Turismo de Alcalá de Guadaíra

The Castle


Alcalá's Castle is the result of almost 4,500 years of human history on the Hill of the Castle. The older archaeological findings take us to the Bronze Age (2nd millennium BCE), when a small walled village settled down on the East edge of the Hill. It would be a settlement dedicated to agricultural produce of the Guadaíra countryside, and due to its size it would depend some way on the close (and larger) village placed at Mesa de Gandul.

The village of the Hill of the Castle disappears ca. 1,500 BCE due to unknown causes, remaining the Hill like a zone apparently without human population or with a marginal one, practically until the Roman time. We do not know how the Roman settlement of the Castle Hill would have been, but the findings of pottery and some walls at a certain depth definitely confirm their existence, with an important moment in space during the Early Empire (1st-3rd centuries CE).

4500 years of human history on the hill of The Castle

From the 4th up to the 11th century, the Castle Hill returns to be a settlement which the Archaeology does not contribute information for. In fact, although we have documentary news of the Castle of Yabir (Qalat Yabir) from the 11th century (in time of the kingdoms of Taifas), there are no archaeological remains of the fortification before the Almohad period( 12th - 13th centuries).

Of the history of the Castle Hill up to the 12th century we cannot see today anything, since the archaeological signs are only a few or they are under the surface. The whole building that we can see at the present time was began to be built by the end of the 12th century, when the Almohad Caliphate builds a small fortress in the western edge of the Hill, used for sure completely like campsite of the muyahiddin army coming from the North of Africa.

The Almohad fortification of the Silos Yard (Patio de los Silos) is the heart of the Castle, name by which we presently know the set of enclosures (Silos Yard - Patio de los Silos-, Well Yard -Patio de la Sima-, and Royal Palace - Alcázar Real-) of the Castle placed at the western sector of the Hill. Its present appearance is the consequence of a development made between the 12th and 17th centuries, and the landscape it shows of walls and battlements marks the most known image Alcalá's Castle. Also during the Almohad Period a first moment of enlargement of the original fortress is carried out (between late 12th century and the first decades of the 13th), when the Silos yard is enlarged southwards with a new enclosure (the Well Yard), inside it a small bathroom (hammam) was built for the garrison's use.

4500 years of human history on the hill of The Castle

After the Castilian conquest in 1247 new works, included in the process of the siege and military conquest of Seville take place. Possibly at this moment the Silos Yard is enlarged eastwards, with the construction of two octagonal towers that are an interesting example of proto-Castilian architecture in Andalusia, precedent of the Silver Tower (Torre de la Plata), built a few years after in Seville. Such and as it is read at the First General Chronicle, the works of the Castle of Alcalá would have been promoted by the very King Fernando III, who moved into Alcalá "to repair their moats and fortresses".

4500 years of human history on the hill of The Castle

By the end of the 13th century XIII, Alcalá becomes part of the inner line of the "Moorish Belt" set of fortifications, frontier area between the Kingdom of Seville and the Kingdom of Granada. During several decades, troops of both sides crossing through the Guadaíra's passing would be constant, especially the Benemerine (aka Marinid) crews who, coming from Ronda, attacked Seville in several occasions. As a result of that in 1280 King Alfonso X founded Alcalá's Villa, at the esplanade eastwards the Castle. This foundation means the first urban settlement at the Castle Hill, as by archaeological means we know that in the Andalusi period there was never a town (madina) next to the fortress. Due to the military situation of the moment, Alcalá's Village was quickly walled, closing the esplanade with a continuous circuit of outer walls that were connected to the Castle.

4500 years of human history on the hill of The Castle

Alcalá's Village during the 14th century is developed on the top of the Castle Hill, around the Church of St. Mary of the Eagle (Santa María del Águila). Nowadays we cannot see anything at all of this town planning, although excavations have revealed the existence of several blocks of houses of huge dimensions, built around central patios or yards according the model of Sevillian Late Middle Ages house. The outside communication of the Santa María neighbourhood (collación or parish) took place through two gates, Santa María (also known as "Torre Mocha", or Blunt Tower) at the East and the one of San Miguel, placed southwards.

