Medieval castles in Castile and León

Castrojeriz Castle

Castrojeriz village is considered one of the landmarks of historic interest in the Camino de Santiago. Its rich history may take up consideration as castro Visigoth, or perhaps, also, Roman fort, (they say was founded by Julius Caesar) in whose castle was developed important battles between Christians and Moors. The first mention of this castle dates from the 9th century during the skirmishes with the Muslim forces. Ther ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Castrojeriz, Spain

Fuensaldaña Castle

Fuensaldaña Castle construction started in the 13th century, but it is not until the 15th century that the structure acquires today"s configuration. It was built by the Vivero family. The family became linked to the region"s history when the future Catholic Monarchs got married in their castle. Inside, the building was shaped as a "U" around the cortyard, which today has been made into the parliament ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Fuensaldaña, Spain

Montemayor del Río Castle

Montemayor del Río Castle probably doesn"t date back to before the 15th century, and has more the character of a palace than of a strength. It has two existing enclosures. From the outer one only the entrance, flanked by two turrets, remains. The inner has an irregular groundplan, adapted to the outline of the land it was build on. In the interior two floor levels can still be traced which were arranged around a c ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Montemayor del Río, Spain

Sarracín Castle

Castillo de Sarracín is a castle-fortress located near the village of Vega de Valcarce in Spain, situated on the most ancient European pilgrimage route known as the way of Saint James – El Camino de Santiago. The castle was built around the 9th Century and was used by the Knights Templars to protect the pilgrim routes. The castle has been used until the 16th century and has been abandoned ever since.
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Vega de Valcarce, Spain

Vozmediano Castle

The 14th-century Vozmediano Castle is located atop great hills on the border with Aragon. Throughout the structure you can see various construction styles from different periods; Roman surrounding walls, a Muslim watchtower and medieval walls with battlement hexes. The castle is currently in ruins although it was made up of a double walled enclosure, the outer walls being strengthened on the most vulnerable corner by a g ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Vozmediano, Spain

Villafuerte Castle

Villafuerte Castle was erected in the 15th century, forming pat of the defensive line drawn alongside of the river. Its first lord was García Franco, a Jew who later on converted to Christianity. It might have been built in order to control his properties. Its layout is of the so-called 'tower castle'; an almost square, small enclosure with round towers (with a 3-meter diameter) at 3 corners and the keep at th ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Villafuerte, Spain

Soria Castle Ruins

The city of Soria formed in a valley near the castle that defended the Douro Riverbanks on the border between the Crowns of Aragon and Castile. The city was destroyed towards the end of the 12th century when Sancho of Navarre attacked it, therefore a great defensive wall was built to prevent further destruction. The wall defended a surface of 100 hectares that went from the Douro River up to the pastureland known as “La ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Soria, Spain

Curiel de Duero Castle

Castle of Curiel de Duero was built in the 7th-11th century to the site of older fort, even from Roman times. At the beginning of the 21st century the castle lied in ruins. In 2003, a hotel company began an intensive restoration process that ended in 2006 , serving since then as  a hotel with 24 rooms.
Founded: 7th century AD | Location: Curiel de Duero, Spain

Montealegre de Campos Castle

The castle of Montealegre, built in the 12th century, was mentioned for the first time in 1173, when Rodrígo Gutiérrez was appointed lord of Montealegre; together with the castles of Ampudia, Belmonte, Torremormojón, Medina de Rioseco, Mucientes and Trigueros, it formed the defence line of the southern border of the Kingdom of León. The castle was revamped in 1297 by Alfonso Tello Pérez de Meneses, appointed lord o ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Montealegre de Campos, Spain

Laguna de Negrillos Castle

Castle of Laguna de Negrillos is one of the fortress that belonged to the Conde Luna, with a characteristic structural style which features for a square floor and use of masonry , except in the corners, whose arris are built in ashlar stone. The keep tower and the crenellated walls are preserved. It was arisen in the 13th century, although what you can seen today is the reconstruction carried out in the 15th century by ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Laguna de Negrillos, Spain

