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

Marcus Hurley (3 months ago)
We were staying at the Parador, largely as it was so close to the castle. I was intending to walk around the outside early in the morning but it was wet and windy when we got up. Entrance was €3.50 and the wind had really picked up so we joined a few other visitors, hats and raincoats sticking to our bodies as we dodged from tower to tower to avoid the driving rain. Each tower had exhibitions about the castle and there was an AV presentation, in Spanish. It showed how the Moorish city grew and there were two castles built as the city expanded. The Christians then extended the walls and built additional towers and the French demolished parts of the old castle when they left Spain after the Peninsular War. We saw the prisons where the French kept Spanish guerillas before executing them and there was information on Teresa and the politics of the area after Ferdinand III captured it from the Moslems. The weather put us off spending too long outside but the wildflowers in the centre would have been beautiful in the sunlight and the views, even with the cloud, wind and rain were stupendous.
julian moreno (3 months ago)
This place is nice. You will definitely have a good time especially with kids.
Frank Geraghty (3 months ago)
A very interesting place to visit. It stands next to the Parador Hotel on top of a cliff / mountain. Lots of history. Incredible views. Lovely ?.
Tom (Bozz) (9 months ago)
An interesting castle, with some exhibits and views of Jaen. Parking is located nearby, just past the hotel parking.
Alexandre Gala (2 years 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.
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