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

Reims Cathedral

Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Reims) is the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims, where the kings of France were crowned. The cathedral replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211, that was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. That original structure had itself been erected on the site of some Roman baths. A major tourism destination, the cathedral receives about one million visitors annually.

History

Excavations have shown that the present building occupies roughly the same site as the original cathedral, founded c. 400 under the episcopacy of St Nicaise. That church was rebuilt during the Carolingian period and further extended in the 12th century. On 19 May 1051, King Henry I of France and Anne of Kiev were married in the cathedral.

On May 6, 1210 the cathedral was damaged by fire and reconstruction started shortly after, beginning at the eastern end. Documentary records show the acquisition of land to the west of the site in 1218, suggesting the new cathedral was substantially larger than its predecessors, the lengthening of the nave presumably being an adaptation to afford room for the crowds that attended the coronations. In 1233 a long-running dispute between the cathedral chapter and the townsfolk (regarding issues of taxation and legal jurisdiction) boiled over into open revolt. Several clerics were killed or injured during the resulting violence and the entire cathedral chapter fled the city, leaving it under an interdict (effectively banning all public worship and sacraments). Work on the new cathedral was suspended for three years, only resuming in 1236 after the clergy returned to the city and the interdict was lifted following mediation by the King and the Pope. Construction then continued more slowly. The area from the crossing eastwards was in use by 1241 but the nave was not roofed until 1299 (when the French King lifted the tax on lead used for that purpose). Work on the west facade took place in several phases, which is reflected in the very different styles of some of the sculptures. The upper parts of the facade were completed in the 14th century, but apparently following 13th century designs, giving Reims an unusual unity of style.

Unusually the names of the cathedral's original architects are known. A labyrinth built into floor of the nave at the time of construction or shortly after (similar to examples at Chartres and Amiens) included the names of four master masons (Jean d'Orbais, Jean-Le-Loup, Gaucher de Reims and Bernard de Soissons) and the number of years they worked there, though art historians still disagree over who was responsible for which parts of the building. The labyrinth itself was destroyed in 1779 but its details and inscriptions are known from 18th century drawings. The clear association here between a labyrinth and master masons adds weight to the argument that such patterns were an allusion to the emerging status of the architect (through their association with the mythical artificer Daedalus, who built the Labyrinth of King Minos). The cathedral also contains further evidence of the rising status of the architect in the tomb of Hugues Libergier (d. 1268, architect of the now-destroyed Reims church of St-Nicaise). Not only is he given the honor of an engraved slab; he is shown holding a miniature model of his church (an honor formerly reserved for noble donors) and wearing the academic garb befitting an intellectual.

The towers, 81 m tall, were originally designed to rise 120m. The south tower holds just two great bells; one of them, named “Charlotte” by Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine in 1570, weighs more than 10,000 kg.

During the Hundred Years' War the cathedral was under siege by the English from 1359 to 1360. After it fell the English held Reims and the Cathedral until 1429 when it was liberated by Joan of Arc which allowed the Dauphin Charles to be crowned king on 17 July 1429.

In 1875 the French National Assembly voted £80,000 for repairs of the façade and balustrades. The façade is the finest portion of the building, and one of the great masterpieces of the Middle Ages.

German shellfire during the opening engagements of the First World War on 20 September 1914 burned, damaged and destroyed important parts of the cathedral. Scaffolding around the north tower caught fire, spreading the blaze to all parts of the carpentry superstructure. The lead of the roofs melted and poured through the stone gargoyles, destroying in turn the bishop's palace. Images of the cathedral in ruins were used during the war as propaganda images by the French against the Germans and their deliberate destruction of buildings rich in national and cultural heritage. Restoration work began in 1919, under the direction of Henri Deneux, a native of Reims and chief architect of the Monuments Historiques; the cathedral was fully reopened in 1938, thanks in part to financial support from the Rockefellers, but work has been steadily going on since.

Exterior

The three portals are laden with statues and statuettes; among European cathedrals, only Chartres has more sculpted figures. The central portal, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is surmounted by a rose window framed in an arch itself decorated with statuary, in place of the usual sculptured tympanum. The 'gallery of the kings' above shows the baptism of Clovis in the centre flanked by statues of his successors.

The facades of the transepts are also decorated with sculptures. That on the North has statues of bishops of Reims, a representation of the Last Judgment and a figure of Jesus (le Beau Dieu), while that on the south side has a modern rose window with the prophets and apostles. Fire destroyed the roof and the spires in 1481: of the four towers that flanked the transepts, nothing remains above the height of the roof. Above the choir rises an elegant lead-covered timber bell tower that is 18 m tall, reconstructed in the 15th century and in the 1920s.

Interior

The interior comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. It has interesting stained glass ranging from the 13th to the 20th century. The rose window over the main portal and the gallery beneath are of rare magnificence.

The cathedral possesses fine tapestries. Of these the most important series is that presented by Robert de Lenoncourt, archbishop under François I (1515-1547), representing the life of the Virgin. They are now to be seen in the former bishop's palace, the Palace of Tau. The north transept contains a fine organ in a flamboyant Gothic case. The choir clock is ornamented with curious mechanical figures. Marc Chagall designed the stained glass installed in 1974 in the axis of the apse.

The treasury, kept in the Palace of Tau, includes many precious objects, among which is the Sainte Ampoule, or holy flask, the successor of the ancient one that contained the oil with which French kings were anointed, which was broken during the French Revolution, a fragment of which the present Ampoule contains.

Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral, the former Abbey of Saint-Remi, and the Palace of Tau were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1991.