On 23rd April 1289 the Landmeister (provincial Master) of the Teutonic Order in Prussia, Meinhard von Querfurt, attacked the lands of the Skalvians. Afterwards he ordered to construct a Teutonic fortress which was to replace an old Prussian fort called 'Ragaine'. The new stronghold was named 'Landehut', meaning 'the land's guarding fort' or 'the land's defence'.
At the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries, the Teutonic Knights were involved in exhausting battles with Lithuania over Skalovia. At that time the former name of the fort, 'Ragnit', was revived. Ragnit Castle became the most part of the defence system built by the Teutonic Knights in the borderland between Prussia and Lithuania, and also one of the major links in a chain of fortresses protecting the Monastic State of the Order.
Despite being a powerful stronghold, Ragnit Castle sometimes fell into the hands of enemy. In 1397-1409 the Teutonic Knights built a new brick and stone castle in Ragneta. The works were supervised by the Master of the Teutonic Order, Konrad Fellenstein of Marienburg.
A huge stone and brick fortress was raised, surrounded with a moat and an embankment, which formed an enclosed square. The size of the inner ward was about 1.000 square meters. The main entrance, decorated with a granite doorframe, was located in the west wing. The entrance could be closed securely with an iron grate. Some time later a watchtower, about 25 meters high, was raised near the castle.
In November 1678 Ragenta Castle was seized by the Swedish troops, who stayed in the castle for about a year until Grand Master Frederic Wilhelm arrived with reinforcements and forced the occupants to leave the castle. Once the Swedish troops had withdrawn, the castle underwent necessary repairs.
During the Napoleonic wars, French troops stationed in the castle. In December 1812 Russians entered the town, lead by General Alexander Kutuzov, a relative of an outstanding Russian army commander, Michail Illarionovich Kutuzov.
In the 1930s, the historic fortress of Ragnit lost its defensive character. The castle was reconstructed to function as a seat of a law court and a prison.Today we can admire the ruins of the castle, including its watchtower, which still stand in the centre of the town, on the Neman River. Unfortunately, the devastation and unsanitary appearance of what has been left of the fortress are a sad reminder of our indifferent attitude to the past. A few years ago, when some filmmakers were looking for a location to shoot war scenes, the ruined fortress was rediscovered. Some effort was even made to preserve the ruins. All in vain, God's Eye has turned away from the town's dwellers and does not watch over the castle or the town. So it is the residents of Ragnit who should assume the responsibility for their historic heritage.References:
Castle of Lorca (Castillo de Lorca) is a fortress of medieval origin constructed between the 9th and 15th centuries. It consists of a series of defensive structures that, during the Middle Ages, made the town and the fortress an impregnable point in the southeast part of the Iberian Peninsula. Lorca Castle was a key strategic point of contention between Christians and Muslims during the Reconquista.
Archaeological excavations have revealed that the site of the castle has been inhabited since Neolithic times.
It has not been determined exactly when a castle or fortress was first built on the hill. The first written documentation referring to a castle at Lorca is of Muslim origin, which in the 9th century, indicates that the city of Lurqa was an important town in the area ruled by Theudimer (Tudmir). During Muslim rule, Lorca Castle was an impregnable fortress and its interior was divided into two sections by the Espaldón Wall. In the western part, there was an area used to protect livestock and grain in times of danger. The eastern part had a neighbourhood called the barrio de Alcalá.
Lorca was conquered by the Castilian Infante Don Alfonso, the future Alfonso X, in 1244, and the fortress became a key defensive point against the Kingdom of Granada. For 250 years, Lorca Castle was a watchpoint on the border between the Christian kingdom of Murcia and the Muslim state of Granada.
Alfonso X ordered the construction of the towers known as the Alfonsina and Espolón Towers, and strengthened and fixed the walls. Hardly a trace of the Muslim fortress remained due to this reconstruction. Muslim traces remain in the foundation stones and the wall known as the muro del Espaldón.
The Jewish Quarter was found within the alcazaba, the Moorish fortification, separated from the rest of the city by its walls. The physical separation had the purpose of protecting the Jewish people in the town from harm, but also had the result of keeping Christians and Jews separate, with the Christians inhabiting the lower part of town.
The remains of the Jewish Quarter extended over an area of 5,700 square m, and 12 homes and a synagogue have been found; the synagogue dates from the 14th century and is the only one found in the Murcia. The streets of the town had an irregular layout, adapted to the landscape, and is divided into four terraces. The synagogue was in the central location, and around it were the homes. The homes were of rectangular shape, with various compartmentalized rooms. The living quarters were elevated and a common feature was benches attached to the walls, kitchens, stand for earthenware jars, or cupboards.
With the disappearance of the frontier after the conquest of Granada in 1492, Lorca Castle no longer became as important as before. With the expulsion of the Jews by order of Ferdinand and Isabella, Lorca Castle was also depopulated as a result. The castle was abandoned completely, and was almost a complete ruin by the 18th century. In the 19th century, the castle was refurbished due to the War of Spanish Independence. The walls and structures were repaired or modified and its medieval look changed. A battery of cannons was installed, for example, during this time. In 1931 Lorca Castle was declared a National Historic Monument.
Currently, a parador (luxury hotel) has been built within the castle. As a result, archaeological discoveries have been found, including the Jewish Quarter.