Almansa Detailed

photo almansaAlmansa is situated at a frontier between several regions and borders and being such a prominent building has had a long and eventful history. During the Reconquest this area was a frontier between the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon and the Muslim kingdom of Murcia. The castle was built by the Moors during the Almohad period in the early 12th century and quite a few remains of this original building survive in the present structure. In particular there are extensive sections of ‘tapial’ wall (a sort of concrete made from mud, stones, wood and mortar left to dry between wooden boards) and some original vaulted chambers.

The castle was taken by the Christians during their push on the Muslims in the mid 13th century during the reign of Jamie I. Additions to the walls were made, extending the area occupied on the rocky site as well as heightening the walls. The castle passed through many hands in the middle ages even being part of the Knights Templar estate for a while in the 13th century.

photo almansaInterestingly the keep or ‘tower of homage’ as they are called in Spain, was not added to the castle until the 15th century. This and the barbican that was added to the entrance at the same time, was the work of Juan Pacheco, the second marquess of Villena. Further changes of ownership, all making additions and alterations continued until the 16th century by which time the castle was becoming less important and fell into disuse.

The location of the castle is particularly impressive from the viewpoint of the town below and many streets and vistas frame the view of the castle above. The structure itself rises from the rock on which it is built with many of the outer walls being extensions of the rock faces themselves. Indeed the main courtyard within the enclosure (the so-called ‘court of arms’) appears to be hewn from the rock, creating a sunken oblong area with the side walls being left as a thickness of rock creating the exterior walls of the castle at this point. These ‘natural’ walls were extended upwards by the addition of stone masonry to the required height.

photo almansaLike many Spanish castles, Almansa has a military level or zone for the accommodation of the garrison and horses and a ‘palace zone’ where the lord or castellan would live. At Almansa the palace area was in the upper court. The West doorway, with its barbican, was the main entrance to the castle, facing the town and providing a magnificent doorway where visitors on foot or mounted on horseback could enter after climbing a winding and circuitous route. However, the castle also had another entrance at the North doorway that was a much simpler affair. Fitted with portcullis and doors, this was the main route for deliveries to the castle and was designed for the access of carts and carriages from a roadway leading steeply from the plains below.

As with many medieval castles, what we see today is the result of many years of alterations and additions and Almansa is no exception. The final years of the castles active life were at the end of the 15th century following the final expulsion of the Moors and a unified nation. From the16th century the castle fell completely into disuse and a long period of decay resulting in a low point in 1919 when the mayor of Almansa requested the demolition of the castle due to its ruinous state. This prompted a response to save the castle and it was declared a national monument in 1921 and a gradual period of restoration was commenced and continues up to the present day.

More pictures of Almansa castle here:

 


Photos on this page: Almansa castle.