View of Belmonte Castle
Those who were with Maccabeus cheerfully besieged this fortress for four days.
Second Book of Maccabees, 10:23
Second Book of Maccabees, 10:23
Castles and история. More than 10 castles have been cataloged in Spain, but only a small number of them have survived to this day in an acceptable condition. Recall that the word "castle" comes from the Latin castellun and means a powerful building surrounded by walls, towers and other fortifications. The history of castles dates back to the Roman forts, and castle building in Europe developed over more than 000 years during the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance, and went a long way from the first watchtowers to the majestic castles of the 1000th and early XNUMXth centuries.
Another view of the castle
Belmonte Castle, which our story will be about today, belongs to the Middle Ages. Remembering the turbulent history of this magnificent medieval fortress, we will have to go to the years 1475-1480, called the "War of the Marquis". Then the supporters of the two ambitious queens of Castile, Isabella (later known as "Isabella the Catholic") and Juana (better known as "La Beltraneja", after her father) disputed the Count of Vilhena's lands in incessant skirmishes and battles. Belmonte Castle was at the epicenter of this conflict. But before we talk about the castle itself, let's make a few clarifications. So, Juana la Beltraneja (1462–1530) was a Castilian princess, daughter of Juana of Portugal, wife of King Henry IV of Castile. Her paternity was usually attributed to the court favorite Beltrán de la Cueva, hence her name. The Cortes of Castile recognized Juana as the legitimate heir to the throne, but later Henry IV appointed his half-brother Alfonso (d. 1468) as successor, and then his half-sister Isabella (later Isabella I). In 1470, Henry again recognized Juan, but when he died (1474), Isabella seized the throne. Juana's supporters turned to Alfonso V of Portugal for help and arranged his marriage to the young princess. After five years of struggle, Alfonso suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Toro (1476), and Isabella was recognized (1479) as Queen of Castile. Juana retired to a monastery in Portugal, but continued to consider herself queen and signed all documents accordingly.
Gate to the castle
How did all this affect the inhabitants of the city of Belmonte? Well, they were participants in all these dramatic events, that's just ... for some reason they lacked the antiquity of their city. Therefore, when in 1976, during the repair of the city church, a part of the ancient wall was discovered, in Belmont they started talking about the fact that these were the remains of Visigothic buildings, that is, they extended the life of the city by almost 6-7 centuries. But there was no other evidence of this, and the Belmontians had to be content with the date 1294, when a place called Bellomonte was first mentioned in the documents of the tax collectors of King Sancho IV.
Truly impressive walls, towers and ramparts…
But there was still no castle near the city ... Its construction began in the second half of the 1456th century in 1457 on the hill of San Cristobal. And it was led by Don Juan Pacheco, the first Marquis of Villena, designed by the architect Juan Gvas, who received instructions from King Enrique IV. And it was in this castle that Enrique IV hid his illegitimate daughter Juana from the attacks of the Castilian nobility. In fact, work began in 1472 and lasted until 1474. In 1324, when Juan Pacheco died, the building had not yet been completed. Although this is not entirely historically correct, the first fortification, as it turned out, was built here by the ancient Romans to protect the gold deposit. In XNUMX, the Castilians built a small fortress here to guard the road to Cuenca.
Castle from a distance
But since not a stone was left of these structures, they were forgotten immediately after the construction of the new castle was completed. And what's interesting is that the castle was built, and it began to live its own life, and the city - its own. A large Dominican monastery arose in the city, and a Jesuit community, trade flourished, and in the XNUMXth century a theater was also opened. And all this time the castle, towering over the city, has never been subjected to either a siege or an assault ... That is, as a military fortification, it turned out to be completely useless to anyone!
Another gate and machicolation tower
From the XNUMXth to the XNUMXth century, nothing disturbed the tranquility of this place, however, then there was a war with Napoleon, but it did not come to destruction. And that is why both the city and the castle were very lucky: both the city walls and the castle have survived to our time exactly in the form in which they were once built. Periodically, of course, they were repaired, but it was not at all like restoring what had been destroyed by the war.
