Top Historic Sights in Segovia, Spain

Explore the historic highlights of Segovia

Aqueduct of Segovia

The Roman aqueduct of Segovia was built, probably in the 1st century BC, to bring water from the mountains to the hilltop settlement of Segovia. It was a massive feat of engineering as it ran for around 15 km and had to cross a wide valley before it entered the city. It was used to bring water to the town until the 19th century. Today the aquduct is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site that also includes the old city and ...
Founded: 50 BCE | Location: Segovia, Spain

Walls and Alcazar of Segovia

Rising out on a rocky crag above the confluence of two rivers near the Guadarrama mountains, the Alcázar of Segovia is one of the most distinctive castle-palaces in Spain by virtue of its shape – like the bow of a ship. The Alcázar was originally built as a fortress but has served as a royal palace, a state prison, a Royal Artillery College and a military academy since then. It is currently used as a museum and a mili ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Segovia, Spain

Segovia Cathedral

Begun in 1525, the construction of Segovia Cathedral was ordered by Charles V to replace an earlier cathedral near the Alcázar, which had been destroyed during the War of the Comuneros, a revolt against that king. The designs for the cathedral were drawn up by the leading late-Gothicist Juan Gil de Hontañón but executed by his son Rodrigo, in whose work can be seen a transition from the Gothic to the Renaissance style ...
Founded: 1525-1577 | Location: Segovia, Spain

La Granja de San Ildefonso Palace

The Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso, known as La Granja, is an early 18th-century palace located in the hills near Segovia.  The site was purchased from the monks in 1719 by King Philip V, after his summer palace nearby at Valsaín burned down. Beginning in 1721, Philip began building a new palace and gardens modeled on Versailles, built by his grandfather, Louis XIV of France. Like Versailles it embrac ...
Founded: 1721 | Location: Segovia, Spain

Real Fábrica de Cristales

Real Fábrica de Cristales de La Granja ('Royal Factory of Glass and Crystal of La Granja') was a Spanish royal manufacturing factory established in 1727 by Philip V of Spain. In that year, funded by the crown, the Catalan artisan Buenaventura Sit installed a small oven which manufactured float glass for the windows and mirrors of the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso, which was under constru ...
Founded: 1727 | Location: Segovia, Spain

Saint Mary of Parral Monastery

Monastery of Saint Mary of Parral is a Roman Catholic monastery of the enclosed monks of the Order of Saint Jerome just outside the walls of Segovia. It was founded by King Henry IV of Castile, who acquired the lands before he became king in 1454. Despite a generally irreligious life, Henry IV maintained connections with the Hieronymites and was buried in the sister-house of Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe. In ...
Founded: 1454 | Location: Segovia, Spain

Royal Mint

The Royal Mint (Real Casa de la Moneda) in Segovia was founded by Philip II and designed by Juan de Herrera. It now holds two museum spaces: the Museum of the Casa de la Moneda and the Aqueduct Interpretation Centre. Located beside the Eresma River and the Alcázar palace, it is the oldest example of industrial architecture still existing in Spain. It operated as a Royal Mint between 1586 and 1869, and still conserves it ...
Founded: 1586 | Location: Segovia, Spain

Royal Palace of Riofrío

The Royal Palace of Riofrío is one of the residences of Spain"s royal family. Situated in the municipality of San Ildefonso, in the province of Segovia, central Spain, the building is set in a wooded deer-park. Queen Elisabeth Farnese was widowed in 1746, her husband King Philip V being succeeded by Ferdinand VI, her step-son. As such, to ensure that Elisabeth would remain away from the court, King Ferdin ...
Founded: 1752-1759 | Location: Segovia, Spain

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle is a Norman castle, founded in 1093. It survived many changes of ownership and is now the largest privately owned castle in Wales. It was the birthplace of Henry Tudor (later Henry VII of England) in 1457.

Pembroke Castle stands on a site that has been occupied at least since the Roman period. Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury founded the first castle here in the 11th century. Although only made from earth and wood, Pembroke Castle resisted several Welsh attacks and sieges over the next 30 years. The castle was established at the heart of the Norman-controlled lands of southwest Wales.

