Medieval castles in Castile and León

Osma Castle

The Castle of Osma is a medieval castle which seems to have been built in the 10th century. It was built in stone, although Count Gonzalo Tello used some Roman structures and materials which belonged to a small Christian fortress. The castle is divided into three walled enclosures which can be easily distinguished. Nowadays you can see the ruins of this fortress which adapts perfectly to the rocky hill between the Ucero ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Burgo de Osma, Spain

Íscar Castle

The first written mention of Íscar was in the year 939 AD in Muslim chronicles. The remaining Christians reconquered Iscar in 1086 AD. Build on the ruins of its ancient fortress, Iscar’s Castle stands majestic looking over the village. The oldest preserved parts of this fortress (probably dating back to the 13th century) are remains of the curtain wall and the inside structure of the tower. To provide a defence against ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Íscar, Spain

Villaviciosa Castle

The Castle of Villaviciosa was built in two different stages. In the 15th century, Nuño González del Águila y Guzmán ordered to build a castle to control the passage from the Amblés Valley to the Sierra de la Paramera. In the 16th century, the execution of the Torre de las Damas was carried out. Currently, Villaviciosa Castle is a hotel.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Villaviciosa, Spain

Sotopalacios Castle

Sotopalacios castle, dating from the 14th century, is a rectangular in shape, with square turrets in the corners. It contains palatial rooms around a courtyard. One of the largest and better preserved castles in the province of Burgos, thanks to the restoration works the owner has carried out over the years.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Merindad de Río Ubierna, Spain

Úrbel Castle

El Castillo de Úrbel is located on a steep hill. The current remains date back to the 15th century and were built by the Zúñiga family. Originally castle was built in the 11th century.  
Founded: 15th century | Location: Urbel del Castillo, Spain

Alija del Infantado Castle

Alija del Infantado Castle was built in the late 15th century. It has a square floor plan, flanked by towers. Inside the walls is the private Palace of the Ponces, whose primitive construction dates back to the thirteenth century.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Alija del Infantado, Spain

Encinas de Esgueva Castle

Encinas Castle is dated back to the 14th century. The castle consists of a small and square enclosure, with two square towers in two of its corners. One of these served as the keep. In the other two corners the crenelated walls are raised to the same height as the two towers thus giving the false impression that the castle had four towers. There is a small stone ditch at the feet of the walls, which is provided with a low ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Encinas de Esgueva, Spain

Velasco Castle

Velasco castle was built at the end of 14th century and mid-15th century. Due to its complexity, dimensions and conservation, it is the most important castle of Mena and one of the most interesting in the province of Burgos. The first documents of the tower dates back to 1397 when it fell, after sharing the heritage of Pedro Gomez de Porras, on Maria Alonso de Porras, married to Diego Sanchez de Velasco.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Valle de Mena, Spain

Montuenga Castle

Montuenga Castle in Soria, Spain forms part of the defensive line of the Jalón River set in a natural passage between the plateau and strategic basin of the Ebro. The area was subject to disputes, notable during the Castilian Civil War. The castle is perched on a high hill, steep and long, from which it dominates the town of Montuenga de Soria. The remains of the building, two polygonal towers at each end, are jo ...
Founded: Middle ages | Location: Montuenga de Soria, Spain

Narros de Saldueña Castle

Narros de Saldueña Castle dates from the 15th century. During the Peninsular War (1807–1814) it was occupied by the French army. The conservation took place in 1960s.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Narros de Saldueña, Spain

Castilnovo Castle

Built in the 12th century in mudejar style, the Castilnovo castle is conserved in good condition. It has a rectangular plan, with six round and square towers. It was rebuilt in the 14th - 16th centuries and again between the 19th and the 20th centuries. The present castle is thought to have been built on a previous structure, probably a small fortress. Trapezoid ground plan, with six round and rectangular turrets of br ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Condado de Castilnovo, Spain

Alcuetas Castle

The Alcuetas Castle was probably built in the 15th century by Alfonso Enríquez de Acuña.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Alcuetas, Spain

Arcos de Jalón Castle

Arcos de Jalón Castle, dating from the 14th century, stands on the site of an old Arab fortress. It was besieged in the 14th century by the supporters of the Castilian King Pedro I, who fought against the rebel D. Fernán Gómez de Albornoz, supporter of his bastard brother Enrique de Trastamara. This castle has a rectangular floor plan although it is quite irregular due to the fact that it adapts to the rugged land ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Arcos de Jalón, Spain

Villavellid Castle

Villavellid Castle is located on a little hill next to the village. By its diposition and characteristics it can be dated to the 15th century and it was probably the residence of a nobleman. Its constructor isn"t known although in 1452 a Don Francisco de Almazán, Marquess of Alcañices, was mentioned as the Lord of the village and the owner of a 'strong house'. Its plan is a square with wide walls of ashl ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Villavellid, Spain

Cea Castle

Castillo de Cea was built in the 15th century on the site of an older castle destroyed in the 12th century. It was used as a prison for Castilian kings. At the beginning of the twentieth century it was used as a quarry for the new church of the town. At the moment only a tower and an entrance arch of the wall are conserved.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Cea, Spain

Mazuelo de Muñó Castle

Mazuelo de Muñó Castle was built in the mid-14th century. The tower was inhabited until 1923 when a fire destroyed its interior.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Mazuelo de Muñó, Spain

Virtus Castle

Virtus Castle built in the 14th and 15th centuries. Privately owned, it is used as a home. It once belonged to the Porres family. The building consists of two floors. The inside is made of sandstone ashlar, has square floor and attached towers of circular section in the corners.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Valle de Valdebezana, Spain

Enríquez Castle

At the beginning of the 16th century the Enríquez castle was owned by Bernardino Pérez de Sarmiento, Count of Ribadavia. It was a three-story castle with a square floor. The castle has been ruined at least since the 18th century.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Hornillos de Cerrato, Spain

Ciria Castle

Ciria Castle was built to protect the passage from Bilbilis to Numancia during the Moorish era. Later Ciria was linked to the border disputes between Castilians and Aragonese. In 1430 the Aragonese king seized the castles of Ciria and Borobia.
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Ciria, Spain

Castronuevo Castle

Castronuevo was built before 1481 and remodeled in 1489. It has three circular and two rectangular towers.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Rivilla de Barajas, Spain

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.