Medieval castles in Andalusia

Aguzaderas Castle

The Castle of Las Aguzaderas is located just outside the town of El Coronil. This curious castle, which appears to have been built by the Moors, was probably erected to defend a spring which was the water source for the fountain of Las Aguzaderas. This area was an intense war zone between the Moors and the Christians during hundreds of years and that made water a precious resource. There is evidence that this castle was ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: El Coronil, Spain

Niebla Castle

The construction of the Niebla Castle started in 1402, when Don Enrique de Guzmán, the second Duke of Medinasidonia and the fourth of Niebla, pulled down the old Moorish Alcázar to build the one we know today. The result was a magnificent royal palace which preserved the most interesting and luxurious parts built by the Arabs, such as the Muslim Tower of Homage. After the works of restoration made in the last few years ...
Founded: 1402 | Location: Niebla, Spain

Tabernas Castle

Castillo de Tabernas is a ruined castle on the outskirts of the municipality of Tabernas. It was built in the 11th century during the time of Arab domination. It is of Moorish style and is situated on top of a hill. When it was built, it occupied the entire hill, though currently only a part is preserved. During the siege of Almeria, Ferdinand and Isabella ensconced themselves in the castle.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Tabernas, Spain

Estepa Castle

Estepa castle was known in the Islamic period as Hisn Istabba, and was taken by Spanish king Fernando III on 15 August 1241. The city walls that still surround the old town on the San Cristóbal hill were first built in the tenth century by the Moors, renovated by Almohad invaders in the twelfth, and again reconstructed when Estepa fell to the Christian Order of Santiago in the thirteenth century. The keep inside the ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Estepa, Spain

Alcalá de Guadaíra Castle

Alcalá de Guadaíra Castle is the result of almost 4,500 years of human history. The older archaeological findings take us to the Bronze Age (2nd millennium BCE), when a small walled village settled down on the East edge of the Hill. The current castle was built during the times of Muslim domination, in the 11th and 12th centuries, although after the Reconquest by Ferdinand III is when it acquired its definitive layou ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Alcalá de Guadaíra, Spain

San Romualdo Castle

Neither the origins nor the date of construction of San Romualdo Castle is certain, although historians are fairly sure that this castle dates back to medieval times. Built in the Mudéjar style, it was first mentioned in 1268. It is thought to have been used as both convent and fortress. The castle was officially declared as a historic monument by the Spanish authorities in 1931 and is easily located near the town centr ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: San Fernando, Spain

Vélez-Málaga Castle

Velez-Malaga’s Alcazaba, or ‘Fortaleza’ as it’s more commonly known, was built in the 10th century. Originally, it was intended not to defend but to subdue the local population, who had traditionally caused a lot of problems for the Moorish rulers. Built on the tallest hill in the immediate area, it was the perfect site from a military point of view, affording long distance views of oncoming enemies and an easily ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Vélez-Málaga, Spain

Medina-Sidonia Castle

Medina-Sidonia Castle was originally a Roman castellum, converted in the Moorish castle in the 11th century. The curren castle appearance dates from the 15th century, built by Enrique de Guzmán, 2nd Duke of Medina Sidonia. In was used by as a headquarters of French Army in the war of early 19th century.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Spain, Spain

Cortegana Castle

The Cortegana Castle is situated on top of a hill. From this elevated position there are beautiful views of the Cortegana town and also of the Natural Park. The Cortegana Castle is the best preserved medieval fortress in the region. The exact foundation date is unknown. Possibly the first castle was erected in the andalusí period, although its present appearance should be put in relation with the military sponsored bt t ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Cortegana, Spain

Álora Castle

Álora"s castle was first built by the Phoenicians and subsequently expanded under Roman rule. In the 5th century the castle was destroyed by the Visigoths. The present Álora Castle was built in the 9th century by the Moorish state of Córdoba during a campaign against the Mozarabic rebel leader Umar ibn Hafsun. Later modifications in the 10th century added two enclosures. The inner enclosure was square and used as ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Álora, Spain

Ardales Castle

Castillo de la Peña was originally a prehistorical settlement, an Iberian fortified village and, very probably, the location of a Roman temple. The current fortification is located here because Omar ben Harfsun conquered the Peña, where originally a representative of the Cordoba state was settled (al-Tayubi) in the year 883 AD. Omar, the leader of the Mozarabic riot in the mountain ranges of Malaga, fortified the Sajra ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Ardales, Spain

Orce Castle

Alcazaba de las Siete Torres ('the castle of seven towers') was built at the beginning of the 11th century, coinciding with the dismemberment of the Caliphate of Córdoba.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Orce, Spain

Castle of Los Zúñiga

Castle of Los Zúñiga was built in the 15th century by D. Pedro de Zuñiga. Its objective was to defend the passage of Barca del Río Piedras. Its structure is rectangular in shape and consists of a wall circuit with seven square towers at the corners and on the front and side canvases. The most important towers are the bell tower and the homage tower. In addition to these towers, there was a second outer low wall, alre ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Cartaya, Spain

Águila Castle

The archaeological remains found near the Águila Castle seem to confirm the presence of a pre-islamic population, maybe from the Roman Age. Apparently in 914 the inhabitants of the fort looked like emirales troops burned the city of Algeciras ships that supported the revolt on Ibn Umar Hafsun, in any case the construction of the castle had to be early to be this hard hit area by Berber rebellions and Mozarabic. The c ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Gaucín, Spain

Loja Castle

The Islamic heritage of Loja is still evident in the quarter of the Alcazaba, a Moorish fortress of which most of the walls and towers remain. It was built in the 9th century AD to the site of possible Roman remains.
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Loja, Spain

Melgarejo Castle

Melgarejo Castle was built probably in the 14th century. Part of it collapsed in 2018 and the castle ruins were closed.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Arcos de la Frontera, Spain

Carcabuey Castle

The medieval castle of Carcabuey was the object of incursions by Ibn Hafsun at the end of the Emirate, being dominated and demolished by the emir Add-Allah in 892. Conquered by Fernando III, it was rebuilt according to the design of other fortifications, such as those in Fuengirola or Iznájar. From the mid-13th century, it belonged to the Order of Calatrava, until, in 1333, it was conquered by Muhammad IV of Gran ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Carcabuey, Spain

Bobastro Castle Ruins

Bobastro is the ruins of an old castle in the Province of Málaga. The castle was of Roman origin, but rebuilt by Umar ibn Hafsun during his rebellion against the Caliphate of Cordoba in the 9th century. There had been a structure at the site since Roman times. In 880 AD, Umar ibn Hafsun settled in the ruins of the old castle of Bobastro near Ardales, in which he incited the muwallads and mozarabs to join his cause again ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Ardales, Spain

Castle of Sancti Petri

Situated on the little island, the defensive Sancti Petri fortification was once one of a series of forts that protected the inlet, Caño de Sancti Petri. Of irregular shape and in the Moorish style, it dates from the 13th century. During the 1st century, the Phoenicians settled on the island, founding a temple dedicated to Melqart, their god. When the Romans arrived they dedicated the temple to Hercules. The castle" ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: San Fernando, Spain

Aguilar de la Frontera Castle

Castillo de Aguilar is known from at least the 9th century. It is mostly in ruin, a part turned into a cistern for the local aqueduct. In the 9th century Aguilar de la Frontera became the headquarters of the rebel Umar ibn Hafsun, who built extensive fortifications and reinforced the castle. However, in 891, Umar ibn Hafsun lost the town to emir Abdallah ibn Muhammad of Córdoba. Due to its strategic position, it was cont ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Aguilar de la Frontera, Spain

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.