The castle itself is quite unusual and stands out for its architecture. First of all, it is built in the form of an equilateral triangle inscribed in the hexagon of the defensive walls, each of the six corners of which is fortified with a round tower, that is, in plan it resembles a star and impresses with its beauty and unprecedented grace. Such buildings belong to the Mozarab style, which is famous for its huge round towers. On the main gate of the castle and today you can see the coats of arms of its first owners - the Marquises de Ville
Entrance decorated with carvings and coats of arms
The triangular courtyard of the inner building is decorated with arches with fireplaces made of carved stone and stucco molding in the Gothic-Moorish style. The living quarters themselves are built of red brick, so it is quite possible to say that this is not so much a castle as a luxurious palace in a style close to baroque. The courtyard of the castle is still decorated with unusual fountains, although they are temporarily not working. In general, the architecture of Belmonte is very eclectic, and all because its construction took place during the transition period from one era to another. Just during the years of its construction, the harsh asceticism of the Middle Ages had already been replaced by the joyful times of the Renaissance. Therefore, there are both powerful defensive fortifications and spacious, luxuriously furnished and cozy interiors.
Nevertheless, the interior of the castle was still made in the Gothic style. Beautiful arches, painted ceilings, stucco, wood carved ceiling of the chapel are still preserved, and much was restored at the end of the XNUMXth century.
After the death of King Enrique, the castle passed into the full possession of the Manueles family, and Juan Manuel, Marquis de Villena, a descendant of the same man who led the construction of the castle, settled here.
These are the stucco walls in some rooms of the castle ...
In the XNUMXth century, the Manrique family appeared in the castle, receiving the official title of Marquis of Belmonte by royal decree. This family was fabulously rich, had several beautiful castles in Spain and Italy, and also intermarried with many titled surnames in Europe.
Arsenal. Inside the castle today is a museum with an audio guide in four languages!
Armor for every taste
Then the castle was abandoned for a long time, and in the XNUMXth century part of the castle turned into barracks. And the other part goes to jail.
One of the castle rooms
But in the second half of the 19th century, the castle came back to life again. Eugenia de Montijo, heiress of the Villena family, married the French Emperor Napoleon III. She was so fascinated by the castle that she immediately set about restoring it. For some reason, she loved her castle very much and was very careful about all the details of its interior.
Salon of Empress Eugenie de Montijo
During the restoration process from 1857 to 1870, the castle acquired almost its original appearance. But since 1870, when a revolution took place in France and overthrew the emperor, the restoration was suspended.
By decree of July 3, 1931, the castle was included in the list of the National Artistic Heritage (the equivalent of the National Monument).
This is a cozy bedroom.
The castle is currently owned by the Duke of the House of Peñaranda, a descendant of the Duchess of Alba, and Maria Francisca de Salsa Portocarrero, sister of Eugenia de Guzmán. Thanks to the cooperation of the owners of the castle, local government and the Ministry of Cultural Development, in the summer of 2010 the castle was renovated and opened to the public. Currently, the castle houses a museum. In one of the halls, the furniture and decoration of the castle has been preserved, which was preserved and renovated by Empress Eugenia.
View of the city from the castle wall
And the owners of the castle receive a good income from renting it to filmmakers.
Residents of the city are trained in the possession of a medieval weapons at the castle walls
This castle was first discovered by Hollywood in 1961, when a number of scenes for the epic film El Cid (directed by Anthony Mann) were filmed near it. After that, The Lord of the Rings (Ralph Bakshi, 1978), Flesh and Blood (Paul Verhoeven, 1985), Love Madness (Vicente Aranda, 2001), Don Quixote Knight (Manuel Gutiérrez Aragon, 2002) were filmed there. and many others. The castle was periodically repainted, built on, and the decorations inside were changed. Well, the inhabitants of the city of Belmonte were completely delighted with the opportunity to participate in mass scenes and earn money from it.
If desired, the city can put up a small army of "real Spanish soldiers" of the past
Prayer before the fight with mass absolution
Many even keep ersatz armor or historical clothing reconstructions at home, waiting for the next film to arrive. And in between filming, they also have fun: they participate in knightly tournaments, military duels and reconstructions of medieval life, and such events in front of Belmonte Castle are held several times a year.
In the meantime, cinematic blood is shed in front of the cameras, bread is peacefully ripening around Belmonte Castle!