Heukelum Castle, also known for a long time as Merckenburg, is situated just outside the old fortified town of Heukelum on the border of Gelderland and South Holland. The illustrious Van Arkel family had the castle built in around 1286. It was once a sturdy castle with towers, a courtyard, a double moat and a fortified bailey. Nowadays, it has the appearance of an 18th-century country house.
The reason why Jan van Arkel had the castle built in around 1286 has to do with the crusades. When the knight Jan van Arkel was encamped beneath the walls of Jerusalem during the Fifth Crusade, he had a vision. Tradition has it that the Archangel Gabriel appeared above the walls of Jerusalem and said, ‘Go where this swan takes you and build your castle there.’ Jan van Arkel sailed in his ship behind the swan and when the swan settled in Heukelum, the family gave orders for a castle to be built there.Arkel WarHeukelum Castle was one of nine castles intended to strengthen the family’s position along the turbulent border between Guelders and Holland. All of them were destroyed during the Arkel War (1401-1412) except Heukelum. Merckenburg Castle is therefore the last remaining castle of the Arkel family. For a long time, Heukelum remained an important manorial court; a mini-state with its own currency and various privileges.
In Het Rampjaar of 1672 (literally the year of disaster, which marked the start of the Franco-Dutch War of 1672-1678), the troops of the French kingLouis XIVmarched into Holland. They were held back by the waterline, whereupon the French plundered and burned all of the buildings situated south of this temporary border. Heukelum, by then an obsolete fortress, succumbed to the same fate and the castle and the town were severely damaged. It is a miracle that the medieval gate tower is still standing. In 1732, a double Amsterdam canal house was built against the old tower.
Today, Heukelum Castle is a private residence and is not open to the public.References:
The castle of La Iruela, small but astonishing, is located on the top of a steep crag in Sierra de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park. From the castle, impressive views of the surrounding area and of the town can be enjoyed.
The keep dates from the Christian era. It has a square base and small dimensions and is located at the highest part of the crag.
There are some other enclosures within the tower that create a small alcázar which is difficult to access.
In a lower area of the castle, protected with defensive remains of rammed earth and irregular masonry, is an old Muslim farmstead.
After a recent restoration, an open-air theater has been built on La Iruela castle enclosure. This theater is a tribute to the Greek and Classic Eras and holds various artistic and cultural shows throughout the year.
The first traces of human activity in La Iruela area are dated from the Copper Age. An intense occupation continued until the Bronze Age.
Originally, La Iruela (like Cazorla) was a modest farmstead. From the 11th century, a wall and a small fortress were built on the hill to protect the farmers.
Around 1231, don Rodrigo Ximénez de Rada, Archbishop of Toledo, conquered La Iruela and made it part of the Adelantamiento de Cazorla. Over the Muslim fortress, the current fortress was built.
Once the military use of the fortress ended, it was used as cemetery.