Bonilla de la Sierra Castle

Bonilla de la Sierra castle has three wall sections and three turrets of different styles and origins. The main par of the castle was formed by the Tower of Homage, of the 14th century, it has matacanes and round arches, and under the tower is the main yard and the rooms. The castle contains 14th-century paintings. It was the resting place of the prelates of the Ávila bishopric, and held important episcopal synods, as t ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Bonilla de la Sierra, Spain

Ledesma Castle

Ledesma still has most of the granite wall which historically has surrounded the town. A large part of what is still standing was built in times of Fernando II of Leon, in the 12th century, but in the 15th century several parts of it were rebuilt with well-carved masonry. Many stone mason marks can be seen among these stones. Out of the eight doors it once had, the only one that is still preserved is  the one called ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ledesma, Spain

Olmillos Castle

The construction of the Olmillos Castle began in 1446. It has been traditionally known as the castle of the Cartagena, according the original owners. At the beginning of the 19th century, immediately after the French invasion, the guerrillas Santos Padilla and Melchor Cossío lit fire to the castle. Today it is a hotel.
Founded: 1446 | Location: Olmillos de Sasamón, Spain

Villalonso Castle

Villalonso Castle is one of the best conserved castles in the province of Zamora. The castle is a typical and notable example of 15th-century architecture; its construction may be attributed to Juan de Ulloa and his wife María de Sarmiento, whose coats of arms can be seen above the entrance gate. It played an important role during the siege of the queen Isabel the Catholic on Toro during her war against Juan "La B ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Villalonso, Spain

Berlanga de Duero Castle

Berlanga de Duero Castle, which is now in ruins, dates back to the 15th century though it was built over a 10th-century Muslim fortress of which there are no remnants. It originally belonged to the Tovar family who ordered the construction of the village’s collegiate. This castle played an important role, along with the defensive wall, in defending the villages along the Douro riverbanks during the Muslim Conquest. Of t ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Berlanga de Duero, Spain

Medinaceli Castle

Medinaceli Castle was built in the 9th century and rebuilt in the 15th century. There aren’t many remains left of this castle which was of great importance during the Middle Ages. According to legends, inside the castle, which is now completely restored, there was an Arabic citadel where Al-Mansur was buried after being defeated and killed in the Battle of Calatañazor in 1002, although, there aren’t any remains of th ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Medinaceli, Spain

Trigueros Castle

The history of Trigueros Castle isn"t very well known. It is not built on a strategic position because, although located on a small hill in the village, it is dominated by other higher hills. So, the castle was probably more a fortified residence than a military strength. Also the name of the village church, an older building on a higher hill; Santa Maria del Castillo, seems to indicate that the most suitable place o ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Trigueros del Valle, Spain

Villanueva de Cañedo Castle

The castle of Villanueva del Cañedo (also known as the castle of Buen Amor) was built on the remains of a previous castle of the 11th century, and of which the basement is still preserved. In 1477 the castle became property of Alonso Ulloa de Fonseca Quijada, Bishop of Ávila. Fonseca reconstructed the castle turning it into a Renaissance palace. Between 1958 and 1960 the castle was restored by its current owner ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Topas, Spain

Castillejo de Robledo Castle

Castillejo de Robledo castle and its lands were property of the Order of Malta until it was suppressed by Pope Clement V in 1311. After that the estate passed to the Knights Hospitaller and then to the residents of the town. In the town there was an old Moorish fortification where the current castle was built in the 12th century. The remains of the original wall are visible and are characterized by a greater thickn ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Castillejo de Robledo, Spain

Puente del Congosto Castle

The origins of Puente del Congosto Castle dates from the 12th and 13th centuries. It was built for defensive reasons, to control the route which connected Ciudad Rodrigo with Avila. In 1393, Enrique III granted the manor of the Puente del Congosto to Gil Gonzalez Davila, which rebuilt the castle, which would be Posada Real. The Duke of Alba bought the castle to the Emperor Carlos in 1539, adding to the rectangular tower ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Puente del Congosto, 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.