The castle of La Concepción or Asdrúbal from the 13th or 14th century rises over Cartagena and its port. The nature of the first buildings on the hill are somewhat uncertain. According to the Greek historian Polybius, a temple dedicated to the god Aesculapius stood on the hill in Roman times.
In the recent restoration carried out in the castle, it was discovered that the first floor of it had been built reusing Roman-made cisterns, which could correspond either to the aforementioned temple of Aesculapius or to some type of building from the Byzantine period.
For a long time it had been thought that the city of Cartagena had practically disappeared during Muslim rule. However, from various Arab sources it is known that the city had a certain importance from the 10th century on, and especially during the 12th century.
From the study of some towers and ruins, it has been discovered that part of the walls of the current castle hide inlaid towers corresponding to a 12th century Muslim fortress.
The castle's lantern , which served as a lighthouse, still stands from the Arab period.
For a long time the present configuration of the castle had been attributed to the reign of Enrique III of Castile in the 14th century. However, recent investigations have brought its construction on the Arab fortress back to the times of the Reconquest in the 13th century.
After the conquest of Cartagena by the then infant Alfonso X the Wise in 1245, he set out to restore the old episcopal seat of the Diocese Carthaginensis and to fortify the city with the construction of a castle at the highest point of the city, where it used to be found the citadel.
The city became at that time the only exit of the Crown of Castile to the Mediterranean Sea , which was sandwiched between the Crown of Aragon and the Kingdom of Granada. The strategic importance of the port of Cartagena was fundamental for the military policy of King Alfonso X el Sabio.
In the times of King Alfonso, the Order of Santa María de España was created in Cartagena for the naval fight against the Muslims. Several naval disasters in which almost all the ships of the order were lost caused that the king signed its dissolution. This caused the decrease in the strategic importance of the port of Cartagena and, as a consequence, the castle was left unfinished.
The entrance to the castle was through a large monumental arch framed by two towers known as Puerta de la Villa, which gave access to the entire walled enclosure of the castle.
Inside the walled enclosure the tower of the tribute , called El Macho, built with large ashlars of gray limestone from the Cabezo Gordo de Torre-Pacheco and pink travertine from Mula stood out. The reused ashlars and tombstones of Roman buildings are very frequent, such as the great tombstone of Lucio Emilio Recto that serves as a lintel at the entrance of the tower. Some historians claim that the castle keep would lack a complete second floor, which would have made it have a final appearance very similar to that of the Alfonsine tower of the Lorca castle.
Losing its defensive function, the castle fell into decline and began a progressive process of ruin, which led the City Council to consider its demolition at the beginning of the 20th century.
Fortunately, the project was not carried out, and during the Primo de Rivera dictatorship the entire enclosure became a large public park with gardens, ponds and animals, popularly known as the “Castillo de los Patos”. Despite this, the castle remained in ruins.
Finally, with the formation of the Cartagena Puerto de Culturas consortium, the partial restoration of the castle was undertaken and its keep became a center for interpreting the history of Cartagena.References:
The Church of St Eustace was built between 1532-1632. St Eustace"s is considered a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. The church’s reputation was strong enough of the time for it to be chosen as the location for a young Louis XIV to receive communion. Mozart also chose the sanctuary as the location for his mother’s funeral. Among those baptised here as children were Richelieu, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, future Madame de Pompadour and Molière, who was also married here in the 17th century. The last rites for Anne of Austria, Turenne and Mirabeau were pronounced within its walls. Marie de Gournay is buried there.
The origins of Saint Eustache date back to 13th century. The church became a parish church in 1223, thanks to a man named Jean Alais who achieved this by taxing the baskets of fish sold nearby, as granted by King Philip Augustus. To thank such divine generosity, Alais constructed a chapel dedicated to Sainte-Agnès, a Roman martyr.