By Danielle Pruger
Photos courtesy of Castilla-León Regional Tourist Board
Castile-Léon, an interior region of Spain, is known for its castles (Castile means “land of castles” in Spanish) and provides a look at ancient and medieval forms of architecture. Throughout the Middle Ages, Castile-Léon served as a frontier between Christians and Muslims from the 9th century to the 11th century, which created the initial motivation for building fortresses and castles. Later, the struggle between the various noble families and the royal family from the 12th century to the 15th century made it necessary to build new fortifications. The following six castles, open to the public, can be found in Castile-Léon.
The municipality of Ampudia is home to a 15th century castle which stands in the center of the village. This castle is well preserved and has been restored. Its sturdy enclosure is protected by four towers, and it has all of the traditional elements of medieval castles: battlements, ramparts, barbicans and a moat. Although it is privately owned, it is open to visitors, and its interior is home to a museum of art and antiquity.
The medieval castle in Peñafiel was built in the 11th century and stands on a rocky spur. The castle was rebuilt around the 14th and 15th centuries and has a peculiar shape because the outline of the walled enclosure conforms to the elongated silhouette of the ridge. This unusual shape has made it one of Spain’s most famous images; from a distance the castle resembles a boat run aground in the midst of a sea of pastures and wheat fields. This castle is also home to the Provincial Wine Museum.
The city of Segovia contains the Alcázar fortress, another one of Spain’s most emblematic images. This imposing Gothic building was built between the 14th and 15th centuries and was later transformed by Philip II in the 16th century into the Herrerrian style seen today. It was the residence of the Castilian and Spanish monarchs for two centuries; its location is on a gorge above the Eresma and Clamores rivers. The location, along with the appearance of the castle, is similar to the castles in fairytales, which evoke the images of princesses, knights, witches and dragons.
The Coca Castle, located in the municipality of Coca, is completely different from other castles; it was built in the Mudejar style of the 15th century using typical red brick. It has three walled enclosures, a moat with a drawbridge, a bailey (courtyard) and a splendid keep. The village of Coca is the descendant of the Celtic-Iberian city of Cauca, which was conquered by the Romans in 151 B.C.
La Mota Castle
LA MOTA CASTLE
La Mota Castle, also designed in the Mudejar style, is located in the town of Medina del Campo. It was built in the 15th century using concrete and red brick and has four enclosures protected by enormous walls, as well as a monumental keep. It was in the 15th century that Medina del Campo reached its maximum splendor: its fairs were the most important in all of Europe, and it is where bills, instead of coins, were first used as currency. This is also the place where Queen Isabella I of Castile, known as Isabella “la Católica,” died.
The city of Zamora, located beside the Duero River, has a medieval castle that was built in the 12th century. This castle was restored in 2009, and the castle is surrounded by three walled enclosures dating from the same period, which encircle the historic center of town.
For more info, go to Spain is Culture