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Castles of Spain: II

Updated on August 23, 2012

Spanish Castles and their History

Here you will find a castle with a torturous and bloody history; the castle featured in the movie "Kingdom of Heaven"; and a castle of the Templar Knights. Come along with me as we take a trip into the past, and when you're finished here, continue on to Castles of Spain: III, and finish up with Castles of Spain: IV.

The Castle covered here are: Bellver Castle, Loarre Castle, Castle of Peñiscola, Trujillo Castle, Palacio Real, Gormaz Castle, and Monzón Castle.

All images are used under a Creative Commons license.

Bellver Castle

Bellver Castle
Bellver Castle

Located on the Island of Majorca, Balearic Islands, the Castell de Bellver was begun in 1309 for King James II of Aragon. This castle carries the distinction of being the only castle in Spain to be built using a completely round design.

Built as a royal summer residence, the Gothic styled Bellver Castle was also built as a defensive structure, and the contrasts between the outer and inner parts of the castle are quite noticeable. Viewed from the outside, one can see a defensive fortress, and the inside of the castle a beautiful and ornate residential palace. King John I of Aragon stayed here to escape the plague that was running rampant on the Spanish mainland.

Bellver Castle has had much blood spilled within her walls. During the Revolt of the Brotherhoods in the early 1520's, many noble families fled to the Bellver Castle to seek refuge, and were massacred by the rebels.

Beginning in the 18th century, Bellver Castle was frequently used as a prison, among the first prisoners of Bellver Castle were the children and wife of James III, who was defeated in battle. The prison name of the castle was L'Olla (The Pot) prison. The number of people held at this castle prison runs into the hundreds of thousands, and many unfortunate souls were tortured and executed here.

Bellver Castle is reportedly haunted, as are many places that have experienced such a turbulent and bloody history. Today, the castle is a museum and popular tourist attraction. For visitor's information go to Tour Spain.

Large photo of Bellver Castle courtesy of Karolus Linus. Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of ILA-boy and Antonio De Lorenzo under a GNU an/or a CC license.

Loarre Castle

Loarre Castle
Loarre Castle

Located in Aragon, Spain near the Pyrenees, building on Loarre Castle began in the 11th century as a fortress for Sancho el Mayor III, King of Aragon, as a defense against the Muslims. Loarre castle is the best preserved crusader fortress in Spain.

Loarre Castle was used as a royal residence for many years, and was built with many comforts for their royal inhabitants, including a large window from which to view the beautiful countryside, and even a room with an ancient toilet. The castle has also contains a dungeon, a crypt, and a maze of passageways, corridors and tunnels.

In 1070, the beautiful Romanesque Church of San Pedro was built. In 1073, King Sancho provided means for Loarre Castle to become a monastery for Augustinian canons, since the castle is near a popular pilgrimage route.

Loarre Castle has seen many other additions in its history including the wall and outermost towers being added in the 13th century. The grounds of Loarre Castle dotted with strange rock formations, which adds to the mystic of this beautiful ancient fortress. For visitor's information visit the Aragon Travel Guide.

Loarre Castle was featured in the motion picture, The Kingdom of Heaven.

The large photo of Loarre Castle above courtesy of Carlos el Hormigo. The smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of Ecelan and Millars under a CC license.

Castle of Peñiscola

Castle of Peñiscola
Castle of Peñiscola

Peñiscola, Spain, this 13th century castle is the pride of the town and sits on the Costa del Ahazar overlooking the Mediterranean. Built in the Romanesque style, the Castle of Peñiscola was built atop an old Arab citadel on a rocky peninsula. The older parts of the town of Peñiscola is located within the castle walls.

The castle was built between 1294 and 1307 by the Knights Templar and was later garrisoned by the Knights of Montesa. In 1420, the castle reverted to the Crown.

