Discover Spain - Castles and Forts of Spain

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As King Alfonso X the Wise said: "Spain is safe and full of castles". The continuous battles that took place during the more than seven centuries of the Reconquista (the period in the history of the Iberian Peninsula of approximately 780 years between the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in 711 and the fall of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada to the expanding Christian kingdoms in 1492) are the reason why numerous castles and fortresses were built on the Iberian Peninsula.

In total there are an estimated 20,000 castles in Spain, although not all of them have been well preserved, there are still enough to enjoy these fortifications, a true symbol of the Middle Ages. The Asociación Española de Amigos de los Castillos (Spanish Association of Friends of Castles) has inventoried some 10,300 of them.

The first constructions that have been considered castles appeared in the 9th century in the High Middle Ages and their main use was as a defensive encirclement.

Unlike other fortresses that can be seen in the rest of Europe, castles in Spain were not palaces, but had defensive and military functions. Their style will depend on the period. The great majority date from the Middle Ages, others are Renaissance.

Castles were usually built with similar characteristics. They were usually located on a high place, from where to control the territory and to avoid enemy attacks. They had a moat and an outer fortified barrier. In addition, their walls were very wide and high, topped by battlements and machicolations. The gates, their weakest part, were protected by different systems and, in order to have water available during sieges, cisterns were built to collect rainwater. Finally, inside the castle stood the keep, the building where the lord resided.

For a building to be considered a "castle" it normally had to have:

A walled enclosure adapted to the terrain.
A habitable tower
A parade ground

This applies to Christian castles; in Muslim castles the keep is dispensed with and in the case of citadels they become veritable citadels with a multitude of interconnected towers and outbuildings.

 

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