This is an extraordinary castle incorporating an earlier Romanesque church within its fabric and a history from the Roman period to the 19th century.
Situated overlooking the picturesque town of the same name about 50Km NE of Segovia in central Spain, Turegano castle is one of the most unusual yet little known castles in the country. It is placed on the edge of an escarpment under which the town is built.
The site of the castle was known to be occupied by a Roman fort but there appear to be no remains above the ground of this structure. The castle today reveals an inner curtain wall inside which is the main structure of the complex including church/keep combination. This inner curtain has a show façade facing the town. From the Plaza Mayor (town square) the castle appears aligned with the main street and dominates the town.
Around the castle on the other three sides facing outward to the field is an outer curtain of an earlier construction. This outer wall is much ruined and constructed of tapial (mud/rubble cement) with stone-faced square section interval towers.
The outer curtain is typically Islamic construction and dating from the Islamic occupation of the region and no later than the mid 11th century when the Christian reconquest reached this area. There is a deep ditch surrounding the outer enclosure on all sides adding extra defensive strength to this original Islamic enclosure castle.￼
The reuse of an earlier Roman site is very typical of the Islamic occupation and it is possible that some of the large dressed stones used in the Islamic castle interval towers are from the Roman period although this is conjectural.
The Islamic castle of the period would have housed a garrison and provided a degree of shelter and refuge for the nearby townsfolk in times of trouble. The square section interval towers on the outer curtain are open backed, stone faced with a tapial core. It is possible that the towers had timber framing to the rear allowing defenders access to the tops of the towers. The curtain walls between the towers are tapial construction.
The reconquest by Christian forces in this area south of the river Durero occurred in about 1065 although there was much border warfare and an ebb and flow of pockets of occupation. The site was however long under Christian ownership by the time the magnificent Romanesque church of San Miguel was built within the Islamic castle enclosure in the 12th century.
It is interesting to speculate on the actual circumstances that led to this church being built within Islamic walls, perhaps on the site of a mosque, but nevertheless forming a striking and highly significant location.
More remarkable still the lord of the region in the 15th century chose to build a new castle within the walls of the Islamic castle and incorporate within that structure the 12th century church. The design of this 15th century castle is most unusual.
A stone/rubble curtain wall with deep crenellations and circular corner towers was built and on the three sides away from the town forming an inner curtain roughly parallel to the older outer curtain. ￼A deep, rock-cut ditch was then created to the outside of the curtain. Within this enclosure the castle complex is dominated by a keep or ‘torre de homenaje’ rising to four floors. This keep with a tall central section and flanked on either side by ‘transepts’ of lower height also envelops the Romanesque church within the overall defensive scheme.
On all sides are deep machicolations to the wall tops. The church has been altered in later years with the addition of a renaissance façade and bell tower in the 18th century, once more revealing the church as the main focus because at this time the castle was (and still was until very recently) owned by the diocese of Segovia.
Before this later embellishment of the façade and bell tower the presence of a magnificent church within the fabric of a 15th century castle would not have been so obvious.
There is now no direct access between the church interior and the castle keep and to go from one to the other one has to leave the keep and enter the church at ground level.
The keep although of late medieval date and showing all the signs of status, symbolism and prestige that were common across Spain and indeed Europe as a whole at this time also contain some effective and unusual defensive features.￼
The combination of these remarkable defensive features and the absorbsion of the church into the fabric make a unique combination. The eastern apses of the 12th century church have been embedded within the construction of the keep and details appear here and there within staircases and from archaeological excavations.
The defensive features of the keep are repeated and extended at every turn and indeed appear somewhat excessive in their application. ￼For example, on entering the keep at first floor via an external stair, the visitor is faced with a relentless series of right-angled turns, each with a covering loop from the stage above. These turns also require the climbing of stairs so that from the entry door the visitor has the climb and turn through many levels.
Every stair landing, room and corridor has ‘murder holes’ in the floor below your feet to the room space below and in the ceiling above your head. This applies to every single room and passage within the keep.
All rooms and passages are closed by an elaborate series of doorways (the original doors of which are now long gone) that from their hinges and frames that remain, were all inward facing, that is to say were closed and bolted from inside at every turn.
On the upper level of the keep at roof level the defensive features are just as evident, the two ‘transepts’ of the keep are joined at roof level by a passage travelling within the higher central part of the keep. This passage, linking one side of the exterior roof area to the other has portcullis grooves at each end with the mechanism of the portcullis operated from the higher and interior part of the upper keep.
The access ways between the various parts of the keep are very tightly controlled and allow only very restricted and at each section, closely controlled movement.
The roof levels of the keep allow access to a wall-walk around the top of the inner curtain and essentially the roof of the church within. Alterations made in the 16th century introduce gun loops into the curtain and towers.
The ingenuity of the builder speaks out at every level. The structure has ample stone vaulted chambers throughout, connected by a series of sophisticated passageways and staircases on many levels, it has some well lit chambers of magnificent proportions, window seats and so on as well as what appear to be storage rooms, and possibly even a prison cell.
The means of travel through the building is worthy of much closer study as there are a number of passages, switchbacks and private staircases (leading from corners of chambers that must be crossed to get to the stair for the next level) that are highly unusual.
Most unusual are the through holes in every floor and ceiling, landing and staircase, allowing the viewing or listening (purpose unknown) between them all.
The castle has recently been consolidated and repaired by the local council and is fully accessible at set opening times.
More photographs of Turegano Castle here: