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

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.