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Castles of Spain: III

Updated on August 16, 2012

Spanish Castles

This is the third page leading deep into the history of these majestic castles of Spain. If you haven't already, check out Castles of Spain, and Castles of Spain: II, and hop on over to Castles of Spain: IV. I hope you enjoy the trip!

The Castles covered here are: The Alhambra, Xativa(Jativa) Castle, Antequera Castle, Morella Castle, Castle of Calatrava la Nueva, Cardona Castle, and Segovia Castle.

The Alhambra

The Alhambra
The Alhambra

Located in the city of Granada, Spain, the Alhambra was originally called al Qal'at al Hamra, and was a primitive red castle. The al Qal'at al Hamra was first mentioned during the rule of Abdullah ibn Muhammad (888-912). Records of this time indicate that the castle was quite small and unable to deter any encroaching forces.

By the 11th century, al Qal'at al Hamra was a ruin until the castle was rebuilt by the vizier to King Badis of the Zirid Dynasty. The Alhambra we see today wasn't begun until Ibn-Nasr, founder of the Nasrid Dynasty, fled to one of the palaces of the Alhambra and declared he wanted a construction fit for a king. In 1238, plans were drawn up for six palaces, two towers, and numerous bathhouses. An irrigation system was also built during the Nasrid Dynasty. The Alhambra was completed in the mid to late 1300's by Yusuf I and Muhammed V, Sultan. Over time, the modest Qal'at al Hamra castle became a beautiful Palatine city.

In 1492, King Ferdinand II of Aragon took the Alhambra with an extreme number of forces. Buildings within the Alhambra have been demolished, damaged, reconstructed, repaired, redecorated, and remodeled according to the particular ruler of the day. For instance, Charles V destroyed much of the Winter Palace to build his own Renaissance style structure, which was never completed. Phillip V Italianized the rooms and built his own palace in place of a former Moorish structure. Some of the towers were destroyed when the Alhambra was attacked by Count Sebastiani. Napoleon planned to blow up the entire complex, and set out explosives to ensure the destruction, however, one of his own men diffused the explosives, thereby saving this ancient and beautiful gem for us to enjoy. In 1831, the Alhambra saw further damage by earthquake, but reparations were undertaken in 1828 by architect José Contreras, under the rule of Ferdinand VII. After the death of José Contreras, his son and then his grandson carried on his work.

The Alcazaba is the oldest part of the Alhambra. The Royal Complex consist of the Mexuar; a place to hold business, the Serallo; which includes a highly decorative patio, and the Harem; the living quarters of the wives and mistresses of the Arab rulers.

The Salón de los Embajadores (Hall of the Ambassadors) is the largest of it's kind in the Alhambra, and is the grand reception room. When Ferdinand and Isabel were in residence at the Alhambra, Christopher Columbus was received and gained their support to sail to the New World.

The Villa de los Martires (Martyrs' Villa) was named after the Christian slaves who were forced to build the Alhambra, and were kept in underground cells.

The Palacio de Generalife or Gineralife was the summer palace of the Nasrid Sultans and was once connected to the Alhambra via a covered walkway. It's gardens contain beautiful fountains, hedges, grottoes, flowers, and avenues that is one of the oldest Moorish gardens in existence.

Large photo of the Alhambra above courtesy of Andrew Dunn. Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of Nikater, Vaughan Williams, Allie Caulfield, and TimBray at en.wikipedia under a CC or GNU license

Xativa (Játiva) Castle

Xativa (Játiva) Castle
Xativa (Játiva) Castle

Located in the city of Xativa in Valencia, Spain, Xativa Castle was built in the 10th century, and walled in the 11th century. The castle sits near the strategic old Roman road Via Augusta, the longest Roman road on the Iberian Peninsula.

In 1092, the Almoravids Dynasty took the castle. In 1145, troops following Marwan Abd-al-Aziz (the Governor of Valencia) attacked and removed the Almoravids from the castle. In 1171, Xativa Castle was attacked again, and fell into the hands of the Almohades.

On May 22, 1244, after five long months, King James I of Aragon captured Xativa Castle. Here, the Treaty of Jativa was signed by Christian King James I of Aragon and the Muslim commander Ibn Hud in Xativa. The treaty laid out generous terms of surrender to the Moors where they are allowed to hold on the Castle of Xativa for a period of two years before handing it over to the Christian monarchy.

Xativa Castle actually exists in two parts, the Upper Castle and the older pre-Roman Lower Castle. Some of the interesting parts of the Upper Castle are the Queen Mary Chapel which contains the tomb of the Count of Urgell, the Hall of the Duke of Calabria, and the State Prison of the Kings of the Crown Aragon, which once held the King of Mallorca and James of Aragon.

