columbus visited Queen Isabella at La Mota to plead for money to help pay for his ocean voyage, but the story cannot be confirmed, and no documentation of such an event has been found.
Large photo of La Mota Medina del Campo above courtesy of Martius Smaller hyperlinked photo courtesy of Pelayo2.
Located in Zaragosa, Aragon, Spain, AljaferÃa Palace was built in the 11th century as a residence for the Banu Hud dynasty. The oldest part of the palace however, is the Troubadour Tower, which dates as far back as the 9th century. This beautiful Spanish Islamic architectural palace is also the home of the regional parliament of Aragon.
In 1118, the city of Zaragosa fell to Alfonso I of Aragon, and AljaferÃa Palace was in the hands of the Christian kings, who used the palace as their official residence. In 1492, AljaferÃa Palace was renovated for the Catholic kings.
AljaferÃa palace was renovated again in 1593, which turned the beautiful palace into a military base, and for many years after, AljaferÃa Palace continued to lose much of it's luster. The Siege of Zaragosa during the Peninsula War did not help matters at all, and the beautiful palace suffered from war and neglect.
Towards the end of the 20th century, AljaferÃa Palace was restored to its former glory, and is a gem in the city of Zaragosa.
One interesting fact about the Troubadour Tower is that the only entrance to the tower is a door that is built so high up on the tower, that one needed a ladder to reach it.
Hyperlinked photos courtesy of Escarlati and Ecelan
The first 35 seconds of this video is rather annoying to me, but hang in there, it is a really good video with lots of information. The video is in English, but the narrator has a thick accent, so some people may have a little trouble understanding it. Personally, I rather like it.
Mendoza Castle, Manzanares el Real
Located north of Madrid in Manzanares el Real, Spain, the current Mendoza Castle of Manzanares el Real was built near the original castle, a Romanic- MudÃ©jar building, in 1475, incorporating some of the older MudÃ©jar building materials. This castle is also known simply as the Castle of Manzanares el Real. The castle is a mix of different architectural styles, from the early MudÃ©jar, to Gothic and renaissance additions.
In 1383, King Juan I gave Pedro GonzÃ¡lez de Mendoza the lands upon which the castle is built. The older building was erected by his son, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, and the newer castle was built primarily by the first two Duques(Dukes) del Infantado, in the 15th century, who were also members of the powerful and noble Mendoza family. A brother of the first Duque del Infantado, Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza, was a Cardinal of Spain and advisor to Fernando and Isabel.
Built first as a defensive building, the Mendoza Castle of Manzanares el Real became the residence of the Mendoza family, but this was short lived. When the fourth Duque del Infantado died, his successors fought back and forth over the castle which resulted in the Castle of Mendoza falling into a grave state of disrepair. The castle was eventually abandoned.
In 1974, the Regional Council of Madrid began restoration efforts on the Mendoza Castle of Manzanares el Real. The castle was brought back to its former glory, although many of the furnishings and other interior decorative elements were added during the restoration.
The castle is now a very popular attraction and holds various events as well as tours.
Large photo of Mendoza Castle above courtesy of Cruccone Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of Pavlemadrid commons and Eleagnus.
Santa Barbara Castle
Located in Alicante, Spain, Santa BÃ¡rbara Castle sits high over the city on Benacantil Mountain. Santa BÃ¡rbara dates to the 9th century, and was built by the Moors who controlled the Iberian Peninsula in this time period.
The Castle of Santa BÃ¡rbara is one of the largest medieval castles in Spain, and rivals the largest fortresses in Europe. Its strategic position was frequently fought over, and on December 4, 1248, the castle fell to Infante Alfonso of Castilla (later King Alfonso X the Wise), and named the castle after the Saint who was honored on that day, Santa BÃ¡rbara.
The Castle of Santa BÃ¡rbara was soon fought over again, and was overtaken by the forces of James II of Aragon in 1296. These two battles in close succession left the castle in a sad state of repair, and reconstruction began. The Castle of Santa BÃ¡rbara saw further improvements under the rule of Peter IV of Aragon, Charles I of Spain, and the extremely powerful Philip II of Spain.
In 1691, the Castle of Santa BÃ¡rbara was damaged again when it was attacked by the French, and during the War of Spanish Succession, the castle was once again under attack. As if that weren't enough, the Caslte of Santa BÃ¡rbara was attacked in 1873 by the frigate Numancia during the Glorious Revolution.
After the revolution, the castle was abandoned until 1963 when the castle was opened to the public.
Hyperlinked photos courtesy of Karolsl, Superchilum, and LittelFox.
Palacio Real de Olite
Located in Olite, Spain, building began on the Palacio Real de Olite in the 13th century and was originally a castle for the Kings of Navarre (originally Pamplona).
The palace was first built as a military fortress, but soon became the royal residence of kings, and is more commonly called a palace instead of a castle, but it is still sometimes referred to as the Castle of Olite. The Palacio Real de Olite is of Gothic design, and was built slowly over the years. The greatest contribution to the palace was made during the reign of King Charles III, who added many of the decorative elements, as well as high walls, a moat, towers, and the palace gardens.
In 1516, Navarre was defeated by Ferdinand the Catholic, and the Palacio Real de Olite began to suffer from neglect. In the Peninsula War, the troops of Napoleon Bonaparte holed themselves up in the palace when General Francisco Espoz y Mina, a known strategist, set the Palacio Real de Olite on fire to frighten and dishearten the French troops.
The Palacio Real de Olite is well worth a visit, and the medieval royal chapel next door is also a must see.
Large photo of Palacio Real de Olite above courtesy of Alex Kilem Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of JosÃ© Luis Filpo Cabana, Josep Renalias and Eaeaea.
Located in Gatika, Spain, it is believed ButrÃ³n Castle was built sometime in the 13th century, although some sources site the 11th century as being the time construction began on the original castle. While ButrÃ³n Castle was added to over the ages, the castle seen today is due largely to a massive reconstruction effort in 1878 by Francisco de Cubas .
ButrÃ³n Castle was the family seat of the ButrÃ³n dynasty, and the Lords of ButrÃ³n controlled much of the Bay of Biscay. The area around the bay was fought over by two warring clans, and ButrÃ³n Castle was usually in the thick of it. In the 16th century, the fighting subsided, and need for a defensive castle was no longer needed. The beautiful medieval castle was abandoned and left to decay.
ButrÃ³n Castle has now been renovated, and was at one time opened to the public. While the castle itself has been closed to visitors, the castle grounds with its beautiful landscape and trees, which were carefully planted and is now a reserve for a variety of flora and fauna.
Hyperlinked photos courtesy of LVHP 2000 and Asturias Verde under a creative commons license"
Want to learn more?
The history of the Iberian Peninsula comes alive through the legends & stone architecture of Spain's most treasured buildings & monuments. Visit these spectacular icons of the past dating to Roman, Moor, and Christian influences. Also visit the region where the ancient spice Saffron was developed by the Moors. These diverse cultures designed cathedrals and castles that contain some of Europe's finest art collections and historical architecture.