I’ve always loved castles and we are lucky here in the Costa Blanca to be close to the area of Vinalopó, in the province of Alicante. Here you will find these fascinating, historic buildings to explore.
The Vinalopó is a small river flowing through the Alicante province, of Spain. The river, despite being tiny during historical times, represents a significant corridor through the generally mountainous terrain surrounding it, along which several cities were settled, namely, from north to south, Banyeres de Mariola, Villena, Sax, Elda, Petrer, Novelda and Elche.
The history of these historic buildings goes back to the time of El Cid Campeador, the famous medieval knight, and the battles on the border between Moors and Christians during the Reconquest. The Almohad Dynasty was a Berber, Muslim dynasty that was founded in the twelfth century and conquered all northern Africa as far as Libya, together with Al-Andalus (Moorish Iberia).
Elda Castle was erected in 1172, it belonged to the Almohads, until the Christian conquest halfway through the 13th century. The castle was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest in 2001 and stands on a mound in the town’s historic centre, near the left bank of the Vinalopó River.
The castle dates back to the Islamic era of the 12th and 13th centuries). It was later a feudal castle and a County citadel, however it was left virtually derelict from the mid-19th century until the late 20th century, when a restoration project was set up to carry out building and archaeological work on the site. The large inner courtyard and the outer wall has ten square Almohad style towers. Other interesting features are the Medieval and Renaissance chapel, the outer wall, the barbican, the circular towers, underground cistern and the Count’s staircase, all dating from the 15th to the 16th centuries. The castle also has a number of palatial rooms and servants’ living quarters.
Petrer Castle is located at the top of a mountainous elevation located in the northern area of the city. Originally from the late 12th or early 13th century, it is a Muslim castle, probably built on a former watchtower. It is polygonal in shape, and it is crenelated. It has a large square tower, with two floors and a basement that was a cistern in the Islamic period. Later it would be used as a prison. It also has a large hall, the scene of the feudal lord’s festivities, which is currently used as a concert hall and for the celebration of civil weddings. The original reconstruction works ended in 1982, with further new works in 2010.
The impressive Sax castle is perched on an outcrop of limestone rock on the right bank of the Vinalopó, at an altitude of 500 metres above sea level and dominating the town beneath it. There are two distinct sections to the castle: to the north, a rectangular area with a one-storey stone and mortar tower dating from the Almohad period (12th century); to the south west, the great keep tower, a square stone building 20 metres high with masonry reinforcements dating from the early 14th century. The keep has three floors with barrel vaulted ceilings. Between the two towers is a cistern covered by a barrel vaulted roof.
Monóvar castle was built between the end of 12th and the beginning of 13th centuries for the protection of the Almohad. The castle has an interesting triangular shape, unfortunately, now it is a ruin.
In Novelda we’ll see La Mola castle with its triangular tower. La Mola castle stands on a small hill at 360 metres above sea level and 3 kilometres from the town of Novelda. The fortress was built by the Almohads in the late 12th century. The castle has a polygonal layout with eight square turrets jutting out from the outer wall, although only four still survive today, two of which are clad. The castle has a 9 by 11 metre free-standing square tower inside, although one of the floors is missing. In the late 14th century, under Christian rule, it underwent structural changes that included the addition of a triangular tower measuring 15 metres wide and 17 metres high, the only one of its kind on the Iberian peninsula. The castle was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest in 1931.
The imposing 11th century Moorish castle in Castalla sits on top of a steep peak 680m above sea level, the town is spread out below.
James I of Aragon took the castle from the Almohads after the conquest of Biar and integrated it into the Kingdom of Valencia.
Biar Castle dates from the twelfth century. The castle was declared a National Monument in 1931. It was conquered by King Jaime l the Conqueror in the month of February 1245 after a siege that lasted six months, in this assault was used “Fonevol,” war machine for stone throwing. After, the castle had a great importance in the defense system of the Valencian southern border. located on a rocky hill 750 meters highThe tower, 19 meters high, built with lime and sand mortar (mud) in its interior retains the example considered oldest in vaults Almohad style.
The town of Villena is at the foot of the hill on which the Atalaya Castle stands. Tall and stately, the three storeys of the castle rise from the hill on which it stands, overlooking the capital of the region. Also known as the Castle of the Pies Negros (‘black feet’) or simply Villena Castle, this is a sturdy military building of Arab origin, which was renovated and extended in the 15th century. It has no moat, and is built with a double walled enclosure. The outer wall is reinforced with twelve towers, and the inner wall –which is taller– contains the imposing keep located at the southeast end of the space.
This tower has a square floor plan and is divided into four sections; the two lower sections are built of Almohad masonry, and the two upper levels of stonework. The first floor conserves the traditional Almohad star-shaped ribbed vault, which makes it practically unique among Hispanic military architecture. It is topped with cantilevered turrets on the corners and sides.