Belmonte Castle is a Mudejar Gothic-style building with a peculiar triangular ground plan. Its construction began in 1456 by order of Juan Pacheco, one of the most influential nobles in the kingdom of Castile during the reign of Henry IV. The intention behind its construction was to build a castle-palace that would serve as his residence at the head of the recently founded Marquisate of Villena, of which he was the first holder.
The work on the hill of San Cristobal lasted at least until 1467, and although there is no official record, Hanequin de Bruselas and Juan Guas are thought to be the possible architects. It was during this phase of the castle's construction that the construction of the walls surrounding the town of Belmonte also began.
Although Juan Pacheco declared himself in favour of the Infanta Juana la Beltraneja, in the War of Succession, the Catholic Monarchs allowed their successors to keep their titles and possessions. After this war, the marquises moved their residence to Escalona, leaving the castle of Belmonte in the background.
The castle once again came to the fore with Eugenia de Guzmán, better known as the Empress Eugenia de Montijo, who began restoration work around 1857. The interior, meanwhile, was restored by the architect Alejandro Sureda in accordance with 19th-century tastes, and the gallery overlooking the courtyard was closed off. Brick was used in this phase and the style used was neo-Gothic. With the fall of the French Empire in 1870, the restoration work was completed.
In 1931 the castle was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest, and thanks to the collaboration of the owners and the Ministry of Public Works, the castle has been open to visitors since 2010, after having been restored.
The walls are the first thing you will see as you approach the castle, which due to its defensive nature are double. The first thing you will find is the crenellated artillery barrier that completely surrounds the castle enclosure, and through which you are allowed to walk. This barrier gave access to the enclosure through three gates, although nowadays visitors must pass through the Puerta del Campo, on the drawbridge.
The internal fortification is made up of nine stretches of wall that connect the seven towers, six of which are cylindrical and the square-shaped keep. All the towers are connected to each other by means of the parapet, along which you can walk, as well as to the towers and the artillery barrier.
To access the parade ground from the artillery barrier, you must pass through a gateway with a three-lobed Gothic arch, on which the coats of arms of Castile and those of the castle's builder appear.
As soon as you cross this gate, the first thing you notice is its peculiar shape, given that it has a pentagonal floor plan, which makes it one of the most distinctive elements of the castle. From here you will see the neo-Gothic brick balcony that was built during the restoration carried out by Empress Eugenia de Montijo. It also gives access to the audiovisual room, where you can see a video with a very good historical recreation of the castle and its protagonists.
Nowadays, from the parade ground you can access a room in the keep which serves as an armoury. In this armoury there are replicas of armour from the 15th century. Next to this armoury there is a spiral staircase that gives access to a first floor of the keep, which can also be accessed from the parapet.
Inside the parade ground, the cistern stands out. It was dug into the rock and is more than 40 metres deep. But it stands out above all for its great beauty, given that it is decorated with two large ellipsoidal columns, with the upper part missing.
The castle of Belmonte is located in the southwest of the province of Cuenca, 95 km from the provincial capital, and 169 km from the centre of Madrid, so the easiest way to get there is by car or intercity bus, both from one place and the other (there are no trains).