The Castle of La Mota is a medieval fortress, located in the town of Medina del Campo. It is so named because of its location on an elevated hill, a mota (in Spanish), from where it dominates the town and surrounding land. The adjacent town came to be surrounded by an expanding series of walls in subsequent years, of which little remains.
Initial fortification of the village, repopulated after Moorish depredations, led to the creation of a fortress on the site, starting in 1080. The village soon grew alongside. In 1354, Henry of Trastamara is known to have taken the fortress by force. In 1390 King John I of Castile granted the town to his son, the infante Ferdinand of Antequera, future king of Aragon. After the latter's death in 1416, his son, John II of Aragon, in 1433 taxed local residents to help the construction at the Mota. During the following century, the castle and town changed hands between the rival kings of Castile and Aragon, with the castle and town being sometimes held by opposing sides. In 1439, for example, the prince of Aragon locked the town gates, thereby imprisoning the Castilian king within the castle walls. In 1441, the Castilian king was able to obtain the surrender of some 250 soldiers of Aragon within the castle.
After the First Battle of Olmedo in 1445, the castle came once and for all into hands of the Castilian monarchy. In 1460, King Henry IV of Castile built the central tower. In 1464, Henry gave the castle to the Archbishop of Toledo, Alonso Carrillo, who soon betrayed the king, and backed the rival claimant Afonso V of Portugal. After taking the castle by force, it fell by 1467 into the hands of supporters of King Afonso, while the village supported Henry.
Subsequently, the castle was disputed between the princess claimant, Isabella of Castile and her cousin of dubious paternity, the princess Juana la Beltraneja.
After a succession of owners, in 1475, the crown of Castile reclaimed the castle, and built an artillery bastion, upon whose entrance are the heraldic symbols of the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella.
The castle became a prominent prison, and variously housed Hernando Pizarro, Rodrigo Calderón, Duke Fernando de Calabria, and Cesare Borgia, among others. Of these men, the last is known for having escaped from the nearly 40 meter high tower by climbing down a rope.
The castle's main feature is the large outer barbican. The interior castle has a trapezoidal plan, with 4 towers and a square yard. It has a large square keep tower, and an inner curtain wall that was used for archers.
The castle was originally accessed through a drawbridge. It is made from local red brick, utlilizing stone only for some details.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.