Castles in Spain became a major mode of fortifications in the medieval period when the Christian kingdoms had to face the Muslim threat. So the primary purpose of the castle at that time and until the late medieval centuries was to serve military purposes. As a result, some Spanish castles have a fortress-type appearance.
However, when the Muslim threat had been warded off following the Reconquista, castles turned into personal residences of noblemen and lost their military purpose for the most part.
A notable feature of Spanish castles is the presence of castles built by Muslim conquerors who created some of the most magnificent architecture during their brief rule, including the Alhambra Palace of Granada.
Loarre Castle is located in Loarre, Spain. It was constructed sometime around the 12th century as a solid fortress. Since Loarre was on the borders between Muslim and Christian lands, Loarre castle was meant to supply military purposes which are reflected in its architecture.
The original architecture included three huge towers, the main tower, and a chapel. An outermost wall with another eight towers was constructed around the 14th century which greatly augmented the overall defense of the castle.
The castle fell into disrepair towards the 17th century but remained fairly well preserved due to its solid structure.
Sabada castle is located in Aragon, Spain. The earliest castle or fortification at the site was built sometime in the 12th century, although the modern-day castle was later constructed in the 13th century.
The structure of the tower comprises of tall curtain walls interspersed with seven huge towers. The construction makes use of Cistercian decorations and the interior of the castle includes a sizable courtyard and a chapel.
Most of the original structure of Sadaba castle is still extant and well preserved today.
Aljaferia palace is located in Zaragoza, Spain. It was constructed in the 11th century under Moorish rule in Zaragoza taifa. The earliest structure was a huge tower rising to a height of five-story and an elevated door accessible only via a ladder.
The tower served a military purpose. It was later around this structure that the Moorish rulers expanded the construction for the palace. By the 12th century, the control of the taifa had fallen back to the Christian rulers and the palace came under the control of King of Aragon.
The palace was used as the residence of Peter IV and underwent significant renovation during the 15th century. In 16th century, the structure was again modified to make it more purposeful for military use
Alcazaba of Almeria is one of the most iconic castles of Spain. It is located in Almeria, southern Spain. The original structure of this vast fortified complex was constructed in the 10th century under the reign of Abd ar-Rahman III. The original structure included a citadel with huge walls, numerous towers, square keeps as well as residences.
The modern-day structure of the castle includes numerous enclosures, each meant to serve as an additional line of defense. King Charles III of Spain commissioned the construction of one of the enclosure walls.
The Alcazar of Jerez de la Frontera is located in Andalusia, Spain and was constructed sometime in the 11th century. The original structure comprised of a fortress built by the Muslim rulers of the ‘Acros de la Frontera taifa’.
Later, the Almohad rulers took over the control of the taifa and undertook significant expansion and reconstruction of the original structure. The Almohad rulers added a huge octagonal tower and the castle originally included a sizable leisure pavilion and baths.
After the Reconquista, most of the areas of the castle underwent significant changes and the castle was used as the residence of Christian mayors.
The castle of Tarifa is located in the coastal town of Tarifa. It is also called the Castle of Guzman el Bueno. The original construction of the castle dates back to 960 to the reign of Abd ar Rahman III.
Most of the modern-day structure of the castle was part of this original construction. The control of the castle was later taken over by Alonso Perez de Guzman after the Christian conquest of Tarifa in the 13th century.
Most of the structure of the castle has remained well preserved over the centuries and today it is open to visitors and tourists.
The castle of Jimena de la Frontera is located in the Cadiz province. It was originally constructed during the reign of Grenadian Moors in the 8th century and was among the earliest prominent fortifications built by the Muslims around Gibraltar. The structure of the castle is bordered by a long enclosure wall which is lined with numerous watchtowers.
Originally, the interior of the castle included a polygonal tower. The castle fell to the control of Jerezanos in 1430 but was retaken by the Muslim rulers of Granada in 1451. A few years later, the control of the castle fell to the Kingdom of Castille.
The castle is today considered one of the most iconic monuments of Spanish history.
Alhambra of Granada is located in Granada, Andalusia. It is a large structure that includes a huge palace and a sizable fortress complex. The original construction at the site dates back to 889 and included a small fortress.
Later, when Moorish Emirate of Granada rose to power in the 13th century, Mohammed ben Ah-Ahmar had the modern-day palace and castle constructed. The palace became the seat of Granada rulers following its construction.
The layout of the castle includes an excellently fortified exterior wall, thirteen towers making a solid line of defense and many Moorish palaces within. Alhambra is known for its intricate Andalusian art, including arabesque windows, very detailed stonework, a beautiful oblong courtyard and most notable, the honeycomb vaults of one of its halls.
The castle fell into the hands of Christian rulers following the fall of the Emirate of Granada. It fell into ruin and disuse after the 17th century but was rediscovered in the 19th century.
Today, the Alhambra is a UNESCO heritage site and is considered the most enduring icon of Moorish art in Spain.