At the confluence of two rivers, on an impregnable rock base, proudly rises one of the main attractions of Spain – the Alcazar Castle. In different historical periods it was a well-fortified fortress, a luxurious royal castle, a prison, and a military archive.
History of the Alcazar Castle
The date of construction of the Alcázar fortress is still uncertain. It is known that the first mention of it in the chronicles dates back to 1120. Its original purpose was protection, hence the specificity of the layout and concern for impregnability of the borders.
The Arab fortress was built on the foundations of an older fortress dating back to the Roman period, as evidenced by the adjacent aqueduct.
At first the castle had no name and was referred to simply as a fortress on the banks of the Eresma. Thirty-five years later it already appeared with a name, called the Alcázar of Segovia.
From the 12th century onward:
- part of the gallery;
- Great Hall;
- fragments of interior decoration.
The magnificent structure began as a small wooden fortress.
During the reign of Alfonso VIII, the castle became the official royal residence, and construction began in stone.
The Middle Ages revived the need for an impregnable stronghold, a network of secret underground passages connecting the royal chambers with other fortresses was put in order. Behind the external splendor of the decorations were reliable fortifications and impregnable walls, hiding places, allowing to wait out a long siege, covered galleries and convenient loopholes, from where defenders could keep the enemy at a distance, not letting them near the walls and gates. Even knowing the location of Alcázar Castle and having its detailed plan, it was not easy to take the fortress.
At the corners of the perimeter are protected by four watchtowers:
It was these virtues that helped Isabella I in the 15th century to survive the turmoil and, taking refuge behind reliable walls, undergo the coronation ceremony as the ruler of Leon and Castile. There was also the marriage with King Ferdinand. The castle has been the residence of many crowned heads, its golden age lasted until the transfer of the capital of Spain from Segovia to Madrid.
All the aristocracy had moved there, and the halls were quiet and desolate. But not for long. Such magnificence could not stand idle and it was rebuilt as a prison. For two centuries, political prisoners and persons undesirable to the court, rebellious generals and freethinkers of the clergy languished within its walls.
Philip II began rebuilding the complex in the European style and it acquired Romanesque and Gothic elements in addition to the basic, Moorish style. The 18th century brought new trends, with the decree of Charles III opening an artillery academy in the castle. A century later, a major fire swept through the halls and corridors, destroying not only the interior interiors. The level of heat collapsed part of the roof.
The reconstruction took several decades. Fortunately, drawings and sketches of the decorations of the royal and guest rooms, the Great Hall, the reception rooms of the embassies, the dining rooms and drawing rooms have survived. After the work was completed, the functions of the Alcázar Palace in Segovia were greatly expanded. On the upper floors opened the officers’ college and housed the military archive. The lower halls were given over to the museum. It was opened in 1953. Now everyone can feel like a guest of this royal palace, walk its halls, learn about the long and turbulent history of this amazing architectural monument.
The layout of the royal castle-museum Alcázar in Segovia
Most of the furniture and decorative interiors were lost in the fire, and the halls were restored according to descriptions and surviving engravings. Even this work brought amazing results, once again transforming the castle into a palace worthy of kings. It is a popular tourist attraction along with the aqueduct and the cathedral.
The appearance of the castle served as the prototype for the animated film “Sleeping Beauty” by Disney Studios.
The entrance gate leads to a courtyard. It is covered with tiles, along the walls are the busts of the great figures of the country, in the middle is a small compact fountain, which gives the air a pleasant humidity. It leads to the entrance to the oldest hall, preserved since the 12th century.
The chapel is also open for viewing. It was there that the royal wedding took place, where Philip and Isabella were joined in destiny. In the decor there are elements of Moorish style, the walls are decorated with scenes on biblical motifs, the frontal space is occupied by the sculpture of the patron saint of artillerymen, St. Peter the Great. Barbarians.
From the yard of the well you can see the quarries, there is a picturesque view of the surroundings. Another courtyard is called the Clock, it is brighter, more spacious and sunny.
The best viewing platform is on the upper tiers of Juan Tower. It was built in the Civil Gothic style on the basis of an older foundation, was enlarged and served as a signal house. The decoration of the main façade is a window of complex architecture belonging to the Almohad style. At the top are erected 12 decorative openwork towers. The palace and protective fortifications are characterized by a mixture of styles, as it has undergone several reconstructions and restorations.
The Tower of Respect served as the state oath room. The oath of allegiance to the country and to the king was administered with a drop of blood, and the decrees were read from the platform. The architecture bears vivid features of Gothic, the decorations are paintings with floral ornaments.
The Garden Tower, despite its poetic name, was the scariest in purpose. Executions by hanging were carried out on its upper platform. It was popularly called the Tower of the Inquisition.
The oldest is considered to be the Tower of the Lion, given its name because of the sculptures and bas-reliefs of mythical gargoyles peeking out from the eaves.
During the walk, you must visit the charming patio of Morisco, where murals and decorative mosaics in the Mudejar style have been preserved.
They spread out around the palace on 55 thousand square meters. The whimsical intertwining of Oriental color and European traditions gave rise to an amazing fusion of styles, resulting in real masterpieces of landscape design. It is worth allocating shaped lawns, avenues of palm trees, cypresses, citrus trees, variegated multitiered flowerbeds. Particular impression is made by ceremonial statues of Spanish monarchs who have been to the palace at least once. Complement the picture of serenity and luxury artificial ponds and fountains.
Tours are given of the 11 halls and the tower of Juan II. The rooms are given figurative and sometimes paradoxical names, for example, there are halls of cones and cord. The rooms have been restored and the decorations of past centuries have been recreated.
The five halls are considered the most interesting in terms of history and interiors.
- The hall of the old palace retains the atmosphere and style features of the 12th century. They are indicated by the shape of window openings, decorated with decorative elements of the plinth in Moorish style. The main attraction is a unique collection of armor from the 15th century.
- The Chimney Room was rebuilt during the reign of Philip II. The furnishings include furniture dating back to the 16th century, very interesting old Flemish wallpaper in the form of fabrics with biblical scenes, a portrait gallery of kings and prominent personalities of the state. The most valuable exhibit is an image of the fortress in its original form, before all the fires and reconstructions. And also the cathedral that once stood on the site of the garden.
- The King’s Hall makes a stunning impression. Its interior is well thought out and emphasizes the greatness of the Spanish rulers. On the ceiling gallery are 52 sculptures of monarchs, beginning with the progenitor of the Pelayo dynasty. A statue of Philip II, under whom the transfer of the capital took place, completes the gallery. They are made with a striking resemblance, the details of clothing and facial expressions are taken into account. The original version died in the fire, you can admire the skillfully made restoration. The fire spared the well-preserved carved frieze and entrance portal between the Throne and Fireplace Rooms. The thrones, coat of arms, and motto are a talented stylization.
- The Galleria Hall is famous for its unique ceiling resembling an inverted ship, ancient stained-glass windows, and paintings depicting various historical events.
- To visit the Armory, you have to go down to the basement of the watchtower. In addition to the richest collection, with exhibits dating back several centuries, you can see an antique coin press in a special room. There are also a couple of chests.
Opening hours and ticket prices
You can visit the castle in any season. It is open as a museum from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. In summer, the operating time is extended by an hour and a half. You can come on your own, join one of the tour groups or order a service audio guide in Russian. It will cost $3. The cost of admission will be $4.50, children and teenagers under 14 years are free. The entrance ticket entitles you to visit all the halls and towers that are open for viewing.
Alcázar on the map of Spain
The Alcázar Castle remains a magnificent monument of palatial architecture and makes a majestic impression by its external impregnability and internal luxury.