The village of El Barco de Avila is situated in the foothills of the Sierra de Gredos mountain range. After the conquest of Toledo and the retreat of the Muslim lines to the south bank of the river Tajo, King Alfonso VI donated this valley to his daughter and ordered his son-in-law Ramon de Borgoña to erect a fortification and to repopulate the surrounding area.
There is few documented data of the construction of the present castle but due to its architectural design it is dated to the end of the 15th century. The castle, built of granite rubblework, is situated on a small hill on the east bank of the Tormes river. Its groundplan, similar to that of other castles on the Castilian plateau, is a square with circular towers on the corners and sentry boxes in three of its curtain walls. The fourth curtain wall contains the rectangular keep.
The entrance to the keep is on a higher floor level, facing the courtyard. Although totally dismantled you can see traces of two floor levels and columns around a central patio in the walls and floor of the courtyard. Also underground rooms and rain tanks exist beneath the courtyard.
The territory of Valdecorneja is linked to the Alba family since the 14th century when King Enrique II de Trastámara donated it to Don Garci Alvarez de Toledo. It is probably one of the descendants of this first Lord of Valdecorneja who built the present castle.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.