In 1473, Anti-pope Benedict XIII, born Pedro Martínez de Luna, lived in the Castle of Peñiscola until his death in 1423. (An anti-pope is a person who makes a widely accepted claim to be the pope, and is in opposition to the Bishop of Rome, of whom the title of Pope is bestowed, sometimes as a courtesy.) Anti-pope Benedict XIII ran to the Castle of Peñiscola for safety after being excommunicated by the Catholic Church for inciting a split amongst catholics, his oppressive laws against the Jews, and refusing to resign as pope along with Gregory XII and Baldassare Cossa therefore allowing a universally recognized pope to mend the fractured Catholic Church.

In 1960, the film El Cid was filmed at the Castle of Peñiscola, and the castle was restored with new walls added. The castle is a very popular tourist attraction and holds various festivals and cultural events. For visitor's information, visit Tour Spain/Castle of Peñiscola.

Large photo of Peñiscola Castle above courtesy of Jordi FR. Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of Millars, Figairolles 34, and PMRMaeyaert under a CC license.

Trujillo Castle

Trujillo Castle
Trujillo Castle

Located in Extremadura, Spain, Trujillo Castle was built by the Moors over Roman foundations. The 10th century castle overlooks the medieval part of the city known simply as "the Villa".

"The Villa" part of the city is surrounded by a wall and the architecture is a mix of Christian, Muslim and Roman influences. The Moors held the city until 1232, when the Christians reconquered the city.

The city of Trujillo is famous for being the birthplace of numerous conquerors: Francisco Pizarro, who both conquered Peru and found Lima, Francisco de Orellana, who discovered the Amazon, and Garcia Paredes, who founded the Venezuelan city of Trujillo.

There is an interesting story concerning Francisco Pizarro. Some say that his father Gonzalo Pizarro actually lived at the castle, although it was more likely he lived in a modest house at the site of the larger Pizarro Mansion. Gonzalo Pizarro made frequent visits to his Aunt Beatriz, who lived in the local convent, and while there, Gonzalo would sleep with her maids. In this manner, his children were born, all out of wedlock, and of three different maid servants. He had two more children with his wife. With no future in Trujillo, his bastard sons became soldiers and left to seek their fortune, and Francisco Pizarro led his handful of rag-tag soldiers, including his brothers, to conquer Peru. For visitor's information check out Trujillo Castle.

Large photo of Trujillo Castle above courtesy of Trac X. Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of Jcerezoj, Joe Mabel, and Lancastermerrin88 under a CC license.

Palacio Real

Palacio Real
Palacio Real

Located in Madrid, Spain, the Palacio Real is the royal residence of the King of Spain. The Palacio Real is the largest royal castle in Western Europe.

The Palacio Real occupies the site of a former fortress built by Mohammed I, which was passed on to the Moorish Kingdom of Toledo, a well established kingdom of Visigoth rule. In 1085, the city of Madrid fell to Alfonsdo VI of Castile, but the fortress was rarely used by the rulers of the area until 1561, when Phillip II moved his court to Madrid.

In the 16th century, the Antiguo Alcazar was built on the site, but burned to the ground on Christmas Eve in 1734. The king ordered a new castle to be built on the same site, and in 1738, construction began on the Palacio Real. In 1764, Carlos III, King of Spain moved into the royal palace.

The Palacio Real is usually open to the public unless the King is holding state functions. The palace is filled with many works of art as well as the Royal Armory with weapons dating to the 13th century. The palace also contains the only complete Stradivarius string quartet in the world. Photography inside the palace is forbidden.

The vast grounds of the Palacio Real are well worth a visit, with beautiful plazas, the Sabatini Gardens, the Royal Theater, and the ornate and majestic Cathedral de la Almudena. If you'd like to visit the palace check out Frommer's/Palacio Real.

Large photo of Palacio Real courtesy of R Duran. Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of Fabio Alessandro Locati and PMRMaeyaert under a CC license.

Gormaz Castle

Gormaz Castle
Gormaz Castle

Located in the province of Soria overlooking the Duero River and the village of San Esteban de Gormaz, Castile-Leon, Spain, Gormaz Castle was the largest citadel of it's day in Western Europe. Gormaz Castle was destroyed by a clash with the Christians, and sometime after 756 A.D. Emir Abd al-Rahmân I of Córdoba ordered it to be rebuilt to protect the lands against further attack. This reconstruction did not begin until the reign of al-Hakam II.