Legally, Alcalá's Castle depended since late 13th century on the Town Council of Seville, situation that has been kept until 2007, when the ownership of the fortress has been definitively transferred to Alcalá de Guadaíra's Town Council. This juridical singularity affects numerous castles of the old Kingdom of Seville, depending on the Town Council of the city from the Middle Ages. In the case of Alcalá, it resulted in the appointment of the successive governors that ruled the fortress by the Sevillian Town Council, except in those moments of institutional crisis or direct intervention of the Crown.

The economic and demographic prosperity that Alcalá undergoes during Late Middle Ages (14th-15th centuries) could explain that during the 14th century a new settlement took place on the southwest area of the Castle Hill, around the St. Michael (San Miguel) Church. This would be the origin of the San Miguel poor quarter, also walled during the 14th century, this way closing the circuit of outer walls of Alcalá de Guadaíra down to the bank of the River. With it one of the more extensive of Andalusia fortified enclosures was set up, with a total surface of 21 hectares.

At the Castle zone, undergone transformations during Late Middle Ages are important. A first moment is dated between the rules of Alfonso XI (1312-1350) and Pedro I (1350-1369), when probably the Royal Palace and the Tower Keep are built. These works traditionally are associated to the tenancy of the Castle of Alcalá by Leonor de Guzmán, Alfonso XI's mistress, even though this point has not been contrasted. It is also at this moment when the monumental tower connecting the Silos Yard and the Well Yard was reformed or totally rebuilt; this tower has possibly an Almohad origin.

4500 years of human history on the hill of The Castle

Once in the 15th century, the different moments of fights of the Nobles also affected Alcalá's Castle and Village. In 1444 an important armed assault on Alcalá Village took place, with use of artillery; this resulted in important damages and the consecutive repairs of the fortress walls. But maybe the most significant episode is the Castle capture by the followers of the Marquis de Cádiz in 1471, within the confrontations due to Isabel I's rise to the throne of Castile. The occupation was kept on until 1477, using the Castle as headquarters to harass Queen Isabel's followers, stationed in Seville. Documentary sources tell us that at this moment important works at the Castle were made, possibly in the eastern closing of the Well Yard and the barrier that separates the Castle zone from San Miguel's poor quarter entrance, being this the preferred spot for the armed assaults to the fortress.

4500 years of human history on the hill of The Castle

The end of the Nobles fights and the Peace imposed by the Catholic Kings would mark the beginning of the end of a lot of Andalusian fortresses, once their military functions were over. This would be the case of Alcalá's Castle, given during the 16th century to Noble Sevillian families (like Enríquez de Ribera) like a court favour rather than like a military chance. Still in this century some works to improve the fortress habitability are carried out, like the set of patios and rooms built inside the Well Yard. Nevertheless, at early 17th century the Castle had already a dilapidated appearance that is the starting point of its abandoning until the 20th century.

Along with the Castle, Santa María's neighbourhood and San Miguel poor quarter are also progressively abandoned during the 17th-18th centuries. On one hand, documents indicate the supply difficulties, due to their complicated location and access. This explains the emergence of new neighbourhoods at Alcalá in lower zones (Santiago, San Sebastián...). Several epidemic outbreaks also affected these changes, ending up the emptying of Santa María's neighbourhood.

During the 19th century, the Castle Hill would remain practically abandoned, just a reference for romantic travellers. We would have to wait until middle 20th century to see the old enclosure used up again when on the grounds of Santa María neighbourhood important works of levelling and terracing, in order to install the fairground of Alcalá at these lots are done. Santa María's use like fairground would be kept until the end of the 20th century, giving a new use to the monumental space. At the same time, San Miguel's urban reoccupation is produced, with a settlement of worker families with few resources, germ of the present-day quarter.

4500 years of human history on the hill of The Castle

In the Castle area, after the abandonment of the 19th and 20th centuries the constructive approach is taken from 1998, with several campaigns of archaeological research and restoration that are carried out until the present within the Director Plan of Actions (ALMENA Plan). At the present moment, the monumental area of the Fortified begins to be developed like a public space inside the town of Alcalá, with a new patrimonial perspective focused on the cultural use of the different enclosures of the Castle of Alcalá.

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