Balgonie Castle keep dates from the 14th century, and the remaining structures were added piecemeal until the 18th century. The keep has been recently restored, although other parts of the castle are roofless ruins. Balgonie, excepting the tower which is used for residential purposes, is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The lands of Balgonie were held by the Sibbalds from at least 1246. Probably in the 1360s, the Sibbalds built a barmkin, or fortified courtyard, with a tower house at the north-west corner. The lands and the castle were left to a daughter, who married Sir Robert Lundie, who extended the castle in 1496, following his appointment as Lord High Treasurer of Scotland. Sir Robert built a two-storey range of buildings to the east of the keep, enlarging the accommodation with a long hall and a solar. This range incorporated an earlier corner tower and the 14th-century chapel. King James IV visited Balgonie on 20 August 1496, and gave 18 shillings to the masons as a gift.
In 1627 the castle was sold to the Boswells, who sold it on in 1635 to Sir Alexander Leslie, a Scottish soldier who had fought for the Swedish army during the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), rising to the rank of Field Marshal, and who led the Covenanters during the Scottish Bishops Wars. Leslie was created Lord Balgonie and Earl of Leven in 1641, and finally retired in 1654. He carried out further improvement of his home, adding a two-storey building at the south-east corner of the courtyard.
The next additions were carried out by John Leslie, 7th Earl of Rothes, who disputed the earldom of Leven with David Melville following the death of the second earl in 1664. Lord Rothes, with the aid of John Mylne junior, the king's master mason, built a grand stair linking the keep and north range, where previously a wooden bridge stood. On his death in 1681 David Melville inherited Balgonie, along with the earldom of Leven. He too added a range of buildings in 1706, this time a three-storey section linking the north range with the south-east block. The work was completed by master mason Gilbert Smith.
Rob Roy MacGregor captured Balgonie Castle during a raid in 1716, although the castle was soon returned to the Melvilles. David Melville, 6th Earl of Leven made minor improvements in the 1720s, including the insertion of sash windows. Further buildings were also added within the courtyard.
In 1824 the castle was sold to James Balfour of Whittingehame, father of James Maitland Balfour, and grandfather of Arthur Balfour, who served as British Prime Minister from 1902-1905. He was unable to arrest the decay which was advancing, and in the mid nineteenth century the roofs were removed to avoid paying tax on the property. Much vandalism occurred in the 1960s, and it was not until 1971 that restoration of the castle, then owned by David Maxwell, began. Work continued through the 1970s and 1980s, aided by European funding as part of European Architectural Heritage Year, in 1975. The keep and chapel have now been fully restored, and the castle is once again occupied; its current owner is Raymond Morris, originally of Walsall, and his family. The castle is open to the public, and the restored chapel and great hall can be hired for events such as weddings. The owners have expressed their intent to continue the restoration of the entire building.
The castle is still entered via the 15th century gatehouse. This is semi-ruinous above ground level, but a guardroom and prison can be seen within. The gate opens onto a courtyard, containing a well, around which the buildings are arranged.
The ground and first floors of the keep are vaulted, the first floor containing the hall, which unusually had no great fireplace. This would originally have been entered via a moveable timber stair, prior to the construction of the present stone stair. Above the hall are two further floors, each with a fireplace and connected by a turnpike stair. The keep is topped by a pitched roof with crow stepped gables. Outside, the parapet walk and cannon spouts are of 17th-century origin, and contemporary with the enlarged windows. Some of the smaller trefoil-headed original windows survive.
In the basement of the north range is the vaulted chapel, although the remainder of the range, and the east buildings, are roofless. Walls and chimney stacks remain. The remains of earlier buildings within the courtyard were uncovered during excavations in 1978. It appears that these were demolished in the early 17th century to allow rebuilding.
Beyond the castle walls, the extensive boundary walls of the deer park survive, although damaged in parts. Large mature trees remain from the 17th century landscaping.References:
The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, also known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba and the Mezquita is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture.
According to a traditional account, a small Visigoth church, the Catholic Basilica of Saint Vincent of Lérins, originally stood on the site. In 784 Abd al-Rahman I ordered construction of the Great Mosque, which was considerably expanded by later Muslim rulers. The mosque underwent numerous subsequent changes: Abd al-Rahman II ordered a new minaret, while in 961 Al-Hakam II enlarged the building and enriched the Mihrab. The last of such reforms was carried out by Almanzor in 987. It was connected to the Caliph"s palace by a raised walkway, mosques within the palaces being the tradition for previous Islamic rulers – as well as Christian Kings who built their palaces adjacent to churches. The Mezquita reached its current dimensions in 987 with the completion of the outer naves and courtyard.
In 1236, Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile, and the centre of the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. Alfonso X oversaw the construction of the Villaviciosa Chapel and the Royal Chapel within the mosque. The kings who followed added further Christian features, such as King Henry II rebuilding the chapel in the 14th century. The minaret of the mosque was also converted to the bell tower of the cathedral. It was adorned with Santiago de Compostela"s captured cathedral bells. Following a windstorm in 1589, the former minaret was further reinforced by encasing it within a new structure.
The most significant alteration was the building of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the middle of the expansive structure. The insertion was constructed by permission of Charles V, king of Castile and Aragon. Artisans and architects continued to add to the existing structure until the late 18th century.
The building"s floor plan is seen to be parallel to some of the earliest mosques built from the very beginning of Islam. It had a rectangular prayer hall with aisles arranged perpendicular to the qibla, the direction towards which Muslims pray. The prayer hall was large and flat, with timber ceilings held up by arches of horseshoe-like appearance.
In planning the mosque, the architects incorporated a number of Roman columns with choice capitals. Some of the columns were already in the Gothic structure; others were sent from various regions of Iberia as presents from the governors of provinces. Ivory, jasper, porphyry, gold, silver, copper, and brass were used in the decorations. Marvellous mosaics and azulejos were designed. Later, the immense temple embodied all the styles of Morisco architecture into one composition.
The building is most notable for its arcaded hypostyle hall, with 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, granite and porphyry. These were made from pieces of the Roman temple that had occupied the site previously, as well as other Roman buildings, such as the Mérida amphitheatre. The double arches were an innovation, permitting higher ceilings than would otherwise be possible with relatively low columns. The double arches consist of a lower horseshoe arch and an upper semi-circular arch.