Saint Catherine's Castle

Jaén, Spain

Saint Catherine's Castle (Castillo de Santa Catalina) is a castle that sits on the Cerro de Santa Catalina overlooking the Spanish city of Jaén. It is now the site of a parador.

The castle began as a Moorish fortress in the 8th century, later improved by the Nasrid ruler of the Emirate of Granada, Abdallah ibn al-Ahmar (who also built the Alhambra). Earlier, where the parador now stands, there was a tower known as Hannibal's Tower, of which some traces remain. After King Ferdinand III of Castile captured the city in 1246 after the Siege of Jaén, he commenced a transformation of the castle, including construction of what became known as the New Castle on the eastern extreme of the hill. The bulk of the work, however, took place under the reigns of Alfonso X and Ferdinand IV. There are five towers and a donjon, with one of the towers holding the Chapel of Saint Catherine. One of the last structures built during this period was the donjon, which was the work of the Conestable of Castile, Miguel Lucas de Iranzo. The builders of the new castle used some of the towers and ramparts of the old fortress, and destroyed or replaced others. The construction in 1965 of the parador resulted in destruction of many of the elements of the Old Castle. The few remnants of the original fortress occupy the western extreme of the hill.

The 17th century saw some interior remodeling of the buildings. Then in the early 19th century, Napoleonic forces built a gunpowder store, stables, hospital, offices, kitchen, and artillery platform. Little beyond the foundations remains of most of these.

On the top of the hill there is a monumental cross that recalls the cross that Ferdinand III had erected there. At the foot of the cross, engraved in the rock, is the 'Sonnet to the Cross' by the poet Almendros Aguilar.

The castle and parador have a view over the valley of the Guadalquivir to the ridges of the Sierra Morena. General Charles de Gaulle stayed in the parador while writing his memoirs.



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Jaén, Spain
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Founded: 8th century AD
Category: Castles and fortifications in Spain

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User Reviews

Alexandre Gala (6 months ago)
This is a very lovely place to see the whole region of Jaén. It is quite steep to get up by worth the climb a not a very dangerous road. Unfortunately there is a 4 star hotel at top and they control all the best lookout points. Nothing good is for free. Very lovely view. I will be back again maybe to stay in the hotel next time so I can enjoy the view. This is also a lovely area in that the aren't many foreign people there or even Spanish for that matter.
Thomas Prévéreault (6 months ago)
Really amazing place. Must go during sunset ?
Patricia Beltrambini (7 months ago)
Cheap entrance fee (EUR 3.50) - please note that you need a credit card. The tickets are sold via a machine. Staff is available if there are problems. A friendly lady explained the areas to visit in the castle. There are information panels as well to help during the visit. Great views of the mountains and the city of Jaen. When you finish the visit, make sure you take the walk to the cross. You will be rewarded with wonderful views of the city and the cathedral. It is the only point from where you can see it. The only downside is transport. Luckily I was staying at the hotel and I could just walk to the castle. If you are staying in the city, it might be trickier.
Валерия Милютина (12 months ago)
One of the beautiful places in Jaen. If you come to this small charming town. You must visit Castillo de Santa Catalina. You can go there on foot or by car. I went up there by walk for the first time in October, along a hiking trail with a beautiful view of nature. There were not many people, but you must understand that this is a popular place. So to take a photo with a view of all Jaen, you need to wait ..(a little bit, but it's worth it) In the evening this place is very romantic! If you come with your soulmate - go there when the whole city is immersed in sunset
SERF (5 years ago)
Absolutely amazing views from this fascinating castle. Loads of history to be learned here. You can guide yourself and/or get a talk from one of the guides/staff. Nice walk to the edge of the hill with an enormous cross - fab overlook. Nice place for a rocky picnic. Free parking.
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