Gormaz Castle is 1279 feet (390 meters) long, and has 28 towers, although the castle originally had more towers, possibly 31. The castle was built with artistically designed arches, and had two posterns (doors that were usually hidden from plain view to allow people to enter and exit inconspicuously). The shape of the walls around Gormaz Castle is typical of the Umayyads, the dynasty founded by Abd al-Rahmân. The castle boasts a double frame-worked horseshoe archway entrance at the southwestern side of the wall, and a horseshoe arcade leading into a vaulted corridor which is accessible by a postern door in the north wall.

In 1011, Gormaz Castle was given to Count Sancho Garcia of Castile in exchange for military protection, and in 1059 it passed into the hands of the Christians. In 108, the castle was given to El Cid. Near the end of the 14th century the castle was in the middle of a war between Pedro I of Castile and Pedro IV of Aragon. After the war, the castle was no longer of importance and was abandoned, after which this mighty citadel began to decay. In 1922, excavations uncovered the east wall, and restoration efforts were underway, which continue to this day. For visitor's information click this link: Tour Spain/Gormaz.

Hyperlinked photos courtesy of Rowanwindwhistler under a CC license.

Monzón Castle

Monzón Castle
Monzón Castle

Located in Monzón, in the province of Huesca, Aragon, Spain, Monzón Castle is famous for its relationship with the Templar Knights, who inhabited the castle in 1143. The Templar Knights did not live a secluded life in Monzón Castle, instead, they integrated themselves in the medieval culture of the day, while providing military might.

Monzón Castle has five large towers scattered in the parade ground. The walls of the keep date back to between the 9th and 10th centuries and are made from a combination of pebbles and ashlars. Surrounding the keep are the temple, the refectory, dormitories, and the tower of James I. The grounds are complete with stables, a guard post, cisterns, and defensive batteries for the artillery barracks which were built in the 18th century. The temple has an underground escape tunnel that is accessible from the apse.

Prince James I of Aragon was born in 1208 to Peter II and Marie I of Montpellier. Peter II tried to divorce his wife, and the new mother had to travel to Rome to beg for papal protection of her infant son's legitimacy. While still a young boy, James became an orphan, and fell under the protection of Pope Innocent III, who sent the boy to Monzón Castle to be schooled by the Knights Templar in 1214. He was entrusted to William of Montredon, the head of the Knights Templar in Spain and Provence. The regency fell to the boy's uncle Sancho, Count of Roussillon, and his son, the young king's cousin, Nuño.

In 1217, at the tender age of nine, the Knights Templar traveled with the young King James I of Aragon to claim the throne. Although he grew up an orphan, the Knights Templar taught him well, and James I became popularly know as James the

Conqueror, having vanquished all his domestic enemies by the time he was 21. He greatly expanded his kingdom, bringing it under Christian rule, and had many successful conquests, some of which he brought about by negotiations instead of bloodshed.

Photos of Monzón Castle courtesy of Ecelan under a CC license.

Grab your book and explore Spain!

Global Treasures Seville Royal Fortress Real Palaces of Seville Andalucia, Spain
Global Treasures Seville Royal Fortress Real Palaces of Seville Andalucia, Spain

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    • norlawrence profile image

      Norma Lawrence 16 months ago from California

      Another great article on Spanish castles. Thanks for share. It was great.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      The peñiscola Castle is one of the best aIve ever seen, Itsa a templar castela on the sea.

      Ive been in Gran Hotel Peñiscola

    • jolou profile image

      jolou 6 years ago

      Wonderful lens and photos. I'd love to see Spain some day.

    • sidther lm profile image

      sidther lm 6 years ago

      Great job showcasing these beautiful castles so well!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I have been only in The Palacio Real and it was amazing. There are a lot of restaurants, pubs and hotels in Toledo but they they are not ruling the cultural spirit of the municipality. Buitiful place

    • Fatih LM profile image

      Fatih LM 8 years ago

      I enjoyed the tour of Spain's Castles. Great work! Did not realize there are so many castles in Spain. WoW!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      Wow -- another beautiful lens -- I am in awe of castles worldwide!