The Lower Castle is not as large as the Upper Castle, but there is the Torre I Balco De La Reina Himilce, which is a balcony on the Queens Tower from which one can see a great view of the Upper Castle. This tower is said to have been named for Himilce, wife of Hannibal the Roman, who occupied this castle at one time.

Large photo of Xàtiva Castle above courtesy of J>Ro. Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of Jan Harenburg and Espencat under a CC license.

Antequera Castle

Antequera Castle
Antequera Castle

Located in the province of province of Málaga, Andalusia, Spain, Antequera Castle overlooks the town from the top of a large rock. Antequera Castle was built in the 13th century by the Moors on top of an old Roman fortress, but the castle fell in 1410 to Ferdinand I of Aragon, when he and his troops were able to breach the castle wall. The city and it's castle then became a Catholic fortress against the last remaining Moorish city, the Muslim Nasrid kingdom of Granada, which fell in 1492.

The Arco de los Gigantes (Arch of the Giants) is a large Roman built arch that was dedicated to Phillip II in 1585, and leads one to the Antequera Castle. The Torre del Papabellotas, dating back to 1582, is the best preserved tower of the castle and provides a picturesque view of the town.

Another large rock across from Antequera Castle is the Peña de los Enamorados (Lovers' Rock). A tragic story is associated with this crag of limestone, in which the love between a Christian soldier taken prisoner and the daughter of a Muslim leader was found out by the girl's father. The lovers knew there was no future for them unless they ran away together, so the Muslim girl helped the Christian soldier escape. They were soon found out, and soldiers chased the couple to the top of the rock. Rather than be forbidden to love in life, they chose to be together in death, and leapt from the rock.

Hyperlinked photos courtesy of Manfred Werner, Jose Ramon Perez Patricio, and Andrew Rennie under a CC license.

Morella Castle

Morella Castle
Morella Castle

Located in Castellón, Valencia, Spain, Morella Castle is a Moorish fortress that sits atop a large mountainous crag, surrounded by the city of Morella and the town and castle walls. Morella Castle was at the heart of much bloodshed, and the castle was seized by many different troops over it's long and turbulent history.

Morella Castle was so well built defensively, that it had to be taken by intrigue and clever planning more than by sheer military force. In 1088 during the Reconquista, El Cid scaled the walls to attack the Moors. In the late 1800's Carlist General Ramón Cabrera entered the castle through one of the toilet holes. By 1840, the castle was abandoned and fell into ruin. The castle has been attacked by the Iberians, Romans, Moors, and Christians, and each of these have left their architectural mark on this glorious castle.

In 1270, King James I ordered a monastery be built within the castle walls, and the Gothic-styled Saint Francis Monastery was erected. The La Pardala Tower is so named after the story of a local Morellan woman who was hanged here by the French troops during the Independence War.

The castle contains three different levels, the first level contains the entrance to the Palace of the Governor, the second level contains the military components of the fortress, and the third level is where the castle itself sits.

Large photo of Morella Castle above courtesy of Neneonline. Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of Jose Manuel and Makinal under a CC license.

Castle of Calatrava la Nueva

Castle of Calatrava la Nueva
Castle of Calatrava la Nueva

Located on the peak of Alacranejo, in Ciudad Real, Spain, the Castle of Calatrava Nueva was built here in 1217, with the Calatrava Order having moved here from the Calatrava Vieja (nueva means New and vieja means Old) The Calatrava area is now part of the archaeological parks community.

The age of the Catholic monarchs was pivotal for this beautiful castle, with refurbishments and additions being made to it, especially in the time of Phillip II. The castle of Calatrava Nueva consists of three walls, parade grounds, a keep, towers, various chapels, a cemetery, and more. The chapel is definite Cistercian-gothic architecture, with touches of Romanesque and Mudejar elements. One of the most beautiful features of the castle is the large rose-petal window built of volcanic rock.

The Castle of Calatrava la Nueva (also called Calzada de Calatrava) was built out of volcanic stone, which emits a beautiful golden hue in the sunshine. This castle is one of the best examples of a castle-monastery. In 1931, the Castle of Calatrava la Nueva was declared a Site of Special Cultural Interest as a Historical Monument.

The large photo of the Castle of Calatrava la Nueva courtesy of Carlos el Hormigo. The smaller hyperlinked photo courtesy of Juanangel under a CC license, and public domain images.

Cardona Castle

Cardona Castle
Cardona Castle

Located on a large hill overlooking the town of Cardona in the province of Catalonia, Spain, Wilfred the Hairy (Guifré el Pilós) built the Gothic and Romanesque Cardona Castle in 886. Wilfred, the Count of Barcelona, began the tradition of hereditary passage of titles.