When William Rufus died, Arnulf de Montgomery joined his elder brother, Robert of Bellême, in rebellion against Henry I, William's brother and successor as king; when the rebellion failed, he was forced to forfeit all his British lands and titles. Henry appointed his castellan, but when the chosen ally turned out to be incompetent, the King reappointed Gerald in 1102. By 1138 King Stephen had given Pembroke Castle to Gilbert de Clare who used it as an important base in the Norman invasion of Ireland.

In August 1189 Richard I arranged the marriage of Isabel, de Clare's granddaughter, to William Marshal who received both the castle and the title, Earl of Pembroke. He had the castle rebuilt in stone and established the great keep at the same time. Marshal was succeeded in turn by each of his five sons. His third son, Gilbert Marshal, was responsible for enlarging and further strengthening the castle between 1234 and 1241.

Later de Valence family held Pembroke for 70 years. During this time, the town was fortified with defensive walls, three main gates and a postern. Pembroke Castle became de Valence's military base for fighting the Welsh princes during the conquest of North Wales by Edward I between 1277 and 1295.

Pembroke Castle then reverted to the crown. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle was a place of peace until the outbreak of the English Civil War. Although most of South Wales sided with the King, Pembroke declared for Parliament. It was besieged by Royalist troops but was saved after Parliamentary reinforcements arrived by sea from nearby Milford Haven. Parliamentary forces then went on to capture the Royalist castles of Tenby, Haverfordwest and Carew.

In 1648, at the beginning of the Second Civil War, Pembroke's commander Colonel John Poyer led a Royalist uprising. Oliver Cromwell came to Pembroke on 24 May 1648 and took the castle after a seven-week siege. Its three leaders were found guilty of treason and Cromwell ordered the castle to be destroyed. Townspeople were even encouraged to disassemble the fortress and re-use its stone for their purposes.

The castle was then abandoned and allowed to decay. It remained in ruins until 1880, when a three-year restoration project was undertaken. Nothing further was done until 1928, when Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps acquired the castle and began an extensive restoration of the castle's walls, gatehouses, and towers. After his death, a trust was set up for the castle, jointly managed by the Philipps family and Pembroke town council.

Architecture

The castle is sited on a strategic rocky promontory by the Milford Haven Waterway. The first fortification on the site was a Norman motte-and-bailey. It had earthen ramparts and a timber palisade.

In 1189, Pembroke Castle was acquired by William Marshal. He soon became Lord Marshal of England, and set about turning the earth and wood fort into an impressive Norman stone castle. The inner ward, which was constructed first, contains the huge round keep with its domed roof. Its original first-floor entrance was through an external stairwell. Inside, a spiral staircase connected its four stories. The keep's domed roof also has several putlog holes that supported a wooden fighting-platform. If the castle was attacked, the hoarding allowed defenders to go out beyond the keep's massive walls above the heads of the attackers.

The inner ward's curtain wall had a large horseshoe-shaped gateway. But only a thin wall was required along the promontory. This section of the wall has a small observation turret and a square stone platform. Domestic buildings including William Marshal's Great Hall and private apartments were within the inner ward. The 13th century keep is 23 metres tall with walls up to 6 metres thick at its base.

In the late 13th century, additional buildings were added to the inner ward, including a new Great Hall. A 55-step spiral staircase was also created that led down to a large limestone cave, known as Wogan Cavern, beneath the castle. The cave, which was created by natural water erosion, was fortified with a wall, a barred gateway and arrowslits. It may have served as a boathouse or a sallyport to the river where cargo or people could have been transferred.

The outer ward was defended by a large twin-towered gatehouse, a barbican and several round towers. The outer wall is 5 metres thick in places and constructed from Siltstone ashlar.

Although Pembroke Castle is a Norman-style enclosure castle with great keep, it can be more accurately described as a linear fortification because, like the later 13th-century castles at Caernarfon and Conwy, it was built on a rocky promontory surrounded by water. This meant that attacking forces could only assault on a narrow front. Architecturally, Pembroke's thickest walls and towers are all concentrated on its landward side facing the town, with Pembroke River providing a natural defense around the rest of its perimeter.