Medieval castles in Andalusia

Lanjarón Castle

The Castle of  Lanjarón, locally known as the Moorish Castle, is a small medieval fortress located a quarter mile from the village. It is dominating on a rocky outcrop, the valley of the Lanjarón River, next to the Salado canyon. It is formed by two enclosures with some small sections of the outer wall. Signs of a tower are preserved; a bastion square, masonry at its bottom and above a adobe. At the south of the comple ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Lanjarón, Spain

Moclín Castle

Moclín Castle was built in the mid-13th century to help defend the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada. It is also known as the Hins Al-Muqlin, (literally the fortress of the two pupils). It was built to mark the frontier between the kingdoms of Granada and Castile. The Castillo de Moclín was continuously besieged during the Hispano-Moorish settlement, falling into the hands of the Catholic Kings in 1486.  The castle is divided ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Moclín, Spain

Moguer Castle

Castillo de Moguer was renovated and enlarged in the 14th century. The oldest record document of castle dates from 1362, but it probably existed already in the Moorish age. The castle was built of mud-based mortar gravel, clay and lime. It is of an imperfect square plan 44 by 45 metres in size, with four towers at the corners. A moat surrounded the castle, as evidenced by written records, but is not currently visible. Ac ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Moguer, Spain

Gérgal Castle

Gérgal Castle was built somewhere during the Late Middle Ages during Muslim rule. By 1492 it had fallen into the hands of the Catholic Monarchs; Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. They donated the castle to Alonso de Cárdenas, Grand Master of the Order of Santiago, for outstanding services during the Granada War. During the 16th century it played an important defensive role against the inland ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Gérgal, Spain

Cártama Castle

The Cartama Castle is located in the Monte de la Virgen (Mount of the Virgin), where the Hermitage of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios is also located and where it is possible to be enjoyed some impressive panoramic views. Cártama Castle was built by the Moors in the early Middle Ages. During the Mozarabic revolt of Omar ibn Hafsun, between 881 and 914 AD, Cártama stayed loyal to the Caliphate of Córdoba and the castle ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Cártama, Spain

Marchenilla Castle

Marchenilla 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 layout. Important development was still taking place right up to the late 15th and early 16th century. The Castle is located on a promontory which is high enough to completely dominate the surroundings, in the same place as previous human set ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Alcalá de Guadaíra, Spain

Belalcázar Castle

The castle-palace of Belalcázar is one of the most representative of the 15th century, when the nobility attempted to demonstrate its social and economic status. Built entirely of stone blocks, Belalcazar preserves two enclosures: an outer barrier adapted to the irregularities of the land and reinforced with rectangular towers, and the inner rectangular castle-palace with eight towers, one at each corner and another in ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Belalcázar, Spain

Belmez Castle

Castillo de Belmez is a small fortress located in Bélmez, northwest of Córdoba. It is visible from any angle, as it sits on top of a high limestone rocky outcrop. It seems to have been around at least since 1245, although the main tower and the wall were built later on, in the 15th century. It belonged to the Order of Calatrava after belonging to the Cordoba Council. In the 15th century it became an important area of co ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Belmez, Spain

Bujalance Castle

Castillo de Bujalance was built in the 10th century during the Caliphate of Abd-ar-Rahman III. It is a clear example of Muslim military architecture in Al-Andalus. It subsequently underwent several modernizations, most recently in 1512, which were paid for by Queen Joanna of Castile. It is rectangular in shape, measuring 59 metres north-south and 51 metres east-west. The castle"s original name, 'tower of the sn ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Bujalance, Spain

Fatetar Castle

The Fatetar Castle is located on the top of the Monte Fatetar, in the highest part of the town and enyoy stunning views of both, the village and its surroundings. Apparently the Fatetar Castle was built by Abderrahman III in 914. Though its origins are not well known, many cultures haved passed through this place, such as the Romans, Visigoths, Arabs, Muslims and Christians. Today you can still observe its keep and the ...
Founded: 914 AD | Location: Espera, Spain

Hins-Canit Castle

An Arabic Hins-Canit Castle construction begun in the 9th century and completed in the 16th century. This great fortress was one of the most important during the Humar Bem Hafsum uprising and the Christian and Granada wars. Its name can be traced back to the Arabic Hins Cannit or Qanit, which, depending on the author consulted, either means “Canit Castle” or is a reference to the canes that can still be found close t ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Cañete la Real, Spain

Luna Castle

Luna Castle building started in the mid-15th century. Built in the Mudejar style, it has for towers and curtain walls.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Mairena del Alcor, Spain

Torreparedones Castle

The first documents of Torreparedones Castle date from the 14th century, but it was probably built in the 13th century. The best preserved part is the tower.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Baena, Spain

Doña Blanca Castle

Castillo de Doña Blanca is a tower built in the 15th or 16th century to watch the Cádiz bay. It is named after lady Blanca de Borbón, who was imprisoned there.  The tower is built to the archaeological area. The remains of walls, necrópolis and parts of houses date from the eighth to the third century BC and were built by the Phoenicians. It is considered an ancient city with a significant development and urban plan ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: El Puerto de Santa María, Spain

Zalia Castle

The Zalia Castle is easily accessed by the road up from La Viñuela Dam address Ventas de Zafarraya-Granada. Although hardly can be seen today due to their state of total ruin, Zalia Castle had an irregural plant of approximately 120m x 150 m. You can still see some towers and remains of the wall between the gorse and scrubland existing around. Zalia Castle had a double walled, both being very irregular. Account outsi ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Alcaucín, Spain

Setefilla Castle

The Setefilla Castle is located on the outskirts of the town of Lora del Río. The name has its origin in a medieval place name that should refer to the Muslim fortress located on the table of the same name. In the Middle Ages, Setefilla was an important enclave related tot eh Muslim conquest, the reconquest and the subsequent repopulation of the area and appears several times cited in the texts of historians of the time ...
Founded: 888-921 AD | Location: Lora del Río, Spain

Aznalmara Castle

Aznalmara Castle was built int he 13th-14th centuries. It was conquered by the Christian army in 1410 and 1485. Today it lies in ruins.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Ubrique, Spain

Gigonza Castle

Castillo de Gigonza site has been in existence since antiquity. The present castle is of Andalusian origin and almost square in shape, with two parts to its structure. The current appearance dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. A narrow and low door contains a lintel with two heavy imposts. The upper floor is vaulted and contains windows. The grounds contain a surrounding fence. The courtyard is accessed through a door ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: San José del Valle, Spain

Bentomiz Castle

Bentomiz Castle is an ancient Moorish fortress built on a hill near the village of Arenas in the province of Málaga. It sits at a height of 711 metres, and lies to the northeast of Vélez-Málaga. The castle site is thought to have been occupied by the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans, although it is not clear which parts of the ruins date to which period. Roman baths have been found there. The Arabs built on the existing ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Arenas, Spain

Matrera Castle

Matrera Castle was built in the 9th century by Omar ibn Hafsún to defend Iptuci, the most advanced city of the Cora de Ronda. However, Mount Pajarete was a place of human settlement since Antiquity. In the 13th century, it was conquered by San Fernando, who rebuilt it. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the XIV century, it returned to Muslim hands, being definitively reconquered by Alfonso XI in 1341. However, being loca ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Villamartín, 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.