There is an interesting story about the origin of the Catalan Flag. Wilred the Hairy (Guifré el Pilós) was wounded in a battle against the Moors. Knowing that the troops would need inspiration to keep fighting without their leader, Charles the Bald dipped his fingers in the bloody wound of Guifré el Pilós and drew his fingers across a shield. The troops went into battle the next day under the blood of Guifré el Pilós, and won. The Catalan Flag has four red stripes across a yellow background, the four stripes of the blood of Guifré el Pilós across a golden shield.

Some of the important elements of this large fortress is the 11th century Torre de la Minyona, the Chapel of San Ramón Nonato, the Collegiate Church of San Vicente which boasts a basilica floor plan and three naves, and the Ducal Courtyard. There is also a crypt and several mausoleums. The Torres de la Minoya is so named because of the local legend of Adeles, the daughter of Ramón Folch, who was imprisoned in this tower for falling in love with a Moor and converting to Islam.

Large photo of Cardona Castle above courtesy of Fredpanassac Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of Barbol, Beusson, and PMRMaeyaert under a CC license.

Segovia Castle

Segovia Castle
Segovia Castle

Located in Segovia, Castile and Leon, Spain, Segovia Castle sits on a rocky crag overlooking the city. Segovia Castle originally belonged to the Moors, and was first mentioned in 1120, but there is evidence that a building stood here in Roman times.

It is believed that Segovia Castle began as a wooden fort until the reign of King Alfonso VIII, when he and his wife made this their principal residence in the late 1100's. Afterwards, Segovia Castle became a royal residence for several rulers of the Kingdom of Segovia, and additions and improvements were made by each ruler.

In 1258, a cave-in damaged parts of the castle, and King Alfonso X repaired the castle, also adding the Hall of Kings. The moat was enlarged and the large tower was built by King John II, today called the Tower of John II. Under King Philip II, the spires, the slate roofs, the main garden and School of Honor were added. In 1862, Segovia Castle was heavily damaged by fire, but was rebuilt in a style more romantic than the original.

On December 12, 1474, when Isabella I heard of the death of King Henry IV, she took refuge in Segovia Castle, and was crowned Queen of Castile and Leon on the 13th. This was also the site of the wedding of Isabella I and Fernando II (Ferdinand the Catholic). The royal couple were responsible for sending Christopher Columbus on his expedition to the New World, and for the conquest of the Kingdom of Granada. Unfortunately, Isabella I and Ferdinand II also shared responsibility for the cruelty of the Spanish Inquisition, which they established in 1478.

The large photo of Segovia Castle above courtesy of Raúl A. The smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of Bernard Gagnon, Gellerj, and Gryffindor under a CC license.

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Travelling in Spain

Rick Steves' Spain 2012
Rick Steves' Spain 2012

A good travel book is a must have for the best deals, best places to stay, and off the beaten path sites.


Comments are appreciated!

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    • profile image

      EmergencyPrepar 5 years ago

      Visiting castles was on top of my list while in Spain besides seeing my family and EATING ;) We can't wait until we are able to take our children. We know they will LOVE to see the castles and the country.

    • poldepc lm profile image

      poldepc lm 5 years ago

      great lens; I visited Alhambra, and Castillo Arabe in Salobreña

    • melissiaoliver profile image

      melissiaoliver 5 years ago

      Beautiful lens! I've always wanted to visit the Alhambra, especially after reading Philippa Gregory's descriptions of it in 'The constant princess'.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 5 years ago

      Beautiful lens Squid Angels dust on you way.

      I love your pictures and useful details.

    • vincente lm profile image

      vincente lm 5 years ago

      This makes me really miss Spain! ... Man!!! ;)

    • jacinto888 profile image

      jacinto888 6 years ago

      Love the lens, great photos and good info!

    • bluewren56 lm profile image

      bluewren56 lm 6 years ago

      You make it come alive.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      These prompt a visit to Spain, just to go and see castles. There are some amazing medieval places there. Very nice lens, blessed by an angel.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Very nice Squidoo, I enjoyed every aspect. I love reading what others write.

    • Brookelorren LM profile image

      Brookelorren LM 6 years ago

      Very cool page. Love the pictures. Angel blessings to you.

    • joanv334 profile image

      joanv334 6 years ago

      Hello! Love Castles, and Spanish history. Thanks for sharing!

    • Parleo profile image

      Parleo 7 years ago

      I loved the story of the Catalan flag. I live there but have not heard that one before.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      wonderful,great web& great efforts,thanks.

    • kathysart profile image

      kathysart 8 years ago

      Wow... soo beautiful. Thank you!



    • profile image

      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      Drinking in all the beautiful castles -- hopefully in a few weeks, I'll have my own pictures to share. ;)