Medieval castles in Basque Country

Castle of Charles V

The Castle of Charles V is located in the strategic area of Hondarribia, at its highest point. It still conserves the structure of a medieval fortress and its defensive appearance. It was built in the 10th century by King Sancho Abarca of Navarre, although it was subsequently reformed by Emperor Charles V. The building served as both a castle and a palace, both connected by an interior courtyard. The castle had a square f ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Hondarribia, Spain

Tower of Varona

The Tower of Varona (Torre de los Varona) is a tower located in Villanañe, Valdegovia. The origin of this tower dates back to the end of the 14th or start of the 15th century. The surname Varona dates back to the 7th century and came into being with Doña María Ruiz Pérez. From then until the present day, the tower has been inhabited by her direct descendants. The whole building has been restored by the Provincial Cou ...
Founded: c. 1400 | Location: Valdegovía, Spain

Tower of Mendoza

The Tower of Mendoza is strategically located between the roads of Old Castile and the Ebro river. The Mendoza"s entered to the service of the kingdom of Castile during the reign of Alfonso XI (1312-1350). Álava is one of the Basque territories incorporated into the Castilian monarchy with jurisdictions. Before the Mendoza"s went to Castile, Álava was a battlefield, in which the lordly families resolved th ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain

Muñatones Castle

Muñatones Castle was the culmination of a long construction process lasting from the 14th to the 15th centuries, amid the ferocious factional wars that ravaged Enkarterri. It is without adoubt one of the finest examples of the region’s architectural heritage and has been designated a landmark. Mighty nobleman Don Lope García de Salazar was born in the castle, where he wrote the first history book on the Biscayan ...
Founded: 1339 | Location: Muskiz, Spain

Tower of Guevara

The Tower-palace of Guevara was built in the late 13th or early 14th century by local Guevara noble family. Today one of four original towers exists.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Barrundia, Spain

Castillo de Lanos

Castillo de Lanos was probably built in the 12th century. Little is known about its origins, but Sancho IV of Castile conquered it.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ocio, Spain

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Trinity Sergius Lavra

The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is a world famous spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church and a popular site of pilgrimage and tourism. It is the most important working Russian monastery and a residence of the Patriarch. This religious and military complex represents an epitome of the growth of Russian architecture and contains some of that architecture’s finest expressions. It exerted a profound influence on architecture in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe.

The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, was founded in 1337 by the monk Sergius of Radonezh. Sergius achieved great prestige as the spiritual adviser of Dmitri Donskoi, Great Prince of Moscow, who received his blessing to the battle of Kulikov of 1380. The monastery started as a little wooden church on Makovets Hill, and then developed and grew stronger through the ages.

Over the centuries a unique ensemble of more than 50 buildings and constructions of different dates were established. The whole complex was erected according to the architectural concept of the main church, the Trinity Cathedral (1422), where the relics of St. Sergius may be seen.

In 1476 Pskovian masters built a brick belfry east of the cathedral dedicated to the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. The church combines unique features of early Muscovite and Pskovian architecture. A remarkable feature of this church is a bell tower under its dome without internal interconnection between the belfry and the cathedral itself.

The Cathedral of the Assumption, echoing the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin, was erected between 1559 and 1585. The frescoes of the Assumption Cathedral were painted in 1684. At the north-western corner of the Cathedral, on the site of the western porch, in 1780 a vault containing burials of Tsar Boris Godunov and his family was built.

In the 16th century the monastery was surrounded by 6 meters high and 3,5 meters thick defensive walls, which proved their worth during the 16-month siege by  Polish-Lithuanian invaders during the Time of Trouble. They were later strengthened and expanded.

After the Upheaval of the 17th century a large-scale building programme was launched. At this time new buildings were erected in the north-western part of the monastery, including infirmaries topped with a tented church dedicated to Saints Zosima and Sawatiy of Solovki (1635-1637). Few such churches are still preserved, so this tented church with a unique tiled roof is an important contribution to the Lavra.

In the late 17th century a number of new buildings in Naryshkin (Moscow) Baroque style were added to the monastery.

Following a devastating fire in 1746, when most of the wooden buildings and structures were destroyed, a major reconstruction campaign was launched, during which the appearance of many of the buildings was changed to a more monumental style. At this time one of the tallest Russian belfries (88 meters high) was built.

In the late 18th century, when many church lands were secularized, the chaotic planning of the settlements and suburbs around the monastery was replaced by a regular layout of the streets and quarters. The town of Sergiev Posad was surrounded by traditional ramparts and walls. In the vicinity of the monastery a number of buildings belonging to it were erected: a stable yard, hotels, a hospice, a poorhouse, as well as guest and merchant houses. Major highways leading to the monastery were straightened and marked by establishing entry squares, the overall urban development being oriented towards the centrepiece - the Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra.

In 1993, the Trinity Lavra was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.