Ulcinj is an ancient castle and neighborhood. Today mostly inhabited by Albanians, it was built by the Illyrians and Ancient Greeks on a small peninsula at the right side of the Pristan Gulf. Today, oldest remains are the Cyclopean Wall. The castle has been restored many times since it was first built although major changes were made by the Byzantinians, Serbs, Venetians, and Ottomans. The modern city of Ulcinj was built outside of this castle.
Ulcinj's Old Town is one of the oldest urban architectural complexes on the Adriatic Sea. The castle, which some believe resembles a stranded ship, and the surrounding areas have flourished for about 25 centuries. Through the centuries, a variety of cultures and civilizations melded together. The Old Town represents a cultural and historical monument of invaluable significance due to its Illyrian walls, its citadel, the network of streets, the markets and town squares. It was built 2,500 years ago under economic, military, and cultural conditions quite different from those of today. The town’s walls were often destroyed in wars, and just as quickly rebuilt by residents to keep their fortresses and residences safe. In doing so, they also preserved the beauty of this ancient town.
Old town has picturesque narrow and curved streets typical of the Middle Ages, densely packed two- and three-story stone houses decorated with elements of the Renaissance and Baroque, and finally a series of valuable edifices from the Ottoman time. The oldest remnants of the walls date back to the Illyrian period.
The Tower of the Balšić, located on the upper, highest level is a citadel-fortress with a tower that dominates the old town and the surrounding countryside. It is connected to the last representatives of the Balšić dynasty, who had made Ulcinj their residence by the end of the 14th and beginning of the 15th centuries. Later the Ottomans built the third floor of the Balšić Tower as well as the spherical dome on the ground floor. This magnificent edifice has a view of the sea from three sides. It is considered to be one of the most representative edifices of medieval architecture in Montenegro. These days, it is used as a gallery or a location for organizing poets' nights.
It is believed that the castle was the residence of the Venetian administrator for Ulcinj in the Venice Palace. As a result of its beauty and convenience, subsequent rulers also used this building as their court. Not far away from the Palace of Venice, on the southern level of the Old Town, is a beautiful edifice called Dvori Balšića. Both of these edifices are used now as luxury accommodation for guests and visitors coming to Ulcinj.
In front of the Church-Mosque in the Old Town is a small square, once the Slave Square, surrounded by arches. Ulcinj became a significant slave market from the middle of the 17th century. Most of the slaves in Ulcinj came from Italy and Dalmatia and were captured by Ulcinj pirates, who robbed people in the rich villas along the coast of Apulia and Sicily, captured them, and sold them as slaves. The Ulcinj pirates treated the slaves like convicts and did not use them for any kind of work. Instead they were kept as hostages while a ransom was demanded from their relatives, friends, or countrymen. They had to make it possible for the 'slaves' to send messages to their homes or relatives so that they would come to offer the ransom. From the middle of the 18th century demand changed and the courtiers began to look for slaves from Africa. They would later have been sold again or brought to Ulcinj, where they might soon became free citizens and work in agriculture or seafaring. A small community of their descendants still live in Ulcinj.
There has always been a water cult in Ulcinj. It is believed that the image of Bindus, the Illyrian God of water and the sea, was carved into the walls of the Old Town. Many fountains were built not only for people's use, but also for the souls of the dead. Legend has it that it was better to build a fountain than a sacred building, thus, at one time, Ulcinj had more than thirty fountains, only half of which remain today. The fountain in the Old Town was built in 1749-50.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.